Magnanimous Mother

Sri Sri Jagaddhatri
Jagaddhatri in full regalia - clay image used for worship at Ranchi Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium

From The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

(To M.) “One must accept the forms of God.  Do you know the meaning of the image of Jagaddhatri? She is the Bearer of the Universe.  Without her support and protection the universe would fall from its place and be destroyed.  The Divine Mother, Jagaddhatri, reveals Herself in the heart of one who can control the mind, which may be compared to an elephant.”

RĀKHĀL : “The mind is a mad elephant.”

MASTER: “Therefore the lion, the carrier of the Divine Mother, keeps it under control.”

Today is Sri Sri Jagaddhatri Puja! I cannot escape from indulging in a little nostalgia with regard to this most important Puja of the Ranchi Sanatorium in India where I was blessed to witness for  12 long years. The enthusiasm and exuberance that expressed in different forms in staff of the hospital, devotees of the Ashram and the tribal public of the neighbouring villages and also well-wishers from distant towns are something not explainable! it was a puja fever under the spell of which we all came to our great delight.

I remember to have written a small piece in Wikipedia in 2005 which I reproduce below:

The formal difference between Durga and Jagaddhatri occurs in ‘Mayatantra’ and Jagaddhatri is mentioned with reference to Durga in Krishnananda’s ‘Tantrasaar’. The special puja of the Goddess on the ninth lunar day of the light fortnight in the month of Kartick has been referred in ‘Krityatattarnab’ by Srinath Acharyachudamoni of the 15th-16th century.

As per ancient pauranik lore of the Hindu scriptures, soon after the victory over Mahishasur the Devatas became highly egoistic. They thought because of lending to Durga their instruments the mighty asuras were vanquished. To make them understand that the primordial power is alone behind every action, the Brahman appeared before the Devatas in the form of effulgent Yaksha. Bewildered by its presence one by one the Devatas approached Yaksha. First the god of wind Vayu. The Yaksha asked him what he could do. The Vayu replied that he could throw away huge trees, tumble high mountains. The Yaksha then placed a small grass and asked him to move it. The Vayu utilised all his powers but lo! he could not even displace it. So also the god of fire Agni, could not even burn it. Likewise one by one the Devatas failed. And it dawned on them that their powers are in reality not their own but derived from the supreme power who as protecting mother holds the entire creation and therefore called Jagaddhatri. Anybody who worships Jagaddhatri becomes absolutely egoless and a true servant of the world which is nothing but a manifestation of the Brahman.

While thinking of Ma Jagaddhatri, some readers may wonder how this Puja was started in a TB Sanatorium which may seem unconnected. But I want to share a true incident that I heard from the eye-witnesses.

It is pertinent that this memorable puja was indeed started by one in-patient of this Sanatorium in 1958. He was late Bhupati Bose from Howrah. It is said that he had a divine aadesh in dream one day for doing Devi Puja. The then Secretary Maharaj late Swami Vedantanandaji rejected his offer saying that doing Durga Puja in a hospital set up is not a joke. But Bhupati, distressed at the decision, prayed to the Mother and sought excuse for his inability to carry out Her wish. Who can eventually stop the Divine Will? He again dreamt of the Mother who said that there was one-day Puja also available! On hearing about the second dream, Vedantanandaji was ready to reconsider his decision and acceded to the patient’s request for Jagaddhatri worship. Bhupati himself prepared the image beautifully for consecutive two years. The entire staff and all the in-patients stood together in completing the one-day Puja with great devotion.

JPUJAimmersion
Image of the Divine Mother taken in procession for Immersion

Sri Lalita Sahasranama in its 173 verse speaks of Tripurasundari as Jagaddhatri .

Vishvamata jagaddhatri vishalakshi viragini

Pragalbha paramodara paramoda manomayi .. 173

Vishvamata: Who is the Mother of the Universe.
Jagaddhatri: Who is the holder of the universe.
Vishalakshi: Who has large eyes.
Viragini: Who is utterly passionless.
Pragalbha: Who is surprisingly daring
Paramodara: Who is supremely generous.
Manomayi: Who is all mentation.

Art work on Anjaneya

Today is the first night of navaratri which is holy and auspicious to all Hindus. Here in SA, the Divine Mother Goddess Durga is worshipped in Her three aspects as Mahakaali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati, three nights each during this nine-day celebration. Not only Sri Ramakrishna kept in his room several pictures of Gods and Goddesses but also advised devotees to do so. “Divine feeling is awakened through such pictures” he said. Once he went all the way to see a home of a devotee, hearing that he had a large collection of religious pictures! You can also enjoy seeing one hundred ninety-nine ennobling pictures of Hindu Goddesses, one hundred twenty-seven of which especially on Durga at this Flickr site. The Lord of Durga – Neelakantha Shiva has eleven aspects that are called Rudras. The Shiva puraana speaks about the Eleventh Rudra who incarnates as Sri Hanuman. I am thankful to Simon Ram of UK who gave permission to place a rare picture of Hanumanji with Gauri-Shankar which you can find at the bottom of this post.

