Guru Purnima: 3 ideal Guru-Shishya examples from India

By: Keyur Seta

This year (2016), Guru Purnima falls on July 19. The day celebrates the spiritual and sacred bond between a guru (teacher) and shishya (student or disciple). It is mostly celebrated in India and Nepal. The festival falls on the full moon day (purnima) in the month of Ashadha. Students pay tribute or gratitude towards their teachers on this auspicious day.

The word ‘guru’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘gu,’ which means darkness and ‘ru,’ which means remover of the darkness. Hence, guru is someone who illuminates the path of knowledge for his or her students.

Guru Purnima was the day sage Vyasa was born to sage Parashara and Satyavati. Vyasa went on to write the grand epic, Mahabharata and compile the Vedas into four parts – Rig, Yajur, Sam and Atharva. He is considered a guru since he has been teaching the precious ancient wisdom through these texts till today and shall continue to do so forever.

This was also the day when Lord Shiva appeared as Adi Guru (first guru) in the Himalayas. He taught the art of Yoga to Saptarishis (seven rishis), who went on to teach the same to others and the exercise is still going on. This day is also celebrated by Buddhists since Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon on this day at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh.

Guru Purnima

Ancient and modern Indian history consist quite a few classic examples of Guru-Shishya.

Let’s have a look at them:-

Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda: Swami Vivekananda is known as India’s first patriot monk, who positively inspired people with his teachings on spirituality not just in India but around the world. His biggest contribution lies in motivating people to be fearless. But it was Ramakrishna Paramhansa, earlier known as a crazy Kali Mata bhakt, who brought a confused Narendra (his original name) on the path of wisdom and spirituality.

Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya: Chanakya was a rebel teacher, who noticed a spark of political championship in Chandragupta Maurya when the latter was just a kid. Chanakya took it upon himself to train Chandragupta in warfare, administration and politics and even went through a lot of hardships for the same. Today, Chandragupta is known as one of the greatest emperors of India only because of the efforts of the Kingmaker, Chanakya.

Krishna and Arjun: Lord Krishna preached not only the topics touched by the above teachers but every aspect of human life through his sermon to Arjun in the form of the Bhagavad Gita. On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun surrendered to Krishna, his charioteer, for guidance after succumbing to mental weakness in finishing off the Kauravas, which included his own family, grandfather Bheeshma and teacher, Drona. What followed from the mouth of Krishna remains the greatest lesson ever given in human history. The Gita continues to be the driving force of inspiration and guidance for humans irrespective of nationality, religion, age or gender.

Banganga Tank Photos (Mumbai)

By: Keyur Seta

Banganga Tank is one of the few serene places in Mumbai. In fact, as soon as you go anywhere near it, you don’t feel as if you are in the same city. But unfortunately, a lot of people, who have been living in Mumbai since many years, haven’t visited it.

So here is a photo tour of a photo walk I recently had at the Banganga Tank. It’s located at Walkeshwar Road, near the bus depot. To know everything about Banganga, click HERE.

(Click on the pictures for a much larger view.)

 

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Banganga

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Banganga Tank

Banganga-Tank

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Banganga Walkeshwar

Banganga-River

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One of the few very old temples. This one is more than 200 years old. 

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Book Review: Hidden Road To Lifemanship

Author: Nimish Thakkar

By the book on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Generally, self-help or motivational books fall in the non-fiction genre. But author Nimish Thakkar has tried including such aspects in his fiction book, Hidden Road To Lifemanship. So does he succeed in his endeavor? We’ll soon find out.

The book tells the story of a school-going boy named Rishi. His parents are an epitome of spirituality, honesty and nobility. He follows their footsteps and just like them, he too becomes an ardent worshipper of the saint, Jalaram Bapa.

Hidden-road-to-lifemanshipDespite being a good sober person, Rishi lacks the edge in studies. He is especially weak in Maths. This is when a person enters his life and promises to change it forever. But will the positive change last for long?

Hidden Road To Lifemanship has a positive start. The idea to narrate the tale through the eyes of an infant initially is creative and pleasant. Overall, it has an interesting story with a realistic turn later on. The basic idea here is to imbibe good qualities in people of today’s era, especially the city dwellers and the book succeeds at that till some extent. Some of the teachings of the character Swami Ram act as wake-up calls. But what stands out is the way Rishi is drawn towards Swami Ram for the first time.

Thakkar’s writing is a good combination of rich words and simplicity. It has the capacity to impress lovers of the language and at the same time is easy to understand for the not-so-well-versed in English.

