The Greatness Of America

Question: Can you tell us something about the predominant qualities of America?

Sri Chinmoy: In America, the dynamic vital, but not the aggressive vital, is of paramount importance. There are various places in the world where the aggressive vital is more to the fore, but here in America I see the dynamic vital most of the time. Again, you have to know that we are still imperfect. The vital is like a knife. With a knife we can cut a fruit and share it with others. Let us say that that sharing is done by the dynamic vital. With the same knife, if I stab you, then that is the aggressive vital. The same instrument can be dynamic or aggressive.

I appreciate America for its dynamism. If you are dynamic, you run towards your goal. If you do not know where the goal is, then you may run from this side to that side, but it is better to move than to remain static. There are many people in India and other parts of the world who are wallowing in the pleasures of idleness. They live in eternal time. They think that one day God will come and stand before them and say, “All right, since you could not think of Me, it is My duty to think of you.” But that is absurd.

Americans are running. They are not sure of the goal, but they are constantly on the move. They go to one side and run into a wall and get hurt. Then they go to another side, and the goal is not there, so they get another blow. But at least they go. If they sit still, worrying that perhaps on this side there is a wall or on that side there is a hole, then they will not make any progress at all. This dynamism is the thing that I deeply appreciate and admire in America.

I have hope for the places where I notice dynamism. But there are places where there is no dynamism, and I have very little hope for their progress. In Europe presently, people still live in the mind. The mind is not a bad thing. The mind can be a very good instrument, later on, but not now. The mind that we are now using is the physical mind, which constantly doubts and suspects. It is limited and full of darkness. But there are other higher minds — the illumined mind, the intuitive mind, the overmind. We are not using these higher minds right now. First we have to live in the heart and bring the soul’s light into the mind. Europeans are mental people. They find it difficult to appreciate the heart’s qualities. Some, however, are trying hard to open their hearts.

Another good quality of Americans is that they appreciate everything, like children. A child appreciates everything without discrimination. God is a divine Child. He appreciates everything. When His son or daughter gives Him anything, He is so highly pleased, even if it is just a grain of sand. He says, “If you had wanted to keep that grain of sand for yourself, you could have, but you gave it to Me.” Americans are like that, too. America has a big heart. When it is a question of the heart’s magnanimity, America is very advanced. America makes mistakes, but who does not mistakes? Mistakes we all make, but America does not know how to hesitate. The best quality in the spiritual life is not to hesitate once you know your goal. Even if you do not know your goal, run! Then God’s Compassion will dawn because you are running, because you are on the move. Once you feel that your goal is not where you are, your goal is somewhere ahead of you, then you have to run.

America has the willingness to see, and to accept or reject, rather than to first hesitate. There are many parts of the world that hesitate and hesitate and hesitate, until it becomes too late. In any race if you hesitate and hesitate before you start to move, in the meantime, your opponents just win the race!

Sri Chinmoy, Aspiration-Glow and Dedication-Flow, part 1, Agni Press, 1977

Posted in Karma | Tagged

The Maha Swami and The Maharishi

The Maha Swami and The Maharishi

Ra. Ganapati

Two reports I heard from the servitors of the Maha-Svami relating him to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi I could myself easily attribute to their creative artistry in elevating their own Master over every other holy man. Yet I wanted to get confirmation from His Holiness himself for certain reasons.

The Maha-Svami, ever bubbling with wit and witticism had a unique way of saying things. He said he did not want to give the same judgment on both reports and so would call one of them as pettal (colloquial for pitatral) and the other as ularal. The fun of it si that both the words mean the same, viz., talking nonsense!

To come to the two reports. One of them was that when the Maha-Svami was circumambulating the Holy Hill during his camp at Tiruvannamalai, Sri Ramana Maharishi purposely came out of his living room in the Ramana-Asrama and walked to a particular spot from where he could see the Maha-Svami at a distance.

Even as I heard it I could write it off, because Maharishi was to me surely one to whom the triad of the seer, seen and sight had dissolved in the oneness of the only Self. (So it was to His Holiness. But he donned the role of the Teacher exemplifying the ideal to the humans, and therefore was ever on the move to see people and holy places.)

Decades back, a lad of sixteen, the Maharishi fled home to Tirvannamalai, afire with the raging ardor to see the Fire-Linga of lord Arunachalesvara. He took darsan, just one darsan, and with that the very idea of an object to be seen apart from the self was burnt out! Though he lived in the very temple precincts for the next five or six months, he did not visit the sanctum sanctorum again. To assert that, contrary to what the Asrama sources say, he did come out to see that Maha-Svami is, as the Svami himself said, nothing but pettal (nonsense).

Our Acharya Maha-Svami visited Tiruvannamalai twice, once in 1929 and again in 1944, both for the Kartika Deepam festival (when the holy beacon is lighted atop the Hill). On both the occasions he also made the customary Giri-pradakshinam (circumambulation of the Hill). The Ramanasraman lies on the route. I have heard reports from two very reliable and respected persons attached to the Asramam, Sri Kunju Svamigal and Mme. Suri Nagmma about what transpired when the Maha-Svami passed along the route. Kunju Svami must have been present on both the occasions and Nagamma on the latter one.

Bhagavan had already prepared the asramites not to take it amiss if the Acharya did not enter into the Asramam and see him; because, according to one tradition, one in the Jagadguru Peetham (Seat of the World-teacher) must not call on another holy man on his own. As for himself, though he did not say it, he would not extend an invitation to anyone for the simple reason that he did not have any desire or need to see any body, anything. As for the asramites, they could, if they so wished, gather outside and have darsan of the Acharya as he moved along.

And most of them did.

The asramites had great respect for the Acharya, especially by the forties, because it was he who almost compelled Paul Brunton the Maharishi’s feet, and it was Brunton’s soulful account of the Maharishi that threw open the window of the West of the light of the Illumined Master. The book clearly shows that the Acharya considered the Maharishi as “a high master” who can give “initiation into the real yoga of the higher kind”.

