Friday, 21 February 2020

MahaShiva Ratri - The great night of Lord Shiva

Huge Deity of Lord Shiva at Nageshwar temple
Nageshwar temple

Happy Shivaratri to all my readers. Today is a special and auspicious day of MahaShiva ratri. Actually, the word Shiva means auspiciousness. So there are many references in our Vedic literatures as why this particular day or rather night, that comes in Chaturdashi Tithi during Krishna Paksha in month of Magha is ascribed to Shiva and glorifying him. Because, on this very day aeons ago, Lord Shiva did some amazing things for the welfare of the creation. Shrimad Bhagavatam explains the pastime of churning the ocean by Demigods and Demons, for a pot of nectar of immortality, a devastating and dangerous poison called Halahala emerged which seemed to engulf and destroy the world.  For the welfare of the whole world Lord Shiva drank the whole poison and kept it in his throat without further swallowing it. Thus, his neck became blue and he is therefore called as Neelakanta or the blue throated one. It is said that, Lord Shiva has a beautiful and muscular whitish body. Lord Shiva is an eternally yogi - dresses as an ascetic and smears ash all over His body. Lord Shiva has Vasuki coiled around his neck - the snake is shown curled three times around the neck of the Lord.

Nageshvar Jyotirlinga
While writing this I remembered that, we had some special mercy of Lord Shiva on us i,e During our recent trip to India, we visited Gujarat and had the fortune of visiting 2 important temples or Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva (There are total of 12 Jyotirlingas in India). One of them is the Nageshvar Jyotirlinga in Jamnagar, one of the temples mentioned in the Shiva Purana which is about 10 kms from Beyt Dwaraka in Gujarat. So, we are on our way to Beyt Dwaraka, a small island sitauted at mouth of the Gulf of Kutch situated 3 km off the coast of Okha, Gujarat, India. Our plan was to have a Darshan of Nageshvarji which is on the way to Beyt Dwaraka (Beyt Dwaraka is believed to be the place where the residential palace of Lord Krishna used to be located and it is the place, where Sudama, a childhood friend of Krishna gave a him a Bet or Gift and in turn Krishna reciprocated him with unlimited wealth, opulence etc). Our bus party reached in the afternoon around 4PM and the temple was jam packed with thousands of people waiting in the queue. We decided to comeback for a darshan, on our way back from Beyt Dwaraka. When we returned, it was night around 8:30PM and the temple was almost empty and the best part was that, the Linga which is thousands of years old and which is usually covered with a Silver covering was removed, along with other decorations like garlands etc. We are able to spend some good quality time, going very close. Similarly, we had a wonderful darshan of Lord Shiva at Somnath temple, which is another Jyotirlinga.
Somnath Jyotirlinga
Somnath Jyotirlinga
I am posting some photos that I took during the visit.

I pray to Lord Shiva to help me get rid of my false ego or ahamkara.

Hara Hara Mahadeva Shambu Shankara.
Om Namah Shivaya.

nimna-gānām yathā gangā
devānām acyuto yathā
vaiṣṇavanām yathā śambhuh
purānānām idam tathā
Just as the Gagā is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta the supreme among deities and Lord Śambhu [Śiva] the greatest of Vaiṣṇavas, so Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the greatest of all Purāas. (Srimad Bhagavatham 12.13.16).

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Tulsishyam - Gir National Forest - Gujarat

These are some photos and snippets I received for the upcoming Gujarat Yatra that I will be joining in December this year. I love the pictures of the mighty King of the Forest - Lion King and his family. Also, the forest, temple and the Anti-gravity effect makes the place very interesting. Can’t wait to visit this place. 
Tulasi Shyam Temple

Tulasi Shyam

Forest of Tulasi Shyam

King of the Jungle

Fearless like a Lion

Lion King and the family
Tulsishyam is a place situated on the border of Amreli district and Junagadh district, in the Gir forest national park in Gujarat. It is famous for the 3,000-year-old Krishna temple and houses a hot water spring known for its healing powers. Another highlight of Tulsishyam is the famous anti-gravity hill (One theory says it is Purely an optical illusion occurring due to the structure of land on either side of the road. Who knows?).

If you love nature, the green forests, the sound of chirping birds, the wild life, the flowing streams, the hill climbing, natural hot water springs, bush walking and  finally, Lord Krsna then you want to be in Tulasi Shyam.

As per *Skandha Purana*, this is the place where the pastime of Tulasi, Jalandhar and Vishnu (fondly called Shyam here ) took place.

*Pilgrimage to Dwarka is considered complete only after visiting Tulasishyam.

Temple has a recently built Guest House with a number of AC Rooms. There are some hot water springs nearby.

About 1600 square km of Gir National Park forest stretches from Junagadh at one end to TulasiShyam at other end with SasanGir somewhere in the centre. We go to SasanGir next day to spot the lucky lions.

Here at TulasiShyam - you will see a unique defiance to the Law of Gravity! Water flows at certain places uphill rather than downhill! I was reminded of BG 2.69 - ya nisha sarvabhutanam tasya jagarti samyami.......... just as the night for all is a day for the sthitprajna yogi, the water flowing downhill at all places flows uphill here at TulasiShyam !!

Gir National Park - Lion Safari:-
At Sasan, a thoughtfully developed and well-managed ecotourism is in function, with properly assigned trails and routes in Dedakadi and Sasan Ranges. Such routes have been made within the tourism zone of the Sanctuary with an average length of 35 km each. Each of the routes encompasses almost all habitat types of Gir region and facilitates wildlife sightings with a considerable ease. Artificial water-holes along the routes increase the probability of wildlife sightings. Private open Gypsies registered by the Forest Department are available locally along with the well-trained local Guide. All the Permits are issued online by the Forest Department at the Reception Counter, Sinh Sadan, Sasan.

