Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Story of Nachiketa Part 8 (Kathopnishad)

After arriving at the palace of Yam-Raj, Nachiketa was informed that the Lord was not present, and will be back after three days. Nachiketa sat on the footsteps and waited for three days and nights; without any food or drink.
Yam Raj, the Lord of death returned after three days and found a young, pale boy sitting at the doorsteps of his house who was turned away by his father, shouting in anger “To the Death shall I give thee”.  

The Lord must have been pleased to know that Nachiketa had voluntarily come to offer himself in the service of the Lord, with a keen desire to learn about ‘Death’. But he was also angry that the boy was not attended properly by his consorts and servants, and was not given any food or drink. 
He says to his family and servants:

              वैश्वानरः प्रविशति अतिथि ब्राह्मणो गृहान 
            तस्यैताम शान्तिं कुर्वन्ति हर वैवस्वतोदकम 

Vaishvaanarah Pravishati Atithi Baraahmano grihaan
Tasya etaam Shaantim Krvanti, Har vaivasvat- udakam
                                                            Shloka 7 - chapter one

“A Brahman (learned, wise person) guest enters a house like fire. 
 The hosts (are supposed to) offer water to quieten them”

The word ‘Brahman’ does not mean a person who belongs to a specific heritage lineage. It implies to an intellectual or Pundit; learned and cultured person with a pure and kind heart. 

Guru Kabeer ji says: 
Kahe Kabeer jo Brahm vichaare
So Brahman kahiyat hamaare 
“Kabeer says the one who contemplates upon Brahm (the Almighty Lord) is called Brahman among us”

Lord Krishna says:
                    चातुर्वण्यं मया सृष्टम गुणकर्म विभागशः 
"Chaatur varnyam mayaa srushtam Guna karma vibhagashah"

The four divisions of people have been created; based on the Guna (character) and Karma (profession) 
                                                              (Bhagavad Gita 4:13)
In other words, this division is not based on birth or family lineage; but on talent, action and profession. 
So, in the 7th verse of Kathopanishad, Dharam Raj is actually saying that a guest, especially an intellectual and well-cultured guest, must be treated with respect and courtesy – and should be offered food and water. 
In fact, this is one of the major characteristic of Indian culture.
A phrase ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ - Atithi or guest should be treated as God – was (and still is) well nurtured and taught to the young Indian minds from the early childhood. 
I remember my grandmother, after cooking the day’s meal, always took two servings of everything out, and kept them aside. 
At her request, an elderly Brahman lady, wife of our ‘Kul-Purohit’ used to come to my grandparent’s home every day around noon and my grandmother would give her those two servings of freshly cooked food with folded hands – with respect and gratitude. 
No one was supposed to eat lunch until the food had been served to her – to be taken for her family. My grandmother, like all other religious and traditional women of her time, believed that one revered guest must be offered some fresh food every day– that is whatever we eat, and before we eat. It was considered an offering to God and was always offered with humility and gratitude. 
During my childhood, I always saw that even if a guest arrived – unannounced or even at some odd hours - my mother, aunts and grandmothers always welcomed them and quickly and happily prepared some food - with whatever was available at home - to serve them. This was a common scene in almost every house, every family I knew – a wonderful tradition which is still being followed by many.

Westerners, and even the first generation of Indians who are born in foreign lands (or under western influence), always wonder why Indians - especially well cultured ladies of the Indian households always offer and even insist upon having some food or drinks to anyone who comes to visit. In fact, some people, especially some ladies, insist so much on serving more food - that the guests may even feel uncomfortable – that they are being forced, against their will, to eat more.
Like anything else, meaning of the old cultural traditions should also be understood properly and some wisdom should be used while following them. Excess or over-doing of anything is not good - it loses its charm and may even have adverse effect. 

Dharam Raj was upset because Nachiketa was not attended properly and courteously by his consorts and staff. He knew Nachiketa was not an ordinary visitor. He had been patiently waiting for Dharam Raj at his doorsteps for three days and nights without any food or drink - which shows his firm determination, self-control, patience and discipline – a quality that a good and worthy student must possess in order to learn. 
Unfortunately, both of these traits – treating guests with due respect and humility by the households, and having firm determination, patience and discipline among the students – seem to be vanishing. 

