Tag: Service

Selfless action and Siddhis

What is Siddhi?

It is not uncommon that some true aspirants who are leading a sincere spiritual life do get some siddhis. A few readers of my Blog have sent queries about ‘siddhis’. They want to know whether it is eventually good to possess these siddhis, if they come unasked. Or, are siddhis positively harmful?

What is Siddhi? In plain Sanskrit it means ‘success’. Siddhi also means ‘perfection’. In spiritual world, ‘siddhi’ connotes mystical Powers.

Sri Hanumanji as worshipped in homes

Saint Tulsidas, in his famous ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, praises Sri Hanuman as the ‘giver of eight kinds of ‘siddhi’ (mystical Powers) and nine kinds of ‘nidhi’ (wealth)’. What are they? One authoritative source to know about siddhis is definitely Rishi Patanjali’s Yogasutras. Swami Vivekananda’s lucid exposition of these sutras is indeed popular throughout the world.

According to a traditional view contained in Mahabharata, Siddhis are in eight in number and they are:

anima, mahima, laghima, garima, prapti, prakamya, istava and vasitva. These are the eight powers that one gains by a control one acquires over the elements.

Anima is the power by which one becomes very small. Mahima is the power by which one becomes very big. Laghima is the power by which one becomes very light. Garima is the power by which one becomes very heavy. Prapti is the power by which one can contact anything anywhere, whatever be the distance of that object. Prakamya is the capacity to fulfil any wish that is in the mind. Isatva is the capacity to bring anyone under one’s subjection. And vasitva is the mastery over the whole universe. These are the powers, says Rishi Patanjali, that one can get by ‘samyama’ (absolute concentration) on the five elements.

In his famous lecture on The Vedanta in all its Phases, delivered in Calcutta, Swamiji says: All powers and all purity and all greatness — everything is in the soul. The Yogi would tell you that the Siddhis – Animâ, Laghimâ, and so on — that he wants to attain to are not to be attained, in the proper sense of the word, but are already there in the soul; the work is to make them manifest. Patanjali, for instance, would tell you that even in the lowest worm that crawls under your feet, all the eightfold Yogi’s powers are already existing. The difference has been made by the body. As soon as it gets a better body, the powers will become manifest, but they are there.

How much helpful?

Are these Siddhis really helpful in one’s spiritual life? Yes, they are indeed helpful provided – the Powers are used for the good of others and if Guru’s permission to use them is obtained.

boats anchored in Midmar Dam in South Africa

But every saint true to his salt, has warned us from using these Powers as they can easily promote egoism and then make us fall from the chosen spiritual path. Some times the Powers are so useless in one’s spiritual development; Sri Ramakrishna would ridicule in gaining these Powers after much penance. He once remarked about a monk returned to meet his brother. When the brother questioned about what had he got after leaving the home and practicing strenuous tapasya, the monk proudly answered, “Look, I can walk on the river waters”. And he actually showed his brother how he could walk on the waters! The brother exclaimed, “Oh! Only for ‘walking on the waters’ you spent 12 long years! See by paying to the boatman half a rupee I can cross this river!”

The Mahabharata episode

Nevertheless, Siddhis have captured the minds of aspirants from ancient time and by following any or in combination of all the four yogas namely, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga, the siddhis can be obtained. One illustrative story that we find in Mahabharata is about an ascetic who meditates in a forest. Once he was doing his sadhana when a bird’s droppings fell on his shaven head. Utterly disturbed and consequently irritated, he cursed that the bird be burnt to death. And lo! The bird immediately fell from the tree dead. The ascetic understood that he has already developed a siddhi and became proud of it.

an ideal householder

When the time came for taking alms, he ventured into a nearby village. It is an ancient practice in India that the renunciates stand in front of homes and call loudly the mother of the house to give them the required alms. A few minutes passed and there was no response from that home. Again he knocked at the door and called a little more loudly. Still there was no response. The third time he called with disgust and became angry. He was aware that he had got ‘siddhi’ the mystical power and hence thought would use that same power that he had used in the morning in a forest. At that juncture, a sweet voice of the house lady came through the still closed-door. She in a warning note, replied from inside, “Look! My boy! Don’t ever think that I am that bird which you burnt it to death! Hold on! I am coming now!”.

Obviously the ascetic was dumb founded as the morning incident of his burning a bird in that forest was not known to any one. How could this house lady who was in a distant village knew what happened earlier. Now, more than alms, he was curious to know about her. She opened the door and welcomed him in her home. While giving this ascetic boy the meals, she explained the cause for the delay in her response.

She showed him how her ailing husband was in the bed and he needed all services that she lovingly rendered to him. The knowledge of knowing about this ascetic was part of gaining a siddhi. She further informed him that such mystical powers could be obtained not only by meditation but also by performing one’s duties with love, respect and dedication.

Selfless action and Siddhis?

30 kms south of Kangra valley in the lap of Shivalik range and 56 kms from Dharamshala, the Jwalamukhi temple is dedicated to the "GODDESS OF LIGHT". One of its own kinds of temples, there is no idol in it. An eternally burning and shining blue flame emanating from a rock sanctum is only worshipped here as a manifestation of the goddess. Dedicated to the deity of Flaming Mouth or goddess Jwalamukhi, the temple is one of the 51 power spots or Shaktipeethas of India. One of the most revered temples of the Hindus, the temple possesses a golden dome, gifted by Mughal Emperor Akbar. The temple is at its best during Navratri festival in early April and mid October.

Once during my three-month ‘wanderings’ in North India, I reached Jwalamukhi, a place of pilgrimage in Himachal Pradesh where Divine Mother is worshipped in flames of fire. It was about evening. Getting down from the bus, I sauntered in that small sleepy town searching for one night accommodation. I saw a guest house run by Gita Bhavan. The receptionist gladly welcomed me and gave a key and two blankets. He showed me a spot in the verandah of the upper floor where there was a cupboard in which I could keep my bag and even lock it. I spread the blanket on the clean floor.  Locking the cupboard, I went down to take bath before proceeding to mandir for darshan.