In one of his discourses in Madras in the early thirties, the Acharya had raked the Maharishi, whom he referred to as Ramana Svamigal, among the jivan-muktas (liberated even while living in a body). The asramites were naturally happy that the respected head of a Sankara Math, uncompromising in such matters, gave such praise to the Maharishi in public.

On both the occasions of his visit to Tiruvanna malai, the Acharya turned his eyes towards the entrance of the Asrama, stopped for a few seconds looking round and continued to walk, a still picture in motion!

Reminiscing the second visit Nagamma said, while all the other asramites went out and waited at the gate for His Holiness, she alone was left with the Maharishi.

“Why have you not joined them?” he asked her.

“Because the Svami does not see Brahmin widows who have not shaved their heads”, Nagamma replied.

Though mature and tolerant not to denounce the orthodox custom, she felt a tinge of sadness.

The Maharishi just nodded his head and looked at her with compassion, The compassion assuaged her sadness. The simple nod too conveyed a lot to the discerning disciple. It signified the Maharishi’s acceptance of both the Acharya’s adherence to the institutional customs, and Nagamma’s wisdom in not following the other such windows who used to peep at the Acharya from a hidden place.

Here comes something antipodal between the Maha-Svami and the Maharishi. the former stood foremost in strictly observing all the distinction laid out by the Dharma sastras and orthodox traditions, whereas the latter stood foremost in practicing equality. Even to merit the glance of the Maha-Svami one had to fulfil conditions; a millionaires Brahmin widow was disqualified if she was not tonsured! On the other hand, even an untouchable beggar could sit right by the side of the Maharishi and eat along with him. Nay, if he so felt, there was no restriction to his feeding the Maharishi from out of the alms in his begging bowl! How rude, crude and cruel does the one appear and how suave, soft and sweet the other? How is it that the Sweet gives his nod of approval to the Cruel?

If the Sweet cannot appreciate the Cruel, equally true is the vice versa. But whereas the Sweet’s appreciation of the Cruel came out in `just nodding,’ the Cruel’s appreciation of the Sweet came out in a verbal flow. That was in the public discourse given by the Maha-Svami the very night. To quote Nagamma, “The Swami spoke at great length saying that every head of a religious organisation has to observe established traditions while one who is an Athyasramite (one transcending the four stages of life prescribed by the Dharma Sastras) has no such inhibitions… (To) attain that state is very difficult and that had been possible only for a great soul like Ramana Maharishi.”

The devotees of the Maharishi exulted at this unstinted tribute the Acharya paid to their Master in their home-town.

But close on it wake the Acharya gave a rude shock to them. They felt that he had dealt a direct blow on what they held in worshipful respect in the Asrama, viz., the temple over the spot where the body of the mother of the Maharishi was buried. When she passed away, the Maharishi favoured the idea of putting up such a structure because in his view (which was not just a view, but perception of truth) she was a Sannyasini who attained the Jnani’s liberation of Oneness. Vedic priests offered their chants and ritualistic services at the temple as they did in any other `regular’ temple. But, to their dismay when they went after one such service there to participate in the evening Puja at the Acharya’s Math, they were asked to enter only after taking a purificatory bath. Because, first of all opinion was divided among the orthodoxy on first of all, opinion was divided among the orthodoxy on the very question of the eligibility of women for sannyasa; and even if that was accepted, the mother of Maharishi was not initiated to that order in the formal, scriptural way. So the place of her burial was just a grave-yard (which pollutes the entrants).

The directive of the Acharya to the priests struck the asramites as a bigoted, book-learnt judgement over the intuitive judgment of their enlightened master. As most of the priests were also devoted to the Maharishi, they were deeply perturbed when the Pontiff, who was the bulwark of the priestly tradition in the changing world, pronounced the stricture.

Early next morning the asramites and priests went to the Maharishi. In spite of the asramites’ efforts to restrain themselves before their august Master, they could not keep their tempers. They complained about what all `that Svami’ was doing with his differentiating outlook in contrast to what `this Bhagavan’ was doing in his all-embracing outlook. “The priests want to give a reply to him. (They actually wanted to teach him a lesson!) Bhagavan should give the reply.”

As ever unruffled, the Maharishi heard it all and in his stately composure gave his judgement on the judgement of the Svami on his previous judgment. It was Neutrality itself that spoke!

“Why say that person, this person? Say there, here. That is the correct expression. Viewed so, what all has happened will also be understood as correct. (For the benefit of the Tamil-knowing readers, let me give the original simple, concise and powerful words of the Maharishi as faithfully conveyed by Sri Kunju Svami: That is an orthodox Peetham, and this an independent ashram. Who ever is here would be like this. So long as that svami is the head of that Peetham he must only follow (more precisely, `demonstrate’, because the Maharishi said not the ways and rules of the Peetham. He had therefore issued that directive.

“Why reply? Then there will be a counter to it, a counter to the counter and it will go on like that. (Looking at the asramites) Let us carry on in our way silently here, come. The others may withdraw. let not anybody raise questions and arguments.”

Is it not clear that Maharishi considered the Maha-svami to be a Brahma-jnani in reality who was just `demonstrating’ certain ways because he happened to be in a certain place! The Brahma-jnani alone can take the colour of any surroundings. Chameleon-like? But the chameleon does that to save itself; the jnani, to save the surrounding! The particular surrounding of our Brahma-jnani conferred on him the uniqueness of being the only Maha-Purusha of the recent times to apparently bind his state of unbound freedom with shackles of the strictest codes of the orthodox tradition. Much in it would be rude, crude and cruel in the eyes of the changing free world. But in Nature’s order freedom too must be balanced by discipline, which is another name for restraint. When almost the whole world plumbed in for freedom and its consequent break from the past to its rude, crude and cruel extreme, it was as though Nature threw up the Single Entity on the Acharya to counter balance it by his total adherence to the past tradition in its extreme form. Though noble motives and ideals are not lacking n the Modern Movements, in actually it has only `helped its adherents in self-pampering in various ways. In contrast, however base orthodoxy appeared to be, people saw with open eyes in its Ace-adherent the living example of self-paupering. They realised that he was more `cruel’ in his self-denial than in denying them the many rights they clamoured for. It was the power of this self-abnegation, added to that of his unbounded love deep within, which knew no differentiation, that gained universal respect for him.