By Road: -Gir National Park is around 55 km from Junagadh City, the most common base for making a visit, and 348 km from Ahmedabad and 156 kms from Rajkot. The Reception centre is at Sasan Gir, and has a Forest Guest house maintained by the forest department, nearby the railway station.
By Rail: - One can travel by Rail to Junagadh from Ahmedabad or Rajkot and then take a 55 km road trip on bus or taxi to Sasan Gir or can come via local trains from Junagadh city.

By Air: -Flight up to Rajkot or Ahmedabad and drive-in.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Urban Yogi turned 6 today!

Happy Birthday

Time and tide wait for none. Time flies. One time, an elderly woman in her 80’s was asked about her realisation in life. And, she answered that – “Time passes so quick”.
Very true, at least on planet earth in this material world. Just realised that I have been very busy and not been blogging much. But I would like to promise to my readers that I will start writing again, more regularly.
I also take this opportunity to thank all the visitors to my blog, those who bothered to drop in, have a look, some words of appreciation, comments etc.
Here is something interesting read from Srimad Bhagavatam 3.11: 2-4 Calculation of Time, from the Atom.

The supreme oneness of that particle being present within material bodies keeps its original form till the end of time, it is of a continual, unrivalled uniformity.
Time, my best one, besides being known as the supreme, non-manifest Almighty Lord who controls all physical action, can therefore also be measured by the motion of the minutest and largest forms of combinations of particles.
The time of that infinitesimal particle is the time it takes to occupy [or vibrate in] a certain atomic space. The greatest of time is the time taken by the existence of the complete of all atoms.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Happiness Hunt - Searching for Sustainable Satisfaction

Organised by the UniMelb Bhakti Yoga Club, the Happiness Event 2019 is an interesting and thought-provoking talk on Happiness by Devamrita Swami. The event is a perfect treat for the mind, body and senses with a deep and interesting talk on Happiness followed by a delicious vegan dinner. The event took place on Thursday 14th March, in the Theatre B117 of Melbourne School of Design building at the Parkville campus.
Devamrita Swami @ Theatre B117 of Melbourne School of Design building

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Let me tell you, the event was very well organised including things like seating of 500 plus Staff and Students, providing snacks and drink at the start of the talk and ending off the event by serving the Vegan dinner in a timely and systematic manner. Of course, the best part was the actual talk itself, given by Devamrita Swami where Swami, very expertly defined the whole context of Happiness, current state, people’s conceptions about happiness. Devamrita Swami gave a detailed Analysis of Happiness in the contemporary world, pertaining to Students and present-day society. Devamrita Swami talk was backed up studies and research from the Social Scientists from prestigious Universities and finally, expounding on the precious knowledge from the Eastern Philosophy, particularly from the Book “Srimad Bhagavad Gita”.
Happiness Event - Theatre B117 of Melbourne School of Design building
Dinner Ready to Serve - Happiness Event
Event Happiness - Melbourne School of Design
Devamrita Swami started off by saying “We have a very serious subject tonight, one that I know you're not interested in because you don't care about happiness. Now of course in the in the core of your being as you know it you long to be happy, but tonight we're going to question what is that happiness that we're pursuing so intensely while the way the pressures of the day are pushing us. It's hard to even find the time and the head-space, the bandwidth, so to speak, to actually think about what is it that I'm so hungry for? What is it that I'm pursuing with such dedication? I thought about these things during my university days. I wondered what will my future be, in the university system in the USA, as many of you know, was not so egalitarian as the Australian system. Maybe in the USA, your classified, you're typecast according to what institution you have studied in”.

Devamrita Swami said that as a scholarship student from New York City, his thinking during my university days was that he had to have two things, the highest pleasure and the highest knowledge. And, he was fortunate enough to understand that the two are related. That is, if you can find the pinnacle of all knowledge, that should lead you to the greatest pleasure. Talking about the Happiness in the ordinary sense now, the ordinary stuff that everyone knows about. Firstly, it is your social relations which means your sense of belonging. Do you have relationships that you can count on for more than a few months? Then you need as social scientists say, a sense of mastery, especially regarding tasks, activities, engagements that take up most of your day. That means work life. You need to feel that you're competent. You need to feel that you're even the best in your field.

Devamrita Swami continued explaining that, in other words, we don't know about a self-worth that is not mirrored in the opinions of others. So, we have the sense of belonging. we want a partner that you can rely on for a few years. You want friends who will agree with you. Most of the time you like to have a family somewhere down the line. Not all at once, but somewhere down the line. You want to feel that you have expanded your existence by reproducing others, but then there's also a sense of autonomy. You want to feel that you have these skills and the resources to execute whatever option you'd like. You don't want to feel forced into situations in which your options are restricted. You like to travel where you want to travel, live where you want to live, go where you want to go and in today's society, you got to purchase your freedom when you consider freedom in the ordinary sense.
I wondered “Purchasing freedom? What does that mean?”.
Devamrita Swami continued, explaining that while he was speaking in South Africa, a few years ago while he was on his way to a university engagement, he happened to see a billboard on the side of the highway quoting Nelson Mandela, “There is no such thing as partial freedom”. He thought about that and expanded upon that theme in his talk, partial freedom. Nelson Mandela was thinking about it in terms of the political sense and he took it in the existential sense. What is it like to be free beyond politics, beyond economics, the Yoga Text, particularly the Bhakti Yoga texts like Bhagavad Gita, give you expansive information about what is real freedom. Because unless there is real freedom, how are we going to get real happiness?
So, we've described happiness in the,
·         Ordinary sense
·         sense of belonging
·         sense of mastery
·         competence, and
·         a sense of autonomy.
Devamrita Swami, paused for a while looking around the 500 plus eager audience and continued, “But what Krishna explains in Bhagavad Gita is that, how can there be freedom without mind and sense control? In other words, to progress toward happiness. We need prerequisites. It's not that happiness is just something you can pluck out of the sky. Uh, it's not that happiness is something that can be fueled by intoxication or even spiced with passionate activity. No, even material happiness requires some pre-requisites. Krishna explains there must be mastery of the mind and senses because, as long as we are subject to the demands of our senses and are enslaved and living in a consumer society means, we are bombarded at every moment with stimuli, sensory overload, leading to deep dives into sensuality, hoping for satisfaction.