I found several common bathrooms and toilets in the corner of the buildings. There was a huge well. A small bucket has been tied with a rope. By throwing the small bucket in the well, one can easily draw water and pour it in a bigger bucket and use it for bath and other purposes. While I was taking the small one in my hands, readying to place it in the well by sending it down, someone came to me and forcibly took the ropes in his hand, saying sweetly, “Baba! Please don’t! I am here to serve you! I shall fill this bucket with water and place it in a bath room. Please wait!”.

I thought why at all I should take the help of another person when drawing water from a well was not a difficult task. I looked at the person who offered help to me. He was a middle-aged man, robust in health and having a turban on his head signifying that he belonged to the Sikh faith. So quickly that the Sardarji drew water I had to accept his seva willy-nilly as I was getting late for the evening arati in the temple and had no time to argue with him.

Karma Yoga - selfless service

Once the temple arati was over, I returned to Gita Bhavan. That  Sardarji was still there near the well and I was surprised to see him, drawing water from the well for everyone else too. One after another the pilgrims were served by him. I do not know how many buckets of water he must have filled in serving all those who came there!

When he became free, he slowly came to me and sat with me to converse. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, he told that he was very happy to meet me. I too expressed my happiness for his unasked seva. He strangely told me was I not coming down from the Himalayas? Did I not stay with a highly evolved monk for a few weeks? Did I not learn such and such things from him?

To say the least I was indeed surprised. I thought how he could exactly point out even what I had studied under a monk and where I was in past weeks. Naturally I enquired with a tinge of suspicion, how did he know about me. In a most disarming way, the Sardarji replied that once he saw any one, he could instantly come to know of all personal details about that person. What was striking about him was his utter humility. In sweet intonation, he described how he had undertaken the seva to pilgrims in that holy town several years before. He had a small shop for his income to take care of his family. Once the shop hours were over, he spends his time at this guesthouse where hundreds of pilgrims come and go. He continued further to say that it was his privilege to serve them in a spirit of Karma Yoga!

Each is great in his own place?

All spiritual aspirants are familiar with karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is a plan of action for betterment. It provides certain values in our life. It makes us pure by stripping off our selfish motives. It has such wonderful practices that make us work for others in a spirit of service. Self-sacrifice becomes inherent and it elevates the individual who is attuned to it. In short Karma Yoga contributes for the making of a man to an elevated spiritual being.

One of the doctrines of Karma Yoga is activity. Performance of action must be according to one’s own nature and occupation. Whatever be the social status, whether a person is a monk or householder, the duties that has befallen on his status must be carried out.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda, in one of his famous lectures on Karma Yoga, entitled “Each is Great in his own Place” points out very admirably the importance of performing one’s duties. He says that the Karma Yoga “does not say that this duty is lowering and the other elevating. Each duty has its own place, and according to the circumstances in which we are placed, must we perform our duties.”

He continues to caution us by saying that “If a man retires from the world to worship God, he must not think that those who live in the world and work for the good of the world are not worshipping God; neither must those who live in the world for wife and children think that those who give up the world are low vagabonds. Each is great in his own place.”

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Krishna Ashtami greetings!

Dear Devotees

Aum Namo Narayanaya!

Hindus all along have, from time immemorial, been worshippers of God in form. We strongly believe that the formless, infinite
Ishwara who is nitya (eternal), buddha (awakened), shuddha (ever pure) and mukta (ever free) does alone takes any form out of His compassion for devotees.

Sri Ramakrishna in marble image fully bedecked for Sri Krishna Ashtami Celebration...

Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna used to say that “Many are the names of God and infinite are forms through which he may be approached.”

One of the most essential and distinctive feature of Bhakti-maarga – the path of Devotion – is dependence on grace. The Gita speaks of two kinds of Grace: one is general or impersonal grace available to all people irrespective of whether they are Bhaktas or Jnaanis. (samo’ham sarva bhuteshu, Gita, 9.29). The other is a special, personal grace given only to the true devotee who has surrendered his all to the Avataara and depends on Him alone. Such a devotee’s spiritual and material welfare (yogakshema) God Himself takes care of.

For the first time in the religious history of India—perhaps the whole world—a divine Teacher gave this assurance to mankind:

“I lift up those who depend on me from the ocean of death” (12.7)
“I swear: my devotee, even if he is the worst of sinners, will never perish” (9.31)
“I will liberate you from all sins; don’t worry” (18.66)

marble images of Radharani and Lord Krishna after the daily puja...

The only condition for this otherwise unconditional Grace is prapatti or self-surrender. The type of self-surrender that Gita teaches is not a passive state of inaction which weakens the person. On the contrary prapatti is a dynamic state which gives tremendous strength to the person. Strong in the strength of God, he can face any problem, even fight a battle, with equanimity and calmness of mind (Gita: 3.30)

May we remember that every human body is like a temple wherein the heart of hearts is the chosen spot where God resides. While it is good to propitiate God in stone or marble, it is necessary that we should worship God in the poor, God in the sick and God in the illiterate. The worship of God in man should take the form of seva (service).

Swami Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and devotees of our Centre join me in conveying hearty best wishes for the success of the Krishna ashtami celebration at your home and at your Centre or branches.

May Lord Radhakrishna bless you all with devotion at His lotus feet! On this auspicious Krishna Janmasthami day, may the divine Lord take birth and manifest in our hearts. May He enact all His divine plays for our welfare and that of the world and as He lifted Govardhan for the safety of Vrindavan, may He lift the burdens of our life, so we may continue on our journey in divine bliss.

Swami Vimokshananda

Speaking silently!

A picture is worth a thousand words indeed! So, who would not want to see the pictures speaking silently?

Diwali in Durban was as fascinating as freshly laden fragrance. Its joyful feelings of care and share wafted in the air everywhere. In all the functions that I attended, hamper distribution to poor families was the main item besides bursting fire-works, social gathering and of course sumptuous meals! The hard work that devotees offered in the form of seva to Master hardly escaped my notice.

Here below are some of the photos that can speak thousand words silently…Click the photo for a larger view!

