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Teachings from a Spiritual Teacher Can Bring Enlightenment Within

The role played by a spiritual teacher in guiding a student towards the goal of human birth

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Teachings from a Spiritual Teacher
Teachings from a Spiritual Teacher. Pixabay
  • We live in utter ignorance of our true nature, of the relationship 
  • There is a feeling of love or devotion which can naturally arise within the teacher and the student relationship
  • Enlightened masters can make us go out of the tunnel of darkness which is of ignorance into the sunlight at the end that is knowledge itself

August 11, 2017: A spiritual teacher plays a crucial and a lasting role in the life of a human being. A spiritual teacher’s role is unique in a way that the goal is not to transmit knowledge or to develop a sense of understanding but to somehow bring about recognition in the student of the student’s own pre-existing nature.

This is a much more nuanced thing than simply teaching someone a skill. It is not that a spiritual teacher never provides spiritual knowledge but that in itself is not the goal.  A student can have knowledge of the broad spectrum of spiritual principles, and yet can still not have truly recognized those principles as being inherent in his or her own being. So spiritual teachers may teach a lot or may not teach anything and it depends on the need of the student in that particular moment in order to experience the deeper recognition of his or her own true nature.

The author of the book ‘God is No Laughing Matter’ Julia Cameron says, “it is one of the gifts of great spiritual teachers to make things simple. It is one of the gifts of their followers to complicate them again. Often we need to scrape away the accumulated complications of a master’s message in order to hear the kernel of what they said.”

If you are lucky enough to learn from such a gifted spiritual teacher, then there are bright chances of success in all endeavors of life – worldly matters and spiritual. There is a feeling of love or devotion which can naturally arise within the teacher and the student relationship which is the immense gratitude that arises when the student sees the truth. Ultimately, every experience is our teacher and with the presence of fullest realization there is gratitude for all of the existence, there can also be a natural deep appreciation for the apparent person who has pointed you to that truth.

ALSO READ: Spiritual Awakening Series in Chicago with Sister Shivani and Brahma Kumaris

It is said ‘mahat sangha tu durlabho agamyo amoghas cha’– it means that it is an extremely rare occasion and difficult as well to gain the company of spiritual people; and even if we come in the same space they occupy, it may not be possible always to recognize how great is their stature.  Sometimes, even a person living with such great masters is unaware of their power.

The influence of such a Mahatma is “amogha” (fruitful) and infallible whether one recognizes their greatness or not; it is just not possible to come in contact with a person like that, and not be affected by their being. There are two ways in which come in contact with them- first, you come in close contact or second, you hear them from afar, his influence will sooner or later reach you. Perhaps, you won’t be able to notice a visible change immediately, but one thing is certain that, sooner or later, there will be a noticeable influence of that person in your life.

ALSO READ: Indian Gurus: Preaching Spiritualism or Business?

Presently, we live in complete ignorance of our nature- our true self,  we are unaware of the relationship that is there between an individual with the world, and finally with the ultimate Creator. This ignorance can create incorrect notions due to which we are not able to understand the world, make mistakes and as a result of these mistakes and ignorance suffer from anxiety, fear, and unhappiness.

Enlightened masters can make us go out of the tunnel of darkness which is of ignorance into the sunlight at the end that is knowledge itself; they have the power to transform the way we view the world. When we start studying about the scriptures and scriptures itself, what we discover is that there is something ‘Absolute Reality’, it exists. We understand that God also exists.  Then, we slowly get acquainted with the enlightened person and their characteristics, realize their importance. We can not truly appreciate the great character of a person like that until we get to meet such a spiritual teacher and try to observe his nature from a close distance.

Such sadhgurus are the ones who show us the way, the way to reach the goal of human birth – moksha. They are the ones who give authenticity and meaning to the scriptures. They have access to reach the heights of divinity; they reveal that no karma on its own can be great or small; it is our motive and our attitude behind the actions we undertake. This makes the karma great or small.

ALSO READ: International Yoga Teacher Wai Lana’s “Alive Forever” Film and Music Video

There are different types of people who approach a guru- A bhakta (devotee) has- love, reverence, devotion. But, not all devotees become sishyas (disciples).  They do love him, respect, and revere the guru, but they also wish to learn Vedanta (a Hindu philosophy based on the doctrine of the Upanishads) from him.

