Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The story of a Crawling Worm

I came across this wonderful story from the Anusasanika Parva of Mahabharata. This is a pretty long story but, it is quite fascinating by the way, the example of a common and an insignificant crawling worm is made the main character of the story.
The Mahabharata war, was over and the Pandavas have become victorious. There was lot of bloodshed and numerous fighters of both sides are killed. Looking at this carnage and destruction caused by the war, Yudhishthira is moved and struck by grief. Even though, he and his family put through numerous difficulties by Kauravas right from a very young age, like trying to burn them alive by trapping them in a Lac building, trying to disrobe their wife in public, cheat them in a game of dice etc.  Yudhishthira becomes remorseful for death of his relatives, friends and refuses to rule the kingdom. He says to Lord Krishna that he would not like to sit on a throne as emperor of the world because, he cause so much grief to others. Seeing his despondency, Lord Krishna advises Yudhishthira to go to Bhisma Pitamaha, who was still living, lying on the bed of arrows and waiting for the right time to leave his body.
Why did Lord Krishna suggest the name of Bhisma.? Because, as confirmed by Srimad Bhagavatham 6.3.20-21, Bhishma is one of the 12 Mahajans, who knows this transcendental religious principles, which is known as bhagavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord.
svayambhur naradah sambhuh
kumarah kapilo manuh
prahlado janako bhismo
balir vaiyasakir vayam
Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Siva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhisma, Bali Maharaja, Sukadeva Gosvami and I myself ( Yama ) know the real religious principles.

Thus, after the Coronation of Yudhishthira as the emperor, all the pandavas including Lord Krishna go to see the Grandsire – Bhisma. Lord Krishna gives blessing to Bhisma that for next 35 days that he is going to stay on the earth, he will not have any thirst, hunger or pain from the wounds caused by the arrows.

The story begins as below,

Yudhishthira said:  "Wishing to die and wishing to live, many persons surrender their lives in the great sacrifice (of battle). Tell me, O grandfather, what is the end that these attain to? To give up life in battle is fraught with sorrow for men. O you of great wisdom, you know that to give up life is difficult for men, whether they are rich or poor, or are in happiness or misery. In my opinion, you are gifted with omniscience. Do tell me the reason of this."

Bhishma said. "In prosperity or adversity, in weal or woe, living creatures, O king, coming into this world, live according to a particular method. Listen to me as I explain the reason to you. The question you have put to me is, indeed, excellent, O Yudhishthira! Regarding it, O king, I shall explain to you the old dialogue that took place between the Dvaipayana Rishi( ved vyasa ) and a crawling worm. Formerly when the learned Brahmana, viz., the Krishna Dvaipayana, having identified himself with Brahman, roamed over the world, he saw on a road over which carts used to pass, a worm moving quickly. The Rishi knew the course of every creature and the language of every animal. Gifted with omniscience, he addressed the worm in these words: Vyasa said “O worm, you appear to be greatly alarmed, and to be in great haste. Tell me, where do you run, and whence have you been afraid?"

The worm said:  "I am stricken with fear on hearing the rattle of that large cart. O you! of great intelligence, it makes a fearful roar. It is almost come. "The sound is heard. Will it not kill me? I am flying away from this. I hear the sound of the bulls.They are breathing hard under the whip of the driver, as they are carrying the heavy load. I hear also the various sounds made by the men who are driving the bulls. Creatures like us born as worms, cannot bear such sounds. It is, therefore, that I am flying from this situation of great fright. Death is considered by all creatures as painful. Life is an acquisition difficult to make. Hence I fly away in fear, I do not wish to pass from a state of weal to one of woe."

Bhishma said:  "Thus addressed,Vyasa said: 'O worm, whence can be your happiness? You belong to the intermediate order of being. I think, death would be of happiness to you Sound, touch, taste, scent and various kinds of excellent enjoyments are unknown to you, O worm! I think death will prove a benefit to you'."

