MAHA SHIVRATRI: THE MOST MOMENTOUS DAY IN THE CALENDAR - The Daily Guardian
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MAHA SHIVRATRI: THE MOST MOMENTOUS DAY IN THE CALENDAR

Jane Kay

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Festivals of all kinds are days of celebration. However, religious festivals are also memorials. They are a reminder and a celebration of greatness, be that of an event or a person. To someone from the west, India seems like the very land of festivals! A cornucopia of colour, joy, music and even reverence and sometimes solemnity. However, to the discerning eye, one festival shines like a beacon above all of the others, Maha Shivratri.

It is a festival of hope. It is a festival bringing the promise of light and the end of darkness, the beginning of spring, and renewal.

Most cultures across the world have some way of welcoming spring after the desolation of winter, but in India it is very different. This particular festival is celebrated by Hindu communities, wherever they may be, but the memorial is of Shiva, the Supreme Father of all souls, first making Himself known in Bharat. Perhaps those who grow up celebrating this day never question the wonder of that. To someone from the west it is astonishing, because it means that this incorporeal Father Shiva, the Supreme Benefactor Soul, the Father of all of us souls, must have definitely come at some point, or this memorial would not exist.

This Supreme Soul must have actually appeared here on Earth, and that too in India, to bring an end to a world of darkness, of suffering, of sorrow, of confusion, and bring forth a world of peace and beauty.

The world we live in now could hardly be darker than it is or hold more suffering than it does. There could be no time more in need of the reappearance of such a Divine Being.

It could be said that this festival has been celebrated since ‘time immemorial’, that it began so long ago that no one can remember how it began. Of course, if time is linear, then casting the mind back to recall an event of this magnitude would be almost, if not certainly, impossible. However, if time is cyclical, the end will reach the beginning, and scenes that have only been remembered will actually be witnessed again.

Could it not be, that it is now that the most significant and powerful event in the whole wonderful story of humanity is re-enacted? It seems like a very good time to consider that possibility.

Jane Kay is a university teaching fellow in the UK, and a Rajyoga teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

SEEKING THE INNER SILENCE

Anthony Strano

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Most of us feel some emptiness within, or a neediness or discontent, and yet we do not realise that what we are hungering for is the experience of inner silence. This inner silence is able to fill and satisfy us, giving us the inner strength and ability to heal ourselves by putting us in touch with the real meaning of life.

Deep within, we all remember the meaning of life. We could think of these sketchy memories as the few remaining strands of a thread of life. Sometimes, little everyday situations – such as an unexpected moment of silence during a busy day – jerk this strand, stirring up an innate feeling that reminds us, “I am something more. I can be something else.”

This tug of the thread kindles a desire to search, to find out what that “something more…something else” is. Perhaps that is why you are reading this page. A hope stirs deep within – the thought that we are not bound by anyone or any situation. It reminds us of what we are at the core – not what we are as a parent, spouse or child or because of a job or special talent, but what we are because each of us is a self that lies beyond the social, physical and emotional realms. We might think of it as a point of eternity – a point of unique spirit within the universe, which is eternally me.

So, the inexplicable pull of that thread is accompanied by the feeling that “there is something I must reach, something I must know and (even more important) something I must be.”

Now, we ask, how can I catch hold of this thread that will guide me and enable me to clearly see the difference between the dead end of the noisy world and the open door of real life? “Simple”, a little voice whispers. “It seems difficult and laborious, but it is not; it is as easy as stopping for a moment and becoming silent.”

A PEACEFUL THOUGHT

It is not so difficult. All I have to do is to give myself permission to stop – to stop for a moment in this hectic spinning called life.

Take a moment, or two or three, and be still and silent. Sense the quietness of the moment – and slip into a place of no thinking, become completely still. In the stillness become aware of the real, true you. Let this awareness appear quietly, but brilliantly. After a few moments, as you return to your daily activities, try to retain this consciousness, this original state of being, which is serene and complete, the real you.

The late Anthony Strano was an author and Rajyoga teacher with the Brahma Kumaris.

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GOD UNDERSTANDS YOU VERY WELL

Dadi Janki

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Never have the thought that you do not want a part in the drama of life. That is not possible. It is good to understand these things in detail. Understanding allows you to remove the sorrow. It makes you a self-sovereign and makes others this, too.

What is needed is to prepare the self internally for whatever scenes may come. Attention to the self like this removes all worry and concern. Then, even extreme situations appear as side scenes – they will come, and they will go. Your mind will stay free, happy and powerful and this is what you will share with others.

The only thing we need to do is remember “I am a soul and around me is the game of life playing itself out.” Then, whatever role comes up for me to play I will play it very well, no longer confusing the actor with the act.