Dharam Raj says: "a guest enters a house like fire… and must be offered water to quieten him". 
It may simply be understood in the context of geography of central India, that a guest, who has travelled from far in the hot weather should be first offered water to soothe him. 
However, metaphorically there are much deeper meanings of this verse. 
First, in the Vedic traditions, God is worshipped with fire; in the form of Yagna – havan or yagya. Even Buddhist and Hindu temples, and Catholic and many other Christian churches also use burning lamps or candles as sacred objects during the worship. 
By saying ‘the guest enters a house like fire’, Dharam Raj is suggesting that a guest should also be treated as sacred as fire. 

Secondly, fire - if used properly and cautiously provides light, warmth and heat to cook our food – is very useful and beneficial.
But if misused or mishandled, it can burn the house and all belongings - and can be very harmful and devastating. 
Similarly, a wise guest or visitor treated with respect can provide us wisdom, happiness and many other blessings. On the other hand, by mistreating the visitors, not only we lose healthy and loving relationship with them, but we lose our own respect as well. 

All thoughts; well-wishes or ill-wishes, travel like waves and affect the other minds and surroundings. Stronger the thought, stronger is its effect. 
Dharam Raj, a great Guru, warns: ‘a guest enters a house like fire …fetch water to quieten him’. 
Here, just like fire, water is also symbolic. In all ancient cultures, water is used as a symbol of humility. 
Therefore, the first lesson being taught by Dharam Raj: 
Treat the guests with respect and courtesy – serve them with humility (like water).
Keep them happy, and be blessed with peace and happiness. 

                                 ‘Rajan Sachdeva’

To be continued:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

बख़्श दो गर ख़ता करे कोई Bakhsh do gar khata karay koi

              न सुनो गर बुरा कहे कोई 
              न कहो गर बुरा करे कोई 
              रोक लो गर ग़लत चले कोई 
              बख़्श दो गर ख़ता करे कोई 
                         'असद उल्लाह खान ग़ालिब'

Na suno, gar bura kahay koi
Na kaho, gar bura karay koi
Rok lo, gar galat chalay koi
Bakhsh do, gar khata karay koi
              'Asad Ullah Khan Ghalib'

Hear not if evil someone speaks,
Retaliate not if evil someone does.
Restrain them if someone goes astray
Forgive, if someone is at fault. 

نہ سنو، گر برا کہے کوئی
 نہ کہو، گر برا کرے کوئی
 روک لو، گر غلط چلے کوئی
 بخش دو، گر خطا کرے کوئی. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Happy Holidays ....And The Most Beautiful Prayer

ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः 
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु
मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग्भवेत् ।

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niraamaya
Sarve Bhadraani Pashyantu
Maa Kashchid-Dukh Bhaag Bhavait
Om Shanti - Shanti  - Shantihi

 May All be Happy and prosperous.
 May All be Free from disease, illness and ailments.
 May All See Goodness everywhere and in everyone
 May no one Suffer in anyway or be miserable.
 Peace - Peace - Peace

This is a true humanitarian prayer… nay – true spiritual prayer. 
It’s neither asking for the welfare of one’s own self, nor for one’s own family & community - or for the people from same religion or country. It’s a prayer for All – for the whole world. 
Moreover, asking for All to see Goodness everywhere. 
Not only in people, but in Nature as well … in everything- that is all living and non-living beings. 

Wondering why Peace is repeated three times?

There can be many different answers.
Here are three:

Peace with our self – people – and Surroundings.

Peace with our Past, Present, and Future.

Peace with our body, mind, and spirit. 

May there be happiness, prosperity and peace everywhere.
Not only during this holiday season,
but always.

          'Rajan Sachdeva'

Friday, December 16, 2016

Story of Nachiketa Part 7 (Kathopnishad)

Knowing this, Nachiketa fearlessly embarks on his journey to meet ‘Yama’, the Lord of death.

There is a missing link here in the story. The author of the Kathopanishad does not tell what happened between the sixth and the seventh shlokas. In the previous shloka, Nachiketa decides to embarks on his journey to meet the Yama, and in the next - after meeting Nachiketa, Yama, the Lord of death is scolding his servants.