But human nature being what it is, respect gives way to remonstration when personally picked. That happened with the Ramana-asramites too. But the Maharishi, who had no person to be pricked, dissolved it by counseling sympathetic acceptance.

These are various systems of medicine. In the Unani system we have sweet and soft drugs, in the Ayurveda bitter and pungent ones. Does that mean the hakim only is kind an the vaidya cruel? Whatever the patient may think, the hakim and vaidya, if open-hearted, will acknowledge the merit of each other. That was what our vaidya Maha-Swami and hakim Maharishi did. That was the secret of the mutual appreciation between the `Cruel’ and the `Sweet’.

(It is also generally accepted by the Masters that when we are in the initial stages of cleansing the mind the Ayurveda of (the Karma-marga of) the Dharma Sastras is more called or, and only afterwards the Unani of Jnana Marga.)

According to my sure understanding, the orthodox interpretation the Maha-Svami gave of touching the place of burial of Maharishi’s mother must have changed later on.

For nearly a decade from the early seventies I often felt an irresistible urge to visit Ramanasrama. At that time I had asked the Maha-svami about my going to what was said to be the Mother’s temple there.

He said with a smile, “I think you say `what is said to be’ because you have heard about my pronouncement (uttravu) on that”, he continued, “That was before the Kumbhabishekam (formal consecration of the structure as a temple) was performed there quite elaborately. Among the many santi karmas (expiatory rites) in that, what was necessary in the particular matter was also carried out, perhaps without the knowledge of the people of the Asramam themselves.”

Though this may appear rather scrappy to the readers, the eloquent sannidhya (divine personal radiation) of the Maha-Svami added to his verbal statement gave me, personally, the full answer. I could construe with certainty that by `what was necessary in this particular matter was carried out’ he meant tat what was scripturally ordained for conferring the status of a temple to a structure that had come up in a burial ground was carried into effect. “Perhaps without the knowledge of the people of the Asramam themselves”: my sure guess is that somebody on behalf of the priests to perform the Kumbhabishekam, evidently having in mind the Maha-Svami’s previous stricture, had independently sought his advice before taking up the consecration and the Maha-svami must have told him to see if any rite to formally authorise a temple that had come up in a graveyard was given in the Sastras, and if found, that must be carried out in the present case. Actually finding some such, the priests must have duly fulfilled that. Not a raise any unpleasant thoughts among the asramites, the Maha Svami must have, in his abounding sympathy, advised the priests to keep this back from them.

Apart from this `sure guess’, it is a fact that the Maha-Svami permitted me, who may be said to be on the side of the orthodox, to visit the place as a temple. That applies to all others of the same persuasion.

Deep within, the sweet water and tender pulp of love and compassion, but on the outside, the hard shell and the husky rind of the orthodox cannons and customs such a coconut the Acharya was. If we acknowledge that he did also partake of the dualism of the world in this Avataric semblance to humanity, we will realise that his loving heart would have undergone more pain than the `victims’ of his stringent strictures – as in the present had to veto the verdict of the very person whom he respected as the perfect example of non-dual perfection. Who knows the number of times something akin to the episode of Sri Rama banishing his beloved and spotless Sita for the sake of upholding his dharmic duty happened in the life of the Acharya! The imperceptible influence of this spirit of sacrifice enhanced the unexceptional respect he elicited.

We come to the second of the reports, the ularal one.

What the whole world came to know as the unique `aspect’ of the Maharishi was his total indifference to whatsoever happened to the body. Even in his teens he was thoroughly obvious of the worms and insects eating into his thighs and nates when he was absorbed in the Self in a subterranean cavern. When at the end of his life, sarcoma was perforating his arm, the world wondered at his perfect unconcern over it. But my Math friends belonged to a different world, the world of the Maha Svami’s one-up manship over all other holymen! So their Maharishi sent word to their Maha-Svami about his protracted suffering, asking why it should be so. (Thank God the friends did not go to the extent of saying that the Maharishi prayed for the Maha-Svami’s grace for relief) the Maha-Svami in return sent the message, “It is will known to you that the body is not you. (It was gracious of the friends to accept this!) Then what is there except keeping on to it?”

Even as I heard it, it struck me as stark absurd. But when I saw even knowledgeable people believing in it, I took the matter t the Maha-Svami’s ears.

And he just dismissed it as ularal.

He went on, brimming with his admiration for the Maharishi. “We have read in the books about the Atma Nishthas (those absorbed in the Self), Braha-Jnanis (knowers of Brahman) and Jivan-Muktas (those liberated even while living in the body), to whom the existence and extinction of the body made no difference and who, fully one (with the Self) did not have an inkling of desire to see or hear anything. Ramana Rishi was among the few extra-ordinary (apurva) persons of the recent times who have demonstrated all that as true. He is the one who has brought, for the world to see, the hoary Jnani-tradition down to the present day.”

“Authentic saint?” I said, partly in the affirmative, partly as a question.

“And a jnani at that. Authentic jnani” he amended.

(Many, perhaps most, of the saints do not have the non-dual realisation of the jnani.)

On another occasion the Maha-Svami said that it was a matter of pride for us (of Tamilnadu) that such one as Ramana Rishi lived among us in the present (degenerate) day. This was in private.

But there was a public occasion when he lauded the Maharishi’s spiritual power in a moving way in his staggering humility. That was at the farewell gathering at the end of his eighteen-month-long stay in Madras, from Sep. 1957 to March 1959. He said that though he moved from place to place and lived in the midst of the people them back to the sastraic way of life. In contrast, he cited the Maharishi and Sri Aurobindo who did not move out of their asramas and yet drew even foreigners to their respective paths.