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There are some pople who listen to gurus, get inspired from them and thus offer to volunteer their time as a Sevak. Service over time takes the form of devotion– the Sevak with time becomes a bhakta.  In due time, the bhakta transforms into an avid student and a disciple – he inculcates a desire to study Vedanta for full time.

When a person becomes:  a devotee who is steeped in bhakti yoga; a Sevak who performs selfless deeds that is karma yoga and at the final stage a sishya gets fully dedicated into learning Vedantic study which is jnana yoga – he reaches the goal; his journey is thus complete.

The greatness of a guru is not only in trusting the right person for the right job or path but to also be able to encourage or inspire the ones who lack the adequate capability and to one day enable them to produce marvelous results.

A true spiritual teacher is there to simply serve your own recognition of your true nature. The result of his or her functioning in this capacity is the degree of one’s own depth of realization. The rest is relatively unimportant unless it serves this simple but subtle goal.

– by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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Hinduism is Not an Official or Preferred Religion in Any Country of The World, Says a New Report

Though Hinduism is the third largest religion of the world, it is not the official state religion of any country according to a Pew Research Center Report

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Hinduism is not an official religion of any country in the world. Instagram.
  • No country has declared Hinduism as its official state religion – despite India being an influential Hindu political party
  • Hinduism is not an official or preferred religion in any country of the world, according to a Pew Research Center report.
  • 53% of 199 nations considered in the study don’t have an official religion
  • 80 countries are assigned either an “official religion” or “preferred religion”

Nevada, USA, October 16: Hinduism is the primeval and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion followers of moksh (liberation) being its utmost desire of life. India is among the category of nations where the government do not have an official or preferred religion.

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank headquartered in Washington DC that aims to inform the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

The report states that a country’s official religion is regarded as a legacy of its past and present privileges granted by the state. And a few other countries fall on the other side of the gamut, and propagate their religion as the ‘official religion’, making it a compulsion for all citizens.

It adds up on the context of allocation that more than eight-in-ten countries (86%) provide financial support or resources for religious education programs and religious schools that tend to benefit the official religion.

Hinduism
Islam is the most practiced official religion of the world. Instagram.

Commenting on Hinduism, the report states:

In 2015, Nepal came close to enshrining Hinduism, but got rejected of a constitutional amendment due to a conflict between pro-Hindu protesters and state police.

Although India has no official or preferred religion as mentioned in the Constitution,it was found by PEW that in India the intensity of government constraints and social antagonism involving religion was at a peak. “Nigeria, India, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt had the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion among the 25 most populous countries in 2015. All fell into the “very high” hostilities category,” the report added.

As per the 2011 census, it was found that 79.8% of the Indian population idealizes Hinduism and 14.2% practices to Islam, while the rest 6% pursuit other religions.

While Hinduism stands up with the majority, Article 25 of the Constitution of India contributes secularism allowing for religious freedom and allows every Indian to practice his/her religion, without any intervention by the community or the government.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, applauded the Hindu community for their benefaction to the society and advised Hindus to concentrate on inner purity, attract spirituality towards youth and children, stay far from the greed, and always keep God in the life.

According to Pew, these are “places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups”.

-by Bhavana Rathi of NewsGram.  She can be reached @tweet_bhavana

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10 Customs of the Hindu Dharma Explained by Science

Have you ever wondered the rationale behind the customs and traditions of the Hindu dharma?

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A deeper look into the practices of Hindu dharma reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge. We tell you how! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 4, 2017 : You might have been moved by the way followers of the Hindu dharma bow down and welcome you inside their homes. Or by the way Hindu women dress, with jewellery adorning their hands and legs. Who doesn’t like the crinkling of their bangles, after all? But have you ever wondered the rationale behind their customs and traditions?

According to popular notions, the traditions and practices of the Hindu dharma have been equated with superstitions. However, a deeper look into the practices reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge and have been observed over generations , keeping in mind a more holistic approach.

Hinduism can hence, be called a dharmic scientific religion rather than just scientific religion. We prove you how!

 1. Worshiping the Peepal tree

Hindu dharma entails a myriad gods and goddesses and there exist a variety of reasons that propagate worship of Peepal tree. According to Brahma Purana, demons Ashvattha and Peepala hid inside and lured people to touch the Peepal tree and consecutively killed them. They were killed by lord Shani and hence the tree has been worshiped ever since. Another legend believed Goddess Lakshmi resides under the Peepal tree every Saturday which lends it a divinely touch. Another school of thought believes lord Hanuman sat on top of the Peepal tree in Lanka to witness the hardships faced by Sita.

