Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Hara Hara Shankara, Jaya Jaya Shankara

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


We had the opportunity of conducting the upanayanam of our younger son in the last week of April. I consider it a blessing to conduct for my son at a tender age of 7. My elder one had his, at the age of 8. All this is due to our kanchi periva’s blessing. In this post, I would like to elaborate about the importance of upanayanam and gayathri. Although, I am not an authority in it, I am writing this with a lot of seriousness and hearfelt emotions. The information is from upanyasams heard and introspection done

Upanayanam is a very special occasion for a brahmin boy. Not only brahmins, there are others sects which do have this function. It is considered to be a second birth for a boy child. From this day, he becomes a brahmachari eligible to learn the vedas, upanishadas and to know the brahman, the supreme. The right age for the upanayanam is between 8 years and 16 years. The one year in the womb of a mother is considered to be one year. Hence, when the boy is 7 years after his birth, he becomes ready for this thread ceremony. Some say, that odd numbered ages have to be considered. This is only  a myth.  This is not mentioned in our shastras. Also, the earlier, the better. Why? It is said before “kamam” is understood by the child, we have to divert him towards the supreme knowledge. So, it is always better to get this ceremony done when the child is before 9 years. It is more apt these days. Children in this generation ask too many questions. While it is our duty to answer them satisfactorily, as children grow, this questioning becomes more negative and argumentative than to know the truth. Hence, it is good to put it at a young and tender age when the child is still in its innocence.

Born as a brahmin alone is not sufficient. One has to be strict in his practices. He has to do sandyavandanam everyday three times a day, samitha danam twice a day, learn vedas, sleep on mat, no sleep during afternoons, live by bhiksha and many other restrictions. But many of these are not practical in this kali yuga. If one has to live by what has told by our shastras, we would not brahmacharis today. So, our gurus insist that at least the boy does sandyavandanam twice a day and do some basic learning of vedas. Why does the shastras lay such rigid rules on a small boy. There are always correct and scientific reasons for all that our shastras say. They are like mdecial prescriptions, whch may be bitter but cures us from this world of samsara. We don’t take it in the right sense because of the wrong influence that we have of the western culture

Doing sandyavandanam has many aspects. Of the many benefits is that pranayama or deep breathing. These days we spend huge amount of money on health and fitness. Doing sandyavandanam, helps the boy perform regular deep breathing which will help him control his senses and negative emotions. The chanting of the gayathri manthra with clsoed eyes increases the concenration. Each syllable in this manthra has tremendous vibration which when chanted with devotion and concentration gives immensed power: physically, intellectually,  emotionally and physcologically. But friends, this chanting comes with a warning.  It is not for ladies, nor for those without initiation. These days, this manthra is played as a song. We are making a gross mistake. Vedas are chants which are given to us by great rishis. They were not written but revealed. They chanting have many ups and low tones, long and short notes in the chanting. They generate a lot of heat which is not good for physical structure of ladies. Also, since it is the essence of the vedas, the manthra has to be taught in secrecy. Chanting it the wrong way will have a negative effect on us. So, please refrain fro chanting without initiation. If you happen to see it played as a song or in public, there is no harm is discouraging this act in the open. You will be doing a service to the society

So, having known the power of this divine act called sandyavandanam, it is also very sad that the count of children performing this karma is deteriorating down specially in cities. The function is conducted in a grand way like a social function, inviting all near and dear, spending lavishly on every aspect. But the duty aspect is forgotten soon after the function. Reason: no time. Parents are not serious about encouraging their child. At the first step, they are not convinced about the importance. The father of the house has left his duty long back, the mother is busy blaming the father for not assisting the child. But, my dear parents, just like how both of you take interest in every aspect of the child right from choosing his play school , it is the responsibility of both to ensure that the child does his duty. Blame game will help no one. It should be the true intention of the mother that her child gets the best and highest knowledge and assist, encourage, and educate the child in the importance. The father must be regular in doing his duties. I have some fathers do it just one month before the upanayanam and then maybe for a month after the function. This wont work. What is not a habit will not work for long.