But there is a world of difference here. Whereas the Maha-Svami’s path of the Dharma Sastras is for the world at large, the Maharishi’s Jnana and Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga are only for the little minority with the required competence and inclination. Such people also have the antenna to discover their master even if they live in the distant corner of the world, and also the diligence to steadfastly follow the master’s path to the end. But the masses are very hard to reclaim, and the more so, to a path to which they are not attracted by native choice.

Though in his humility Maha-Svami under-rated his influence, we must underscore the fact that he too had turned many a mod and agnostic to the sastraic path, sometimes even in a instant. Not only that. He has turned many to the paths of Jnana and Yoga too. Especially in the last decades of his life his influence spread the world over and drew considerable number of foreigners to the paths of Jnana and Yoga, which included the initiates of Paul Brunton himself.

It did not end up with the mutual esteem each had for the other. Higher above each has unmistakably indicated his very identify with the other.

Smt. Kanakamma was born in a family deeply attached to the Kanchi Math and its Acharya. But she took to the Maharishi with fervour. Her relatives were against it. Her grand-mother took her to the Acharya, made the complaint and petitioned to him to wean her from the Maharishi and take her into his fold.

Pat, yet soft, came his reply: “What if it is here or there?’

The judgement from their very Court silenced the members of the family.

We saw before the Maharishi saying that the different prescriptions were due only to the two places and not to the two persons. Even there, the perceptive reader would have heard in undertone a hint to the non-difference between the two persons. Now, when the Maha-Svami referred by `here’ and `there’ not the two places, but the two persons, we have a more audible indication of their non-differences. We are blessed to have a more explicit expression of this identity from the lips of the Maharishi. I quote from Sri. G.V. Subbaramayya*:

Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham was now (end of Oct. 1947) camping near Tiruvannamalai. Someone asked whether His Holiness and Sri Bhagavan ever met. Sri Bhagavan replied:

“When were we separate that we should not meet? We are always together.”

Actually, `togetherness’ was only `oneness to that Advaita Jnani.

Their unity in the sublimity of Advaita may be out of our comprehension. Both are identical in their utter simplicity born of that very sublimity. Her we can certainly understand, admire and adore the oneness of the Maha-Svami and the Maharishi and exclaim “O sancta simplicitas ! (O holy simplicity!)”


Posted in Guru, Jnana, Karma | Tagged , ,

The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice

The Gift of Presence, The Perils of Advice
by Parker Palmer

When my mother went into a nursing home not long before she died, my wife and I were told that, for a modest increase in the monthly fee, the staff would provide a few extra services to improve her quality of life. We gladly paid, grateful that we could afford it.

Now in our mid-seventies, my wife and I have no imminent need for assisted living or nursing care. But the house we live in is, by definition, a two-person residential facility for the aging. Here at what we fondly call The Home, it’s not uncommon for one of us to try “improve” the other’s quality of life by offering “extra services.” Unfortunately, those services often take the form of advice.

A few years ago, my wife gave me some advice that struck me as — how shall I say? — superfluous. Remembering our experience with my mother, I said, “Could I pay a little less this month?” To this day, that line gives us a chance to laugh instead of getting defensive when one of us attempts, as both of us do now and then, to give the other unsolicited and unwanted “help.”

Advice-giving comes naturally to our species, and is mostly done with good intent. But in my experience, the driver behind a lot of advice has as much to do with self-interest as interest in the other’s needs — and some advice can end up doing more harm than good.

Last week I got a call from a man who’d recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He’d emailed his bad news to a few family members and friends, one of whom had come over right away. “How are you feeling?” his friend asked. “Well, as I said in my email, I’m feeling amazingly at peace with all this. I’m not worried about what lies ahead.”

The friend replied, “Look, you need to get a second opinion. At the same time, you should start exploring complementary medicine. You should also sign up for a meditation program, and I know a good book that can get you started down that path.”

I asked my caller how that response had made him feel. “I’m sure my friend meant well,” he said, “but his advice left me less at peace.”

I told him I’d have felt the same way, and offered this image: Imagine that I need support with a serious problem, when along comes a guy with advanced CPR certification. He’s so eager to show off his skills that he isn’t able to hear my true need. Instead, he starts administering chest compressions and “rescue breathing,” even though I’m perfectly able to breathe for myself. Now I have another big problem as I try to fight off the “helper” who’s smothering me.

I asked my caller how he would have felt if his friend had simply said, “How great that you’re at peace! Tell me more.” “That would have been wonderful,” he replied. “But everyone I talked to had advice for me, including a relative who said I needed to join her church before it was too late.”

I asked how he’d been feeling recently — he said he’d been feeling afraid. “Do you want to talk about your fear?”, I asked. He talked while I listened and asked a few more questions. When we were done, he told me that some measure of peace had returned. It was a peace that had come from within him, not from anything I’d said. I’d simply helped clear some rubble that blocked his access to his own soul.

My misgivings about advice began with my first experience of clinical depression thirty five years ago. The people who tried to support me had good intentions. But, for the most part, what they did left me feeling more depressed.

Some went for the nature cure: “Why don’t you get outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air? Everything is blooming and it’s such a beautiful day!” When you’re depressed, you know intellectually that it’s beautiful out there. But you can’t feel a bit of that beauty because your feelings are dead — and being reminded of that gap is depressing.

Other would-be helpers tried to spruce up my self-image: “Why so down on yourself? You’ve helped so many people.” But when you’re depressed, the only voice you can hear is one that tells you that you’re a worthless fraud. Those compliments deepened my depression by making me feel that I’d defrauded yet another person: “If he knew what a worm I am, he’d never speak to me again.”

Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.

Aye, there’s the rub. Many of us “helper” types are as much or more concerned with being seen as good helpers as we are with serving the soul-deep needs of the person who needs help. Witnessing and companioning take time and patience, which we often lack — especially when we’re in the presence of suffering so painful we can barely stand to be there, as if we were in danger of catching a contagious disease. We want to apply our “fix,” then cut and run, figuring we’ve done the best we can to “save” the other person.