So, the climb toward even ordinary happiness begins with mastery of the mind and senses. Who's in charge here? Is it me or are my senses in charge? Why would you even consider mastering the mind incentives unless you had higher knowledge? So that's the next prerequisite. Krishna is on the road to ordinary happiness. My point in explaining this sequence is to show us how far below the bar we are. Later we may get into non-material happiness, but just to set the scene, we're talking about ordinary happiness, which requires master the mind and senses and then knowledge of what is higher. Now, sometimes in our frustration due to chasing the Phantasmagoria of material happiness, we think if I could just become numb, maybe do some deep breathing, focus on the incoming and outgoing breath. I'll work my way through any situation because after all, everything is temporary. In other words, let me do some deep breathing and work my way through a situation knowing it's all temporary. That's true. Everything that's physiological or psychological is temporary, but are we meant to simply become by deep breathing stones? No, we're sentient beings. We have consciousness. Of course, many of you know that there is no definition of consciousness that scientists will agree upon. Consciousness is the greatest mystery of Western civilization.

Let's consider non-material knowledge as an incentive for having peace because what Krishna explains in the prime yoga texts, Bhagavad Gita is that first there's sense control. Then there's the pursuit of non-material knowledge, and then you can have some peace because you have a higher goal. Yes, you're not just working your way through a situation. Well, every situation has a lesson to be learned. Maybe you've heard that Spill from this person or that person. Life is all about learning. You're meant to console yourself with that prize. It's a lesson. It's all about living in learning, but what is the lesson we're actually supposed to learn?”. And, saying these words Devamrita Swami paused again looking around the theater.
Well, that is the million-dollar question that I always had – I told to myself.  
Devamrita Swami continued by saying, “Many of you are students. You have a definitive plan for your studies, definitive objectives, but if you say life is just about learning, but we don't know what the lesson is, they'll probably have to repeat the course, but that's another subject. Let's just consider one. Life is all you've got. So, you've, there's this urge to just squeeze every moment, right? Social scientists tell us that there are two types of happiness across each according to whether you're young or old. Generally, when you're young, happiness is all about awesome events, awesome experiences, the extra ordinary. Wow, that was super, that was really special. So, you're like that up until you're about 40 years old, you're in, you're on a quest for the magic moment, the bang. But after 40 things start to change. Okay?”.
“Does anyone here above 40 when things start to change?” Devamrita Swami asked the question to the audience and a person who was going out for something stopped and was frantically waving his hand.
When you start taking your contentment in the ordinary things of life. That's when you know you're getting, Ohhh.. God forbid to take happy to send the ordinary things of life. Sounds like the sunset of your life, doesn't it? The sunset of your life right now, you're just full of vigor and enthusiasm. You know, satisfaction is out there, right? Ah, some of you don't look so sure. So back to that sequence of ordinary happiness. I'm just giving you along the way. Hints of what is beyond the quests were ordinary happiness. The happiness hunt. So, control the mind and senses, not material knowledge, which lifts your vision. And then piece, because as long as we are subject to artificial desires, how can we be peaceful? And the artificial desires come about because we're so easily agitated unnecessarily.

Because we can't control our minds and sensors. So, we're fair game to be manipulated. So, although during my university years, at first, I was very politically engaged, I began to realize that if I can't control my mind in centers and if I have no program for the people to control their mind and senses, there'll be no end to the manipulation that I'm subject to and the people are subject to. So, I concluded that the best thing I could do for myself and for the people in general is to distribute knowledge of minded, sends control. And in that way, we wouldn't be so victimized because life in a consumer society means constant victimization. You're constantly victimized by artificial needs. So much so that we can't distinguish between needs and wants. After all, this is not a third world country. That means we expect to do more than survive.

We expect to thrive, we expect to flourish, we expect a life of opportunity and a life of opportunity means options and options. Take money. Although money is not important. Many of you are aware of the social science research pointing out that beyond a middle-class standard of living in luxury, any further increase in your financial net worth will not lead to an increase in happiness as measured by standard psychological indicators. If you're in the USA $75,000 a year beyond that, social scientists say you can't bump up your happiness anymore. That would be, what would that be in Australia?
Someone from the audience shouted 100,000Au$. Devamrita Swami continued speaking, “Okay, if you get that hundred thousand anything more, whether it's millions or billions will not lead to an increase in your subjective state of happiness, but there's fine print and in the academic world there's always fine print. There’re always some battles going on. No, that can't be completely true though. It's generally accepted if you've got a lot of money. Although your subjective happiness moment to moment doesn't increase your overall sense of self-worth increases. Now what's that? Your overall life of valuation that Ah, and worth a few million Australian dollars. Yeah. Life is good. That feeling of that self-estimation.