Unfortunately, the book its share of minus points, which cannot be ignored. These are as follows:-

–The conversations featuring Swami Ram form the major part of the book. These talks, however, get too redundant and preachy. Plus, for a large majority of the duration, the chats follow the same pattern, which starts testing your patience. This disappointment is felt the most during the ending parts. This is the major drawback here. It’s not possible to reveal more to avoid spoilers.

–A miraculous incident in the first half doesn’t serve any purpose later on.

–The target audience of the book is youngsters. But some of the teachings would be completely unacceptable to people of today’s era.

–There are noticeable editing issues. There is no space in between a lot of sentences.

Overall: Hidden Road To Lifemanship is a one-time read.

Details:

Pages: 245

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 250

Rating: * * *

Review by: Keyur Seta

Book Review: Bhakti Sans Religion

Author: Mallikarjun B. Mulimani

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 150

Pages: 138

Rating: * * * ½

Review By: Keyur Seta

 
Is money enough to guarantee contentment? Can you achieve peace without faith and love? Is it necessary to have a religious tag to attain spiritual enlightenment? How important it is to forgive ourselves?

Author Mallikarjun B. Mulimani has explored these questions in his spiritual novel, Bhakti Sans Religion. The book is more like a pleasing ride that enlightens and overwhelms you and at the same time, keeps you engaged.

It tells the fictional tale of two individuals from diverse parts of the world. Hailing from the US, Christine is a lawyer who is deeply in love with her profession. Her super successful stint in the legal world is dream-like. But deep inside there’s a void that needs to be filled.

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Picture: Leadstart official website

Rudra’s rise from extreme poverty to the high ranks of corporate world is almost miraculous. But his life is far from perfect. Destiny brings Christine and Rudra together. Will they find answers to the serious questions lurking in their minds?

The title of the book, Bhakti Sans Religion, sounds too philosophical. That is not quite the case with the content though. Of course, there is enlightenment and the exploration of a lot of deep questions. The manner in which faith and love is created in two individuals is convincing. People from urban areas who are only involved in work would surely be able to relate with the tale.

But the book can also be enjoyed by those interested in fiction and are not much into spirituality. The fast pace and the very short length makes it appealing to a larger audience. Although the character of guruji is that of a spiritual preacher, he is entertaining. What’s also pleasantly surprising is the romantic angle, which is truly heartwarming.

However, the following points fall in the negative zone:-

– The story of Christine in the first 38 pages is narrated too hurriedly. The author should have been more elaborate during the important life events of the character. Also, in these portions the writing is too simplistic at times.

– It’s good to have shorter books in today’s era. But this one should have been at least a bit lengthier. Elaborating Christine’s story would have helped in this aspect too.

– There is slight lack of conviction on a couple of occasions (can’t reveal much to avoid spoiler).

Overall: Bhakti Sans Religion has its heart at the right place. It’s an honest, well-intentioned saga that is enlightening and heartwarming.

Short Story: What is the true meaning of worshiping God?

By: Keyur Seta

People worship various Gods in various ways. There are innumerable theories and beliefs as to how to worship God and what pleases him/her the most. Some go through various austerities while others believe in saying a silent prayer for few seconds. But what exactly is the meaning of true worship? What pleases God the most?

Have a look at the following two scenarios and decide for yourself:-

1)

Mr X is a super-rich industrialist, living in the plush Cuffe Parade locality of south Mumbai. His family, which consists of his wife, two kids and mother, has access to all the luxuries one could imagine. His kids go to the most expensive school in the city. Buying new clothes, gadgets, accessories and what not is a continuous process for them. His family just needs a reason to throw parties that cost lakhs of rupees.

Mr X’s family is also very religious. They have a chamber in their apartment where they perform religious activities twice daily, without fail. His family religiously follows and celebrates all holy days and festivals as per the religious calendar. They are also seen embarking to holy places at least 4-5 times each year. Needless to say, they spend a bomb in religious activities too.

2)

Swami-VivekanandaLiving in the Girgaum area of south Mumbai, Mr Y hails from a simple middle-class family. He is a bank executive in a bank while his wife works with an insurance company. Naturally, their income falls in the average category. Their only child goes to a normal private school. Although Mr and Mrs Y believe in God, they aren’t ritualistic. They hardly visit places of worship and never go for holy trips.

Despite the fact that they don’t earn handsomely, the couple has been saving money since a year to contribute to the needy farmers of the Marathwada district, who are committing suicide due to drought and debt. They also involve themselves in various social issues selflessly whenever they get a chance.

So, the question arises as to who exactly is worshiping God here? Family X or family Y?

You decide.

Actors Nana Patekar and Makarand Anaspure have been selflessly working towards the cause of farmers of Maharashtra. They have been contributing from their own pocketss despite not being rich. They have started an NGO called NAM Foundation.

