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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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Do people who undergo much suffering in life eventually attain happiness one day or other?

Let me share a funny story that Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) narrates:

A person was suffering from one hardship after another in life and got very much dejected. He went to consult an astrologer to know what he holds for the future.

The astrologer, after going through the horoscope said “ Your planetary positions are too unfavorable.You will have to go through sufferings till your age of 50”.

The man felt somewhat relieved. He asked eagerly, “It means I will lead a smooth and happy life after that, right?”

The astrologet said, “No. You will get used to facing troubles and managing them afterward!”.

Amma used to say that ‘parasthithi‘ (external circumstances) cannot be changed easily, but with effort, it is possible to change our ‘manasthithi‘ (state of mind). When, by spiritual effort, we manage to acquire mental strength and eaquanimity, we will be able to face joys and sorrows with lots of balance. We will not get over joyed in moments of fortune, nor get too disturbed and depressed against adversities.

When mindset changes, by divine grace, there is every chance that trials and tribulations too diminish in life.

Amma offering consolation to the sick

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Do Hindu scriptures prohibit eating non-veg? Is it true that even Brahmins were non-vegetarians in the distant past?

Eating non-veg is NOT prohibited in Hinduism. Actually,  the concept of vegetarianism as an extension of non-violence (in the matter of eating) came to Hinduism from Jainism/ Buddhism.

In any case, non-violence is part of ‘yama’ (right practices) for a Hindu spiritual aspirant and consequently, vegetarianism is part and parcel of it. Most Hindu spiritual masters do encourage vegetarianism only.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, being a Bengali Brahmin was eating fish (since fish is not strictly treated as non-veg by Bengalis). During his early days in Dakshineswar temple, he was reportedly eating goat’s meat too coming from Temple kitchen as prasad (off the goats offered as sacrifice to Bhavatarnini Kali) but later years, he stopped eating it. However, he has said that sacrificing goat to Kali (and eating it as prasad) on specific occasions was permitted as per Tantra scriptures.

Since Brahmins by nature and nurture were more satvic, they easily adopted to vegetarianism, even though Brahmins too were non-vegetarians in the distant past, as we could see in Mahabharata. When Padadvas were in exile, living in the forests, several Brahmins were staying with the Pandavas and giving them company in the forest. Pandava’s priest Dhoumya wanted to give a grand feast to these Brahmins one day and he requested Pandavas to hunt lots of animals and bring them for cooking and serving to these brahmins. It was when Pandavas went for this hunting that the King Jayatratha tried to misbehave with Draupati who was alone.

Interestingly, at a later time, there is a conversation that Yudhishtra has with his brothers. He says that he had a dream in which the animals living in that specific segment of forest came and pleaded to him that their population was fast dwindling and prayed to him to save their kith and kin! Yudhishtra, then decides to move to another forest from there. So much of eating of meat by Yudhishtra and bros along with their team of servants and the brahmins giving them company!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mind you, this is a real life story.

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Can Partners with Diametrically Opposite Qualities make a Success of a Marriage? Do inter-religious marriages have more risk of failures?

In magnets, opposite poles attract each other; in marital relationship, similarity in tastes and qualities attract the partners initially. However, it is mostly when the honeymoon period ends, that the partners get exposed to the presence of diametrically opposite qualities in each other!

The diametrically opposite qualities may range across many aspects of personality, habits, beliefs, principles and values, ethics and convictions, cultures and so on. The trouble really starts when one of the partners starts displaying a “holier than thou” attitude, justifying, glorifying or emphasizing his/her side of qualities to be superior to the other; when he/she expects the other partner to drastically modify and adapt to suit his/her preferences, the problems get compounded.

While what one of the partners claim as a better trait/ quality/ value may even be true, the resistance

to accept the other becomes strong when one starts trumpeting one’s superiority at every opportune moment and starts attempts to “reforming” the other.