I understand that as children grow, they have their own like and dislikes. Many of the stray away from their track. This is natural. But we as parents must advice them when they are small. The instruction given when they are small, will bring them back to their roots even if they change track in the middle. Gayathri will protect them. She doesn’t like to lose on anyone. But if parents themselves are casual about it, then GOD save them. One cannot see the effect fo chanting or non-chanting immediately. It is slow process of building inner strength. We all wait for 16 to 20 years to see our chlidren in full bloom, but we don’t want to wait for when it comes to discharging our duties to see its spiritual powers. So, friends, when it comes to performing the duties of the child, remember it is the responsibility of both the parents. Also, grandparents at home also must assist their children in getting these duties into a  habit. Since they are elders of the family and are more experienced, they must help their children and grand children to discharging their duties. Claiming to be non-interfering or indifferent will not only leave children directionless but also set an example to future generations. 

We are all in a busy world, we have time for everything but not for our spiritual duties. So, many parents tell their children to only chant at least the Gayathri and not do sandyavandanam. This is a mistake again. Gayathri cannot be chanted without praying to the sun god, without invoking Mother Gayathri into you or without inviting saraswati into you. Sandyavandanam is a very important aspect which cannot be missed

Doing sandyavandanam will not only do good for oneself but to the society. Brahmins are supposed to do ther duties of sandyavandanam, samitha danam, bharma yagnam , veda adhayananm for the welfare of the soceity. If they fail to do such things, the society is bound to persih slowly. “The reason for our society degrading to a large extent is due to brahmins not doing their duties”. I am not the author of this statement. Our kanchi maha periva has elaborated this in the book “Hindu Dharma” in a very beautiful way. Let no one drive their imagination. I would suggest all of you read this book.
So, friends, I have put down what I felt, what I have seen, read and experienced. I am sure all of us would want a comfortable, stress free, happy and peacceful life. Let us get back to where we actaully belong. Let us not lose the precious gems our rishis and elders have given us in the pursuit of materialistic, short lived happiness.  


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Who,What,When,Where,How,Why - An all-in-all quiz

Hari Om

Recently, I conducted a quiz for the residents of my apartment complex on the eve of dusera. It had a mix of all kinds of questions related to ramayanam, bagavatam, mahabharatham and goddess. It was well received and many asked me to publish the questions. I gladly share the questions here. The idea is to learn and share knowledge.

Round 1: Questions related to Goddess

  1.  Goddess Durga/Ambal/Parvati is whose sister?                  
  2. Who wrote Soundarya lahari 
  3. In which purana does lalitha sahasranama feature           
  4.  When devas and asuras did samudra mathanam, which goddess came out – 
  5. What is Goddess saraswati in Shringeri called                     
  6. Who wrote the shyamala dandakam                       
  7. Who are the five great pativratas – 
  8. What is the meaning of the word sita – 

Round 2:
  1. Why didn’t Rama celebrate thala Diwali 
  2. Why didn’t Vamana kill bali chakravarthy      
  3. Why did Krishna ask gatotgaja to fight in the mahabharatha war. Whom did he want to save
  4. Why is Ganesha's tusk broken
  5. Why didn’t karna kill the 4 pandavas
  6.   Why did bheeshma take oath that he would not marry?
  7.  In the yaksha prashna, why did yudhistra choose nakaula to come alive instead of bheema or arjuna
  8. What is the circumstance in which Krishna married Jambavati.. satrajit, prasena, lion, krishna
  9. Why is vamana murthy called upendra (younger brother of indra, and son of aditi, kahyapa)
  10. What is the circumstance in which Veda vyasa wrote the bagavatam
     Round 3: Who said what, when
 “     1. Kausalya supraja rama”              
        2. Vishwam Vishnur Vashatkaro    
3      3. Sarva Dharman Parityaja Mam ekam sharanam vraja       
4. Shri rama rama rameti rame raame mano rame 
5. Sarveshwari, sarvamayeesarva manthra swaroopini 
6. Yatra yogeshwara krishno yatra partho dhanudharah, tatra shree vijayo bhutir dhruva neetir matir mama – 
7. Angam hareh pulaka bhooshana mashrayanti, – 
8Manikya veena mupalala yanteem, madalasam manjula vagvilasam – 
9. What enemity did manthara have against rama
10. Iyam seeta mama sutaa, sahadharmachaaree tava 