The one who remembers this is, in God’s eyes, a hero. God says, ‘Understand the part I have given you to play.’ But though I do not see myself as God sees me, I should never say ‘How?’. God is the Director and He understands me very well. Realise this clearly: God understands you very, very well.

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What does it really mean to be a Rajyogi?

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Rajyoga is not just practice of meditation for half an hour or an hour. To be a Rajyogi means bringing all the understanding and attainments into a complete way of life. Just as a ‘raja’, a king, behaves as a king throughout the day – in thoughts, words, actions and relationships — even when he is not sitting on his throne, so too a Rajyogi keeps a check on his or her behaviour, words, tone. A simple life and royal manners are the credo of a Rajyogi.

Yoga means connection, relationship. A Rajyogi has four principal relationships or connections. Relationship with the self, with God, with people, and with nature.

The key words for the relationship with the self are attention and awareness. Having a harmonious relationship with the self means to be constantly aware that I am an eternal being, a being of divine light, a soul. My original nature is peace, purity, love, happiness and truth. I use the body while remaining aware of my true nature.

The key words for a relationship with God are faith and love. God is love. I remember God with love and put the wisdom of God into my life for the benefit of the self and others. This makes me worthy of receiving love and respect from all.

When it comes to relationships with all others, then the key words are mutual respect and healthy communication. It is so much easier not to create any conflict with anyone, than to try to mend the damage that conflict can cause. Share only good news. Bad news and gossip spoil the atmosphere and draw others into negative, heavy energy. Be light, make big things small, be honest and transparent, and in this way we gain the trust of all.

Finally, in our relationships with nature the key word is learning. Despite all that we have done to our natural world, nature just keeps on bestowing. We need to learn from nature how to keep on bestowing with love for all and cooperate in bringing peace and benevolence into the world.

All the elements have a lesson for us:

a) Water: It has flexibility, the ability to flow around obstacles and adjust to situations. Water has coolness.

b) Earth: The earth is tolerant of all that we do, just like a mother. We need to learn to tolerate the behaviour of others, to be patient and make sure to cause no pain.

c) Air – It teaches us to be light. We must make sure to maintain the right attitude and not make the atmosphere around us heavy with negative feelings and conversations. We need to learn to uplift others by lightening the burden they are carrying in their hearts.

d) Fire: It brings warmth. Intense fire transforms. Intense fire removes the alloy from gold. We must transmit warmth with a big heart and compassion.

e) Ether – It is unlimited, vast. Let us have unlimited hearts that can accept everyone, with no exceptions. We must not limit our love and kindness to just one or two, but hold everyone as worthy of our regard and good wishes.

Rajyoga is a way of life — a life of understanding, compassion, attention and benevolence.

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TO OVERCOME FEAR, EMPOWER THE SOUL

Dr Girish Patel

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The mind has two great enemies – fear and worry. Everyone experiences some kind of fear. Fear can be of many types, and sometimes it assumes serious dimensions. It immobilizes us and we are unable to do anything. The mind is paralysed or confused and we cannot think sensibly, because of which even simple tasks become difficult.

Fear adversely affects the entire body. It reduces immunity, upsets the digestive system, and impairs the flow of blood to the brain. The last can lead to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease in the elderly.

Once we resolve to overcome fear, three steps help in attaining our goal: acceptance, listening, and introspection.

First, we need to accept that we are afraid of something. Some people camouflage their fears with bravado, but that does not help in the long run. Even if we have subtle fears, acknowledging them is half the battle won. Only when we acknowledge our fears do we take steps to overcome them.

The second step is to listen. Our fears carry a message: they tell us that we need to change. How do we listen? We can note the kind of thoughts that are passing through the mind and become aware of our inner world. We need not take out time from our schedule for this: we can check the quality of our thoughts and feelings while we are walking or doing work that does not demand much mental focus. Once we have recognised the cause of our fear, we can take the next step of introspection.

When we analyse our fears we find that most of them are unfounded. Some people are afraid of flying. Thousands of planes fly each day, how many of them crash? The risk of getting killed in a plane crash is negligible. On the other hand, every year a number of people die in their sleep. Do we stop sleeping because of that? So how rational is the fear of flying? When we think logically like this, we can overcome many fears.

Living in the present also helps. Fear and worry are mostly linked to past events or an imaginary future. Instead of making the most of the present, many people spend their time agonising over the past or envisioning future scenarios. This can lead to depression or anxiety disorders. Worrying is not the same as planning. Once we make a plan we are done with it and at ease, but worrying is repetitive and draining.

