What is Love? Where is love? How does love work? Does true love exist?

What is Love?

Love is an emotional feeling of attraction, closeness, intimacy, strong liking, and source of enjoyment to be together with someone or something.

Love can take different forms with different things and beings. Examples:

“I love coffee”; “I love my new dress” : “I love my native place” – these are to do with things.

“I love Ilayaraja songs; I love watching thriller movies”  – these are to do with abstract things.

“I love my dog”; “I love my cat”  — these are to do with living beings other than humans.

“I love my friend”; “I love the comedian Vadivelu” – these are to do with third persons

“I love my cousin brother; I love my brother in law” – These are to do with distant relatives.

“I love my mother/ sister/ son/ daughter/brother/ grandfather” – these are to do with blood relatives.

“I love that girl; I love that boy” – these are to do with a specific person of opposite sex with a marital or sexual intent in mind.

“I love my husband/ wife” – these are to do with existing intimate relations

“I love Lord Shiva; I love Lord Krishna” – this is bhakti – devotion to God.

It is quite obvious that the intensity of love, the reverberation of the joyful feeling that love generates is not same in the various categories of love that we saw above.

The love a boy develops on his girlfriend is not of the same frequency or intensity as the love the boy has on his sister. The love one has on his father is not same as the love one has on the pet dog. Strange it may seem, but the present day truth is that many people are able to love their pet dogs better than their fathers!

When it comes to love, all of us are both givers as well as receivers.  All of us, with varying degrees of intensity, are capable of giving love and receiving love. No one can constantly be giving love without getting back any love in return. No one can keep on receiving love without giving something back. Think of it: If pet dogs don’t reciprocate any love, no one will ever keep them at home!

What is the source of Love?

Where from does love spring? Why at all does a person express love to another? Why does a wife love her husband? Why do parents love their children?

According to Sanatana Dharma, God is the in-dweller in all beings. God permeates the entire creation. Even though each of us seem to have different personalities, our Self – Atman is one. It is like different beads of a necklace strung together in a single thread. It is like a single sun reflecting in hundred pots of water. Atman is that thread; Atman is the sun. Atman is Sat-chit-ananda – Existence-knowledge-bliss. It is the bliss of the atman that gets expressed in the form of love.

In the Hindu scripture Brihadarayanka Upanishad, The saint Yagnyavalkya says

 ‘A wife loves her husband not for his sake, but for the sake of her own Self.

‘A husband loves his wife not for her sake, but for the sake of his own Self.

‘You love the sons not for the son’s sake, but for the sake of your own self

‘You love wealth not for the the sake of the wealth, but for the sake of your own self

‘You love the cattles not for their sake, but for the sake of your own self……

Is love really pure?

It is really an uneasy question to answer.  At the highest ideal level, it is true, but at practical level it is not always so.

Behind every expression of love, there will always be some dose of selfishness lurking. Perhaps only in one human relationship – the relationship between a mother and her little child, the love may be closest to purity. It is so because, there is a divine dispensation behind it. This mother’s love on her little kid seems to be pre-programmed by the Higher Power for the continuation of progeny in the earth; it is the reality in animal kingdom too. Mother animals carry their intense love on their little ones through instinct. To a large extent, such an instinctive feeling of love exists in human mothers too which transcends any scientific analysis.

But, in the present times, it is a fact that even this motherly natural love is also is also getting a beating. Now a days, children are born out of mere sexual union without the sanctity or commitment of marriage; Children are born out of live-in relationships; Children are born out of deteriorating husband-wife relationships ending up in divorces; children are born out of serial monogamy (i.e. a woman bearing children of different males out of different wedlock done one divorce after another). As a consequence, the natural love that a mother has on her children has definitely deteriorated.

Even when there is a pure love existing between the mother and her young child, the purity gradually deteriorates as the child grows up to a man/ woman.  Parents start expecting several things from their children – obedience, respect, help in family chores, monetary help, heeding to their advice regarding finding a partner for marriage, the monetary expectations (in receiving or in avoiding to spend) behind conducting son’s/ daughter’s marriage, obedience, respect from daughter-in-law, the need to take care of them at their old age, the need to conduct the rituals post their death – the list goes on this is how the once-pure parental love gradually changes colors towards a personal, selfish agenda.

Selfishness and love

Mostly, the selfish motive behind love gets smartly camouflaged. The giver of love may hide and underplay the selfish motive. The receiver of love too, out of love towards the giver, may overlook the play of selfishness behind the giver out of gratitude. Example: A father wants to construct a house and he wants his son to apply loans and assist him financially.  He says to the son: “To possess my own house is my dream; unfortunately, I could not do it because I had to ensure getting your sister married off and to educate you decently. I have done my duty. But with my present financial status, I cannot buy my dream house with my savings alone. I want you to help”. The son, out of gratitude to his father, willingly gets into a debt trap so as to help his father realize his dream. Interestingly, the son too may hold a hidden selfish motive –‘In future, this property or a portion of it will anyway come to me’.

In the above case, the father’s selfish interest is obvious, but is hidden behind sentiments.  The father does not think ‘I would not like to put my son into a debt trap at this young age just because of my selfish motive to fulfil my dream”.

Likewise, if we analyze threadbare keeping sentiments aside, we can locate some selfish motive (small or big) lurking behind every act or expression of love in most of our relationships.

That’s why, Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) says: “We love others because they give us happiness or fulfil our desires; obeying, respecting, or having high opinion about us. Otherwise, we do not love them. When somebody hates us, revenge often takes the place of love. This is the case with even with those closest to you. If you disobey or disrespect them, you may not love them. Where there is real love, there is no selfishness.  We must be able to love without expecting anything from anyone”

Ego and love

“Whom do you love the most?”

If you pose this question to people, most of them will tell the name or a relation that they believe to love dearest. But it is a wrong answer. The unshakable truth of our existence in this world is that all of us love ourselves dearest first and then only any other person or thing.

This self-love as such is natural and fundamentally it is not wrong. It is natural because we are all self (Atman) in essence, but we have forgotten it.

When someone says ‘I love myself’, he does not refer to his atman which is the source of pure unadulterated love; what he means is he loves his own personality – his ego. All of us have different degrees of egoism in us, some very strong, some moderate, some subtle, but nevertheless the ego is very much there.  This ego wants us to be selfish, self-centered, receive appreciation and pampering, garner importance, ensure one-upmanship and so on.

Another face of ego is sensitivity. Some people may look meek, non-assertive, soft-spoken and so on, but they may be extremely sensitive to criticism, censure, sarcastic comments and so on. They will behave like touch-me-not if they are hurt even a little. Sensitivity is nothing but subtle, but strong, hidden ego.

Love and Hate

Ordinary love is just like one side of a coin. The other side of the coin is hate. When the coin is flipped and ‘love side’ goes under, the other side – hate gets exposed.

The greatest truth about love is that it will flourish well as long as ego or sensitivity is not hurt. The moment the ego is hurt, the coin flips! The other side – hate becomes visible. When our selfish interest is not met, love reverses. When we fail to receive appreciation, pampering etc or when our self-importance or one-upmanship is denied, the love reverses.

The swing from love to hate may be slow and graduated in some people and very fast in some people. Normally, women, being essentially very emotional, swing from love to hate very quickly without any intermediate stops.  It is also observed that a woman can hate a person as intensely as her erstwhile love.

Reversing the hate back to love is also possible when the hurt ego is pampered. A genuine apology, a corrective action of mistake done can pave the way for the reversal.

Amma Mata Amritanandamayi says “The difficulty is not in expressing love, but in letting go of the ego. Love is our true nature. It is already present within us, but we are held back by our individual boundaries. We have to outgrow our individuality (ego) in order to merge into universal love. The ego stands in the way of love. Once removed, it flows like a river.”

Time is also a great healer. This can be seen particularly in blood relationships. Any hurt caused in the past leading to a crack in love gets healed over time and people come back to revive relationships. That’s why it is said that the blood is thicker than water.

Love and possessiveness

Ahankaram (Ego) and mamakaram (possessiveness) are like twins.  Our love is mostly available for consumption within our own limited circle — covered within the boundary ‘mine’ (possessiveness).  If true love transcending limited boundaries can be called (with upper case L) “Love”, the ordinary love we see within limits is just ‘love’ with a lower case ‘l’.

Amma says: “There is ‘love’ and “Love”. You love your family: Your father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife etc., but you do not love your neighbor. You love your son or daughter but you do not love all children. You love your religion, but do not love all religions. Likewise, you love your country, but do not love all countries. Hence this is not “Love”. It is only ‘love’. Transformation of this ‘love’ to “Love” is the goal of spirituality.”

Love in Man-woman relationship – Love-Romance-Lust

The very sustenance of life in earth depends on the factor of love between man and woman. May be as a consequence, this love is the most basic, emotion laden, complicated, joyful, painful and stressful. It has the widest scope of expression — from the meanest to the divine.  

In Sanatana dharma, considerable priority and importance has been given to the man-woman relationship, clearly specifying the scope, purpose, boundaries and dharma associated with it. Man and woman leading a life of mutual love and togetherness in proper wedlock, with the aim of spiritual advancement together, begetting worthy and responsible children for continuation of progeny and contributing to the welfare of the society – that is the core purpose married life and such an ideal life is a dharma by itself – Grihasthasrama dharma – The righteous way of living a family life. Sexual energy, instead of getting uncontrollably dissipated in lustful, unbridled way of living, is channelized and streamlined. Proper control of passions, self-discipline and restraint with the twin goals of spiritual progress and social welfare – that is the hallmark of Grihastasrama dharma of Hinduism.

Triangular Theory of Love

Even from the point of view of modern Psychology, the love between man and woman is still set within the conventional scope of good marital life and bonding.