During my depression, there was one friend who truly helped. With my permission, Bill came to my house every day around 4:00 PM, sat me down in an easy chair, and massaged my feet. He rarely said a word. But somehow he found the one place in my body where I could feel a sense of connection with another person, relieving my awful sense of isolation while bearing silent witness to my condition.

By offering me this quiet companionship for a couple of months, day in and day out, Bill helped save my life. Unafraid to accompany me in my suffering, he made me less afraid of myself. He was present — simply and fully present — in the same way one needs to be at the bedside of a dying person.

It’s at such a bedside where we finally learn that we have no “fix” or “save” to offer those who suffer deeply. And yet, we have something better: our gift of self in the form of personal presence and attention, the kind that invites the other’s soul to show up. As Mary Oliver has written:

“This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”

I leave you with two pieces of advice — a flagrant self-contradiction for which my only defense is Emerson’s dictum that “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (1) Don’t give advice, unless someone insists. Instead, be fully present, listen deeply, and ask the kind of questions that give the other a chance to express more of his or her own truth, whatever it may be. (2) If you find yourself receiving unwanted advice from someone close to you, smile and ask politely if you can pay a little less this month


Posted in Awareness | Tagged , , ,

Institutional Work Culture


I visit some of my friends at the Institutes they work in – Hospitals, Schools, Ashrams.

Some complain – ‘This institute is going to dogs. Nobody cooperates. The director is a so and so, no good; that fellow is like that; the apparatus is old; the doors don’t shut properly; my promotion has not come through; X knows nothing, yet he has become my senior; my juniors hate me’.

All this in various keys – some, with a smile and smirk; some, with very visible marks of a martyr, ash and sackcloth; some, with waving arms and slogans on a flag.

It is quite amusing. Things can never be right till one sees that the person himself is the Institute. An institute is a general idea. The various persons in it, the rooms, the apparatus, the trees, the flowers – all these are the concrete contents. The wise person, clear in his aims, has the outlook of a skilled artisan. He takes notes of the concrete factors and combines them to the advantage of the work he aims at. If he has not personally acquired an apparatus for his department, his friendly approach can get him the use of it from his colleague. If things are very depressing, at least he can be grateful to the humble mali, the gardener, who has produced a beautiful garden for the Institute. By at least realising that, useless as he claims to have become in the place, he is getting paid his monthly cheque, the least he can do is to shut up and not add to the disorder. But, if his aim is to work in some futuristic society where all are angels without faults, and with virtues to meet his specifications, and if he thinks it is his job to reform all this, instead of doing the things asked of him as best as he can. Then of course, his present occupation of grumbling and spreading discontent is justified.

Moreover anyone who takes the trouble knows, that the most important tools for work are one’s body and its faculties – of thought, mood and organs of perceptions and executions. With anger and grouse he befogs his perceptions and his complaints about a poor microscope are laughable. You are yourself an organic component of the Institute. What you put in, you reap in rich rewards. You sow and nourish disorder, you will get it back with interest. You become orderly, you will get it back, slower, perhaps, because the dominant vibration in the air is disorder.

So I am the Institution. If I organise the Institute within me, that is perfectly within my competence, or ought to be, that is the best I can do. Meanwhile, my promotion to a higher job merely provides me with a larger theatre for infection with my miserable grumbling.


Posted in Awareness, Karma

Spiritual Determination

Wherever I travel I meet dedicated, sincere souls who are working hard to maintain Srila Prabhupada’s Society. They are inspired by his personal example, by the words in his books, and by the determination of his disciples and grand-disciples to preserve his work and not lay to waste his lifetime of effort. It is a tribute to his brilliance that in the midst of Kali-yuga, when it is far easier to find fault and flake away, his transcendental creation ISKCON has held together and continues to provide spiritual succor to the distressed and spiritually bereft. And it is a tribute to his sincere followers that despite the potential for disagreement and dissent, despite the deficiencies – both the personal and the collective – they continue working together with hope and confidence. This is love. In January 1976, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Bhurijana Dasa: “Unless there is loving feeling, how is it possible for you to always make offerings to me? The spiritual master is always instructing his disciples and they in turn are always trying to serve their spiritual master. It is a reciprocal relationship of love.”

And again in January 1977 Srila Prabhupada wrote to Mrs. Polly Perlmutter, the mother of Sravanananda Dasa: “Yes, our Society is depending on love and respect; we are bound by love.” We are bound by love. And by self interest we are rent asunder. Therefore Srila Prabhupada told us in 1977 “Your love for me will be tested how after my departure you maintain this institution.”

On a morning walk on August 11 1976 when Srila Prabhupada was visiting Tehran, he told us about passing that test: “To be recognized by Krsna as He says, na ca tasman manusyesu, one has to pass examination, severe test of examination. All the big, big devotees we see. Narada Muni, before becoming Narada Muni, he had to pass through severe examination, test–Faith means that you are meant for giving some service to Krsna. You should stick to that service, that path, in spite of all impediments. That is the passing of test. Generally, just like we are meant for preaching Krsna consciousness. So there may be severe test, but still we will remain determined. This is wanted.

“There may be so many impediments, punishments, still you should do that. That is test. Not that as soon as there is some difficulty I give it up. There may be severe test, but still we shall not give up. We must go on. That is determination.” “Passing the test means executing the order of the spiritual master,” Nava-yauvana said. Prabhupada agreed. “Yes, that is spiritual life. One has to take order from the spiritual master and execute it, despite all impediments. That is determination.”

Do we pass the test?

From this fallen soul’s perspective and experience, I think so. We may not get 100%, but a pass at least. ISKCON continues on as a united preaching force, and as long as it does, that is the passing of the test of love that Srila Prabhupada set for us.

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Posted in Bhakti, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Inspiring Story – The Coronation of Sita Rama


One evening, many years back…

A big crowd had assembled for the Darshan of Mahaswamigal at the Kanchi Sri Matam. Swamigal came out of his room, stopped for a bit and looked closely at the crowd of devotees and sat leaning on the wall. One by one devotees filed past the Maha Swamigal, saluted him, expressed their problems, got remedies and moved on. In the line of devotees, holding a small boy’s hand tightly was standing a middle-aged person. Streams of tears rolled from his eyes. The small boy was blinking and standing without any motion.

