HARVEST FESTIVALS – THE LEGACY OF OUR ANCESTORS…..

  green field

(Harvest Festivals are there from time immemorial – Even in Biblical times, the practice of thanking God for the plentiful harvest, was there, as in tribal areas or in agrarian civilisations….Seasons of the year gave the measure of time for our ancestors, and life, in general, was guided by the Seasons……Modern Day living has thrust unnatural living to the maximum, that in so many companies, especially the IT sector, people use the day as night, and the night as day, defeating the very purpose of God’s mighty creation of day and night…..and thereby incurring health effects and burn outs and stress…….)

The earth has gone around the sun one more time to mark man made time as 2014…..never mind whether it is more than a billion years in actuality. But Nature has a different time mode altogether -Had we been in Mercury, we might have celebrated more years than on earth. Or, had we been in Jupiter or Saturn, we might have celebrated less new years in our lifetime….

Even the hour/day/year of the earth, is different on different planets. For example, if, say, we live 60 years on earth, will it be the same 60 EARTH years if we were to live on a different planet? Is certainly a thought to ponder……But even this cursory look at the time taken by different planets to revolve around the sun once, which we call a year, reveals the relativity of time.And yet, we unsuccessfully try to celebrate Time, to hold it in our hands while all the time it is slipping away. Youths drinking and shouting and racing on two wheelers just when the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s eve, is perhaps the best example of our folly to hold on to intangible time by the gimmicks of revelry and partying. And yet, the New Year brings with it a certain promise –of change, of a better time than before.

Our ancients celebrated New Year only in March and April -it was only in 46 B.C that Julius Ceasar introduced the Julian Calendar that celebrated new year from January 1st. However, during the Middle ages, January 1st was abolished as the new year, until 1582, when the Gregorian calendar restored January 1st as New Year. Be that as it may, it is indeed a strange coincidence that the financial year still remains April to March……And the vernacular New Year for many of us in India remains Mid April, the season for reaping the harvest.

But Harvesting is almost unknown vocabulary to many children in today’s generation……Festivals like Pongal and Baisakhi, signal harvesting season, the season of plenty in Agriculture. Unfortunately, in modern India, real estate is now the new agriculture……creating acres & acres of concrete jungles. But Hope, is eternal. Let us hope that the agrarian and cultural tradition of remembering God, as the giver of plenty during the harvest season, always remains…….

Towards understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions Part Twelve : KARMA (Understanding Suicides)

Foreword: People committing suicides have increased in the recent past – especially young people  – over love or exam failures. This post is only to enlighten about the bad karma associated with suicide….(i.e., What kind of Karma does a person committing suicide carry?)

(Let us have a look at one of the world’s earliest DOCUMENTED suicides : “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed –  So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. –  When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” –  So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. –  The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” – So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. –  That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day” – THE BIBLE – according to Mathew)  

Young people, including students committing suicide over love and exam failures have alarmingly risen in South India, recently. It is because of the mistaken notion that with death, all responsibility ceases. On the contrary, with death, the responsibility increases. It is by karmic decree that a person leaves this earth at a certain time, at a certain place. We, as human beings, do not have the luxury of leaving the earth as and when we wish, except for very advanced souls who know the time of their death in advance.

Thirumoolar in the Tamil classic Thirumanthiram says that when the union between a man and a woman takes place, the age of the child is determined by various factors, including breath of the man immediately after the union. Thirumoolar further explains that a person is born endowed with a pre-determined number of breaths, and that person lives on this earth only for that many breaths. If a person, on an average, breathes 24 times a minute, which translates to 1440 times an hour, which comes to 34,560 a day, and in an average life span of 60 years, a person would breathe atleast  75,68,64,000 – imagine a machine pumping 75 crore times without fail! And imagine this figure being predetermined at the time of birth for each and every person?  Which is why they say, that Brahma writes on the forehead, the amount of life or the number of years a person will live when he/she is born, at the time of his/her birth itself…..

The question is, are we entitled or empowered to break this predetermined lifespan by committing suicide? The simple answer is, NO.

Almost all religions dwell on the aspect of the AFTER LIFE. We, as human beings, are so engrossed in living the present life that we often ignore or don’t come to know about the Afterlife until it is time for us to go. In the case of suicide, it is a deliberate attempt to cut off the karmic debt by forcibly cutting off life. It is like a debtor trying to end his/her debt by running off – in which case the debt only becomes bigger – with added interest. Suicide increases the karmic debt of the person committing suicide, and also affects the karma of his/her close relatives or others affecting his/her life.