Hindu dharma
Leaves of the ‘holy’ Peepal tree. Pixabay

The Peepal tree does not have a succulent fruit, lacks strong wood and does no good other than provide shade. However, it continues to enjoy increasing devotion from people practicing the Hindu dharma. Science confirms that Peepal is the only tree which produces oxygen even during the night. Hence, in order to preserve this unique property, ancestors of the Hindu dharma related it to God. Additionally, the tree is of utmost significance in Ayurveda and its bark and leaves are used to treat diseases and illnesses.

 2. Do not chew leaves of Tulsi plant

The Tulsi plant is revered in the Hindu dharma. Apart from its medicinal qualities, the plant is also known for its symbolic presence in Hindu mythology.

According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Hence, biting and chewing it is considered disrespectful.

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According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Pixabay

However, according to botanists, Tulsi has high quantities of mercury. If raw mercury comes in contact with teeth (calcium), it can possibly result in inundation, making the teeth fall. Hence, leaves of the Tulsi plant are suggested to be swallowed and not chewed.

 3. Applying tilak on your forehead

Application of tilak is a religious ac. According to the Hindu dharma, the forehead signifies spirituality. Hence, application of a tilak on the forehead denotes an individual’s thoughts and conviction towards spirituality.  Various Vedic scriptures and Upanishads maintain that energy, potency and divinity comes to those who apply a tilak.

Hindu dharma
A flute player from India with a tilak on his forehead. Wikimedia Commons.

However, science asserts that during the application of a tilak, the central point in the forehead and the Adnya-chakra automatically pressed which encourages blood supply to the facial muscles.  According to body anatomy, a major nerve point is located in the middle of the eye brows on the forehead. Application of the red tilak is believed to maintain vitality in the body and prevent the loss of energy. The Tilak is also believed to control and enhance concentration.

 4. Obsessive cleaning during Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights honors the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth. The festival also commemorates the return of lord Ram after an exile of 14 years to his kingdom in Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, the night of his return was a new moon night. To illuminate his path in the pitch dark night, the villagers of Ayodhya cleaned the entire village and lit it with lamps.

Hence, Diwali is preceded by extensive cleaning of the entire house in honor of both the deities of Hindu mythology. Legend also believed goddess Lakshmi comes home on Diwali and thereby, the entire place should be cleaned and decorated to welcome the goddess.

However, science backs the concept and explains that Diwali essentially falls in October and November, and mark beginning of winters and end of monsoon season.

Hindu dharma
People indulge in cleaning, repari and beautification of their homes ahead of Diwali to welcome goddess Lakshmi. Pixabay

In older times, the monsoons were not a good period as they were characteristic of excessive rains that often resulted in floods and damaged homes, which then needed repair. This is why people indulged in repair, cleaning and beautification of their homes.

 5. Folding your hands for ‘Namaskar’

You will often find people practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. The ‘Namaskar’ is believed to signify respect for people.

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People practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. Pixabay

This pose requires an individual to join all finger tips together that carry the pressure points of ears, eyes and mind. Science says pressing them together activates these pressure points, making our mind attentive.  This aids us to remember people for a longer duration.

The Namaskar can also be backed up by an act to maintain hygiene and cleanliness since it does not involve any physical contact.

 6. Wearing toe rings

Traditionally, toe rings are worn by married woman on the second toe and are treated as a sign of holy matrimony. However, they are believed to be a part of the Indian culture since the times of Ramayana when Sita threw her toe ring for her husband lord Ram, upon being abducted by Ravana.

Science says that a nerve on this toe connect the uterus to the heart.  Wearing a ring on this finger helps regulate blood flow, thereby, strengthening the uterus and regulating menstrual cycle. It is also believed to have an erotic effect.

 7. Applying henna on hands and feet

Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. According to popular beliefs, the color of the henna denotes the affection a girl will enjoy from her husband and mother-in-law.

Hindu dharma
Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. Pixabay

However, science provides rationale of applying henna during the stressful times of festivals and weddings. Festivity stress can bring fevers and migraines, which when mixed with excitement and nervous anticipation can prove to be harmful for an individual.

Thus, besides lending color, henna also possesses medicinal qualities that relieve stress and keeps the hands and feet cool thereby shielding the nerves from getting tense.

 8. Fasting during Navratri

There are four major Navratris throughout the year, however only two are celebrated on a grand scale. Throughout the nine day festival, devotees observe ritualistic fasts, perform several pujas and offer bhog (holy food) to Goddess Durga in an attempt to gratify her.

