Friday October 20, 2017

Beatlemania: The fab four’s India connection

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By Gaurav Sharma

The swinging sixties was an era of cultural revolution. The decade challenged social norms, customs and orthodox beliefs in order to establish greater individual freedom.

Music was the prime instrument that ushered in the fundamental transformation in social and mental outlook of people.

Leading the throng of 60s musicians, Beatles was the embodiment of what the sixties stood for; questioning, experimenting and experiencing.

What started off as a group of school friends playing music in local Liverpool clubs, eventually snowballed into an iconic band that took the world by storm, a British invasion equivalent to, if not surpassing the success of the East India Company.

Trendsetters

The fabulous four, as the Beatles was popularly defined by the media back then, had their own individual musical styles which culminated into a bright, original sound filled with  “ringing guitars and eclectic melodies”.

The swooning rock and roll was transformed into blues and psychedelic rock. The long, flowing hair carried by members of the Beatles became the emblem of rebellion for the disillusioned youth splintered with the bourgeois society.

The scale of the innovative uniqueness flooded in by the Beatles was so powerful that even legendary musicians such as Elvis Presley had to face a tough time maintaining their chart success.

India Connect

After attaining the zenith of their success, the music and philosophy of the Beatles underwent a surgical alteration.

Between 1965 and 1968, the group started experimenting with traditional Indian instruments. The coincidental contact began during the shooting of their second film, Help.

“The only way I could describe it was: my intellect didn’t know what was going on and yet this other part of me identified with it”, George Harrison, the lead guitarist of Beatles had famously remarked after delving his fingers through the sitar.

Pretty soon an instrumental called Another Hard Day’s Night; a medley of A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love and I Should Have Known Better was performed on a sitar, tablas, flute and finger cymbals.

Following the instrumental, three songs influenced by the Indian classical style were recorded by George Harrison, namely Love You To, Within You Without You and The Inner Light.

Spiritual Contact

In 1967, Beatles had came into contact with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi after they attended a lecture given by the Indian guru at the London Hilton.

At the end of the lecture, the group had a private meeting with the master of Transcendental Meditation, following which they agreed to visit his ashram in Rishikesh.

An year later, the fab four travelled to Rishikesh in search for spiritual upliftment. Spending meditation seminars in Maharishi’s vast property perched on a hill, overlooking the majestic Ganges, the Beatles revitalized their minds in the natural solitudinal setting.

Soon however, the group had a bitter split-off with the Yogi. Rumours of misconduct with one of the women students supplanted by one of Beatles’ tiffed friends, Alexis Mardas led to the bitter downfall of their association with Maharishi

The meditation practice taught by Maharishi, however, continued to drive the Beatles.

Musical Rediscovery

The Beatles’ stay in India was the most productive periods for the members as songwriters.

Songs from The White Album and Abbey Road were particularly inspired from their tranquil stay in India.

Free for the first time from the influence of drugs, John Lennon, the co-founder of the Beatles wrote a string of songs such as Cry Baby Cry, I’m so Tired among others, finding himself unable to sleep.

Paul McCartney also wrote several songs--Back in the USSR, Wild Honey Pie and Rocky Racoon–after his spiritual discovery, although they had little to do with the stay with Maharishi.

Trio Depart, Harrison’s Odyssey begins

After a fortnight, the Beatles led by Ringo Starr made their way back to London. But by then, the Indian cultural roots had enveloped the heart of the lead guitarist, George Harrison in its mystical entirety.

Harrison took a flight to Madras to meet Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar. Later that year, he learnt Sitar lessons in the hills of Srinagar under the umbrage of saffron flowers.

In the idyllic setting of the foot of Himalayas, Harrison became absorbed in the ancient teachings of India. He would continuously immerse himself in books such as Swami Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga and Paramahansa Yogananda.

“Through Hinduism I feel a better person, I just get happier and happier”, a joyful Harrison remarked in his days of self-discovery.

Mellows of Krishna

Indian theology excited Harrison and the devotion in his heart eventually led him to embrace Hinduism. After meeting the Hare Krishna devotees in London, Harrison became a lifelong devotee of Krishna.

Soon, chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and reading the Bhagavad Gita became an essential part of his daily routine.

On the material front, his songs also became a reflection of his new found perception of life. My Sweet Lord, a gospel classic released in 1970 encompassed words such as Hare Krishna and Hallelujah, and became symbolic of Harrison’s spiritual discovery.