     Guess Who/what.
1.       I clue:    
a.       He was killed by Krishna.
b.       He was one of the jaya and Vijaya
c.       He was the cousin of Krishna
d.       He is not shishupala
e.       His name starts with the translation of tooth (Sanskrit)
2.       II clue 
a.       Her name is a part of a tree
b.       She married shiva
c.       She got her name because of the kind of penance she did
d.       She did not eat even a leaf in order to marry shiva – Derive her name
e.       Fill in this blanks: _________ chandika chanda mundasura nishoodini (lalitha sahas).

3.       III Clue                  
a.       A very popular character in the mahabharatha who did not participate in the war
b.       Duryodhana was his favourite student
c.       He is the son of rohini and Vasudeva
d.       He is the avatar of adishesha
e.       He is the elder brother of Krishna
4.       IV Clue  
a.       She is an important character in the mahabharatha whose son fought in the mahabharatha war. 
b.       Her grandson’s name was parkshit
c.       She is uttara’s mother in law
d.       She married arjuna with the help of Krishna
e.       She is the mother of Abhimanyu
5.       V.  Clue
a.       A great devotee of lord Vishnu
b.       Was in possession of shanka and chakra of Lord Vishnu for sometime
c.       Was very steadfast in practicing the ekadhashi vrata
d.       Durvasa tried to curse him
6.       V clue:                  
a.       This is the first sloka of the mahabharatha
b.       This sloka features in the dhyana sloka Vishnu sahasranamama
c.       It is a prayer to saraswati in the mahabharatha
d.       Does not feature in the shyana slokam of VS whch vaishnavas chant. They use the sloka which prays to viswaksena
e.       The sloka immediately after shuklam bharadaram
7.     VI   Clue  - 
a.       He was the father of the asuras
b.       He prayed to be the father of Krishna in dwapara yuga
c.       His wife gave birth to vamana murthy
d.       One of the gothras is named after him
e.       He is Aditi’s husband
8.      VII CLUE 
a.       HE is indra putra
b.       He had immense strength that he defeated ravana in a war
c.       He was the husband of one of the great pati vratas
d.       He was cursed by matanga rishi and could not enter rishyamukha hill
e,    He was the brother of sugreeva

    General Questions
  1. .       What is the duration of kali yuga              
  2. .       Name any 5 names of arjuna 
  3. .       Give any 5 significances of number 9 –
  4. .       What is common between all the puranas, bagavatam, mahabharatha , vedas- 
  5. .       What is the difference between a purana and itihasa       
  6. .       English word of  Hasta bandhah                 
  7. .       In the bagavadgita, how many slokas are chanted by dhritarashtra             
  8.         Which is the biggest purana 
  9.  9. What is the name that Lord Vishnu got due to the gajendra moksham episode     
  10.      What are the five maha yagnam that a householder must do regularly.    
  11.        Who was vyasa’s great grandfather, grandfather, father, and son – 
  12.    What are the boons asked by hiranyakashupu to brahma – 
  13.        Which chapter in the bagavad gita talks about the vishwaroopa dharsna of Lord Vishnu 
  14.  4. Krishna’s bow’s name . 
  15. .5. Arjuna’s conch name 
  16. .   Rukmini and krishna


Saturday, June 6, 2015



What is KARMA and what is Grace?. A seeker of knowledge and truth always encounters this confusion in the beginning of his quest for the ABSOLUTE.

If everything is because of our Karma, then why pray GOD. IF everything is Grace, then why act? Two contrasting yet sensible questions!!! Let us try and understand the difference and try to see which is correct.