Highlights from Hinduism Conference – Part II

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Today is September 11. In 1893, on this same date Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of Religions at Chicago, USA. This lecture practically catapulted him as an international figure. The last line of his famous lecture succinctly gives the gist of Hinduism: I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

When the Conference on Hinduism held at Ladysmith Civic Centre on Sunday 6, September, 2009 concluded amidst chanting of vedic mantras as closing prayers, when the delegates started departing in a mood of delight, all of us felt that the ideas that were discussed so forcefully would ever remain etched green in our memory-land and to say in the words of one of our Blog readers from Ladysmith “What a marvellous conference we had! Many thanks are due to the Master for making this occasion possible…There is no doubt that all who attended benefited not simply from the content, but also from the holy company.”
My hearty thanks go to Reantha Pillay, a student-devotee, who has penned this brilliant Report – on the same day, in spite of the long distance to & fro travel – that would, I believe satisfy the curiosity of those who could not attend the Conference. I am giving below the Part II of the Report. I am also thankful to devotee Rishienandan of Pietermaritzburg subcentre for the excellent photos.

Report – Part II

DSC_0311Reantha Pillay

The captivating centerpiece of many who attended  the Conference will undoubtedly be the paper delivered by Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj, Vice-President of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. He spoke on Reconciling Religious Conflicts in a Family. Maharajji’s focus areas were Inter-Religious marriages and Hindu intra-marriages i.e. marriages between Hindus of different linguistic/faith backgrounds. After Maharajji’s humorous disclaimer that the paper will not bring an end to parental worry nor end the debate on this issue, Maharajji began what was to be an insightful and most interesting paper.

Saradaprabhanandaji presenting his solid views
Saradaprabhanandaji presenting his saintly views

Maharajji established the fact that Inter-belief marriages have occurred since the Rig Veda, that is some 5000 years ago and therefore cannot be said to violate the spirit of Hindu Dharma. Post establishing the social validity of this practice, Maharajji went on to illustrate how it could be generally beset with unending problems. However, Maharajji in a positive note, pointed out that despite its inherent problematic nature, there are inter-religious marriages that  have proven successful and this was dependent entirely on the couple and their genuine love for one another and also their ability to sustain a successful marriage. Maharajji urged parents and the general  members of society to be flexible and cautioned against attempting to break a relationship founded on strong  pure love. At this junction Maharajji warned about the greatest casualty – children and the uncertainty they experience when these marriages begin to  flounder. He also addressed the Inter-sect marriages saying that they were not as problematic and marital success could be assured with little difficulty. His 6 practical tips for parties contemplating such a union are:

  • Premarital counselling
  • Beware of Conversion
  • Acquire negotiating skills to resolve conflict non violently
  • Address the issue of an Identity Crisis
  • Foster Communication Skills
  • Avoid destructive family bigotry

Swami Saradaprabahanadaji concluded in saying that marriage is a means to attain God realisation and a vibrant Hindu marriage can attain this whilst simultaneously bringing peace to a family.

Veena Singaram's visual impact paper
Veena Singaram's visual impact paper

The third paper presented was entitled Leadership qualities and Responsibilities of the Mother and was by Ms Veena Singaram, a lecturer. Ms Singaram looked briefly at the various challenges facing Hindu women, such as the need to balance the roles of a wife, mother and leader. She also briefly looked at various aspects of leadership and identified the key qualities necessary to be a leader.  Ms Singaram drew from the wealth of great Indian women such as Sri Sarada Devi, the epitome of purity and unconditional love, as well as many other historical personalities. She also looked at great men such as Gandhiji, Washington and Lincoln who honoured their mothers. Ms Singaram advised the audience that motherhood in its nature encapsulates leadership as they require similar traits.  She ended on a very practical note providing Hindu mothers with a few important gems of advice namely :

  • Parents must imbibe positive qualities
  • They must attempt to and subsequently gain an understanding of their children.
  • “Practice what they preach”
  • Educate their children on religious and cultural issues.
Naidu presenting his no-nonsense paper
Naidu presenting his no-nonsense paper

The final paper was delivered by Senior Counsel, Advocate H Kessie Naidu, entitled Balancing Hindu values with Westernization.  Advocate Naidu drew from the inspiration of Swami Vivekananda, whose role in modernizing Hinduism and embracing western science cannot be denied. Advocate Naidu acknowledged many aspects of westernization – technology, medicine and the decreasing importance of caste system through constituent democracy. He did, however, caution the audience of the pervasive and persuasive nature of westernization and its effect on our dress, language and lifestyle. He then addressed this issue of Hindu values which lay hidden in the intricacies of our scriptures such as non-violence and the sanctity of life. Advocate Naidu attributed the rise in promiscuity and the death of our vernaculars to mindless attachment to westernization.

He concluded by stating that awareness of the essential values of Hinduism is necessary and thereafter one is required to discern and select the positive aspects of the western world. In this he echoed Swami Vivekananda’s teaching that India should not simply imitate the west but rather absorb and assimilate some western ideals whilst retaining our glorious spiritual heritage. Advocate Naidu’s paper was entertaining and highly relevant given the times we live in.

Professionals in panel discussions
Professionals in panel discussions - Dr Behariram and Rakhi Beekrum

The conference was concluded with a panel discussion that generated great interest. Prompted by the astute questions posed by the members of the audience, the panel consisting of Dr Behariram (Graduated from Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine with a Masters in Family Medicine Degree. Presently manages the Crisis Centre at the Ladysmith Provincial Hospital, working exclusively with survivors of sexual assault especially children) and Rakhi Beekrum (Master of Social Science (Psychology) University of Kwazulu Natal.  Counselling Psychologist at Student Counselling Centre of the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine and runs a private practice in Durban) handled the queries enthusiastically. Questions were fielded at the paper presenters too who did not lag behind in giving quality responses them.

Veni Govender, the dynamic Director of Ceremonies
Veni Govender, the dynamic Director of Ceremonies

I cannot conclude this Report without mentioning about the Director of Ceremonies for this Conference. She was Veni Govender, an eminent Educator of Ladysmith and also a devotee of the Ramakrishna Centre there. The spirited way she started the program, the vigorous manner she veered the responses, the creditable control that she could exercise over the floor and above all the dynamism that she displayed in directing the program cannot but be applauded.

There can be no denying that audience delegates walked out feeling far more equipped to deal with the challenges facing Hindu families. The Conference was undoubtedly a resounding success which harbours only good for families of the future.