There is also the case for euthanasia or mercy killing of persons who are suffering very badly due to illness. In the case of euthanasia, the person who is put to death, normally does not take the decision of dying – it is often taken by his/her relatives or loved ones who take on the karma of taking the life. These are all very sensitive issues that can only be seen through case by case study as generalizations will not be possible in such grey areas.

Farm suicides in India are a shame for the nation, for the causes are mostly man made – Debt ridden people with no way out, and adaptation to changing environmental factors being two major areas to look into.

There was this case recently of a man who committed suicide when his wife and child died in an accident – True, that he also died when they died, but he would not be able to go to the same sphere as that of his loved ones. The very purpose for which he committed suicide, that is, to be with his loved ones, is lost since he will be on a lower plane because he committed suicide, and his loved ones would be on a different plane. The separation may continue, or it could be worse than when he was on earth, alone.

There are various books in various religions/philosophy that give a detailed account of how exactly life is, in the afterworld. And each one will give a different perspective depending on his/her faith and his/her beliefs and his/her experiences which will become the points of reference.

According to Hindu belief, a person committing suicide cannot go to the Astral world, where all humans go after death. The person committing suicide, has to remain on earth till the time of his/her normal death, in which case, he/she roams around the places where they lived, as ghosts. These unfortunate souls suffer because they can neither go to the astral world and join their dead relatives nor can they connect with the living relatives on earth because they are not in physical form. Among the Vedas, Yajurveda deals more with this aspect…..

According to Hindu mythology, there are 14 worlds, of which seven are higher worlds and seven are lower (paatal) worlds. Planet Earth is the lowest of the seven higher worlds. The evolution of the souls depends on his/her good/bad karma, and accordingly, he/she gets the world of his/her status. Thus status of the karma defines the status of the world we go to. And if a person commits suicide, he/she has to start from the lowest world, after his/her time on earth.

Which is why, if a person commits suicide, he/she would have to carry a huge burden of unwanted karma which could enmesh the soul for a very long time in this or a lower world.

Suicide. This is such a huge, huge, topic that needs more attention in today’s media.

(To be continued….)

Of Garbage Islands in the sea and why we should carry our own cloth bags for shopping

Plastic Pollution has to be seen to be believed….
A few years ago, when we used to go shopping, we could never go without taking proper bags. Mostly it would be cloth bags and occasionally, even jute. And then, the plastic boom arrived, and now plastics have inundated the environment – in every conceivable way. 

Today, even traditional textiles and cloth merchants have shifted to plastics to pack the purchases. Plastic is cheap, weighs less, and is easy to use. Plastic, derived from the Greek word, Plastikos, are basically polymers of high molecular mass. One of the key problems of plastic is the disposal. They can’t be disposed easily and plastic pollution is the most terrible thing to have happened to planet earth. There are two basic types of plastics. Thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers. Thermoplastics like polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene, etc, are reusable again and again. But themosets do not undergo chemical change when heated and can take shape only once – and therein lies the problem.But due to the low cost of plastic and the easy availability of plastic, combined with its dynamic functionality, plastics have progressively displaced more traditional materials such as iron, steel, and wood in many appliances and machines.


But consider this : in the great pacific ocean, there is a huge garbage island, filled with plastics like bottles, plastic sheets, films, fibres, plates, tubes, boxes, cables, plastic gadgets, plastic machine parts, wires, and much more.Called the Great Garbage Island or the Pacific Vortex Trash, the floating island of plastic flotsam has confounded environmentalists and scientists alike. Spread over a huge area, the estimates of the size of the garbage island differ as it is not easily detected by satellite images.

The recycling of water and waste done by the underwater oceanic currents which has been going on peacefully and regularly for thousands of years, has suddenly developed a bottleneck: the floating garbage which refuses to leave.The floating plastic patch of the Great Pacific Ocean has an identical cousin in the Atlantic Ocean to – These floating plastic patches are made up of exceptionally high concentration of pelagic plastics and chemical sludge and other debris.

It is estimated that 80% of the pelagic plastic waste comes from the land mass of the 8 continents, and the remaining 20% of the waste comes from ships. Interestingly, the size of the patch is still being debated as the patch is not easily visible in satellite imaging and is constantly moving and shifting position. Even though a definite estimate is not available, some conservative estimates put the patch at 700,000 square kilometres. Something to set the scientists and environmentalists worrying.