Our vedas have laid out rules and regulations for us to lead a happy and contented life. Each act that it prescribes fetches us punya (goodness) or papam (sin). If one acts according to the prescription of the vedas, it is dharmam. If not, we get papam. The choice is ours – To choose to follow or not follow the rules.

All of us carry a bag of karma on our backs. There are three kinds of karma. Sanchita karma, prarabda karma and aagamika karma. What we have accumulated in all our previous births or current birth is called sanchita karma. That karma for which we undergo happiness and sorrow in the current life is called prarabda karma. That karma which we accumulate in future is called aagamika karma.

For example, a student fails in his exams. The reason may be because of his previous karma of not studying. It could be that he studied and still failed. This may be because of his past karma in previous birth(s)(sanchita karma). The act of failing is called prarabda karma. The reaction to the failure fetches him aagamika karma. If he chooses to react in anger or frustration or any negative reaction, it fetches him some kind of karma. On the other hand, if he is equipoised in this failure, he gets a different kind of karma. So, all our karma is determined by how we react to situations. This shows that everything is in our hands. It is our decision and only our actions that fetches us good or bad. In other words, we are responsible for what we are.

Then what is GOD’s role?
GOD gives us knowledge and creates opportunities for us. It is up to us to act on it. In other words, he is only a witness to all our actions. If we get a knife in our hands, we can either cut a fruit or kill a person. We cannot kill a person and claim that it was GOD’s will. We see in our daily lives that some people are extremely successful. Many people flourish than many others. It may be that the less talented are less flourishing. It may seem that the less privileged are more happy. The reason for these differences is one’s own Karma.

Our shastras says that birth is anaadi i.e. there is no beginning or end to life. Yes, it is difficult to comprehend. That is because, our mind is not tuned to think such complex and high ideals. But that is the truth. SO, our bag of karma is always non-empty. All we have is the free will which we use to do good or bad. The mind plays an important role in deciding our actions. For every action, we accumulate the good karma or bad karma and our bag starts filling up. At the end of the birth, we go to heaven or hell and pay for the good or the bad we have done. So, if one has done only good actions, he will go indra loka or satya loka (where brahma resides) where he uses his good karma to enjoy the heavens. If he has done only papam, then he will be pushed into one of the seven hells, where he completes his bag of bad karma. But for all of us, ti will be a mix of good and bad in which case he spends part time in heaven and the other in hell. When he has exhausted his karma, he will be pushed to the earth for a re-birth. Only those whose karma bag is empty, does not take re-birth. So, when a person has exhausted his karma by going to hell and heaven his bag is empty, why then does he take birth. He still have the bag with desires. All that is desired in the previous life must be fulfilled. GOD is all merciful. He doesn’t disappoint anyone. If I aspire to become a doctor in this birth and I don’t become one , I may probably become one the next birth or 100 births later. Whatever small desires we have in any birth, will be undoubtedly fulfilled. So, when we take ibrth based on our desires too.

Then what is grace? If GOD does not have a role to play in our lives, why prayers and why temples and why offerings? Consider this situation. I am an expert driver. One day, I want to go to some place which is quite far.  My father offers to come along. So, the two of us set out. Father being an expirienceed person and more aware of the road topography, one-ways, short cuts and other details, he steps in to offer his suggestion of the route to be taken. But I consider myself to be an expert driver. I give  a damn care to what father says. I shut his mouth and set off. On the way, I come across many changes in the roads and get confused. My father again offers to help me out but I have my own ego to do things on my own. Finally I get lost and do not know what to do. I then look up to my father for help which he gladly does. He takes me to through the easiest and best path and helps me reach my destination. This is exactly what we are doing in our lives. GOD is ready to help us. But we think we are greater than him and set out to achieve things. We side line his presence and think we are the doers. But when we get problems , we turn to him hoping he will help us. Indeed, he does. If we would have surrendered to him completely, he WILL take care of us but we are not ready to do so.

