Parnika                                                                                               August 2016


Editor’s Note


Shri Gurubhyo Namaha!


Guru Kripa! We are happy to launch the second issue of Parnika. It is our humble offering to the rich parampara of India.

We had organized the Joy of Teaching workshop for faculty members of Avinashilingam University in August 2016. We have presented the various discussions we had during the workshop. Some of our volunteers had attended the Organic and Sustainable Farming workshop organized by TNAU. Insights from the workshop are presented in Prakriti Darshana. Friendship is very popular among the youth. Stories of unique friendships from the Mahabharata have been narrated. We always wonder why Arjuna was Drona’s most favorite disciple? This month’s Yuva Spot has the story of Arjuna and Drona as a way of inspiring students. The cosmos is always a source of inspiration and wonder. Prashnottara has insights on the origin of the universe beyond the big bang.

The Siddha tradition truly represents the highest possibility for the human being. Many of us are not aware of the great Siddhas who have worked tremendously for universal well-being. In the Siddha Charithram section, we will be exploring this rich tradition. This month will have an introductory article about the Siddhas.

Nagarjuna was considered as one of the most important Buddhist saint. His detachment to worldly things is amazing and there is a lot to learn from his simple and straightforward approach to life. His encounter with a thief is narrated in the Kathalaya section.

  Table of Contents

Anaadi Foundation                  

Joy of Teaching                      

Mahabharata                                              

Siddhar Charithiram                                              

Yuva Spot                                  

Prashnottara                                              

Paati Vaithiyam                  

Prakriti Darshana                

Kathalaya                              

Divine Humor                        


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Anaadi Foundation

AN ACCOUNT OF HOW ANAADI CAME TO BE


More than a decade ago, we were successful software professionals in Bangalore. Inspired by the lives of many Mahatmas we led a very simple life with a consistent yogic routine. It wasn’t too long before we realized that our software jobs were not providing that multi-dimensional playing field that we were looking for. We moved from Bangalore to Coimbatore to join Amrita University. Amrita University, under the guidance of Amma, provides an excellent platform for research, teaching and learning together with value-based and spiritual education. Both of us taught at Amrita for a decade.

Around 2012, as a personal sadhana, we undertook the study of the Mahabharata and Gita. We found that the Mahabharata provided an excellent context for understanding problems that the society faces and offers dharmic solutions to solve those problems. Mahabharata also provided the necessary background to understand and apply the principles of the Bhagavad Gita. What started as informal sessions on the Mahabharata, led to full-fledged curricular courses and weekend programs.

Anaadi Foundation was started on the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima in July 2015 with the aim of inculcating Shraddha in the minds of young people towards Indian culture and tradition. Dedicated to self-unfoldment of an individual, Anaadi Foundation inspires youth to lead a sustainable, socially-conscious and self-reliant life. Anaadi Foundation is our humble offering to the great Rishi Parampara of our country. Through its various activities, we would like to see the youth of the country lead an inspired life of happiness and fulfilment.


Humble Pranams!


Adinarayanan and Smrithi Rekha


Founders, Anaadi Foundation


www.facebook.com/adinarayananv


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Joy of Teaching

AN EXPERIENTIAL WORKSHOP FOR TEACHERS FROM AVINASHILINGAM UNIVERSITY

4 August 2016

India is the second largest education system in the world with learners from diverse social and economical background. The Indian educational setting provides excellent opportunities for innovation, enhancement and grassroots level transformation, given that a large part of the learners come from rural areas. The role of a teacher is significant as it helps to retain students, shape the career and personality of students and enhance the reputation of the organization. A motivated teacher can go a long way in creating an inspired learner and hence teaching can be seen as a nation building process. In this issue, we present a few aspects that were discussed in the workshop that was organized for University teachers. .


On 4th August 2016, 36 faculty members from Avinashilingam Institute of Home Science and Women Studies attended the Joy of Teaching program at Anaadi Foundation. It was a great honor and privilege to host Padmashri Krishnakumar ji, Founder of Arya Vaidya Pharmacy Research Foundation and Chancellor of Avinashilingam University at the event. The program was a blend of lectures, self-reflection based activities, meditation and yogic practices. Topics of discussion ranged from the goals of education, rediscovering the joy of teaching, neuro-cognitive learning theories and the four dimensional aspects of the teaching and learning process.

Teaching: A Nation Building Process

The session started with a discussion on the significance of a teacher in the educational process and why teaching is a nation building process.

The book titled Beautiful Tree by Prof. Dharampal highlights shows how the indigenous system of education was very much accessible, available and accommodative of people from various walks of life. The book also gives insights on how the focus of education changed from a life oriented process to livelihood oriented after colonization. In the current times India is the second largest educational system in the world. While developed nations like Sweden and Finland have managed to offer education, India is yet to get there though a large section of the learners cannot afford basic education. Here are some interesting facts about the educational system:

While this statistics definitely shows great signs of improvement, the gross enrolment ratio (ratio of number of individuals who are actually enrolled in schools by the number of children who are of the corresponding school enrolment age) remains low at 23.2. The government has identified that the lack of trained teachers and ineffective pedagogy to be the key factors that contribute to low enrollment rates. The quality of teachers in terms of their educational background, teaching skills, motivation and their overall understanding of the subject has a direct impact on the retention of children in school. The infrastructure could be good, the administrator could be an excellent person but if the teachers aren’t good, the motivation to come to class dips down. There have been studies that show that schools with more number of inexperienced teachers have higher dropout rates. We not only need more teachers but we need more motivated and committed teachers to transform the educational setting in the country. If we look at the bigger picture, motivated teachers are an inspiration to student, who in turn become better learners and attain good position in the society. Educating a child can bring a transformation to the social and economical status of a family and a good inspired teacher can bring about this transformation. Hence focusing on the teaching process contributes to nation building in a significant way.

What is Joy?

We have named this workshop, “Joy of Teaching” because we sincerely felt that with all its standardizations, norms and policies, teaching has come to be viewed as a mechanized process of bombarding learners with information. Teachers feel overwhelmed, exhausted, confused and frustrated just like anyone who goes to work. Joyful Teaching sounds like an oxymoron to many teachers who experience teaching as a dull, monotonous, repetitive process. The Joy factor seems to have been removed from teaching.

