Hey! It is difficult to say few words about yourself. But let’s try. I am the founder owner of Shrivedant Foundation (www.shrivedant.com) in India, Kenya and United Kingdom. The foundation aims to bring forth the pearls of wisdom from ancient Indian scriptures. My team could manage to collect more than 45000 pages of various scriptures under one portal http://www.hinduscriptures.com. After building a Shiv Temple in Kenya with my husband, I moved on to fulfill my dream of promoting vegetarianism in Africa, hence launched Kenya Vegetarian Club. www.kenyavegclub.com. Our team is of geeks, researchers and New media professionals who publish researched content on websites, mobile platforms, books, journals and magazines. We aim to open a university solely dedicated to Indian scriptures one day.
After securing a couple of Diplomas and Degrees (Masters and Post-Graduate) in International Business, Management, Marketing, Internet Technology and Financial markets, I felt they are useful only for the employments and to survive corporate jobs. Hence had to lay my hands on various work profiles while working with the family in their businesses. After studying almost all the theories of management in the management school, I wanted more. A typical nerd in the university campus, I started studying more about Indian scriptures during the weekends till the librarian would come and request me to leave the library so that he can go home. First book in this series was Chanakya’s Arthashastra which lead to many more books, research papers, meetings with so called representatives of Hindu culture and religion etc. But my insatiable desire of knowledge didn’t end there. It is when I decided to fulfill the huge gap between the seeker of authentic knowledge and the scriptures in the world. This gave me an idea of combining my knowledge of technology, management, keen interest in research and present them as www.hinduscriptures.com.
The site actually changed my life, lifestyle, thinking pattern, approach, ambition, endeavors, circle of people around me, friends, emotions and made me much stronger person what I am today. It didn’t end here, it has added few more virtues too and made me ambitious, focused, more responsible towards the society, empathetic and more sensitive. Eventually sharing the real knowledge of Indian scriptures is the aim of life. I am ready to go to any length to fulfill this goal till the last breath of life.
This endeavor led me to compile the details about Indian lifestyle into the study material. We have recently launched courses called Hindu Culture and Lifestyle Studies on the website www.hinduculturestudies.com. It is also available in the form of self study books and one can teach into the classrooms too. We will make it available in various book stores online and offline very soon.
My passion for saving the environment and nurturing nature is taking shape slowly through Kenya Vegetarian Club. I am able to reach out to farmers, women and youth to empower them in the field of agriculture and organic farming. I surely want to appeal to my readers to go for tree planting wherever possible, donate some seeds to poor farmers and ensure not to bargain with them while buying any such produce from them. You may find clues on how and why to do it in my book called The Veg Safari.
Awards and accolades:
Hind Rattan Award by NRI Welfare society in Delhi 2017
Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Sanman in the house of Lords in London in 2016
Authentication certificate for the content of the website and course material from Deccan College of Pune, India
Appreciation letters from eminent personalities like Shri Narendra Modiji, Smt Anandiben Patel, Shri Vijay Rupani ji- Chief Minister of Gujarat, Swami Avimukteshwaranandji, Pujya Bhaishree Shri Rameshbhai Oza, Shri Morari Bapu etc.
Various certificates from Kenyan bodies for contribution to uplift the locals as well as various Indian communities
Nav Rattan Award – Delhi – 2016
Honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences from the Young Scientist University of America
I am so glad that finally I completed watching series of Chanakya on DVD. It was an interesting journey watching this saga after so many years again. This series was released more than 20 years back in India which I watched again after more than a decade. I could relate the same to the book I had studied during my university days and also found it relevant to today’s time as well. I am sure why readers would like to know who was Chanakya?
Chanakya was a great thinker and writer who wrote a brilliant treatise on statecraft called Arthashastra. The treatise is relevant even today because Chanakya gives practical lessons on statecraft, strategy and governance. Many people believe that he is the first among nationalists because he was interested in unifying his country and rule them under one sovereign king Alexander. His strategy and vision helped in the consolidation of power and setting up of the mighty Mauryan Empire.
Neetishastra is another great work written by Chanakya and contains golden maxims that can be used in the modern day too because of its relevance. The set of ethics laid down in the Neeti Shastra can be followed by anyone in conducting his daily duties. There are many other Neeti Shastras in our country written by great men of wisdom like Brihaspati, Shukracharya, Bhartrhari and Vishnusharma but what is it that makes Chanakya’s work stand out. Perhaps it is the way he has applied his teachings. He teaches us that high ideals can become practically possible if we work towards achieving our goal in a progressive and determined manner.