Yeah, it's, it's quite flimsy but still something is there. Therefore, social scientists point out, yes, more money can lead to more self-esteem even though it doesn't lead to more happiness as measured moment to moment. So, what do you think, what do you would sound good to feel like your will shall be carried out? Yes. I've got millions. Hmm. How am I going to influence the world? So, it runs according to my expectations. It's a very flimsy, dodgy feeling. But basically, the relation between income and subjective happiness levels off at 75,000 us a hundred thousand Australia, I was speaking about this syndrome at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, that's known as the finest school on the African continent. And I asked the students as well as the lecturers present in the audience, you all know this research right after beyond the basic middle-class standard of living, any increased income does not lead to an increase in happiness. He said, yes, yes. Well, I mean, we all know about it. I said, okay, and you know about the fine print that having some millions does increase your sense of self-worth. Yes. Yes. So, I mean, we all know it. How many of you are ready to live your life on a basic middle-class standard of living? No one raises their hand. So, you see there's a disconnect. There's a disconnect between what we know and our desires. The desire factor of our life is like a monster that can't be controlled.

Then, Devamrita Swami told about an interesting folk tale, Story of a Monk with a begging bowl in front of a King’s palace. When the King ordered his servants to start filling up the bowl with riches, jewels so on from his treasury, the bowl would not get filled at all. Finally, the Monk explained to the amazed and enraged king that the bowl is the human desire that is never satisfied, so please keep that in mind in your hunt for happiness, are we chasing something that can never be satisfied but based on propaganda that's been downloaded into us since birth? We think we see opportunity. It's out there. I have my body, I have my mind. These are instruments med for hooking up with happiness and we're kind of sure right? Others aren't getting their share of happiness. Surely my share will come. We don't question the product. We've swallowed holy. That happiness as ordinarily known is available and it will satisfy me. This is what has been downloaded into us since birth and we're marching according to that song. Physiological happy to psychological happiness is substantial or noteworthy and satisfied. The Yoga texts, however, particularly the buck d yoga texts like Bhagavad Gita, throw this out. They don't just tell you to breathe deeply, work your way through it. It's all temporary. That is true, but if we're going to fulfill our mandate as sentient beings, we have to find out what satisfies consciousness. So therefore, the Bhakti Yoga knowledge begins with teaching us that consciousness is indicative of a non-material reality, and that as conscious entities will only be satisfied in connection with supreme consciousness.

Let's take another look at happiness as ordinary income. We spoke about how there are prerequisites, even for the ordinary stuff of happiness. You have to be the master of your mind and senses. You have to have motivation from non-material knowledge so that your goal is higher, your aspirations are higher, and you have to be peaceful. So, we were explaining how we can be peaceful if we're always chasing what is artificial, to become immune to manipulation, whether it's political or economic or central manipulation, or we have to be the master of our minds and senses. We need knowledge of what is beyond the temporary, then were peaceful. So, Krishna finally explains, if you've got all of that, then you can know about ordinary happiness. But the goal of Bhakti Yoga, for those of you have studied Bhagavad Gita, the preliminary tricks, you know, the goal is beyond material happiness and once we start dealing with non-material happiness, then we can understand what sustainable happiness is. So the intelligent person understands that the ordinary quest for happiness as especially known in the Western world, is destroying the earth. We are pushing on a version of an economy that doesn't take nature into consideration. You can call it an extractive economy, not simply Australia, the world's greatest exporter of coal and number two in liquefied gas, but all over the world extraction. That's the basis of the economy. Does Nature Exist? Devamrita Swami posed this question to the audience and there was silence with people trying to come to terms with the reality. These words are heavy and straightforward, as if something was thrust upon. Right in front of one’s face.

Devamrita Swami continued to speak, “Sustainable happiness includes nature as well as other living beings. In other words, our quest for happiness is really about all my relations, all my connections. So sustainable happiness contributes to the well-being of the individual, the community, and the whole planet. The negative would be that sustainable happiness is not at the expense of other human beings, other species, future generations, and the environment. If we're going to be genuinely happy in a sustainable way, we've got to take into account all those relations, all those connections. Then we're ready to consider what is my happiness footprint.
My happiness footprint involves my impact on nature, my relations with other living entities, not just humans. And what about future generations? Is My pursuit of happiness, terrorizing future generations of human beings? Inter generational tyranny? Hm? Am I getting happiness today in a way that ruins the happiness for the children growing up? Now what the l experience? 20,30, 40 or 50 years. So now I have to consider that to be able to truly see the impact of our happiness, our happiness footprint, we require clear vision. That clear vision comes from more than just deep breathing. It's wonderful to calm yourself down, but for a lasting solution, for a proper glimpse of what sustainable happiness is. We need clarity of consciousness”.
Devamrita Swami paused for a moment and continued - So here we have not only the focus on the toxicity of the environment, we have to also cope with the toxicity of our own consciousness. So, the Yoga Text considers that consciousness is primary. It's not that consciousness is added in to the physical universe afterwards. No. The Yoga TX begin with the foundation. That consciousness is primary and indicative of the non-material self, the non-material reality and the supreme consciousness. So many persons are practicing yoga. This is wonderful.
Let's consider that the actual “meaning of the word Yoga which means to connect or linkup. Connect with what though?
At this stage of planetary development, it's time for human beings who consider the fullness of the yoga system going beyond just what you might call buffet yoga. I'll take this, and I'll leave that. Let’s get to the root of what is the ultimate connection that the yoga system is aiming for? Then we can understand what sustainable happiness is. Otherwise were subject to hallucinations and Mirages that drive our life. Yes, it's the fault of the society that we live in, but we also have to share the blame because we have not put enough time into self-mastery and understanding non-material knowledge. Therefore, we're so easily victimized, and we pursue what is a dream that never delivers. To admit such a thing though takes courage.