So what is Joy? Joy is a feeling that combines happiness, pleasure and elation. Joy is not an end goal but an emotion that we experience while doing or going through something that is close to our heart. Joy is a certain positive energy that flows through us when we are deeply involved with something. The Joy of Teaching is to do with that happiness we experience while playing the role of a teacher. When we are deeply involved with something, our favorite activity, what do we experience? Most people may not have the right words to express their experience because whenever we do something we like, the “I” temporarily disappears and we become one with the activity. Have you seen children in the playground? Though they are in full action, there is no stress, the are not tensed but they are just fully participating in the process. The Joy of Teaching is experienced when we fully participate in the teaching and learning process.

PERMA Model of Happiness

Martin Seligman is an american psychologist, educator and author. His PERMA model of happiness is quite well-known, practical and applicable in various settings. During the workshop, we discussed the PERMA model and how it is relevant to teachers.


A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Many teachers expressed that a day in the life of a teacher is extremely complex. They have to juggle between their teaching schedule, administrative responsibilities, research and publication, committee work, student counselling and other co-curricular activities. At the end of the day, teachers feel stressed out and exhausted. We must understand that it is not just teaching but every job has become stressful. Wherever the objective and vision are narrow there we see dissatisfaction and a sense of unfulfillment. Through our experience we understood that one needs to stay with the system for a reasonable amount of time to be able to appreciate the processes and integrate them into one’s routine. Habits take time to form and we need to give our body and mind the necessary time to form those habits. Consciously practising them can help us cultivate them faster. That is where tools from the yogic sciences can be of immense benefit.

Consciously practicing them can help us cultivate them faster. That is where tools from the yogic sciences can be of immense benefit. During the workshop there were several moments of silent reflection and guided meditation where the participants had opportunity to introspect and internalize the principles discussed. Meditation is a process of turning inward and internalizing the focus using specific methodologies. We often spend most part of the day focusing on outward things and events. Dedicating a portion of the day for meditation turns our focus from the diverse outer activities to harmonizing and unifying inner principles.

Qualities of a Teacher

Throughout the workshop, the higher purpose of the teaching profession was emphasized. Participants agreed that it cannot be looked at as a profession or career but a life path as teachers impact thousands of lives. There are qualities that a teacher needs to posses in order to bring out fundamental transformation in education. Some qualities that we discussed in the workshop are:


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Mahabharata

A TIMELESS STORY - A TIMELY STORY

Stories of Friendship

August 7 2016 was celebrated as friendship day. Though many say that this day was popularized by greeting card companies and in the recent times by social media, it gives us an opportunity to thank our friends who have been a great source of joy in our lives and have never hesitated to share our sorrows. Mahabharata, of Sri Vyasa Maharishi, has numerous stories of great friends, friends who are ready to give their lives for each other, people who have stood by their friends in times of troubles and friendships that led to complicated consequences. We shall look at two such stories of unique friendships from the Mahabharata.

Drona and Drupada

Dronacharya was the son of Rishi Bharadwaja. Rishi Bharadwaja had taught Agnivesha the knowledge of weapon called Agneya. When it was time for Dronacharya to learn, Agnivesha Rishi communicated this knowledge to Dronacharya.

King Prishta was Rishi Bhardwaja’s friend. Everyday, Prishta’s son Drupada used to come to the Rishi’s ashrama and play with Dronacharya. When Prishta passed away, Drupada became the king of Panchala.

On a certain occasion, after obtaining the wealth of knowledge of all weapons from Rishi Jamadagni, Drona set out to meet his old friend Drupada. In Drupada’s court, Drona introduced himself has his friend. The king, blinded by pride was enraged that a Brahmana like Drona called him his friend. He openly commented that Drona did not have the status to be his friend and the old friendship does not hold true as Drona is not equal in wealth. Angered by Drupada’s ill treatment, Drona moved to the kingdom of the Kurus.

Seeing Drona as a fit teacher for the kuru children, Bhishma himself welcomed him. He asked the reason for the Rishi’s arrival at Hastinapura. Drona explained that he and Drupada were childhood friends and on several occasions Drupada had promised his kingdom to Drona. Drona went on to narrate how his son Ashwatthama was desirous of having cow’s milk after he had seen a rich man consume milk. Drona had set out to get a cow but when he returned with none, he noticed some boys giving rice powder water to Ashwatthama claiming it to be milk. Aswatthama jumped with joy thinking he had drank milk and this had pained Drona. Hence he had set out to ask for wealth from Drupada as he had promised during childhood days. Drona explained to Bhishma that he had come there to train the Kurus and seek their help in avenging Drupada. When the training of the kuru children was completed, Drona demanded the surrender of Drupada as his preceptor fee. Arjuna of great power, fought the Panchala army and brought Drupada as the fee. When Drupada was brought as captive, Drona mocked him saying that he would retain half of his kingdom so that he could be called Drupada’s friend. For the moment, Drupada agreed to have Drona’s friendship and he was eventually released. Being a kshatriya, the insulting act of Drona caused a long lasting impression in Drupada’s heart. He was badly in need of a son to kill Drona as he himself was not capable of defeating him. He conducted a yagna out of which Draupadi and Drishtradyumna were born. Draupadi was born to marry Arjuna and Dhrishtadyumna was born to kill Drona.

Later on in the Kurukshetra war, Drupada’s son Dhrishtadyumna killed Drona when Drona was meditating thinking that Ashwatthama had died. The story of Drupada and Drona is a typical one of misunderstandings between friends.

Karna and Duryodhana

Karna was born to Kunti when she uttered the mantra given by Sage Durvasa out of curiosity. She set Karna afloat and he was brought up by a charioteer. Though Karna was born a kshatriya, he was always identified as a the son of a charioteer.