The same story is also narrated elsewhere in the Vedas, where we find a little more detail.  When Nachiketa arrived at Lord Yama’s palace, he was told that the Lord was ‘out of town’ and will not be back for three days. Nachiketa sat in front of the house and waited for three days and nights – without any food or drink. 

The Upanishad, without mentioning the above occurrence, picks up the story from the point when Lord Yama comes back and finds a pale young boy sitting at the front door of his house – hungry and thirsty. 

However, many questions arise in mind at this point. 
How did Nachiketa arrived at Lord Yama’s place? 
What route and mode of transportation did he take?
Did he meet Lord of death in body or in spirit? 
Spirit does not need any food or drink. Since, according to the story, Nachiketa was very weak from hunger and thirst, he must have gone there with his physical body. Is it really possible for someone to visit ‘Lord of Death’ in the physical body?

Why Lord of death was ‘out of town’… and how could he come back after three days? So many people die at every moment in the different parts of the world, and supposedly, the Lord of death takes the souls of everyone to the next world. How can he come back to his home and rest even for a second? But in this story, he does come back after three days and has all the time in the world to answer Nachiketa’s questions and teach him the ways of spirituality and immortality.

The Upanishad does not answer any of these questions. 

Many will say “This is just a story and should not be taken literally. We should simply focus on the lesson it is trying to teach.” 
Others would say “anything and everything is possible” 

I believe, over the period of time, the concept of ‘Yam-Raj’ also known as ‘Dharam-Raj’ has been changed and distorted. 

According to the Sanskrit dictionary, Yam means ‘self-control’ and may also be used for ‘the means of achieving self-control’.  Patanjali Yoga Shastra talks about five Yams; good conducts to acquire, and five ‘Niyams’ (opposite of Yam) or prohibitions to be given up.
Since Raj means king, Yam-Raj means the one who is the king of self-control. Since the king is supposed to protect and take care of his subjects, 'Yam-Raj' could also mean the one who teaches and helps others to achieve ‘self-control’. Similarly, Dharam-Raj means the king or the highest authority of the Dharma. 

Both these definitions, in fact, define the personality of ‘The True Guru’. Who else - other than the Guru - can be the highest authority of Dharma and self-control? Guru, not only teaches dharma and self-control, but also takes care and helps each disciple to achieve his or her goal personally, on ‘one-to-one’ bases - as we will see in Nachiketa’s encounter with Yam-Raj.

Later, it seems the concept of ‘Lord of death’ was also added and made synonymous to the words Yam-Raj or Dharam-Raj. Which, in fact, is another function of the Guru; to take the disciple from 'this world to the next world'...that is from  ‘the physical and materialistic world to the spiritual world’. 

Somehow, over the period of time, the picture of ‘Yam-Raj or Dharam-Raj as a kind, gentle and loving Guru got distorted and disappeared. And instead, a very scary picture of Yam-raj as a cruel lord of death - with big teeth, and long horns, who comes riding on a buffalo to pull the soul out of the body- became popular.

As the next part of the story unfolds, we will find out that the Yam-Raj, whom Nachiketa visited, was not really a scary ‘Lord of death’ who cruelly pulls the souls out of bodies. In fact, he must have visited a very gentle, loving, kind and benevolent Guru who taught Nachiketa the ways of spirituality and how to become free from fear of death and achieve immortality. 

               ‘Rajan Sachdeva’

 To be Continued ……. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Thoughts

Three beautiful thoughts  

1. None can destroy iron, but its own rust can! 

   Likewise, none can destroy a person, but his own mindset can.

2. Ups and downs in life are very important to keep us going,
    because a straight line even in an E.C.G. means we are not alive.