The worm said: "A living creature however circumstanced it may be, becomes attached to it. Even In this condition, every object of enjoyment exists for me according to the necessity of my body. Human beings and those creatures which originate from immobile objects have different enjoyments. "In my former life I was a human being, O powerful one. I was a wealthy Sudra. I was not devoted to the Brahmanas. I was cruel, vile in conduct, and an usurer. I was harsh in speech. I considered cunningness as wisdom. I hated all creatures. Taking advantage of pretexts in agreements made between myself and others, I used always to take away what belonged to others. Without feeding servants and guests who came to my home, I used to fill, when hungry, my own stomach, proud, greedy of good food, cruel as I was. Covetous as I was of riches, I never dedicated with faith and respect any food to the celestials and the departed Manes, although duty enjoined me to dedicate food to them. Those men who moved by fear came to me for seeking my help, I sent them adrift without giving any protection. I did not extend my help to those who came to me with prayers for removing their fear. I used to feel unreasonable envy at seeing other people's riches, and corn, and wives held dear by them and articles of drink, and good palaces. Seeing the happiness of others, I was filled with envy and I always wished them poverty. Acting thus which promised to crown my own wishes with fruition, I sought to destroy the virtue, riches and pleasures of other people. In the past life of mine, I committed various deeds moved by cruelty and such other passions. Recollecting those deeds, I am filled with repentance and grief, as one is filled with grief at the loss of his dear son.On account of those deeds of mine, I do not know what the fruits of good deeds are. I, however, adored my old mother and on one occasion adored a Brahmana Gifted with birth and accomplishments, that Brahmana, while travelling, came to my house once as a guest. I received him with respectful hospitality. On account of the merit of that deed my memory has not forsaken me. I think that on account of that deed I shall once more succeed in regaining happiness. Having asceticism for wealth, you know everything. Tell me please what is for my behalf."

Vyasa said, 'It is in consequence of a meritorious act, O worm, that thou, though born in the intermediate order of being, art not stupefied. That act is mine, O worm, in consequence of which thou art not stupefied. In consequence of the puissance of my penances, I am able to rescue a being of demerit by granting him a sight only of my person. There is no stronger might than the might that attaches to penances, I know, O worm, that thou hast taken birth in the order of worms through the evil acts of thy past life. If, however, thou thinkest of attaining to righteousness and merit, thou mayst again attain to it. Deities as well as beings crowned with ascetic success, enjoy or endure the consequence of acts done by them in this field of action. Amongst men also, when acts of merit are performed, they are performed from desire of fruit (and not with disregard for fruit). The very accomplishment that one seeks to acquire are sought from desire of the happiness they will bring. Learned or ignorant (in a former life) the creature that is, in this life, destitute of speech and understanding and hands and feet, is really destitute of everything. He that becomes a superior Brahmana adores, while alive, the deities of the sun and the moon, uttering diverse sacred Mantras. O worm, thou shalt attain to that state of existence. Attaining to that status, thou wilt enjoy all the elements converted into articles of enjoyment. When thou hast attained to that state, I shall impart to thee Brahma. Or, if thou wishest, I may place thee in any other status!'
The worm, agreeing to the words of Vyasa, did not leave the road, but remained on it. Meanwhile, the large vehicle which was coming in that direction came to that spot. Torn to pieces by the assault of the wheels, the worm gave up his life-breath. Born at last in the Kshatriya order through the grace of Vyasa of immeasurable puissance, he proceeded to see the great Rishi. He had, before becoming a Kshatriya, to pass through diverse orders of being, such as hedgehog and Iguana and boar and deer and bird, and Chandala and Sudra and Vaisya. Having given an account of his various transformations unto the truth-telling Rishi, and remembering the Rishi's kindness for him, the worm (now transformed into a Kshatriya) with joined palms fell at the Rishi's feet and touched them with his head.'

"The worm said, 'My present status is that high one which is coveted by all and which is attainable by the possession of the ten well-known attributes. Indeed, I who was formerly a worm have thus attained to the status of a prince. Elephants of great strength, decked with golden chains, bear me on their backs. Unto my cars are yoked Kamvoja steeds of high mettle. Numerous vehicles, unto which are attached camels and mules, bear me. With all my relatives and friends I now eat food rich with meat. Worshipped by all, sleep, O highly blessed one, on costly beds in delightful rooms into which disagreeable winds cannot blow. Towards the small hours of every night, Sutas and Magadhas and encomiasts utter my praises even as the deities utter the agreeable praises of Indra, their chief. Through the grace of thyself that art firm in truth and endued with immeasurable energy, I who was before a worm have now become a person of the royal order. I bow my head to thee, O thou of great wisdom. Do thou command me as to what I should do now. Ordained by the puissance of thy penances, even this happy status hath now become mine!'