Even when draupadi was dis-robed, she thought she would fight herself. She argued with all the elders in the sabha. It was only when she was totally helpless, she called out to Krishna and HE came. So, he won’t come unless called with an absolute sense of surrender. Many saints and acharyas have lived the life of total surrender. Purandara dasa, meera bai, adi shankara, ramanuja, tukaram – the list is endless.

Even in today's world, HE does help us but we fail to realise the same. Does that mean, if we totally surrender, we need not work at all. Absolutely right. You don’t have to move an inch if you have total surrender. But the surrender must be total – 100%. There are many stories which have shown that absolute surrender has worked wonders. For example, when hiranyakashipu tortured prahlada, the little child never cried or feared or asked any mortal for help. HE simply smiled and accepted what was given to him. Lord Narayan protected him. That is the kind of Bhakti we need to develop. Bhakti must mature into brahma gnana. It is only then that you fuse with the Lord and attain eternal bliss.    

How do we develop absolute surrender. Well, it is a long long journey of births before we get to that state. It all starts with karma yoga. Lord Kirshna has elaborated the essence of karma yoga very beautifully in the 2nd chapter
sukha dukhe same’ kritva |
labha labhou jaya jayou ||
tatho yuddhaya yujyasva |
naivam papam avapsyasi || (2.38)
Meaning: Having an equal mind in happiness-sorrow; gain-loss; victory-defeat; engage in battle and thereby you will not incur sin.

In essence, Karma Yoga refers to doing one’s prescribed karma without expecting a return. Karma yoga is a separate world that can be introspected more (maybe in my next post). The karma Yoga must mature into bhakti. Bhakti must enter jnana yoga and then into the state of eternal bliss.
So, in summary, what we are today is because of our actions alone. GOD is in no way responsible to our state. But if we totally surrender , than HE takes the full responsibility of our well-being. In that state, though the surrendered person seems to be suffering in the eyes of the world, the surrendered self will not feel the pain. As someone said, there will be pain but no suffering. That is the difference between KARMA and grace.

The discussion gets very interesting as we ponder and introspect more. More in my next post


Monday, March 30, 2015

LAHARI - A progress flow

Progress report of LAHARI in 2014-15

LAHARI shuts down for summer. 2014-15. It has been an eventful year for LAHARI Cultural Learning. 

LAHARI is in its 10th since inception. We started it in November, 2005. It has been a great blessing  that we could reach out to children and help them increase their spirituality quotient (SQ). The number of students was an all- time high of nearly 30 children learning slokas and stories. The reason for this elation is this: Parents enrol their children in dance or music or any fine arts with the expectation that their child will reach the zenith, reach certain milestones and would be able to perform for the general public as a result of which they gain name, fame and money. They have something to look forward to. But a sloka class has no such thing. These days, competitions are conducted for sloka recitation. But most of the times it stops at that. Have we ever seen anyone reciting slokas for two hours like a music or dance concert. That is the beauty of all children and parents in LAHARI. The expectation of a material success is absent here. The intention is to learn slokas, to know our great Hindu culture and its various aspects. People coming to a class for the sole reason of knowing it is very rare. That's why I say children of LAHARI are special.

We do not teach only slokas here. We disscuss the ramayana, mahabharatha, moral stories, about different aspects of the GITA and so on. We encourage them to participate in many competitions that involve religion and spirituality. The following pictures are of LAHARI kids receiving the prizes for a quiz competition.


2014 saw the beginning of activities like “anna danam”. Children collected rice, dal in their homes. These were cooked and delicious items were made which were distributed to the maintenance and security staff of White House. We intend to make this an annual event. Donations to various vedic organisations and temple constructions were done. LAHARI also has its own blog and facebook related to spirituality and its activities. The readership on the blog touched 15000 while the facebook page has crossed 300 likes. For those who would like to have a look, here is the address of the blog: http://lahariguru.blogspot.in/

Our children also participated in chanting programs organised by Chinmaya mission. Children of LAHARI rocked the dasara celebraation in White House apartments through their fluent chanting , and mythological skits. They have also participated in many occasions pertaining to temple activities.