3. The same Boiling Water that hardens the egg, will soften the Potato!

It depends upon Individual's reaction to stressful circumstances!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Story of Nachiketa Part 6 (Kathopnishad)

Nachiketa knows from his knowledge of scriptures and personal experience that death is not some unique, uncommon or unnatural phenomenon. 
He knows that death is inevitable, but more importantly, he knows that it’s not ‘the end of the life’. He reminds himself:

अनुपश्य यथा पूर्वे, प्रतिपश्य तथा अपरे । 
सस्यमिव मर्त्य: पच्यते - सस्यमिवाजायते पुनः  

“Anupashya Yathaa poorvay, Pratipashya Tathaa aparay
 Sasyam iva Mratyah pachyatay, Sasyam ivaajaayatay punah”
                                                        (Kathopanishad 1-6)

“Look at our forefathers in the past, and look at the others now.
 Like the corn decays the mortal and like corn it’s born again” 

In the first sentence, by saying “Look at the forefathers in the past and look at others now” (Anupashya - remembering the past, and PratiPashya -  considering the present) Nachiketa might be contemplating on two important points. 

1. Look at what happened to the forefathers and others in the past; they are all gone and many others around are also going (dying).
2. Look at the forefathers and remember what they did, how they acted. And also, consider how the other wise people at the present time act now. 

We all know that our parents, grandparents and other loved ones have gone or will be gone; that one day we will be gone too. Yet this feeling creates a sadness and sort of depression in our mind. 
Hearing his father’s words “to death shall I give you” must have created some sadness and depression in Nachiketa’s mind too. 
Normally, sadness and depression makes people go down; mentally and physically. But many people, when faced with a challenge of ‘Life and death situation’- get courage, strength and great ideas to handle the situation. 
Like many other great people in the history, such as Guatam Buddha, Mahaveer Jain and Guru Nanak, this feeling of sadness or depression inspired Nachiketa to find out the ‘Reality’ and ‘the meaning of life’. 

Secondly, Nachiketa wants to remember what his forefathers did; what they believed and how they acted. He also wants to consider what other great and wise people of his time believe and how they act. Since he comes from a hereditary lineage of great Brahmans (Learned, scholars) he knows that death is not ‘the end’ of this life. He remembers the Scriptures: 
“Like the corn decays the mortal, and like corn it’s born again”

(Just like the corn or vegetation, people die and born again.) 

By quoting the Scriptures, he confirms his belief in Reincarnation - that the life does not end with the physical death. 

Reincarnation and theory of ‘Karma’ are the two major aspects of Vedantic philosophy, that are followed by all the major religions of Indian sub-continent, such as Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism including Nirankari mission and Radha Soami etc.
All religions believe that the Soul is immortal. 
Most Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that the soul will continue to live in the same physical form – but in spirit, like a shadow – along with their family and loved ones in heaven or hell for eternity. 

However, according to the Vedas and Vedanta, Soul or Consciousness moves on to live in another body. After the death of the body-according to the Karma- each individual Soul or consciousness takes another birth in a different form at a different place and time. This is known as ‘Reincarnation’. 

Even according to science, nothing is ever destroyed. Matter and Energy constantly change their form and characteristics but are never destroyed. Everything is re-cycled. The five elements; earth, fire, water, air and space, that body is consisted of, decay after the body dies and merge into nature to be re-cycled again.
According to Vedanta and Buddhism, ‘consciousness’ too, never dies. It also continues in a different form, in a different life. 

Knowing this, Nachiketa fearlessly embarks on his journey to meet ‘Yama’, the angel of death

                                   ‘Rajan Sachdeva’

   (To be Continued)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Story of Nachiketa Part 5 (Kathopnishad)

During the conversation, Nachiketa casually asked his father "since you are giving away your possessions and belongings to these old Brahman priests, to whom will you give me?"

Surprisingly, he was bombarded with the most unexpected and cruel answer by his father "To death shall I give you".

Nachiketa does not seem to be an ordinary child. Instead of letting his emotions cloud his judgment and make him confused and angry, he starts to think rationally. First, surely his father does not want him to die, secondly, he knows from his knowledge of scriptures and personal experience that death is not some uncommon, unnatural or even avoidable phenomenon.

He says to himself:
                 बहूनामेमि  प्रथमो,  बहूनामेमि मध्यमः 
                 किं स्विदयमस्य कर्तव्यं यन्मया अद्य  करिष्यति 
Bakhunamemi prathmo, bahunamemi madhyamah
Kim swid yamasya kartavyam yanmayaadya krishyati
                                                (Kathopnishad 1-5)

"Of many, I may go first (before); of many I may go midst. (with or after them)
 What is there for Yama to do, which he (Yama) can now do by me (or through me)?"

