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Amma’s stories on humility and patience – (13 stories)

1.  Hanuman’s humility

After winning the war in Lanka, Rama returned to Ayodhya. Hanuman and a few other vanaras too came with him and attended his coronation ceremony. Out of their love and devotion to Rama, they opted to stay back with Rama.

After becoming the king, Rama allotted several jobs and responsibilities to his near and dear ones after seeking their opinion, willingness and tastes. Most of them took up respectable and responsible positions in the administration.

When Rama asked Hanuman, Hanuman opted to swat flies. He was humble enough not to seek any prestigious posts for him; he was quite content to do a mean job of swatting the flies! Rama smailed and allowed Hanuman to do such a job.

Everybody became busy with their jobs. People loved to take up their responsibilities and were quite serious in carrying them out. In the process, they were gradually getting distanced from Rama and hardly found time to visit Rama, meet him at his palace or enjoy his divine company.

On the other hand, Hanuman was happily swatting flies. He was keen to keep the palace of Rama free from the menace of flies;  hence he was mostly roaming inside Rama’s residence and being near Rama by fanning Him to ward off flies!

Thus by choosing such a mean job, Hanuman was blessed to be around Rama and enjoy his divine company most of the times!

(Amma satsang on 10/5/19)

2.  Fear of pride

Once there lived a farmer in a village. He was an extremely simple person, kind hearted and a man of virtues. He was loved and respected by other villagers. Pleased with his conduct, God appeared before him and said, “I am very happy about your behavior and I want to give you a boon; May I give you the a power by which if you touch a person with your hand, he will get cured of his diseases?”

The man said, “Oh, no. That will make me too proud and arrogant. I don’t want it”.

The God said, “Then I will make you a pundit so that you can teach others”. The man said, “No. It will make me a proud person who boasts about his knowledge. I don’t want it”.

The God said, “I will make you a Guru; you can be an example for others to emulate”.  The man refused it again and said “No. Others will start glorifying me and fall at my feet. I will get very proud if it happens”.

“Then choose what you want” said God. The farmer said, “Please bless me that wherever I am and whoever I meet, let goodness happen to others,  without my knowledge. Let people who get benefitted by my presence should not even know that it happened because of me”. God felt very pleased and he blessed him.

The man lived his life as usual. Wherever he went ane whomsoever he met good things happened around him. Neither he felt it nor anyone could sense that he radiated such a power.  But somehow people started calling him “shadow of compassion”.

[Amma: “However much a spiritual aspirant is advanced, he will have a seed of ego still existing deep inside him. Only he attains oneness with the Truth, that seed of ego will die. Till then it has the potential to sprout again. Every sadaka has to be very watchful to ensure that the ego does not sprout and grow to be a big tree”.]

(Amma Onam Satsang 11/09/19)

3.  The rounded stone

Once a man was on the lookout for a nice round stone for doing his puja.  He searched all around to locate such a stone. He climbed a large hill looking here and there for the type of round stone he was keen to get. Slowly he reached the top of the hill. No where could he locate a round stone; he got very frustrated.  He picked up a piece of rock and threw it down to vent out his frustration.

He climbed down the hill and reached its bottom. There, he suddenly noticed a nice piece of rock, neatly rounded and polished! He was sure that he did not notice that piece when he climbed up the hill earlier. He joyfully picked up the stone and took it along with him.

In fact it was the very piece of rock that he threw angrily from the top of the hill. That stone had fallen and rolled down again and again by hitting various rocks; in that process, it got all its sharp edges knocked off; repeated rolling and hitting caused abrasion on its surface making it smooth and round as it finally reached the foothill!

 

[Amma: “Children, had the stone remained at the top of the hill, it would never have had the chance to lose its sharp edges and become a stone worthy of puja. In the same way, only when we do our karma without attachment we attain humility. Our ego exists like the sharp edges of the stone; only when they are broken and smoothened, our mind will get the attitude of doing everything as God’s work without attachment. If we keep preserving our ego,  we can never get humility. Anything worthy is achievable in spirituality only through humility.”] 

(Source: Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 1)

 

4.  Patience and forbearance

Once one of the stone slabs in the 18-steps of the Sabarimala temple was complaining: “I am a stone and the Lord Ayyappa’s idol in the sanctum sanctorum is also a stone. While people stamp over me with their feet and climb over, they worship the stone Ayyappa  there. Is it not unfair?”

Hearing this, Lord Ayyappa’s idol said, “You are just seeing people worshiping me now; but you don’t know my past when the sculptor hit me with his chisel lakhs of times so as to bring me to this shape. I patiently bore it and that’s why I have turned out to be an idol fit for worship by lakhs of people.”

(Source: Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 1)

5.  Patient and pleasant Bus conductor

Once a person was travelling in a bus. He was very pleasantly surprised to see the behavior of the bus conductor. The conductor was  patient and had a smiling face. He behaved courteously with the travellers.  He stopped the bus at all bus stops and ensured that those who alight or get down do not face any inconvenience. He made sure that he gave back the correct change to those buying tickets.  His patience was not disturbed by large crowd nor by the unruly behavior of some of the passengers.

The person was highly impressed by the nature of the conductor. He inquired: “I have never seen such a conductor in any other bus. How is that you are so different? How do you keep your patience and speak with a smile despite the heavy crowd in the bus?”

