Conversion is perversion

So said Swami Vivekananda himself. There's nothing wrong in thinking that your God is the mightiest of all; there are a lot of sects within Hinduism itself that have mythological stories praising one God over the other. However, trying to put other Gods down and attacking the followers is not done. People who do that not only do they not understand the other faith, but also lack understanding in their own. The only reason one particular deity is shown as superior over others is for the followers to get single-minded, wholehearted devotion towards their faith. And this should bring one closer to one's own path. Trying to attack other faiths, trying to convert them to yours, or doing any such or worse damage, one is endlessly taken away from one's own salvation.

A person is born in a particular faith only due to his past lives and it is best suited for that individual's spiritual evolution. Trying to do something that someone else does is definitely going to lengthen your own path, in terms of religion, that is. Philosophically, you're free to follow beliefs of the other and intellectually analyze it and compare it with your own. If you're going to blindly follow someone else's path, without knowing what it is, or even without knowing what you're born in, why not blindly follow your own instead? Its a custom-made fast-track path for you to evolve spiritually. There are many people who do not understand this at all. Kindly do revisit your own faith, follow it and try to analyze better. There are no separate Gods, one better than the other, there is only one. He has manifested himself for you in a particular way for you to love him and in another way for someone else to love him. In trying to prove that one is better than the other, you'll have lost one and not found the other!

HH Swami Chandrashekara Bharati of Sringeri was once approached by a foreigner to ask of some way to be initiated into Hinduism. The jivanamukta asked the person to continue in his own religion explaining him that there is a reason why he was born a Christian and not a Hindu. What faith he was born with would help him evolve better than if he converted to Hinduism. Only if all leaders and sages were as clear as our Swamiji, we'd be living in a much better place of Hindus trying to be better Hindus, Christians trying to be better Christians and Muslims trying to be better Muslims, without trying to convert each other to no avail.

hari om tat sat

Grim hope

Life of grim hope
Hanging on a thin rope
Any change has no scope
So let it be and cope

Life full of shame
Wild passion to tame
Any change seems lame
So everyone gets the blame

Life hidden in the dark
Without a bit of spark
Any change leaves a mark
So go on with your lark

Life guided only by fate
No matter if you walk straight
Any change is third rate
So continue your only trait

Life dances around death
Even with best of health
Any change affects stealth
So we live on illusive wealth

So whats in a name?

Apart from children teasing you or even when you're grown up, friends making fun of you, numerologists taking shots at whats wrong with your name, there are other things to it too. While I can't remember people's names and "whats in a name?" is a good phrase for me to throw around when I err, I'm sure there are many who remember names by effort and take decisions based on the ones they associate with even before meeting up. In a traditional system of earlier generations, what name to keep for a child was a matter of great research. For some, its so even today.

In many orthodox families, the first born male in a family gets his grandfather's name, or at least something closer. Although my parents followed that, as popular names, they chose another as well. So my elder brother got his name as Prashant, apart from Krishna inherited from our grandfather. I got my maternal grandfather's name Padmanabha, which was never used and was called as Praveen instead. My father had a story behind this naming concept, but not one that interests me much, except to tell it around, since I care less for values formed on emotions when they contradict the tradition; all the more so in recent years. Be as it may...

... today, all of this struck me when Raghav said that his niece was named as Mythri. My parents broke the tradition of running names such as Ramakrishna, Krishna, Ramchandra, by naming my brother and me differently. Most of the Hindus name their kids with Godly names by choice; even if they don't, in one way or the other it turns out to be a Godly name, with so many names for God. But we are those rare cases I suppose. :)

I personally feel that the name leaves an impact on the person both within and without. While my brother may have had *silent nature* earlier and may need to hold on to it and even prove it, I have to pick up *expertise* in all that I do, else give it up totally, in order not to do it badly! Funnily enough, if I look back, thats how my life has progressed these 33 years, unknowingly! Finally, for the same reason, I may end up dying with a huge bloated ego! :)

krishNArpaNamastu, padmanAbhArpaNamastu :D

Yoga, yogasana, YVFA...

The other day while chatting with a good friend, Rajiv, I recollected my own experiments with yoga and yogasana and how endlessly I've been postponing writing up on Patanjali Yoga Sutra (PYS). Over the past many years, not only has yoga become a style statement, but has grown into a billion dollar industry and beyond in the US alone; an obvious follow-on action is patenting anything that is yoga or yoga-related. We've seen enough of that nonsense and I'll avoid it. Also yogasana has been confused for yoga by more than 90% of the people who told me they are doing yoga and I've corrected them in all my bluntness! However, to clarify, Rajiv isn't one of them; I don't want him to throw his kungfu kicks at me... well, thats another thing he has been practising. :)