Let us take an example. The man is an owl type who goes to the bed late and gets up late in the morning. His wife on the other hand is an early bird who rises up briskly even before dawn and goes to bed early. The wife has been indoctrinated to believe right from her childhood by her parents that rising early is the best of all habits. She starts chiding her husband for his sloth and dullness in the mornings. She tries to reform him by forcefully waking him up early in the morning and compelling him to go for jogging!

To make a success of marriage in such diametrically opposite qualities, here are some guidelines:

 

Accept and respect biological differences

Early rising or late rising, taking a nap habitually in the afternoons, disliking certain food items that are really good for health, sumptuous eating or sparse eating, excessive desire in sex — these are some basic biological differences that exists in nature in the individual constitution of people. There is really no point in forcing the partner on such matters. It is best for the cordiality of the marital relationship for one partner to accept and adopt oneself to the differences in the other.

Accept the views of the partner whose ethics and values are better

Let us consider another example. The husband comes from a family where accepting or giving bribes is considered highly unethical. On the other hand, the wife comes from a family where accepting money or goodies in return for doing out-of-turn favors is never considered wrong. The wife may pester her husband, who works in a Government office where bribing is taken for granted, to accept bribes (like the other colleagues in the office who have no qualms about it), in order improve their financial status. This puts the husband into a very disturbing mental agony and moral dilemma. Whose resolve should succeed in such a situation?

In the interest of long term mental peace and wellness of the family, it is always best if the morally sound partner takes the upper hand and convinces the spouse on the importance of sticking to time-tested principles and values.

Take another example — one of the partners is a spendthrift while the other is miserly. Lots of tempers can raise in such a combo! In such a scenario, only through healthy discussions, arguments and give-and-take, the couples can pull along. The spendthrift has to curtail her instincts while the miser should learn to open his wallet wider and more frequently to satisfy genuine needs of the partner.

 Tread extra cautiously in matters of religion and cultural differences

Thanks to the mind blowing advancements in communication, traveling and globalization of businesses, people get lots of exposure to other cultures, religions, languages and communities. Naturally, men and women are exposed to falling in love with persons having diametrically opposite religious and cultural moorings. In fact, even such differences have the potential initially make the love affair extremely attractive and thrilling!

But unfortunately affinity to one’s religion or sub-sect of religion, culture, language, food habits etc are so strongly and fundamentally interwoven in every individual’s psyche that, sooner or later, one-upmanship on these sensitive issues are bound to sprout in a marital relationship.

Unless the husband and wife look at each other first as a human being, next as a loving and lovable personality and lastly as a person of religion/ cultural deviation, conflicts cannot be brushed away. Mostly one of the partners who has better adaptability many have to adjust more than his / her due share and sacrifice for the sake of sustaining the marriage in the interest of long term bondage.

These steps may include a high degree of tolerance to criticism on one’s basic religious faiths at the lower end to conversion to the spouse’s religion at the extreme end. Other adjustments may include changing dress codes, learning the spouse’s mother tongue, learning to cook to the weird tastes of the other and sacrificing most loved food items (for example, a husband accepting vegetarianism for the sake of his wife). It may be painful to miss the joyful family get-together functions in the erstwhile relatives’ families, celebrating favorite religious functions, visiting and praying in traditional places of worship (of the original religion) etc. One has to tread very carefully if he/she feels tempted to laugh at the cultural idiosyncrasies of the partner, because many people have very sentimental attachment to religion and they may react angrily rather than logically.

Love Jihad — (Hindu girls getting lured by Muslim men through love affair to get converted to Islam) – Is it real? (Click onto the picture to know more)

An overpowering love for the partner, desire to retain the sanctity of marriage, lots of give and take, a broad-mindedness, a high degree of sense of humor, a drastic surrender of egotism, tenacity to withstand the negative counseling by relatives and friends – these are some of the essential qualities needed in one or both the partners on the matter of differences in religion, culture etc. Only with these qualities, the couple can make a success of marriage under very trying conflicts.

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I have committed wrongs and caused suffering to many people in the past. When I think of it, I suffer from guilty complex. I think even God will not forgive for the evil acts that I have done. I am even afraid of praying to God. What is the way out for me?