The conductor smiled and said as follows:

“There is no big secret in it; My life taught this lesson.  Before I became a conductor, I was working in a factory.  I used to commute by bus. When I wait for the bus in my bus stop, many times it would go off without stopping. When it stops,  it will stop at a distance. When I run to catch it, it would start moving before I manage to get in. If I manage to get in with difficulty, the conductor won’t invariably pay the balance change when I buy the ticket. If I ask for it, he would flare up. Invariably I used to lose my patience and get worked up. But what to do? I had to travel by the same bus daily.  My frustrated anger will remain with me even when I reach my office. I will not smile at any of the coworkers nor will I move well with them. Because of it, I had no friends in the office;  I could not concentrate well on my work; because of this tension, I used to make mistakes in my job. It will lead to getting scolding from my boss.  I would carry all these and return home by evening…

“I would normally release all my pent up anger at home; I would shout at my wife and children unnecessarily. Hence there was no peace at home too. Thus I was getting isolated both at my home as well as at my office…

“One day, as I reached my bust stop, the bus had already started moving. As I ran to catch the bus, the conductor whistled and stopped the bus to enable me to get into the bus. There was a new conductor in the bus. There was no place to sit; the conductor allowed me to sit in his seat. As I was very tired, I dozed off there. The conductor did not wake me up till the bust stop at which I had to get down arrived. It was a totally new experience. The new conductor’s behavior was like getting cool water to drink for a person with a parched throat…

“With a joy that I had never felt before, I got down from the bus. I was a different, pleasant person when I reached my office. I smiled at my coworkers and they exchanged pleasantries with me. I did my  work with full concentration that day and my boss complimented me for the first time…

“In the evening I reached home with the same upbeat mood; I spoke pleasantly with my wife and joyfully with my children. They were so surprised to see my behavior and they showered their affection on me in return. I was very conscious of my different behavior and I could understand clearly that we get back only what we give to others. It became clear to me that it would not be possible for me to correct others’ faulty behavior but it is indeed within my capacity to change my own behavior for good. If I make a change in myself, it paves the way for triggering a change in others’ behavior towards me…

“Subsequently, I got the job of a conductor in this bus company. I immediately remembered that odd conductor who was behaving extremely patiently and nicely with the passengers. I decided to emulate him. I resolved to be patient pleasant and courteous to my passengers. I decided to do what little I could to foster friendship and brotherhood with others.”

[Amma: “Children, what we call as society evolves when all sorts of people live together in a community. The thoughts and actions of individuals give shape to the culture of the society. Instead of thinking “I will correct myself if everyone corrects himself”, we should strive to be good first ourselves. If our attitude changes, we will be able to see good all around the world”.]

(Source: Oliyi Nokki – Tamil – Part 2)

6.  The power of hatred

Once the king of Devas went to some far off place on some personal agenda.  He did not nominate anyone to rule his kingdom during his absence and the king’s throne was vacant for long.  Taking advantage of this a powerful Asura came into the kingdom and forcefully occupy the throne; he started ruling devas with an iron hand and there were no other powerful person who could thwart him in the kingdom.

The Devas were in deep trouble. The constantly cursed the new king and their hearts were full of hatred towards him; surprisingly, as the days passed on and the subjects’ hatred grew more and more, the new Asura King, who looked ugly earlier started becoming more and more handsome each day.  His power also grew more and more.  The devas were clueless as to how the new king was getting better looks and better power despite all the palpable negativity around him.

One fine day, the original Deva king was back at his palace.  He was immediately surrounded by the devas and all were vehemently complaining how an Asura managed to grab his throne and there were subjected to so much of hardship under his rule. All of them said they hated the new king from the depth of their hearts and they wanted the old king to overthrow the Asura and capture his throne back.

The old Deva king thought deeply about it.  Then he understood that the Asura king had indeed done a great penance and got a boon from God that whomsoever hates him and curses him would lose their good looks and energy and he would gain them from the haters. The old king understood that it was the secret of the Asura’ kings new handsome looks and ever growing power.

He went straight to the new king and prostrated at his feet and said, “Oh mighty king! I was the king of this country earlier. Now I totally understand how mighty you are and how you are the right person to rule this kingdom. Please take me as your servant. I will serve you sincerely with all my might and I pledge my love and loyalty to you”. Based on his gesture,  some of his astute followers too did the same and prostrated before the Asura king.

The asura king did not like this development. He thought it will be extremely dangerous to trust the old king and his henchmen. He shouted, ” No no! I don’t want any of you here. Go away immediately from here!”

But the old king was unperturbed. He again and again prostrated before the new king and kept on reassuring his outright surrender to him along with his love and loyalty.  Highly confused, the new king allowed the old king to stay.

As time passed, the new king started to look gradually less and less attractive. His power too started weakening. Taking the old king as an example, a lot more citizens curtailed their hatred towards the asura king.  Thus the new king, instead of gaining good looks and power from others, started losing his reserves.  He suspected that the new king is doing something secretly behind his backs. He started hating the old king more and more. He started hating all his subjects. Thus through his hatred, he kept on losing his good looks and powers.

In this process, he lost his self confidence to rule the kingdom.  The old king soon overthrew him and drove him out of the country. He reoccupied his throne and started ruling his country again.

[Amma: “Children, negative emotions like hatred drain our energy and we tend to lose our goodness gained through our spiritual practices through such negative emotions”.]