Due to various effects of the water currents, the entire patch is characterized by a huge volume of  smaller plastic particles just beneath the floating plastic debris which are not easily visible.

The reason why we should go in for more biodegradable sunstances like paper wood and earthern ware, is that plastic disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces in a continuous process till the molecular level, over a long period of time. These small particles becomes so small that they are ingested by the acqua/marine life in the seas. So, when we eat seafish from highly polluted waters, we could be unknowingly consuming the very plastics (in some form) we discarded in the sea! (The law of Karma at work!)

Just as Global warming is a phenomenon in which every one of us contribute in some small way, the oceanic pollution too, is a result of all of indiscriminatingly using plastics in our daily lives. Disposal of waste plastic becomes as important as usage of the plastic in the first place.

One of the simplest, easiest, and best ways that we can reduce this plastic pollution is by carrying our own cloth bags when we go for shopping and refuse plastic bags when given……

Towards understanding Hindu culture, rituals and traditions…PART SIX

( Tulsi, crystals, rudraksha beads, in their own way, destroy negative energy. Hinduism makes use of a number of things in Nature to aid everyday living so that we adopt to nature in more ways than one. The use of mud vessels is one of the best eco friendly traditions that we have lost, thanks to modernisation and development…. Some day, some western scientist will find and declare that mud vessels are the best way to good health and immediately, we will have cricketers and celebrities endorsing mudpots, and there will be a chain store for mudpots, in every shopping mall across the country, and many MNCs will jump into the bandwagon of promoting “mudpots”, all for the cause of good health….”they are the latest health fad” people will gush, “thanks to that scientist from that country who found out the health benefits of using mud vessels for cooking” they will tell in cocktail parties, while forgetting that it was only the mudpots that showcased ancient civilisations across the world, including the Indus Valley civilisation….)  

Nature is intertwined with many rituals and practices in Hinduism. The worshipping of Tulsi, or Basil, is one of the best examples of making Nature a part of our everyday lives. Basil or Tulsi is an important part of ritualistic worship. Tulsi is considered a very holy plant, and in some legends, a consort of Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is also known as Surasah in Sanskrit. Botany students may know it better as Ocimum sanctum ( There is also Ocimum basilicum, or “nai Thulasi” in Tamil, which is NOT used – some confuse the two – However, the difference is distinct)

Tulsi is a powerful herb. Its medicinal virtues are well known. It is used for treatment of various common and uncommon diseases. It’s powerful healing properties to cure cancer has been recently acknowledged by the scientific community. Tulsi is extensively used in rural India to protect the household from snakes, mosquitoes, etc, since the smell of Tulsi keeps away the insects.  Basil leaves are still used in many villages to cure malaria.

What is perhaps less known, is that Tulsi is a destroyer of negative energy. It not only destroys negative energy, it exudes positive energy as well. The ritual worshipping of the Tulsi plant ensures that the person stays in the positive presence of the plant, thereby benefitting from the positive energy given by the plant. Tulsi is also known as Vishnu priya (dear to Lord Vishnu) and Bhutagni, the demon destroyer.

There are many legends in various regions of India as to the origin of the Tulsi. The common legend among some of the regions is that the sacred Tulsi plant came out of the blessings of Lord Vishnu during the churning of the ocean.

More than anything else, Tulsi is a symbol of purity. And Tulsi leaves and plants kept at the entrance of the home not only purifies the air entering the home, it also keeps away negative energy.

( To be continued)

The Japanese Earthquake and what it can teach us…..

(This is for all my friends who sent me mails asking as to HOW exactly to send peace vibrations to Japan)

Habits. How easily we form habits! We get up daily, brush our teeth, bathe, get ready for work, eat – and with what precision! – all these things, come out of habit. Similarly, our personal choices. Each and every moment of our lives, we are confronted by personal choice – of like or dislike, of love or hate, of embrace or wrestle, of smile or growl, of give or take, of patience or haste, of compassion or indifference, of virtue or vice   – in order to carry on in life, we have to CHOOSE. And once we start choosing a particular choice, it becomes a habit, over a period of time. So, why not DELIBERATELY choose happiness and joy and understanding for sometime, so that it becomes our habit to be happy, joyful, and understanding?

Sounds easy, but it is not so when it comes to practicing this. We take something like 1440 decisions a day if we calculate a decision a minute, in our everyday lives. And each of this choice, influences WHO WE ARE by the end of the day. We must be able to practice love, positivity, understanding, joy, happiness, compassion, etc, in all these decisions, to become a better person.