My experiments with yoga began in theory with studying many versions of PYS commentaries, before I joined YVFA at Rishikesh; I have some more versions to study. Around those years, I also experimented some with Kundalini yoga, AOL's yoga in practise but stuck with Sivananda's yogasanas and pranayamas from Practice of Brahmacharya. While at YVFA, I'd an interesting experience. When I hit YVFA, I argued with one Swamiji a lot about Yoga being rejected by Shankaracharya and so it not interesting me any more. Of course, I was neck deep in Vedanta then and my pure love for Vedanta was doing all the talking, heedless to the result of it! Obviously since the course was about Yoga and Vedanta, I got blasted. I was put questions and told that I do not know. Well, I smiled. The reason I smiled is not an egoistic thing, but I knew well enough to say that Shankaracharya rejected it, I knew where he did that and I knew why he did that. I argued some more and Swamiji did say in the end that the Bhagavatpada did reject it for the reason I was arguing about: what the end of PYS is! However, he said that I'll have to be attentive in class and over the next two months, I'll learn PYS, something I didn't know anything about, as concluded. My expressing having studied lot of commentaries didn't help anyway.

Back to the classes, since I was in the front row, I got a lot of love from Swamiji, each time with a smiling question thrown at me "Did you know this?" I smiled back and people wondered what was going on. I only knew well that there was no point arguing and I told my friends so... somehow, I felt that in the end its all going to be well, he will end up saying things about PYS that I said too.

Later during the daily asana-pranayama and karmayoga classes, I got so stressed out with my limited health back then, that I just couldn't take any more of active involvement in anything other than Vedanta, the very reason I'd parted ways with worklife! I announced this to the authorities, midway through the course, expressing my unwillingness to continue asana-pranayama and karmayoga classes with a partial commitment, while my love for Vedanta remained unmet and leaving me no time to study on my own. I said ta ta and readied my bags to leave, taking the onus for joining the course and wasting a seat thereby. Fortunately, they all liked my honesty and genuinely trying the asanas and karmayoga to the best of my abilities. Instead, they offered me exemptions in those subjects and gave me an option for each. Since my haemorhoids and lower back pain had set in totally, they wanted me to take long walks in the hills (just what I needed and craved for, regardless of the health); as for karmayoga, I myself took all the data entry work. Thankfully, all that worked out well, due to the immense love of Sivanandaji Maharaj's presence felt at the ashram and all those who follow his principles.

What came as a lesson to me when the course ended is from the marks. In trying to make a point about PYS, ego may have taken over without my knowledge, in some other disturbance over the course days in various forms. I wasn't doing much sadhana there either, health had taken a toll due to changing weather, irregular sleeping from mingling much with batch mates apart from the course focus and many heavy festival food servings. Then there were some deep satsanga arguments with other students, just trying to understand things better. Of course, I wasn't intending to top the exam or anything, so I didn't study at all. We actually spent lot of time roaming locally, meeting people, friends and their friends, etc too. Back to the exams, I did quite well overall, but what was shocking was the marks in Upanishads and PYS.

Just before the exam results, my roommate Datta and I had returned from Haridwar. We'd gone there to have a look at the Anandamayi Ma's ashram, after feeling a call from her. For some reason, walking by a bookstall at Rishikesh earlier, I suddenly turned around, looked at a photo of hers on a book, went in to look into the book and felt blissful! Strangely, at her ashram, the same thing happened; I was buying her books and photos, when suddenly, I looked at my left, my hand stretched itself out without knowing what book it was pulling off the shelf (no exaggeration here) and putting it on the counter in disbelief for billing! This book was one that I'd searched for years, even going over to MLBD at Delhi once and asking them to republish it, but all in vain... the book was Shankaracharya's TikA on Vyasa's commentary on Yoga Sutra!!!

As I recall, the marklists were being placed on the notice board when we returned to Rishikesh from Haridwar. The Swamiji I'd argued PYS with arrived late in the evening when marklists were already out and I was standing just next to the notice board when he came in. He looked at me and asked who had topped his subject, I kept mum, smiling. With his short memory, he tried recalling who Bhat is... "well", I said, "its is me, Swamiji". He went on "so, you're not a bad boy, after all" and then laughed and said "I'm just joking... you're a good boy". I just thanked him and it comforted my ego that he too thought that I knew PYS.

In the later many hours, I kept thinking "there's just no excuse to get less marks in Upanishads in comparison to PYS", the ego still speaking. Then it all came back to me, what had happened; I'd topped PYS and there was a reason for all this: to shatter my ego, understand what PYS is in practice, why the Bhagavatpada rejected it, and what is its place in traditional advaita vedanta following! I said this very thing (other than some things negative about karmayoga) when I was asked to speak of my experiences at YVFA among a couple more students at the valedictory function.

As a goodbye to YVFA, I met my Upanishads teacher and told him how I was upset having got less marks in Upanishads. While the beloved Swamiji thought the marks were good, I said they weren't, only because I got more marks in PYS! I'd taken Datta along and we all had a good laugh. :)

Hari Om tat sat! Jai Sivananda!

