Friday, September 20, 2013

Family Values from Hindu Trinity

The holy trinity of Hinduism - God the Creator (Brahma), God the Sustainer (Vishnu), and God the Destroyer (Shiva). This trinity is an all-male Supreme Force that creates, sustains, and destroys everything in the universe. Male chauvinistic? Think again! 

Here's how this Trinity functions. 

All three married up - their wives are more well-to-do than they are!
  • Brahma - Married Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom 
  • Vishnu - Married Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth (eight different forms of wealth) and Prosperity
  • Shiva - Married Parvati, the manifestation of Aadi Shakti, the Supreme Power, and feeder of the Universe (Annapurna)

The reason for these marriages is said to be as follows.
  • Creation is pretty meaningless without knowledge and wisdom. Brahma's creation is given meaning by Saraswati
  • Sustenance is impossible without wealth. Lakshmi enables Vishnu to sustain the universe
  • Destroying is impossible without power and energy. Parvati provides Shiva the power (as Shakti) and energy (as Annapurna)

Bottom-line? The “all-male” Trinity cannot function without its female counterparts balancing their act.

And here is how they act as a couple.
  • Brahma is completely oblivious to everything around him, including his wife Saraswati. Saraswati is always right next to her husband, making sure she provides necessary knowledge and wisdom to her husband's creation (lest her oblivious-to-his-surroundings husband goofing up). 
  • Vishnu lives a lavish king-size life on his wife's wealth, and uses it to do his job as the sustainer. His wife Lakshmi, lives in his heart (keeping it strong), and sits at his feet massaging his tired feet, knowing fully well that he is nothing without her. At times, when she gets upset with him, she walks away leaving him in total disarray (resulting in things like - Srinivasa incarnation, Padmavati Kalyanam, and subsequent Venkataswara incarnation).
  • Shiva is the humble, innocent, and naive of the pack. He wraps a deer skin around his waist, roams around like a homeless guy in the streets and in graveyards, goes to his wife's (Annapurna) house to beg for food and energy, and then goes away again doing his job, living a very humble life. Sometimes, he goes away for years into meditation. Parvati, the most loyal of all, never leaves him, always waits for his return, and when he doesn't, she goes and brings him back. When her naïve husband gets into trouble because of his naivety, she becomes Kaali to protect her husband. Shiva, who loves his wife completely, gives half of his body (the left half where the heart resides) to her, and is always ready to destroy the entire universe in one stroke - if something untoward was to happen to her. 

Bottom-line... Contrary to "popular" image and belief, Hinduism is not patriarchal... but more of egalitarian, and a balancing-act kind of way of life – if you truly understand the Hindu Way of Life and Dharma. 

There is a lot one can learn from Hinduism about family values and husband-wife relationships, if one can read, understand, think, and learn. Wish we learn our lessons sooner than later.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What is Sati? How did it come into existence?

Taking off from a comment on one of the posts (Why do hindus break Coconut in the Temple), wanted to share some information about Sati Practice. Sati is one of the most controversial (and often misinformed) Hindu practices in India. What is often not talked about is that this practice has been around in various cultures, religions, and regions across the world for at least over 2200 years (various names, of course).

Story of the 'Sati' Origin:

The term 'Sati' originated from (and refers to) Parvati, the consort of Shiva. One of Parvati's incarnations is Daakshaayani (Sanskrit: दाक्षायणि; Transliteration: dākṣāyaṇi), the daughter of the King Daksha Prajapati. Daakshaayani falls in love with Shiva and wishes to marry him. However, Daksha Prajapati does not approve of his (a king's) daughter (a princess) marrying a (for lack of better English term) homeless guy, who has three eyes instead of the normal two, wears nothing but a tiger skin around his waist, covers himself with ashes from cremations, and roams around in graveyards with snakes around his neck and a trident in his hands (A.K.A Shiva). However, disregarding her father's objections, Daakshaayani marries Shiva and takes the name of Sati after marriage.