The drawing and a write-up on Visual Art Work that is displayed in a box down below, is by one 14 year old school student who regularly attends our Sunday School for Children. Presently this boy is schooling at Ladysmith High School and in Gr.9. His name is Yashteel Raj. He attends the Ramakrishna Centre – Ladysmith branch. He also enjoys reading and learning about Hindu religion through stories like the Ramayana, etc. Recently he wrote to me an email which I reproduce here:

Yashteel Raj of Ladysmith
Yashteel Raj from Ladysmith

Om Namo Narayanaya Swamiji

It was very good to see you on Saturday after such a long time.

I had to make an artwork about my culture this week and I was so inspired by your talk on Sri Hanumanji that I made a drawing of him carrying the Drona Mountain. I wanted to show you how it looks – I hope you like it.

Mom, Dad and Chiara also send their pranams.

Durga Durga

Yashteel Raj

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Yes, beta Yashteel, I  am immensely pleased to see your art work. Congrats! Indeed, your devotion to Sri Hanumanji has brought Hanumanji’s grace to you and you have excelled in it. May He bestow you the three essential things which Tulsidasji, in his mystical prayer hymn, demands from Sri Hanumanji – bala, budhi, vidya!

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Inspired drawing - an Art work on Anjaneya
Inspired drawing - an Art work on Anjaneya

Arts & Culture:

Visual Artwork Project

What is Culture?

Culture, as I understand it, is a word which describes an individual’s lifestyle. One’s culture is basically their way of life: their social and religious norms, cuisine, literature, and choice of music and art. Culture thus consists of person’s customs and traditions.

What is your Chosen Culture and

Why can it be defined as a Culture?

I have chosen to make my artwork about my own “hybrid” Hindu culture as it would be personal and I already know much about it.

My chosen culture can be described as a culture as it includes all of my social and religious norms. It consists of the food I eat (spicy) and governs, to an extent, the type of literature, art and music I come into contact with. It also consists of all of my customs and traditions.

My religion plays a very important part in my culture, so I chose to make an artwork which is relevant to it. My artistic talent lies in drawing; hence I chose to depict an event from the epic tale, the Ramayana, in this form. Here Lord Hanuman carries the huge Drona Mountain on his shoulders, from the Himalayas to Lanka, as it contains the rare sanjeevani herb required to heal Lakshmana.

What I found Difficult

I faced many difficulties while creating my artwork and tried to overcome them as best I could. These problems were:

  • My colouring was uneven and looked bad, so I “smudged” or “shaded”.
  • Some garments blocked vital muscles, so I made them semi-transparent.
  • I had some trouble drawing Hanuman’s hands and feet, but I got it right in the end.
  • Lord Hanuman’s ape-like mouth was hard to blend in to the face so I experimented with sfumato.
  • It was hardest for me to give texture to Lord Hanuman and the mountain. I tried utilizing tonal value to aid me in my plight.

What I Learnt and Enjoyed

  • I learnt how to draw another type of abdomen and six-pack, which stems from “Hercules-type” animation.
  • I discovered how to add tonal value to give texture and depth to an artwork.
  • Shading, in some cases, is more effective than colouring.
  • If you shade on differently textured surfaces, their texture will be implied on your artwork. This can be a easy way to create texture.
  • I enjoyed drawing Lord Hanuman and experimenting with different muscle-types and colours, etc.

Conclusion

I really liked making this artwork. Drawing is lots of fun and I really enjoyed expressing my culture in this form.

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Sri Hanumanji with Sri Gauri-Shankarji - a rare picture
Sri Hanumanji with Sri Gauri-Shankarji - a rare picture, Courtesy: Simon Ram, UK

Hinduism Conference 2009

This year the Annual Hinduism Conference is hosted by our Ladysmith branch, scheduled on Sunday, 6th September, 2009.  The theme is Hindu Families – Challenges and Solutions. It is no doubt interesting but also topical. Dr Aruna Chetty, Director of Phoenix Child and Family Welfare Society will deliver a paper on ‘Creating Security and Family Stability’. Brother Swami Saradaprabhanandaji will speak on ‘Reconciling Religious Conflicts in a Family’. The Third paper will be presented by Veena Singaram on ‘Leadership Qualities and Responsibility of the Mother’.  Advocate H Kessie Naidu SC will present the Fourth paper on ‘Balancing Hindu Values with Westernisation’.