All Things Must Pass, Harrison solo venture, reached the status of a critically acclaimed triple album and is till now rated as the best of all former Beatles’ solo album.

In 1996, Harrison flew back to Madras to record “Chants of India”, an album which he recorded with Ravi Shankar and considered to be his seminal work.

The Spiritual Beatle, as he is fondly remembered, George Harrison’s tryst with Hinduism, specifically with Krishnaism marked the defining moment of his life.

“I want to be self-realised. I want to find God. I’m not interested in material things, this world, fame–I’m going for the real goal”, a young Harrison had told his mother at the young age of 24.

Blessed with spiritual clairvoyance, Harrison’s death in 2001 fulfilled the prophecy of his past words, with his ashes spread across the Ganges in accordance with Hindu sacraments.

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10 quotes from Bhagavada Gita to kick start your day

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By Sakchi Srivastava

Bhagavada Gita or the Song of the God, in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is a narrative between Arjuna and Krishna. Krishna passes on sermons and teachings on life and death to Arjuna. These teachings are universal truths which have proved their relevance through millenniums. They are of extreme relevance to people of all ages, no matter which nationality they belong to. These are eternal truths which help every individual to pass the necessary ordeals of life.

Here are 10 special quotes from the Bhagvada Gita which can enlighten the mind and the soul –

1. “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
People are born in this world as individuals responsible for their own actions. They should make their own decisions no matter how right and wrong they are, without trying to imitate others. People should learn to take ownership of their life rather walking on someone else’s road.

2. “I am Time, the great destroyer of the world.”
As goes the great saying “Time and Tide wait for none”, Bhagvada Gita also propagates the beliefs that time is the most valuable ornament of our existence. Any being belonging to any age group cannot afford to waste it. It teaches us how to be organized and have a productive and meaningful life. Once wasted, it can never be compensated.

3. “O Krishna, the mind is restless”
The mind is a powerful element that cannot be controlled by any force. It is its own master. At one point people believe in something and at the very other moment they support something else. The mind is always in a state of flux.

4. ‘Reshape yourself through the power of your will.’
Life should be conquered by the will. Will is the strongest emotion which drives the entire existence. People’s will to achieve their goals or to become something in life helps them to achieve success.

5. “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.”
People have the right to work, but never to the fruit of that work. They should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should they long for inaction. Hard work should be the soul dedication and the result will follow. People should always be patience.

6. “There is nothing lost or wasted in life.”
Everyone has the privilege of living only one life. People come into this world without belongings but as individuals. They should not have regrets in this life. They don’t even lose their loved ones, they are all here.

7. “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”
Every man is an individual with different opinions and perspectives. A man is known by his beliefs. Whatever he believes in becomes his identity.

8. “There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.”
Anyone who doubts his decisions, his likings, his dislikes or is not confident about his choices will fail to be happy no matter how many chances are given to him. He will not find happiness in any state of mind.

9. “One can become whatever one wants to be (if one constantly contemplates on the object of desire with faith).”
All have hankering towards achieving goals in life. Though some are successful but some lose the battle because they are in doubt. People should understand humans have the capability to achieve everything in life only if they believe in themselves.

10. “I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Anything that takes birth is destined to die. Everything, that breathes, which includes plants and animals, also have a lifespan.

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Karma Yoga: The concept of work and duty, as defined by Swami Vivekananda

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Karma Yoga

Swami Vivekananda, the patriot saint, the torch bearer of Hinduism, had passed away but his teachings to humanity still lives on. One such teaching which he repeatedly spoke through out his life is about “Karma Yoga” – the concept of work and duty- the Karma Yoga. Before understanding what constitutes duty, we must first understand what constitutes Karma.

What Is Karma Yoga?

Swami Vivekananda Says:The word Karma is derived from the Sanskrit Kri, to do; all action is Karma.

Technically, this word also means the effects of actions. In connection with metaphysics, it sometimes means the effects, of which our past actions were the causes. But in Karma-Yoga we simply have to do with the word Karma as meaning work.” Therefore, all actions are Karma, from the most trivial actions like brushing the teeth to the highest elevating actions like meditation.

KARMA YOGA refers to all human activities performed with concentration, skill and finesse. The way to liberation is to perform your duties without attachment. In Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna instructs Arjuna (all of mankind) to do their work most sincerely & with expertise and skill they have masterd, and without any attachment or expectation of rewards.