But what exactly has this to do with the earthquake?

What we think, influences our environment. There is a tribe in Africa, who do not cut trees. When they want a tree to be not there, they simply go and abuse it. The tree dies after a few days. Similarly, our great scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose proved that plants have feelings, with the help of instruments that recorded the plants emotions. Luther Burbank, a great American horticulturist, was able to produce cactus plants without the mandatory thorns, by suggesting to the plants daily that they are protected and that they don’t need the thorns for protection. When our thoughts can affect plants and trees, they certainly can affect the environment! All these only point out to the fact, that our environment, REACTS to our thoughts. In other words, our environment, REFLECTS our thoughts.

When individual thoughts of similar frequency gather in the ether, they become our collective thought, and when the collective thoughts become epidemic in nature, they effect a mass movement. Many examples are quoted in the book, “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. ( I am grateful to my ex.boss Shri V.Anand who suggested this book to me many years back)

Many are the movies that had hit the screens recently, on the possible end of this world, like 2012. Most of us who see these movies or hear such theories, harbor fears in our subconscious mind. These individual fears become our collective fears in times of such Natural calamities, resulting in more such events taking place.

If we continue to send out positive thoughts, loving thoughts, and peaceful thoughts, our collective thoughts can turn the tide in favour of Mother Earth. Our collective POSITIVE thoughts are needed by Mother Earth, more than ever now. Our earth appears huge to us, but seen from the universe, it is not even a speck.

In this ever expanding vast vast universe, earth appears to be just a dot from a distance of 6 billion km, when Voyager One took a photo and sent it to NASA as it exited the Solar System. And Carl Sagan says, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

And it becomes our responsibility to protect this tiny speck called earth, in this vast universe, by fostering positive, loving, peaceful thoughts. The responsibility, amazingly, is LIMITED to just ourselves! If we think positive, loving, peaceful thoughts, without bothering about others, it will automatically affect our environment, and gradually, pave the way for a better world, is the analogy.

There is a video on youtube titled, “The revolution has begun” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvoRat-Tl_Q)  that shows how the earth’s geophysical statistics got altered drastically when nothing physical was actually happening. The video went on to say that the maximum disturbance that was seen from satellite imaging was during September 2001 when the entire world watched in horror the terror attack on the twin towers. The video was making a case that our collective thoughts altered the geophysical pattern and went on to focus on loving thoughts, asking the viewer to choose love over fear.

Even though we need to see the TV news to know what is happening, let us not get influenced by subconscious fears fanned by the frenzied TRP pitches. During Natural calamities like the Japanese earthquake, most of us sit glued to the television, sympathising with the victims but also at the same time, retaining the fear – the BEST THING THAT WE CAN DO at these times is to CALMLY send waves/vibrations of PEACE and LOVE sitting quietly for sometime. WHEN WE DO IT INDIVIDUALLY, EVEN FOR A FEW MINUTES, IT WILL BECOME A COLLECTIVE EFFORT EVENTUALLY – and ultimately affect the world in a more POSITIVE WAY.

There are many teachers/videos/books/lessons/websites/pages available that teach us the exact way to do it. I follow a simple way : I sit calmly in a chair, spine straight, close my eyes. Then I IMAGINE the globe/earth in space in between my open palms, and then imagine light emanating from my palms to envelope the world in the light of LOVE and PEACE. I hold onto that thought for sometime, and then leave it – it gives me a sense of peace as well.

For earthquake affected Japan, we can imagine the map of Japan or the outline of Japan, and also mentally affirm or say,”I send vibrations of peace and love to the people of Japan affected by the earthquake”

(Readers may kindly note that this technique is different from prayer. I pray too. But this is the technique I practice when I meditate.I am sure that there are more advanced and better ways to do this, and I am sure that there are many masters who teach this – but among many methods that I have come across, this has been the easiest for me for some years now)

Hell hath no fury like nature scorned…..

Some time back, there was a discovery that the Global warming statistics and warnings itself were doctored by some people with vested interests. And suddenly, people all over are not so convinced about global warming and climate change, saying that the stats could be wrong, or that it is hyped. But whether they are right or wrong, one thing is for sure – Concerns about how exactly the world climate is going to behave in the next few decades, and how exactly it would impact the world, is here to stay.