Another way to get rid of fear is to put away fearful thoughts in a mental ‘box’. When such thoughts arise, we tell ourselves that this is not the time for such thoughts, and put them in the box to be dealt with later. Once we make a habit of doing this we will not be gripped by fear. Our productivity also increases when we stop wasting time worrying, and if the mind is busy with useful things there is less scope for wasteful thoughts to arise.

We can face our fears better if we consciously make an effort to be logical, calm, and detached. When we are emotional, we become confused and unable to respond effectively.

The most powerful tool for removing fear from our life is meditation, or linking up with the Almighty. Fear arises when the soul is lacking something – it could be peace, power, knowledge, or something else. When we recognise the fact that we are souls, children of God, and remember Him, the ocean of peace, power and love, we begin to experience these virtues. Regular practice of meditation fills the soul with these qualities. Once the soul gains the clear discernment that comes with purity, becomes stable in peace, and is full of power, the lacunae that provide space for fear vanish, and we are liberated from fear.

Dr. Girish Patel is a well-known psychiatrist based in Mumbai, and a student of Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris.

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POWER OF CHANTING THE LORD’S NAME

The chanting of the holy name of Lord Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life.

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T here are seven stages of transcendental purification and elevation that takes place when we chant the Holy Names of Krishna. 

SEVENTH PURIFICATION

 “Param vijayate Sri Krishna sankirtanam.” Lord Caitanya says, go on with this chanting, go on with this Sri Krishna Sankirtan. Let it be victorious in all directions. This is His benediction. That the Holy Name alone of the Lord when it is chanted by sincere devotees, it spreads out and expands to create victory over illusion, maya, and throughout the world. Wherever the Holy Name is chanted by the Lord’s sincere devotees, these seven effects will take place. Param vijayate or supreme victory is accomplished through the chanting of Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. And this was Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s great desire. Srila Prabhupada, our beloved Guru Maharaj, as Lord Caitanya desired, as the humble servant of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, wanted to expand this great victory throughout the world through the chanting of Krishna’s Holy Name. Param vijayate Sri Krishna sankirtanam. Sri means Radharani, the pleasure potency of the Lord. Sri Krishna Sankirtanam means the full congregational chanting of Radha and Krishna. So there is no greater opportunity in all of this human existence that is being given to us by the Lord than the chanting of the names of Krishna — hare nama hare nama hare nama eva kevalam. In this age of Kali Yuga, there is no other possible way of deliverance or save, except for the chanting of the Holy Names of Lord Hari.

 “Kaler dosa-nidhe rajann asti hy eko mahan gunah  kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet.”

This age of Kali Yuga is an ocean of faults. But there is one benediction. That simply by chanting the Holy Name of Krishna we can achieve the perfection of liberation. What could be attained in Satya Yuga through thousands of years of celibacy, tapasya, and strict meditation, in Treta Yuga by elaborate yajnas, in Dvapara Yuga by worshipping the Lord through various rituals, and forms of devotion can be easily attained in Kali Yuga by chanting the Holy Names. Therefore, the Bhagavat explains that the great sages worship this Kali Yuga as the best of all ages. It is an age of quarrel and hypocrisy, where friction and conflict can come about between anybody and at any time unless we keep Krishna in the centre.  Kali kale nama rupe krsna avatar. Krishna has descended in His name in such a way that we can always keep Him in the centre. The only protection from the evils of this age of Kali is the sincere chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. This chanting must be done sincerely. We must have the association of the Lord.

Without keeping the company of the devotees of the Lord, we can’t properly have the consciousness to chant the Holy Name that is required. And we must have a spiritual master to guide and train us in such a way that we are approaching the Holy Name in the proper way. To achieve the full benefits of the Holy Name, we have to approach in the mood of being a servant. Krishna in His name will reveal Himself as you approach Him.

Sometimes impersonalists chant the Holy Name of Krishna. Sometimes people who are too much aspiring for material enjoyment approach the Holy Name. But Krishna doesn’t properly reveal himself to people who don’t have the proper devotion. So we must be very sincere. It is so simple. Lord Nityananda Prabhu and Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu have induced us in this way: chant the Holy Name of Krishna, worship Krishna, hear about Krishna, and give this message to others. Krishna is your mother, Krishna is your father. Krishna is your true wealth and your very life and soul.

We are all looking for wealth and working so hard in our occupations to find wealth. But we don’t know that there is an unlimited treasure of wealth right within the heart of your own soul and the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord is the key that opens your own heart and reveals the supreme treasure of transcendental bliss. Therefore chanting this Name in the association of other devotees is the ultimate benediction for all humanity. Veda Vyasa is Krishna Himself. He descended and wrote the Vedas. It was Veda Vyasa, with the help of Ganapathi, who wrote the entire Mahabharat which includes the Bhagavad Gita at Badrik ashram. It was him who wrote the four Vedas — rig, yathur, atharva, and the sama. He wrote the Upanishads, Puranas, itihasas, and various histories.