Daksha once performs a great yaaga and invites all the kings of earth and everyone from the heavens, except Shiva and Sati (I bet, "I can't introduce a homeless guy as my son-in-law to all the great personalities and dignitaries invited to this event. The couple is an insult to me and my greatness!" kind of rich man's ego mentality had something to do with it). However, Sati wishes to go to the event (after all, it's being hosted by her father who loves her the most) and asks Shiva to go with her. Shiva, in his infinite wisdom, refuses to go, and asks Sati not to go either, stating that - "Even if it is your parents' house, where your husband is constantly insulted and looked down upon, people won't respect you either. People will look down upon you. Even if they don’t look down upon you, you will not be able to tolerate the insults and humiliation they would subject your husband to".

Sati, trusting her father's love for her, disregards Shiva's advice and goes to the Daksha Yaagna. There, she sees Shiva's statue at the gates (as a doorman), and hears her father insulting and humiliating Shiva (her husband) in the presence of all the invitees. Unable to tolerate her husband’s public humiliation by her father, Sati is overrun with tremendous grief, jumps into the holy fire of the yaaga, and immolates herself. Another legend says that she rubbed her left toe on the ground, generated fire, and immolated herself. Thus the self-immolation of a grief-stricken wife in the holy fire is called Sati.

To continue with the story, his wife's immolation outrages Shiva, transforming him into Maha Rudra (the furious form of Shiva), and performing Rudra Tandavam (the dance of fury). During the dance, he plucks a lock of his hair (jaTha), smashes it on the dance floor, creating the ferocious Veera Bhadra - the powerful dark lord. Maha Rudra orders Veera Bhadra to destroy Daksha Yagna, then walks into the fire where his beloved wife's body lies burning, picks her up, and walks away into isolation. Another legend says that as he is carrying her body, various parts of her body fell in various places of the Indian sub-continent, each giving birth to a Shakti PeeTham.

Origin of the Practice:

There is no clear timeframe as to when it originated. The earliest recorded history dates back to the times of Alexander, the Great (320 BC or something). However, the custom was in practice for much longer before Alexander’s times. Originally, it came into existence exactly for the reason why Sati immolated herself (in the above story) – Overrun by unbearable grief. It was not just practiced by women (or wives), but also by men (or husbands). According to Hindu custom, men and married women are cremated. Self-immolation during spousal cremation was practiced by surviving spouse stricken by unbearable grief from the loss of her/his beloved life- and spiritual- companion, combined by the thought of living for many years without her/his companionship. The surviving spouse would “choose” the holy fire of the cremation (and the resultant pain from burning alive) to be less painful than a life without the dead spouse. It was NEVER meant to be a “wife-only” or a “forced” custom. It was by choice of the surviving spouse.

Changing Practice with Changing Male Dominance:

As the times changed, with numerous wars dwindling male population, and higher female-to-male ratio, a couple of things started happening. These are various research aspects that are currently being debated by historians and scholars. I am neither a historian nor a scholar – just sharing what I found in my research on the topic.
1.      One theory says that Sati (along with other customs, such as forced widowhood, and girl marriages) was practiced primarily to address the problem of women surplus population.
2.      Anther says that Sati was also enforced (actually in Greece) to discourage young wives from poisoning their old husbands (my personal view? Young wives poisoning old husbands is a problem created by greedy men who, in their 50s and 60s would marry 13 or 16 year old girls).

Religious rules and Laws against the Custom:

However, unless there was a strong reason and choice by the widow, Sati was never to be "enforced"; Not in Hindu custom. Cases of Sati have been documented even in Mahabharata, where Maadri (the second wife of Pandu Raja) chose to immolate herself along with her dead husband, while Kunty (the first wife) chose to live on to take care of the Pandavas. In Ramayana, all three wives of the king Dasaratha lived on (no self-immolation) after his death, while Sita was asked to immolate herself by her own husband to prove her chastity. There has never been a rule or a law in Hindu religion towards Sati. There are ample rules against it.

