Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Elevator Talks on Spiritual Observances?

Hello Karyakars! Today is Devpodhi Ekadashi (દેવપ્ોઢી ઍકાદશી). The story goes that once King Bali perfomed a yagna so powerful that Bhagwan Vishnu Himself came to Earth, taking the form of Vaaman Avtar, resembling a dwarf Brahmin.

King Bali, full of devotion, upon seeing the Brahmin offers to help the Brahmin and requests him to ask for anything. So Vaman Devta asks for some land.

“How much land do you need?” asks King Bali.

“About 3 steps of land,” replies Vaman Devta. No sooner than King Bali granted this seemingly small wish, Bhagwan took his massive swarup as Virat Purush and took three steps.

In the first two steps, Bhagwan covered the entire earth and the heavens. For his third step, King Bali offered his own head. As the Lord stepped on King Bali’s head, the demon-king was pushed down to the deepest Patal Lokh, deep below the ocean. Seeing King Bali’s servitude, Bhagwan was very pleased and considered him a true devotee, asking him to request a boon.

King Bali requested, “Maharaj! Now you will have to come and give darshan to me.” Bhagwan granted his wish.

Each year, Bhagwan retires for a four-month deep sleep near the doorstep of King Bali to give darshan to the demon king. All of his other bhaktas became really sad and disappointed. Bhagwan, if you go there, we will do tapa; if we succeed in pleasing you, you must return back to us, they called.

Bhagwan, being benevolent, agreed to do so. As such, today we typically observe Nirjala Upvaas (નિરજળા ઉપવાસ) and today also marks the beginning of Chaturmas - four months of intense bhakti to please Maharaj even more.

In a few short days, we will also celebrate Guru Purnima in great pomp for our dear guru Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

But how do we share these insights with your colleagues, friends, and coworkers? Perhaps if we have time over the course of dinner or lunch, we can share the full story. However, we usually just offer a truncated insight into the deep currents behind our spiritual leanings...”I am fasting today”, we may say. Or perhaps we may say nothing. Sometimes, we may offer a bit more when probed by interested coworkers - “It’s our version of Christmas today”, on Shri Hari Jayanti. Or perhaps in the interest of time, we can say “I am observing a religious fast today.”

What are some ways that you share aspects of your vratas or insights about our cultural traditions with the people in your life?

Friday, July 16, 2010

On the Virtue of Purity

Hello Karyakars! One sabha / ghosthi topic that continually reemerges is an in-depth, one-at-a-time discussion of Pujya Swamishri’s eternal virtues. One of the more recent topics is on Saucham (સૌચમ), or Purity.

“The ancient Hindu scriptures prescribe the five forms of purity: mind, action, character, speech, and physical body. P.P Swamishri is the embodiment of purity in all of these areas. His life radiates with purity....

“Swamishri states, “To become pure within, one must first begin with outer purity.” His life is full of inspiring incidents which illustrates this belief.”

Pujya Swamishri’s purity, like each of his other virtues, or Gũn (ગુણ), is truly limitless. Each moment in Pujya Swamishri’s life is the single boundless, blissful beacon of interwoven virtues in the tumultuous waters of this world. Through the reading of prasangs and through our own life experiences, each of us has been blessed with having one, or multiple, touch points with Pujya Swamishri’s divine qualities.

But what about purity in our own lives as well as in the outside world? This particular ghoshti ends with a directive to host a conversation around the famous quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world” in relation to Purity.

What is Purity in a world of multiple perspectives and ways of life? In addition to the prasang varnan and ghoshti, perhaps we can help generate concepts that help us strengthen our own path to pure living.

Exhibit A: Purity as Relative

This comic is somewhat of a farce, though math freaks reading this blog may disagree, but is Purity relative? If so, how?

Exhibit B: Branding around Purity

Purity Organic is a juice company that goes with the tagline “Better Fruit. Better Juice”. The company focuses on finding better, organic ingredients in order to create a superior product. Can purity be applied to that which is closer to the genuine source?

Exhibit C: Purity as Subtle
The difference between a million-dollar diamond and a 100K diamond is one microscopic impurity. We may follow all the niyam dharma of basic purity, but do we go the extra mile?
What more can we do for our own outer and inner purity?

Please share your ideas to the virtue of Purity, or any of Swamishri’s other eternal virtues.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chain Reaction

How can the Odyssey of others inspire our own present-day journey?

Last week, the MC used a really neat way to tie together the whole sabha. From beginning to end, she related her experience of reading Seductive Poison, a memoir of a once-Jonestown devotee who was misled by her leader, to the sabha topics of Swami’s compassion and the Law of Karma.