Once you work your way through Bhagavad Gita, the prime Bhakti yoga text teach you that a deer is thirsty for water which is right at the feet of the deer. The water hidden or partially obscured by clumps of grass or bushes. The deer, however races out into the desert looking for water and this way destroys itself. So, what is that water that's right at the feet of the deer, but apparently partially obscured? That is the non-material happiness. It seems like a special endeavor is necessary, whereas material happiness look so accessible, isn't it? All you have to do is this. All you have to live with that. Just like in the movies, that's what my life should be about. Success will come at least to some degree. If I just persevere, everyone else is getting happiness. Why not me? I should get my share. So, there's not so much doubt about the goal. There's just doubt about maybe my ability to get what everyone else has. But the yoga text teaches us to doubt the goal, but then we're a little afraid of that because if I doubt the goal, if I started questioning the mirage, if I stopped racing out into the desert looking for water, what am I going to do?

Now consider we'll get into some advanced knowledge here. The deeper end of the pool, the yoga texts explain that are a happiness and distress in this life is pre-packaged. That's hard for not only western people to swallow. It's even hard for people in the east to swallow because we're so programmed to go for it. Make your life, earn your options, pull yourself up and walk forward. Don't be fatalistic. So, what do the yoga texts mean by your happiness and distress being pre-packaged? You have to understand something about Karma. Every action having a reaction.

1. Krishna explains in the Bhagavad Gita that the very body and mind you have is a karmic reaction. That's why you see differences in physiology and psychology among various persons. Their Karma is different.

2. Pre-packaged happiness and distress don’t mean everything is predetermined. It simply means that the happiness or distress delivered to you in this life is already pre-measured according to your Karma from your previous existences.

3. Sometimes people misunderstand this yoga axiom. They think pre-destined happiness and stress means everything is predetermined.
4.According to the yoga knowledge, the happiness that you're going to get in your relationships, whether it's with Jill or Jane, is pre-determined. In other words, you've got a karmic burden. You may transfer it from the right shoulder to the left shoulder, but you still got the burden. Although with your tiny independence, you've changed shoulders that you're carrying the burden with it takes, it's kind of subtle,
5.So, in other words, you can change your life situations, but you can't change the packet of happiness that you do. It'll still come according to your just desires, according to your Karma and time is the courier system that delivers your packet of happiness in the system.
6.So, what to do, just tolerate this delivery system. I'm going to get a certain amount of happiness, certain amount of distress. That's the way it is. True, but only partially true because the goal of human life is not simply to become numb like a stone and tolerate the deliveries of happiness and distress. The goal is to rise above those deliveries.
7. That's why we need knowledge of the non-material self and the Supreme Conscious self. Here we have the purpose of a yoga system, that ultimate connection, the love supreme.
We are searching for happiness because we are part of the ultimate source, which is the source of all pleasure and happiness because we are tiny particles. We have that same drive, but because we're so tiny, we have to rely on what is outside of ourselves to be happy and that's very risky as you've already experienced, to go outside of yourself for pleasure, fulfillment and satisfaction is such a dangerous journey. You always meet with the unexpected with disappointment, insufficiency. You all know what relationships are like when you expect a person to be your source of contentment.

So we as tiny particles of spiritual consciousness cannot be independent and self-sufficient. In our quest for pleasure, we have to connect to the supreme source of pleasure. This is the knowledge that Krishna gives in Bhagavad Gita. As long as we on our own are seeking pleasure in a material way, we'll be disappointed. Some of you here for our previous lecture last year may remember some knowledge that so closely parallels yoga, acknowledge knowledge stumbled upon by Nobel Prize winners in behavioral economics. Then if you want the cutting-edge field for your studies, behavioral economics, the combination of the two, psychology and economics, very powerful. They've discovered that most of what human beings call happiness is anticipatory.
Therefore, they come up with a fancy term, Emotional forecasting. Your happiness is so much composed of anticipation. I can just feel it now when the weekend comes. I got good things planned when I finished school. When I get the dream job and I'm with the dream person and going to dream places, I can just feel it. Now. So much of our social happiness is all about anticipation. We emotionally forecast, ah, just like the weather report. What's the weather report for Sunday? You see coming up ahead. Happiness opportunities, and that's most of the buzz and the bang. So, what are these Nobel Prize winning social scientists explain that, you always overshoot the mark in your emotional forecasting. Things don't turn out to have the same bang that you anticipated, but because we're addicted to chasing the mirage, we can't decouple from this hallucinatory process again and again. We make the same mistake racing out into the desert looking for water and neglecting the water right at our feet that sees me a little obscured by the grass, by the bushes.

What's really interesting is that, these Nobel Prize winners admit that they study this syndrome day after day, but they themselves still fall victim to it. In other words, you may know about it, but unless you can control your mind and senses through superior knowledge and experience, that means superior lifestyle, you'll still fall victim to it again and again. The Mirage is that powerful. So, therefore the genuine yogis turn to a non-material lifestyle as the best way to live for truly sustainable happiness. And remember, sustainable happiness means my endeavors for happiness will not explain other human beings, other species, future generations, or the environment. The Yogi is trained to see interdependence, interrelationship in all endeavors. We need those kinds of sustainable happiness champions to demonstrate to human society that there is a different way of living, how to be in harmony with all living entities, how to not ruin the world for future generations, how to have an economy that acknowledges that nature exists. How not to slaughter animals for the so called well-being of humans. The yogi sees the full picture because the genuine yoga is taking knowledge from that ultimate conscious source. You'll be happy to know this point and I often explain, that nowhere in that Prime Bhakti Yoga, Text Bhagavad Gita does, Krishna asks you to believe. Everywhere in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna Presents - here is the process, here is the methodology. Apply it. And these are the results you get. Everywhere the process and methodology has been given. Take this knowledge, transform your lifestyle, and then you'll be able to have the clarity of vision to understand and experience the non-material Self in relation to the Supreme Spiritual Soul. You'll be able to see how the two are always connected. The part is always connected to the complete whole. You'll be able to see the whole package and understand your proper functioning in the whole system.
So, we like to talk about being Holistic, Holistic Health, Holistic food, Holistic relationships. But how can we truly be Holistic without our having knowledge of a complete whole? So, this is where the Yoga and Meditation System ultimately leads into knowledge and experience of the Ultimate, but that takes Life Style Transformation. So, if we're going to have a genuine lifestyle transformation and we have to deal with our happiness quest, the hunt for happiness, how can I strive for sustainable happiness? Otherwise, my vision will always be clouded with artificial desires and the karmic reactions from injuring other living entities injuring the future for the generations to come and destroying the environment. My quest for happiness involves all my relations, all my connections, and it's specially, I require knowledge of that whole scenario coming from the ultimate source of consciousness. So, this is what truly makes the yoga knowledge unique. This is what makes for truly distinctive lifestyles, not fragmentation and artificial disconnection, not sentiment, but actual knowledge and experience. Then we can go far beyond the plagued quest for material happiness. Sustainable happiness means non-material happiness. That kind of happiness is there in the relationship between the tiny particle of spiritual consciousness that we are regardless of the bodies are wearing in connection with the Supreme Consciousness, that ultimate source that we are all related to. So, in this way, the yoga knowledge and the yoga experience take us far beyond the plagued and faulty quest of chasing the Mirage of Material happiness. But we won't give it up unless there's something better.
Finally, Devamrita Swami wrapped up the lecture by asking the audience if they have any questions to ask. And, there were some wonderful, relevant questions and the answers given by Swami are also amazing. But, I am planning to write another post with only the questions and answers. Please. watch out for the article that is coming up J..