Types Of Karma Yoga:

  • Niskama Karma– work without attachment, which produces no bondage.
  • Sakama Karma-all work done for some end result, which leads to bondage for the doer.

More on “Karma Yoga” By Swami Vivekananda:

“Thus we are all doing Karma all the time. I am talking to you: that is Karma. You are listening: that is Karma. We breathe: that is Karma. We walk: Karma. Everything we do, physical or mental, is Karma, and it leaves its marks on us.”

What Is YOGA?

This is a much more confusing word. Yoga is generally understood as the activity of breath control or taking different body postures, or the activities mentioned by Pathanjali. But in Gita this word has a much wider and somewhat different meaning.

The word Yoga originated from the root ”YUJ” meaning Joining,tieing together etc. This word is used at innumerable places in the Gita with meanings like appropriateness, joining, expertise, attainment etc. The essential meaning of Yoga is explained by Sri Krishna himself as “Yogah Karmasu Kausalam” (Gita 2.50). Kausalam means a special talent, expertise or skill in doing something. So doing things with expertise is Yoga. A Yogi is one who does something with expert knowledge or skill. (according to speakingtree)

The goal of mankind is knowledge

Therefore, Karma is simple exertion of effort. Naturally the question arises, what is the ultimate goal of such efforts? Why should we perform actions?

Swami Vivekananda answers-

“The goal of mankind is knowledge. That is the one ideal placed before us by Eastern philosophy.Pleasure is not the goal of man, but knowledge. Pleasure and happiness come to an end. It is a mistake to suppose that pleasure is the goal. The cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for.”

Therefore, the ultimate goal is not pleasure, not temporary happiness but Knowledge (Atma-Jnana) that liberates one from the limited bondage of the universe.

In another place, he states- “I have already tried to point out that goal. It is freedom as I understand it. Everything that we perceive around us is struggling towards that freedom, from the atom to the man, from the insentient, lifeless particle of matter to the highest existence on earth, the human soul. The whole universe is in fact the result of this struggle for freedom.”

Means are as important as the goal

A question may arise- If the goal of all actions is Liberation, then does it mean there is no importance to the actions that are employed as means to attain the goal? Can any one indulge indiscriminately in any kind of actions?

As if to answer, Swami Vivekananda declared-“One of the greatest lessons I have learnt in my life is to pay as much attention to the means of work as to its end” in one of his lectures delivered at Los Angeles, California in 1900.

Hence, while doing one’s actions, and while performing one’s duties, one should first and foremost concentrate on the immediate job that is in front of a person. It often happens that one tends to ignore the immediate task at hand, by indulging too much in the goal to be attained.

This will result in a person being shabby at his work. Further, over-indulgence with the idea of attaining the goal will make a person blind towards righteousness or unrighteousness of the means. Such, a person will often end up having results that are quite unfavorable and sometimes opposite of what was intended.

That is why Swami Vivekananda cautions-

“Our great defect in life is that we are so much drawn to the ideal, the goal is so much more enchanting, so much more alluring, so much bigger in our mental horizon, that we lose sight of the details altogether.”

Any action that makes us go Godward is duty

As means are very vital to reach the goal, it is necessary to understand, what actions can serve as a means to attain liberation. Swami Vivekananda calls these actions “Duty”.

He says-

“Any action that makes us go Godward is a good action, and is our duty; any action that makes us go downward is evil, and is not our duty. From the subjective standpoint we may see that certain acts have a tendency to exalt and ennoble us, while certain other acts have a tendency to degrade and to brutalize us.”

Therefore, only those actions that constitute duty and lead us to exaltation can be considered as the means to Liberation. These are the duties that Hindu scriptures call “svadharma”. What is right and good for one may not be so for another person. Every person should understand his own inherent nature, his position and stage in life and perform those duties that take him towards Liberation.

Swami Vivekananda himself clarifies this-

“The Bhagavad-Gita frequently alludes to duties dependent upon birth and position in life. Birth and position in life and in society largely determine the mental and moral attitude of individuals towards the various activities of life. It is therefore our duty to do that work which will exalt and ennoble us in accordance with the ideals and activities of the society in which we are born. But it must be particularly remembered that the same ideals and activities do not prevail in all societies and countries”

But this does not mean that people perform any actions according to their fancies and call it dharma. Though svadharma is different for every person, there are universal principles that are common to everyone.