The maxims are relevant today as much as they were thousands of years ago. Maybe we just have to substitute organizations and modern equivalents for the ancient language used by Chanakya in these maxims. He begins by offering salutations to Lord Vishnu, the lord of the three worlds. He narrates that these maxims were given for the public good. Therefore with an eye to the public good, I shall speak that which, when understood, will lead to an understanding of things in their proper perspective.
In one sloka he says do not inhabit a country where you are not respected, cannot earn your livelihood, have no friends or cannot acquire knowledge. This is so true in this age of globalization where Indians keep migrating to other countries. We have to be careful to go to places where we are respected or where we know we can live honorably.
Save your wealth against future calamity. Do not say, “What fear has a rich man, of calamity?” When riches begin to forsake one even the accumulated stock dwindles away. Is this not true? World over we see people becoming bankrupt either due to wrong decisions or unethical practices which makes even the rich bite the dust. So never abuse wealth or think that we can survive after indulging in mal practices.
Test a servant while in the discharge of his duty, a relative in difficulty, a friend in adversity, and a wife in misfortune. Chanakya tells us of the ways of the world. Who is a true friend? A friend in need is a friend indeed. He is a true friend who does not forsake us in time of need, misfortune, famine, or war, in a king’s court, or at the crematorium (smasana). It is rare to find such loyalty and if we are lucky we should try to keep such loyal friends with us always because they are very rare in this world.
The most beautiful aspect of the neethi shastra is that it caters to all the four purposes of human life, that is dharma, artha, kama and moksha. So we can see the spiritual and the mundane sitting side by side in the maxims. Spiritual life is not something that has to be pursued in isolation. It has to run parallel to our daily duties or material pursuits. As long as your body is healthy and under control and death is distant, try to save your soul; when death is imminent what can you do? Here he exhorts us to spend our time in remembering spiritual things when we are strong and healthy and most important it should become a habit from a very young age. Because when death becomes imminent either due to disease or old age the last thing that will cross one’s mind is, thoughts on the higher self.
A few thoughts keep repeating in the neeti, this shows the importance Chanakya gives to these topics. One is learning. . Learning is like a cow of desire. It, like her, yields in all seasons. Like a mother, it feeds you on your journey. Therefore learning is a hidden treasure. All our life we should keep learning as it keeps our mind fresh. We should be open to new knowledge and be eager to learn something new every day. The same thought is stressed in this maxim- Let not a single day pass without your learning a verse, half a verse, or a fourth of it, or even one letter of it; nor without attending to charity, study and other pious activity. Thus, lifelong learning is something that he stresses for all of us, if our minds have to grow and not get embroiled in the mundane. All other forms of wealth may desert us but learning keeps company till the last according to Chanakya. A learned man is honoured by the people. A learned man commands respect everywhere for his learning. Indeed, learning is honoured everywhere. A person may be born in a noble family but it is only learning which makes him a complete human being. There is so much of stress given to learning and knowledge that the author has spent many verses in glorifying it. Those who are endowed with beauty and youth and who are born of noble families are worthless if they have no learning. They are just like the kimshuka blossoms (flowers of the palasa tree) which, though beautiful, have no fragrance. Who is a poor man? One who suffers from the poverty of ignorance. One destitute of wealth is not destitute, he is indeed rich (if he is learned); but the man devoid of learning is destitute in every way. Those who are destitute of learning, penance, knowledge, good disposition, virtue and benevolence are brutes wandering the earth in the form of men. They are burdensome to the earth.
Chanakya hits the nail bang on the head when he advises us on always choosing the best. No compromise, strive to reach for the best is his advice to us. It is better to be without a kingdom than to rule over a petty one; better to be without a friend than to befriend a rascal; better to be without a disciple than to have a stupid one; and better to be without a wife than to have a bad one.
Chanakya also writes about the importance of our Scriptures, yagnas, true wisdom and the benefits of leading a life of virtue. What are the qualities of a man who wishes to rise above the ordinary? Purity of speech, of the mind, of the senses, and a compassionate heart are needed by one who desires to rise to the divine platform. Here Chanakya speaks of inner purity not just saucham in the external sense. Compassion is a great virtue that has to be cultivated if a man has to elevate himself to divine stature. There is no austerity equal to a balanced mind, and there is no happiness equal to contentment; there is no disease like covetousness, and no virtue like mercy. Chanakya rates compassion as far greater than knowledge. For one whose heart melts with compassion for all creatures; what is the necessity of knowledge, liberation, matted hair on the head, and smearing the body with ashes? A compassionate heart is better than all other penance or austerities.