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Why do we need to go to a Temple - when we say that, God is Everywhere?

This is again, one of the answers that I wrote for someone's question on Quora. Since, couple of people asked me the same question personally, I thought of posting this on my blog.
So, this is a good question.
Sri Gaura Nitai

Sri Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra
Why do we turn on a Fan when air is everywhere? Because, even though air is present everywhere, you cannot feel its presence everywhere. Especially, when it is a hot or humid day, we need that air to be blown so that we get relief. Similarly, water is everywhere but, when we feel thirsty, to quench the thirst, we take water stored in a water filter or tap or something. Though, God is everywhere and within us as Paramatma, we go to Mandir or temple to see him physically with our eyes. The personal aspect of deity form of God is something where everyone feels personally reciprocated. Depending on the level of our faith and surrender, God reciprocates. That is why, while some see the God in the temple as an Idol made of stone or metal, others perceive him as a person. They understand that since God is all powerful and can manifest through any form he likes, even though he is form is completely spiritual, because of his mercy and the love and devotion of a devotee, he agrees to manifest in the deity form and accepts the services and gives his blessings. But, even though a deity is made from a material substance like a stone, metal etc, when the deity is installed as per the prescribed methods of Vedic scriptures like Pancharatrika Vidhi, he comes and resides in the deity form. Just like an iron rod, kept in the fire after a while becomes as good as a fire, the deity made up of material substance becomes spiritual. One more important point to note is that, manifestation of a deity is a mercy form that enables a devotee to offer their services. Surely, the Supreme Lord is completely spiritual full of Sat, Chit and Ananda that is eternity, knowledge and bliss. So, why doesn’t the deity when sometimes apparently, disrespected by some hooligans keep quiet and does not respond. That is some paranormal activity like, the Deity form doesn’t break up or shower thunderbolts on the miscreants? Because, God does not bother responding to those people and no way affected and he simply withdraws himself from the deity form. Then, we also see so many instances of deities responding to the devotee’s request like, the deity of Sakshi Gopal of Vrindavan walked all the way to a small town called Vidyanagara in Orissa to give a witness statement to his devotee.
ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham: as they surrender unto Me—I reward accordingly. (Bhagavad Gita 4:11)
Sri Radha Vallabha
Then, the other aspects come into picture like, the way a temple is built, as per vasthu shastra, generally temples have this Yantras or the Copper and Brass plates with Bija Akshara or the sacred sounds inscribed on them and they are worshiped for number of days with certain mantras and finally, they are installed just below the deity in the temples. So, the whole idea is, as soon as one enters a temple which is a power house of spiritual, positive vibrations will immediately give solace to the troubled hearts of the people. Ultimately, it is the love and devotion of a devotees which makes certain temples special and so to say powerful, because that is what Lord actually see and expects from us.
He says in Bhagavad Gita 9.11
" patram puspam phalam toyam
  yo me bhaktya prayacchati
  tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
  asnami prayatatmanah.
If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit a water, I will accept it."

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi

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Fasting is an age-old practice that dates back to thousands of years and played a central role in many religions, cultures and traditions of the world.
Apart from the health benefits like Promoting Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance, Promoting Better Health by Fighting Inflammation, Improving Blood Pressure, controlling Triglycerides and Cholesterol Levels etc. Fasting is a key item of devotional service in Sanatana Dharma or Hindu culture.
Tomorrow (12th June in India) is one of those special days on which fasting is performed not merely by abstaining from food but even water - called Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi. (Nirjala means, without water and Ekadashi - Eka means one and dashi means ten, is the eleventh lunar day of each of the two lunar phases which occur in a Hindu calendar month. Ekadashi is considered as a special day for observing spiritual practices.)
 I will write some other time about Ekadashi and more about fasting but, for now, let me share a story about this special day.
Five Pandavas and Krishna