Once the children of the Kuru family had completed their education under Drona, the acharya mentioned that it was time for them to display their proficiency. On an auspicious day, the acharya and the disciples paid their obeisance to God and then a stage was set for the tournament. Kunti, Gandhari, Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, Vidura and all the members of the royal family and citizens were seated in respective areas. It was the turn of Bheema and Duryodhana. The crowd began to take sides and shouted the names of the two combatants. But as they were about to fight, there was a thunderous noise. Bewildered by this, the combatants were asked to stop and Drona asked the musicians to stop playing. Arjuna with all his adornments walked to the center stage. The whole crowd cheered Arjuna and Kunti was filled with tears of joy. Dhritarashtra then asked Vidura about the strange noise that they heard. As Arjuna was displaying his talent, the assembly became silent suddenly. At the entrance, they saw a tall and powerful man entering the arena. He came to the center stage, introduced himself as Karna and challenged Arjuna for a match. Duryodhana convinced by Karna’s prowess hugged him and encouraged him. Arjuna took the permission of Drona and got ready for the one on one match.

Terrified by this new person, Kripacharya intervened and asked Karna of his lineage. Hearing Kripa, Karna’s face became like a lotus pale and torn with the pelting showers in the rainy season . Looking at Karna’s discomfort, Duryodhana sprang up and announced that he would make Karna the king of Anga desa thereby making him eligible to play the match as a King. When Karna was ready for the match, his father Adeeratha came running to embrace him with tears. Bhima on seeing that Karna was a charioteer’s son insulted him and said that he was not fit for the tournament. Duryodhana held the deeply pained Karna’s hand and led him out of the arena.

IIn the time of utmost need, Duryodhana had saved the pride of Karna. When everyone mocked Karna of low birth, Duryodhana made him the king being convinced of his talent. If at all there was someone who recognized the greatness of Karna, it was Duryodhana and hence Karna always remained with Duryodhana. Karna was instrumental in Duryodhana marrying Bhanumati.

It could even be said that Karna was killed in the battle mercilessly as he had taken the side of Adharma. Blinded by friendship he motivated Duryodhana to do wrong things on several occasions. Though many from the Kuru family disliked Karna, Duryodhana had great respect for Karna. This friendship was unique indeed. Even when Kunti revealed his true identity during the war, Karna chose to remain on the side of Duryodhana.


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Siddhar Charithiram

SIDDHA PARAMPARA OF INDIA

Venkatapathy and Sooryanarayan



Gaining expertise in any field needs dedication, sincerity, and prolonged efforts with discipline. There is no shortcut to success. And the spiritual path is no exception. A spiritual aspirant needs to invest dedicated and disciplined practice, called as sadhana, for success in his spiritual life.

All our Rishis and Yogis have done their sadhana. In fact, many have undergone immense tapas (difficult austerities) for their sadhana to gain Spiritual Enlightenment. To even hear about their dedication and hard work will inspire us immensely. After achieving their goal of Kaivalya or spiritual enlightenment, the Rishis and Yogis of our land shared it with us as stories, poems, teachings and in other forms. Doing abhyasa or regular reading on such work will benefit us tremendously and this space is dedicated to that.

Siddha Parampara

Bowing down with reverence to the great Siddha Parampara, we present this series on Siddhas and their literary works. In Sanskrit “Siddha” means “fulfilled”. The term Siddha refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. In tamil they are also called as “Siddhargal”. They are beings who have realised the goal of their sadhana and have become a perfected being.

The Siddhas truly represent the highest possibility for a human being. Siddhas' state of being is the best of what we can all aspire to become. Siddhas are great men and women who have attained to the farthest heights of human potential and have offered a roadmap for many on the path of seeking the Divine Truth.

Pathinen Siddhargal

"Pathinen Siddhargal" is a tradition referred to in the ancient Tamil literature, which can be understood to stand for "Eighteen Siddhas". It refers to the 18 great Siddhas - Nandidevar, Agastya Muni, Thirumular, Bogar, Konganar, Machamuni, Gorakkar, Cattamuni, Sundaranathar, Ramadevar, Kudhambai, Karuvurar, Idaikkadar, Kamalamuni, Valmiki, Patanjali, Danvantri and Pambatti Siddhar. The title of Siddhas has also been attributed to more than a hundred great beings as recorded in various works of Tamil literature. Many yogis and scholars also present the interpretation that "Eighteen" here, refers to the eighteen Siddhis or spiritual attainments and the numeral qualifies those who have attained them.

The Siddhas did not identify themselves to a particular piece of land, race or culture. They travelled all over the world and lived lives as an offering to all beings. They identified themselves only with the deathless Jivatma. Actions performed by them from their state of consciousness seemed super-natural to those unattained. They achieved such states of Divinity through tremendous efforts of self-mastery and self-surrender to their Guru and God.

Literary Works


Siddhas are tattva-darshis who perceive the tattvas as ultimate reality and in their literary works, they have shared their darshana or divine vision. Siddhas' works are a fertile source for knowing the unknown. Their illuminating writings profoundly inspire every sincere seeker and guide us from within. Their writings cannot be merely qualified as cryptic. But rather multi-layered and multi-dimensional. They inspire the seekers to delve deep within themselves in search of the deepest meaning. The true meanings are said to reveal themselves upon contemplation in a profound state of meditation. In their literary works, the Siddhas have given us keys to happy and virtuous life, alchemy, medicine, science, yoga, paths and guidance to realization, details on various states of attainment and insights on the nature of God and existence.

Their writings are referred to as the Sandhya Bhasha. The meaning “twilight language” suggests that the explanation can be offered either in relation to the day or to the night. Siddhas’ poems have the capacity to bring forth multivalence in its meaning relative to both an ordinary state of experience and to a transcendental state of experience. In the first edition of this series we offer our sincere prayers to the great Siddha Parampara and begin with a few gem from the works of Kudhambai Siddhar.

Siddha Kudhambai



Kudhambai Siddhar is one of the Pathinen Siddhargal. He was born to parents belonging to the Yadhava Kula. Kudhambai is not his real name but is actually a type of ear-ring worn by women during that period. The Siddha was adorned with such earnings and so lovingly called as Kudhambai by his mother. At the age of 16, Kudhambai was initiated into the Siddha tradition after which he continued with his sadhana. He went on to become a great Siddhar and came to be called Kudhambai Siddhar. Many yogis and scholars have also postulated that kundalini is coiled like an ear-ring and Kudhambai Siddhar stands for a kundalini-yogin. Kudhambai Siddhar was also an expert in the field of Siddha medicine.