There are many references to food and water throughout the niti. Chanakya is a great advocate of vegetarianism. He has no patience for the dull heads and flesh eaters and brackets them all together. The earth is encumbered with the weight of the flesh-eaters, wine-bibblers, dolts (dull and stupid) and blockheads, who are beasts in the form of men. The wise who discern the essence of things have declared that the yavana (meat eater) is equal in baseness to a thousand candalas (the lowest class), and hence a yavana is the basest of men; indeed there is no one more base. Water taken at different times has different uses for the body. Ayurveda also prescribes which is the appropriate time when and how water should be taken. In the niti, Chanakya also remarks Water is the medicine for indigestion; it is invigorating when the food that is eaten is well digested; it is like nectar when drunk in the middle of a dinner; and it is like poison when taken at the end of a meal. Contrary to opinion which divides society into high caste and low caste, Chanakya remarks in many places that a man will be called as a chandala on account of his deeds not merely because of his birth. Caste based divisions entered society at a much later stage and has acted as a divisive force. This does not have the sanction of our scriptures. He is a chandala who eats his dinner without entertaining the stranger who has come to his house quite accidentally, having travelled from a long distance and is wearied.
Yet another strand of thought that runs through the niti is the true meaning of charity and benevolence. Like compassion, he treats these virtues also with great importance. We must use our talents or riches not just for ourselves but for the benefit of others too. One whose knowledge is confined to books and whose wealth is in the possession of others, can use neither his knowledge nor wealth when the need for them arises. He who nurtures benevolence for all creatures within his heart overcomes all difficulties and will be the recipient of all types of riches at every step.
Other topics are about a good and virtuous son, devotee of God, friendship etc. His thoughts on women are quite parochial and many may not agree to them especially in the modern age.
The more I travel the more I know that people have started becoming shopaholic. We buy more than we actually need. Many economies of the world are crumbling down due to overconsumption of products. Have you ever thought that we have moved from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market? Sellers want to sell their products no matter what. They would go to any length to create a demand for their products so that they can sell. Increase in online shopping has given an ease and convenience to the consumer who can access anything at the click of a button. Relatively small town consumers too have access to products now with online services and cash on delivery facilities; all these have created a large consumption. While traveling I found that most of historic monuments have got turned into shopping malls. The culture of any country has been lost. There is no difference left from one country to another.
Let’s see the following data and information I gathered while researching the concept of consumerism. It just opened my eyes as to how difficult it is to control our desire to shop.
Buying is a habit – a bad habit
The Americans are compulsive shoppers. A country with a USD 600 billion trade deficit – about 5% of their GDP – is basically importing more junk than it can pay for. And the US has done this for decades. This means that the US government has printed US Dollar bills – which it gives to the Chinese and other exporting countries – and gets plastic toys, furniture, and clothes in return. Once in a while the Chinese send the Americans counterfeit parts for their billion dollar defence programme!
Two years ago, the savings rate of American households had turned negative. Their annual income was not enough to match their consumption. Not only were they busy buying Chinese goods, they were busy buying homes to put all those goods in and now they had a mortgage debt to repay. With jobs shipped offshore unemployment is north of 9%. Furthermore, salaries in the US have not increased over the past decade – with the exception of salaries of the financial sector and the lawyers, amongst others.
If you have visited a typical American home, the first impression that you will get is: Wow! These guys don’t need to buy anything for the next few lives! Yet, the mall is where you need to be – or maybe the online version of it. The in-flight magazines in US planes are full of junk that you never need, but feel that you should buy. The US consumer breaks the myth espoused by advertising gurus who believe that “advertising does not create a want, it merely fulfils a need”. No sensible person would need most of the products advertised in the in-flight magazines, yet the promotions create that “want”.
The first day of shopping is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, which is always observed on the last Thursday of every November. To make it easier for the ever-consuming Americans to consume, many stores began their “Black Friday” on Thursday itself. People stood in queues and camped in tents for hours to be able to buy more. “Black Friday” allows you to buy limited products at some pretty good discounted prices for a limited time. (As an aside, we have our own version of “Black Friday” in India except that business groups get to buy national assets like coal, gas, iron ore, spectrum and assorted paraphernalia at discounted prices on a daily basis! The astute Indian buyers don’t stand in queues and pitch in tents, though. The well-connected Indian buyer just makes the right phone calls and gets it done.)