"Vyasa said, 'I have today been worshipped by thee, O king, with diverse words expressive of reverence. Transformed into a worm, thy memory had become clouded. That memory has again appeared. The sin thou committed in a former life has not yet been destroyed,--that sin, viz., which was earned by thee while thou wert a Sudra covetous of wealth and cruel in behaviour and hostile to the Brahmanas. Thou wert able to obtain a sight of my person. That was an act of merit to thee while thou wert a worm. In consequence of thy having saluted and worshipped me thou shalt rise higher, for, from the Kshatriya order thou shalt rise to the status of a Brahmana, if only thou castest off thy life-breaths on the field of battle for the sake of kine or Brahmanas. O prince, enjoying much felicity and performing many sacrifices with copious presents, thou shalt attain to heaven and transformed into eternal Brahma, thou wilt have perfect beatitude. Those that take birth in the intermediate order (of animals) become (when they rise) Sudras. The Sudra rises to the status of the Vaisya; and the Vaisya to that of the Kshatriya. The Kshatriya who takes pride in the discharge of the duties of his order, succeeds in attaining to the status of a Brahmana. The Brahmana, by following a righteous conduct, attains to heaven that is fraught with great felicity.'"

"Bhishma said, 'Having cast off the status of a worm and taken birth as a Kshatriya of great energy, the person (of whom I am speaking), remembering his previous transformations, O monarch, began to undergo severe austerities. Beholding those severe austerities of the Kshatriya who was well-conversant with religion and wealth, the Island-born Krishna, that foremost of Brahmanas, went to him.'

"Vyasa said, The penances that appertain, O worm, to the Kshatriya order consist of the protection of all creatures. Do thou regard these duties of the Kshatriya order to be the penances laid down for thee. Thou shalt then attain to the status of a Brahmana. Ascertaining what is right and what is wrong, and cleansing thy soul, do thou duly cherish and protect all creatures, judiciously gratifying all good desires and correcting all that is unholy. Be thou of cleansed soul, be thou contented and be thou devoted to the practice of righteousness. Conducting thyself in this way, thou wilt then, when thou castest off thy life-breaths, become a Brahmana!'

"Bhishma continued, 'Although he had retired into the woods, yet, O Yudhishthira, having heard the words of the great Rishi he began to cherish and protect his subjects righteously. Soon, O best of kings, that worm, in consequence of the due discharge of the duty of protecting his subjects, became a Brahmana after casting off his Kshatriya body. Beholding him transformed into a Brahmana, the celebrated Rishi, viz., the Island-born Krishna of great wisdom, came to him.'

"Vyasa said, 'O chief of Brahmanas, O blessed one, be not troubled (through fear of death)! He who acts righteously attains to respectable birth. He, on the other hand, who acts unrighteously attains to a low and vile birth, O thou that art conversant with righteousness, one attains to misery agreeably the measure of one's sin. Therefore, O worm, do not be troubled through fear of death. The only fear thou shouldst entertain is about the loss of righteousness. Do thou, therefore, go on practising righteousness.'

"The worm said, 'Through thy grace, O holy one, I have attained from happy to happier positions! Having obtained such prosperity as has its roots in righteousness, I think, my demerits have been lost.'

"Bhishma said, 'The worm having, at the command of the holy Rishi, attained to the status of a Brahmana that is so difficult to attain, caused the earth to be marked with a thousand sacrificial stakes. That foremost of all persons conversant with Brahma then obtained a residence in the region of Brahman himself. Indeed, O son of Pritha, the worm attained to the highest status, viz., that of eternal Brahma, as the result of his own acts done in obedience to the counsels of Vyasa. Those bulls among Kshatriyas, also, who have cast off their life-breaths (on the field of Kurukshetra) exerting their energy the while, have all attained to a meritorious end. Therefore O king, do not mourn on their account.'"

(Excerpted from “The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa” Translated into English by Kisari Mohan Ganguli)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Spiritual Retreat at Baden Powell Scout Centre - Pennant Hills NSW

Recently over the long weekend, I attended a spiritual retreat at Baden Powell Scout Centre, Pennant Hills Sydney - NSW. The topic was quite an interesting one called, "The Divine & Demoniac Within" with HH Bhakti Rasmrita Swami. Based on teachings from Chapter 16 of Srimad Bhagavad Gita and other Shastras. 