One of the biggest milestones was that the senior batch of students completed learning Vishnu Sahasranama. With breaks in the middle and holidays seasons coming, it took us nearly 2 years to complete. Nevertheless, these children can chant the sahasranamam effortlessly. Life is a vicious circle. So,  also is the Sahasranama. If we don't concentrate, we tend to go round and round the same lines in the chant. These children can chant this hymn in one straight go without any hiccups. I must thank them for their patience and applaud their parents for being extremely supportive. Netra, Siyani, Shalini, Vishnu, Varshini, Sukitha, Shriram and shrihari form the senior batch. Few of them are in their teens. Yet the teen fever has not caught them. They are as humble and disciplined as their parents.

The junior batch is a bubbling lot. Be it reciting the slokas or telling a story or answering questions, they are always on the edge of their seat. I always get to see a high voltage atmosphere in my house with the kids of the junior batch step in for the class. Aditya, Harish Krishna, Shri hari, saakshara, Arun, Ram Arya, Srushti, Kanika, Anvitha, Ayush, Aanya,  Ishita, Girish are all shining stars of my class.

Coming to the sub-junior class where children are as small as 6 years, these kids are fun loving and make the class very lively. Apart from chanting, they make the class merrier with the child-like talk and stories.  Nishta, Naisha, Tvisha, Vasudha, Aryaman, Arjun, Mrinal, Gunin, Amartya  are all little heroes of LAHARI.

Personally, I have been greatly benefited by teaching children. I consider it to be great blessing that GOD chose me to teach children. I don’t say this with a sense of pride for any achievement but with whole hearted gratitude. When I go out, children recognise me “Sloka” aunty, “ram ram” aunty and so on. Getting recognised by innocent ones through such names is a fulfilling experience. I get to hear about children feeling bad when they miss a class, when children do not want to compromise sloka class for another class which would probably give them more material benefit. These are very heartening to hear. It only shows the commitment and the interest that children have in knowing our culture and tradition.

Last but not the least, I must thank my husband and children for being extremely supportive and encouraging. My children also have shown equal interest in learning the slokas and the stories.

My prayer to the almighty is to give me the vigour and strength to teach these children what I know and to learn from them what I don’t know. Let me never get the sense of pride or arrogance. Help me to impart what is right without fear or favour.

May god bless all children of LAHARI with a bright and prosperous future. May they live their life with bhakti and knowledge. It is only then can one balance life through ups and downs

Looking forward for yet another eventful year…..


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Stories Less Told - Dasa as a Saint

Purandara Dasa - The Saint

In my last post, we read about Srinivasa nayaka transformed into a great saint as Purandara Dasa. Can we even in our wildest dreams imagine such a blessing??. But that's what grace is. By his own sankalpa, the Lord can change lives instantly. But we have to accumulate good karma for that. Purandara dasa was considered to be an avataram of Sage Narada. In this post, I would like to narrate two incidences that shows Dasa's highest philosophical thought.

Purandara dasa had surrendered to the feet of his Guru Shri. Vyasaraya. Being immersed in the bhakti towards Lord krishna, he knew not any emotions as jealousy, selfishness, lies etc. As a result of this, he was a natural favourite of his Guru. Few disciples, however, were jealous of him and wanted to put him down in the eyes of his guru. The guru came to know of this and decided to teach the disciples a lesson. He called all of them and gave them each a banana. He told them to eat it in a place where no one could see them and in absolute secrecy. The students thought that it was too easy a test and was unfit to be called a challenge. The banana was given to Dasa also.