Once Bhimasena, the younger brother of Maharaja Yudhishthira, asked the great sage Shrila Vyasadeva, the grandfather of the Pandavas, if it is possible to return to the spiritual world without having observed all the rules and regulations of the Ekadashi fasts.
Bhimasena then spoke as follows, "Oh greatly intelligent and learned grandfather, my brother Yudhishthira, my dear mother Kunti, and my beloved wife Draupadi, as well as Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva, fast completely on each Ekadashi and strictly follow all the rules, guidelines and regulative injunctions of that sacred day. Being very religious, they always tell me that I should also fast on that day too. But, Oh learned grandfather, I tell them that I cannot live without eating, because as the son of Vayudeva - Samanaprana, (the digestive air) hunger is unbearable to me. I can give widely in charity and worship Lord Keshava properly with all manner of wonderful upacharas (items), but I cannot be asked to fast on Ekadashi. Please tell me how I can obtain the same merits result without fasting."
Hearing these words, the grandsire of Bhima, Shrila Vyasadeva said, "If you want to go to the heavenly planets and avoid the hellish planets, you should indeed observe a fast on both the light and dark Ekadashis."
Bhima replied, "Oh great saintly intelligent grandfather, please listen to my plea. Oh greatest of munis, since I cannot live if I eat only once in a day, how can I possibly live if I fast completely? Within my stomach burns a special fire named Vrika, the fire of digestion. Agni the fire-god, descends from Lord Vishnu through Brahma, from Brahma to Angirasa, from Angirasa to Brihaspathi, and from Brihaspathi to Samyu, who was Agni's father. He is the gatekeeper in charge of Nairritti, the south-eastern direction. He is one of the eight material elements, and Parikshit Maharaja, he is very expert at examining things. He examined Maharaja Shibi once by turning into a dove. (for further information on this incident see Shrila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's Shrimad Bhagavatam commentary to 1:12:20. Purport.)
 Agni is divided into three categories; Davagni, the fire in wood, Jatharagni, the fire in the digestion in the stomach, and Vadavagni, the fire that creates fog when hot and cold streams mix in for example the ocean. Another name for the fire of digestion is Vrika. It is this powerful fire that resided in Bhima's stomach. Only when I eat to my full satisfaction does the fire in my stomach become satisfied.
Oh great sage, I might possibly be able to fast only once, so I beg that you tell me of an Ekadashi that is worthy of my fasting and that includes all other Ekadashis. I shall faithfully observe that fast and hopefully still become eligible for liberation's release."
 Shrila Vyasadeva replied, "Oh king, you have heard from me about the various kinds of occupational duties, such as elaborate Vedic ceremonies and pujas. In the Kali-yuga, however, no one will be able to observe all these occupational & functional duties properly. I shall, therefore, tell you how, at practically no expense, one can endure some small austerity and achieve the greatest benefit and resultant happiness. The essence of what is written in the Vedic literatures known as the Puranas is that one should not eat on either the dark or light fortnight Ekadashis."
 As stated in Shrimad Bhagavatam (Mahabhagavat Puranam) 12:13:12 and 15, the Bhagavat Puranam is itself the essence or cream of all Vedanta philosophy (sara-vedanta-saram), and the Shrimad Bhagavatam's unequivocal message is that of full surrender to Lord Shri Krishna and the rendering of loving devotional service to Him. Observing Ekadashi strictly is a great aid in that process, and here Shrila Vyasadeva is simply stressing to Bhima the importance of the Ekadashi vratam.
 "One who fasts on Ekadashis saved from going to the hellish planets." Hearing Shrila Vyasadeva's words, the son of Vayu, Bhimasena, the strongest of all warriors, became frightened and began to shake like a leaf on a banyan tree in a strong wind. The frightened Bhimasena then said, "Oh grandfather, what should I do? I am completely unable and ill-equipped to fast twice in a month throughout the year! Please tell me of the one fasting day that will bestow the greatest benefit upon me!"
Vyasadeva replied, "Without drinking even water, you should fast on the Ekadashi that occurs during the light fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha (May-June) when the sun travels in the sign of Taurus (Vrishabh) and Gemini (Mithun), According to learned personalities, on this day one may bathe and perform Achamana for pratiprokshana purification. But while performing Achamana one may drink only that amount of water equal to a drop of gold, or that amount it takes to immerse a single mustard seed. Only this amount of water should be placed in the right palm for sipping, which one should form to resemble a cow's ear. If one drinks more water than this, he might as well have drunk wine despite the soaring heat of summer (in the northern hemisphere and cold in the southern hemisphere).
One must certainly not eat anything, for if he does so he breaks his fast. This rigid fast is in effect from sunrise on the Ekadashi day to sunrise on the Dwadashi day. If a person endeavours to observe this great fast very strictly, he easily achieves the result of observing all twenty-four other Ekadashi fasts throughout the entire year.
On Dwadashi the devotee should bathe early in the morning. Then, according to the prescribed rules, guidelines and regulative injunctions, and of course depending on his ability, he should give some gold and water to worthy brahmanas. Finally, he should cheerfully honour prasadam with a branmana.
Oh Bhimasena, one who can fast on this special Ekadashi in this manner reaps the benefit of having fasted on every Ekadashi during the year. There is no doubt of this, nor should there be.
Oh Bhima, now hear the specific merit one gets by fasting on this Ekadashi. The Supreme Lord Keshava, who holds a conch, discus, club and lotus, personally told me, `Everyone should take shelter of Me and follow My instructions.' Then He told me that one who fasts on this Ekadashi, without taking even drinking water or eating, becomes free of all sinful reactions, and that one who observes the difficult nirjalafast on Jyeshtha-shukla Ekadashi truly reaps the benefit of all other Ekadashi fasts.
 Oh Bhimasena, in the Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, when all the principles of the Vedas will have been destroyed or greatly minimised, and when there will be no proper charity or observance of the ancient Vedic principles and ceremonies, how will there be any means of purifying the self? But there is the opportunity to fast on Ekadashi and become free of all one's past sins.