HH Bhakti Rasmrita Swami Maharaj

It is said that in Satya-yuga, demons stayed on other planets. In Treta-yuga, they resided on the same planet but on another continent (Ravan in Lanka). In Dwapar-yuga, they moved closer, into the same town & family as the divine (Kamsa & Krsna). But in Kali-yuga, both divine & demoniac natures reside in the one place: in all of us.  
This retreat mainly dealt with basic questions like, 
·   Why do I get jealous when someone else succeeds?
·   Why do I lose my patience when things don't go my way?
·   Why do I do things that I know are bad for me?  And then regret my actions later?
·   How can I inculcate divine qualities like patience, humility and compassion?

 His Holiness Bhakti Rasmrita Swami gave a Soul stirring talk on getting hold of divine & demoniac natures which included, 
·   Inspirational stories and exemplary examples from the shastras
·   How to Overcome demoniac tendencies like anger, jealousy, greed.
·   Practical tips on how to apply the philosophy in our day-to-day lives
·   Develop divine qualities like forgiveness, tolerance, self-control etc.

This Scout center is Situated on 36 hectares adjoining Lane Cove National Park,in a bushland setting and is about 25 kms from Sydney CBD.Once at the Centre you feel a million miles   from the hustle and bustle of city life with its peaceful bushland and forest settings.For bird watchers, there are plenty of Birds like Kookaburra, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos etc.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Twelve Names of Surya Bhagavan - The Sun God.

A beautiful view of Sunset from my desk at workplace. 



Below are the 12 Names of Surya Bhagavan - the Sun God, which are associated with the Surya Namaskars or the salutations to the Sun God. Each name corresponds to one particular posture or salutation. There are numerous benefits of performing Surya Namaskar which includes heart, liver, intestine, stomach, throat, chest and legs. By these dynamic exercises, every part of the body is nourished; the impurities are expelled.It is said that, it is greatly beneficial to do Surya Namaskars, in the open air. The benefits are greatly amplified when performed during sunrise, facing the sun.

1 Om Mitraya namah (The friend of all)
2 Om Ravaye namah  (Praised by all)
3 Om Suryaya namah (The guide of all)
4 Om Bhanave namah (The bestower of beauty)
5 Om Khagaya namah (Stimulator of the senses)
6 Om Pushne namah  (The nourisher of all)
7 Om Hiranyagarbhaya namah  (The creator)
8 Om Marichaye namah (Destroyer of disease)
9 Om Adityaya namah (The inspirer)
10 Om Savitre namah (The purifier)
11 Om Arkaya namah (The radiant)     
12 Om Bhaskaraya namah (The illuminator)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Happy Sri Ram Navami

Happy Ram Navami to All of you.
Today (Yesterday in India) April 9th, 2014 is Sri Rama Navami, a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Lord Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya of Ayodhya. The festival falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navratri celebrations.

Sri Rama Rama Rameti 
Rame Raame Manorame 
Sahasra Nama Tat Tulyam 
Rama Nama Varanane 

Lord Shiva told this shloka to Parvati. I meditate upon Sri Ram as Sri Rama Rama 
Rama, the thrice recital of Rama’s name is equal to Recitation of the thousand 
names of Lord Vishnu (Vishnu Sahasranama) and my Mind gets absorbed in the Divine Consciousness of Rama, which is Transcendental.

Neelambuja shyamala komalaangam 
Sita-samaaropita vamabhagam 
Paanau-mahaa-saayaka charu-chaapam 
Namami Raamam Raghu-vamsha naatham 

I offer obeisances to to Lord Rama, who was the best amongst the great kings of Raghu-kula, who wields his great bow and arrows, who has a complexion and softness like that of a blue-lotus, and on whose left sits Goddess Sitaji, his dear consort.