After an hour, all the students assembled and the Guru asked them if they had eaten the banana. The students gleefully answered in an affirmative. When each one was asked as to where he ate the fruit, they had funny answers. While one ate it near the kitchen, the other ate it inside the toilet. While one ate in the darkness, the other ate in in the garden hiding in a bush. However, Dasa had not eaten the fruit. The students ridiculed Dasa. The guru then silenced the students and asked Dasa as to why he didn't eat the fruit. Dasa smilingly said that he could not find any place where no one saw his action. He always had one person monitoring him. On further enquiry, Dasa said that the Lord was omnipresent. HE was present everywhere and was always watching our actions. Hence he could not eat the fruit. There was pin drop silence. The silence that prevailed was a proof that the students had understood their lesson for the day

On another occasion, the students challenged dasa for a debate. He gracefully agreed. One of them asked "Nanu swargakke Hogabahude" (in kannada), meaning "Can i go to the heaven". Dasa replied in negation "mmmhmmm..Neevu swargakke hogalu sadhyavilla". The student was taken aback. Another one asked him. "Naanu swargakke hogabahude"? Dasa again answered in negation. He negated each student and said that none of them could go to heaven. Then one intelligent student asked, "Neevu swargakke hogabahude" meaning "Can YOU go to heaven. for which Dasa replied."Hmm, nannu hodare hogabahudu" meaning "If I go, I can go". This indeed angered the students. They now had a sound proof of arrogance and over confidence. They went to the teacher and narrated the incident. The guru again called Dasa and enquired. Dasa answered in a calm and composed manner, "Guruve, Nanu emba ahankara hodare naanu swargakke hogabahudu" meaning "If "I", the ego vanishes, I can go to the heaven." The students were again dumb founded.

Such was the knowledge and bhakti of the Dasa. He saw Krishna in everything. He had unconditional love and bhakti for his Krishna. We are all fortunate that we are born in a holy land of such great saints. May a small percentage of his bhakti be showered upon us.



Monday, February 9, 2015

Stories Less Told: Sangeetha Pitamaha

Purandara dasa

We often say that everyone has a turning point in life. Many of them change for the better while some change for the worse. It could be an incident or a sudden realisation of a new idea that changes one’s life completely. Here, I would like to narrate the story of Purandara Dasa whose life took a drastic turn due to an incident that took place in his life.

Purandara Dasa is one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu and has composed thousands of songs in praise of the lord and about the philosophy of Dwaita.  He is also considered to be the “father of Carnatic Music”. If you do not know this, then it would be heartening to know that the beginners lessons of  sarali varisai, janti, tharasthayi, geetham, etc. are all laid down my this great Saint.

Do you know that this great saint was a stinking rich money lender?? His father had left a whole property which Dasa was taking care of. His initial name was Srinivasa nayaka. Though he was very rich, he was extremely stingy. He would not donate a pie to any poor. He was called “Navakoti Narayana” because of his riches but would not part with a single morsel of food to the needy. He has a pious wife by name Saraswati.

He thought he was the richest man in that village and was very proud. But destiny had other plans for him. He was not meant to enjoy the riches of his own wealth but to become a servant of the lord. When the destined time came, Lord Narayana came in the form of a poor Brahmin to Srinivasa’s shop. He requested Srinivasa to give some money as he wanted to conduct his son’s thread ceremony (Upanayana). Srinivasa flatly refused. But this poor Brahmin would not give up. He would repeatedly come to Srinivasa’s shop every day and beg for help. Srinivasa also would negate him and send him away. This went on for 6 months.

The poor Brahmin then learnt about Saraswati and went to Srinivasa’s house. He pleaded for some money to complete his son’s thread ceremony. The wife was overcome with compassion but was helpless. She told the Brahmin that she could not give anything without the consent of her husband. The Brahmin in return asked to give him anything which she got from her father’s house over which she had a right. Sarawati  thought for a while and removed her diamong-studded nose ring and gave it to brahmin. The poor man was very happy. HE went straight to Srinivasa Naik’s shop and pledged the ring. Srinivasa saw the nose ring and immediately recognized that it belonged to his wife. He asked the Brahmin to come the next day, locked the ring in a box and hurried home.