Drink rationally, invest rationally
The point is that the solution to an out of control drunkard is not taking him to the bar again and serving drinks on sale. The Americans need to save. They need to pay down their debt. A recent report by the Federal Reserve states that US household debt is USD 11.7 trillion – it declined some 0.5% over the past 3 months. But delinquent payments – people who are paying late or cannot fully pay their debt – have increased and nearly USD 1.2 trillion of loans would be in this category. The good news is that people are buying fewer homes – and renting more. Disillusioned by the myth that home prices can only increase and by the difficulty of getting mortgage loans due to subdued salary levels, the US consumer is renting.
But this is only the beginning of a long, secular trend in the US: there is a need to repair their personal – and national – balance sheets. The US – and European – consumer is dead for all practical purposes and cannot be relied upon as an engine for economic growth for the next 3 years. That music died in 2008. The drunken consumer has already been in a rehab clinic for the past 2 years with muted bursts of activity.
US, Europe, and Japan are in trouble. China has its own economic issues and bubbles to deal with. India has its challenges. The markets will continue to jump around in all directions based on silly news and new silliness. Don’t let these daily, wild gyrations scare you – or enthuse you. And don’t forget to understand your own needs and your ability to take buy and repay for it.
Our body is the most complex and durable machine ever built. Not even the most advanced robot is capable of matching the abilities of a normal five year old child. If you treat your body as your temple, it will nurture and bless you with remarkable health and happiness. Though I know that being ‘18 till I die’ is realistically impossible, I am fanatical about being fit and energetic – even when I grow old! I believe that one can control the decay of one’s body and health through various kinds of yoga, pranayam and vigorous exercise. Good habits are vital, too. I have been a vegetarian all my life. I don’t smoke and drink. I avoid cold drinks and frozen food most of the time. When I’m tired, I go for fruit juices, milkshakes and coconut water instead of tea or coffee. I also hit the gym regularly to keep myself fit. However, I still feel that I need to do more to stay healthy and keep looking for ways to increase my stamina.
My friends often wonder how I control the temptation to binge on something unhealthy. My answer is simple – I have never been the kind of person who gives in to an impulse. If I need to cut down on something or lose a few kilos, I do whatever it takes to get there. It doesn’t matter if you’re completely out of shape. Your body is tremendously forgiving and I’m sure you’ll reap the benefits sooner than you think!
What we eat is what we are!
Food! The most important part of our life. Many of you will agree that most of the people on this earth live to eat. If you are a foody, it is a boon to be born in India. This is the place where you will get to taste more than four thousand various cuisines across the country with many combinations of gravy and spices. Because of the climate, our life style and right food habits we never had to worry about weight or any related diseases. The modern lifestyle invited many such problems hence we need to rethink about the food we eat.
Let’s find out what kind of food you should eat and what to avoid for having a complete balance of mental peace, health and strength.
A must have,
Fruits, dry fruits and salads:
It is not a secret that one should eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. But very few know the science behind how and how much we should eat. Breakfast is the best time to eat fruits as the stomach is empty and the essence of fruits directly goes into your blood cells. It is recommended to eat one fruit at a time and take a break of fifteen minutes before the next one. Having a fruit juice is definitely not a good idea as you tend to lose the important fiber while filtering it. Follow our original trend of eating only seasonal fruit as they work best on your body keeping the outside climate in mind.
Dry fruits are loosing its ground in today’s modern life style. But they are the best and the shortest way of achieving a great health. If you want to improve vitality and strength, eat black dry grapes, walnuts and nuts. If you do the workouts regularly, black grapes would be the best thing to have before you start your gym sessions, which was recommended to me by a senior trainer at the gym in London.
Many of us swear by salads with different types of dressings. But remember one thing, anything uncooked creates gas in the body, it is the home for worms as mostly we don’t clean the salads with warm water and it doesn’t give any satisfaction to our taste buds. Including herbs, pepper, olive oil and ajwain or aniseeds to your salad will help in avoiding gastric problems.
Why be a vegetarian?
The human race exists since millions of years. As we evolved we invented variety of cuisines to satisfy our taste-bud. But originally, our body was designed to have fruits and vegetables only. They have a life in them in some ways and work on our body positively helping us grow in health, vitality, positivity and emotional strength. They get digested faster comparatively and have absolutely no side effects to the body.
We included grains and other pulses as we got evolved and added spices for the flavor and aroma in the food. Some of spices also have medicinal properties, which really prevents many unwanted diseases in the body.