To answer this question, here is the message from Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) appearing in Tamil Matruvani magazine Feb 2018 issue:

“My children,

Knowingly or unknowingly, we may have caused pain and anguish to other people; practically all of us would have done some such thing at some time or other in our lives. Some people come to Amma (me) and say “Mother, I have done numerous mistakes in life; will God ever forgive me? Do I have the qualification even to pray to God? When I think about the wrongs I have done, I become weak out of guilty feeling. What am I supposed to do?”

By nature bad thoughts rule people’s minds more powerfully than good thoughts. So, every one is bound to do mistakes. The real valor in ourselves lies in accepting our mistakes, feeling truly sorry about them and practicing the mind to start doing good deeds. Keeping on thinking about the evil deeds for ever is akin to embracing a corpse. If we keep on thinking “Alas! I have done mistake; I am a sinner; I am a sinner”, all our skills will only get wasted. Our progress in life will be hampered.

When there is a wound in the body, is it not better to apply medicine to it instead of looking at it and crying? If we have consciously done mental or physical hurting on somebody, we should get the mindset to seek apology from them. We should try to console them. We should take a firm resolve saying “Hereafter, I will do only good deeds”

Knowingly or unknowingly we might have committed wrongs in many ways. We might have forcefully grabbed something that truly belong to others; We might have attained high posts and positions by wrong means without having any merit for it; We might have frustrated others from getting their genuine promotions or benefits; Due to a vengeance or hatred on a family, we might have lied and stopped the marriage of a girl in the family; Or we might have intentionally lied about the character of a woman in our town to her husband working abroad causing their marital bond to be shattered. Likewise, there may be people who have been suffering life long on account of our selfish and egoistic acts; there may be people who had lost all that they had in life; there may be people who committed suicide on account of our acts.

We cannot rewind the wheel of time; the time wheel always rotates forward. What has happened in the past is like a cancelled cheque. We only have the present moment for our use. We cannot get back in time and set right our wrong doings. Learn lessons from them and try to progress. The moment we have understood our mistake, we should start following the right path. If we think “Let me change from tomorrow” the tomorrow may never come — like the marriage of Lord Ganapathy.

‘Let me think of God only when the sins committed are all exhausted” – if we think like that, it is similar to thinking “let me take bath in the sea after all the waves have subdued” . It will never happen. It is like saying “let the disease get cured; then I will take the medicines”.

The only way to get rid of all sins is to think of God. We cannot ‘remove’ darkness. When light comes, darkness automatically goes away. Likewise, when we think of God, the sins will get gradually washed away and the heart will get purity. The darkness of ignorance will vanish. When we say think of God, it does not just include prayers, visiting temples, chanting hymns and mantras etc., but also includes stopping our bad habits, doing good deeds, living with discrimination, not giving trouble to others etc and these too are parts and parcel of worshiping God.

The moment sense of guilt comes, we should resolve to do prayachitta (remedial actions); correct our mistakes. This way heart gets purified. as we keep adding more and more pure water to a salty water, the saltiness will reduce. Likewise, if we keep an doing good deeds, it will automatically bring a change in our character.

But one thing is very important. Once we have identified and accepted our mistake, we should never repeat it. We should not be like an elephant that smears mud over its head again after taking a bath. When we write with a pencil on a piece of paper and a mistake happens in writing, we can use the eraser, erase the mistake and re write. But if we keep making writing mistakes again and again, repeated erasing will tear the paper. Likewise, you should ensure that mistakes are not repeated after correcting it in life.

Through prayer, the dirt in our heart will get cleaned and the light of goodness will start shining. Our prayer should be “My dear God! Please bless me that I do not cause any problem to others through my thoughts, speech or actions”

– unquote –

I believe the above message contains the total guidance needed by you.

Words of Mahatmas are whole truths. What Amma has stated elaborately has been stated briefly by Sri Ramakrishna paramahamsa too: “One who says ‘I am a sinner; I am a sinner’ end up as sinner. We should have a firm conviction – ‘I am chanting God’s name. How can sin do anything with me?”

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