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Virabhadranandaji’s Visit

Swami Virabhadranandaji
Swami Virabhadranandaji

Swami Virabhadranandaji is the Head of Ramakrishna Mission’s Malaysia branch. His visit to South Africa was memorable in many ways.

He arrived in Durban, on 10 June from Kuala Lumpur. On his arrival he was given a welcome reception held at HQ on Saturday weekly satsang. During his 15-day stay, he met the officials of our Centre, had meetings with many devotees, addressed different public programs, conducted inspiring Meditation Classes, performed holy home-satsangs and gave interviews to spiritual seekers. He also visited Ramakrishna Sub-Centres in Ladysmith, Newcastle and Dundee in Northern Natal.

At Ladysmith Sub-centre, Swami Virabhadranandaji gave his Keynote address on 16 June which is a National Youth Day in South Africa. More than 250 youth members participated. A special satsang in honour of Swami Virabhadranandaji was held at our Pietermaritzburg sub-centre, where he conducted Guided Meditation and also addressed the congregation. At Chatsworth sub-centre he participated in the half-day Vedanta Retreat wherein he gave his keynote Address.

Earlier the Swami addressed a Satsang meeting held in Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville. In HQ, he spoke to the members of the Sarada Devi Women’s Circle. At Phoenix sub-centre he gave Talks to the Senior Citizen Forum members. The Meditation classes conducted by him including the Vedantic meditation and Class on Bhagavad Gita in HQ, drew lot of appreciation.

The visiting Swami Virabhadanndaji with Swami Saradaprabhanandaji at Abandi Home talking to a terminally ill patient
The visiting Swami Virabhadranandaji with Swami Saradaprabhanandaji at Abalindi Home talking to a terminally ill patient

He was taken to Abalindi Home, one of the NGOs with which the Centre is associated for nearly a decade. The Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa has used a multi-dimensional approach in all its welfare activities over the last 65 years. This vision and strategy ensures that our support and services reach those in need in all areas of society irrespective of race, gender or creed. The Centre works with many NGOs with similar aims and objectives to provide much needed community services.  The Swami was moved to tears when he saw the plight of Terminally Ill Patients. But he was happy that with our Centre’s help, the Home is giving a decent and dignified living just before death.

Dolphins' dance at Ushak Sea World
Dolphins' dance at UShaka Sea World

The divergent flora and fauna of South Africa delighted him.  A special visit was arranged at one of the Drakensberg Resorts for a night’s halt on 19 June. That was a good relaxing experience for the Swami after a hectic tour of 7 days. The rural beauty of this country, with rolling hills and rising valleys, fascinating freeways, expansive open spaces of the country side with enticing autumn gold trees in the horizon and a vast vista of waves of mountains vying with each other in meeting the skyline, made a deep impression on him. Visiting Ushaka Marine World to see the Dolphins’ dance and aqua creatures in the undersea ship wreck, the crocodile creek, the South Coast and also the Botanical gardens made him feel thoroughly rejuvenated.

He evinced keen interest in the local Zulu culture and enjoyed the Zulu people’s hospitality with their feet tapping music and dance. He visited Valley of Thousand Hills where he interacted with many Zulu people.

The visiting Swami with the resident Swami
The visiting Swami with the resident Swami

On 25 June, the Exco officials bid him farewell and thanked the Swami heartily for his brilliant and inspiring lectures.  The Swami, in his reply pointed out, his delight with devotees who are serving the Holy Trio with unconditional love and how he was brimming with joy in witnessing the Master’s work being carried out in South Africa so meticulously. He was full of praise of sincere devotees who served the Centre from decorating the altar to dishing out the prasad.

On the morning of June 26, Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and self saw him off at Durban Airport. On his way back to Kuala Lampur he would stop for a short while in Mauritius branch of the Ramakrishna Mission too.

Children’s Cultural Festival

Gurudevji training the children in yogasanas
Gurudevji training the children in yogasanas
Gurudevji training the children in cultural items
Gurudevji training the children in cultural items

The great ‘Gurudev’ Swami Nischalanandaji Maharaj was born in Newcastle. At his birthplace, the Children’s Cultural festival of the Northern Natal was celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. It was not an accident; neither was it planned. But it had come in due course bringing forth how much ‘Gurudev’ loved the children and how much more he was interested in instilling the spiritual values among them. Some of the old devotees still remember how Gurudev used to stand on hours together in training the children in performance of cultural items. He used to personally conduct Yoga Camps especially for children training them in correct postures through practice of yogasanas.

I was pleased to attend the Northern Natal Children’s Cultural Festival held at Newcastle Richview hall. Branches from Estcourt, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Glencoe and Dundee participated. The enthusiasm of the children was infectious, each one vying with one another, making efforts in excelling in whatever he/she did. The Festival was an occasion to bring out the best in the child. There were scintillating sketches, soul-filling songs, sterling speeches and delighting dances interspersed with inspiring quotes from the Holy Trio. While I gave the Key-note Address, brother Swami Saradaprabahanandaji gave the Concluding Address. Overall the time from 9 am to 4 pm was well spent in the company of the children. In spite of the inclement weather of speedy winds, the officials did a splendid job in organising the Festival at the venue.

Abiding spiritual values are taught to the children who attend our Sunday School classes. The parents have reported to me that they are immensely benefitted as they could see emergence of the wonderfully shaping of their children’s personality. In my previous post I gave a brief intro about the Sunday School classes and three slideshows on the Certificates Award function.

To see all the photos of the Festival, just click on the below link that will take you to the picasa web album. There click ‘slideshow’, then relax and watch!    

Northern Natal Children’s Cultural Festival

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Certificates Award

Children’s Education Programme organised by the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa through its 14 branches conducts what is called ‘Sunday Schools’ which hold Hinduism for Children Classes.

From 4 – 9 years : level 0 which is applicable to students studying in Grades RR, R, 1, 2 and 3. Their activities include colouring, mantra recitals, singing and story telling.

Levels 1 – 4 (Grades 4 to 7) – Comics

Levels 5 – 8 (Grades 8 – 11) – Life, Legacy and Teachings

All the Texts have life-giving morals, values and lessons that are learnt and related with current situations of everyday life. Children are encouraged to practice what they learn. Their Study also includes the learning of mantras and Gita verses along with English meanings.