The non-vegetarian food is high in cholesterol, fat and many unwanted properties which are damaging to the human body. Our body was never designed to digest such food as it takes almost three days to digest one piece of meat; hence it takes a toll on the digestive capacity of our inner organs. I know that half of the world population lives on meat products but then they are the ones who are suffering with all sorts of diseases. The ratio of people suffering from cancer is much higher in the western world due to meat eating compared to India which is largely vegetarian.
So think twice before eating such things as your body is not the graveyard of dead animals.
What to avoid!
Alcohol, soft drinks and processed juices
Alcohol is the most tempting liquid on this earth and the most difficult thing to leave if you have been enjoying it for years. But trust me, the world of full consciousness and awareness is much more beautiful than what you see after getting a bit tipsy or drunk. As everyone knows that alcohol is responsible for liver problems, memory loss, loss of appetite, loss of physical strength and stamina and the most important thing is you tend to invite unnecessary disputes with people which you could have avoided otherwise.
I have seen many relationships getting spoiled because of the alcoholism of the husbands in most cases and wives in some cases.
Everyone knows the adverse effect of soft drinks but nobody knows how to avoid them and control the craving for it. Most of the soft drinks are as strong as toilet cleaners. Many scientists have proved that if you put a human bone in any cola drink it will melt in seventy-two hours.
It also reduces your stamina, is extremely high in sugar and highly acidic for your digestive system. I know many people who drink cola while eating which is the most dangerous thing to do as it prevents your natural acid to digest the food in your stomach thus creating problems in the immune system. It is the most common replacement to water while we are on the move but it actually dehydrates your body leaving you even more thirsty.
We tend to get carried away by many advertisements on processed juices which claim to be natural. But the actual life of any fruit juice is thirty seconds after it is extracted. The manufacturers of the juices have to use highly concentrated salt based preservatives to keep the juices fresh which are certainly not healthy. It increases the weight, reduces the white cells of the blood resulting in lack of stamina and is high in bad sugar.
We mostly drink juices in flights, house parties, as evening snacks, serve guests and drink after workouts. Replace it with fresh juices, coconut water, barley water, milk shakes, green tea, herbal tea etc.
This recommendation is only for those who are practicing any form of meditation and want to grow in their spiritual path.
Our body, mind and soul get affected by certain kinds of food, environment, our circumstances, people we associate with and how we think. The food is the most important thing as it controls our emotional self and we tend to think and react to our circumstances in that manner.
If you have been meditating for a long time, you will surely get disturbed by any such food intake while practicing as it is exactly the opposite to pranik food which is mostly recommended by yoga and meditation gurus.
Processed and fast food
As many scientists have proved that the major reason for various types of cancer is the western lifestyle and food which is mostly processed with many chemical ingredients. Just like juices, the life of the cooked food is only two- three hours and not meant for any kind of machine treatment or acidic preservatives. The moment it gets processed, it creates cancerous bacteria which are harmful for the body.
We all believe that we have some kind of permanent residence here on earth. We plan, prepare, hoard and organize plans for a long overhaul forgetting that we have all come with a return ticket. Life is often compared to a journey and all our relatives and friends are like the fellow travelers we meet on the journey. Some get off before we reach our destination point, still others continue even after we get down. Our Indian religions keep pointing out to this so often. Still we tend to forget this simple truth. Karma, reincarnation, liberation are words that we across in all the four religions that have had their origins in India.
To the followers of Vedic Hindu scriptures’ based lifestyle, the law of karma is a fundamental belief. ‘As we sow, so shall we reap.’ We go on accumulating results for our action and keep reincarnating or taking so many lives until the soul obtains moksha or liberation. Krushna describes in Bhagwad Geeta to keep doing the work and leave the fruit of the Karma on him. He says that we always belonged to him. We have come to this material world due to some karmic results and it is our duty to perform karma which can lead us back to him. The only way to escape this karmic bond is by offering everything to god, to do nishkama karma- which essentially means, doing an action without looking at its fruits.
The youngest religion Sikhism asserts that our lives are connected to karmic debt. The more karmic debt we have, the more number of times we will come back to earth and as we make an effort to reduce the karmic debt, then we are a step closer to God. A good Sikh is one who has got rid of the karmic debt completely after which he will reunite with the creator.
Jainism explains karma in an interesting manner. Karma is not an immaterial concept there. It is said to exist in the form of subtle particles. When the jiva is overcome with passions, then these particles enter the jiva and it acquires a body. In order to get disembodied again, the jiva has to go back to the pure state again. Only then can the jiva get freed. It is for this that every jiva has to follow the sadacharana or observance of ethical discipline.