The great Siddha offered his realizations in a poetic work which is now called as Kudhambai Siddhar Padalgal (Poems of Siddhar Kudhambai). The poems of Siddhar Kudhambai are structurally simple and profound verses. In his poems, the great Siddha Kudhambai covers variety of subjects including Para-Brahman (the omnipresent Divine Principle), Kundalini, Yama and Niyama - dos and don’ts for spiritual aspirants, Siddha Vaidhya and his divine visions.

In the Siddhar's songs, the word kuthambai is found in every stanza. It seems as though he is instructing his kudhambai ear-ring through the poem. There is definitely more that would reveal upon deep contemplation.



Meaning: Kudhambai describes the vastness and the immensity of the Absolute as a light that pervades everywhere. The divine light being all-pervasive is also visible within the body. Hence the Siddha says the human body is an instrument to liberation. So do not look outwardly, but inwardly.

Now he shows the way to see that Divine.



Meaning: Kudhambai emphasizes on the importance of daily Spiritual practices in this verse. He states that only for the Sadhaka (Spiritual aspirant) who is ever committed to fulfill the required austerities, the Divine Truth is within reach.

Along with deep philosophical and Spiritual meaning Kudhambai Siddhar emphasizes on proper conducts for day-to-day activities. Says Kudhambai,



Meaning: Kudhambai lists Anger, Jealously, harsh words, crooked thinking as the main reason to transgress the Sanatana Dharma or Eternal laws. Transgressing here does not exactly mean sin in a conventional meaning. It is more like the consequences of not respecting the Laws of Nature. For example, if a person tries to jump from a building ignoring the laws of gravity, he will surely be hurt. Likewise the above actions are deemed inappropriate if one is to lead a spiritual life.





Meaning: Anaadi in Sanskrit means "beginningless". It represents pure consciousness which has neither beginning nor end. Saiva Agamas, which call this pure consciousness as Sada Siva (The Eternal One), say that Lord Siva performs five actions in this world. The first three is quite well known- the basic actions of creation, preservation and destruction. The fourth one is obscuration, tirodhana shakti, which is the illusion of separateness the embodied beings see. With his fifth action of anugraha shakti, Lord Siva frees us from the illusion of separateness from Him, granting us realization of our true identity. Kudhambai says, the Scriptures extol this Anaadi who performs the five actions in this world.



Meaning: This verse is a beautiful example of Sandhya Bhasha. Kudhambai compares the attainment of worldly desires as climbing atop a coconut tree to enjoy the fruits of one's action. It is petty and useless relative to the pursuit of attaining self-realization, which is compared to reaching the mountain peak. Atop the mountain peak is the unparalleled nectar from the fruit of Jnana, which is referred in this stanza as the mango-milk. Yogis have also given the meaning that climbing the six adharas, one reaches the top - the sahasrara and receives the ambrosia.

As a beginning to this series of articles, we have presented a few gems like the above ones. We pray to bring to you more from the Siddhar Padalgal (Poems of Siddhas) composed by great Siddhas in many volumes. The interpretation for these works comes inspired from varied sources of prior research, scholarly work and is based on our own Abhyasa Sadhana. The summarized meanings of the great verses presented here are only suggestive and call for a deeper meditation and sadhana to unfold their deeper meanings.

We invite you to contemplate more on these lines and share with us your insights. We also invite you to share with us lines from Siddhar Padalgal that have deeply touched you. You could write to us at anaadifoundation@gmail.com.

With these first steps, may our abhyasa continue, may our shraddha in the Siddha Parampara strengthen and may revelations awaken as we grow within!


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Yuva Spot

Life as a Student

Why is Arjuna considered the ideal student?

When a teacher sees a lot of students, actually he or she can recognize those students who stand out in certain qualities. And he or she will do whatever is in their capability to enhance those qualities, not just for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole world. Dronacharya clearly saw phenomenal qualities in Arjuna. In fact Dronacharya favoured Arjuna over Ashwatthama, his own son, because of Arjuna’s qualities.

A Guru always sees more than just the skill of his student. He looks deeper into many aspects of his attitude and character. The quality of Arjuna was that he would do anything for his Guru. His Guru bhakti was very great. There are many episodes to illustrate why Arjuna is such an ideal student.Once on a time, everybody discusses with each other,” This Arjuna! He alone gets special treatment from our Guru. How can that be?” Guru Dronacharya knows what is happening in the ashrama. He makes a plan to actually show his other students why Arjuna is much superior to them. They go for their regular ablutions to the river and Guru Drona creates a situation in which a crocodile actually catches hold of his leg and starts pulling him in. Guru Drona,with his awesome skill could easily take care of the crocodile. But he lets out a cry. The moment he lets out a cry, the crocodile is dead! The crocodile is shot dead before anybody could even realize what was happening. They are all having fun and frolicking in the river. But all of Arjuna’s attention is on his Guru, Drona. In one moment he had strung his bow, fitted arrows, shot and killed the crocodile, before anybody could as much as exclaim, “Ah!”. That was his Guru bhakti! After this incident, people realized why their Guru favoured Arjuna over all of them. This is how a mother is with her child. Whatever be the activity she is engaged in, her eye is always on her beloved child. Likewise when there is bhakti, it does not matter whether it is night or day, whether one is engaged in this work or that, one constantly thinks only of one's object of devotion, and that is prema, exceptional prema!

Arjuna was well-known for his vikrama. Krama means effort. He was capable of putting in parakrama, superhuman effort! But he was known for vikrama, effortless effort. Certain people put in a lot of effort and it shows. Certain other people put in massive effort and it does not show, they carry it lightly. Arjuna was like that. One of the episodes displays awesome quality of Arjuna. Guru Dronacharya had actually advised the cook to not serve his students food at night. But one day it so happens that while Arjuna is eating, the lights go off. In a trice, Arjuna vanishes from the place to start practicing! The eight days around amavasya (new moon) are dark. So during this time, Arjuna could not practise during the nights. Otherwise he was so systematic that the day’s lessons would be practiced immediately and mastered. And he would move forward.

As he ate in the dark, he realized that there was automatic coordination between his hands and mouth. He did not require vision to put his hand into his mouth. This was an amazing discovery for him. He immediately takes up his bow and arrow to practise in the dark. He learns how to orient himself towards the target, through his senses and other signs. And from then on, the entire month, he would practise day and night! Day and night- just practice. Otherwise he could not have gained such mastery, as he displays throughout the Mahabharata.