These Classes are aimed at character building, personality development, and to imbibe morals and values for a modern generation and to equip our youth to face Life’s challenges on the basis of Hinduism. The unique aspect of these classes is the spread of Hinduism in its broadest sense as exemplified and expounded by Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. This year 400 children participated in these classes all over the country and gave examinations. 

Pietermaritzburg Ramakrishna Centre

Ladysmith Ramakrishna Centre

Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram

Devout Durga Maharaj

Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj
Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj

The day of 7th may reminds me of the departure from this world, a devout venerable monk of our Order, Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj. During my 12 year-stay at the Ranchi Sanatorium centre, I had the privilege of having his wonderful company for a little more than 11 years. Holy men come in different hues and Umeshanandaji was unique in his own way.

Smiling always, bringing cheers to every heavy-hearted soul, Swami Umeshanandaji dedicated his life for the service of TB patients since 1962. He was popularly called Durga Maharaj. He was born in a place near Mangalore of Karnataka State on 20th February 1923.

He left Indian Army service and joined the Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math. He was given mantra diksha by the sixth President of the Ramakrishna Order, Srimat Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj. Later in 1959 he was initiated into Sannyasa by the seventh President Srimat Swami Shankaranandaji Maharaj.

It is said that Swami Shaswatanandaji Maharaj, the then Assistant Secretary of Belur Math told Durga Maharaj in 1962 “to go to Ranchi and serve the poor tribals and suffering TB patients and die there in harness”. During his long forty-four years of extraordinary service, Durga Maharaj never went outside. He was fully engrossed in the patient matters like admission of patients, preparation of patient files, making ready discharge certificates etc. He knew every patient by his name and address.

Straight forward and simple, Durga Maharaj was indeed highly popular among the local Adivasi (tribal) public. No one would forget to meet this smiling Swami and make pranams to him. His admirers are now spread all over the country who would feel blessed to take his name in the very morning.

The mortal coil of Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj readied on the pyre
The mortal coil of Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj readied on the pyre

He was 84 when he breathed his last, after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease with old age ailments for a few months. Swami Satyeshananda, the ‘doctor maharaj’ informed me of the final end and we, all the monks, devotees, staff and others immediately rushed to his room. His mortal coil was consigned to flames the next day at 9 in the morning. The final rites were performed at “Panchavati” within the Sanatorium campus. On this solemn occasion, Sannyasins and Brahmacharins of Morabadi Ashrama and Sanatorium, Swamijis of Tupudana Advait Swarup Ashram, devotees from Ranchi and local adivasi admirers along with employees of the Sanatorium were present in good number.

As per our monastic tradition, on the 13th day of death, a ‘special worship’ of Sri Ramakrishna is done in the temple and a ‘saadhu bhandaaraa’ would form a special feature. And on that day i.e., Friday, 19th May, prasad feeding to all in-patients, employees and devotees was arranged at Sanatorium Ashrama premises in honour of the departed soul. A Smritisabha (memorial meeting) was also conducted preceding the Bhandara. That Sadhus from Bihar and Jharkhand branch centres of Ramakrishna Mission and also of the other outside organisations with a huge number of devotees attended the Bhandara was a memorable experience.

During my Address in the Memorial Meeting, I narrated how wonderful the Life of this monk was and we always rejoice when a monk leaves his body and do not weep over his passing away. As Tulasidas says in his Hanuman chalisa “antakaala raghuvarapura jaayi, jahaan janma hari bhakta kahaayi” (after death he enters the eternal abode of Sri Rama and remains a devotee of Him, whenever, taking a new birth on earth), we also believe that Durga Maharaj has gone to the Ramakrishnapura, the eternal abode of Sri Ramakrishna.

It was on the birthday of his Guru, Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj,(he was a disciple of Holy Mother; a historic audio recording of his Voice is available here) in the last year, I had to deliver a Talk here in South Africa to the devotees of Durban Central Satsang group. My mind naturally, while talking about the Founder of South African Centre Swami Nischalananda, who was also a disciple of Swami Virajanandaji – reverted towards this devout Durga maharaj  and spoke at length my ennobling association with him.

Knowing that Durga Maharaj, in his pre-monastic life, was a Muslim, I naturally could not contain my curiosity and enquired how, he could join this Hindu Order of Monks. He would, always in an forthright manner, say in his loud, sterling voice that it was all due to his Guru’s grace. He had unshakable faith in the Master’s presence. His forthright walking with a shoulderbag consisting of Office keys and in left hand, a lantern became an icon to all patients. One could feel the stillness of the soul when he would sit on the bench outside the parlour room and bless whoever came and touched his feet in obeisance, those unforgettable words of blessings “jeete raho” (may you live long!).

There was never a curse, nor an indignant expression but there was always that charming childlike simplicity with overwhelming concern and affection. Unknown to the outer world, such holy men go finally unsung but unknowingly, many a heart is filled, unseen and unheard, with the fragrance of unbounded love.  

Well, the impression that he created in my mind is well imprinted and I pay homage to this great monk.

Shiva and Seva

Shivaratri
Courtesy: Dr S Adhinarayanan, India

Happy Maha Shivaratri Greetings to all !

Maha  Shivaratri is a momentous occasion for most of the Hindus in South Africa. It favours a deep fervour to their religious feelings in as much as for long twelve hours in each phase of day and night, devotees not only keep vigil in the night but also follow fasting to ritualistic performances.

Lord Shiva at Ramakrishna Temple HQ
Lord Shiva at Ramakrishna Temple HQ

Our Ramakrishna Centre observes Maha Shivaratri from 6 pm to next 6 am. The period is divided into four sessions of three hours each. And each session has puja, pouring of milk, curd, ghee, honey in respective four sessions, pasting of chandan, offering of vilva leaves, garlanding of flowers etc, arati, discourses, a combination of bhajan and kirtan. After attending initial puja at HQ, I spent my first session at Phoenix sub-centre where more than 400 devotees had assembled.  A large number of devotees had to be accommodated in the adjoining covered space where CCTV had been installed for that occasion. The topic of my Talk was ‘Shiva-shakti’. The second session was at HQ where the theme of my Talk was on Maheshwara and the Monk, comparing the salient features between Lord Shiva and Swami Vivekananda.