(Amma satsang on 29/4/20)

7.  Only God can help

After Mahabharata war,  Yudhishthira became the king.  Bheema, the powerful younger brother of Yudhishthira was held in very high esteem by the soldiers and the people alike on account of his physical power and prowess. As Bhima held the record of killing some of the most powerful people of his times like Bahasura, Keechaka, Duryodhana, Duschadana and Jarasandha, Bhima’s heart too swelled with pride. He started feeling that he was unassailable and his powers were unlimited.

Once Bhima was crossing a forest and was taking rest under a tree. At that time he noticed that there was a forest fire at the direction of East.  A pregnant deer was came running from the east which was obviously to escape from the raging forest fire. As the deer was planning to run further towards the west, it suddenly stopped. With its sharp instincts, it noticed that a hunter was sitting there with his bow and arrow, ready to shoot once the deer came close to him.

The deer turned direction and started moving towards south.  Unfortunately, a ferocious tiger was standing there behind a bush waiting to attack the deer. The deer noticed it and immediately back tracked. It moved towards the north and unfortunately there was a river there, flowing in full stream.

Bhima noticed that the deer was totally trapped and was at a loss to know how to survive. A deep sense of pity came to Bhima for the sake of the deer. He wanted to save the deer, but how?

The hunting the deer for his food was a basic need for the hunter as well as the tiger. He could not interfere in the ways of nature. He could not do anything to stop the river; he was totally powerless to put out the forest fire.  He could not take the deer to his custody too as it would get scared and run helter skelter if he tried to go near it.

At that moment, Bhima’s pride about his mighty power came to a naught. He felt humbled. He felt that only God could save the deer. He folded his hands closed his eyes and sincerely prayed to God to save the deer.

Very soon, dark clouds gathered at the sky and there was a severe thunder storm.  It started raining heavily with gusty winds.  The hunter dropped the idea of killing the deer and decided to run back to his hut in order to save himself from the rains.  The tiger too abandoned its plan to attack the deer and rushed back to the cave where it was residing.

The heavy rains quelled the forest fires completely.  The deer was now free to return to its forest from where it came.

(From Amma’s Vishu Satsang 14/4/2020)

8.  Bird in a ship

Once a Bird was sitting in the mast of a ship anchored in a port.  When the bird was resting and sleeping, the ship departed the port and moved in to the sea.

When the bird woke up, it was shocked to see only the sea all around and no land was in sight.  The bird got frightened. It wanted to return to the land. The bird left the ship and flew towards the east for a long time. It could not find any land. It returned to the ship and then started flying towards the west for a long time. Again there was no land at sight. Dejected, the bird flew back to the ship. After taking rest for a while, it flew towards south. Even after flying for long it could not locate and shore.  Then it flew towards north and got disappointed once again. The bird flew back to the ship.

It sat on the ship mast and rested. It dropped any more idea of flying in search of the shore.  It was resting and waiting peacefully. The ship journeyed further and within a couple of days, the ship returned to the port. Joyfully, the bird left the ship and flew to the land.

[Amma: “Human mind is like the bird in the story. The mind always goes behind desires and unfulfilled dreams. Once desire becomes ambition the mind loses all controls. Only compassionate and meditative mindset can  make the life smooth and meaningful. Never forget this truth when you are running all around with your desires.”]

9.  Borrowed stuff

Once a pundit went to a cobbler to stitch his footwear that got teared. The cobbler said “I will make it ready by tomorrow”. The pundit said, “Ensure that you will deliver it positively tomorrow”. The cobbler nodded. The pundit  left his footwear and returned home.

The next day, when the pundit went to the cobbler, the cobbler said, “The repair is still not over. Some stitches are still pending. I doubt whether I can complete it today. Please come tomorrow”.

The pundit got angry. “I have to go for a discourse this evening. Didn’t you promise to give my footwear mended by today itself?”

“Sorry sir, let us do one thing. I have got a pair of costly footwear with me. It is sparsely used. I will give it to you to meet your urgency. You can wear it for your today’s program” said the cobbler.

The pundit got worked up further when he heard this. He shouted: “What do you mean? Are you insulting me? Do you know who I am? Will I ever wear another person’s footwear?”

The cobbler smiled and said, “Sir, if you don’t get angry, may I tell you something? Are you not carrying the thoughts and ideas of so many other people on your head? When you make your living with that, what’s wrong in wearing the footwear used by another person?!”

[Amma: “Those who carry borrowed stuff from scriptures on their heads, do not necessarily get rid of desire, lust anger and such negative attitudes from their minds.”]

(Source: Oliyai Nokki – Tamil – Vol 3)

10.  Valuing criticism

[Amma: “Children, most of us normally never like others criticizing us. Many people become very uneasy when hearing criticism; Some will feel bad; some will react vehemently; some will start doing counter attack. Everyone will start justifying himself. But these are not the right ways to face criticism. If we receive criticism with full awareness and evenness of mind, then the same criticisms will turn to be catalysts for our growth and excellence.”]

Once in a kingdom, there was a famous administrator in a province.  A news reporter started vehemently criticizing the Administrator and wrote articles in a secretly circulated yellow magazine. He  made serious accusations about the administrator and wrote lots of negative remarks about his activities.