Arjuna’s powers of concentration are very well-known. He did not see anything else but the target. In fact, that is a very important lesson for us. Generally what happens to all of us is we get confused because we don’t see the target. Once Guru Drona takes his students for the day's lesson and asks them to prepare to shoot the eyes of a wooden bird kept on a tall tree. Guru Drona then asks each of his students what they see. Everybody sees the tree,the leaves the branches, the sky and also the eyes of the wooden bird. But Arjuna sees nothing but the eye of the bird.

Nowadays being able to see everything is considered good, while actually it is not good. At this present moment, one should see nothing except what one needs to do; one should eliminate everything else, but that. This is called selective vision. At the present moment, if we see anything else other than what needs to be done in the present moment, we cannot act with swiftness, with clarity and with decisiveness. Once we have decided upon a course of action, we should see only that, at that point in time. That is all. Otherwise the mind will get confused. We may have a grand plan, but we must work it out to what needs to be done this moment, and act on it decisively. It should be decisive action. It should not be contemplation. Arjuna had that quality. He would see only that which was required at that point in time. As one goes higher up the ladder, as one becomes the leader of a big organization, one will see that there are so many conflicting requirements, that if one is not decisive in action, one's mind will becomes crowded with various conflicts and start to vascillate. One will be indecisive at best, and one cannot be called a leader.

Guru Dronacharya was an exceptionally capable master. He was not a normal human being. He was an amsha avatara (partial incarnation) of Rishi Brihaspati, who is the Guru of the devas. Arjuna was hardworking, obedient, and had all the qualities of an ideal student. Arjuna displayed such tremendous qualities, exceptional hard work and at the same time he could carry his hard work, simply, lightly, without showing any strains of putting in effort. That is the difference between a purebred horse and a mule! Hence he was Guru Dronacharya’s obvious favourite.


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Prashnottara

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Excerpts from the Q&A Session during Rishikesh Retreat Program (Dec 2015)

Q: How did the universe originate? From where did the atoms and fundamental particles that are the very constituents of all matter in this universe come from?

A: I will not present a scientific view with respect to this question. Rather, I shall present an intuitive view. What I am going to explain,you can intuit yourselves. I will present such a view that will be true in each of your experiences. Modern science does not have a clear-cut viewpoint yet,and hence has not been able to answer this question. That much is sure. Now,let us come to the question. All of this,everything we see around us,is an effect. All this is not the cause. So what is the cause? What is the origin? That is what we are interested in finding out.

Many of us want to create a house for ourselves. So where do we begin? We grow up in an environment in which people- parents,teachers, and others support us in our growth, and we study to get educated. With the education, we become eligible for a job. We work at our job, and earn money. And with that money earned, within a lot of constraints, we somehow purchase land. And in that land, we put in many resources together- construction engineers, men, machines and so on. And what do we have? We have our desire manifest before our very eyes! What started out as a desire, at the end of it, we have it manifest in front of us. Is this not true in each of our experiences? Even if you want to buy a car or a bungalow,you can apply this same intuitive logic. It is very straightforward. You bring forth something from the unmanifest to the manifest- from the mental reality to the physical reality. The desire in our mental plane gets fructified in the physical plane. However,you must know that not all desires get fructified,because there are constraints.

So this is how you proceed from the unmanifest to the manifest reality. You have an intelligent game plan, a creative visualization, an idea, or a desire and you put in different kinds of resources to help manifest that desire or idea. Isn’t this true in everything that you do? But,this process still has the limitation of your intelligence. Within your intelligence,and within certain other constraints, you are capable of bringing into physical manifestation,your idea or desire.

Now let us go one step further. Let us say you want to craft your life,and your destiny. Let us say you want to be placed in your dream company. This is also a manifestation. Maybe not so material,and “concrete” as a house, but still,it is also a manifestation,which happens through a similar process-desire to manifestation.This is a life manifestation. Within certain boundary constraints, certain parameters, you can manifest your desire.

Let us go another step further. As you build up capabilities, you will see that you can access subtler and subtler dimensions of existence. You can manifest in subtler and subtler dimensions, as you build up your capabilities,so much so that there are technical manuals to explain how to manifest a body! At the present, this might not be in your capability. But you can actually work on designing and manifesting a body. You can acquire that sort of a capability-it is a capability on a subtler dimension. Like this, you can proceed to manifesting a world, a mini-universe! You can be something like a mini-god! This is actually true. It is the same process- desire to manifestation,avyakta to vyakta. ‘Avyakta’ means ‘unmanifest-not visibly manifested’ and ‘vyakta’ means ‘manifested’. Even thought is considered a manifestation,at the subtler levels. But for our practical purposes, we may consider thought to be avyakta, unmanifest,and hence all actions in our present experience proceed from subtle(thought) to visible manifestation. This is how the process of creation happens, depending on our capabilities,and our intelligence. To whatever extent we can project and see, to that extent, we can and we have the power of manifesting.

It is about the throw. To whatever extent we can throw,to that extent lies our power to create. Now when we say throw,let us consider thoughts. Which direction can we throw them? Do thoughts have directions? No,directions are irrelevant with respect to thoughts.It is actually 360 degrees. Fundamentally consciousness proceeds in this way. You can actually throw the consciousness that you possess to whatever extent you can see. Once you throw and proceed there, you will see,you will have built the capability to throw even further. Generally we are restricted only by our inner qualities,or rather,lack of inner qualities. And hence,once you build the necessary inner qualities, you will see that you can throw further. You can throw much further. You will not be bound by the current conditions. And that, is the power of meditation. Meditation will give you a long throw, a really long throw. And that is great!

Q: So,if the universe is a manifestation of a desire,who had that desire?

A: The one who had that desire is the divinity we refer to as Brahma. It goes like this. Brahma meditated for 100 years-100 of his years (equal to 3.1104 x 10^14 human years!) Brahma simply kept on meditating, because he could not understand the Source from which he came. There was no end in sight, and hence he meditated, as he had nothing else to do. Vishnu answered his call.Now don’t get Vishnu and Shiva in the forms that you can imagine. These are inner realities. You can actually be in that plane. So Vishnu answered his call. Do you understand what this means? This means that we are actually going all the way back before the start of the universe. And that is the beginning. We all might have read about the Big Bang theory and thought, “I thought this was the beginning.” No, it did not begin there. And hence, nobody can figure out when it began. Even Brahma cannot figure out when it began. Because there exists no question of ‘When?'.