Padma Purana forbids Sati for Brahmin wives, while it is considered noble for a Kshatriya wife. Well… killing a Brahmin (man or a woman) is considered as grave a sin as killing Brahma (Brahma Hatya Maha Patakam). For Kshatriya women, it was considered noble because their husbands typically died on the battlefield, and self-immolation was considered a better choice for them than the possible alternative (of being captured and enslaved by the enemy warriors).
In 3rd and 4th centuries AD, it was mostly prevalent in the Northern India (modern day Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bengal). During the times of Delhi Sultanate (12th and 13th Centuries AD), a widow had to seek permission from the government to be self-immolated (thereby ensuring a woman's choice). However, this was easily turned into forced "choice" by the family members. A number of Mughal Emperors issues orders (many times over) forbidding Sati. In 1800s, British enacted laws against Sati. This continued into the independent India, and the Indian Penal Code. Today, Sati is all but eradicated.

Does that mean there is no sati instance whatsoever in India? Of course not. There have been one or two reported incidents even in 2013. Every instance of Sati results in public outcry. And every instance of Sati is a result of some uneducated, backward village people forcing a young widow to immolate herself because they consider her “inauspicious”. Regardless, in this day-and-age where women leave (and divorce) their men (or husbands) for any and every reason, there is no reason for a woman to choose to immolate herself after the death of her husband. They are grief-stricken, but not so consumed with their grief (at least not in this day-and-age) to take their own lives by jumping into fire. They may consider other, less painful methods, but not Sati. Today, a case of Sati is not really a case of Sati per se. It is a case of murder in the guise of Sati.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Darkness of Ignorance


ecently, someone asked me a question regarding darkness. "When there is a power outage at night, I can light up a candle and distance the darkness. But, what is wrong with the darkness in the mind? Why is it so difficult to remove that darkness? Why can't I just "light a candle" to distance it? I thought about it for a while, and the ensuing response from those thoughts is the text of this post.

Assuming that each one of us has a good side and an evil side, the Darkness of mind can be twofold: One - Evil side (dark side) of us, and Two - Darkness of ignorance. I further assume that the reference here is to the darkness of ignorance and not the evil side. 

There is a phrase in Sanskrit - Agnyanaandhakaram - meaning the Darkness of Ignorance. In Bhagavat Gita, this darkness is termed as darker than the darkest substance in the universe. 

The darkness of mind (that of ignorance), is the hardest kind of darkness to remove. Why? The only thing that can remove the darkness of ignorance is the Light of Knowledge. Light of Knowledge, again, is twofold. One, the knowledge itself, and second is the wisdom coming from the deeper understanding of such knowledge. "When intelligence matures, and lodges securely in mind, it becomes wisdom" (C. Rajagopalacharya). 

Why is it so difficult to bring the Light of Knowledge into the mind? What is the knowledge we are talking about?

To bring the light of knowledge takes work - a lot of work. Knowledge, here, is the knowledge of the physical self (I, me, etc., and Jeevatma in spiritual terms), and the knowledge of Self (the Supreme Soul or Paramatma in spiritual terms). To bring in the true knowledge of self (me, I), it takes knowing about ourselves, questioning ourselves, knowing the good side and bad side of ourselves, admitting to ourselves our strengths, and more importantly, our weaknesses and shortcomings. Beyond that, it also entails making a conscious effort to expand our strengths and good side, and marginalizing our weaknesses and bad side. We all know (and strongly advocate) our good sides. But then, we all know and advocate only half (at most) of ourselves. If everyone has good and bad in them, then what about the bad side?

While most of us admit that everyone has good and bad in them, as a natural human tendency, we first see only the bad side in others and only the good side in ourselves. Seeing (and admitting to ourselves) the bad side in us and making concrete effort to change the bad side in us takes real (moral) character and tremendous inner strength. Once we posses that strength and gain the knowledge of ourselves, we get half way across in bringing the light of knowledge. If you are not spiritual at all (and don't much care about the Supreme Self), then you are all the way there. If you are spiritual, then the remaining half is to gain the knowledge and understanding of the Supreme Self. 

Even if you are spiritual, not gaining the knowledge of the Supreme Self is not the end of the world (and does not mean you are any less of a human being). If you just attempt to gain that part of the knowledge, you are better than most of us. As is said in the Bhagavat Gita (and adapted to the current world population numbers), "For every few million people, somewhere in some corner, one person attempts to know the Supreme Self. Among those who attempt to know the Supreme Self, only a hand full are distained to learn the truth about the Supreme Self and gain complete knowledge". Therefore, the fact that you even attempted to know puts you in a different plane (making you one in a few million). Even if you gain a tiny little bit of such knowledge, you are better off than most of us. If you gained full knowledge, then there would be a shrine built for you and you would be named Buddha (or someone similar). 