Climate Change and Global warming – are the two key issues that the world has to deal with, collectively as well as on the individual level, in the days to come. 2012 is one popular movie that has fuelled the imagination of a world running amok with all kinds of fears. World Leaders of advanced nations are trying to lessen the impact of Global warming by adopting various strategies whereas developing and underdeveloped nations are asking the developed nations: Why should we alone be deprived of polluting the earth freely, whereas when you were developing, you had the whole wide world to pollute? Why should the rules be different when we are developing, as compared to when you were developing? That the developed world had one brand new world to pollute then, perhaps not knowing the consequences like global warming and climate change, and that the situation is completely different now, is escaping the less privileged nations.

The hold of oil over the world economy seems to be losing the grip increasingly to water. The new battleground, it seems, will be for water. Cities, especially in India, and other developing nations, are so busy undermining the groundwater resources that water tables are fast becoming hollow spaces, easy for seismological shifts to occur. Builders and real estate developers are making a fast buck, least bothered about the fact that concrete jungles are mushrooming like never before. High rise buildings are threatening the ecological balances like never before. All this and more, are the real concerns that the world has to look into. But unfortunately, the leaders are so busy readying themselves for a political dialogue with nature, which is never going to happen.

Nature is not going to sit and wait for us to start a dialogue. Nature knows that Man, with all his powers of science and technology, is nothing before its mighty powers. In answer to all the destructive things like pollution of the atmosphere, making animals and birds extinct, creating concrete jungles, denuding forests and destroying rich flora and fauna by quarrying mountains, Nature is responding in the only way it knows : Climate Change. Nilgiri Mountains in South India recently received 800 mm rainfall in one single day, an unparalleled gush of water from the heavens,that people were actually praying for the rains to stop. It did, after creating real havoc in the Nilgiri Mountains by landslides.

No longer do we see the ordinary swallows that adorned our window sills looking for food. For all we know, they might have already paid a price with their extinction, for our industrial advancement. Gandhiji was one person who knew the perils of industrialization, that he advocated self sufficiency at the village level. Villages are fast vanishing, and urban areas and cities are slowly swallowing the villages around its suburbs. All these and more, are the result of our ever growing neglect of nature. We yearn to control mighty nature – but when it hits back, like the 2006 Tsunami recently proved, we are nothing against nature.

We all wait for world governments to take the lead in resisting Global warming and climate change. We all hope that some nation, or leader, takes charge and battles climate change. Unfortunately, it is not going to be so, for any leader or nation to change or reverse what billions of people are doing around the world. The time has come for collective leadership and collective action – for that is the ONLY thing that is going to save planet earth from disaster. Every single individual who does countless things like taking a walk instead of the vehicle, or using public transport instead of private ones, etc, will be taking the lead in fighting global warming – the emphasis is more on individuals. Finally, Global warming and climate change has made the individual, very powerful – what he or she does determines whether the planet will be saved or not. And, given the grim scenario, No individual is going to do anything that will harm the planet he/she is living, once they know what each and every action of pollution, leads to. The onus, rests purely with the authorities, the organizations, and the MEDIA – to educate, and empower the ordinary citizen to know the ways and means to fight global warming. In this transformation, it is only the individuals who are going to matter, who are going to be affected. But unless they are empowered with the knowledge, unless they know, they are not going to act. And for them, to act, the media must use its powers of persuasion collectively, to ensure this transformation. But will the market driven media COLLECTIVELY do it for the sake of planet earth? Is the question.

Way back in the 1800s, the great explorer and writer Jack London tested the extreme depths of human emotions in journeys that he actually undertook and later wrote about. In his book, THE WHITE SILENCE, he writes about his solitary travel across Alaska, thus : “Nature has many tricks wherewith she convinces man of his finity–the ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earthquake, the long roll of heaven’s artillery–but the most tremendous, the most stupefying of all, is the passive phase of the White Silence. All movement ceases, the sky clears, the heavens are as brass; the slightest whisper seems sacrilege, and man becomes timid, affrighted at the sound of his own voice. Sole speck of life journeying across the ghostly wastes of a dead world, he trembles at his audacity, realizing that his is a maggot’s life, nothing more. Strange thoughts arise unsummoned, and the mystery of all things strives for utterance. And the fear of death, of God, of the universe, comes over him–the hope of the Resurrection and the Life, the yearning for immortality, the vain striving of the imprisoned essence–it is then, if ever, man walks alone with God.”

Jack London has shown years ago, what the media can do now.