Now,when we look at the principle of Advaita, meaning ‘non-dualism’,or ‘The One,without a second’, you actually go beyond creation itself. What is created is bound to destroyed. What is born has to die. But there is the fundamental principle, that we refer to when we say,‘Aham Brahmasmi.’ This fundamental principle,referred to in the above mahavakya, is the One underlying substratum of the whole of creation,without which, none of this, and none of us can exist. And it is called ‘Brahman’ , derived from the root word ‘Brh’ meaning ‘vast,all-encompassing’. Brahman is different from creation, but That is the Source of all. And That has no identity. That is beyond atoms, beyond energy, beyond the individual soul. Matter,atoms and energy are subject to change,but Brahman is changeless. The soul, as long as it is bound to the body and mind,is individuated and hence,has a clear identity,whereas Brahman is boundless, infinite and without identity.

Actually you cannot talk about That. You can talk about Brahma,the divinity with an identity, you can talk about the universe, but you cannot talk about Brahman. Even if you talk,it is going to be limited, because it surpasses all understanding. But you can be That.In fact, you are That.’Aham Brahmasmi ' means ‘I am That’. Knowing this, is realization of one’s true Self.

Q: What is Self-realization?

A: That means you know who you are. One might think,”What is the big deal in knowing who I am?”No, that in itself is a big deal! Who needs to tell you who you are? The new age term is ‘enlightenment’. However,rather than using the word,’enlightenment’, I would use the word, ‘Atma darshana’, or ‘Atma anubhuti’ .’Atma anubhuti’ means experience of yourself.’ Atma darshana’ means vision of yourself. I would rather use those terms because ‘enlightenment’ is used in so many different contexts that it has become like the word God. People don’t understand what that refers to.When people say ‘deva’, they know they are referring to a celestial being, like Surya(the sun). But when they talk of God, people are not clear what they are referring to. Atma darshana or Atma anubhuti are plainer terms and are technically precise. You get an experience of yourself which is not bound by change. You realize that you are changeless. So you need to ask, is this body bound by change? Yes, very much. Are mental states, thoughts and emotions bound by change? Yes, very much. Is the knowledge that you have accumulated bound by change? Yes, very much. So you must ask yourself, what is that, which is not bound by change? And this gives you darshana of yourself. When you know your true self, you will be able to perceive clearly what is. In Tamil,one can say, ullathu ullapadi theriyum. Otherwise, you will see yourself as a hodgepodge of the happenings in the mind and body. And everything is so mixed up, that life, which is in reality very simple, will seem extremely complex!


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Paati Vaithiyam

INDIGENOUS REMEDIES FOR COMMON AILMENTS

Cough and Throat Problems


WThe Indian system of medicine looks at the body and mind as one integrated entity. Infact, person and his environment, both are equally important as constant interaction happens between the two. Ayurveda is the Knowledge of Life. While most modern medicine treats the symptoms and that too on a specific part of the body, Ayurveda looks at us as a holistic and dynamic system which goes through cycles in tune with nature. Balanced Doshas are the key to healthy life. The Doshas are formed from the five fundamental elements Prithvi (Earth), Vayu (Wind), Akasha (Space), Tejas (Fire), Apa (Water). Hence many of the remedies from the Indian tradition operate at a very fundamental level.

Remedy#1

The mixture of turmeric and honey, called “Golden Honey” is one of the strongest natural antibiotics used in the science of Ayurveda.

Remedy#2

An external treatment for throat pain and throat infections:

Remedy#3

Prakriti Darshan

INSIGHTS ON ORGANIC FARMING

Volunteers of Anaadi Foundation attended a one-day workshop on the method of organic farming, at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). The scientists at TNAU explained the principles and basis of organic farming. In this article we share the insights gained through the workshop.


Our present practice of chemical based farming has caused great harm to the natural environment and to the human beings and other species. Due to the application of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides, the soil has become toxic and not only that, the toxins have found their way through the food chain into our stomach. Various kinds of diseases have afflicted humanity, as a result of this poisoning. And hence, the need for toxin-free, chemical-free sustainable methods of agriculture has become more pressing than ever before. The different aspects of agriculture are: Soil management, Water management, Seed management, Fertilizer management, Pest management, Disease control, Harvest management, Post-harvest management.

Natural farming and organic farming are two approaches to sustainable agriculture. Natural farming completely eliminates the need for human intervention and does not disturb nature in any way. Rather it requires the farmer to observe closely the functioning and dynamics of the local ecosystem, and mimicking Mother Nature's principles, so that the ecosystem takes care of itself. There is no need for tilling the soil, applying fertilizers or pesticides, weeding or pruning. Organic farming, another approach to sustainable agriculture, is a self-sustained, self-reliant method of farming where the agricultural inputs of crop production and protection are of organic origin, such as bovine manure, compost, and fertilizers and pesticides made from naturally occurring substances (eg: panchagavya and jeevamrutham).

The main aim of organic agriculture is to grow food crops in a self-sustained environment, with minimal use of external inputs of crop production and protection, which are produced by the farmer within his farmland.

The general opinion is that organic farming leads to low yields in comparison to inorganic farming, and may even lead to failure of crops. Let us examine this closely. Organic farming is a complete science which has its own tested and proven techniques of crop management, formulations of fertilizers and pesticides, biological pest control, water management and disease control. While organic farming will not give immediate high yields and profit like inorganic agriculture, its continuous practice over 5-10 years actually increases the soil organic carbon content (SOC), which is the very basis of soil fertility. Soil, which is presently depleted and of low fertility, due to inorganic farming, increases in fertility over the years through the practice of organic farming. The food produced through organic farming is completely free from all toxins, and safe for consumption.

Organic farming benefits all our future generations and humanity in the long run. As the soil becomes richer and more fertile, organic farming has a positive impact on the natural environment. Since the fertilizers and pesticides are prepared from within the farmland, it is a self-reliant and self-sustaining system, that requires no purchase of any fertilizers or pesticides from external agents.