In any situation, when things go wrong, we are quick to look around us to find reasons for failure. How often do we (even have the courage to) look within us for the reasons for failure? And when we actually muster that courage to look within us, how often do we actually find any reasons within us? And finally, when we do find a measly reason or two, how often do we really admit the validity of those reasons without offering justifications? The first step in identifying the weaker side of us is to offer no justification during introspection. When you are tempted to say "Yes, this was my mistake. But, I had no choice because...", STOP! You always have a choice. Consciously, sub-consciously, or un-consciously, you chose to act in a particular way! Admit it! The realization that we have a choice at every juncture is the first step in acquiring knowledge of ourselves. Then, we dissect every point of failure and identify our weaknesses (or the "wrong" choices we made). Then, we use that knowledge as a shield when faced with similar situations to not repeat the same mistakes.

It takes a long time for each of us to gain the knowledge of all our weaknesses and shortcomings. It also takes a lot of dissection of ourselves and asking really hard questions without offering any defense. That... as a natural human tendency, is almost impossible (well, almost... not impossible).

Hope that explains why it is difficult to handle the darkness of mind. Simple answer is, it is not easy to bring the light of knowledge that distances/removes the darkness of mind.

cabaõ õbabd

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Sanatan Dharma Temple and Culture Center Website:  (External Website - Open in new window)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Upcoming Event: Sri Rama Navami And Sita Rama Kalyanam

Wish you all a blessed Sri Rama Navami. Today, March 24, 2010, is Sri Rama Navami. The Sanatana Dhama Temple and Cultural Center in Maple Valley, WA is celebrating Sri Rama Navami along with Sita Rama Kalyanam on April 3, 2010. On this auspicious occasion, I thought I would write a little note about the significance of both (why celebrate?).


Sri Rama Navami is Sri Rama’s Birthday – plain and simple.


Quoting Bhagavat Gita, whenever Dharma (or righteousness) faces a grave threat and Adharma is rampant, the Supreme God (Sri Maha Vishnu) himself will come down to earth to punish the wrong doers and save the righteous. Hindu Puranas give a list of 10 such instances when the God Himself incarnated as one of the worldly creatures and saved the mankind from the personification of evil. Rama (pronounced raama) is considered one such incarnations of the God Himself (Seventh incarnation to be exact).


Ramayana, the story of Rama, portrays a story of idealism – ideal man, woman, relationships, evil, and ideal ending to the evil. Rama is known as “Aadarsha Purusha”, the model man (or the “Ideal Role Model”). Rama plays many roles in his life time, including a Son, a Son-in-Law, a Brother, a Husband, a King, a Master, and even an Enemy. In each of these roles, Rama shows how anyone must play that role in an ideal situation. He gives us a benchmark or a baseline; a goal we all must aspire to reach (thus, making Rama the ideal role model). As a normal human being, Rama struggles with each of these roles and the conflicts of interest (Role of King vs. Husband, Son vs. Brother, Enemy vs. Savior etc.) and each time, he comes through with the right decision, outlining which role takes precedence over the other (and more importantly, why). A thorough reasoning from Dharma perspective is given for every decision Rama makes throughout the Ramayana.


It is, therefore, a divine blessing to celebrate the birth and life of such a wonderful man and commit ourselves to strive towards the higher goals of life and be a model human being.


As outlined in Ramayana, Rama was born on Chaitra Maasa Shukla Paksha Navami.


According to the Hindu Lunar Calendar, each month is divided into two halves of 15 days. The first half ends with a full moon (or Purnima/Paurnami) on the 15th day and is known as Shukla Paksha (the white moon half). The second half ends with a new moon (or Amaavas/Amaavasya) on the 15th day and is known as Krishna Paksha (the black moon half). Chaitra Maasa is the first month of the lunar calendar. The days in each half are numbered in Sanskrit from one (Padhyami) through fourteen (Chaturdhasi) and the fifteenth day is either a Purnima or an Amaavas. Navami is the ninth day.