सेतू बांधा रे सागरी...

Geet Ramayan is always a pleasure to listen to or go back to when in dire straits. Tonight, ETV Marathi had a singing competition with Geet Ramayan theme. and it surely came as a blessing. One of them sang Setu bandhaare saagari towards the end. This is a song that is sung by the monkeys while building a bridge over the ocean. While listening to this song, a spiritual note struck me.... it may have passed me earlier too, but I may have not noticed it or voiced it much. The bridge that you build across this ocean of life called bhavasaagara is the one of chitta shuddhi. We need to cleanse our minds of all the bad qualities; in a way the mind itself is a monkey that needs to meditate on building that bridge which otherwise keeps jumping here and there, drowned in the ocean of thoughts. The shuddha chitta then becomes that bridge to walk through the seemingly neverending journey, without wetting ourselves one bit in the troubled waters. The journey might still be long, but we are sure to cross over without being involved and frustrated with the storms.

The only question here is whether the stones that we throw in the ocean in order to build the bridge are a committed set or just another thing to do hypocritically.... so far, I've been doing it the latter way, no doubt. As such, going nowhere!

saashtaanga pranaamas to Ga-di-ma and Sudhir Phadke

A blast from the past

Today, while sorting old things to do away with, in order to make space for new things, I found a bunch of memories! These memories were stored in scribbled papers, entrance exam booklets, fee receipts hiding in books, technical and training manuals, practice journals, webpage printouts, chat scripts, random quotes and notes, product literature, salary slips, resumes, visiting cards, etc... the list is almost endless. And as is the case with memories, some are good, some are bad. This time around, however, I cared not much for the bad ones, I've walked over almost all of them however rotten! Among the good ones, I found some paintings and sketches that I'd drawn as a 13-14 year old kid which I want to scan and then, clutter up my blog with them. :) Just a caveat here, almost all of them were copied from cartoon books such as Tintin, Asterix, newspapers, etc, other than a lot of imitations from R.K. Laxman's sketches.

Here's a wonderful poem that I came across scribbled on a piece of paper... I don't recall where I copied it from, possibly a newspaper of a website when there weren't many printers around:

Shattered dreams --by Lisa Richardson
The waters of life
Cascade like shattered dreams
Into rivers of crystal
My emotions take flight
As my soul soars towards the heavens
Carrying pain and regret
Far from their mortal existence
Hopes and dreams
No longer like a beacon before me
They scatter to the winds
Blowing furiously around me
I look towards the future
As I leave behind the past
Only to discover
A mirror image of
Shattered dreams

Musical touch

My life keeps getting a musical touch every once in a while and I'm not talking songs. I had a childhood dream of learning tabla, violin... the works! Of course, I learned nothing of that. I went through a month of guitar, having bought one some ten years back. Some friends learned on it more than I did. Its catching dust lying in the village, still looking new.

I still keep thinking of learning guitar and tabla. A few months back, however, a new instrument took over me: the bansuri. It seemed to be a supremely soothing getaway from the blues. I did some run around with a friend who wanted to fetch a flute and we had a kid in the neighborhood who played pretty good. We even went to a local concert... hmm, now to think of it, I went to a Diwali concert of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia too some years back nearby there! The local concert was short, but it was almost as good as Panditji. Anyway, I'm bring this note into the blog, only to say that I might embed some music, video and more of such into this going-everywhere-yet-nowhere blog of mine! :)

Karunanidhi's hungry strike

Poor Karunanidhi goes on hunger (hungry?) strike with only two coolers and a fan, starting post breakfast and ending pre-lunch. Well, on other days, does he eat throughout the day then?

Thoughts 100

100. I brought home medication to improve memory, but I don't remember to take it!

Mumbai Mirror's bloggers park

There is a newspaper called Mumbai Mirror that runs free with our Times of India subscription. Mostly it carries B and C grade content, except for some changing topics in their bloggers park. Usually they link up three to four blogs with a small extract from each. Well, thats what I thought until today. They linked up my blog in today's edition. The online version reads here.

It seems that the illiterate journalists out there think that all content on web is free, especially blogs; for them its public content. My blog, however, is licensed under Creative Commons. I particularly don't believe in copyrights, being an opensource believer, but I hate it when someone *edits* my content and quotes me so. I may not even mind if someone takes my content as is and doesn't attribute it to me, as much as when they do that editing with my name! This is what Mumbai Mirror did. They changed my content, but worse still, added lines to it! The last line on their extract isn't mine at all! My original content was meant to be a satire and their addition to it screws up the content entirely.

So I have a message for these journos: If you lack the decency of keeping originality or are too dumb to even do copy pasting, then don't be a journalist please! No one put a gun to your head to print my content. You did it yourself, without my approval in the first place... nakal ko bhi akal lagta hai. :)