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Durga, the Goddess of strength. Wikimedia

But according to science, these navratris are celebrated when the seasons are transitioning. As the seasons and the temperatures change, our eating habits also do.

Fasting during Navratri allows our bodies to adjust to the changing temperature. Individuals get a chance to detox their bodies by quitting excessive salt, sugar and oil. Additionally, Navratris allow them to meditate and gain positive energy. This helps them prepare for the upcoming change in seasons.

 9. Applying sindoor

In traditional Hindu societies, the Sindoor denotes a woman’s desire for their spouse’s longetivity. The red powder is believed to be the color of power, symbolizing the female energy of Parvati and Sati. The Hindu dharma holds a woman is ‘complete’ or ideal only when she wears Sindoor.

Hindu dharma
Sindoor a cultural identity of every Hindu women. Wikimedia

Science explains that sindoor is made out of Vermilion, which is the decontaminated and powdered type of cinnabar (mercury sulfide). Because of its characteristic properties, mercury is known to reduce anxiety, control blood pressure and also initiate sexual desire, the primary reason why married women are advised to wear the ‘holy’ red powder. This is also the reason why widows are prohibited from wearing sindoor.

10. Wearing bangles on wrists

Bangles have been worn in the Hindu dharma since times immemorial- goddesses are also pictured to adorn these beautiful rings in their wrists. Bangles are believed to enhance feminine grace and beauty. The Hindu dharma almost makes it mandatory for newly-wed brides and to-be brides to wear bangles as they are believed to symbolize the well-being of the husbands and the sons.

Hindu dharma
Bangles are believed to accentuate the beauty of the Indian woman. Pixabay

Science suggests the constant friction caused by wearing bangles in the wrists expands the blood flow level. Besides this, the energy passing through the external skin is once again returned to one’s own body due to the round-molded bangles which has no ends to pass the energy out.

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Ram and Ravana Have More In Common Than You Think : 5 Traits of the Anti-Hero Ravana That You Must Learn | Dussehra Special

An individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.

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Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram? Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 30, 2017 : Happy Dussehra or Vijaydashmi – the day we all rejoice the defeat of the evil Lanka Naresh Ravana by Shri Ram. But the essence of the festival is much more than plain revenge. We have been told since times immemorial that the festival symbolizes the triumph of truth over deception and good over evil; the victory of Lord Ram (who we must aspire to be) over the evil Ravana (who should be despised). But is that all there is to devour from the epic?

Lord Ram is held in reverence across the country and is seen as the ultimate role model. Popularly addressed as ‘Maryada Purushottam’, we have all, at a point, aimed to inculcate similar traits in our life.  But do we truly aspire to live a Ram-like life? If your answer to that question is in the affirmation, what are you doing to lead a life defined with such high morale and ideals?

We Have More In Common With Ravana Than Ram

‘Respect your parents’, ‘One must not steal’, ‘Do not lie’, ‘Honesty is the best policy’.

Despite being repeatedly exposed to these virtues, we are still dishonest.

Lord Ram, who we aspire to be, supposedly never lied.

The veneration with which the Raghuvansham looked up to his parents is not only impossible to trace in the present day, but also hard to emulate.

An epitome of ethical demeanor and exemplary disciple, are we as devoted as Ram?

This brings me to a larger question.

Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram?

Maybe because it is easy to be a Ravana today, than be the ideal Ram.

So, this Dussehra, as people from all across India burn effigies of Ravana as part of the popular ritual, let us dig a little deeper and introspect what makes the anti-hero, Ravana so special and traits we can learn from his life,

What Can We Learn From Ravana

  1. Undying Faith and Devotion

Ravana performed an extreme repentance (or tapasya) to appease Shiva that lasted for tens of thousands years.

During his atonement, Ravana sacrificed his head for the sake of Shiva and chopped it off 10 different times. Each time he cut his head off, another head emerged, hence empowering him to proceed with his repentance. Finally, satisfied with his severity, Shiva showed up after his tenth beheading and rewarded him a boon of heavenly nectar of eternality.

King Ravana
Ten-headed Ravana. Wikimedia

Ravana additionally requested for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents which was granted by Shiva along with his 10 severed heads and an incredible knowledge of heavenly weapons and magic.

  1.  Knowledge

Ravana was the grandson of Brahma, the creator of the universe, the son of sage Vishrava and a sibling of Kubera, the god of riches.