One of the most popular and widely acclaimed theory on love in man-woman relationship is Triangular Theory of Love, conceived and elaborated by Dr. Robert Sternberg (born December 8, 1949), American psychologist and a Professor of Human Development at Cornell University.

His theory is depicted in the form of a triangle in which the three faces are Romantic love, companionate love and Fatuous love. Its 3 corners are passion, intimacy and commitment. A love is consummated in full satisfaction only when all the 3 ingredients – passion, intimacy and commitment are present.  See picture below:

 

When a man/woman gets attracted to the other with passion only (without intimacy and commitment), it is just infatuation.

If in a man-woman relationship there is intimacy but no passion (sexual attraction) or commitment (for marriage or long term togetherness), it is just liking or friendship.

If there is only commitment in relationship without passion or intimacy, it is empty love. Such a thing is possible in arranged marriages, but intimacy and passion may develop subsequently.

Only when lines exist connecting these corners, the triangle of love is complete.

A romantic love (as one side of the triangle) exists when passion and intimacy are present.  In a romantic love, commitment is yet to come. For the romance to end in marriage, commitment is essential.

A companionate love (as the second side of the triangle) exists when intimacy and commitment are present.  In this love, romance is yet to come. Only when romance gets added to this relationship, there is color and spice in the married life.

In fatuous love (as the third side of the triangle) passion and commitment are present. Loving at first sight and getting married quickly fits into this form of love. Here there is no romance or a prolonged courtship. If romance is also added, then the love-life is wholesomely consummated.

Ideally when all the three faces of the triangle are present, it is a successfully consummated marriage.

Love equations that end in disappointment

  • Lust: When the attraction to the person of opposite sex is purely physical with the overt or covert intention of having just a sexual relationship for enjoyment, it is lust. It is fired by passion. If at all romanticism is added, it is more as a ploy to woo the opposite sex. Commitment to a long time relationship will be very elusive.

    If the motive of one of the partners is just to satiate the lust whereas the other partner mistakes it for genuine love hoping it to end in a marriage, then the relationship heads towards an ugly end as and when the moment of realization of truth dawns.
  • Romance: When the attraction to the person of opposite sex is based on passion (where lust is not too obvious or blatant but very much exists hidden) and one finds joy in the company of the other person even without a sexual relationship. Both attraction and intimacy are strongly present in a romantic relationship.

    In a romantic relationship, both the partners will behave their best to keep the mutual attraction and the joy of company alive and vibrant. It also means any dark, unpleasant or ugly side of their personalities or behaviors  will be very skillfully hidden. Even if such things get revealed now and then, the other partner may not notice it and register it but opt to ignore it or sideline it as long as the romanticism is burning.

    When romanticism is all alluring, at least one of the partners may tend to delay the commitment. It is because people have an inherent inkling in them that most of the charm of the romantic love will fade away once the relationship gets committed to a marital bond!

    In romantic love too, when the commitment part of the love becomes elusive, then the relationship starts drifting towards disappointment.

What is true love and where is true love in man-woman relationship?

Since love or attraction (be it infatuation, lust or romance)  between man and woman is extremely emotional and has the undercurrent of sexual intent behind it, human mind creates all sorts pretences to generate an image that the love indeed it “true love”. The coining of the phrase ‘true love’ itself is an indication about the common existence of ‘untrue love’!

Swayed by emotions and sentiments, if we are developing mere attachment to someone, it is not love.  Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) says: “ ‘Am I really in love or am I too attached?’ Contemplate on this question as deeply as you can. Most people are craving for attachment, not real love. In a way, we are betraying ourselves. We mistake attachment for love. Love is the centre and attachment is the periphery. Aim for the centre”.

Suggested additional reading: Reading and discussions on an additional document provided herewith  (see at the bottom: What is true love, where is true love?) may be helpful for youngsters to grasp very practically how our minds caught by emotions can hoodwink us into justifying our own failings in understanding what is love.

Lack of Love

The source of all love is divine. Amma says “Love is the foundation of life, but consciously or unconsciously we forget this truth. When we do not express love in our words and actions, it is like honey trapped in a rock — it is of no use to anyone. When families are able to express love with each other, peace and harmony will prevail in the home and society”.

Every being receives its essential doze of love right from birth from the mother first.  In a family where cordial love exists amidst its members, the child, as it grows, gets love from father, siblings, grandparents and other relatives.  The home is the birth place of love and the fertile soil of love for growth.

Conversely, when a child born in an atmosphere where love is lacking, and is brought up in a home where exchange of love is in short supply, the child grows with lots of psychological issues. Many of the emotional problems in the adulthood where this longing of love or absence of love gets expressed in myriad ways in man-woman relationship can be traced back to lack of love in childhood. That’s why Amma says: “Only those who have received love can give love. Hearts of such people who have never received love will always be closed.  They will neither be able to receive love or give love. It is very important for parents to give love to the young”.

That’s why Grihasthashrama (Family life) is a dharma in Hinduism

A child born and brought up with proper love and care in a family is a wealth for the future generation.  In Hinduism, continuation of progeny and having children of worthy qualities for the welfare of future generations was considered as an essential dharma of worldly life.  

If this dharma has to sustain, there are several things that need sustenance in the social fabric:

  1. Respect, belief and  commitment to the institution of marriage
  2. A marital relationship is not just for releasing animal passions
  3. A marital relationship is a lifelong commitment.  Man and woman have to essentially agree and live to a committed life of togetherness for life based on mutual love, trust, respect and companionship.
  4. There is nothing like live-in relationships. Divorce is an anathema.
  5. Women were expected to be housewifes predominantly because child rearing was considered as the prime responsibility, more than any financial or other considerations
  6. In order to ensure the purity of mother’s love, a woman getting remarried after an untimely death of husband was highly discouraged by the society.

Despite the onslaught of western culture in India, we are still able to see quite a lot of family bond amidst Indians. Divorces and remarriages are not still fully accepted in in Hindu culture.

Loving God – Bhakti

All said and done on love, the obvious ground reality is that love between human beings gets tainted in some way or other by egoism and selfishness. When a man longs for pure love — a love where the giver of love simply gives without any expectation in return — he understands that only the creator can give such a love.  The creator has given us sunlight to see, the air to breathe, the earth to live, the trees and plants to give us food, rain for our drinking water and so on. Man feels he is indebted to the creator for giving us everything without any expectations. This indebtedness makes him love the giver. He is also sure that God being omnipresent and omnipotent can give him all that he needs by sincerely praying to Him.

Such a trust and faith becomes the basis of love on God which is called devotion — Bhakti. Love on God at the initial levels may be based on expectations from God. We want money, wealth, comforts, position and power in life and believe we will be happy if we get all these in good measure. We pray to God lovingly for blessing us with all these. We face difficulties, suffering and worries in life. We want God to remove them all. We lovingly pray to him for support.

As our love and relationship with God gets deeper, our understanding about God also get refined.  Based on our experiences, we grasp that God in any case is always taking care of us irrespective of our praying him or otherwise. We also gradually understand that God is not freely giving us whatever we pray and ask for; sometimes he gives; sometimes he does not give; sometimes he gives something that we do not want. But over time, we analyse, experience  and understand that whatever he has given or not given have all been for our good only. We grasp that we are limited in our own understanding of what is good for us or what is bad for us, whereas God knows only what is good for us and he arranges everything accordingly — by giving or by denying.

The more we grasp this fact, then our ‘love with agenda’ on God comes to an end. We don’t find the need to pray to him. Our love on him too starts reflecting his love on us — unconditional. We start loving God for love sake. Such a deep love on God is called “Prema Bhakti”. A devotee gripped by prema bhakti forgets everything; he has no care for his own body, its needs or comforts. He wants love of God for love sake. He wants to become love. He wants to merge in God. He melts in God and becomes ultimately God himself.

This the the story of evolution of the unadulterated pure love of the divine.  We have several examples of such great personalities who demonstrated the path of pure Bhakti to attain Godhood. We have had great saints and Avatars  like Bhakta Meera, Sri Gouranga, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ma Anandamayi, Papa Ramdas and Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) in this great land of Bharat.

Amma says: “There are three expressions of love that awaken us from within: love for oneself; love for god and love for the entire creation. Love for oneself does not mean the self-centered love of the ego. it means to love life, to see both the successes and failures in our human birth as God’s blessing, while loving the divine power inherent within us. This grows to become love for God. If these two components are present, then the love for the entire creation will manifest naturally.”

Sharing Pure Love

it is no wonder that Avatara Purushas and Mahatmas carry this divine love with them for unconditional distribution to others. Their source of love is unlimited because it is divine.

It is this pure, divine love that attracts people who are emotionally suffering in their loveless lives, to mahatma’s like Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi).  Why a dark skinned, rustic woman from a remote and unknown fishermen’s hamlet in the faraway state of Kerala in India is so much sought after by white skinned, educated elite of the west?

Because they have lost love in their lives. A vast majority of them  have been born and brought up in an atmosphere where lust is essentially mistaken for love; brazen selfishness with very poor faith in the sanctity of marriage is the norm of life;  The mindset for give and take or for any sacrifice for the sake of the other person has been missing among the majority. Life in the west gradually has turned to become filled with ‘beggers of love expecting other beggars of love to feed them with love’.  When they encounter a person like Amma where every nerve of her is bent upon giving, giving and more giving, caring, sharing and absorbing others’ woes and worries, they get floored! Their long and unsatiated thirst for love atlast finds a spring of love rising and flowing for everyone to come and take.

And this love elevates the receiver from evolving from the clutches of selfishness. From a beggar of love the seeker evolves to a lover of God.

-=0O0=-

How to have more joy and less pain in life

Joy and woe are woven fine; a clothing for the soul divine’ says poet William Blake. Practically all spiritual masters from all religions say the same thing time and again. Joy and pain are always said to be like two sides of the same coin.