The Buddha himself is supposed to have reincarnated many times. The Buddha made use of the powerful analogy of taking birth as an animal in the next birth to caution simple laymen to lead a life of virtue. This fear of being born as a lower life, that is as an animal, kept people away from mischief. But it cannot be taken too literally. The entire process of change from one life to the next is called “becoming again”. Karma operates as a moral law in the universe according to Buddhism as a continuous chain reaction of cause and effect. The Dhammapada says, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts.” So we can change our Karma with our good thoughts, good words and good actions. We can reach the enlightened state of the Buddha by raising ourselves with our goodness thus escaping the clutches of karma.
We thus see that these 4 religions speak of reaching god or achieving reunion with god by progressing with our own self effort and transcending the cycle of birth and death, by finally merging in the ultimate being. This is referred to as achieving liberation or moksha or nirvana.
I generally prefer to write in few words to explain any points to keep up the interest of the people. If any of you want to know more about any of these theories feel free to ask me. OR you may go through our website www.indianscriptures.com
I was thinking about the statement that ‘India is a cradle of many religions’. Well, that means India must have always been a tolerant country that has welcomed newer thoughts getting infused into existing religion and breaking out into new religions. That speaks volumes about the nature of its people who were ready to embrace any new thought, invention, discovery fully aware that nothing can ever shake the mother tree which can withstand any great storm without getting affected. Thus our country with its ancient religion has seen the birth of religions like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
Hinduism speaks about pluralism that is- all paths lead to the same goal ‘ekam sat viprah bahudah vadanti’– Truth is one; the wise call it by different names. There is no rigidity here. You can have sadhus sitting in the icy perch of the Himalayas or you can have karm yogis going about their dharm without any other care except to do what is ordained to be theirs. In between you can also have the mad frenzy of those rushing to temples to participate in community worship. And then there is the silent seeker who goes about his quest quietly and finds peace in the silence of his being. Oh, the wide variety that our religion offers, there is such a basket of options you can choose what suits you best. I love this pluralism that is accepted here.
Fascinatingly, this pluralism is also there in Jainism. It was Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher who said famously, ‘everything we hear is an opinion not a fact; everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.’ Reality is always dependent on one’s perspective and this certainly cannot be considered as the absolute truth. The Jains accept that reality can comprise of many truths as seen from each one’s perspective and are willing to accept that premise.
Buddhism is also amazingly pluralistic. Sikhism also seems to extol the same thing. Sikhs are always advised to follow the path shown by the great gurus and prophets. The holy book of the Sikhs (the Sri Guru Granth Sahib) says, “Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false.”
The thought expressed in each of these is so true that I feel enthused to delve more so I can learn more. I started reading on the various rituals observed by these four religions and was quite startled to see there is a string that runs through all of them even in this aspect. The fire ritual, havan, yagnas are terms not just restricted to Hinduism but I learnt that Mahayana Buddhism in Japan, Tibetan Buddhism and some other branches of Buddhism adopted them and absorbed it in their respective cultures. So also, the prayers to the ancestors- This too seems to be there in these religions. In Jainism the likeness is even more similar. Prayers for a good baby soon after conception, celebrating the new born, naming ceremony, offering the first solid food to the infant, beginning of the education process, ceremonies connected to marriage, death, building a new house, initiating new year, starting the financial year – all these bear close resemblance to Hindu customs but of course with a distinctive Jain slant like the recitation of the Navakar mantras and chanting the peace mantra. Hinduism speaks of Jiva karunya or compassion to all living beings and this can be seen fully fulfilled in Jainism and Buddhism.
I found Sikhism also to be speaking of many of the same things – the importance of consecrated water Amrit, prayers for the newborn, naming ceremony, importance to the soul and not the ephemeral body all seem to have a common thread running through them. It is only when we understand these features we can appreciate the beauty of every religion or sect. These theories state that most of the religion or sects originated in Bharat have many similarities and believe in growing on the common grounds of reincarnations, liberation, cycle of birth and death, karma and strong family bonding. Isn’t this amazing?
Hinduism is such a fascinating religion that the more I delve into it the more I am fascinated by it. It seems to offer something to everybody. Look at Adi Sankara, on the one hand, he has given us so many stothras like the Ganesh Pancharatna, Kanakadara etc. and many other vaidik rituals and in the same breath he speaks of a god with no form, of advaita philosophy which speaks of the highest state Aham Brahmasmi, oneness with an impersonal god Brahman. In this, lies the beauty and grandeur of Hinduism. Ekam Sat Viprah bahudah vadanti- Truth is One, the wise call it by different names. It is this apparent flexibility in the religion that has attracted followers from all parts of the world, because nothing is forced here and a genuine seeker can find answers to any question in our scriptures. There have been atheists and agnostics, believers and Vedantins- there is space for everyone here. I find this really amazing. Many paths, one summit.