The man came and stood in front of Periyava, worshipped by prostrating, and got up. The small boy also worshipped. The Mahaswamigal, who tightened his eyes and looked at him closely, inquired supportingly, “You are Mylapore Auditor Shankar Narayanan right? Why are you standing like this with eyes smudged with tears? What is the difficulty for you? ”

When Periyava asked, sadness increased further for him. Crying uncontrollably, ” Yes Periyava. Now, I have an unbearable difficulty. Don’t know what to do at all…You are only my God. Somehow have to solve and give me. No other go!”, he again prostrated on Periyava’s feet and worshipped.

Periyava who understood the situation, said with affection, ” Shankara…Don’t worry for anything! You sit over there for sometime…. After they all speak and leave I will call you!”, and showed his hands on the opposite side.

” Your Order Periyava… I will do exactly so!”, said the auditor and moved a little aside and sat opposite. About half an hour later, the devotees had the darshan of the Archaryal and left. Except the two young men who serve the Swamigal, nobody was there. Swamigal signaled and called Auditor Shankara Narayanan. Auditor Shankar Narayanan came and worshipped. Acharyal eagerly saw the auditor and asked, “Shankara…. Practice and all are going good right? You are only the ‘leading’ Auditor right … why ask about practice?

That’s Ok. Your father Panchabakesha Iyer is in Tanjore only right? He is doing fine right?”

Immediately auditor wiping his tears and hugged the young boy near him started wailing, as he said, ” Practice and all is going very good Periyava. Dad and mom have gone to my younger brother who is in Bombay. It’s been two months. For me only sadness has incurred Periyava. Not able to bear it…You only have to remediate it. ”

That walking God understood in seconds that some sadness related to the young boy has very much affected auditor Shankara Narayanan’s heart.

” Should not cry Shankara.. Whatever it may be men should not cry! That’s Ok…Who is this child? Your son?” , asked Swamigal.

“Yes Periyava. He is my son only. ” Name Chandramouli. For him only Periyava suddenly..” , so said Auditor Shankara Narayanan and stood without being able to talk further as the sadness caused a lump in the throat.

Immediately Acharyal with a face filled with worry said consolingly, ” Shankara! What happened to him suddenly? Chandramouli is studying in school right … Tell in detail without panicking!”

Shankara Narayanan wiping his tears, ” Periyava… Son Chandramouli Mylapore is studying in 7th Std at P.S. High School. 12 years Old. Talented in studies. He is the first in class. Twenty days before, speech stopped from the morning. When asked, he shows in action, ‘Can’t talk’. Since then not going to school. He is having food, tiffin and all well…. He sleeps well. All that is fine Periyava. But, speech alone is not coming…What will I do..You only should do mercy and make him speak!” prayed so with tears flowing out of his eyes.

Swamigal observed silence for sometime. Then asked to auditor, “Do you take son to temples, tanks and all? Chandramouli have Bhakti towards God right?”

“Has a lot Periyava. After saying Kanda Sashti Kavacham, Anjayaneyar and Ramar Slokas and all every morning after taking bath by standing in front of the God pictures only he will leave to school. At home there is a big Kodhanda Ramar picture Periyava. Tanjore Picture from my Grandfather’s period that is. Every morning – evening worshipping it, he keeps worshipping Sita Raman’s holy feet multiple times. “I like Sita and Raman very much”, he keeps saying frequently. Weekly twice or thrice he goes to Kapaleeshwarar, Mundaka Kanni Amman, Luz Anjaneyar temples and all and does Darshan. To such a good child it had happened like this Periyava ”, Shankara Narayanan could not control his sadness. He started crying hard again.

Acharyal who consoled him, asked after thinking deeply for sometime, “Have the habit of taking him to the Upanyasams that are held in Mylapore ?”

“Have the habit Periyava! Sometimes I take him. Even on the evening of the day before he lost his speech, I only took him to the Ramayana Upananyasam held at the Rasika Ranjani Sabha. He listened reverently. Next day it happened like this!”

Acharyal asked laughing, “Are you coming to say, it happened like this because of listening to Ramayanam ?”

“Rama Rama! Not like that Periyava! I was coming to say that it was from the day next to that!”, said Auditor, slapping his own cheeks.

“That’s Ok. Who did the Upanyasam?”, asked Periyava.

“Shri Vathsa Jayarama Sharma, Periyava!”

“Wonderful…Wonderful…Son of Somadheva Sharma. Good Lineage. Ones who have learned a lot…Letting that aside Shankara. Did you show your son to any Doctor?”

“I showed Periyava!”

“Which Doctor?”

“Doctor Sanjeevi!”

“What is he telling?” – Periyava.

“After doing all the tests, ‘Two nerves have been affected in the Larynx. It may become alright after an operation’, he said Periyava.”

“Didn’t say it will definitely be alright?”

“Didn’t say confidently like that Periyava..Somehow you only should make the speech come back for him Periyava. You only should save! “

Acharyal spoke after a small silence. “You do one thing Shankara. Taking son Chandramouli, go to the temples in this town, do darshan, pray and come. In the night have food at the mutt itself and stay. Morning take bath, if you have rituals, after completing that and all, come and see me at 10’O Clock!”

Words said by the Acharyal were very consoling for Shankara Narayanan! The two of them went for Temple Darshan after worshipping Periyava.

Next day morning 10’O Clock. That walking God had already come and sat. Not much crowd. Five to Six people were waiting. Everyone had darshan and left.