 Vedic literature is meant to elevate the consciousness of humanity to its ultimate perfection. And after this most extensive and exhaustive expression of His mercy to humanity by writing all these scriptures, he was not satisfied. In his ashram in Badrinath, sitting at the banks of Saraswati, Narada Muni approached him and told him you have not exclusively presented a scripture which speaks nothing but pure unalloyed devotion to the supreme Lord Krishna. That is the ultimate culmination of all transcendental knowledge. So the last written statement of Veda Vyasa was the Srimad Bhagavatam. The most perfect, spotless Purana. The culmination of all knowledge. His own commentary on the Vedanta Sutra, the essence of the Vedas. And after describing the pure devotion of so many great devotees, mahajans, and then describing the personal leela of Krishna in Vrndavan, in Mathura, in Dwaraka. Krishna’s instructions to Uddhava, the last verse of Veda Vyasa is:

“Nama-sankirtanam yasya sarva-papa pranasanam pranamo duhkha-samanas tam namami harim param.”

 In this age of Kali Yuga, the chanting, the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna will relieve you from all sinful reactions and award you the perfection of life. Srimad Bhagavatam ends, concludes, and culminates with this glorification of the Sankirtan movement and in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya. We understand how Caitanya Caritamrta begins where Srimad Bhagavatam ends.

Bhagavad Gita ends with surrender to Krishna. It begins with you should not be in illusion. Understand the difference between body and spirit and ultimately you should surrender to Krishna by always remembering Him. So where Bhagavad Gita ends, Srimad Bhagavatam begins. It is the graduate study of the Gita. It begins by describing the pure devotee’s lives and how they are surrendering to Krishna.

What is Prahlad’s surrender? What is Ambarisa Maharaj’s surrender? What is the Pandavas surrender? What are Sukadeva Goswami and Pariksit Mahraj’s surrender? Srimad Bhagavatam is a collection of the pure devotees reciprocating their love with Krishna. And then it reaches its heights when it reaches the 10th canto, where it describes Krishna personally descending in His original form and having beautiful rasa with the Gopis in Vrndavan, the most intensified relationship with His devotees and the Bhagavatam concludes nama sankirtanam yasya — this will all be realised through the congregational chanting of the Holy Name.

Where Bhagavatam ends, Lord Caitanya begins. The first thing that He teaches is chant the Holy Names of Krishna. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is considered to be non-different from the personification of the teachings of Srimad Bhagavatam. It can all be realized in perfection through the sincere chanting of Krishna’s Holy Names. And here in the beautiful verse, Siksastakam, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is personally glorifying the unlimited virtues of this sankirtan movement. The ultimate benedictions come through the chanting of the Holy Names. I hope this shed some glimmers of light on the unlimited ocean of light that is emanating from the first verse of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s siksastakam.

If we offer the oblations of our faith and devotion into the seven flames of this fire of Harinam sankirtan, we will attract the unlimited mercy of Krishna. To share this message with others is the greatest of all service to humanity. So please let us chant Hare Krishna loudly and be happy.

‘Let there be all victory for the chanting of the Holy Name of Lord Hari, Lord Krishna, which can cleanse the mirror of the heart and stop the miseries of the blazing fire of material existence. That chanting is the waxing moon that spreads the white lotus of good fortune for all living entities. It is the life and soul of all education. The chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna expands the blissful ocean of transcendental life. It gives a cooling effect to everyone and enables one to taste full nectar at every step.’ Sri Harinam Sankirtan Ki Jaya.

This is the last part of the four-part series.

Gauranga Sundar Das is Iskcon Inc Communication Director and Social media IT Head.

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THY NAME IS TRUTH AND TRUTH HAS NO NAME

Arun Malhotra

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When a child is born into this world, he brings in him pure wonder. He incarnates godly purity. He lives in infinity beyond time and bondage of human logic. Seers when they attain godhood they become child-like again. A child is closest to existence. Existence exists in a child in purity. Society asks him who you are. The definition becomes important. Parents define him who is he. You are lent a name, which is not you but like a code or a serial number. Names are fanciful. Most of them are derived from definitions of God deities, families, places, ethnicities so on. You are defined. You will be known by this code. In the beginning, it confuses the child to know whether the code by which he is being defined is him. He questions where is the guy of such name? Because he is in the being. He knows who he is. Slowly he learns to act as per the code to denote him. Code is a mere artificial pliable assumption to indicate towards the being. But whole life the code is fortified.