When this came to the attention of the administrator, he engaged secret police to locate the person who was writing such negative criticism. The police located him and brought him in front of the administrator.

The administrator spoke to him: “I used to read your articles in that magazine regularly. I know how critically you analyse my a activities and motives and write so elaborately in detail.  I have noticed that you have identified even such of my own limitations and shortcomings that I have never bothered to cognize myself.  I wish if you could become my secretary,  it would be immensely helpful for me to correct my mistakes and improve my administration”.

The news reporter was shockingly surprised to hear these words. He immediately accepted the offer to join as a Secretary to the administrator.

(Source: Amritam gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

11.  You can’t be equal!

Once a king went to a temple quite early in the morning for conducting his prayers. When he reached the temple there was no other devotee around.

 As there was no one around, he bowed in front of the deity and talked openly to God,” My Lord, I am just nobody in front of you; I am meaner than the dust at your feet…”

When the king uttered this and stopped, he heard someone else too praying loud.The king looked back and noticed that there was one more person, who was simply repeating the same words that the king uttered and doing his prayer. The king did not like it.

He asked in a loud voice, “Who is there repeating “I am just nobody”? Who on earth has the courage  to repeat what I said to God?”. The king wanted to know who the other person was. He got up and went near him and found a beggar there!

The king said to him in a commanding voice, “I am the king of this country and when I say, ‘I am nobody’, no one has the right to repeat it; especially so when you are a beggar”.

[Amma: “Children, many times if we think we are humble, it is just an imagination. Our humility itself is like a veil to cover our egoism and ignorance. Hence we have to be aware about it always”.]

(Source: Amritam gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

12. The way for acceptance

Once in ancient India, people belong to a particular kingdom were attacked by foreign invaders; the invaders were extremely cruel and they created unsurmountable hardship to common people.

Unable to bear the tyranny of the invaders, a large group of people ran away from their country and sought asylum in an adjacent country.  The king of the country received them in his court. He heard the woes of the people and their request for asylum in his country. He brought a silver vessel filled with milk to the brim and gave  it to the refugees and said, “This is an example of the status of our country. Now tell me how will I add more?”

The leader of the refugees took out a packet of sugar from his bag and added a spoonful of it to the milk. The sugar got dissolved in the milk and it did not cause any spillage of milk from the vessel. By this gesture the leader conveyed a message that the refugees will mingle with locals and add sweetness to others’ lives, without causing any disturbance or inconvenience to the natives.

The king was pleased by this gesture. He immediately ordered to give space for living and other essential facilities for the refugees to settle in his country.

[Amma: “We may have our own habits, cultures, beliefs and points of view, which are different from the local people when we are to life in a different state of our own country.  While maintaining our cultures and uniqueness, we must also have the awareness to live in unity with others with a national spirit. The culture of the nation as a whole forms the basis of this unity.”]

(Source: Amritam gamaya – Malayalam – Vol 2)

13. Sustained effort

Once two laborers came to a wealthy man in search of work. The rich man engaged both of them to break huge rocks into pieces in his land. One of them was strongly built and the other was looking weak. Both of them went to the assigned site. While the weaker one started his work immediately, the stronger one rested for a while before beginning to work.

The employer suddenly visited the place to see how the work was progressing. He asked them to break the rock fast and he stood there, observing how they work.  As he watched, the strong one was hitting the rock with his sledge hammer again and again but the rock was not breaking. On the other hand, the weaker one broke the rock after a few hits with his sledge hammer.

The stronger one asked the other person with surprise, “How did you manage to break the rock so quickly right in front of the boss and caught his attention?”

The weaker one replied, “I had been hitting the rock many times earlier”.

[Amma: “Like this, we see some people finding their lives very hard while some others, it is easy. If it looks so, it is because of their karmas.  Whatever good fortunes we are enjoying today are due to the good acts we had done in the past.”]

(Source: Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Vol.1)

 

An introduction to the various Gods in Hinduism

Hinduism is not just a religion. It is known as ‘Sanatana Dharma‘ a righteous way of life. Hinduism has multiple facets, multiple schools of philosophies and multiple sub-sects but all ultimately leading to one highest truth. Hinduism is not a religion of multiple Gods as some non-Hindus wrongly believe. Hinduism actually accepts worshiping and adoring varying forms of the One God – called Brahman,Parabrahman or Paramatman. Hinduism recognizes the fact that different people have different tastes, temperaments and capacity of intake in the matter of religion. Hence it offers ‘different strokes for different folks’. 

In real life, a woman found distasteful to one man can be the soul stirring sweet-heart of another man. When such a difference is taste can exist, why not allow different tastes in worshiping the God? This is precisely the logic behind the idea of multiple God forms in Hinduism.

Thus, Hinduism permits you to choose a specific God form most appealing and lovable to you; it encourages you to believe wholeheartedly that that particular God form indeed is the one supreme God. A chaste woman considers her husband alone to be the most handsome and most wonderful person; likewise, at the lower steps of religion, a believer’s conviction that his personal God alone to be the most powerful and the “only true God” is also encouraged.

One essential feature of Hinduism is Yoga – meaning Union. The purpose of human birth is to attain this yoga – union of the individual soul with the supreme soul. One of the path for this Yoga is the emotion-laden – the path of Love towards God which is Known as Bhakthi Yoga (path of devotion). It is the most suited path for the majority. The other approach is intellectual – the Path of inquiry – known as Gnyana Yoga (Path of knowledge). Only in the path of Bhakti, worship of Gods in various forms are involved. In the later path (Gyana), God is perceived as formless and the ultimate goal is to realize by experience that the Individual soul and the Supreme soul are one and the same.