It is true that fate plays some extra-dirty games in some people’s life and however much they strive, their share of pain seems to be more than the pleasure they get out of life. Hinduism says it is all due to* prarabhdha* (effects of past bad *karma*s done in previous lives). There are also a lucky few people who seem to enjoy pleasure far in excess of pain in their lives and again, Hinduism attributes it to good karmas done in previous lives. As for the majority, it looks joys and woes in life tend to even out.

But man always wants to maximize his joy and minimize his pain in life. Is it then really possible? For many people, particularly in young age, there seems to be a mental resistance to accept any religious or spiritual advice/ explanation/ guidance on this subject. So, outside religion, are there any good tips available for them to enjoy more pleasure in life without proportionate pain?

Yes there are indeed some practical tips available. Let us see some of them.

Have your own standards of desirable joy and bearable pain

Everyone has different capacities and tastes for enjoyment. Everyone has different levels of tolerance and acceptance of pain for the sake of enjoying pleasure. Be clear about your standards. Your close friends’ standards need not be yours. What everyone seems to be enjoying NEED NOT be really joyful to you. The pains to which others seem to be impervious may be too unpleasant to you!

Have you ever thought in such an angle in life? The fact is – most people do not evoke enough self-awareness on these things. To be blunt, herd mentality is quite strong in most of us. Because of this mentality, many people bear with pain without being aware of it for the sake of enjoying some paltry pleasures that othersseem to enjoy!

An youngster, whom I know as one with a calm demeanor, once told me that he went with his friends to see a 20-20 cricket match live at a stadium.

“Ah! Must be quite an experience! Did you enjoy it?” I asked.

“Sort of; yeah, it was fun, okay, but…”

As I probed deeper, he said: “We had to wait in very long queue for hours to book our tickets first. In the stadium, they did not permit us to carry our own food or water—everything we had to buy at very hefty prices there! Oh! The amount of noise people made there with their shouts, whistles, drums, pipes and what not! At some critical action times in the game, someone will invariably jump up in front of me and block the view. The pitch was so far away that I could not even make out which players are playing. Whether a ball was really caught or dropped, I won’t know from such a distance! The side where we were sitting, for the ticket amount we paid, was constantly exposed to sun and I felt I was getting roasted! I had to spend through my nose to keep buying water and drinking it to quench my thirst. By the time the game was over, I got thoroughly tired – both physically and mentally. As I returned home, I was suffering from a splitting head-ache!”

“ Then you mean to say, it would have been heaven if you had watched the game in TV relaxing at the couch in your home?” I asked.

“Absolutely! I would have seen all the actions, all the replays, heard all the expert comments!”

“…and you would have saved quite some bucks, escaped from the burning sun, from the unwanted headache…” I completed the sentence and he nodded.

“How about your friends?”

“Ah! They all seemed to have a freaking time at the stadium! They enjoyed every moment – shouting, dancing, laughing, munching and drinking…”

Now you get some idea?

Be aware to weigh pain and pleasure in advance wherever possible and then decide which one is more for you

We continued with our conversation.

“Did all in your group of friends come to the stadium?” I probed further.

“No! You know Prakash? He is an ardent cricket fan, but flatly refused to join us right at the time we planned the program”

“Did you know why?”

“To be frank, he warned me in advance about all these!”

Now you know the difference? Prakash was not fitting into herd mentality. Perhaps he too had gone through this experience earlier and learnt a valuable lesson! Despite being an ardent cricket fan, Prakash could weigh the pleasure and pain behind witnessing the game live at stadium. Having learnt that the pain, according to his demeanor, is more than the pleasure, he judiciously opted out of it.

Learning from past experience and using it in future is the key.

Be moderate in your enjoyment – any consequent pain will be far less

During my childhood, chance to eat good feasts were rare. I had a sweet tooth and also loved oily savories too. Death day remembrance ceremonies conducted at home for ancestors were occasions when we get sumptuous feast to eat. And I mostly over ate on such occasions and suffered the consequences – a sense of dislike of the feast itself at the end of eating on account of over-stuffing of the stomach, indigestion and a possible loose motion the next day!

Since fortunately I had had the tendency to analyze myself and evoke self-awareness, I became gradually more conscious as I grew up. While I still enjoyed sweets and savories offered generously at feasts, I started reducing their quantities considerably but made sure to taste a little of everything. I made it a practice that I would never eat to my full stomach in any feast. Thus I could really enjoy every variety served in the feast and never suffered out of indigestion subsequently.

This concept of moderation can be extended to all our activities whereby we seek enjoyment – foods, drinks, movies, music, going out with friends, sex, socializing, keeping awake, sleeping, working in office, study, earning money, spending money, idling, philanthropy, playing games, doing exercise, watching internet, talking in cell phone, taking medicines and so on.

When you develop moderation on things you love to enjoy, you will surprisingly find that the keenness or taste of enjoyment also grows sharper. Your focus and awareness of enjoyment will grow and you will find it deeply satisfying. For example, if you cut down your coffee intake from say 4 cups a day to two cups a day and that too with a reduced volume per intake, you can observe that the coffee tastes so extra blissful, unlike what you used to feel with higher intake!

Keep strictly away from enjoyments that society abhors

I m not saying what Bible abhors or other religious scriptures condemn. There are several things that the society you live in does not generally appreciate or accept easily as right or normal. The society may be quite pluralistic in religious faiths and hence irrespective of whether they are religion-based or not, there are things that public does not approve of.

Example: Same sex relationships, prostitution, polygamy, polyandry, stealing, illegal trading of arms, drug trafficking, terrorist activity, love jihad, bullying, black-marketing, drug addiction etc

Unfortunately, there seems to exist an extra doze of thrill in enjoying what society forbids. There is a saying in Tamil that stolen mango has an extra tinge of taste! Perhaps that “extra tinge of taste” is so alluring that people get entrapped into pleasure-seeking on things that the society forbids. May be the consequent pain does not come imminently; but it comes for sure and it will land so severely that it can cause the greatest damage.

Keeping away from things that society forbids will bring you mental peace; that peace is more worthy than the joy of indulgence.

 Enjoy in tune with your age

There is an age up to which even ‘stones can be digested’; there is an age up to which the body can take lots of abuse without showing much of reaction; there is an age up to which youthful zeal can be maintained in intimate relationships; there is an age up to which mental resilience can be quite strong.

Time and age gradually wears away many things. Indulgence in excess chocolates may not lead excess fat up to certain age, but beyond that age if you continue that indulgence, you end up suffering in obesity and cholesterol related problems. Jogging brings you good health up to certain age and then joint pains beyond that! Post thirty five, excess make up brings in a false sense of youthful look up to certain age, and then suddenly everyone seems to laugh at your wrinkles despite your best efforts to hide them!

Whether eating, drinking, sex, dress, mingling, singing, dancing or any such thing, do what is right in tune with your age. If not, you will end up with more pain than pleasure.

Accept some pain for the sake of worthy pleasure or for avoiding a bigger pain

If waking up early is a pain for you, then that pain is worth accepting if you can avoid the pain of peak-hour traffic woes, by starting early to office. If the pain of compulsorily saving some money instead of spending it carefree is undergone, then you will enjoy a debt-free life at later stages of life. If doing regular physical exercises is found boring and painful to you, then by forcefully engaging yourself in it, you will be able to enjoy a good physical health in the long run.

Desire to maximize joy is the innate nature of every living being. The above 6 guidelines can help you to a fair extent in this effort. But always remember: Between enjoyment and peace, there is a huge difference. Matured is the one who looks for achieving peace in life rather than enjoyment out of life.

Is it necessary for me to visit temples and chant stotras, if I am living a life of an ethical and well mannered human being?

Up to certain age, probably till we realize we are no longer youth, for most of us the idea of God, going temples, chanting slokas or mantras don’t appeal much. During youth, we are driven by passion, we believe anything can be achieved through dedication and hard work, we trust that only science has all the answers, we accept that science has not proved the existence of God and hence faith in God could strongly be a superstition etc.

Of course there are exceptions; Many youths do have faith in God, go to temples, do prayers etc right from childhood and they do it openly too. Let us ignore this class.

Thus up to certain age, we get carried away by such convictions and somehow life also goes smooth to most of us (may be because our parents are taking care of our needs for most of the times in youth!).  Some of us strongly believe that being ethical and well mannered is good enough.

(By the way, have you ever questioned these beliefs?! Why should we be ethical? Why should we be well mannered? Who gave these ideas and importance to them? Why should I ‘blindly’ follow these ethical rules? What is the basis? Is it just the fear of punishment of social laws? Or something more?) . This is only for your introspection. Let us not go into this now!

Now, once we cross the youth (mostly) we start feeling and facing many things in life that are happening contrary to our convictions, hopes, beliefs, logical understanding and so on. We are struck by many things: Hard work does not necessarily bring success; doing good acts does not necessarily produce good results; not doing anything evil or wrong from our part does not necessarily save us from facing unexpected catastrophes and failures! Being a very nice, friendly and sincere person does not necessarily bring in a spouse who loves and understand us!

Now we face the unexpected googlies and don’t know how to bat. Whatever classic cover drives and glances that we practiced methodologically do not come to our help and we are at the constant threat of getting out!

It is at this age and juncture, we come to face to face with the reality that science cannot help us. We need something more. We need to understand something better and higher to understand and try to resolve our predicaments. What has been all along a pride gold medal hanging on our chest suddenly reveals it to be a cause of our chest burn — it is ahankar (Ego). We come to face it. Now we understand that we should become humble because we have no solutions from our ego to overcome our hurdles; to give answers to nagging questions.