There… that’s a more complicated and real reason for celebrating Sri Rama Navami – the birth of the Supreme Lord in the form the ideal man!


Why celebrate Kalyaanotsavam?

The term Kalyaanotsavam is a union of two Sanskrit words – KalyaNa and Utsavam. Kalyaana ( कल्याण ) in Sanskrit has several meanings including prosperous, good fortune, happiness, and auspiciousness. In regular usage while referring to a marriage, it is used to denote a prosperous/happy/auspicious union of two bodies and souls (marriage). Utsavam also has several meanings including festival, celebration, ceremony, beginning etc. Kalyaanotsavam, therefore, means an auspicious festive and celebrating ceremony of unifying two bodies and souls into one (marriage ceremony).


Marriages in India are celebrated with much pomp, typically to tell the world how well-to-do the family is. Traditionally (100s of years ago), marriages were celebrated in Southern India by chanting Vedas and mantras for Seven days performing various rituals on each day. These rituals and Vedas were aimed at cleansing the environment, body, mind and soul, and bring internal joy and prosperity to all the attendees. Due to growing cost of living over the years and the busy schedule of people, the number of days was reduced to five, then to three, then to one and now to half a day. Although the rituals and Veda mantras are shortened, the spirit and idea of cleansing and bringing internal joy and prosperity still remains.


Why Sita Rama Kalyaanam?


कर्येशुदासि, करिणेशुमंत्रि।

रूपेशु लक्षमि, क्षमया धरित्रि।

भोज्येशु मत, शयनेशु वेश्य।

सत्कर्म नरि, कुल धर्म पत्नि


Such is the description of an ideal wife according to Hindu Puranas. For an ideal husband, an ideal wife takes several forms including that of a slave when it comes to working, minister while advising, Goddess Lakshmi in appearance, Mother Earth in patience, the mother of the husband while feeding him, a vashya in intimate companionship, a woman with true good actions/duties – such is a “Dharma Patni” (or wife).


Rama being the ideal husband, Sita was known to be every bit of an ideal wife as described above. Never before has there been such a heavenly union of souls, nor will there ever again be (“na bhuto na bhavishyati”). One must be really fortunate to celebrate the union of such ideal couple and learn/strive to be as such. Sita is considered a better wife for Rama than Rama was as a husband to Sita. It is also said that Sita’s love for Rama was more than Rama’s love for Sita.


Sita Rama Kalyanam, the ceremony that united this ideal couple, is more popularly known as Sita Kalyanam (and never is it called Rama Kalyanam). Hindu Puranas say that Rama without Sita is like a body without life (cannot exist).  Further, the story of Sita and Rama well-articulates and proves that a husband’s existence is dependent on the righteous wife (saha dharma patni) and hence, the right way of taking the names of a couple is to spell the wife’s name first and then the husband’s name (Mrs., and Mr. Shastri, or Smt., and Sri. Yogeshwara Sharma). Such a model couple is Sita and Rama, who have been guiding marital unions for 1000s of years and generations.


In the modern day’n’age, with disintegrating families and high divorce rate, it is all-the-more important to celebrate the union of Sita and Rama, learn from their marriage life, and strive to strengthen marital and family bonds.


The actual Sita Kalyanam is said to have taken place on Margashirsha masa Shukla paksha Panchami, the fifth day of the Margashirsha masa (November/December), and is celebrated by Hindus worldwide on that day. However, performing, witnessing, or attending Sita Rama Kalyanam on any auspicious day at any temple or an auspicious location is considered immensely fortunate. The location where such a wedding is performed or celebrated is blessed by the gods and received not only by the location and the performers, but also the attendees. The aura of the auspiciousness fills the hearts, minds and souls of the attendees.


May the gods bless everyone. Sarvam Sri Sita Rama Arpanam!