Both the paths are not strictly compartmentalized; They can co exist in an earnest aspirant and one path can lead to another. One can be more predominant than the other.

Now let us know more about the popular forms of Hindu Gods worshiped by the followers of Bhakti – devotees of God. Some of these Gods have their origin in Veda (The Supreme Holy Book of Hinduism) and also are found elaborated in Puranas and Itihas (Holy Mythological stories).

The holy trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

In Hinduism, God is the omnipresent and the omnipotent who creates, protects and destroys the worlds and the beings. The ‘Creation’ function of God is worshiped as Brahma; The ‘Protection/sustenance’ aspect of God is worshiped as Vishnu and the ‘Destruction’ aspect of God is worshiped as Siva. These 3 are male Gods. They are endowed with human form conducive for loving worship.

 

Trimurti – (from left) Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

 

The 3 goddesses – From left Saraswathi, the consort of Lord Brahma, Lakshmi (consort of Lord Vishnu) and Parvati (consort of Lord Shiva)

 Brahma, the creator

Brahma, is not commonly worshiped as a personal deity.

He is described as four headed. Worship of Brahma as a popular deity is not widely in practice. Worshipers of Vishnu treat Brahma as one who was created by Vishnu out from his Navel. The Female aspect of Brahma (his wife) is Saraswati and she is the Goddess of learning and Art. Seeking the blessings of Saraswati is normally practiced for getting success in Education and fine arts.

 

Traditionally, Brahma, the creator, is never worshiped as a deity in temples. However, Saraswati is worshiped as a deity, though there are virtually no temples dedicated to Saraswati, except the one in Koothanoor, near Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu.

The only historically old temple dedicated to Sarawati, at Koothanur.

Vishnu, the protector

Worshiping of Vishnu as Prime God is very widely practiced in Hinduism. Followers of this sect are known as Vaishnavas. Vaishnav believers will consider Brahma and Siva either as “part of the Whole” or as “Gods of lesser significance”. Vishnu, the protector is worshiped along with his divine female counterpart (wife) Lakshmi or Sri. Vishnu’s abode is Vaikunta. Vishnu the dark skinned and handsome God, with 6 hands and carries Sangu Chakra and Gatha (Conch, Wheel and a Maze) and he lies in the bed of a 5-headed snake.

Lord Vishnu at Vaikutha – His consort Lakshmi is at his feet. He is lying on the snake bed (Adisesha). On the left, stands Garuda his vehicle, Lord Brahma in a lotus emanating from his naval, Sage Narada and at the right, his ardent devotee Hanuman in Ramavatar.

Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth, prosperity and she is the holy mother who is very compassionate. She is the one who recommends to Vishnu to bless his devotees irrespective of their limitations and sins. Goddess Laksmi resides in the lotus heart of Vishnu. Vishnu in association with Lakshmi is called Sriman Narayana. Vaishanavaite temples have a separate Sannadhi (Sanctum Sanctorum) for Goddess Lakshmi. Worshiping Goddess Lakshmi alone as a stand-alone deity’ is not generally very prevalent (except in some specific holy places and occasions). Vishnu is a God of thousand names and every name of him is holy.

Avatars of Vishnu too are worshiped as gods

A fundamental belief in Hinduism is that God descends to earth to take birth as human (or other) forms whenever the good and piety suffer and the evil ones have an upper hand. God protects the good, destroy the evil and restore dharma (righteousness). Such a person is known as an avatar. Lord Vishnu is attributed with taking 10 such avatars. Rama, Krishna, Narasimha and other such divine personalities are Vishnu’s Avatars and they are worshiped as varying forms Vishnu. All forms of Vishnu or his Avatars can be worshiped in Idols and each of the idol is treated as Archavatar – God’s descended form for the purpose of worship.

Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu. He is a ruler with all noble qualities personified. His life history is elaborated in Ramayana.

 

Lord Krishna – Krishnavatar

 

Narasimha, a ferocious Avatar of Vishnu. He killed demon Hiranyakashipu, with his nails.

Shiva, the destroyer

Everything in the universe is subject to birth/evolution, growth, decay and finally destruction and these keep repeating in cycles. The destruction too is part of divine play and the Lord Shiva is the one attributed to it. Lord Shiva is associated with the profoundest religious knowledge –Gnyana. Worship of Siva as the prime deity is also very widely prevalent. Worshipers of Siva are known as saivas. Shiva is a God with the color of flame, wears a tiger skin, has smeared his body with ash and he carries a TriSul (3 pronged weapon). The holy river Ganges flows from his head.

Shiva, the lord of Gnyana (spiritual knowledge) and the destroyer.

Shiva’s divine consort is Shakti (also known as Parvati, Maya, Kali, Jagadamba and so on). She occupies the left-half body of Siva. Shiva and Shakti are like Matter and Energy. Shiva is the unfathomable, all pervading, passive representation of God while Shakti is associated with the prime-ordinal power without which no activity can ever take place. Puranas and hymns associated with Shiva declare that he is the prime God, the one above Vishnu and Brahma who has delegated the powers of creation and protection them.