The need to surrender to a higher force now comes inevitably. The thirst to understand what is religion, what is spirituality, what is the connection between them, who are Mahatmas and saints, why do they keep on advising us on many things like God, Karma, Avatar, Atman, Paramatman, Maya, ego, vasanas, samskaras, knowledge, ignorance and so on.

At that time you start searching. You start going to temples. you start grasping the importance of faith and surrender. You start acknowledging your limitations of body, mind, intellect and ego.

So, my point of view is this: At some time or other, one will have to take a round and come back to our Sanatana track. WHY NOT DO IT EARLY IN LIFE? The earlier you come, the smoother the ride becomes; because you know and accept beforehand that there will be potholes on the road, there will be traffic snarls, there will be rash drivers, there will be jay walkers on the road, and it’s all parts and parcel of life! You learn that for your own safety, you drive carefully, drive with more acceptance and less tension; drive with a trust that the Higher Power is taking care of you and protecting you!

Why Conversion from Hinduism to any other religion is highly discouraged – Part:1

This is an Article series consisting of 3 parts.

In this part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism are discussed. 

In the part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view have been answered.

In the Part 3 , some FAQs from sociological point of view (issues related to inter-religious love affairs and marriages) are being answered.

Part:1

At the outset, Hinduism is just not a religion; it is known as Sanatana Dharma — the eternal righteous way of living.  The base of Sanatana Dharma (or Hinduism) is so widespread that it has place for accommodating innumerable ways of establishing a relationship with God and attaining oneness with Him as the ultimate goal of life.  It is like a cone with a large circular base and as one rises up higher and higher in quest of spirituality, it ultimately leads one to a single point at the top.

Fact 1: Hinduism is so unique and so wide-based – there is really no need to look elsewhere for anything missing

With a clear acceptance of the universal fact that people have different tastes and temperaments as regards to any relationship, Hinduism offers so much of ‘variety of choice’  in the practice of religion, which is nothing but establishing are relationship with God. Be it with regard to choosing a specific God form for love and worship, method of worship, practice of austerities, school of philosophy to learn and follow,  type of rituals to practice and so on, Hinduism offers so much variety. The idea is: you start with what is traditional to you, what is comfortable to you, what is digestible to you and what is tasteful to you. Then go deeper; understand better; widen your outlook; don’t get trapped into sheer compartmentalization; grow up; turn inwards rather than outwards; out-grow from your earlier presumptions and self-made boundaries. Know the ultimate truth; know that you are no different from the very ultimate truth that you have been in quest of all along!

In other words, a variety of religious and spiritual avenues are available within Hinduism itself for one to seek God for spiritual progress  or worldly prosperity or for removal of hurdles, pains and sorrows in life by praying to God and seeking His divine grace. There is really no need to go in search of any other religion for that matter. If someone finds anything higher or better in any other religion, it is only because he has not really bothered to look deeper into his own religion with earnestness.

Vested interests from other religions , who believe God to be nameless and formless, may mock at Hindus for worshiping idols; for worshiping umpteen God forms — Gods in male, female and animal forms, Gods having thousands of names and so on. If misguided Hindus with very little inclination to know deeper about the significance of all these in Hinduism join the vested interests and start ridiculing our own religion, we can only feel sorry for them.

Fact 2: Hinduism does not woo people from other religions with an agenda to convert them to Hinduism

By virtue of being the Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism is not something meant for ‘sales promotion’ , ‘mass distribution’ or ‘mass consumption’. That’s why there are no religious movements in Hinduism to woo and convert people from other religions to Hinduism. No Hindu organization gets any funding to send missionaries to other countries for the sole purpose of converting people from other religions to Hinduism.  Hindus don’t build schools and hospitals to show how loving and caring their religion is, with a hidden agenda of converting people to Hinduism.

Whatever mode of conversion to Hinduism offered nowadays through Arya Samaj is also NOT meant for wooing other religious people to convert to Hinduism, but only to offer an avenue (which was not available in the past in Hinduism) for the benefit of misguided people of Hindu origin, who had converted to other religions (for whatever reason) and want to return to Hinduism.

Fact 3: It is Hinduism that keeps producing so many Mahatmas and great spiritual masters from time to time to guide people in religion and spirituality

Unlike any other religion, only Hinduism has the unique advantage and proven track record of gifting to the world innumerable spiritual masters, great Mahatmas, great devotees, God realized (and self-realized) Gurus and great Avatars as if in a never ending stream, in this great land of India.

Why is it happening only in Hinduism and not significantly in other religions?

It is because of the following reasons:

1)  As per Hinduism everything in creation is nothing but God — every one of us is potentially divine. Because of maya, this is not available for easy grasp for everyone. But it is the fact that those who earnestly seek to know this truth by experience get divine and guru’s guidance and they realize the truth and become one with God.  In other words, Hindu religious experience of practical divinity is not restricted to a ‘Father in heaven and his One and Only Son’! It is not restricted to one single Messiah who is the only ordained one to know and reveal the truth and no one else.  It is not restricted to a single holy book, a single or rigid school of philosophy or a single divine form or a God who cannot have name and form.

2) Because of the fact that Hinduism has such a wide base, there are umpteen streams available within the religion to travel through and reach the ocean.  Whether one worships a God in the form a male, a female, an animal or in a mix of human and animal, Hinduism asserts that spiritual progress is possible by all means.  If a Hindu believes in God without form, or he/she feels no emotional need for devotional worship too, there are streams available for such an earnest seeker to follow in Hinduism. Each of the paths has its own strong connection to the core of Hinduism and hence there are realized souls available from different streams of Hinduism. Thus such masters could declare to others by virtue of their personal experience that every path in Hinduism is valid.  

Fact 4: Great Hindu Masters cut across religious barriers too and inspire people from all religions

Why do we hail these spiritual masters of Hinduism as ‘great’? Is it out of our mad infatuation to our religion or a sense of natural pride (rightly or wrongly) towards our own religious greatness?

No. We hail them as great because such saints who realized truth by following a particular segment of Hinduism, have indeed  attained the peak and they could clearly see from that elevated state that every path in Hinduism does lead one to the single final goal only. Such a master then is able to impress, enthuse, inspire and guide earnest religious aspirants from several other schools of Hinduism as well! It does not stop there. Such great masters attract people and aspirants from other religions too!

Such a spiritual saints cease to be the ‘sole property’ of Hinduism. Their appeal and attraction becomes universal.

That’s how great spiritual masters like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his consort  Sarada Devi, his disciple Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Papa Ramadas, Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society), Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Shri Chandrasekara Saraswathi (‘Maha Swamigal’ of Kanchi Math), Anandamayi Ma, Mata Amritanandamayi and such other Mahatmas could attract innumerable Christian and other religious followers from nook and corners of the world and give the seekers guidance on spiritual progress.

Do these masters try to woo the eager beavers from other religions to get converted to Hinduism? Never. Do they ever preach that only through following Hinduism one can attain liberation? Never.  On the contrary, they encourage people to go deeper into their own religions, grasp the truth behind their own religious teachings and try to live true to them.

Very learned pundits and erudite scholars of Philosophies come and prostrate before these Mahatmas (some of these mahatmas may not even have passed primary school level!) and seek clarification on scriptures that they have been learning for decades but could not grasp the true purport and they get convinced and enlightened by a simple explanation from these great souls! It is because what these mahatmas explain comes from the root of their own personal experience and not just from bookish knowledge.

Many Christians used to seek clarification on teachings and quotes off Bible from Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. He used to explain them from the point of view of the essence of Hinduism based on his own personal experience.  

If any of the followers from other religion who get greatly attracted to Hinduism, its teachings, its Gods and religious practices opt to change their names to typical Hindu names, start dressing like Hindus, start worshiping Hindu Gods, chant  sthotras on Hindu Gods and sing bhajans, these masters don’t discourage them either.  They know for sure that what matters for an individual is the peculiar taste that he finds appealing and attractive for following in his/her spiritual pursuit and that freedom is available, as it is available for any Hindu, to people from other religion too.

The point to note is that the great spiritual masters of Hinduism never say “Your religion is okay, but you will get liberation or salvation only if you get converted to Hinduism and worship Hindu Gods”. They would rather say, “The kingdom of God is within you, and it is up to look within yourself and attain it”.

Why Conversion from Hinduism to any other religion is highly discouraged – Part:2

This is Part: 2 of the article on Why conversion from Hinduism to other religions is highly discouraged.

In the part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism has been discussed. Please read it first, before proceeding here.

In this part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view are being answered.

Question 1: How about fake Gurus and God-men of dubious characters who seem to abound Hinduism?

Not every student studying in a class can get distinction. Not every religious aspirant has the qualities of mental purity, sacrifice, unselfishness, grittiness and adherence to austerities. It is always possible that there will be ‘drop-outs’ who, by virtue of their undigested spirituality may start their own spiritual show business and thrive by attracting seekers of dubious qualities.

Not just Hinduism, but every religion has dubious spiritual teachers who misguide people and thrive on a selfish agenda. In God’s scheme of things, it will always be there.

There will also be religious teachers at intermittent levels (Neither fake gurus not fully realized Gurus) who are earnest and sincere in their efforts, limited in their own grasp of religion but nevertheless contributing something for the religion meant for people at lower and middle levels of spiritual or religious progression. They are very much needed for any religion and their role is definitely as good as school and college teachers taking classes at various levels, with their own qualifications being enough to teach and guide pupils of appropriate grade.

Again the point to note is this: Amidst existence of fake Gurus and Gurus of various tiers, sects and subsects and schools of philosophies , it is in Hinduism that great realized saints have been evolving time and again to guide earnest seekers of spirituality with appropriate teachings suited best to the times they arrive at in the society. It is in Hinduism that one can see the constant evolution, adaptation and path correction so that true seekers are properly guided and the society at large is reshaped and guided in the right path for the wellbeing of the society and its cultural traditions.