Also, since organic farming is a method of sustainable agriculture, it’s yield is also “sustained” in the long run. In inorganic farming, the yield keeps increasing with time, while depleting and damaging the soil, until a point when the soil becomes unfit for growing plants. While in organic farming, the yield initially increases with time, and then stabilizes to a constant level of crop yield, all the time increasing the soil organic carbon content.

Soil

The most important aspect of organic agriculture is the management of soil. Soil is generally perceived as inanimate matter. But no! It is very much alive; it is a living organism in its own right. In 1 gram of soil there are 1 billion bacteria and 1 million fungi.

It is the soil microorganisms that are responsible for decomposing and breaking down the manure we add into the soil, into nutrients that are needed for the plants. These biological processes in the soil is the distinguishing factor in organic farming, whereas in inorganic farming, plant nutrients are supplied as salts in the form of chemicals.

Organic carbon is the “blood of the soil”. Why is carbon important? Because it is the very basis of soil fertility. Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) is the main source of energy and nutrients for soil microorganisms. The organic matter in the soil, such as plant and animal residues, under the right conditions of soil temperature and moisture, undergo a process of degradation to form humus. It is this humus that is important for nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil. Humus does not build up in the soil in a short period of time. However, once it builds up, neither does it leave the soil quickly.

Only after 5 years of continuous organic farming, does the organic carbon content in the soil increase by as much as 0. 05 %. Hence living soil is composed of 25% air, 25% water, 45% minerals, clay, sand or silt and 5% dead and living plants and animals. Ideally the Carbon: Nitrogen ratio in the soil should be 10:1

The richness of soil is measured in terms of :

  • Density of micro-organisms present (Nun Uyirgal)

  • Organic carbon content (Karimai chathu)

  • Macronutrients- Nitrogen(thalai chathu), Phosphorus(mani chathu) and Potassium (Saambal chathu)

  • Micronutrients – Boron, Zinc, Manganese, Iron, Cobalt, Copper, Molybdenum and Chlorine

Manure and Compost

Now, to start an organic farm, a farmer must have his own source of water for irrigation and a continuous source of manure. The manure takes care of soil microbes that in turn provide nutrition for the plants. One cow is needed for one acre of land. Cow dung is an excellent source of manure. The products from cows are used for the preparation of panchagavya and jeevamrutham, which will be discussed later in the article. We also learnt how agricultural wastes such as plant and livestock wastes could be turned into valuable compost, which is a rich organic fertilizer for plants.

Generally, farmers dump all their farm wastes and manure into a large pit in the farm called, ' Eru Kuzhi' and leave it there untreated for a whole year. Even after a year, the decomposition process may not be complete and may only be partially decomposed. The scientists explained that instead of dumping wastes in a pit and leaving it to natural decomposition, the wastes and manure could be made to undergo a process of active and faster decomposition, through the science of composting, and turned into rich compost. Composting is a technology in itself! They explained the elaborate process of composting and the do's and don'ts of it. The science behind vermicompost, using earthworms was discussed, and we learnt that it was superior to the normal method of composting. The finished vermicompost is richer in nutritional content. The farmers were encouraged to invest in rearing earthworms for vermicomposting.

The fully decomposed, finished compost is rich in Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and most importantly, microorganisms. The compost needs to be added in appropriate amounts during the various stages in the life cycle of crops. We were warned that if, following the normal tendency of our minds, we added it in excess amounts hoping for huge yields, we would be in for huge disappointment!

Biofertilizers

One may ask, 'The atmosphere contains 78% Nitrogen, why can't the crops absorb it directly from the air?” The reason is that the crops can take in Nitrogen only in the form of nitrates, and not in the elemental form. Similarly, Phosphorus and Potassium are absorbed only in the phosphate and potassium oxide forms respectively. The fixation of Nitrogen from the atmosphere to the root of the plants in the form of nitrates is done by Nitrogen-fixing bacteria such as Rhizobium and Azospirillum. Phosphorus solubilizing bacteria such as Phosphobacteria and Pseudomonas, using their enzymes, release Phosphorus from insoluble compounds and make it available for uptake by plants. Potassium Solubilizers like Bacillus mucilaginosus release Potassium for the plants' uptake through a similar process. These beneficial bacteria called biofertilizers, are prepared as pure cultures in the laboratory in controlled conditions and can be purchased by organic farmers.

Organic farming is all about “management”. There is no need to eradicate any organism in the environment. Each organism has its role to play. There is something called the 'Economic Threshold Level’’; below this level of pest population, nature will control it and there is no need for human intervention. The predators, their natural enemies will keep them in check. Monitoring the level of pests on a day-to-day basis is very important. It is also important to know the various species of pests, their lifecycles and the stages of the crop's lifecycle during which they attack the crop. If the threshold level is crossed, the pests can be kept in check using traps such as light traps and pheromone traps or spraying pesticides prepared using naturally occurring substances, available locally, such as Neem Seed Kernel Extract and 3G (Ginger, Green Chilly and Garlic). The farmer must plant the trees and plants, whose parts are used for pesticide preparation, and which are natural pest repellers, such as Cycas, Golden Shower and Neem, surrounding the farm.

Seed Management

The farmer must select strong and healthy seeds for plantation, and dispose of wrinkled seeds, which have been affected by bacteria and fungi. Various methods of seed treatment, such as soaking the seeds in panchagavya and coating the seeds with bio-fertilizers were discussed. Self-reliance is primary; year after year, the seeds from the previous year's harvest must be sowed during the current season, and must not be purchased from external agents.

Panchagavya And Jeevamrutham

The process of preparing panchagavya, an organic fertilizer and potent immunity booster, was discussed. It is prepared using five products of a cow: cow dung, cow urine, milk, ghee and curd, along with jaggery, coconut water, ripe bananas and water. It is used for foliar application. Jeevamrutham is prepared using cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, gram flour and soil. It is used for application to the root system.

Organic Certification

There are stringent rules that must be observed by a farmer in order to receive organic certification for his farm. He must have his own source of irrigation on his farm, and not from external sources and canals. He needs to practice organic farming for a minimum of 3 years to be eligible for certification. After the first year of organic farming, the seeds from the first year's harvest must be sowed for the second year. Various records of what inputs were used for farming must be maintained, and data logged regularly.