Shankara Narayanan stood tying his hands after worshipping Acharyal. Chandramouli also worshipped and got up. Swamigal looked keenly at him and spoke: “Shankara…Do one thing. Take Chandramouli also along, do Complete Abhishekham ( Purnabhishekam ) to Ambal at Mylapore Shri Kapaleeshwarar temple and make him do that darshan. Aftewards, what you do…See if the same Shri Vathsa Jayarama Sharma tells Shreemath Ramayanam somewhere else…If he says so like that in any Temple or Sabha…You do one thing. From Sundara Kaandam to Shree Sitarama Pattabhishekam, take Chandramouli along with you and make him listen! The day when Shree Sitarama Pattabhishekam completes, what you do…buy nice Mountain Banana (a type of Banana) and give it to the hands of ‘Pouraanikkar’ (the person doing the Upanyasam,) and both of you prostrate and worship him.

Pray to that Pattabhisheka Shree Sitaraman and Pouranikkar in your hearts…That Pattabhiraman will save. Don’t worry at all… Go and come”, and told to give Prasadham to both of them and sent them that absolute reality.

Auditor looked everyday in the Daily newspapers whether Shri Vathsa Jayarama Sharma’s Shreemath Ramayanam narration happen anywhere in Chennai.

On that day’s newspaper the happy news that, ‘On Mylai’s Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Shrivathsa Jayarama Sharma’s Ramayana Upanyasam will be held in 9 days’, had come out.

That day was the starting of the Sundara Kandam part. Shankaranarayanan went with Chandramouli to Shirdi Saibaba Temple. Heart-rending narration. Chandramouli lost himself into it and listened. Sometimes tears flooded his eyes. During those moments, Shankara Narayanan caressed his back and comforted him.

That day was Shreemath Ramayanam completion day. Good crowd at Mylai Shirdi Sai Baba Temple. At night 10.30, Shri Vathsa Jayarama Sharma completed saying the benefits of listening to Shri Sitarama Pattabhishekam. One by one they worshipped him and got up. Also Shankara Narayanan. Chandramouli also worshipped him and got up. He gave a dozen of Bananas to Chandramouli and asked him to offer it to Shri Vathsa Jayarama Sharma and worship him. He did so.

He, who took the banana bunch with happiness, showed it and offered it to the holy image of the Shri Rama Pattabhishekha and Shridi Shri Sai Baba image. Afterwards, he tore two fruits from it, gave it to Chandramouli, and blessed him by saying, “Child…You will be fine. You itself eat both the fruits!” After coming out of the temple, Chandramouli ate both the fruits.

Next day morning one miracle happened. Chandramouli who brushed his teeth in the bathroom and came out, called out loudly, “Amma, Coffee ready? ” His father who was reading the newspaper and mother who was in the kitchen came running to the hall with a shudder. Chandramouli was standing there smiling.

“Was that you who shouted is the coffee ready, Chandramouli!” the mother hugged him with overflowing happiness and kissed him. Shankara Narayanan kept him on his shoulders and danced happily. Chandramouli started talking fluently like before. All the people who knew came, saw and felt happy.

That evening 5.30 PM. Swamigal was seated alone at Kanchi Shri Shankara Mutt. Not much crowd. Shankara Narayanan arrived in a van with ten or fifteen people.

Auditor worshipped Swamigal along with Chandramouli and got up. The first question that Acharyal asked laughing: ” Chandramouli….Now, you are able to speak well right ? Wonderful…Wonderful! Everything is due to the mercy of that Sitaraman!”

Immediately that Chandramouli shouted aloud, ” Hara Hara Shankara…Jaya Jaya Shankara…Kamakoti Shankara…” Everyone stood astonished.

That absolute reality spoke after sometime: “Shankara…Now I am telling, listen. The reason it happened like this for Chandramouli is nothing else. By his nature itself he has had love and devotion beyond limits towards Sitadevi and Shri Rama. If there is a hardship for them, he cannot bear that! At first, on the day when he was listening to the Upanyasam, Shri Jayarama Sharma must have told the part where Ravana was kidnapping Sita and going. What I am saying is correct right, Shankara…?”

Auditor who stood astonished opened his mouth and agreed, ” Exactly Periyava..Exacty! That day he narrated that part only in a heart rending manner!”

Swamigal continued: “The moment he heard that a demon was carrying away the Sita Devi towards whom he has unlimited devotion and love, internally he got the situation of being stunned. Speech also got stunned. Nothing else. What’s the only remedy for this? I felt that if he hears with his ears from the mouth of the same narrator that ‘Mother Sita has been retrieved back without any difficulty for her’, the whim that is occupying his mind and speech will go away. That’s why I told to do so. With Sitaraman’s mercy everything went well. Chandramouli… You will be very fine!”

Everyone who heard the speech of that walking God stood astonished.

Source: Jaya Jaya Shankara Hara Hara Shankara! Maha Periyavar – S. Ramani Anna

Posted in Bhakti | Tagged

Leadership In Service

Nashville police chief shares message, responds to questions

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson posted the below message originally on the Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson County website this afternoon. Anderson shares a message to police officers and answers questions related to recent protests in Nashville and around the country.

A Christmas Message for the MNPD from Chief Steve Anderson


To All Employees:

It is the holiday season and this has been a good year. My sincere thanks for the work you do every day to make this a successful police department. The Nashville public is especially pleased with the work you do and has even more confidence in you as events have unfolded over the last few weeks.

Over the last weeks, across the nation, and here in Nashville, we have witnessed many protests and demonstrations. Some of the demonstrations have been peaceful. Some have been violent, with significant property damage. Here in Nashville, persons have gathered to express their thoughts in a non-violent manner. I thank all involved for the peaceful manner in which they have conducted themselves.

I also thank you. As a member of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, you have responded to these events in a manner that clearly shows that this is a professional police department staffed by professional individuals who respect the points of view of all persons. Again, thank you for showing the Nashville public that, individually and collectively, they have a police department they can be proud of.

Obviously, as you have come to know over your police career, not everyone will understand or agree with the manner in which we have responded during these demonstrations. In any endeavor we undertake, decisions should be made with a view toward producing the best outcome for all of Nashville. Our decisions must be made with this in the forefront. However, in that we work for the public, public opinion should be given consideration in the decision making process in matters such as this.

Below is my reply to one such email I received. I have removed the name and other identifying information from the email in order to respect the privacy of the individual.