I thought, today is a very auspicious day to start reading Ramayana,I did a bit of research and found the best online english version.I bought the book, Kindle version from the link below,

Monday, 7 April 2014

Natures Friends

The other day, I took my toddler son out for walk and stopped near some flowering plant to let him observe the plants. He saw a butterfly, which was quite normal creamy white. But, he was so happy to see it, fluttering its wings. His face shone into a bright smile and eyes sparkled at it and wanted to catch it. He made few desperate attempts to catch it and was overjoyed to behold another glory of Mother Nature and gods amazing creation. Seeing his happiness and wonder at the elegant creature, plunged me into my own memories of childhood, where I used to be ardent Nature lover and would spend hours just roaming in the jungle and wilderness of Mother Nature.
A small Hill in my Village

Simple Villagers

Rice Harvest - the real wealth

A Well near my Grandfather's House used to be like this

A Banyan Tree with its Props

As a child from the age of 10 or so, till 22, I used to visit my Grandfathers place for holidays. The residence is situated midst of 130 Acres of land, away from the village by 2 kilometres. The house itself was a farmhouse, built in an area of 2 acres surrounded by number of trees like, Neem,Mango, Guava, Berry, Custard apple and garden plants like Jasmine, Rose and Hibiscus. The highlight however was the great Banyan tree, overlooking the house. The tree which is quite old used to be massive with its prop roots going into the ground. Watching the numerous birds and squirrels was my most favourite hobby. Of course, during the night time, it was bit of a scary experience to walk under and look at the Banyan tree (while young) especially, after hearing all those rumours that Ghosts like to reside and live on Banyan trees and also, I read lot of stories where the Brahma Rakshasas live on Banyan trees etc.
We used to sleep outside in beds. I would sleep looking at the beautiful sky with Moon, Stars like the Seven Sages, Pole Star, and Milky Way. Sometimes, I would see a Meteorites dropping. I used think that, if only I would know where they fall, I can go and pick it up and put it into my pocket and it would be shining for ever. Morning, I would wake up by sounds of various birds chirping and some of the friendly dogs would peek into my bed sheet and licking and scratching my hands and feet.
My grandfather's house itself used to be like a mini Zoo, in the sense there used to be 5 to 6 dogs, couple of Cats, About 15 to 20 Pigeons, A single Peacock, ducks etc. My favourite pastime in the village was walking while watching the nature and habitat.
Morning Walk after breakfast: - within the residence would be a short one. I would brush my teeth and then have milk and would set out for a short walk within the compound of the house. I would go to various fruit yielding trees and pick up the fruits that are ripe and fell from the tree due to overnight winds. Then, I would keep roaming and walking in the garden and trees, till someone shouts for me to go and take bath. Then, I would go and have a quick shower and have my lunch.
Afternoon Walk around the fields:-
The 130 Acres agricultural fields all of which was not being cultivated used to have a dense growth of Acacia trees everywhere, thus giving a perfect forest setting. There also used to be number of neem, tamarind and other wild trees. This was the most exciting part and not a single day would be same. Everyday would be different, with its share of natures thrill and excitement.
For example, one day I would discover a bird’s nest with eggs or small nestlings or baby birds. Other day would be to see some fishes in the water canals running in the fields. My most favourite birds nest was that of a Beaver which is a brilliant piece of work and craftsmanship. What is more interesting is that every time, the birds want to lay eggs, they build new nest and there is no concept of reusing the existing nest. I guess, these birds go on migration and would not live year long at a single place. There used to be a plenty of Bird watching and birds to see like, Blue Jays, Magpies, Owls, King Fisher, Wood pecker and wild animals like, Rabbits, Mongooses, fascinating reptiles like Chameleons etc.I would walk for hours and sometimes, I would just climb a tree like Neem or tamarind tree and would silently watch the surrounds. Sometimes, there is thrill as well because, I would spot some snakes and would cautiously move away from them. But, I never had any problem or issues with any birds or animals including snakes. Only, once I was bitten by a scorpion. I think, I must have put my hand into its house or did something nasty. Also, whenever I go out, at least one of the dogs would follow me and would lead the way running about 5 meters ahead of me. Its is amazing to see that they have so much of intuition or Psychic abilities to know which way, I would walk or go and they would lead the way. Also, I would always carry a stick to move any bushes or tree branches that come in front of me while walking and also I would hit the ground while I am walking, so that snakes or anything else would actually move away from the way because of the vibrations.

Also, I would play cricket or something with my cousins who would also be there (School Holidays).Sometimes we would all go together to near by stream or Wells for swimming. This is how my childhood was passed and I feel sorry that I am not able to give the same type of atmosphere or surrounds for my sons to enjoy and grow up. But, things have changed and times have changed and these days’ kids play and watch Laptops, Tablets and Mobiles and they think, this is what the whole world is. What a pity. Every child should be exposed and made aware of the amazing and wonderful nature. And, that is what I am trying to do to my kids.