Question 2:  If Great Hindu Masters accept all religions, then what is the problem in converting to any other religion?

If you go to your own town’s market to buy the things of your need and all essential items are very much available in your own market at affordable price, at good quality and without shortage, then what is really the need to go to next town’s market?

If someone thinks that something is amiss in his own market, it is not because it is true; it is because he has not looked around enough to see where it is available. Or it may be that he got hoodwinked by the false propaganda from a marketer from the next town who spreads lies and falsehood; it may be because the marketer from the next town offered him something out of selfish agenda to change his loyalty.

Now, coming to the stand of great spiritual masters of Hinduism accepting all religions, it is only due to their clear understanding of the all pervading nature of Godliness radiating from within themselves.  But virtually no spiritual master ever nodded in appreciation of any Hindu converting to any other religion.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is oft quoted for his statement “As many faiths; so many paths”.  He was a unique Hindu spiritual master who actually put into practice Christianity and Islam in his own life and within a short time realized the spiritual principle of these religions.  He in fact had a vision of Jesus Christ and saw Christ’s form merging into himself.

Michael Madhusudhan Datta was a famous Bengali poet who lived in Kolkotta during Sri Ramakrishna’s period. He was actually a Hindu, who had got converted to Christianity.  Once Sri Ramakrishna happened to meet Michael Madhusudhan along with some of his devotees. When someone questioned Michael as to why he had got converted to Christianity, Michael replied something like “It’s all for the sake of the stomach; what else?”

The moment Ramakrishna heard this, he left the spot, not willing to engage in any discussion with Michael, as desired by his devotees. Ramakrishna later said to his devotees: “I felt as though I was dumb folded;  Ah! What is there to talk with a person who simply forsakes his own religion and converts to another for the sake of filling his stomach! “

Once a Christian Congregational  Bishop by name Stanely Jones came from abroad to meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. He, with lots of missionary zeal, was trying to impress Maharishi about the “Kingdom of Heaven” that could be attained only through the grace of Jesus Christ; he  started teasing and challenging Bhagwan about his philosophies and questioning Bhagwan’s credentials but showed least interest or earnestness in listening and absorbing Bhagwan’s responses. After trying to make him see reason for a while, Bhagwan understood that the person was only keen on giving a sermon on the Kingdom of Heaven and  how the only facilitator for it was Jesus Christ. Bhagwan kept quiet and the person went on blabbering.

At that time, Bhagwan’s western devotee Major A W Chadwik (Sadhu Arunachala) was in the hall and having got irritated by Stanley’s behavior, Chadvik, (a Christian well versed in Bible), confronted him with pointed arguments. Stanley got shocked by the opposition he faced from a fellow Christian westerner and he opted to pack off and leave. Once he left, Bhagwan laughed and said “You have certainly paid him in his own coin!”

In Swami Vivekananda’s life too there are several instances where he was quite critical of missionaries and their efforts to convert people to Christianity. He was always critical about Islamic rulers of the past who converted gullible common people to Islam at the point of the sword.

Question 3:  What about atonement of sin? Hindu religion is fatalistic; they say one has to experience Karma and there is no escape.  It looks sinners are doomed if they follow Hinduism, whereas Christianity welcomes sinners with open hands; they say, Jesus has shed blood for all our sins and hence our sins are atoned by God. That’s so much comforting.

If any Hindu says that in Hinduism you are cent percent bound by Karma and there is no escape from sins and if a Christian says Jesus has shed his blood for your sake so that you can enjoy life absolved of all sins and keep doing sins, both are misguided!

While as per karma theory of Hinduism it is true that there will be the effect for every karma — good or bad — that one has got to experience, it is never said that it a rigid law; Karmas are not self-propelling, to give you good and bad effects on their own power. Karma is just jata – inanimate. it is God’s will that decides what effect is to be given to the karma at what time to the doer of karma.

In Hinduism, attempting to understand and breaking one’s head as to what is dharma (righteous act  that can bring good effects) and what is adharma (unrighteous acts that can bring bad effects) might get too complicated for comprehension of a commoner.  But if one surrenders totally and unconditionally to God’s will without worrying about dharma, then God (Lord Krishna) promises that he will absolve all the sins of the person (Bhagavad Gita 18-66).

Putting it more practically for the consumption of people of this Kali Yuga where dharma will tend to be at the lowest ebb, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa always emphasized that for this Yuga, chanting God’s name with reverence will absolve one from all sins.  With a firm belief in the purifying power of God’s name and with a firm resolve not to repeat the sins that one committed, if one chants God’s name again and again with devotion, his sins are absolved — assures Sri Ramakrishna.

Going further, Ramakrishna once said: “Sambu Charan once read out Bible for me for a while; Oh! There is so much of obsession with sins in it! They keep talking about sins again and again. He who says day and night, ‘I am a sinner, I am a sinner’ verily becomes a sinner. Why fear about sins? Should you not have the conviction “I chant Lord’s name; what can sins do on me?”

From the point of total surrender to God, it is indeed true that if a Christian totally surrenders to Jesus Christ with absolute trust and faith, he need not worry about the effects of past sins. But any assertion that Jesus Christ who, by virtue of shedding his blood on the cross, became qualified to be “the sole authorized arbitrator for the wholesale absolution of all Christians’ sins” (including those of converted Christians coming in with a sin-washing agenda) turns out to be too blasphemous a claim!

Continued in —> Part:3 (Final part) . In this part, the problems with love affairs and marriages between religions are discussed.

Why Conversion from Hinduism to Any Other Religion is Highly Discouraged? – Part:3

This is Part: 3 of the article on Why conversion from Hinduism to other religions is highly discouraged.

In the part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism has been discussed. Please read it first, before proceeding here.

In the part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view have been answered, which can be read HERE.

In this 3rd and concluding part, some FAQs from sociological point of view are being answered.

Q: Are not the curse of untouchability and the vagaries of caste system the prime reasons for people to leave Hinduism and embrace religions like Islam?

There is no denial of the fact that practice of untouchability by Hindus was one of the prime reasons for a marginalized segment of society to get alienated with Hinduism. This alienation was rightly cashed in by vested interests from other religions to convert them to their religion citing their trump card of so-called equality.

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 another 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 other religion, 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.

 

A person from a so-called lower caste of Hinduism, by converting to Islam does not become equal with Muslims of the elite class. A converted Muslim worker doing a leather processing work at Vaniyampadi , Tamil Nadu does not become equal to a Mappila Muslim Businessman doing export of leather goods in Kannur, Kerala. An elite Muslim from Hyderabad Nawab’s family cannot claim equality with a native Saudi Arabian Sheik who owns a couple of oil wells! The same is applicable to any other religion that claims non-discrimination.

Another bare fact is that the religions that Hindus are wooed to get converted to claiming ‘equality’ or ‘love’ as their trump card are not in any way free from strife from internal squabbles. Islamic Shias and Sunnis are perennially in loggerheads with each other and the extent of bloodshed that took place in the past the and taking place at all the times within these “equals” is a never-ending history. To some extent it is true with regard to the “unconditional love” of Jesus Christ being practiced in the form of outright bitterness between Protestants and Catholics in Christianity.

Hence basically it is a “human failure” and not the shortcomings in a religion that causes divisions in society within a religion. No religion including Hinduism is ever going to be free from it. Consequently it is meaningless to get converted to another religion citing such shortcomings in one’s own religion.

Q: Is it not really good for the marginalized people to embrace another religion to get saved from discrimination and marginalization?

Actually, people getting converted to another religion will have to face a tougher social discrimination in reality, rather than equality.

The ground reality is that the discriminations practiced in a society are not going to vanish like a magic by getting converted to another religion. We should not fail to notice that untouchability was not something practiced by Brahmins (the upper class) alone. The truth is that in many Indian villages, it is the people in the so called ‘Shudra class’ (lower caste, also known as ‘Jaathi Hindus’) who contemptuously discriminate scheduled castes and refuse to accept them as equals. It is they who refuse equal access to Dalits in local temples, cremation grounds, tea shops and eateries.

If village people belonging to schedule caste convert to Christianity or Islam and remain in the same village, the mindset of the other Jaathi Hindus is not going to change in any way! In fact, their tendency to discriminate them will only get harder, because those converts are not part of their religion too now!

Even within one caste, if some people get converted to another religion, they are frowned upon by their community. They get socially alienated and marginalized. The emotional bonding with relatives gets broken. The new converts, out of their new association with the religion, tend to be very staunch in their new-found belief for two reasons: Firstly, they want to ‘prove’ to the outside world that they have indeed made the right choice and they want to take pride for their boldness; secondly, they are very eager to establish a closer association with people of the new religion. Thus the gaudy behavior of “over-enthusiastic-converts” irks and irritates their erstwhile community. The people of their new religion also become rather cautious and reserved to accept the converts who seem to display a ‘more-loyal-than-the-king’ attitude, as their social equals.

Another blatant ground reality across the globe seems to be that Muslims, despite whatever goodness they may possess as individuals, are getting alienated and marginalized amidst the people of most other religions. On account of the widespread practice of terrorism against other believers by misguided Islamic fanatics as though terrorism is part and parcel of their religion’s basic tenets and teachings, this religion is getting estranged in plural societies. Consequently, common and good hearted people belonging to this religion have to face the evils.

In India, people belonging to this religion, when they need a rented house accommodation, find it very difficult to get in localities where people of all other religions live in majority. Hence they are forced to seek living accommodation only in localities where their own religious people live in majority, which is not really good for communal harmony.