The next thing that I like about this religion is reincarnation and the theory of karma. Otherwise how else can we convince people who question us about the apparently different lives that each individual leads though born of same parents or under same or similar conditions? Why, even the lives charted out for identical twins remain so different and distinct from each other. We have the most convincing explanation- Poorva janma karma. In other words, we will remain in the cycle of reincarnation until we are able to rid ourselves of all karmic debt. Once we are completely free of karma, our soul will be liberated from the curse of reincarnation and reunited with Brahman, the infinite perfect being. So in other words, we keep reincarnating until we progress over a period of many births and reach the ultimate goal of liberation. But then liberation or moksha itself does not come easy. Our scriptures tell us there is no single window clearance for us to get liberation. We have the Yogas, which are methods and disciplines and we can use one of these or a combination and attain liberation or moksha. That’s a state where we are beyond birth, death, grief, pain or any such thing. We reach the state of Godhood. And so we have the many paths, the yogas- Raj Yog or the Path of breath control, Karm Yog- the path of service, Jnan Yog- the Path of knowledge and Bhakti Yog- the Path of devotion. The last one is the easiest and we see majority follow it diligently. Pujas, bhajans, discourses all these are done to show our devotion.
Each time I read some work or the other, my understanding grows a little more and I salute the ancient wisdom that could accommodate so many strands of thought without fearing that it would threaten its survival. In fact this oldest religion has stood the test of time only because it keeps reinventing itself fresh each time a philosopher or thinker propounds a new thought born out of the existing isms. Even the other religions born out of Hinduism share so many similar features that I feel like jumping in glee at the thought of vedic Hinduism being such a wonderful mother. There are so many commonalitiesin other school of thoughts like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism which derived many concepts of reincarnations, karma and destiny from the main stream Vedic Hinduism.
We will continue with this discussion in my next article too.
I always thought there was only one Dayanand Saraswati whom we had read about in history books. Then, I came across his name while I was doing my research about eminent people in the field of Vedanta. I was more surprised when our PM Modiji told me about him and asked me to meet him. Modiji’s office called him about my visit and told the PA of Dayanandji to permit me to spend some time with him. He has not been keeping well. I was thrilled to find out that he was in Rishikesh. I went to spend two days in his ashram in March 2013. I had more than 100 questions to ask him about various topics of Vedanta. He answered patiently and also opened my eyes about the many facets of Vedanta which I had not touched upon. Inspite of having such dedicate health, he used take regular lectures of the students for more than four hours a day and spend whole day attending visitors.
The ashram is located in sylvan surroundings on the banks of the Ganga, right across the Aurobindo Ashram where famous rock stars of yesteryears would often drop in. I spent the beautiful days enjoying the dips in the Ganga near the ashram. I also met Ammaji who is the writer of the courses offered by Dayanand Ashram. I also shared some moments with various sadhus in the ashram during Guru Purnima which surprisingly fell during my visit. I will never forget what I learned from him. It amazed me to know that many scholars from different parts of the world come to the ashram to learn Vedanta as short or long term courses. I was fortunate to witness the ceremony of Diksha to a few followers who had made up their minds to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of Vedanta and spread the message of our Scriptures.
I have heard his name so many times and read many articles written by him. Imagine my delight when I saw him at the World Hindu Congress at New Delhi in November 2014. I spoke to him in detail about my project and he offered to help me with information about what is happening in the USA in the field of Spirituality and Yoga. He is the creator of the theory of Frawley’s paradox about the Aryan invasion theory. He condemns the theory that the Aryans came from Africa or other parts to India and settled there. The current inhabitants of India are the Aryans and we never came from anywhere. Using logic and evidence, he exposes the existing Aryan theory as nothing but a figment of imagination of vested interests. How convincingly clear are his arguments!. I felt so happy to meet him and listen in person to his thoughts.
It is really interesting to know that a country like Kenya known for uninvolvement of people in jurisdiction, invites people to give a feedback on forthcoming finance bill. When I heard them I found that the government team was all set to hear us. Could manage to suggest about the charges on advertisements on our own premises. They replied about every category patiently and also took feedback from our team of HCK kisumu.
It is a good lesson about how system works locally.