Discourse on 'Shiva Panchakshara Stotram'
Discourse on 'Shiva Panchakshara Stotram' at Chatsworth Subcentre

Third session was at our Chatsworth sub-centre where I took up the panchakshara mantra (Five-letter mantra) of Shiva, “Om namah shivaaya” for discussion. This was based on the stotram composed by the great Adishankaracharya. And in the fourth session I was at Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram where I spoke about Master and Shiva. Back at HQ at 5 am and witnessed the havan ceremony where devotees performed the yajna.

Offering holy Vilva leaves to Shivalinga at Sri Sarada Devi Ashram
Offering holy Vilva leaves to Shivalinga at Sri Sarada Devi Ashram

Devotee Pravesh took me by his car to all these places hopping from one to another in quick succession so that everywhere I was present timously.  And the day being spent on fasting and thinking of Lord Shiva, the night spent again in speaking about Him and His glory. Indeed a very soul-fulfilling experience!

Swami Vivekananda’s famous address at the pilgrim town Rameshwaram came to my mind when on this Maha Shivaratri holy night I started recollecting my memorable experience in one of the jyotirlinga spots. In that Address, Swamiji clearly spells out the intimate connection of Seva (service) to Shiva.

Swami Vivekananda

 This is the gist of all worship — to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.

Let me narrate how a poor woman in one place of pilgrimage, illiterate yet knew what is real worship of Shiva. 

When I went for darshan of the famous jyotirlinga at Bhimashankar in Maharashtra state some years ago, from the bus I could see the distant black clouds hovering the hills. Walking from the bus stand to the temple through the small vendors’ shops and watching the selling of all and sundry items of worship and interest to pilgrims was, as enchanting as drenching in the drizzle.

It was noon by the time I reached the holy temple. After darshan, when I was sitting at the entrance in utter quietness, I saw a lady coming towards me. She briskly asked me, “baba, have you had your meal?” I replied in the negative. Undoubtedly I was indeed hungry but had no inclination to go to the roadside eateries. She then asked me to accompany her to her home which, as she showed, was up in the hills. I was, obviously hesitant – should I go or not? Was it proper to go with an unknown woman? and what dangers might be lurking? – as is known well that the places of pilgrimage do have the usual human perils too.

Yet, finally I decided to go as I felt Master is with me and was confident that no evil shall befall. Reaching her home, in that biting cold and amidst the rains, I found her child playing with her little brother. It was easy for me to establish rapport with those children. Within half an hour the lady served me hot rotis with alu sabji. Did I feel it was nectar like? Yes, the love and affection that beamed in her face while feeding me cannot be forgotten.

After food, she raised some questions about some puranic tales. My answers seemed to be satisfying to her. In my narration, I drew some of the similes spoken by Sri Ramakrishna to her attention and she ran inside her kitchen and brought a small photo of Thakur with great joy! I felt that Master only brought me to her home as He knows where to feed His son! 

And taking leave of her and thanking profusely for her cordial, hearty hospitality, I offered a few Rupees that I had. The unlettered village woman’s face turned sour and she quipped angrily whether I am paying the charges for the meal that she supplied. She scolded me saying, was it not that she served me thinking that Lord Shiva had come to her home as atithi (honoured guest)?  It was quite difficult to convince her of the necessity to have that amount. Finally when I said that she should spend the money on her children’s dress for the ensuing Diwali, she hesitantly relented.

Poor indeed but with what a rich heart;  ever ready to serve a sadhu signifying that Rural India is such that it cannot see a monk in ochre robe go unfed.  India is not a punya bhumi (blessed land) merely on poetical terms…

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Economic ill – Any Vedantic pill?

Swami Sunirmalananda
Swami Sunirmalananda

Swami Sunirmalananda has given some serious thoughts to the recent economic recession that had devastating effects in many parts of the world. Is there any vedantic angle to this plaguing ill? Can we at least prevent such maladies? As a student of Vivekananda literature, he delves deeply into the subject and has brought forth truth nuggets that when as an applied science may rejuvenate the entire world.

This blog carried another link to his essay on Sri Ramakrishna and Santa Claus recently.

Please read full article by clicking the below link. This was supplied by Dr Hiru Mukherjee of UK and our hearty thanks go to him!

Swami Vivekananda on character
Vivekananda Card courtesy : Dr S Adhinarayanan

Mother’s melting moments

The 155th birth anniversary of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi

Living Divine Presence at Ladysmith Subcentre
Living Divine Presence at Ladysmith Subcentre

December is the Month of the Mother! The 155th birth anniversary of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi is celebrated all over the world. Here in South Africa our Sub centres and Satsang groups did not lag behind. On 1st December Verulam celebrated; on 7th Glencoe; on 14th Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville; on 16th Ladysmith; on 20th HQ; on 21st Pietermaritzburg where, in all the places, I gave key-note addresses.

This week it was an inspiring trip to Ladysmith in Northern Natal during the celebration. In all the centres, the devotees were enthusiastic, keen and were interested to know more and more. Several sessions of discussions at different devotees’ places were held.

On the tithi puja day, from 6 am to 6 pm a relay japa yajna was joined by families of devotees. After hawan, in the evening, when my turn to speak came, I dwelt on the ever compassionate Mother who was so sympathetic to feed the hungry. Her grace transcended the rules and regulations and embraced the people living in dire poverty as Her own.

I was moved by that anecdote told by Swami Apurvananda in his reminiscences about Holy Mother, an extract of  which I reproduce below:

Franz Dvorak (1862–1927), a painter from Prague, inspired by the teachings of Ramakrishna made several paintings of Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi
Franz Dvorak (1862–1927), a painter from Prague, inspired by the teachings of Ramakrishna made several paintings of Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi

In the evening when I went to her again, I found her on the veranda of her mud hut cutting vegetables, with her legs stretched out… We chatted for some time and then she wanted to know how famine relief work was carried out. From her words it was evident that she was much distressed by the plight of the famine-stricken.