Code is nothing but syllables. A syllable is sound but humans have attached meanings to it by language. Code is like binary numerals 010101 via which we make computers to learn to store and retrieve a word, sound, picture, data. All our alphabets are like binary codes. A child learns them. B bat, C cat, D dog. Because of a dog, he learns to cognise D. He learns language. Language is a great invention in man. Man has learnt to communicate far better than animals. Therefore, man has been able to communicate his mind. Language has bred thinking.

What begins with a code later becomes fortified. It becomes ego. Ego is not because it is just a borrowed name. At the centre of his self, being is seated. Being who has no name that who ‘is’ and the ego is not. The ego is a sieve that has no bottom. The ego wants to fill itself. Ego is insatiable. It wants to fill everything in the world. A beautiful story, a saint had a begging bowl made of a human skull. He went to a king and asked if the King has enough wealth to fill his begging bowl. King felt offended and ordered to fill it. But the begging bowl would remain empty. It sucked everything all wealth of the king and the king fell into beggar’s feet and beggar said this begging bowl is made of human skull.

Ego is the begging bowl of your mind. Ego is made by thoughts. Thinker wants to be something in thoughts. The ego wants to be something else because it is not. Man wants to give definition to himself because the ego is not. He wants to define himself as an intelligent person or a wealthy person or a powerful person or a famous person. He wants to be somebody so he follows society. He wants to be a king, or a prime minister or a billionaire. But he does not want to be him. Because being a man is most ordinary and ego wants to be extraordinary. Definition fortifies ego that he ‘is’. This ‘is-ness’ is defined by money power prestige intelligence. This ‘is-ness’ defines man’s ego. So the borrowed code ego is fortified by definitions of wealth, power, intelligence, prestige. He wants to fill the sieve-like void with wealth power etc. But the begging bowl remains always empty because it is made of a human skull that is mind.

Borrowed ego is not. The ego is the opposite of the being. For the ego to be the being is needed. If being departs, ego departs immediately. But ego makes us run a rat race all life. No one on the earth has ever been able to gratify ego to its full. In fact, ego is a mind game. It is psychological but it is not real. The man keeps running after unreal therefore world becomes a miserable place. When ego departs world becomes a heavenly abode.

Millions on the earth become powerful, distinguished and wealthy but we find no trace of them. In the end one comes to know that ego is not and the one who always ‘was’ is the being. And ego is a reflection of the being. Like your image is seen in the mirror. You are not the mirror image. You are you. And your image is never you. Ego is the image of your being mirrored on the canvas of the world. It is a mind game that has mired you.

A seer becomes child-like by learning by living the life. A child learns by words. That which can be roped in words or that which can be roped in pictures paintings becomes a lie because it is only an indication towards That Which Is. It is not That Which Is. Those who have learnt by living life understand that life is an eternal flow. Living is an eternal flow. From seed, it becomes a tree and from a tree, flowers come and seed comes again. An eternal flow. Words can’t define. The definition is a technique to bind that eternal flow into boundaries to erect borders around it. Like we erect borders around when a child is born but that becomes a bane of life.

Words are learning tricks that are made by opposite or non-congruent meanings. To define one thing the other is needed. But life is an eternal flow that does not come into definitions because that which is defined by definition remains undefined. Nietzsche has said that order comes from chaos. But to define the meaning of chaos we invoke order that which is the opposite of chaos. But eternally order comes out of chaos and is the flowering of chaos. The definition is an artificial understanding which and therefore is never defined.

Words or names everything comes out of the mind. This world is a big mind and creation is pure consciousness. The mind creates a false world because the mind is artificiality. The mind creates that which it does not know. Then defines it and then becomes happy that it knows the definition. But the definition is not the defined as always. The definition is a false substitute. The mind creates a false substitute for the truth. And then claims to have known the truth. Man creates philosophies to create false truths to sharpen intelligence by language but ultimately deciphers the untruth. Because within the boundaries of mind only predictable that can be predicted can be known. Boundaries of the definition of words only define that which is not because of limitation. Because the name is that eternal name that cannot be named.

That could be defined by the boundaries of our thoughts cannot be That Which Is. Seers say we cannot hear Him, see Him or touch Him because man lives in time. That Which Is is timelessly timeless. Because time is a change and creation is unchanged. Nanak says Satnam, thy name is a truth that is Akal the timeless. Lao Tzu says that which can be pronounced cannot take us into timelessness. Language is made in time. Truth is timeless. That-Which-Is is timeless.

The author is a spiritual teacher.

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