I had heard a lot about Morari Bapu and when I did meet him in person, I found him to be so simple and also a great orator. When I heard him live at Ebedor Club this July, I was really impressed with his simplicity, of accepting everything around him. I was ready with my questions when I went to see him. He was straight forward and answered them all. When I was chatting with the sponsors of the event, I found that no matter what kind of background they came from, Bapu has been successful in impressing and educating all segments of the society. The Katha rendition was mostly in Hindi and Gujarati but I found an American old lady enjoying every bit of it. Perhaps the language of the heart is universal and is not bound by any artificial boundaries. The best part of Bapu is, wherever he goes, he promotes grass root talent, people who come from very humble backgrounds. He promotes them in different countries and helps them connect with a larger audience. This time he had brought some of the best and famous poets, standup comedies, writers and other performers from Gujarat. Were it not for Bapu, these skilled individuals would not have been able to travel, meet people and impress the world.
Smritiji was actually injured when I went to her office in Delhi in November 2014 during my visit to World Hindu Congress. The event opened my eyes about what is happening in the hindu societies across the world. It was pleasant and sad feelings together. Anyway, she liked my ideas about the reforms in education system required and expected from the new government. I also proposed her to come to Kenya and be our guest.
I must say what woman can do men can’t after meeting Anandiben Patel. She is tough but very sensible and sensitive. It was a great challenge for her to take over from Modiji as everyone’s expectations were at its peak. When I met her she was really busy with so many people waiting outside her office. She spoke to us in great length, taking interest in my project, gave me necessary guidance and also accepted our invitation to come to Kenya. As camera was not allowed inside the office, I asked her if I could take a pic on the phone with her, she said, “quickly”. Cool. I just wanted that.
This article was written on the occasion of Inernational Yoga Day. IT was published in one of the newspaper in Kenya.
The word Sattvic is derived from the Sanskrit word Sattva which means pure, essence, nature, vital, energy, clean, conscious, strong, courage, true, honest, wise, rudiment of life.” Sattvic diet emphasizes food and eating habits which promote, maintain or restore a sattvic state of living. It is pertinent to remember that the food we consume falls under any one of the three categories namely Sattvic, Tamasic and Rajasic. Food and drinks that have a destructive influence on the mind and body are classified as Tamasic while those foods that neither lead to better health nor prove to be destructive fall under Rajasic.
References in Scriptures
Yoga literature that can be traced back to the medieval era raises the concept of mitahara or moderation in eating. The best diet is one which is tasty, satisfying, nutritious and adequate to meet the needs of the body. Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests that one must “eat only when one feels hungry” and “neither overeat nor eat to completely fill the capacity of one’s stomach; rather leave a quarter portion empty and fill three quarters with quality food and fresh water”. Further one interested in yogic practices should avoid foods with excessive amounts of sourness, salt, bitterness, oil, spices, unripe vegetables, fermented foods or alcohol. The Bhagavad Gita also stresses that those in Satttva state prefer foods that are life giving, nourishing, and purifying one’s existence at the same time conferring strength, happiness and health. The goal of Yoga is Chitta vruthi nirodaha that is controlling the mind and calming the senses. A sattvic diet aids in achieving this goal easily. The Chhandogya Upanishad says, “By the purity of food one becomes purified in his inner nature; by the purification of his inner nature he verily gets memory of the Self; and by the attainment of the memory of the Self, all ties and attachments are severed.”
A Sattvic diet
Hence a Sattvic diet is also known as Yogic diet. This includes seasonal foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins. Seasonal foods, fresh and naturally sourced, well prepared and freshly cooked are recommended. Moderation is the key in Yoga. Vegetarian food procured without harming other living creatures is hence recommended. All the six flavors are important and are preferably present in the Sattvic diet as each is vital for sustenance. Today doctors and dieticians recommend that the food pyramid be followed with a wholesome diet that can provide nutrition from all quarters, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins. They also advise that a diet that is vegetarian certainly helps in reducing many lifestyle diseases which was advocated by our ancient seers.
It is not what we eat alone that matters but how we eat too contributes to our well being. Eating should not be a rushed, matter of fact chore to be over and done with. The act of eating itself is an offering to the Vaishwanara or the divinity that is there within each one, hence it is considered to be akin to a yagna. Sattvic diet is light, easy on the stomach, refreshing and does not contribute to mental agitations. When prepared and served with love, it creates harmony and balance in the human body.
Swami Sivananda sums up beautifully when he says, “Evolution is better than revolution. You should not make sudden changes in anything, particularly so in matters pertaining to food and drink. Let the change be slow and gradual. The system should accommodate it without any trouble.”