Q: What is wrong if a man or woman, truly loving a person of opposite sex from another religion, gets converted to the religion of his lover for the sake of marriage? Is it not a worthy sacrifice done for the sake of upholding true love that every religion seems to preach?

Such a question creates some disturbing questions on the veracity of the so called true love itself! If the Hindu is expected to forsake his/ her religion for the sake of love, what is the real stand of the other family that demands religious conversion as a basic condition for the consummation of love? It only means that their “love” of their religion is so powerful that they are not prepared for any compromise in the matter of human love!

It means that family thinks that their boy or girl involved in the love affair belongs to a superior class – a superior religion; if the other Hindu boy/girl really wants the marriage to take place, then he/she should essentially forego their “lower” religion with all its associated emotional bonds. It is the “inferior” one that needs to compromise, not the “superior” one!

It means the Hindu boy or girl foregoing his/her own religion for the sake of marriage is starting his very new life with a huge compromise – with a covert acceptance that he/she is an underdog. It is bound to leave a bad taste, an imperceptible emotional wound deep in the psyche. It is bound to bounce up in future at some opportune time to create serious emotional bickering or retaliation in some way.

It is bound to be so because religion is not just only a means of communication with God; religion is deeply bound to one’s culture, family traditions, principles, values, ethics, emotions and sentiments. Religion is somehow closely interwoven with many things including food habits, dressing habits, living habits, manners, interpretations on what is right and wrong and so on.

A person may not be religious from the point of view of practicing religious disciplines (like going to a temple, worshiping God, doing prayers, practicing austerities etc) and may even think that religion is not a practical necessity for conducting day today life. But in reality, his / her life right from childhood would have got molded with many habits, beliefs, sentiments and practices deeply associated with the religion. It is extremely difficult get rid of these associations even though one may externally forsake his/ her religion. It is these associations that can cause deep emotional conflicts between the spouses post marriage.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to explain this with a funny story. Once during Moghul rule, a Hindu Shakta (worshipper of divine mother Shakthi/ Kali) was forcefully converted to Islam by Moghul soldiers, at the point of sword. They would torture him and beat him and force him to shout “Allah”. The man would cry out “Allah” but in between, he would involuntarily shout, “Oh Jagadamba!” (Oh divine mother). Hearing that, the soldiers would beat him still harder. The man with folded hands would plead to the soldiers “Oh! Wait, wait. Please have a little patience and mercy on me. What can I do? I only want to call out “Allah, Allah” but this Jagadamba (divine mother) has already been occupying me up to my throat and she is pushing out your Allah and not allowing him to enter! What can I do?!”

Take for example a Hindu girl whose parents have the habit of practicing fasting on some of the holy days. She might have observed her parents eating only fruits or drinking only milk just one time in a day on such days. Or she might have seen them not eating any food, but taking water nevertheless. Or she might have seen them totally avoiding non-vegetarian food on some holy days. When they finish the fasting, she might have seen them eating simple food, without heavy spicing, avoiding garlic etc.

If such a girl relinquishes her religion and converts to Islam for the sake of marriage, the observance of fasting during Id festival would look very strange and extremely difficult to follow or practice for her. The very idea of keeping fast for the whole day time without taking even a sip of water might look too scary to her from health point of view; after fasting in day time, the practice of eating nutritionally very rich, highly spicy and non-vegetarian food with no holds barred during night time could look too contrary to the very lofty purpose of undertaking fast in day time to her. It is only natural for her deep-rooted Hindu culture, beliefs and principles. If she happens to be a vocal type, she might even question and criticize her husband about the veracity of such a fasting technique and surely she is bound to end up with hurting her husband’s religious sentiments and facing its consequences.

The joy of familiy get-togethers on a festival like Deepavali can never be compensated…

The above is just one example. There could be umpteen such things that would come up as conflicts between the spouses in the matters of habits, practices, sentiments and values.

If the erstwhile Hindu girl happens to be a person following some religious practices, her life will become much more miserable. She is bound to suffer from the loss of emotional necessities like going to temples, praying to her favorite Hindu God, singing devotional songs, celebrating festivals in the traditional way, the joy of the coming together of close relatives and exchanging of pleasantries on festival days etc. Marriages and other celebrations in Hindu families are such joyous occasions that she would have enjoyed so much in the past. Post marriage, practically she would get distanced from her erstwhile relatives on account of her conversion. Her relatives are bound to ignore her in extending invitations for her for such family functions. Even if she were invited, she would have to face lots of embarrassment in facing them.

Post childbirth, the conflicts are bound to get deeper. Her erstwhile religious leanings will prompt her to inculcate Hindu values, habits and cultural tendencies in her child; she may face very stiff opposition from her spouse and in-laws on such endeavors and it is bound to add more marital discards in her life.

Thus a short time compromise on the matter of religion for the sake of ‘love’ has every potential to wreck the very marriage itself in the long run.

Conclusion

To summarize all the 3 parts of this article series,

  • Hinduism is such an ancient and so well established a religion lacking in nothing, that anyone discarding this religion and converting to other religion can only be faulted for ignorance and misguided adventurism or opportunism.
  • Hinduism is never concerned with attracting and converting people of other religions to Hinduism.
  • It is only in Hinduism that there has been a never ending and continuous arrival of Avatars and Saints at all times. Many of such saints are most sought after by earnest seekers from other religions too for spiritual guidance. These saints did not support people converting from Hinduism to other religions.
  • It is a total misunderstanding of Hinduism if people believe sinners have no scope for redemption in the religion.
  • It is foolhardy to believe that converted people get into a classless society without any discrimination. No religion in the world can assure cent percent universal love, equality and freedom from class conflicts and strife.
  • Religion plays a major role in one’s culture, habits, tastes, lifestyle, principles, values and ethics. These influences follow one even after converting to another religion and have strong potential to cause internal and external conflicts. Love marriages happening after a religious conversion have every potential to end up in strife on account of these factors.

-=o0o=-

Seva – Understanding the human psychology behind volunteering

Unless very spiritually evolved, most of us live in this world with lots of selfish motives. We lead our lives for our sustenance and procreation, to protect ourselves from dangers, to fulfill our desires, to dominate others, to love others, to hate others, to be loved by others, to be respected by others and so on. When, in these motives, we encounter resistance or hurdles, at times we do not mind acting too selfish by causing difficulties and troubles others, subjugating others or treading into others’ territory to garner forcefully something from their rightful share.

The tendency to help others

Side by side with our selfish motives, we also have inkling within our heart, either prompted by our own conscience, or based on the teachings and advice from parents, teachers and religious masters, that selfishness is essentially an undesirable quality. We are also taught to be kind and helpful to others; we are also advised to pay something back to the society in return for what it does for our welfare.

For those believing in God, it is told that God lives in the heart of every being and by offering help to the needy without selfish motives, we are in a way doing something to please the God who happens to be the indweller of the recipient.

Thus even in the heart of a hard core criminal, there is a soft corner to extend a helping hand to others. Tendency to help others is a spiritual force to counter-balance selfishness existing in human psyche.

Volunteering Help

When one willingly offers one’s time, money, material or physical/ mental/intellectual help to others, without “outwardly” expecting anything in return, it is volunteering. Volunteering may take place either unasked or after asked. You see an accident happening on the road right in front of your eyes. You run to the spot and try to extricate accident victims from the damaged vehicle and also call police and ambulance. That is volunteering help unasked.

A neighbor’s son has fallen seriously sick at mid night. The lady in the house is alone and she is too nervous to take her son all alone to the hospital. She wants you to accompany her and you readily agree sacrificing a peaceful sleep at the night. This is volunteering help, when asked.

Who receives the voluntary help

We may offer our voluntary help to relatives, friends, neighbors, local church/ a religious group/ organization, a philanthropic organization, non-profit activities (scientific, intellectual etc) or to a society in distress (say in floods, earthquakes, storms, etc).

Help may also be volunteered to commercial organizations and organizations without a direct role of social welfare, just because the organization sought for voluntary help and there were eager volunteers who felt attached or obligated to the organization in some way. Example: A commercial Blogging site arranging a get-together of all blogging members in a particular town and asking for volunteers from its members for organizing, coordinating and conducting the meeting in an orderly way.

Getting trapped into volunteerism?

Is volunteering always altruistic?

Though volunteering is generally perceived as a good human quality, which is either to be in existence in everyone’s heart or to be cultivated in everyone’s psyche and is perceived to be a quality oriented with one’s spiritual upliftment too, the tendency to volunteer help may not always be altruistic in the heart of a volunteer.

Ideally, in volunteering, selfish motive must be totally absent. But such idealism may not be practical among common mortals.

Mata Amritanandamayi (the “hugging saint”), a great spiritual master in India (and considered as an Avatar of God- Universal Mother) says “Only after self-realization or god realization, one attains a state of complete and total unselfishness. Until that state is reached, whatever service we do calling “selfless service”, is only an attempt to gain the state total unselfishness. Only when our ego is totally eliminated, true selfless service is possible. Until then, some amount of selfishness will always be found mixed in our service. You may claim that you are doing a selfless service, but if your probe deep into you, you will find an element of selfishness lurking inside”.

As Mata says, many times our ego smartly hides our true inner motives of offering voluntary service, and makes us outwardly imagine ourselves to be very unselfish, endowed with very large, magnanimous hearts! Of course, there will always be exceptions and there will always be different degrees of selfishness or unselfishness behind volunteering service.

Overt or hidden motives behind volunteering

Mental and Ego Satisfaction

“It gives me lots of satisfaction to help others; it enhances my personal value to myself; I enjoy helping others and making the world a better place to live; I believe in sharing something that I have but others don’t have” – these are some of the reasons people give when asked what makes them volunteer service to others.

Intellectual satisfaction

A website dedicated to offering solutions on “surface protection against corrosion” invites voluntary “experts” to join the site as members and offer solutions to problems in corrosion issues posted by other members.