Swami Vivekananda says-

“There is, however, only one idea of duty which has been universally accepted by all mankind, of all ages and sects and countries, and that has been summed up in a Sanskrit aphorism thus: “Do not injure any being; not injuring any being is virtue, injuring any being is sin.” Therefore, people must decide their own svadharma, not on the basis of their fancies but on the basis of these universal principles and how their application will take them towards liberation.”

Work performed without attachment leads to highest realization. The next question is, how should one perform one’s duty?

Swami Vivekananda says-

“When you are doing any work, do not think of anything beyond. Do it as worship, as the highest worship, and devote your whole life to it for the time being. Thus, in the story, the Vyadha (hunter) and the woman did their duty with cheerfulness and wholeheartedness; and the result was that they became illuminated, clearly showing that the right performance of the duties of any station in life, without attachment to results, leads us to the highest realization of the perfection of the soul.”

Therefore, if the performance of duties in an unselfish manner, as an act of worship wherein the actions and its fruits are surrendered to God that leads to liberation. Hence, detached action is the key to liberation.

Swami Vivekananda summarizes this path of Karma-Yoga as-

“Karma-Yoga is the attaining through unselfish work of that freedom which is the goal of all human nature. Every selfish action, therefore, retards our reaching the goal, and every unselfish action takes us towards the goal; that is why the only definition that can be given of morality is this: That which is selfish is immoral, and that which is unselfish is moral.”

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Rishikesh: The World Capital of Yoga is in India

Many tourists visit Rishikesh every year in search of attaining peace and spirituality

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Ganges River at Rishikesh. Wikimedia

Aug 12, 2017: Rishikesh, also known to be a holy city is a perfect destination to endeavor spirituality. It is one of the most sacred places in the country and what’s enticing about this destination is its unique charm and religious culture.

Rishikesh is the mother ground for Ayurveda and yoga, not to forget it is being called as “The… Click To Tweet

It is also perceived as a medium to attain moksha while practicing yoga in the embrace of nature in Rishikesh. Many tourists visit here every year in search of attaining peace and spirituality.

Places to visit in Rishikesh: 

  • Lakshman Jhoola

Rishikesh
Ram jhoola bridge over Ganga river. Wikimedia Commons

 It is a famous milestone in Rishikesh which is 450 ft length and connects two districts via the iron bridge over holy river Ganga at Rishikesh. This one is worth a watch!

  • Ganga Aarti

A night arti click of holly river name as Ganga. Wikimedia Commons

The sight of Ganga Aarti is breathtaking and phenomenal as the holy river Ganga is worshipped at various Ghats. Ganga Aarti is also the heart of Rishikesh.

  • Neelkanth

The photo is of Neelkanth Mahadev Temple near Rishikesh. Wikimedia Commons

Neelkanth is a holy temple of lord Shiva surmounted at the height of 1300 meters. The temple located 32 km far from Rishikesh, is known to be the sacred place where Lord Shiva consumed poison and placed it in his throat at the time of Samudra Manthan.

  • Triveni Ghat

Triveni Ghat view at Rishikesh. Wikimedia Commons

Triveni Ghat is a sacred ghat popular for glimpsing Ganga Arti. Triveni has a spiritual whiff and outlasting ambiance.

Also Read: Yoga empowers People to take control of their Lives and achieve Better Health: UN forum 

  • Parmarth Niketan

Morning Yoga class at Parmarth Niketan, Muni Ki Reti. Wikimedia Commons

It is one of the top yoga centers in the country. Many tourists visit this place for spiritual healing, music therapy, exercises. The ashram is open to all irrespective of the race, color, gender, and religion. It also offers over 1000 rooms equipped with all the modern facilities.

  • Byasi

Village near Haridwar. Wikimedia Commons

Byasi is a village situated on the outskirts of the river Ganga popularly known for adventurous water sport because of the constant flow of river Ganga.

  • Muni ki Reti

Ghats on the Ganges near Parmarth Niketan, Muni Ki Reti. Wikimedia Commons

Muni ki Reti is another known pilgrimage for meditation and yoga. It has a literary meaning “sand of sages”, denoted as a place where sages used to mediate during archaic times.

There is nothing as serene as connecting with the tranquility of Holy River and pilgrimage of Rishikesh to devise spirituality.


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