Monday, March 29, 2010

The Real Master

"A hardworking man thinks himself the lord of his family and estate, but actually he is a servant of desire and the employee of anger. Such service of the senses is neither pensionable nor terminable, for desire and anger are masters who are never to be satisfied. The more one serves them, the more service they exact, and as such the false overlordship continues until the day of annihilation. As a result, the foolish living being is pushed into degraded life and fails to recognize the Lord as the beneficiary of all activities, the ruler of the universe and the friend of all entities. One who knows the real Lord is called a brahmana, but one who fails to know him is called a kripana, or number one miser."

- Srila Prabhupada
[Purport- Mukund-Mala-Stotra- Verse 1]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Man Vs Beast


The more I learn about animal behaviour, the more I am struck by how many remarkably human qualities they have. Hippos mourn for their dead, hyenas and wild dogs have amazing team working skills, and in foxes the female fox has to leave her pack and find a mate in another pack( and win over the other members). Chimpanzees have been known to paint and there are dogs that can even spell! More interestingly, there is a particular species of lizard who mate for life and sometimes even starve for days in grief if their mate dies before them! Life in the animal world has everything from authority hierarchies and cruelty, to cunningness, emotions and even fun!

This made me wonder, what really differentiates human beings from animals? It is unequivocally claimed that man is on top of the food chain and he is superior to all species. We claim to be more intelligent than them, but I do believe that all of the above examples are a clear display of intelligence. Yet intutively everyone agrees that man is superior and I really wanted to know how?

Turning to the scriptures I found this beautiful verse:
'aahar nidra bhay maithunamcha
samanyam etat pashubhir naranam
dharmo hi tesham adhiko vishesho
dharmena hina pashubhir naranam.'
Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are 4 activities common to both man and animals. It is only 'dharma', that makes a human being special. Without dharma, man is no better than an animal.

The verse explains that both human beings and animals have the necessary intelligence to perform four activities- eating, sleeping, mating and defending. All species know how to fill their bellies, how to obtain a safe shelter for resting, how to raise their young and how to defend against enemies. But what makes human beings special is Dharma.

What is this Dharma? An external meaning of dharma is righteous duty. But in the ninth chapter of the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna says that spiritual knowledge is dharma. Infact, Srila Prabhupada explains that the duty of man is to acquire spiritual knowledge. This is the dharma that is being referred to in this verse.
If we think about it, we can understand that animals cannot inquire. They cannot ask questions like


Only as human beings, we can ask questions. However if we use this ability to inquire only to increase facilities for eating, sleeping, mating and defending then we are no better than animals. Instead, by inquiring about the spirit, one can live upto the true potential of being human, apply what we learn in our life and achieve eternal bliss.

[P.S- This article and the links within it summarize the entire Vedic Philosophy of life as given in the Bhagvad Gita. If you are interested in knowing more and experiencing spirituality for yourself do visit your nearest ISKCON center.(Just Google ISKCON [Name of your city] :) )

Monday, March 8, 2010

A perfect woman


This woman's day, I would like to take the opportunity to glorify one of my favourite women, a lady who was a perfect daughter,mother and wife and one of the greatest devotees of all time-Queen Kunti.

Queen Kunti was the daughter of Kuntibhoja, and King Vasudev's cousin sister. As a young girl she was very humble, patient and obedient. When Durvasa Muni visited her father's kingdom,accompanied by his 10,000 disciples, she served him personally and pleased him. Durvasa muni had a very difficult nature. He was highly eccentric and short-tempered. For eg. He would demand that food be cooked for them all, at very short-notice, at odd hours and then not eat it. Inspite of this, Queen Kunti took it upon herself, to personally serve him, and succeeded.
Durvasa Muni blessed her with a mantra, by invoking which, Kunti could obtain a child from any demigod. He had great foresight, and knew that Kunti would require this mantra in the future.

Queen Kunti was beautiful, intelligent and well-versed in all the fine arts. Hence she was chosen to be the bride of King Pandu, the ruler the earth. However, Pandu was cursed by a sage, that he would lose his life if he ever begot children. The throne was now in jeopardy as there was no heir. So Kunti invoked the mantra and was blessed with Yuddhishtira, the son of Yamraj, Bheema the son of Vayudev, and Arjun, the son of Indra. She was so compassionate and non-envious, that she taught the mantra to her co-wife Madri too, who begot twin sons, Nakul and Sahdev from the twin Ashwini gods.

Unfortunately, by the plan of the Supreme Lord, Pandu lost his life in a moment of weakness. In ancient times, if a woman felt that the pain of living in separation from her husband is greater than the pain of death then she would voluntarily commit sati. But Kunti was so self-sacrificing and strong that she chose to live as a widow for the sake of the children. Madri committed sati, and Kunti accepted even Madri's children as her own and loved all the five Pandavas equally.

Kunti raised her five sons in her brother-in-law, Dhritrashtra's house. She instilled in them all the virtues that the Pandavas are famous for. She taught them to be just, selfless, courageous, tolerant, equinamous, compassionate and truthful by her own behaviour. But most importantly, Kunti taught her sons about the glories of Lord Sri Krishna, and ensured that they too loved Him and served Him as deeply as she did.

Externally, Queen Kunti was Lord Krishna's aunt(His father's cousin). Yet she was fully aware of His true identity as the Supreme Father, the cause of all causes.
At the end of the Mahabharat, when Lord Krishna is about to the leave the Pandavas and return to his own Kingdom, Kunti Maharani offers some beautiful prayers to Him. These prayers have been immortalized in the Bhagvat Purana and are studied and recited by scholars and devotees alike.

These prayers reveal the depth of her spiritual understanding as she glorifies Sri Krishna and deeply regrets his leaving them. For eg. in one prayer, she describes how the Lord has been with the Pandavas through all their difficulties and then she says, "May we face these sufferings again and again so that we could see You(Sri Krishna) again and again". She shows us how problems only take us closer to God. In another beautiful prayer, she attributes the success of her entire family to Krishna. She says,"If you do not look upon us, all our fame and activities will end at once." She reveals, that success comes if there is both, endeavour on our part and the grace of God.

Queen Kunti, through her life and teachings, reveals what it means to be a true instrument of the divine. She inspires me to remain firm about my principles in all of life's different situations. What I have described is but a tiny drop of her many glories. I can only pray that I am able to follow the path shown by her.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Relativity

Once, I was feeling really low when I went to the gym. A whole lot of negative stuff seemed to be happening to me. I was feeling really burdened and depressed with all of my life's problems.
In the locker room, I was morosely wearing my shoes, a thousand thoughts whirling in my head. Thats when I heard this conversation between two of the cleaning ladies.
Lady1: "Did you have breakfast".
Lady2: "No"
Lady1:"Why?"
Lady2:"If me and my husband both have breakfast, the food available at lunch is less. And, you know na, one feels more hungry in the afternoon after working. So I just skip breakfast and eat lunch nicely."

The conversation moved on to a different topic, leaving me stunned. I could suddenly see my problems in a very different light. Atleast I dont have to choose between breakfast and lunch.

My world view changed.