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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Am Only Human

We typically encounter a number of kinds of people in our daily lives. Some of them are good and kind to us, some are not. When someone is kind to us, we typically respond back being kind to them. But what do we do, or how do we react, when someone is unkind to us? Revenge has been the oldest of the motivations known to mankind to commit crimes against humanity. A crime many not be a "legal crime", it could be a moral crime or a crime at a spiritual level - cursing or emotionally hurting or abusing others, fostering bad thoughts (thinking bad must come to those who did bad to us), etc. Since we directly did not influence their fate in any "Legal Terms", the human system of law and justice may not get us. However, there is a higher system of justice, known to those who believe in a higher power, that will take its course.

"Retribution comes, behold! For, if a man goes unpunished, his children shall receive.
If not, his grand children will bare the blow"
-Bhagvad Gita

Even the most virtuous among us have committed such crimes at least once. And the ones who are presumed to have not, have been known in our history as saints. We often justify our bad actions or thoughts against others stating "If (s)he has not done what (s)he has done to me, I would not have reacted in such a way. I am only a human being. (S)He made me act this way.". We blame someone else (or their actions) for our reaction, thereby absolving ourselves of all personal responsibility. We also sight the scientific theory of "Every action has equal and opposite reaction".

We seldom accept that we, and we alone, are the masters of our (re)actions. Our reaction may have earned its motivation in someone else's actions. However, the reaction itself is ours. We could have reacted differently, but we chose to mirror the actions of others in our reaction. If someone acted unkindly to us, we chose to repay their acts of unkindness by acting unkindly to them. We could have chosen to act kindly, or ignore the actions of unkindness. But we did not! Therefore, the justification of "I am only human" is just a poor excuse of who we really are. In reality, we acted not in an opposite manner, but in the same manner as them.

Further more, we tend to forget the underlying fact of "equal and opposite reaction" theory applying to our own actions as well. We also tend to overlook the resultant chain reaction to our reactions. Take the example of a couple, say Jack and Jill. Jack acts badly towards Jill à Jill responds in kind, acting badly to Jack’s bad actions à Jack is now more upset and strikes back at Jill à Jill continues the streak. This cycle continues back and forth until both destroy each other. Another manifestation is, Jack treating Jill bad à Jill cannot get back at Jack, so she chooses to treat Jim badly à Jim cannot get back at Jill decides to treat Jeff badly à Jeff cannot get back at Jim à and the chain continues spreading bad actions. The psychology behind this is - "If I were treated better in my past, I wouldn't be the way I am today". The fact is, we chose to be how we are today - not our past or someone else.

Unfortunately, such spread occurs faster for bad actions and reactions than good. If someone is kind to us, we are kind to them if we can be, or we are kind to others if we can be. The ideal (and spiritual) way is to be at the end of the chain of bad reactions and at the start of the chain of good actions. At the least, we be a link in replicating the good deeds done to us as fast as we can.

In conclusion, I offer the following thoughts for your consideration. Our actions, and our actions alone, define us and who we are. What someone else has done to us does not define who we are. How we reacted defines who we are. Motivations to our actions have no place here. Regardless of the motivations, how we act/react defines who we are. Therefore, to better define ourselves, we, at best, start as many chains of good deeds as possible, and watch them grow. If they don't grow, continue starting new ones. If we cannot start new chains of good, at the very least, we must strive to be the last one in the chain of bad deeds/thoughts. What that means is, if someone did something bad to me, regardless of their reason for bad actions, I shall not respond equally with another bad action, nor shall I allow myself to be "just another link" in the chain and pass on the bad to the next. Then, we can claim - "I am only human". Otherwise, we are just "trying to be human" (or perhaps not even trying) and hence cannot claim "I am only human".

Som Gollakota (Woodinville, WA) Website:


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monkey and the Buffalo Budha

Ajanta Caves, in India, offer some spectacular Buddhist paintings with many legends behind those paintings. The one shown here is titled "Monkey and the Buddha as a Buffalo". The legend behind the picture goes something like this. The Buddha, in a previous birth, is said to have been a very peace-loving and righteous buffalo, who wandered to a forest every day grazing grass around it. A very wicked monkey in the surrounding area would trouble the buffalo Buddha by climbing on his horns and playing irritable games. The gentle buffalo bore all the monkey-tricks to practice the virtue of forbearance, saying “Inflicting grief on others to overcome one’s own discomfort is no virtue; As the results of such acts shall not bear the fruits of true happiness. The monkey would have his lesson some day. And he (the buffalo) would be saved from the guilt of inflicting pain on others”. A few days later, a savage buffalo wanders around the trees grazing grass. The monkey, mistaking the savage buffalo for the Enlightened One, tries his tricks, only to be thrown on the ground and killed by the sharp horns of the savage buffalo. The monkey got his lesson for the bad deeds in the end, and the virtuous buffalo is also saved from the guilt.