Shakthi is worshiped as separate identity

Unlike Vaishnavism where Lakshmi is mostly worshiped as associated with Vishnu, Shiva’s divine consort on the other hand is also worshiped as a separate deity as Para Sakthi, the Universal Mother. Worshipers of Shakthi are known as Shaktas. Worship of Shakti as Divine Mother in innumerable names and forms (like the Kali, Parvati, Bhavani, Bhavatarini, Kamakshi and so on) is very widely prevalent all over India. Puranas and Hymns associated with Shakti will hail her as the Supreme God for whom all other gods like Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma are subservient.

Worship of Shakti as Univeral Mother is the sect of Saktam.

Sons of shiva-shakti viz. Ganesha and Subramanya are also worshiped

According to Puranas, Ganapathi (or Ganesha) and Lord Subramanya (or Muruga) are the sons of Shiva-Shakthi. Ganesha is a God with the head of an Elephant; He represents ‘Om‘ – the prime-ordinal Sound. He is hailed as the lord who removes obstacles in our endeavors. Subramanya is the knower of the supreme spiritual knowledge hidden behind Om. The sect worshiping Ganapathi as the prime God is known as Ganapatyam. The sect worshiping Subramanya as the Prime God is known as Koumaram. Worship of Ganapathi in the beginning of any new venture seeking his blessings is very common across believers of other God forms too. Worship of Ganapathi is very popular in Maharashtra region in India. Worship of Muruga (Subramanya) is quite popular in Tamil Nadu region of India.

Ganesha or Vinayaga. The first son of Shiva. He is elephant headed. He is symbolizes Om, the secret symbol of Hinduism.

Muruga or Subrahmanya, the younger son of Shiva. He is the knower of the knowledge behind Om.

Lord Subrahmanya (Murugan)

Lord Subrahmanya is worshipped as Muruga in South India (Tamil Nadu) and He is one of the most popular God of Tamils. For more on Lord Muruga, please read : Murugan, the God of the Tamils

Lord Aiyappa (Harihara Putra) is another popular God of South India

Aiyappa according to some Purana story is born by the union of Shiva and Vishnu (when Vishnu once took a female form as Mohini) and he is a popular godhead in Kerala and Tamil Nadu of South India. He is an extremely benevolent God who fulfills wishes of his followers who are willing to undertake take a physically taxing journey to his abode in hills after practicing austerities in a prescribed manner.

Anjaneya, the servant of lord Rama is another popular godhead

Anjaneya, (or Hanuman) according to Ramayana (the Holy life history of Lord Rama) is a monkey (or a monkey faced native clan) who is extremely powerful yet very wise and humble, is fully devoted to Rama and ever ready in serving his Lord. He is a Nitya-suri (a deathless person), who loves all the devotees of his lord dearly and melts in emotion hearing the name Rama. He is a combination of power, knowledge, humility and devotion. Though he is not a God per se, he is one of the widely worshiped divine-personality in India cutting across the various followers of Gods.

Lord Anjaneya (Hanuman, Bajrangbali)

Anjaneya or Hanuman, the humble sevant of Lord Rama. Wherever the name of Rama is chanted he will be there with eyes overflowing with tears of joy, to bless the devotees of Rama.

There are other Avatara Purushas worshipped, not limited to the ten of lord Vishnu

Any human being, extremely endowed with divine qualities, who has realized God or attained the supreme knowledge of the Brahman, who has transcended birth and death, who continues to live in Human body a Jivan Mukta, who has the power to guide or initiate his followers to the attainment of the supreme bliss is treated as Avatara Purusha or a Sat Guru (Religious guide of the Supreme Order). Hinduism permits worship of these great souls as though Gods by the respective believers. Hinduism abounds with such great masters – Chaitanya Deva, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ramana Maharshi, Saibaba, Ramanuja, Shankara, Madhva, Shivananda, Mata Amritanandamayi and so on.

With so many gods around, where to start?

Every Hindu family invariably worships a ‘Family Deity’, based on their tradition and the sect they normally belong to. Thus a Vaishnavaite family traditionally worships the form of Vishnu or any of his Avatars and a Saivaite family member worships Shiva. There is again scope for finer focusing – the idea of ‘Ishta Devata’ – the divine form most attractive and adorable to one’s heart. If you are lured by Rama, you can worship Rama with all your focus on him without really bothering about Krishna, Vamana or Narasimha who are none other than the supreme Lord Vishnu! Likewise, a Saivaite can chose the form of Nataraja (Siva the cosmic Dancer) for worship. A saivaite can also worship Linga which symbolically represents the form as well as formless aspect of Shiva. Though elders generally expect their off springs to follow their traditional God, there is really no bar for a Saivaite to worship Vishnu or any other God of his choice or vice versa.

What if one is not sure?

If an earnest seeker is not sure about his path or if he is not charmed by a particular path of Hinduism that his family practices, the prescribed way is that he should go and surrender to a Satguru of his liking and seek guidance. The Satguru will guide him appropriately. A true Satguru will use his inner vision to judge the capacity of the seeker and put him on a path most suited to him. A satguru may even recommend a person who seeks Bhakthi to follow the path of knowledge; he may divert a person most keen in the path of knowledge, to go and worship a specific God form.