On reaching home, he saw that his wife’s nose ring was missing. He asked her about it. She gave weird answers, but he insisted that he would like to see the ring at that very moment. Saraswati was overcome by guilt and grief. She fervently prayed to Lord Vishnu. When she realised that she could not escape, she decided to end her life. She filled poison in a cup and intensely prayed to the Lord. And Lo!!!  While she took the poison to the lips, she heard a tingling sound inside the bowl. She looked and to her pleasant surprise, she found the ring in the bowl. She was surprised and astounded. She ran and showed the ring to her husband. Srinivasa still did not believe and pressed her to narrate what had happened. Saraswati told him the entire story. Srinivasa hurried to the shop to check for the ring. He was aghast to see that it was missing from there.

His mind was full of confusion and delusion. He calmed down and introspected as to what had happened. It then dawned on him that it was lord Narayana who come as a brahmin to give him true knowledge and remove him from the vagaries of this world. This incident in Srinivasa’s life changed him completely.

The hands that were laden with golden bangles, was holding the tanpura and jingle bells. The rich clothing which he adorned was all donated. He wore a simple dhoti below his waist, tied a turban around his head and renounced life. His wife also followed him as a devotee. He was completely transformed. Songs in praise of the lord just started flowing from his lips. He forgot the world and completely surrendered to the Lord Narayana’s feet. Such is the grace of the Lord. 

More stories of Purandara Dasa in my next post….


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stories Less Told - Janaka

JANAKA, the Great

In our mythological stories, we come across many rishis were brahma gnanis. Among kings too, there were many who attained moksha. Janaka, is one such king, whom even Krishna mentions in the Bagavadgita (3.20). The Upanishads too mention his name with reverence. If Mahalakshmi Thayar herself chose King Janaka as her foster father, we can imagine the what a great king Janaka was. He was a karma yogi to the core. He went beyond the realms of the body and its attachment and realised that the soul is only eternal. He knew that one has to work for the realisation of the brahman.
I would like to quote an interesting story of the monarch by which he proves himself to be a realised soul.

Yagnavalkya was GURU to King janaka. Janaka was an extremely humble student and never showed a pomp when he came for his lessons. He sat along with other students for his lessons. As he was a very sharp, interested student and a student who put to practise what he learnt, he was the guru’s  favourite. This obviously made the other disciples jealous. They thought that the GURU is partial because Janaka was the king and would receive favours from him. But the GURU was undisturbed and knew that a day would come when his disciples would know as to who was the sun and who was the lamp.

One day, when the King and other disciples were listening to the lesson about BRAHMAN, they saw a sudden fire flaring up and the entire city of Mithila was in flames. There was chaos everywhere. People were running hither and tither to save themselves. The disciples also got perplexed. They all ran to their cottages. What for? They were Brahmin boys who did have any property. The cottages were given to them by the king. Why then did they run to their cottages?? Just to save their clothes and loin cloth. But King Janaka did not move from his place. He and the guru were intently discussing the Brahman. When people approached the king, the king gave a sharp reply: “Mithilayam pradagdhayam namekincit pranasyati".. “Nothing do I lose even though Mithila may be consumed to ashes.”  Here was a king who never bothered for his kingdom when it was in fire while there were the disciples who were running to save their clothes. The students realised the greatness of King Janaka.

All of us are always within the limits and illusion of the body. We think that the body is eternal, Many a times we perceive that the body and soul are one. But this is wrong. The soul and body are NOT the same. The souls is eternal and is not affected by the sun, cold, rain or wind, happiness, sorrow, etc. All pain and pleasure is only for the body and not the soul. The soul in in eternal bliss. Because of its association with the body and its karma, it feels pain or pleasure. It is only the soul that carries our karma to our next birth. 
In order to reach to this state of mind where we realise that the body and soul are different and understand the nature of the soul, we must first accept this fact and have an urge within ourselves to get redeem from this samsara. The first step that all philosophies prescribe towards the end goal is karma yoga. We have to follow the rules laid down by our shastras and vedas. If we are going to believe that these are just books of superstitious belief, then it is our folly. We will always be in the vicious cycle of birth and death. Moksha may remain only a dream.