Excellent story, excellent lesson to be learnt. Be kind even to those who are unkind to you, for they will receive the fruits of their actions in the end.

Here is another lesson I would like to learn from the picture and the characters (and their characteristics) in the pictures.

  1. Buffalo traditionally signifies ignorance and laziness – as ignorant as an Ox (or lazy like a buffalo)
  2. Monkey signifies mischief, irresponsibility, playfulness, carefree life

 We all have laziness and ignorance in us, and our mind keeps wandering in every possible direction (usually, not in the right direction). It took a buffalo to be reborn as a Sidhartha, with enormous will power and penance, to find the truth about this world and become Bodhi Satva (or Buddha). More often than not, the buffalo in us makes us complacent and does not let us move forward. When we do try to get on the move, the wicked monkey in us gets on our shoulders and head (mind), shuts our eyes to the truth and leads us in the wrong direction. It may take a savage beast in us to slaughter the monkey – but then, from a lazy buffalo, we have just turned into a savage beast – a few steps backwards than a step forward.  

For the buffalo in our above story, it took patience and calm to move forward to Sidharth, and for Sidhartha, it took will power and penance to become Bodhi Satva (or Buddha). For our miniature existences, it takes patience to acquire the light of knowledge and wisdom to beat the monkey and get the lazy/complacent buffalo in us moving in the right direction. Quite often, we use very creative excuses to remain complacent – I don’t have time, I am very busy with work, my husband/wife/kids need me, and when everything else fails, we conclude saying – I am not at that level of spiritual maturity yet; it will take a lot of time.

This is a vicious circle of worldly life, if you ask me! “I am not spiritually mature” à “I am not that wise” à “I don’t have a lot of knowledge” à “I have a family to take care of, so I don’t have time for anything else” à “I am not spiritually mature enough to give up the world yet”. We go around in circles like this. But fortunately, we don’t have to. It is our “ajñāna andhakāraṁ” (or the darkness of ignorance) that is causing us to go around in circles like this. With knowledge and implementation of knowledge, one gains wisdom. With wisdom, one realizes that we don’t have to “give up the world” to serve and reach the lord.

In my previous article, I wrote about practicing detachment towards Karma (actions) and how Gita articulated it. In another verse (“bramhanya adhāya karmāṇi”), the Gita says “The one who performs his duties and actions without any attachments towards the actions or the results, surrendering both unto the God, he would not be touched by the sins of this world – “padma patramivāmbhasa” – like a lotus leaf in water (yet dry and untouched by water). More about this verse at a later time.

In conclusion, I offer the following for your consideration. So long as we have that lazy buffalo in us, and the wicked monkey inside our heads, we remain where we are, without any advancement – either in this mortal world or in the spiritual world. With the stick called Knowledge of the Supreme Self, we chase the wicked monkey out of our heads and shoulders, and make the buffalo get up, shake off the dirt and run toward those green pastures. That will be our run towards spiritual wisdom, salvation, eternal peace and happiness.

Please do share your thoughts and inputs. I greatly appreciate, value and look for your perspectives.

Som Gollakota (Woodinville, WA)


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Karmaṇyeva adhikāraste...

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेशु कदाचन मा कर्म फलगे तुर्भुः माकेसंगोत्व कर्मणि karmaṇyevādhikāraste mā phaleśu kadācana mā karma phalage turbhuḥ māke saṁgotva karmaṇi
Rough Translation: The rights you have are over your actions and not on the results of your actions. You should not be the reason for such results,. This does not mean that you must refrain from your actions.