Hinduism basically is built on the fact that name and form can not be dispensed with for the vast majority of people in the worship of God. Every form of God is only a representation of the one ultimate truth. The more a seeker progresses in his path, the better he grasps this fact. But those who are at the lower levels of spirituality are the ones who get sentimentally attached to their chosen Idol and argue or fight with believers of other forms of God.

 

Moral lessons you can learn from the story of Ramayana

Ramayana is just not a mythological story—it is one of the two most widely read “Itihas,” and revered by Hindus everywhere. Itihas means “thus happened.” As per Hindu belief, Ramayana is the true story of Rama—the king of Ayodhya who is considered to be the very incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Great sage poet Valmiki, who wrote the magnum opus “Ramayana,” was a caretaker for Sita, Rama’s wife during the turbulent, tail end period of her life.

The historic period (or Yuga) that Rama lived in was known as Treta Yuga. This was during a time when people’s righteousness (dharma) and moral standards were of a high order. In subsequent yugas (namely Dwapar Yuga, when the story of Mahabharata took place; and the present day Kali yuga that we live in), dharma and morality seem to be steadily declining. Thus, the story of “Ramayana,” whenever read, tends to give us great insight to the very high moral and ethical standards of yore. During times of mental turmoil, we can often find enlightenment from reading “Ramayana.”

Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu, the Hero of the epic story Ramayana.

Here are some of the lessons one can learn from reading Ramayana:

  1. The relationship between Dharma, ArthaKama and Moksha.

Human life is often lost while chasing materialism—known as Artha, and sensory pleasures—known as Kama. The story of “Ramayana” makes it clear that these two pursuits should never be sought at the cost of righteousness—Dharma. The ultimate goal of life is liberation—or Moksha, and this can be attained only by relinquishing Artha and Kama and by strictly following a life of Dharma.

  1. The importance of one man being wedded to only one wife

During the Ramayana period, practice of polygamy (by men) was quite prevalent and it was quite an acceptable social norm for kings to marry many women. Rama’s own father, Dasaratha, was wedded to three wives, and he also had innumerable concubines at his palace. In a stark contrast to his father, Rama remained wedded and staunchly loyal to his only wife, Sita. From this practice, he held his head high as the greatest king ever to rule in Bharat, India. He set a good example for future generations of men as to what was considered the gold standard for a respectable man in society.

  1. Adherence to truth and the need to honor one’s word

When Rama was a young boy, the love and affection his father Dasarata had for him was immense. He would never want to get separated from his loving son. When Sage Viswamitra visited his palace and asked for help to ward off demons who were disturbing his spiritual practices at his forest hermitage, Dasarata promised to offer whatever help he could give. The Sage asked the king to send young Rama with him to fight the demons at the forest and naturally Dasarata was terribly shocked. Still, though, he agreed to part with Rama, to honor his promise to the Sage.

Later on, his third wife Kaikeyi wanted the throne of Ayodhya for her own son Bharata. She also wanted Rama to be exiled to the forest. This was nothing short of a deathly blow to Dasarata, but, still, he never used his authority as king to veto her request. This is because of the promise he had made long ago to Kaikeyi to grant her two boons whenever she chose to ask.

  1. Respecting a father’s word of honor

On the night before Rama’s crowning ceremony, Kaikeyi made use of her boons not only to deny Rama his rightful ascend to the kingdom, but also to send him into exile in the forest. Rama, as a kshatriya (a person belonging to a ruler or warrior class), had every right to question such an injustice. He was also not duty bound to honor his father’s unjust promises, either. However, true to his greatness, Rama, with total mental equipoise and without even a trace of disappointment on his face, conceded to both the demands. For him, “pitru vakya paripalanam” (honoring his father’s words) was one of the highest dharmas.

  1. The futility of listening to vicious counseling

Kaikeyi, who was an essentially good-natured woman, meekly allowed her very loyal maid servant Mandara to brainwash her into demanding these two atrocious boons from Dasarata. Though she was not enthusiastic in the beginning, she gradually allowed Mandara’s venomous words to poison her mind. Did she gain anything finally? No. In fact, she lost her beloved husband Dasarata who died very soon thereafter, on account of the shock and the pain of separation he experienced from having from his beloved son Rama being sent off. Bharata, Kaikeyi’s son, for whom she obtained the very kingdom, reprimanded her for her atrocious act. He never ever took charge of the kingdom as a King.

Now, notice this contrast: Upon hearing about these developments, Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, (who was very short-tempered), like a true Kshatriya, got angry. He could not tolerate the injustice doled out to Rama. He wanted Rama to fight for his rights, he also wanted to proceed and fight with his father and imprison Kaikeyi. However, Rama never heeded to his counsel. He pacified Lakshmana with calming words, pointing out the need for adhering to dharma. The effect of Rama’s counseling not only pacified Lakshmana, but this also gave him a steely resolution to relinquish his own comforts of the palace to accompany Rama to the forest, despite the latter’s objections to it.

  1. Not accepting any booty that came in an unjust way

Bharata, Kaikeyi’s son, also could not tolerate the very idea of bequeathing the throne that rightfully belong to his elder brother Rama, which was wrongly acquired for his sake by his mother. He felt wrath towards his mother on this issue and took her to task for having asked for such a boon. So, he went to the forest in search of his brother and pled for his return to the country to rightfully rule it. Rama refused to concede, of course, so he took Rama’s shoes, carried it on his head, and placed them on Ayodhya’s throne. He took care of administration of the country as a representative of Rama till Rama returned from exile.