I finally dusted the cover of my unread (read: untouched) copy of the Odyssey where Odysseus or Ulysses (from Greek mythology) takes decades to finally return home. It was his journey that even came to coin the concept of “odyssey” in modern English. In our own culture, the Pandavas as well as Shri Rama and Sitaji endured trials and tribulations during their own time in exile. Each protagonist has exhibted perseverance and focus, adapting to their own chain reactions and karmas through the cosmos, in search of truth and righteous living.
It follows, then, that in literature and in life the Journey is paramount for growth.

The prominent philosopher Joseph Campbell regards each Hero’s Journey as “the process that underlies all growth, learning, and self discovery”. Where would Dorothy be without the Wizard of Oz, and where would Frodo be without his journey to Mordor?

Every few minutes, my gaze wanders to the Nilkanth Varni murti on my desk. Maharaj Himself set out on the pious path not so much to find the Truth, rather in order to allow the seekers find Him and attain His dham

In digesting the past few weeks’ presentations and pretty hefty topics about the the domino effect of Cosmic Evolution and Law of Karma as well as in understanding Upasana in an everyday light, I, at least, know that this moment is not a mere coincidence. After reading about the mythological and real journeys of other souls, I am not entirely sure what my own atma has done to arrive here. But I also know that human perception is highly limited, and that what matters at this moment is that my has brought me here today - face to face with clarity about my true identity and the Ekantik Satpurush himself. What I choose to do today and tomorrow is what matters.

How do you relate with the idea of the Cosmic “Odyssey” of the atma? Does reading or learning about the journey of a ficticious or real protagonist inspire you in your daily satsang?

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Great Sabha has nothing to do with Sabha: Why Sabha is a lot like a Table Top (and other fun analogies and scenarios!)

I know. You are really used to outrageous statements to get you and your mandal to start thinking, doing, and living.

But really. I mean it. A Great Sabha has nothing to do with Sabha. Yep. We can go ahead and plan all of the sabhas we want, set up our calendars, and send out the syllabi - but really, they do not guarantee a great sabha.

Come on, think about it. We might have an amazing presenter or Sadguru Sant presenting this week, but what happens if no one shows up! We might have a full house of extremely pumped up youth on the tail end of a Mandal Outing, but the presenter conveniently forgot her materials at home or just plain did prepare and is now reading from the printout and trying her best to ad-lib.

Sound familiar?

So what does make a Great, Remarkable, Excellent, Amazing, Thought-Provoking, Can't-Wait-To-Get-Back-Next-Week SABHA?

Showing Up?
Being Prepared?
Being really, really Well Prepared?
Following up?
Reporting on time?
Knowing our material?
Following our seva consistently?
Keeping Maharaj & Swami front and center?

Well, it is all of these things above and more! It is also all of the points we have been discussing on this blog, at our regular meetings, at shibirs, at trainings, etc.

Let's think of it in another related way. Have you tried Pilates? Yoga? Ever worked out in your life? Well, one of the first things we will likely learn is about Core Conditioning. About building Core Strength before we try to run a marathon or win the game. Everything we do to ensure a Successful Sabha helps us build our core strength in Satsang.

Pilates has a basic position called Table Top, where I stand on all fours, but if my core is not in good shape, then even that basic position becomes a challenge! This is not unlike a table itself.

The table you are sitting at, eating at, or chilling at - you only really look at the surface itself. That's sabha. Sabha is the Table Top. Everything else that gives it support are the foundation. Generally the foundation is made up of 4 legs, but if you are into IKEA's desk systems, you'll know that legs can be made up of trestles, drawers, etc.

A Table is only as strong as its Foundation. And in the fast-paced, youthful life of ours full of adventure, it would be great to have a strong, well-supported table that we and our entire mandal can depend on.

So every week when we get together, we see the results of how much we worked out our core. Did we make the phone calls to the presenter? D id we follow up to make sure we have our AV equipment on time? Did we call kishoris to ensure they will be there on time? Are we doing our part to please Swamishri and, in the process, achieve great sabha?

Can we think of other legs or foundations that can help achieve Great Sabhas?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

10 Second President

[Our guest blogger gives us an interesting analogy on Lakh Choraasi (840,000 births we go through before getting a human form). This is a first in a series of post the will explore this topic]

Congratulations, you are now President of the United States of America.

10 seconds later -

OK you are done, you are back to being you.

What did you accomplish? What did you achieve? What were your high points? What were your low points? How does it feel?

That's it. That's what human life is like. Say we were to live 100 years (let's take an optimistic view), we would get to be President for approximately 10 seconds. That is the equivalent of having human form - after 8.4 million births. This is Samsara - a reality that is equally expounded throughout Hindu Sanatan Dharma and beyond).

And today, we not only have we overcome our arduous odyssey and washed ashore to this unique birth not only as a human being but also as a bhakta of our True Guru who is here to guide us in our, relatively, short time here! Let's make the most of our last little bit.