In other words, he knows that he may go before or after many others, yet, he is contemplating that there must be a reason for his father to say those words now; at this particular moment.
He wants to understand and obey his father’s wish, without questioning him. Surely, his loving father could not have any ill-wishes towards his son, so he is wondering "what is there, which will be accomplished by Yama though me, to whom I am being sent by my father."

Everyone is afraid of death. Most people do not feel comfortable even talking about it. But here is this young boy, who is thinking so wisely, and analyzing the situation in a very matured manner.

I remember, during the last few weeks of her life, my mother said to me that she knew her time is up and she wants to be prepared and ready for the next phase. 
I asked her "why are you thinking and talking about all that stuff? 
She said "do you remember your school days? Few days before the final exams, you always used to get so worried and scared, and I used to tell you that you don't need to be scared. All you have to do is study and prepare properly, and be ready for it. Now it's my turn. My end time is approaching soon and instead of being scared, I want to be ready, and I want you to help me prepare for it".

I was astonished by her wisdom and courage.

However, Nachiketa is thinking even a step further; in fact, at a different realm. There is no sense of fear at all in his mind. Rather there is a hint of positivity in his thoughts when he says "what is there, which will be accomplished by Yama though me, to whom I am being sent by my father."

                                         'Rajan Sachdeva'

(To Be Continued)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Passing Judgement

A lovely little girl was holding two apples in her hands.
Her mom came in and softly asked her little daughter with a smile; my sweetie, could you give your mum one of your apples?
The girl looked up at her mom for some seconds, then she suddenly took a quick bite on one apple, and then quickly on the other.
Mom felt the smile on her face freeze. She tried hard not to reveal her disappointment.
Then the little girl handed one of her bitten apples to her mom, and said: mummy, here you are. This is the sweeter one.

No matter who you are, how experienced you are, and how knowledgeable you think you are, never pass your judgement too quickly. Give others the privilege to explain themselves.                             
Never jump to conclusions; what you see may not be the reality. Which is why we should never focus on the surface and judge others without understanding them first.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Giridhar ke Rang Raachi

Sakhi ri mai to Giridhar ke rang raachi

Sooraj jayego, Chandaa jayego, jayegi dharan akaashi
Pavan Paani dono jayenge, Atal mera Avinaashi 

Jin ke piya pardes basat hain, likh likh bhejen paati
Mora piya more sang basat hai - kahin na aati jaati

Peehar basoon, na basoon saasu ghar, Satgur shabd sangaati 
Guru milyo Ravidas Nirguniya- 'Meera' Hari rang raati                                                                                            'Sant Meera Bai'

Paati      =         Letter
Peehar   =        Parent's home
Saasu ghar =  In-laws home
Nirguniya  =  Philosophy of Formeless & attribute-less God

गिरिधर के रंग राची

सखी री मैं तो गिरिधर के रंग राची 

सूरज जायेगो, चंदा जायेगो जाएगी धरण अकाशी 
पवन पानी दोनों जाएंगे, अटल मेरा अविनाशी 

जिन के पिया परदेस बसत हैं  लिखि लिखि भेजें पाती 
मोरा पिया मोरे संग बसत है,  कहीं ना आती जाती 

पीहर बसूँ ना बसूँ सासु घर,  सतगुर शब्द संगाती 
गुरु मिलयो रविदास निरगुनिया 'मीरा ' हरि रंग राती 

       पाती ……… letters 

      पीहर   ……  Parent's home 

      संगाती    .......   संगत In the company of Saints

       निरगुनिया      ....... of Nirgun Philosophy ... Formless & Attribute-less

हम दुआ लिखते रहे - Hum Duaa Likhtay Rahay

हम दुआ लिखते रहे - वो दग़ा पढ़ते रहे  एक नुक़्ते ने महरम से मुजरिम कर दिया  Hum duaa likhtay rahay - vo daghaa padhtay rahay Ek nuqtay nay...