Oh son of Vayu, what more can I say to you? You should not eat during the Ekadashis that occur during the dark and light fortnights, and you should even give up drinking water (nir = no jala= water) on the particularly auspicious Ekadashi day of Jyeshtha-shukla Ekadashi. Oh Vrikodara (voracious eater), whoever fasts on this Ekadashi receives the merits of bathing in all the places of pilgrimage, giving all kinds of charities to worthy persons, and fasting on all the dark and light Ekadashis throughout the year, in one go. Of this there is no doubt.
 Oh tiger among men, whoever fasts on this Ekadashi truly becomes a great person and achieves all manner of opulence and wealth, grains, strength, and health. And at the fearful moment of death, the terrible Yamadutas, whose complexions are yellow and black and who brandish huge maces and twirl mystic pasha ropes in the air for binding their victims will refuse to approach him. Rather, such a faithful soul will at once be taken to the supreme abode of Lord Vishnu by the Vishnu-dutas, whose transcendentally beautiful forms are clothed in gorgeous yellowish garments and who each hold a disk, club, conch and lotus in their four hands, resembling Lord Vishnu. It is to gain all these benefits that one should certainly fast on this very auspicious and important Ekadashi, even from water."
When the other Pandavas heard about the benefits to be gained by following Jyeshtha-Shukla Ekadashi, they resolved to observe it exactly as their grandfather Shrila Vyasadeva had explained it to their brother, Bhimasena. All the Pandavas observed it by refraining from eating or drinking anything, and thus this day is also known as Pandava Nirjala Dvadashi (technically it is a Maha-Dvadashi).
Shrila Vyasadeva continued, "Oh Bhimasen, therefore you should observe this important fast to remove all your past sinful reactions. You should pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Shri Krishna in this way making your sankalpa declaration, "Oh Lord of all the devas (demigods), Oh Supreme Personality of Godhead, today I shall observe Ekadashi without taking any water. Oh unlimited Anantadev, I shall breakfast on the next day, Dwadashi."
Thereafter, to remove all his sins, the devotee should honour this Ekadashi fast with full faith in the Lord and with full control over his senses. Whether his sins are equal in volume to Mount Sumeru or to Mandarachala Hill, if he or she observes this Ekadashi, the sins that have been accumulated all become nullified and are burned to ashes. Such is the great power of this Ekadashi.
Oh best of human beings, although a person should also give water and cows in charity during this Ekadashi, if for some reason or other he cannot, then he should give a qualified brahmana some cloth or a pot filled with water. Indeed, the merit achieved by giving water alone equals that gained by giving gold ten million times a day.
Oh Bhima, Lord Shri Krishna has said that whoever observes this Ekadashi should take a Holy bath, give charity to a worthy person, chant the Lord's Holy names on a japa-mala, and perform some kind of recommended sacrifice, for by doing these things on this day one receives imperishable benefits. There is no need to perform any other kind of religious duty. Observance of this Ekadashi fast alone promotes one to the supreme abode of Shri Vishnu. Oh best of the Kurus, if one donates gold, cloth, or anything else on this day, the merit one obtains is imperishable.
 "Remember, whosoever eats any grains on Ekadashi becomes contaminated by sin and verily eats only sin.
But he who observes this sacred Jyeshtha-shukla Ekadashi and gives something in charity certainly achieves liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death and attains to the supreme abode.
Observing this Ekadashi, which is merged with Dwadashi, frees one from the horrible sin of killing a brahmana, drinking liquor and wine, becoming envious of one's spiritual master and ignoring his instructions, and continually telling lies.
Furthermore, Oh best of beings (Jivottama), any man or woman who observes this fast properly and worships the Supreme Lord Jalshayi (He who sleeps on the water), and who on the next day satisfies a qualified brahmana with nice sweets and a donation of cows and money - such a person certainly pleases the Supreme Lord Vasudeva, so much so that one hundred previous generations in his family undoubtedly go to the Supreme Lord's abode, even though they may have been very sinful, of bad character, and guilty of suicide, etc. Indeed, one who observes this amazing Ekadashi rides on a glorious celestial airplane (vimana) to the Lord's abode.
One who on this day gives a brahmana a waterpot, an umbrella, or shoes surely goes to the heavenly planets. Indeed, he who simply hears these glories also attains to the transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord, Shri Vishnu. Whoever performs the Shraddha ceremony to the forefathers on the dark-moon day called amavasya, particularly if it occurs at the time of a solar eclipse undoubtedly achieves great merit.
But this same merit is achieved by him who simply hears this sacred narration - so powerful and so dear to the Lord is this Ekadashi.
One should clean his teeth properly and, without eating or drinking, observe this Ekadashi to please the Supreme Lord, Keshava. On the day after Ekadashi one should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form as Trivikrama by offering Him water, flowers, incense, and a brightly burning lamp.
Then the devotee should pray from the heart, `Oh God of gods, Oh deliverer of everyone, Oh Hrishikesha, master of the senses, kindly bestow upon me the gift of liberation, though I can offer you nothing greater than this humble pot filled with water.' Then the devotee should donate the waterpot to a brahmana.
Oh Bhimasena, after this Ekadashi fast and donating the recommended items according to his ability, the devotee should feed brahmanas and thereafter honour prasadam silently."
Shrila Vyasadeva concluded, "I strongly urge you to fast on this auspicious, purifying, sin-devouring Dwadashi in just the way I have outlined. Thus, you will be completely freed of all sins and reach the supreme abode."
Thus, ends the narration of the glories of Jyeshtha-shukla Ekadashi, or Bhimaseni-nirjala Ekadashi, from the Brahma-vaivarta Pura.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Google Cloud Platform Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure

Cloud is the latest buzz word in the field of Technology and the future. And, since I work in IT field, I thought, I should learn a bit of what's happening in this field. So, this is the result of studying after-hours, weekends. Spent about 10 hrs on this and pretty happy with the outcome.