You can contribute any amount that suits you by following the following method:-

Send in your amount to “NAM Foundation”

SBI Current account no. 35226127148

IFSC Code no. SBIN0006319

SWIFT Code no. SBININBB238

 

“If a stray dog of my country remains without food, my religion will be to feed and take care of him. All else is either non-religion of false religion.”

“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.”

– Swami Vivekananda

Shani Shingnapur Row: Why April 7 was a landmark day for Gender Equality in India?

By: Keyur Seta

The scene of Trupti Desai and other women activists entering the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple was pure delight for those who care about gender equality in India.

Weeks of relentless protests despite police and administration brutality have finally paid off. After 400 long years, women were finally allowed inside the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple. The so-called trustees had to finally bow down to the dedication of protestors.

Shani-ShingnapurDespite the law being equal for both and the recent Bombay High Court order assuring the same, women weren’t allowed in the inner sanctum due to some atrocious and chauvinistic beliefs (not tradition). But the theories of sexist bigots are finally kicked out! Seriously, throwing away a practice as old as 400 years is a terrific achievement.

April 7, 2016 was a landmark day for gender equality in India. A big salute to all those women who kept on fighting. For the uninitiated, Desai and many others like her have been protesting near the temple against such discrimination. Despite brutalities from police, administration and chauvinistic villagers, they didn’t give up. Seriously, many of us would have.

But the road ahead is still very long. There are countless self-proclaimed dharam ke thekedaars aka sexist bigots and their so-called theories that still are against women visiting certain religious places, despite no law or religious text stopping them. The Trambakeshwar Temple in Nashik and Mumbai’s Haji Ali dargah are few such examples.

However, there has at least been a start. May this be a stepping stone towards complete gender equality in India.
Watch women devotees entering the inner sanctum after 400 years:-

They were busy celebrating Holi. What happened next will melt your heart… (Short story)

By: Keyur Seta

“Will it be Happy Holi for us this year?” The six-year-old girl with two ponytails asked her mom in a sad tone. The mother was dying to answer in the affirmative but she couldn’t lie. All she could do was caress the little one’s head. She tried hiding their helplessness through a fake smile, not sure whether it would work… It didn’t. Her husband didn’t know what to say.

Few hundred kilometers away in Mumbai, a group of college kids were having the time of their lives at a Holi party in a resort in the Juhu area. Water was flowing almost as freely as air. Although their bodies were drenched, they were asking for more, with the ear-splitting DJ music taking them further into a trance.

Each one of them had planned the day long ago. They were lucky enough to be there since one was required to book in advance, despite being ready to shell out a huge amount. This was inclusive of Bhaang or liquor. There were some in the crowd who were crazily high despite not having taken any of these substances.

Marathwada-drought
Picture: Saddahaq.com

Just then, something out of the blue, took all of them aback. The water stopped flowing. Loud sighs and abuses were being heard. After making some enquiries with the staff, they realized that it was due to some issue between the resort and the municipal corporation of the city.

But the youngsters were not ready to take any of this. The abuses continued. “Such a flop Holi this turned out to be,” said one. “It’s terrible,” said another. A loud voice was heard, “It’s not a Happy Holi anymore. It’s unhappy Holi.”

Few hundred kilometers away in Marathwada district, a woman was seated under a banyan tree. Its leaves had dried off due to the terrible drought. But it had enough to protect her from the scorching heat. It was yet another day her family would be forced to live without water; rather survive.

With wells drying off, they were solely dependent on water tankers provided by the government, which arrived once a week. It was scheduled to come that day. But unfortunately, the villagers were been given a shattering news that the state transporters had gone onto a strike. There would be no water.

The woman knew that the rest of the country would be busy wasting water in the name of Holi while wishing each other, “Happy Holi.” Before the bad news was broken, she had told her husband, “If we get a decent amount of water for our basic use, that itself would mean a Happy Holi to us.” But that was not to be.

When the three of them were sitting helpless, her six-year-old daughter with ponytails asked, “Will it be Happy Holi for us this year?” The mother was dying to answer in the affirmative but she couldn’t lie. All she could do was caress her little one’s head. She tried hiding their helplessness through a fake smile, not sure whether it would work… It didn’t.

She looked away from her child as she couldn’t bear the sight of her dejected face. Just as she turned away, her eyes fell on the faraway road. The scene instantly brought a smile of relief on her face. She turned to her daughter and said, “It is a Happy Holi for us.”

As she lifted her up and walked towards the road, the tanker came nearer. The strike was called off just few moments ago.