Panel Discussion and Questions session will be conducted by Dr Behariram and Rakhi Beekrum. The Inaugural Address will of course by me. The Opening Prayer will be lead by Sister Pravrajika Ishtapranaji of Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. I shall try to present a Report later on the proceedings of this prestigious Conference.

Below here is the Invitation:

coverpage
Annual Hinduism Conference 2009 - cover page

Annual Hinduism Conference 2009 - Inside Program page
Annual Hinduism Conference 2009 - Inside Program page

A Hymn to Him!

Happy Sri Ganesh Chaturthi greetings!

Child Ganesha embracing Shiva-linga, Photo Courtesy: Rishi
Divine darling Ganesha embracing Shiva-linga, Photo Courtesy: Rishi

A Hymn to Him? Him, whom the entire Hindu world remembers before beginning anything anew; Him, whom Gauri-shankar, the parents of the universe (jagatah pitarau) praised for His wisdom ; Him, whom all the Gods, Goddesses, humans and other beings bow for removal of obstacles; today is the auspicious Sri Ganesh chaturthi.

Last year I reminisced my childhood days during Ganesh chaturthi celebration (see here). How the wonderful Lord Ganesha, who shines like a freshly risen sun (nava-udita-arka bhaasvaram) enlightened me of a fact of life! And, alongwith, in a lighter vein, I had talked of kozhukattai, the delectable sweet dish. I must confess here that my complaint(!) was well taken as challenge by one of our devotees of Ladysmith sub-centre, who exactly reproduced kozhukattai to my great wonder and delight too, as per the recipe! Ganesha bestowed on her siddhi (success) in her earnest attempt.

The worship of Ganesha was made an integral part of Hindu tradition by Adi Shankaracharya; It tells us about the panchaayatana puja. Five deities – GaneshaVishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Surya – are taken together for daily worship. Skanda that is Lord Murugan is also added bringing a title of great honour viz., shanmata sthapaka – “Founder of six Faiths” for Adi Shankaracharya.

I find our Centre in SA has published a Prayer Book which is very popular among our devotees and even among other organisations too. It has excellent hymns compiled by Swami Shivapadanandaji, the second President of our Centre. Its contents are neatly classified into Prayers, Bhajans and Kirtans, Stotrams and Aratis.

Generally hymns play a vital role in the evolution of spiritual life. As a child you start reciting it again and again along with the elders in the family and without any extra effort the whole hymn becomes byheart. The ideas of the hymn remain in the mind when you grow up. I remember vividly how I used to join the recital of hymns with my mother and other elders in the family, by the process of which several hymns became strongly embedded in memory. One such hymn was Ganesha Pancha-ratnam. The other was some captivating songs from the enchanting Thiruppugazh.

Now let me tell you about the hymn called Ganesha pancha-ratnam – the Gems-five on Ganesha. The author of this exquisite hymn on Ganesha is our eternal Guru Adi Shankaracharya. The metre, language, and the thoughts are exceptionally elevating to our bhakti mood. This poem is composed in a metre called pancha-chaamaram, which has four quarters of sixteen syllables each, and has a scheme of short-long-short-long syllables. The dance experts say that this ‘tadhIm-tadhIm’ gait endows it with a brisk, marching gait (imagine Ganesha walking!). The learned further add that the poets of the past exactly knew how to choose metres, and sounds which conveyed the import of the poem, not just lilting lyric.

This has been sung, creating a soul-satisfying experience, by no other than Karnatic maestro M S Subbulakshmi.

It would be wonderful if our devotees in SA as well as in other countries who do not know this particular hymn on Ganesha, can learn it. In order to get the tune for this hymn, I give below the youtube link for Ganesha pancharatnam. While listening to the tune, one can follow the words of the hymn given hereunder. I am thankful to Chennaionline.com for the English translation of the hymn.

Mudaa karaatha Modakam Sadaa Vimukti Saadhakam

Kalaa dharaava tamsakam Vilaasiloka Rakshakam

Anaaya Kaika Naayakam Vinasitebha Daityakam

Nataasubhaasu Naashakam Namaami Tam Vinaayakam

Meaning: I prostrate before Lord Vinaayaka who joyously holds modaka in His hand, who bestows salvation, who wears the moon as a crown in His head, who is the sole leader of those who lose themselves in the world. The leader of the leaderless who destroyed the elephant demon called Gajaasura and who quickly destroys the sins of those who bow down to Him, I worship such a Lord Ganesh.

Nateta raati Bheekaram Navodi taarka Bhaasvaram

Namat Suraari Nirjaram Nataadhi Kaapa Duddharam

Suresvaram Nidheesvaram Gajesvaram Ganeshvaram

Mahesvaram Samaashraye Paraatparam Nirantaram

Meaning: I meditate eternally on Him, the Lord of the Ganas, who is frightening to those not devoted, who shines like the morning sun, to whom all the Gods and demons bow, who removes the great distress of His devotees and who is the best among the best.