Engineers and proprietors of firms who are familiar with corrosion prevention may get themselves enrolled as experts and post solutions to the queries there. Their attitude will be like: “I know I am knowledgeable on this matter and I am quite happy to voluntarily share my knowledge”. For such people it is intellectual satisfaction which is another form of ego satisfaction.

Pride

Some people say, “I feel proud that I am able to help others through my voluntary service”. This pride will find expression through some form of boasting.

A person made in-charge of free food distribution to the poor in a religious festival will boast at opportune moment: “The Swami is very particular that the job should be entrusted only to me and none else. This is the 7th year in a row that I am in-charge of this service. There is so much of work pressure at the office and my manager would not grant me leave. But I said “Nothing doing – if you can’t grant me leave, you can take my resignation straight away; this service is more important than my job”. He virtually saluted me and sanctioned the leave!”

Appreciation/ recognition

Many people do not like to lead a faceless life in this world. People want to get noticed. They want to be become widely known to many, if not famous. Whether they are truly qualified or not, whether they have true expertise or not, people think of themselves as possessors of skills and merits that the world has woefully failed to recognize. If any opportunity to showcase and advertise their “unrecognized merits” comes across, they would not mind volunteering their service free, just to get some form of recognition and appreciation.

A website publishes articles under various major subject groups by obtaining them from authors. The website invites volunteers from its writing community to work as subject experts and their duty is to offer suitable titles for articles, monitor the incoming contents for quality and offer “technical” help to the site and to its writing members based on specific needs.

The members are given “Subject Expert” badges that they can prominently display in their Profile pages. They are permitted to boast about it in their writing endeavors outside the website. The site showers them with accolades and smartly gets things done through their voluntary service, what they have to pay and get otherwise!

Calculative Mentality

There are people who would do something voluntarily today with a calculative mind to get something else in return in the future. A clerk in an office goes all out to voluntarily offer service to the Manager, in planning, arranging and organizing the marriage of the manager’s daughter. His idea is that when it comes to promotions in the office, he will stand a better chance to get it when compared to a colleague, who is definitely much more meritorious, but does not care to develop a cordial one-to-one relationship with the manager.

Though many people would stoutly oppose the following statement, it is a widely perceived fact that businessmen and industrialists join Rotary Clubs and Lion’s clubs and offer their voluntary service with an ulterior motive to socialize and develop good business contacts with other businessmen. The services also offer them a respectable recognition in the society as philanthropists.

Compulsion

A purchase manager in a multi-bullion business organization has a social service organization run by his wife. When vendors meet him for business deals, he would casually mention about the philanthropic organization that his wife runs and how he would really appreciate people offering money or materials (say, cement and steel needed for a school building they are constructing) to the organization. He would give a small lecture on how the world has turned too selfish these days and how philanthropic activities can “spiritually elevate” people. He would conclude saying that whatever he says is purely suggestive. No compulsions; nothing to do with the business deals!

But his vendors will be smart enough to understand. They would make sure to donate money or materials to the philanthropic organization mentioned by the Purchase manager and would gladly await flow of orders from his company.

Atoning sin

And there are people who are lured by worldly pulls, pressures and sensual attractions and go astray by indulging in “sinful” activities. However, deep in their heart, they too may have religious and spiritual moorings and their conscience may warn them of dire consequences of their activities. Such people may tend to consider volunteering service or donating huge sums of money to religious or philanthropic activities as a way of atonement of their sins.

Ramakrishna (left) The Master and Vivekananda (right) the Inspired Disciple – “By serving people you are only serving God”

Helping others – at the exalted spiritual point of view

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a great Hindu spiritual master, who is an expert in exposing threadbare the egoistic machinations human mind, says thus about “helping others”:

“Charity! Doing good to others! How dare you say you can do good to others?… If a householder gives in charity in a spirit of detachment, he is really doing good to himself and not to others. It is God alone that he serves – God, who dwells in all beings; and when he serves lord, he is really doing good to himself and not to others”.

“Helping others, doing good to others – this is the work of God alone… The love you see in parents is God’s love. He has given it to them to preserve his creation. The compassion you see in the kind-hearted person is God’s compassion. He has given it to them to protect the helpless… Do you think the world is so small to depend on your service? ..Whether you are charitable or not, God will have his work done somehow or other”.

Ramakrishna mentions further about his conversation with one of his devotees Shambu.

“Shambu said to me: “It is my desire to build large number of hospitals and dispensaries. This way, I can do much good to the poor”. I said to him: “Yes, that is not bad if you can do it in a detached spirit. But to be detached is very difficult unless you sincerely love God. And further, if you entangle yourself in many activities, you will be attached to them in a way unknown to yourself. You may think you have no motive behind your work, but perhaps there has already grown a desire for fame and the advertising of your name. Further, the pressure of work will make you forget God.”

Charity and love of God

Ramakrishna clearly distinguishes charity work of worldly minded from the Godly minded. He further says “Those who build hospitals and dispensaries and get pleasure from that are no doubt good people; but they are of a different type. He who is a real devotee of God seeks nothing but God. If he finds himself entangled in too much work, he earnestly prays “Lord, be gracious and reduce my work; my mind which should think of you day and night, has been wasting its power; it thinks of worldly things alone”.

Volunteering as Guru Seva with the right mindset

For people who are in the path of spiritual quest, doing voluntary seva is always prescribed by Gurus as the best way of acquiring necessary purity of heart for progressing in spirituality. A spiritual aspirant has to necessarily get rid of his ahankaram (ego) and mamaharam (possessiveness) if he wants spiritual progress.  A sadguru will put a disciple in such a service where there is high scope for his ego getting hit and hurt. He will put him into service where the volunteer is forced to share, sacrifice, adjust with others, come out of his shells of comfort, give away his possessions and possessiveness etc.

The satguru will test his disciples in so many ways by putting him into seva and watching how he performs. Some people will be very attached to their own skills (like photography, painting, computer programming, accounting etc). The satguru may test a disciple by putting them into areas of activities that are totally out of tune with their skills and see how far they are able to adapt, learn new skills and adjust. The guru may give power, post and position to a person and see whether he gets corrupted by them. He may put a person quite used to power, position and commanding others, to work as a subordinate  under another person who may not be fully qualified or skilled in administration.

Unless the disciple is extremely focused in his spiritual goal and be ready to shed his egotism and serve with humility, he would find volunteering quite painful and taxing under a Satguru.

But if the disciple has patience and perseverance, selfless seva is one of the best means to attain mental purity and progress in spirituality at the fastest rate. The Satguru also paves the way for quick disbursal of prarabdhas of the disciple through whatever suffering he undergoes in doing the seva.

Thus volunteering service  has quite a lot of emotional, psychological and spiritual machinations behind it. Volunteering is not truly altruistic always.

Quotation sources:

“Arul Mozhigal – Tamil – Vol. VI Mata Amritanandamayi Math

“The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna” – Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.

How to lead a healthy life – healthcare advice from traditional wisdom

Health is wealth. Unfortunately, the present generation seems to be losing health mostly in the quest for wealth. Right from school days the need for excellence, competitive instincts, ambition, hard work, etc. are taught to be the most essential qualifications for success in life. And success in life is projected to be materialistic success only. Result? Stress and tension are now interwoven in people’s lives right from the childhood. And these two words are now termed as elements of present day “life style”, as though they are status symbols to boast of!

Health care expenses are rising to dangerous proportions across the globe. Unfortunately, instead of finding ways and means to live a life of better health which can reduce medical expenses, people are running around more and more hopelessly ignoring their well being in quest of money. And they think this money will fund them in the ever mounting medical expenses!

If you do not belong to this majority and you want to seriously know how to lead a healthy life that can drastically reduce your medical expenses, read on.

Your health depends on 5 major factors:

  1. Your food
  2. Your genetics
  3. Your exercise
  4. Your environment and
  5. Your immoderate cravings that decide your lifestyle. By bringing in control in what is controllable in these factors, you can live a healthier life.

Some of these suggestions on healthy living may look outlandish and impractical. Some of them may be contrary to popular and widely prevalent advice. It is up to you to grasp them, try to adopt them, modify them to suit you or reject them.

Your Food and Your Health

Everyone knows the need for a balanced food containing carbohydrate, proteins, minerals, fats and vitamins. Many health conscious people are overly concerned about the calculation of calories in their food intake. Don’t worry too much about the calculations.

  • Have a sumptuous breakfast. Whatever you eat in breakfast mostly gets burnt up. A good breakfast does not cause obesity. Let at least 50% of your day’s energy needs and nutrition come from breakfast.
  • Eat moderately at lunch.
  • Eat lightly at dinner.
  • Never eat to your stomach’s full (even in breakfast). Leave empty space for intake of water and to allow gases of digestion to escape. A rough guide could be: eat to three fourth of your stomach’s capacity in breakfast, eat to slightly more than half of your stomach’s capacity at lunch and keep half of your stomach empty at dinner.
  • Avoid munching snacks in between meal time just to satisfy your taste buds. Do not consume coffee, tea or other beverages unnecessarily in between.
  • Switch over to vegetarianism. If not possible, reduce your intake of meat and increase your proportion of vegetarian food.
  • Skip dinner at least once in a week. Consume some fruits instead, if you can’t fully skip eating.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic drinks altogether; if you can’t, at least drastically reduce their consumption.

Your Genetics and Your Health

Physical ailments like hyper tension, diabetes, asthma, obesity etc are passed to your genes by your parents and ancestors. It only means that you have a higher probability of getting these ailments genetically. If you are conscious of your eating habits, exercise and the influence of your lifestyle, then to a fair extent you can delay the arrival of these ailments and combat them in a better way if and when they come to you.