I described how we went from door to door distributing coupons among the poor, how we gathered information about their needs and miserable circumstances, how they collected rice in exchange for coupons, adding that women were also given saris sometimes. In this context, I narrated an incident which moved Mother deeply.
I described how one morning, when out on a tour of the villages where relief operations were being carried out, I discovered that none of those receiving rice from us was at home. Obviously, they had gone out to work. Those who worked were not eligible for the dole of rice. So I proceeded to investigate and found most of them sowing paddy in knee-deep slush in a paddy field outside the village.
On advancing in that direction, I noticed from a distance a woman labourer leaving the field and hiding herself behind a pile of paddy saplings. On enquiring from others, I learnt that she had delivered a baby that previous night, it was with that baby she had come to the field to work. Driven by hunger she was sowing paddy, leaving the infant wrapped in a rag in the corner of the field. If it was known that she was working in the field, she would not get rice from us. So having seen me from a distance, she was trying to hide from me.
I was much disturbed thinking of the dire distress that could compel a woman, who had given birth to a child just the night before, to come to work in the field with the newborn. It was a terrible shock. I approached the woman, and in a choked voice, just said,”Do not worry, Mother, I shall not stop your quota of rice.” This helped her muster enough courage to fold her hands and say, “Sir, I’m going through unbearable hardship. That’s why I’ve come to work.” For one days work in the field she would get two seers of paddy.
Mother shuddered with horror on hearing the story. Almost in tears, she exclaimed, “What are you saying! So fresh from childbirth she had come to work in the field! It is not right to stop the dole of rice in such circumstances. Son, you did the right thing. Master will bless you.” Then she prayed to Master, as if hurt, “Master! Can’t you see all this? Such suffering of people! How can people carry on in such miserable conditions! You have to do something for their deliverance!” Her anguished words still seem to ring in my ears. Mother was compassion personified – a fervent prayer incarnate.
Swami Nischalananda, Founder of the Ramakrishna Centre of SA feeding the hungry
Swami Nischalananda feeding the hungry in an organised scale

Feeding the hungry has become part and parcel of our religious Order all over the world. Swami Nischalananda, the late Founder and the First President of Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa initiated a much needed Nutrition Program in 1953. This Program did play an important role in alleviating hunger and suffering, not only amongst children, but also adults in all communities. Working in the midst of impoverished communities and a wide range of organisations, the Program has been successfully able to reach the poor, destitute, unemployed, abused and disabled. The Centre and all the sub-centres and satsang groups are engaged in feeding programmes in their respective communties with remarkable precision. The Youth members of the Centre, at HQ and all its branches take pride in assisting this feeding program and perform it as Karma Yoga. The contributions from the willing donors, small or big, have made this Scheme eminently reachable to the unreached.

Hamper distribution
Hamper distribution

On a weekly basis, sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables are distributed in the greater Durban area. Further, cooked nutritious meals are served regularly in these areas. A monthly distribution of 2 tons of rice, 800 kg of dhall and 100 kg of salt is maintained by the Centre and supplemented with assorted vegetables and fruit, canned foods, basic grocery items, lentils etc.

Diwali Hampers

Food Hampers consisting of: rice, dhall, salt (both coarse and fine), cooking oil, canned foods, jam, dried beans, sugar and cake flour are distributed to over 1000 indigent families during Diwali. Several sub-centres and satsang groups of the Centre were provided with grocery to augment their own hampers for distribution in their respective areas. In addition to hampers, cooked meals are served to needy families.

The following are beneficiaries of the Centre’s most popular Nutrition Programme:

  • Abalindi Welfare Centre (incorporating the Abalindi Frail Care Centre, Orphanage and Crèche)
  • Kwa Mashu Ekusizaneni Children’s Home (a home that caters for orphans and children affected by the AIDS pandemic)
  • Verulam Day & Pakco Frail Care Centre
  • Dawncrest Primary School
  • A M Moolla Spes Nova School
  • Phoenix (a school for cerebral palsied children)
  • Phoenix Alcoholic Rehabilitation Centre – Grocery hampers and a selection of vegetables are donated to the Home on a weekly basis
  • Zimisele AIDS Centre – Kwa Mashu
  • Ramakrishna eThembeni Home
  • Thokomala Hospice Association – Effingham Heights
  • Zion Congregational Church of S. A.
  • Redcliff informal settlement – Verulam
  • Welbedacht informal settlement – Chatsworth


Diwali – a Day to light up a life

Diwali Rangoli at Swaminarayan Mandir at Johannesburg, prepared at 1047 woman-hours!
Diwali Rangoli at Swaminarayan Mandir at Johannesburg, prepared at 1047 woman-hours!

Diwali is indeed, a glorious and colourful festival that is celebrated by all Hindus internationally. How Diwali unites and brings people and families together is a matter of experience of the millions. The beautiful array of clay lamps in all Hindu households creates an atmosphere of love, warmth, sharing, and more importantly, reminds of the existence of God in all beings. Therefore during this auspicious time, we should all try and improve ourselves spiritually. At this point, three important ennobling qualities come to mind: tyaga (sacrifice), seva (service) and prema (love).

Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings! May this Diwali lighten up your life, may it lighten your burden and may it enlighten your path!
Diwali festival with child devotees of Johannesburg
Diwali festival with child devotees of Johannesburg

Diwali has become an occasion for charity of all sorts. If you give love, even if you do not give much of anything else, it does not matter. And however much you may give materially, if it is not done with love, it does not mean much. So it is love that makes all giving meaningful. I would like to relate a story of how love of virtuous deeds brought blessings.

Once upon a time the village of Nagpur in India was experiencing famine. There was such a scarcity of food that many people were starving and dying of hunger. A widow named Kamala and her little daughter, Kanama lived in this village. They were poor and had no means of earning money. The mother fell ill suddenly and she was worried about her little daughter. The little girl assured that she would be fine.

Kanama set out to beg food for her ailing mother. She tried begging at several households with no luck. Exhausted, the little girl finally rested under a tree. In the distance she saw a lady making roti. Kanama ran to her and begged for a piece of roti. So the lady offered her one piece of bread and Kanama accepted the bread gratefully and she said, “O, mother! my mom has not eaten anything for the last week, if only I can get one more piece of bread, I will really be grateful.” The kind lady gave her another piece of bread. Kanama was returning home happily.