He himself was an exceptional researcher and was learned in Ayurveda, political science and the ways of the Kshatriyas (warriors). His ten heads are known to speak of his insight into the Shastras and the four Vedas A great Veena player, he additionally wrote several books and verses on medicine and composed the Ravana Samhita, a book on Hindu astrology and the Arka Prakasham.

This highlights that despite your ill-deeds, knowledge can win you laurels, even from your staunchest rivals.

  1. Indomitable Leadership

Valmiki recognized Ravana as an exceptionally proficient and just ruler.

Ravana emerged victorious in the battle against the demon king Sumali and assumed control and administration over Lanka, thus gaining the title of ‘Lanka Naresh’. Under his reign, the kingdom came to be known as ‘Sone ki Lanka’ (kingdom of gold) and witnessed the most prosperous and magnanimous period in its history.

Ravana was a minding ruler, who cared for his subjects well. It was only under his rule and guidance that the kingdom, constricted by Vishwakarma, the best of all architects, flourished.

ALSO READ Ramayana : 6 Timeless Management Lessons From the Ancient Hindu Text that You Must Im

  1. Ambition and Belief in Self

After his penance to Lord Shiva, Ravana had wished for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents. Maintaining conviction in himself and his abilities, he wanted to emerge victorious and preside over all three worlds. He also fought a series of wars and lost only four times. Ravana also defeated Sumali, the demon king and established control over Lanka.

This tells us that ambition is the key to progress. Without ambition, men would have not discovered wheels, horse carts or chariots, magnificent cities, temples and palaces, or majestic sailing ships. Absence of ambition means an absence of growth.

  1. Staying True to Oneself

Ravana wanted to emerge as the greatest ruler, however, he did not aspire to become ‘God’ or attain moksha.

In response to the great king Mahabali who advised Ravana to shun malice and greed, the Lanka Naresh told him that he would never strive to be a God and shall live like a man and die as one too. Ravana lived exactly as his emotions guided him and did not aim to be a role model for the generations to follow.

This brings forth Ravana’s conviction to live our life to its full and die as a man should, staying true to one’s character and never once aiming to be godly.

Ravana
Ravana’s story is a testament that a single vice in character is sufficient to drag you to your end. Wikimedia

Ram And Ravana Had More In Common Than You Think

Most of us believe Ravana to be an evil rakshas. However, a deeper understanding of the Hindu mythology and its characters reveal that both Ram and Ravana had traits that one must aspire to imbibe.

Throughout the epic, both Ram and Ravana demonstrated outrageous determination in following their convictions, regardless of what they were to face thereafter.  Yet, we only address Ram as the Lord while look at Ravana as an evil force, despite recognizing (however not truly accepting) his traits.

Ram battled with valor against all dangers, until the point he delivered justice for all the wrong that was done to him. Similarly, Ravana remained loyal to his choices (abduction of Sita) and its consequences till his final breath.

In his quest to bring his wife back, Ram fought battles, meandered for miles, and even clashed with the gods of the oceans. Despite all intricacies, what guided Lord Ram to ultimate victory was his determination. Similarly, Ravana (and Shiva) proliferated the best hypothesis of modern humanism “Atma so paramatma” which says there is no more noteworthy power than human fortitude.

Ram touched the hearts of many upon his chance meeting with Shabri and preached lessons of equality and moving beyond barriers of caste upon consumption of her half-consumed berries. In the same manner, the Raksh tribe also proposed faith in nature-worship and universal identity with no predisposition for caste, creed or gender. In fact, Ravan also propagated the ‘Raksh neeti’ which implied equality for all.

ALSO READ Book Review: Was Surpanakha a destructive Demoness from the Ramayana or tormented Woman?

The world largely celebrates Ramayana as a battle the Raghuvansham fought in wife Sita’s esteem. Tales of Lord Ram’s reverence towards his mothers and the female clan in general have been cited across generations that earned him the title of the ‘Maryada Purushottam’.

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Battle between Ram and Ravana. Wikimedia

In a similar manner, Ravan avenged the disrespect given to his sister Shurpanka by abducting Sita. However, he did not ill-treat her, and instead kept her with dignity in the Ashok Vatika.

These instances draw attention to one of the traits of human sociology – an individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.

Maybe over the years, Ramayana has been over-simplified, and consequently, a little misinterpreted.  I believe a lot can be learnt from both, the hero and the anti-hero of the epic.