Your Exercise and Your Health

Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes etc have every potential to spoil the health of one who does not exercise. On the other extreme, scientists say that undertaking strenuous and physically taxing exercises may be fun at young age but they may leave negative health imprints on your body as you grow older.

Doing moderate exercise that rejuvenates your body and does not strain it too far seems to be the best option. Hence,

  • do walking regularly. Walking is by far the best form of exercise. A brisk walking for half an hour to an hour per day and moderate stretching exercises for about 10 minutes a day may prove to be quite adequate for majority.
  • Do not miss opportunities to get unobtrusive and indirect exercises right through the day. These include walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift (up to 2 to 4 floors), doing domestic chores (sweeping the floors, hand washing of clothes and utensils etc).

Your Environment and Your Health

The environment where you live can affect your health by way of pollution, heat, cold, humidity, dust etc. If you are suffering from asthma, allergies etc caused by your environment, look into the possibility of shifting your residence to some other location where the detrimental factors are less.

Your Immoderate Cravings, Your Lifestyle and Your Health

Craving for more and more money, materialistic possessions, unbridled sexual thrill, craving for achievement, for getting recognition — either through fame or through notoriety, craving for eating, for acquiring more and more creature comforts — the list is endless and all these cravings pave the way for spoiling health in every way.

If you are willing to think differently, consider these:

  • Moderation is the key to healthy and peaceful living.
  • simplify your lifestyle — your status consciousness, your eating habits, your dress and fashion, your mode of travel, and your creature comforts.
  • Travel less. Excessive traveling affects eating and sleeping patterns. It robs you of your regular exercise.
  • Be loyal to your married partner. Do not seek sexual relationship outside marriage.
  • Minimize eating out and maximize eating at home.
  • Reduce your goals and ambitions in life. Consciously slow down.
  • Be health conscious but don’t make a fetish about it. Never run to a doctor for petty ailments. Learn simple home remedies. Do not acquire more than cursory knowledge about diseases and symptoms. Do not undergo periodic and regular medical checkups unnecessarily if your health is normal.

Human mind and body are intrinsically interconnected. A peaceful mind can help a long way in maintaining a healthy body. If our goal in life is tuned towardsachieving mental peace rather than materialistic success, health will reign supreme in our body.

Book Review of “The Laws of the Spirit World” by Khorshed Bhavnagri

Normally spiritual advice and wisdom come to us through scriptures, Gurus and Avatars. What if spiritual guidance on rightful living comes to us from the spirit world itself, through departed souls who live in higher realms of life?

That’s precisely what this book “The laws of the spirit world” purportedly offers.

It all happened after the gory death of two smart young men (by name Vispi and Ratoo) as a consequence of an automobile accident that they met with in the year 1985. The peaceful and happy life of Khorshed Bhavanagri and Rumi Bhavnagri, the parents of Vispi and Ratoo (who were living in Mumbai) got shattered overnight due to the accidental death of their beloved sons . The Bhavnagris were thrown into inconsolable sorrow and depression. The departed souls of Vispi and Ratoo could not bear watching from their abode in the spirit world the pain and mental suffering that their most loved parents were undergoing; they wanted to help them; . Through the help of a medium, they reached out to their parents.

Over time, Khorshed Bhavanagri learned the skill of communicating to the spirit world as a medium herself and she started regularly communicating with the souls of her children. She acquired the skill of Auto-writing (whereby the spirits dictate their messages and the medium writes down in a state of trance – and it could be in a language to totally unknown to the medium – in this case, in English that Bhavnagri didn’t know) .

It is in this way, that Vispi and Ratoo reportedly opened out the facts and realities about the spirit world, the different realms of existence of the souls there, how sinful souls have to undergo painful living at lower realms and good souls can enjoy “heavenly” bliss, the confirmation and validity of rebirth, the laws of Karma, the purpose of human birth in this world, the existence of God, the need for morality in life and so on. Bhavnagri’s auto-written notes came out in the form of this book after her death.

What is curiously interesting in this book is the description of the spirit world unfolded to us by (the souls of) Vispy and Ratoo. According to them, there exists 7 realms of life in the spirit world. While level 4 is the medium level where good and bad, dark and light co-exist (almost like our world), level 1 to 3 are darker worlds where sinners undergo punishment ; level 5 to 7 are holier worlds where good souls reap their rewards of leading a morally enriched worldly life through varying degrees of bliss and tranquility.

According to them, the goal of each soul is to raise from its existing ( lower ) realms to higher realms through acts of goodness, positive efforts, developing morally right behavior and then getting liberation once for all (free from birth and death) by transcending level 7. This process is reportedly very slow; the way to quicken is to take birth on this earth, which is truly a Karma Bhoomi (world to exhaust karma by indulging in it) . The souls can reportedly take the option of getting a re-birth in this world to parents of their choice. Once taken birth, they do not remember about their past, but their past memories are stored deep in their sub-conscious mind.

After taking birth here, the souls have to undergo trials and tribulations depending on their karmas that need to be exhausted, get purer, holier, acquire positive qualities and grow spiritually. The purpose of human birth is precisely that. Only through a human birth the karmas and vasanas get depleted fast to enable the souls reach up to higher realms. They get spiritual guidance by suitable means from the spiritual world as well as Gurus in this world. But the soul is endowed with free will and through it, one may lose track, get into bad company, immoral ways and lead a sinful life, thereby wasting this birth and after death, ending up at a sorry state at a lower realm and suffer in the spirit world.

According to this book, our conscience (or sub-conscious mind) plays a very important role to shape up our lives positively. The more we listen and act as per the voice of our conscience the more we grow spiritually. The more we ignore it, the more we suffer. If the voice of the conscience is constantly ignored , it goes dormant. Then one loses correct spiritual guidance from inside and he ends up doing more sins.

Many key aspects of spiritual wisdom that the souls of Ratoo and Vispy convey through this book are very strikingly in resonance with basic tenets of Hinduism; many things seem to have been in tune with what we grasp from several Puranas and Itihas (Ramayana and Maha Bharata) and Hindu scriptures.

There are ‘real life stories’ narrated in this book on how people lose track of their purpose of human life (and reincarnation) and get drifted away; how, for truly good souls, spiritual guidance for corrective course of action comes from spirit world and so on.

This book is essentially a spiritual book of guidance for positive living. Spiritual seekers can find very reassuring tips and guidance from this book that can reinforce their faith in God and help adhere to rightful and spiritually enriching life.

Other readers may find the reading a shade boring and repetitive. Rationalists may find this book a figment of imagination fostering blind faith and moral indoctrination.

But those who are neither spiritual seekers nor rationalists but who are concerned about the consequences of rights and wrongs that they have done in this life, this book can give lots of food for thought, introspection and assimilation.

Details:

Title: The Laws of the Spirit world

Author: Khorshed Bhavnagri

Publisher: Jaico Publishing House, India

ISBN 978-81-7992-985-8

1st print: 2009 5th print 2011

To buy on line: flipcart — The laws of the spirit world

 

Are Brahmins alone the sole saviors of Hinduism?

No. Not Brahmins, but Mahatmas, saints, sages and Avatara Purushas are indeed the saviors of Hinduism. These great souls come from all castes and all walks of life. Incidentally, some of them are Brahmins.

In a way, Brahmins are better positioned to become mahatmas, saints and sages, because of the way of their upbringing, cultural background and tradition, their self-discipline, their intellect, their better exposure to core scriptures and Sanskrit. But positioning alone does not assure becoming.

Non-Brahmin saints & Sages:

Avatars of Vishnu — Sri Rama and Sri Krishna were kshatriyas. Many of the sants of Maharashtra’s Varkari Sampradaya were non-brahmins. Meera Bhai was a kshatriya.

Several Azhvars of Tamil Vaishnava Bhakti tradition were non-brahmins. Most of the 63 Nayanmars of Tamil Saiva Bhakti tradition were non-brahmins. Vallalar Sri Ramalinga Adigalar (Tamil Nadu) was a non-brahmin. Nandanar (Tamil Nadu) was born in scheduled caste. Most of 18 Siddhas of Tamil Nadu were non-brahmins.

Kabirdas was a Muslim. Rayidas was a cobbler. Sri Satya Sai was a Kshatriya Raju by birth, Swami Vivekananda was a Kayastha (non-brahmin) by birth.

Akka Mahadevi (Karnataka)

Saint-poets Arunagirinathar and Pattinatthar (Tamil Nadu) were a Vaisyas.

Sri Narayana Guru of Kerala was a Ezhava (non-brahmin). Swami Chinmayananda (Kerala) was a Nair.

Sri Nisarga Datta Maharaj

Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) (Kerala) is a fisher woman by birth. She has numerous Brahmin disciples.

We also have a long list of saints and sages who were Brahmins by birth.

Brahmin saints & Sages:

Sri Shankara, Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhvacharya, Swami Desikan, Raghavendra Swami

Samarth Ramdas (Maharashtra), Badrachala Ramadas (Andhra), Papa Ramadas (Anandashram), Saint Thyagaraja Swamigal (Tamil Nadu), Saint Poet Annamacharya (Andra)

Tulasidas, Chaitanya Maha Prabhu, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his consort Sri Sarada Devi.

Swami Brahmananda, Swami Shivananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Swami Turiyananda, Swami Abhedananda (all of them were main disciples of Sri Ramakrisha Paramahamsa)

Shirdi Sai Baba (Brahmin by birth, brought up by Muslim family)

Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Sri Seshadri Swamigal, Kavyakanda Ganapathi Sastri (Sri Ramana’s disciple).

Swami Sivananda Saraswati (Rishikesh), Chattampi Swamigal (Kerala)

Anandamayi Ma

Sri Sri Raishankar, Jaggi Vasudev

… and so on.