Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Goose Story

When you see geese flying along in “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone — and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are headed the same way we are.

When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south. Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

What messages do we give when we honk from behind? Finally — and this is important — when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies, and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.
If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Present - It really is a Present!

Present is nothing but this moment, unbiased, unsolicited, neutral and fully spiritual. For it signifies the NOW, HERE where all time stands still and you are just there. But how easy to think of being here in the NOW and how difficult it is, right? Yes, indeed...we are pulled and pushed or rather tossed by the vagaries of the mind; which knows no NOW, and only runs to the past and the future which is its nature.
 It reminds me of the reason for this, as stated by A renowned Dr. at a Yoga Therapy institute called SVYASA (Bangalore), where I stayed some time ago for treatment, She said:

"Speed & Greed are the two reasons for suffering and misery in today's world."

She precisely indicated that the mind is the entity, which uses these attributes for fueling further misery. And that results in all kinds of psychosomatic diseases associated with stress in today's city life. :)

I saw a beautiful Malayalam movie today on TV, which I'd seen before. But, had not paid attention to the dialogue at the end of the movie relating to this article. Today it so happened that as I was in the middle of this blog, I was called for lunch by my wife. As was watching the movie, got lost in it for the beautiful messages it was delivering all through out. At the climax of the movie, one of the actresses who embarks on travel is questioned by a foreigner as to how can she be so detached in life shaving her head and wandering. To this the actress says - "I'm not detached, i just love my life. I've not regrets of the past and no anxiety for the future, because I just Love the PRESENT!"

Maybe it was a coincidence for me to remember the truth again.

So, let me quote few quotes from the famous Eckhart Tolle who is the author of POWER OF NOW:

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” 
― Eckhart TolleThe Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” 
― Eckhart TolleThe Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love - even the most simple action.” 
― Eckhart TolleThe Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

So, all the above talk of the same supreme truth, but then it always is an eluding phenomenon we succeed only few times consciously, not owing to our not wanting it, but the illusory spell of the mind we are under.
So, truly her says that -
“It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living.” 

Now how to go about it in a simple way? Maybe the below can help-

The Present Principle is a 7-step model for getting our days off to a better start. It’s a model which can be used to better hack our mornings, and I hope it will inspire you to build a better morning routine that sets you up for success. Here’s how it works:
(I start my days with a cup of tea in hand, and a quick prayer of guidance, thanks, and direction. if prayer isn’t your thing, then just take a moment to PAUSE. take in life, and breath out your woes)
(After prayer, my mornings start with reading. A bible, a devotional, and a a bit of motivating reading are my tools of choice.)
(Following time in reading and prayer, I express my own thoughts. Use a journal, a post-it, and put pen to paper to share your thoughts and expressions.)
(Check in your day, and scan your week at large. I spend 5-10 minutes doing both in this time.)
(Moving is key. Even if it doesn’t happen in the morning, getting in exercise of some sort into your day is essential to be happy, healthy, and grounded.)
(Do one thing today that truly nourishes you. Take a bath. Read a novel. Play with a baby. Do it for you.)
(How did you do? How many of the seven steps were you able to complete today? Can you do better tomorrow?)

SO -

“Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.”


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How Lord Shiva became NEELKANTH!

The story of Shiva consuming the deadly poison to save the Universe and establishing the new doctrine –

He who has a power; has a responsibility

Brahma created the Universe, the mother earth and lives, Gods (The Good power) and Demons (The Evil powers) and their most beautiful creation of all – humans. The humans often offered prayers and yagnas to God, which were known to boost their powers. Demons with the aim of conquering the universe and control earth (where human lived) and Swarg lok (heaven the abode of Gods) often attacked and tortured humans (who were their natural victim as humans supported God). To save themselves, humans would inevitably
turn to Gods and this would give rise to Deva-sur Sangram (Battle between Gods and Demons). More often than not Demons would emerge victorious over the God. The secret lies in the hand of the Demon Guru (Teacher and adviser) Sukracharya (A great devotee to Lord Shiva) who got a power from Shiva called Mrita-Sanjivini (That can bring a dead back to life). This ensured that no demon would ever be killed. In absence of such a power God always had a loosing hand. The solution? Were the miseries insufficient
for Gods to incur another curse? It so happened that once the king of Gods, Indra was traveling on his elephant when he met saint Durvasa. Durvasa offered him a flower garland which Indra in light vein placed on his elephants head and the animal threw it on the ground. Durvasa, who was well known for his short tempers, took the incident as an insult and the arrogance of Gods. He cursed Gods “Let all richness and power of yours be gone”. The Godess of prosperity Laxmi at once vanished in the depth of ocean.
What could be a better opportunity for demons? They forced the Gods out of the heaven.
Gods, cursed, defeated and demoralised, turned to their deity – Lord Vishnu, The Protector. Vishnu suggested a solution – Sagar Manthan (Churning the ocean to get precious elements out) to get the most precious of all resource – Amrit  or nectar (A Drink to make one immortal.) But the task was too difficult to be accomplished by Gods alone, in other words without the joint effort of the natural rivals Gods and Demons.