  1. The futility of getting swayed by dubious attractions

Sita, who was in the forest, grew madly attracted to a beautiful golden deer. She wanted her husband Rama to catch the deer. She refused to listen to Lakshmana’s warning that such a deer was not natural, and that it could be a demon in disguise. Because of her incessant pestering to acquire the deer to be her playmate, Rama had to go behind it. Unfortunately, this led to her getting separated from him, and she then got forcibly abducted by Ravana, the demon.

  1. The importance of being watchful about one’s utterances

Afterwards, Rama killed the demon. Then, Maricha, the demon who was disguised as the golden deer, called out “Ha Lakshmana! Ha Sita!” mimicking Rama’s voice, and died. Sita, upon hearing it, urged Lakshmana, who was standing guard next to her, to go and help Rama (who was actually not in any trouble). Lakshmana tried his best to counsel her, but he could not convince her that Rama was fine. In a fit of rage, Sita accused Lakshmana of wanting to have an illicit relationship with her in Rama’s absence. Lakshmana, who was then shell-shocked from hearing such an abominable accusation, left immediately, leaving her alone. Ravana then utilized this opportunity to abduct her.

Some interpreters of Ramayana say that Sita was forced to prove her chastity by the test of fire by Rama (after she was freed from the clutches of Ravana) only because of her intemperate and terrible accusation against the saintly and devout Lakshmana.

  1. The importance of fighting against atrocity done to woman

Jatayu, the old and once powerful bird, noticed Ravana abducting Sita forcefully and flying with her in his vehicle towards his country Lanka. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana in an effort to release Sita. Unfortunately, he could not succeed in this effort. The bird sacrificed its very own life on such a noble effort. Before taking his last breath, though, Jatayu managed to convey the news to Rama, who was moved to tears by the old bird’s gallantry. Rama performed its last rites and funeral, as though he was the bird’s son.

  1. Divine love transcends all barriers of caste and creed

Lowly fisherman Guha was was full of devotion to Rama. He helped Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita cross the Ganges river in a boat. Impressed by his devotion and service, Rama accepted him as if his brother. Sabari, an old hunter woman of low caste, became a staunch devotee of Rama, just by hearing about Rama’s greatness.

When Rama was wandering the forests in search of Sita, he happened to visit Sabari’s hut. The old lady, overwhelmed with love for Rama, reportedly offered him fruits after nibbling each a bit to make sure that she did not offer sour fruits to her beloved Rama. Rama treated Sabari as though she was his own mother and showered his grace on her.

  1. The importance of humility as a great virtue

Hanuman, estranged Vanar King Sugriva’s minister, was one of the greatest characters of Ramayana. Hanuman was physically very powerful, a great diplomat, very articulate, and very wise. Despite all his great traits, his humility was still unsurpassed. The moment he met Rama, he was bowled over by Rama’s divinity and charm and he committed himself to be Rama’s lifelong servant. The great feats he subsequently performed in serving Rama were unparalleled. The humility he displayed despite his greatness was unfathomable.

  1. The greatness of true friendship

Rama befriended the estranged Vanar King Sugriva with a mutual promise of help. Sugriva’s brother Vali had forcefully taken Sugriva’s wife. Not only that, but he also denied him his share of the Vanar kingdom. Sugriva and Rama teamed up in an effort to eliminate the immensely powerful Vali. Sugriva, in turn, helped Rama in seeking and locating Sita. He also helped Rama to wage war against Ravana in order to retrieve Sita. Both did a commendable job in honoring their words.

  1. Showing mercy, even to the enemy.

Ravana’s younger brother Vibhishan was an extremely righteous person. In fact, he was bold enough to warn and advise Ravana against abducting another person’s wife just to satisfy his own carnal desires. When the furious Ravana showed his brother to the door, Vibhishana went to Rama and surrendered to him. Despite reservations from Sugriva and others, Rama accepted Vibhishana into his fold.

During the first fiery combat between Rama and Ravana, Rama destroyed all of Ravana’s weapons and armor. So, Ravana stood on the war field unprotected. Rama, who could have easily killed Ravana at that moment, in one of the greatest acts of graciousness, then asked Ravana to retire for the day and return to the war field the next day, fully rearmed, as it was against dharma to kill an un-armed person.

  1. The need for the highest standards in a King

After annihilating Ravana and freeing Sita from confinement, Rama performed one of the most controversial and oft-criticized demands in asking Sita to jump into the fire to prove her chastity. Sita did it, and she came out unscathed. Rama took her into his loving fold once again.

Later, when he became King of Ayodhya, he came to know that  a washerman who spoke ill words about Rama for having accepted his wife Sita who had stayed in the confinement of his enemy for months. Rama, whose love for Sita was unfathomable, then made the most painful decision in relinquishing her—simply because he had to maintain a very high order of personal probity as the ruler of Ayodhya.

One can go on discussing many more lessons of morality and dharma that can be found from an in-depth reading of Ramayana. It is no wonder that Ramayana is a wonderful story for both children and elders alike. It’s both a wondrous piece of literature and a great source of guidance on righteous living that has stood up to the test of time. It continues to inspire millions of people, breaking through both religion and linguistic barriers across the world.