Again, the Nashville public is very proud of you and the work you have done over the last years. The confidence and support of the public is continually and loudly expressed to both me and the Mayor at any time we are out in the public. Thank you for making this a very impressive police department–another thing we can celebrate during this holiday season.

I wish you and your family well during the holidays and I am predicting, thanks to the work that you do day in and day out, that we will have another very successful year.

[Email Received]

Chief Anderson,

I wanted to send you this email to express my frustration and outrage at how the situation of these protesters is being handled in Nashville. The first night protesters marched here after the incidents in Ferguson they never should have been allowed to shut down the interstate. Instead of at least threatening to arrest them, they were served coffee and hot chocolate. I don’t feel that is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It sends a message that they can do whatever they want and will be rewarded. Then, this past week, more protesters march around downtown for 3 or more hours and once again, no arrests, and it took THP to keep them from getting on the interstate again. Saturday night, marching and “die ins” at Opry Mills mall. How long are we going to allow these people to disrupt our city?

I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer. If any other group of people wanted to march around the streets they would have to get a permit weeks or months in advance, and I know it’s not possible to get a permit to obstruct traffic and walk on the interstate.

Please understand I am not trying to disrespect you or your department, I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way. Is this going to be allowed to continue until someone gets hurt? Protection of the city should be coming from MNPD, not THP. I also understand that you get direction from the mayor’s office, but these actions are putting the department at disharmony from the majority of the citizens. At some point you are going to have to answer this question to yourself – “Am I following or giving orders that help or hurt the community?” In closing, if these recent actions have been due to pressure from the mayor’s office, please reach out to the people of Nashville, there are many who will gladly contact the mayor’s office as well.

Sincerely, ________ __________

[Reply to Email]

Mr. _____________

While I certainly appreciate your offer to intercede on my behalf with our Mayor, you should know that the Mayor has not issued any order, directive or instruction on the matter with which you take issue. All decisions concerning the police department’s reaction to the recent demonstrations have been made within the police department and approved by me. Therefore, any reasons or rationale supporting your proposal as what would be the best approach for all of Nashville, and not just a method of utilizing the police department to enforce a personal agenda, should be directed to me.

In that your thoughts deserve consideration, I will attempt to address some of the issues you have raised:

• Has consideration been given as to whether the response of the police department “help or hurt the community.”

It is our view that every decision made within the police department should be made with the community in mind. Obviously, there are some matters in which we have no discretion. On matters in which we do have discretion, careful consideration is given as to the best course of action, always with the welfare of the general public in mind.

That has been the consideration on this issue. Certainly, in comparing the outcome here in Nashville with what has occurred in some other cities, the results speak for themselves. I stand on the decisions that have been made.

• “These actions are putting the department at disharmony from the majority of the citizens.”

While I don’t doubt that you sincerely believe that your thoughts represent the majority of citizens, I would ask you to consider the following before you chisel those thoughts in stone.

As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to limit our association with other persons to those persons who are most like us. Unfortunately, there is even more of a human tendency to stay within our comfort zone by further narrowing those associations to those persons who share our thoughts and opinions. By doing this we can avoid giving consideration to thoughts and ideas different than our own. This would make us uncomfortable. By considering only the thoughts and ideas we are in agreement with, we stay in our comfort zone. Our own biases get reinforced and reflected back at us leaving no room for any opinion but our own. By doing this, we often convince ourselves that the majority of the world shares opinion and that anyone with another opinion is, obviously, wrong.

It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter. We can still disagree and maintain our opinions, but we can now do so knowing that the issue has been given consideration from all four sides. Or, if we truly give fair consideration to all points of view, we may need to swallow our pride and amend our original thoughts.

And, it is only by giving consideration to the thoughts of all persons, even those that disagree with us, that we can have an understanding as to what constitutes a majority.

• “I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.”

I have to admit, I am somewhat puzzled by this announcement. None of the demonstrators in this city have in any way exhibited any propensity for violence or indicated, even verbally, that they would harm anyone. I can understand how you may feel that your ideologies have been questioned but I am not aware of any occurrence that would give reason for someone to feel physically threatened.

• “I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer.”

It is somewhat perplexing when children are injected into the conversation as an attempt to bolster a position or as an attempt to thwart the position of another. While this is not the type of conversation I ordinarily engage in, here are some thoughts you may find useful as you talk with your son.

First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views.

Later, it might be good to point out that the government needs to be, and is, somewhat flexible, especially in situations where there are minor violations of law. A government that had zero tolerance for even minor infractions would prove unworkable in short order.

Although this is unlikely, given your zero tolerance stance, suppose that, by accident or perhaps inattention, you found yourself going 40 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone and that you were stopped by a police officer. Then, after making assurances that licenses were in order and that there were no outstanding warrants, the officer asked you not to speed again and did not issue a citation, but merely sent you on your way.

As you have suggested, a question may come to you from the back seat, “How can I respect the police if they will not enforce the law?” In the event this does occur, here are some facts that might help you answer that question.

In the year 2013, our officers made over four hundred thousand vehicle stops, mostly for traffic violations. A citation was issued in only about one in six of those stops. Five of the six received warnings. This is the police exercising discretion for minor violations of the law. Few, if any, persons would argue that the police should have no discretion.

This is an explanation you might give your son. Take into account, however, that the innocence of children can produce the most profound and probing questions. They often see the world in a very clear and precise manner, their eyes unclouded by the biases life gives us. This could produce the next question. “If you believe that the police should enforce the law at all times, why didn’t you insist that the officer write you a ticket?”

I don’t have a suggestion as to how that should be answered.

I do know, however, that this is a very diverse city. Nashville, and all of America, will be even more diverse when your son becomes an adult. Certainly, tolerance, respect and consideration for the views of all persons would be valuable attributes for him to take into adulthood.

Mr. ______, thank you for taking the time to express your position on this matter. I assure that your thoughts will be given all due consideration. We will continue, however, to make decisions, on this and all matters, that take into account what is best for all of Nashville.

Steve Anderson
Chief of Police


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