Demons were invited for joint venture and to share whatever comes out of the great ocean. Sukracharya was first reluctant as they never needed Amrit. But when pointed out that the demons power would collapse once Sukracharya dies since he is the only person who could bring others to lives but not himself. The Sagar Manthan was agreed upon. It was decided that the mountain called Mandrachal would be used as pivot and the great snake Vasuki (the garland or Lord Shiva) as the rope to turn the pivot. The Gods and Demons would pull the snake from either side to stir the ocean. But the Big question… who will face the snake and the deadly venoms? Narad, played the trick and flattered the demons to accept the head portion.
The efforts started, and Sagar yielded many valuable elements, jewels, treasures etc. which were divided among Gods and Demons. Then came Godess Laxmi from the ocean whom Lord Vishnu took as his wife. At the end came the much desired Amrit (nectar), which Lord Vishnu by his trick ensured only for Gods. But churning of ocean is not the story of obtaining the nectar. So let us go back to the real story. Before Amrit, came the deadly poison. The  poison was so deadly it became a danger to the extend of  finishing the entire creation. It was named kaalkut – the manifestation of death. It was growing uncontrollable and causing unrest to the entire universe. Whom then, God and demons turn to? Who had the ability to control this weapon of devastation? Who except Maha-mrityunjay (Lord Shiva) himself? All turned to Bhole-nath (Shiva). Shiva
took the universe under his guardianship and swallowed the entire poison. The poison of course couldn’t bring any harm to Mahadev Shiva, but so deadly was the poison that it got accumulated in his throat and turned it blue… and Ashutosh Shiva got a new name Neelkanth (God with blue throat).

The episode of churning of ocean is not really about getting the nectar (amrit) but it the story about Shiva’s consuming the poison. It is the story of establishing a tradition:

He who has the power has got a responsibility.

When others were fighting over getting Amrit, Lord Shiva swallowed the poison. Nilkantha aspect of Shiva continues to inspire Indian culture from ancient times where people have put themselves in trouble to save and support those in need. In many a cases the reason was capability and not a matter of duty.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Belly Breathing Exercise

1. Place one hand just above your belt line, and the other on your chest, right over the breastbone. You can use your hands as a simple biofeedback device. Your hands will tell you what part of your body, and what muscles, you are using to breathe.

2. Open your mouth and gently sigh, as if someone had just told you something really annoying. As you do, let your shoulders and the muscles of your upper body relax, down, with the exhale. The point of the sigh is not to completely empty your lungs. It's just to relax the muscles of your upper body.

3. Close your mouth and pause for a few seconds.

4. Keep your mouth closed and inhale slowly through your nose by pushing your stomach out. The movement of your stomach precedes the inhalation by just the tiniest fraction of a second, because it's this motion which is pulling the air in. When you've inhaled as much air as you can comfortably (without throwing your upper body into it), just stop. You're finished with that inhale.

5. Pause. How long? You decide. I'm not going to give you a specific count, because everybody counts at a different rate, and everybody has different size lungs. Pause briefly for whatever time feels comfortable. However, be aware that when you breathe this way, you are taking larger breaths than you're used to. For this reason, it's necessary to breathe more slowly than you're used to. If you breathe at the same rate you use with your small, shallow breaths, you will probably feel a little lightheaded from over breathing, and it might make you yawn. Neither is harmful. They're just signals to slow down. Follow them!

6. Open your mouth. Exhale through your mouth by pulling your belly in.
7. Pause.
8. Continue with Steps 4-7.

This exercise leads to feeling relaxed and calms you down. It is just the antidote needed for tension and stress of the city. This is the basic breathing variation which forms a good foundation for Pranayama (one limb of Yoga).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Travel and Self-discovery

Travel has been always part of my life. How it refreshes me, washes the mental dirt off along with resurrecting the mundane monotonous existence is something which I discovered only few years back. And the sooner I realized, took to it like an amphibian wanting the existence in both the worlds for living at ease.
Travel and it's effects on the human psyche can never be put on paper, it is truly beyond words and expressions.
And I believe in Mark Twain's following quote:

T"ravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." - Mark Twain

How much more truer than factual existence it is as a proverb! Ok, coming back to the normal perspective of travel; it is not as much in the travel destination, but the sheer bliss and learning of the journey which is like catching the sail against splendid waves and becoming one with the entire paraphernalia associated. It is a stage where the formal cognition and meta-cognition stops. What a liberation?! :)

That's why I love traveling and exploring. And it reminds me of one famous quote by Robert louis Stevenson

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

I am going to mention the favorite of my travels or the places which take me beyond the normal "travel". These are around Bangalore and some in North part of India specifically in the state of Uttaranchal which is also called Dev Bhoomi (maybe that is why I find a transcendental touch there every time I go). Sad that it was stuck by natural calamity and lot of people lost their lives.

There are quite a number of places in my kitty, but am going to mention only those that are special 'although' none are insignificant. :)

I traveled as a novice first to ShivanaSamudram and Talakad which is off Bangalore by 130-150 kms. Shivanasamudram has couple of waterfalls called Gaganachukki & Barachukki, one of which has Asia's first hydel power plant Engineered by the Great Sir. M. Vishweshwaraiah. The first fall Gaganachukki is magnanimous in its look and movement and has been featured few times in Outlook Traveler.
The second one is in a secluded area. Enroute you can find some very old temples which are centuries old and I presume there was a flourishing Kingdom nearby.
Finishing these two falls, we stayed overnight near a Dargah which is a bustling local place behind the Gaganachukki falls. You get fresh water sumptuous fried fish and parattas over here, which kept us occupied in the evening. After that we got a small 1 room stay for four of us for 70 bucks (damn cheap eh?!:), which was somebody's house I guess or some shed.
Coming up from there on the inter-junction of the main road there is a Banyan tree which looks and feels mystical in the evenings.
In the morning we checked out came to the Banyan tree, sat there for a while and proceeded towards the excavated temple town of Talakad which is on the bank of the river Cauvery.
The ride/drive is through corn fields and is one to cherish with so many paddy fields on the way. The place itself is near the river but is a sand dune haven with trees forming a forest cover. In between these sand dunes is from where they've unearthed/excavated ancient temples. One among that is a supposedly cursed temple, which even though ingenious in architecture - has to be excavated frequently, owing to it getting submerged in sandy ground every few months. The view from here of the trees around and the call of some exotic birds is a refresher like no other. (the topography of the place is a total contrast to logic, and the sand dunes as per legend is because of the cursed land-please refer wiki for the info)
Once when I was at this particular submerging temple, an archaeologist decoded an old inscription which said - "A royal dancer lady will be dancing everyday 5.30 am here for a certain period as per the deal sanctioned by the Royal care taker, and she was given a small pouch of Gold coins in return."
After this you proceed through the sand dunes to the other excavated temples and then to the back of the river for some tea and snack. You can get an interesting coracle ride as well here, and it is safe as the waters are shallow.
The ride/drive back if in the night times is more interesting, as you can stop at tea shops, eateries and fill your forgotten stomachs. And if you have cloudless night, then like we saw you could see a starlit serene sky all the way along.

This wonderful trip initiated my Travel Odyssey and the love for architecturally beautiful and sculptural places in natural surroundings. :)

After this I have had the privilege to cover a number of places in Karnatka itself, which I think is a Traveler/Explorer's delight.
Some of the Prominent places are the following of which I'll be writing one at a time shortly:

- Hampi
- Belur & Halebeedu
- Badami, Pattadakal & Aihole
- Siddarabetta
- Madhugiri fort near Tumkur
- Maidanahalli Black Buck Sanctuary
- Lepakshi
- Turahalli
- Bheemeshwari
- Sakleshpur Railway track trek
- Chikmagalur from a detailed perspective (many offbeat places of interest)
- Melukote
- Shravanabelagola
- Kunti Betta (famed place where Pandavas lived for some time during exile)
- Pandavapura and Tonnur Kere
- Western Ghats attractions
- Tippu's fort in Sakleshpur
- Nandi hills
- Antargange caves
- Caves and a hidden fort in Anegundi (Hampi)

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Shloka from Bhagavad Gita - The Song of the Lord!

It has been clearly established by Lord Krishna that those who perform Vedic rituals with self interest motives are unable to extricate themselves from samsara or the endless cycle of birth and death. Whereas the devotees of the Lord Krishna being completely free from self interest and ulterior motives accomplish the four goals of human existence artha or wealth, kama or pleasure, dharma or righteousness and moksa or liberation by the grace of the God Himself. The word ananyas meaning exclusive denotes that such devotees have no other goal than the Supreme Lord, thinking only of service to Him day and night with full heart and soul.

ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham

We are not saints or jnani. We are having many duties to the family, to office etc.,This sloka, the verse of Bhagavat Gita did not tell to sit all the 24 hours thinking of god.we should not take this as a blanket assurance to all, to abandon their duties and expect Lord to take care of him/ herself by just spending time in spiritual activity. 

Here the wonderful words- "Yogakshemam Vahamyaham" tells that God will take care of those who constantly contemplate on Him. Sri Krishna explains this in Geetha as follows.
" Those who desire My eternal association precluding all else meditate on Me with exclusive devotion; Those persons, I insure the uniting of their individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness perpetually."

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, “I shall ensure the safety and well-being of my devotees!” And He keeps his word, without fail. Krishna did not tell to put pending all the works or not suggesting to stay away from all the works, or he is not saying to attend fully only on him. He says not to forget god. He says not to think other unwanted matters. 

Krishna says to remember Him sincerely and selflessly while performing his own duties.The meaning is not to forget God and says to remember him wherever you are and whatever you are attending.

Who is a Devotee ? - By Lord Vishnu

There is an interesting folktale that explains god’s judgement of devotion. Sage Narada used to always be proud of the fact that he always chants ‘narayana’(lord Vishnu’s name) and is Lord Vishnu’s greatest devotee. One day sage Narada asked Lord Vishnu whom he considered his biggest devotee, in the expectation that it would be himself. But, lord Vishnu told that there is a particular farmer who is his greatest devotee. Sage narada was stunned to know that Lord Vishnu didn’t consider him as his best devotee. He was even more shocked to know that the greatest devotee was not a saint or a great king but just a normal farmer. Sage narada enquired what made the farmer special. Lord Vishnu took sage Narada to meet the farmer from the sky. Lord Vishnu told narada to observe the farmer for a whole day and then return to Heaven. 

After completing the observation and returning, Lord Vishnu asked Narada what he saw. Narada said that the famrmer didn’t perform any rituals or pooja. The farmer only chanted the lord’s name thrice a day and not more. Sage narada continued and then asked, how is this famrer a greater devotee than himself who always chants god’s name.

To this lord Vishnu smiled and gave Sage narada a little pot full of water. Lord Vishnu told sage Narada to walk 25 steps with this pot on his head but on the condition that a single drop of water should not drop out. Sage narada completed the task as he was told. 

Now, Lord Vishnu asked sage Narada how many times he remembered god during this task. Sage narada was embarrassed and confessed that he hadn’t thought of god even once since he was busy making sure the water doesn’t spill. Lord Vishnu smiled and said “the greatness of the farmer is that he sincerely and selflessly remembered god while performing his own duties. This pleases me the most and such a devotee is of utmost greatness for me”.Sage Narada lost all his ego and praised the greatness of lord Vishnu.

What characteristics are essential for a devotee according to you? Please do share your views in the comments.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Pandavas in Exile - wisdom tidbits

The Pandavas in Exile

When the Pandavas were in a forest called Dwaithavana, one day the conversation
turned to their condition. Draupadi mildly objected that Yudhishtira's tolerance,
goodness, compassion and other noble qualities had rather exceeded reasonable limits. She argued that indignation was a necessary virtue of the Kshathriyas who were warriors; she said that the Dharma, which he was upholding, had not protected him. After listening to her, Yudhishtira said, "Draupadi, only we may suffer it we are too virtuous. But if our anger gets out of control, it harms others and us also. Anger is evil; all kinds of calamities result from it. Dharma should be followed for its own sake. We should not expect any benefit from it. "Draupadi was not satisfied with what he said. Bhima also supported her views. They both wanted to raise an army and get back the kingdom by fighting with the Kauravas. Yudhishtira pacified them, and said:

"Bhima, both of you speak in this way because of your sorrows. Ponder over this. I had to take part in the match of dice, because I was bound by the code of kings. Shakuni's deceit was responsible for my defeat. It is our bounden duty to live in the forest, according to the terms we accepted. I cannot give up the path of Dharma just to please you, or to get back the kingdom before the stipulated period. We shall have our good times also. Let us bide our time and fight, it necessary, to get back our kingdom. Humility adds to the beauty of learning; in the same way, patience is an ornament to prowess. "

The Pandavas never stayed in one place for long in the forest. They visited many holy places. Wherever they went, they were warmly received and honored by saints and sages alike. They narrated sacred puranic (mythological) stories. As they listened to the stories Yudhishtira's faith in Dharma was being strengthened; and his brothers were getting mental peace.