Roof Gardening

Applying the above techniques of organic farming on a smaller scale, such as in a home roof garden was also explained by the scientists. The roof of a medium sized house could serve as a “terrace farm” to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables used by the family for their everyday cooking. Thus even a family living in cities can grow their own food in the garden or on the terrace, and achieve self-reliance in food.

The drive home point was that organic farming is a science, and it requires the farmer to understand the functioning of the natural ecosystem and apply the agricultural inputs of crop production and protection in appropriate quantities, when needed and not in excess. The organic farm must be self-reliant, self-sustaining, with all inputs produced from within the farm. Organic farming is a sustainable method of agriculture, which in the long run, positively impacts human health and the environment.



All in all, it was an exciting, information packed workshop, giving a detailed overview of the techniques of organic agriculture.


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Kathalaya

STORIES FOR THE YOUNG

SAINT NAGARJUNA AND THE THIEF



A great Indian Yogi and mystic, Nagarjuna, used to live naked. He had only a begging bowl and that was his only possession. But he was perhaps the greatest genius to have been born on this earth; his level of intelligence and sharpness of mind were incomparable! Great kings, queens, great philosophers were his students. One queen was very much devoted to him, and she had made a golden begging bowl studded with diamonds. When he came to her capital and arrived at the palace to beg, the queen said, "First you have to give me a promise." Nagarjuna said, "You are asking a promise from a naked man who has nothing but his begging bowl." The queen said, "That will do. I wish to ask of you for your begging bowl." Nagarjuna said, "You can take it." The queen said, "As a replacement, you will have to take my begging bowl." Nagarjuna said, "There is no problem, any begging bowl will do." Nagarjuna was not at all aware of what she was hiding. It was a golden begging bowl studded with very valuable diamonds. But, he took it, and went on his way.

As he was going back to the ruins of the monastery where he was staying, a thief saw him and could not believe his eyes! The begging bowl was shining like a star! But what was it doing with this naked man (naked, but such a magnificent man!)? For how long could he keep it? Somebody was sure to take it away, so why not he? And so,the thief followed Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna went inside a room, which was a humble little shed with only the walls left intact. The whole monastery was in ruins, and there was a window by the side. The thief was hiding outside the window knowing that Buddhist monks eat only once a day. Soon,he would eat, and then he would have a little nap. And that would be the right moment to steal the precious golden bowl! Nobody lived in this monastery. It was thousands of years old.

But, before giving the thief a chance to steal the bowl, Nagarjuna ate his food and threw the bowl out of the window where the thief was sitting,and planning his moves. The thief could not believe it. He was really shocked! For a moment he could not think what to do- what kind of a man was this naked monk? He had eaten his food and thrown away this immensely valuable bowl as if it was of no use to him - and exactly where he was sitting!

He stood up and asked Nagarjuna, "Can I come in just to ask one question?"

Nagarjuna said, "To bring you in, I had to throw the bowl out. Come in. The bowl is yours; don't be worried. I have given it to you so that you will not be a thief. It is a gift, a present. I am a poor man. I don't have anything else, only that bowl; and I know I cannot keep it for long because I will have to sleep, somebody will take it away and you have taken so much trouble to procure it. From the capital you have followed me, and I have been watching. It is a hot summer’s day. Please don't refuse. Take it."

The thief said, "You are a strange man. Don't you know how expensive it is?"

Nagarjuna said, "Since I have known my own self, nothing is expensive."


The thief looked at Nagarjuna and said, "Then, I ask of you one more present: how can I know myself, in comparison to which this precious bowl is nothing?"

Nagarjuna said, "It is very simple."

The thief said, "Before you say anything I wish to introduce myself. I am a well-known thief."

Nagarjuna said, "Who is not? Don't be concerned with trivia. In this world everybody is a thief because everybody comes naked without anything, and then later everybody possesses something or the other. All are thieves, so do not be worried. That's why I live naked. It is perfectly fine. Whatever you are doing, do it well. Just do one thing: when you are stealing, be aware, be alert, be watchful. If you lose watchfulness then don't steal. That is a simple rule for you."

The thief said, "It sounds very simple. When I can see you again?"

Nagarjuna said, "I will be here for two weeks. You can come any day, but first try to follow this rule."

For two weeks the thief tried to observe the rule, and to his amazement,found that it was the most difficult thing in the world! Once he even broke into the palace, opened the door of the royal treasury, but the moment he tried to take something, he lost his awareness that very instant! And the thief was an honest man-he was true to himself, in following the rule that the monk had given him.

So he left whatever he intended to take behind, because it could not be taken without being aware. Observing the simple rule was extremely difficult: when he was aware, there was no desire to take anything; and when he was not aware, he wanted to take everything in the treasury!


Finally he came empty-handed to Nagarjuna and said, "You have disturbed my whole life. Now I cannot steal!" Nagarjuna said, "That is not my problem. Now it is your problem. If you want to steal forget all about awareness." But the thief said, "Those few moments of awareness were so valuable. I have never felt so at ease, so peaceful, so silent, so blissful in my whole life – all the treasure of the entire kingdom was nothing compared to it.”


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Divine Humor

FROM THE LIVES OF MAHATMAS


Swami Rama narrates this personal life event in his book Living with the Himalayan Masters. On a certain day, he wanted to know about Maya which is the veil that prevents us from perceiving the truth.. His Guru promised that the next day they would set out to meet Maya. Excited at the prospect of knowing about this veil called Maya, Swami Rama accompanied his Guru. They were walking through the Himalayan forests. All of a sudden his Guru ran very fast and wrapped himself around a tree. He shouted for help from Swami Rama. Swami Rama terrified by this was afraid to go near the tree fearing his life. His Guru asked him to pull him away from the tree. Swami Rama tried his best but couldn’t pull his Guru. The Guru said that his body was being caught by the tree and he had to pull it really hard to remove it. Swami Rama thought for a moment and asked “How is this possible, the tree trunk has no power to hold you?”. The Guru laughed and said “This is Maya”. Swami Rama learnt his lesson on Maya that day.

Swami Rama


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