The Ever Gracious Goddess Lakshmi - courtesy Veena Daya
The Ever Gracious Goddess Lakshmi - courtesy Veena Daya

On the way she saw a hungry dog looking for food. “Oh! what a pity! the dog cannot beg for food!”, so she thought and lovingly offered the dog one piece of bread. The dog ate the bread happily. When Kanama reached home, she narrated the incident to her mother. Kanama’s mother was happy to know her daughter was so compassionate. As they were about to eat the remaining piece of bread, they heard a voice at the door… “O mother! I am dying of hunger, please give me something to eat.” The virtuous Kamala said “someone is suffering from hunger, give away my share”. The compassionate little Kanama said “how can this poor beggar appease his hunger with half a piece of bread? Let me give him my share as well.” The beggar ate with great relish and said to Kanama, “May God bless you, my child.”

When the beggar left, both the mother and daughter fainted from hunger. Then Kamala had a dream in which Goddess Lakshmi, the divine consort of Lord Vishnu appeared to her and said, “O Kamala! Even though you and your daughter were starving, both of you lovingly gave away whatever you had to the hungry dog and the famished beggar. It was I, who appeared in these forms to test you. I am very pleased with your loving concern for others. May you have enough wealth and live happily.”

Their meritorious act brought rain to the village. The people of Nagpur were relieved of the sufferings due to the tyaga, seva and prema of the mother-daughter duo. This story shows us all, how God’s grace overflows to those who do sacrifice all in the service of others done in absolute love.  The following is taken from Prabuddha Bharata.

Once a very poor devotee had a strong desire to go to Varanasi to have the darshan of Lord Vishwanatha. But he was too poor to do so. Swami Adbhutananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, was then living in Varanasi. He came to know of the devotee’s earnest longing and wrote to him to somehow collect the one-way railway fare to Varanasi and that other things could be taken care of. Thus being assured, the devotee reached Varanasi with great difficulty and had the darshan of Lord Vishwanatha and Mother Annapurna, and enjoyed the holy company of Latu Maharaj.

Varanasi Vishwanatha in the iconic image of shivalingam
Varanasi Vishwanatha in the iconic image of shivalingam

But one day, at the Vishwanatha temple, he felt great mental anguish. After bathing in the Ganga and finishing his worship of Shiva with bel leaves, when he came out of the temple he saw that all the devotees were giving alms to mendicants and beggars according to their ability. He alone lacked the capacity to give in charity. He cried fie upon himself: ‘I am a poor, wretched beggar myself, deprived of this rare opportunity. On the contrary, having come to this holy place I am enjoying food and shelter provided by sadhus, and I do not have a penny to pay for it!’ He returned to his room with a heavy heart, closed the door and started shedding tears of grief. Latu Maharaj came to know everything and suggested: ‘What does it matter? You do one thing: tomorrow after bathing in the Ganga offer a handful of it to God and pray, “May all the miseries of the world be dispelled.”’ The devotee thought, ‘This is just a consolation for a helpless destitute like me. What merit can be derived from it?’ However, the next day the devotee did exactly as he was advised simply to honour the words of a great soul like Latu Maharaj. Immediately his mind became calm and serene, his heart was filled with an unspeakable bliss, and he felt blessed with divine grace. This is the result of true pilgrimage.

The idea of complete self-sacrifice is illustrated in Mahabharata and narrated by Swami Vivekananda in his Karma Yoga lectures.

After the battle of Kurukshetra the five Pândava brothers performed a great sacrifice and made very large gifts to the poor. All people expressed amazement at the greatness and richness of the sacrifice, and said that such a sacrifice the world had never seen before. But, after the ceremony, there came a little mongoose, half of whose body was golden, and the other half brown; and he began to roll on the floor of the sacrificial hall. He said to those around, “You are all liars; this is no sacrifice.” “What!” they exclaimed, “you say this is no sacrifice; do you not know how money and jewels were poured out to the poor and every one became rich and happy? This was the most wonderful sacrifice any man ever performed.”

Mongoose at Ramakrishna Centre, Durban
Mongoose at Ramakrishna Centre of SA, Durban courtesy Jody Fuchs

But the mongoose said, “There was once a little village, and in it there dwelt a poor Brahmin with his wife, his son, and his son’s wife. They were very poor and lived on small gifts made to them for preaching and teaching. There came in that land a three years’ famine, and the poor Brahmin suffered more than ever. At last when the family had starved for days, the father brought home one morning a little barley flour, which he had been fortunate enough to obtain, and he divided it into four parts, one for each member of the family. They prepared it for their meal, and just as they were about to eat, there was a knock at the door. The father opened it, and there stood a guest.

Now in India a guest is a sacred person; he is as a god for the time being, and must be treated as such. So the poor Brahmin said, ‘Come in, sir; you are welcome,’ He set before the guest his own portion of the food, which the guest quickly ate and said, ‘Oh, sir, you have killed me; I have been starving for ten days, and this little bit has but increased my hunger.’ Then the wife said to her husband, ‘Give him my share,’ but the husband said, ‘Not so.’ The wife however insisted, saying, ‘Here is a poor man, and it is our duty as householders to see that he is fed, and it is my duty as a wife to give him my portion, seeing that you have no more to offer him.’ Then she gave her share to the guest, which he ate, and said he was still burning with hunger. So the son said, ‘Take my portion also; it is the duty of a son to help his father to fulfil his obligations.’ The guest ate that, but remained still unsatisfied; so the son’s wife gave him her portion also. That was sufficient, and the guest departed, blessing them. That night those four people died of starvation.

A few granules of that flour had fallen on the floor; and when I rolled my body on them, half of it became golden, as you see. Since then I have been travelling all over the world, hoping to find another sacrifice like that, but nowhere have I found one; nowhere else has the other half of my body been turned into gold. That is why I say this is no sacrifice.”

It is my fervent prayer that each one of us be blessed with such noble and divine qualities! May the light of the lamp burn brightly in our hearts on this holy occasion of Diwali !

असतो मा सद्गमय | तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय | मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय | ॐ शांति: शांति: शांति: || Om asato ma sat gamaya | Tamaso ma jothir gamaya | Mrityor ma amritam gamaya | Om shanti shanti shanti ||