Samasta Loka Shankaram Nirasta Daitya Kunjaram

Dareda rodaram Varam Vare Bhavaktra Maksharam

Krupaa karam Kshamaakaram Mudaakaram Yasaskaram

Manaskaram Namaskrutaam Namaskaromi Bhaasvaram

Meaning: I bow down with my whole mind to the shining Ganapati who brings happiness to all the worlds, who destroyed the demon Gajasura, who has a big belly, beautiful elephant face, who is immortal, who gives mercy, forgiveness and happiness to those who bow to Him and who bestows fame and a well disposed mind.

Akimchanaarti Maarjanam Chirantanokti Bhaajanam

Puraari Poorva Nandanam Suraari Garva Charvanam

Prapancha Naasha Bheeshanam Dhananjayaadi Bhushanam

Kapola Daana Vaaranam Bhajaey Puraana Vaaranam

Meaning: I worship the ancient elephant God who destroys the pains of the poor, who is the abode of Aum, who is the first son of Lord Shiva (Shiva who is the destroyer of triple cities), who destroys the pride of the enemies of the Gods, who is frightening to look at during the time of world’s destruction, who is fierce like an elephant in rut and who wears Dhananjaya and other serpents as his ornaments.

Nitaanta kaanta Dantakaanti Mantakaanta Kaatmajam

Achintya Rupa Mantaheena Mantaraaya Krintanam

Hrudantarey Nirantaram Vasantameva Yoginaam

Tameka Danta Mevatam Vichintayaami Santatam

Meaning: I constantly reflect upon that single tusked God only, whose lustrous tusk is very beautiful, who is the son of Lord Shiva, (Shiva, the God of destruction), whose form is immortal and unknowable, who tears asunder all obstacles, and who dwells forever in the hearts of the Yogis.

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The Hit that doesn’t Hurt !

Happy Krishna Ashtami greetings!

The Yuga avataars - Sri Krishna and Ramakrishna, Courtesy: Dr S Adhinarayanan, New Delhi, India
The Yuga avataars - Sri Krishna and Ramakrishna, Courtesy: Dr S Adhinarayanan, New Delhi, India

Swami Vivekananda succinctly gives the central teaching of Sri Krishna when he says that “…the doctrine which stands out luminously in every page of the Gita is intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness. This is the secret of Work, to attain which is the goal of Vedanta…” On this auspicious occasion of Sri Krishna Ashtami celebration, may the Almighty be ever gracious in enabling us to practice Vedanta in our day to-day life as propounded and practiced by the Holy Trio is my fervent prayer!

This year Lord Sri Krishna allowed me to practice that intense activity without losing my calmness. I repeat here what I wrote last year : In India, in no centre of ours, I had witnessed such an elaborate festival! The devotion of the devotees is worth noting; what a verve and vigour in singing bhajans! And faith and fervour in performing worship! And the day-long fasting and sitting in the temple for such long hours – absolutely maintaining utmost discipline – no chitchat, no gossip and all are tuned to the discourse and songs, well, I was greatly pleased and impressed with a new kind of experience that gave a boost to my devotional practices!

And my tour program was like this:

06 Aug – Estcourt Gayatri Temple

07 Aug – Ladysmith Sub centre

08 Aug – Dundee Sub centre

09 Aug – Morn – Newcastle sub centre

09 Aug – Even – Glencoe Hindu Temple

10 Aug – Even – Pietermaritzburg sub centre

10 Aug – Night – Pietermaritzburg Sri Vishnu Temple

11 Aug – Morn – Phoenix sub centre  for the senior citizens

11 Aug – Even – Chatsworth sub centre

13 Aug – Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram

14 Aug – Last session of Krishna ashtami in HQ

Happy news to our readers! This Blog started on January 23, 2008, had crossed 10 thousand hits within a span of seven months and now by the grace of Master, Mother and Swamiji has crossed 30 thousand hits ! I cannot but thank every one of you who avidly reads and sends me interesting comments.


Have a look at AMATOMU. It’s a new service created by the Mail & Guardian Online that tracks the South African blogosphere. Under the category Religion, the first 25 Popular Religion Blogs are listed (of course all South African!). And as readers of this Blog you will be pleased to know that “Vedanta in practice” has climbed up the ladder to come as 3rd by Reads!

Another news too!

IndiRank is a system, built to rank the blogs in the IndiBlogger network. Although every blog is manually verifiable before it’s allowed into the network, the IndiRank system is completely automated. It’s like ‘runs’ in a game of cricket – the higher the score, the higher ranking it means. Blogs are ranked on a scale of 1-100 and this blog now that is as on date, ranks 67!

I give below the Amatomu Charts for further clarification:

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SA_Cities_Blog