Karma is usually mentioned in numerous contexts, depending upon the speaker, to mean numerous things. When I asked many the question "What do you mean by Karma?", some associated it with things in general, some associate with only bad things, while some others even struggle to articulate what it meant. The common thing in all these three type of people is, they all associated it with what happened (or is happening) to them. This is because, one of the most common references of Karma implies - Bad Deeds (as in "It is my karma"). However, the meaning of Karma is quite simple.

Karma = Actions; Deeds. Plain and Simple! 

Karma (Sanskrit) means Actions, not the Results. Results Sanskrit are Karma Phala (or Fruits of Actions). The reference "It is my Karma", in reality means whatever happened or is happening to me is the result of my own actions (or lack of actions), and not the results of someone else's. By stating so, we are absolving everyone else from the blame and taking responsibility for the results. There are three different parts in the above verse.
  1. Your right is only over the actions (or Karma)
  2. You have no right over the results (or Karma Phala)
  3. You must not be the reason for the results, yet must not refrain from performing actions
The first two are pretty straight forward. Since we can only control our actions before we perform them, we have every right over them - we can control and perform the right actions. However, once actions are performed, the results shall follow regardless of anything else. Therefore, we do not have any rights over the results. The third one appears a bit more complicated and self-contradicting. How can I perform actions and yet not be the reason for the results? The gīta is filled with such contradictions. The gīta is one giant 700-piece puzzle. Each verse renders a piece of the puzzle and the gīta as a whole is the solution. The essence of gīta is detachment. The third part is clarified when one delves deeper into the part with an understanding of the essence of the gīta. The following is my understanding of the third part. Since you can only control the actions before performing them, one ought to think hard and analyze possible consequences of one's actions. After careful consideration of our actions, we ought to perform the (presumably) right actions with at most detachment, devotion, and dedication to the Lord. The reason detachment is mentioned first is to stress the importance of renouncing all attachment to the actions as well as the results of the actions. This can be achieved by means of at most devotion to the Lord. The devotion will then help us dedicate all the results (or Karma Phala) to the Lord. When we achieve these three 'D's prior to our actions, and then perform actions, we would not be the reason for the results. The Lord and the Lord alone will then be the reason for the results. This will absolve our spiritual Self (or the soul) from all repercussions of our actions. We must perform our actions as per the set of guidelines provided by our chosen faith. Results, such as they are, come from our actions. Assuming that our actions are right, the results would follow. That said, it is important to draw a distinction between good actions and harmful actions. Regardless of their nature (good or harmful) the results will follow. Regardless of the dedication, the repercussions of our actions will be felt by our physical self. This is true whether we perform the actions with our knowledge and consent or without. An simple example I often sight in this regard is - touching fire will result in burnt hand and pain, regardless of touching it with or without our knowledge and/or consent. It doesn't matter if we touched fire because we wanted to burn, or someone has held our hand and forced us on to the fire, or just by an accident. It doesn't matter whether we are grown ups who understand the nature of the fire or infants who don't have such an understanding. The result will follow and be felt by our physical/mortal self. The soul (the spiritual Self) acts a transceiver of the actions performed by the host (the physical self) in which the soul resides. The intentions and thoughts, and the actions resulting from such intentions and thoughts affect not just the physical self, but also the spiritual Self. While the results of actions at the physical level are received by the physical body that performed such actions, the results at the soul level sometimes transcend the physical body. As such, the results of actions performed/transmitted by one soul during the lifetime of one body may thus be received by another body of the same soul. The unfortunate consequence in this transcended results is that the body in which the soul is now residing is unaware of the actions performed by the body in which the soul resided at the time of transmitting, and yet bares the brunt of those actions. Hence the words of God - You (as a body) do not have any right to the results. Your actions shall have repercussions, either while you are still hosting the soul, or the soul moved on to the next body. Towards the end of the gīta Discourse given to the mightiest of the warriors, Arjuna, the Lord himself is said to have clarified - "Dedicating ALL your actions and their consequent results to me, becoming free of all desires by means of the knowledge of me, dispelling your pride, and setting aside your worries and sadness, Oh Mighty Warrior, fight the war.". With that thought, I will now conclude this writing and leave any readers out there to delve on these thoughts of mine, on your own. Please do feel free to contact me with your thoughts and inputs. I do value and appreciate them.
Som Gollakota (Woodinville, WA) Website: