Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9th June: Shivir – Day 9

Last day of the shivir! It is not that I am tired of it....I just want to start working at DSVV.  I really liked that campus and want to work there as soon as I can.  So this last day is welcomed. 

I went early for the yagya one last time. Despite getting their early, I was still the last one to enter the in the first group. These ladies drive me nuts! But however it was, as cramped as I was sitting for the 45 mins, I felt good afterwards.

There was only the morning session today, as it is the last day. The speaker discussed Sharma ji’s book, “What am I?” Such an interesting book but speaker was really dull. He could not discuss the topic at all – or maybe I could not understand what he was saying. The gist of the book is that we are all devatma who have been lost, he talks about becoming one with the God again through the power of meditation and concentration.

  • Think more about yourself rather than other people – not in a selfish way, but more like what you yourself are and how you behave rather than how the other behaves. So you will concentrate more on your own behavior rather than judging other people.
  • Situations in Shantikunj are such that a person’s “man” is tightened by forced discipline. You have to share rooms, bathrooms, get in line all the time – this also a kind of yagya.
  • Change yourself from the inside – not just outside. To make your life mission useful light your inner candle and then light everyone eles’s.
  • We should become aatmvaadi not sharirvaadi. Think more inward than outward.
  • Family should do things together whether it is eating, cleaning, praying etc.
    • A family that prays together stays together.
    • A family that dines together shines together.
As it was the last speech, it could have been a more charismatic speaker- oh well…..

Personal Progress

As I was attending the shivir for nine days, I had come to recognize a number of ladies. I used to see this lady all the time, she would be writing the jap in her notebook. Once or twice I tried to speak with her but no answer. I did not push it. Well today, on the last day she came and found me and told me she (Maya) had taken a maun vrat for the 9 days. Oh my God! All nine days! And this was not the first time she has done the maun vrat…she does it once a year. Well – good for her. She did turn out to be a wonderful person and went on talking (I guess making up for all the nine days she did not speak). Her two daughters were with her who were also very nice. When a family has good values it shows in everyone. (Maya is the one on the right in the picture below)

Maya became my good friend for the next two days as she became my guide on how to attend all the activities for Gayatri Jayanti (11th June). So I took her daughter’s phone number and sat with them for the events of the next two days. It was kind of nice, for a change, to sit in someone’s company.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

8th June: Shivir – Day 8

Morning session
Very boring speaker.  First told the story of Matsya avtar and then Sharma ji’s biography.  I left early as I had already finished reading Sharmaji’s biography on my own.  That way I also got a chance to catch up on my jap.

Afternoon session
Samaaj nirmaan – the seven aandolans ( )
1.       Saadhna – change in personal behavior.  Humans can become great not by their caste or color but only by their behavior. So change your attitude to become better.  Saadhna does not mean sitting for puja and doing jap. It means bringing small behavioural changes in your life.  A saadhak then becomes a stihtpragya person i.e. he cannot be swayed by any one, he has self confidence in his self righteousness. Just like mehndi brings color only after grinding, man becomes devta only after saadhna.
2.       Shiksha – education.  Literacy movement.  Teach people how to read and write, do basic accounting and budgeting.
3.       Swaasth – health.  Prevention is better than cure.  Teach good health habits.  Live a good happy life – do exercise.
4.       Swavlamban – become self sufficient in living.  Learn to support yourself, there is enough in the world to support everyone. 
5.       Naari jaagran – women empowerment.  Women make up about 50% of the population yet they are the least used resource.  If we can bring women in the work force then productivity and society can improve a great deal.  Men have to help with this…it has to be done together.
6.       Paryaavaran – environmentalism.  Protect the environment, save energy, reduce trash, global warming issues.
7.       Elimination of evil customs – be open minded about things.  Stop the culture of dhongi and blind superstition.

Evening session
Value of satsang
·         Satsang can be wih guru, wife, family or friends.
·        What is life? Live courageously, live happily and do things instead of waiting around for things to happen – i.e. get up and take action.
·         Truth will always win.
·         Life is time and time is life.

The talk was focused more on social activism.  Take action – do not just sit around doing nothing.  Don’t be lazy or just say 3 mala of Gayatri mantra thinking about the sun.  Instead make children brave and ideal citizens so they are ready for anything.  Teach them to respect women.  These days parents are overprotective of children so they don’t get hurt, but unless they get hurt how will they learn?

The talk was dispersed with inspirational songs. Very nicely done.

Personal Thoughts
Food is not getting better but I am getting smarter! Yesterday I saw someone take their daal in a glass, so I wizened up too!! From now on I carry a glass with me too.  And I was rewarded with the tasty kadhi today! How sweet are these small victories! Now I don’t have to drink my kadhi from the plate!! How dehaati was that!!

Leaving the session early this morning was also a blessing in disguise as it started raining and all my hard work of my laundry would have gone waste if I had not reached in time to take it down. 

I am up a lot in my jap now. I have to finish 30x9 mala in 21 days now instead of nine.  That is my promise to myself. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

7th June: Shivir – Day 7

Morning session
Ladies today at the songs and for the lecture!! The one and only time ladies presented during the entire 24 sessions.
The lecture today was all on family values and balancing life. 
  1. There is a general lack of “dev” values in people.
  2. Family should be thought of as a factory for producing responsible citizens.  It is the backbone of any country, without it the country will also fall apart. 
  3. Sant Gyaneshwar said, one does not have to leave the family to become a saint or sadhu, one only needs to leave the bad qualities. 
  4. When two people marry it is a new life, neither of them should think of their old life anymore.  Start fresh with new ideas.
  5. Always think responsibility first and rights afterwards. 
  6. Most importantly don’t hurt anyone’s self esteem.

There are a few things to keep in mind
  1. Swachata and suvivastha – outside and inside cleanliness.  Make sure everyone does appropriate work and take some days out of busy life to just clean their home.  If kitchen is dirty then the person responsible is also not a clean person – mentally and physically. Maintain all clothes and books etc. in tip top manner.  Usually women don’t think about their soul as their minds are preoccupied with household matters.
  2. Shram – what is your attitude towards working? When a jugnu flies then only he lights up. If one is proud of himself then he cannot do work – he is too proud to work.  So if you want to do seva then you have to get rid of your ego.  You have to think of work as seva then you will enjoy it.  
  3. Make a timetable for the day/week etc if needed to make sure everyone works.  This can be a smart and effective way of working.
  4. Rest only when absolutely necessary.  You have finish your work before you can rest. 
  5. Nityavyata (saving) – be a saver.  Save money effectively but don’t be a miser. Give charity but do that only if are able to save money.  There are three things associated with money: daan (charity), bhog (attachment) and naash (destruction).  So better to give charity as the other two options are negative characteristics. 
  6. Shristachaar and shaalinta – speak sweetly to everyone.  Be good to everyone, “do unto others what you want for yourself” should be the motto.  Keep a check on what you read and what you watch on TV.  You will become what you read and watch.  Have an environment of aastikta – teach children the values e.g. touching feet of elders, sitting for puja etc.  Do puja and yagya routinely so kids know about God.  Always teach children that you do first for others and then for ourselves. 
  7. Swaadhyay – Keep good books at home for reading, and read with entire family for at least 30 mins daily.  Tell stories of good values and culture to kids. 
  8. Sehyog and sehkaar – always be together as a family and do things together; whether it is eating, shopping, going out for fun etc.  When you start to do things separately in a family, the family falls apart.
Afternoon session
All on the evils of dowry system.  Some discussion also how caste is destroying the culture of marriage.  Sharma ji promotes the karm theory of life rather than the caste theory.

Evening session
Pragyopinshad was read today also and yet again the speaker did not get very far…at least from my point of view.  Don’t know what he was talking about.

Personal Progress
For once I actually did the 30 mala jap!! Maybe because I had a cup of tea this morning! Haha! But I felt a sense of accomplishment. 

I had started reading Sharma ji’s “Life and Legacy” book in which he writes about how much jap he had to as part of his becoming ready for his life.  So I got some inspiration from that and I became more dedicated in doing my jap.  He wrote that he actually enjoyed the jap so much that he had to set an alarm clock to let him know when to stop! Wow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

6th June: Shivir – Day 6

Morning session
·         Ved are the theory of life.  But God did all the practical things also by coming into this world.  So become a dev and not a rakshas. 
·         Told the Shiv/Sati story of Ramayan – enforced that woman should listen to her husband if he is saying something.
·         Prahalad story – enforces that one should have faith in God. 
·         One business man used to kept all the bad coins with him instead of putting them back out in the market.  So when he was dying he prayed to God that “Please keep this (pointing to self) khota sikka just like I kept the khotta sikka out of the market.” So become the person who keeps the bad out of the society.

Afternoon session
About having sadhbuddhi and doing satkarm
1.       Your God is like who you are for example, whatever you will shout into a deep well, the echo will come back to you.  So your God becomes however you think of him as. So if you want to please him with money as a corrupt God then that is what he will be and that is what you will be.
2.       Explanation of Ganesh’s elephant form:
a.       Large ears – to listen to everyone
b.       Large nose – to do work so well that there is no nose cut (insult) in life
c.       Eats sweets – so speaks sweetly only
d.       Large stomach – to keep anger and all other emotions in your stomach.
3.       Savitri – goddess of matter – the power of nature is all around us – has five elements (earth, fire, water, air and ether).
Gayatri – goddess of sanskriti and thought – is formless and gives power to our being.
Savitri gives physical body while Gayatri gives mind.
4.       In talking about our habits: we have three characteristics prakriti, vikrati and sanskriti.  To give an example of each in one thing we do – eating…
Prakrati is eating right                 
Vikrati is eating more  
Sanskriti is giving your food to someone hungry
So in general you can follow prakriti in your life, that is your God given nature, but you can develop sanskriti also in order to become a better person.
5.       Aaj ke raavan are – politicians, actors, media, priests, professors and scientists who don’t work for the benefit of the society are all part of the evil group of people.
6.       The different yugs and the characteristic that was/is prevalent
Satyug – satya
Tretayug – maryada (Ram)
Dwaparyug – leela (Krishna)
Kalyug – pragya (Kalki)
What should we do in this yug? Take the sword and take action against injustice.  Stop talking in past tense and start taking action now.
7.       Interesting phrase that the speaker said, “Guru ko maante hain lekin guru ki nahin maante

Evening session    
A young speaker for a change.
1)     A lucky person is one who is
a.       Born as a human
b.       Meets a sadguru
c.       Does jap-tap
d.       Gets varaagya
       2)     Rishi are always happy because their needs are very less.
3)     Pillars of good life – sadhna, swaadhyaay, sanyam and seva.
4)     Pragyopnishad – another text that Sharma ji wrote.  The speaker read part of this but was not able to finish even one subsection of one chapter of larger part.
5)     One has to change himself to change the situation –not try to change the situation because that may not be possible. 
6)     There is a lot of negativity in this world, one has to keep themselves positive and happy.

The lecture could have been more productive if the speaker had stuck to the topic rather than telling so many stories all the time.  He lost his audience as he went on telling his stories, although it is not really hard to lose the Indian audience!

I had to read the Pragyopnishad on my own. I will write my understanding of it later.

Personal Thoughts
Did not even try to go to yagya today.  I will go only on the last day now.  It seems that the number of participants are dwindling.  Maybe they are getting tired of sharing bathrooms or lack of sleep or they are busy doing their jap - whatever.

Some of the thing that have impressed me about a number of these speakers are:
·         Their ability to speak well in English, Hindi and Sanskrit, though most times they are speaking in Hindi.
·         Remembering so many dohas and shlok from the appropriate texts
·         Their general/global knowledge
·         Scientific knowledge

I wish I had the ability to tune off the ladies around me with their kids and their cell phones.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

5th June: Shivir – Day 5

I have had tea only once or twice during the last 4-5 days, mostly because the canteen is too darn crowded all the time.  I am not having caffeine withdrawals but it would be nice to have a cup of tea sometime.

Morning session
“The one solution to all our problems” – that was the book discussed this morning! And I have already read it.  Oh well…here are some points:

1.       You become what you think and do – so better to think good and do good things.
2.       Try to be quiet for some time during the day and keep your mind free of all thought.
3.       Slogans are part of life, but there is no point shouting them if one does not follow any of those. 
4.       Poem:
Nazar badli to nazaare badal gaye
Kashti ne rukh badla to kinaare badal gaye.

So try to change your view and take your life to a different direction.

5.       Water said it wants to be friends with milk, milk said but what will I get in return.  Water said, when time comes I will return the favor of being friends.  Now the price of water went up because it is mixed with milk.  One day when milk was heated up, water started evaporating.  Milk said, you are my friend and you are leaving me? Water said, I will evaporate myself but will not let you get hurt  – that is the concept of marriage. (I guess that would be one way of looking at it)
6.       Soap never gets dirty, it only cleans other things.  Guru is like soap.  He will cleanse you.
7.       Gayatri mantra is like shreshtha vichaar – best thought – this can only think well for everyone.  So best to say it a few times every day.
8.       Yagya does not just mean doing only swaha – it means you have to implement good karm in your life.  So make your life a yagya.

There was no afternoon or evening session. Today was the midsession! I wanted to use the internet – as usual the people in Abroad Cell stood me up.    

I decided to go to Har Ki Pauri in the evening.  I really wanted to see Ganga Aarti.   Har Ki Pauri is a great place for shopping….and I did buy stuff! The crowd started settling in for the aarti at 6 pm! So I had to also get there to get a nice spot.  It was something else sitting in the sun for an hour and half, sweating like cold bottle of coke in hot weather! Thank god I had water with me.  And the anticlimax came when the aarti finished in 5 mins!! Oh c’mon – at least do it for 15 mins. But no matter that it was only 5 min it was still a very moving experience for me.

It was a hot and sweaty day – but a good day.  Another little incident today on the way back from Har Ki Pauri made me write a whole essay on being a single woman in India.

Friday, August 26, 2011

4th June: Shivir – Day 4

Went for yagya this morning, but not at 4:30 am but at 5:30 am.  So that way I would not have to fight for a spot in the first one.  But I was wrong! These lovely old desi ladies cannot get by without cutting the line.  It seems like their food will not get digested if they don’t cut in line!!  I wonder if they are listening to anything any of the speakers are telling them about civility.  The yagya was a short one – about 15 mins.  I have started doing more jap daily now.  I am more well rested and am getting into the mood of things.

Morning session
It was all about doing the right thing in life as a person, as a family member and as a citizen.  I did not take any notes because everything they talk about is so basic.  I am amazed that our people have lost so much of humanity that the speakers have to remind them to be kind to their neighbour’s kids, help each other out and just in general be good.  How could we have lost our way so much?

Afternoon session
Skipped this one – it was toooo hot!! Stayed at home and read Sharmaji’s book “The Only Solution to All Our Problems”. 

It was very fundamental on doing the right thing, having good morals and standing up against social injustice.  I think our society has degraded so much in ethics and morals that he had to write such a book.

India prides itself on its culture and philosophical foundation, yet when I look around in present India I see none of the culture and good philosophy.  Streets are littered with trash, there is no civility on the road or in any office building.  I feel that India has become a huge trash can.  Poverty does not bother me so much but what bothers me is that humanity is missing from everyone whether he is rich or poor.  Illiteracy is no excuse, good behavior and civility does not come from school but from family.  It must mean that the family is broken. 

We are not teaching the right values to our children and then we open these aashrams where we have to teach these things as “Art of Living”.   The “knowledgeable speakers” propose to teach these values but people still don’t change.  They come, attend sessions as if it is a pill to be taken during sickness and go on living their lives as usual.  They may not even make the changes while living in the aashram.  Unless a change in a individual is not made nothing will happen.  The old women still break queues, men still spit on the paths of the aashram.  It is not just a matter of being “ganwaar” it is more of a lack of values and lack of respect for property and people.  How did this happen in a country where Ramaayan and Geeta were written?

There is a general dirtiness in home design, markets and city.  No matter how much one cleans one does not feel clean – why? India is full of contradictions – where there is great spirituality here there is also great materialism, poverty and richness, India welcomes foreigners with open arms yet don’t help their own people.

And really – on a last note here – we need good dentists in India.  Everyone’s teeth are terrible!!

Evening Session
It was all about Dev Sanskriti Vishv Vidyaalay (DSVV).  It is so named because Devta is missing these days from life.  And so is our sanskriti. So in this university they teach not only the course material but also values and culture as each person is a dev but has just forgotten it.  The University does not require fees (has some charges for hostel and food), and has strict admission guidelines.  It would be nice to teach here for one semester – but what??

Personal Thoughts
The men and women sit separately during the lectures, and since I have been sitting with the ladies, I have been observing them a lot more.  It has been quite interesting! They don’t listen to the lecture, they are on their phones or dealing with their children or socializing with each other (maybe this is the only time they can talk to each other!).  This one old lady will always come late and move some other women sitting against the support (wall or otherwise).  Why doesn’t she come on time? And then in a few minutes she will take a call and leave her bag at her spot.  It’s a daily affair.

I wonder why all these people are here.  Are they participating in all the events? Are they really listening to the lecture? Are they having a family outing? Did they come here just to visit Haridwar? They are required to give one hour of their time during the day to some activity in Shantikunj, so at least that must make them think a bit about giving back to community (I think).   I feel that they don’t appreciate Shantikunj for what it stands for and what they are getting here.

The upper layer of management is all elite and a highly literate group.  I really enjoy talking to them; they are all doctors, engineers and/or administrators and have spent time with Sharmaji on a personal level.  So it is good to hear their perspective on life and spirituality.

I think about 70% of India still lives in villages. How good are these villagers in giving their children good values and civility?  I don’t even care about literacy – I just care about good eating, sitting and clean habits.  It means we need to look more into the education and development of villages.  But they are so stuck in their old habits and traditions……Please correct me if I am wrong here.

I strongly feel that girls should get educated more in India.  Men do contribute to values at home but I think women have a lot more to do with the kind of values the children get; the kind of food they eat; and the kind of behavior they exhibit.  Most men are too busy earning money to teach all these things to their children.  It would be nice if they would just support their women.

I did go for lunch today after two days of not eating – it was kadhi day! Yumm... but how to eat the watery kadhi without a spoon?? I will have to figure something out for next time.

Went for a walk in Shantikunj after the evening lecture.  It was pleasantly lit up and there were so many people around, some doing their jap, some talking etc. 

One thing is definitely true in one travels alone, everyone is with family or friends! I felt just a little bit alone roaming around on my own….but I don’t mind being alone, I get time to reflect!! All of today I have spoken only 3-4 sentences! Being silent for the whole day is also meditation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

3rd June: Shivir - Day 3

Morning session

The speaker read Sharmaji’s book "Who is God". (I did not take notes, I thought I would read the book later but did not get a chance).  Some of the talk was about maintaining good health –
  • Drink two glasses of water as soon as you get up in the morning.
  • Eat ankurit ann (sprouts) twice a week at least – this provides all the protein one needs in a week.
  • Exercise to the point of sweating.
Other things of importance:
  • Obey some sort of discipline in life – have some dharm in life. Best is to obey laws of humanity.
  • Have compassion towards everyone.
  • Just like we keep looking at the watch for time, the watch asks the person to watch the following things.
                W – words (watch your words - what you say and to whom)
                A - actions (have good actions in life)
                T – time? (I don't remember this one at all!)
                C - character (mind your character - keep it clean)
                H – heart (have a good and pure heart)
Afternoon session

Krishn said to Arjun
  • Bhakt is good but knowledgeable devout (bhakt) is better.
  • Seva is good but if a strong person does seva it is even better
Krishn does not like
  • Sick person but a youth who is sick is worse. 
  • A person who does bad actions is bad but a knowledgeable person with bad actions is worse.
Evening session
Session was all about the importance of ayurvedic medicine and cultivating good eating habits. For example don’t keep eating all day. Have some discipline in eating habits – that is why Shantikunj makes food only twice a day. You have to give your stomach time to digest the food you ate, you cannot keep putting food in it if the prior food has not finished digesting.

Peronal Progress

Sleep and food are not adjusted yet, I did not eat anything today – just a couple bananas. Maybe it is the heat and the fact the light keeps going out and waking me up. Hopefully I will be okay by tomorrow.

I visited DSVV today and met with Dr. Chinmay Pandya for the first time. After a little chit chat it did not seem he had an idea of what I could do with my time for 6-7 weeks. Its okay…maybe by the time I finish my shivir he will figure it out. The campus is really pretty. I got a mini tour and then stayed there for the 6 pm Nadyog (the evening meditation). It was really nice to sit near the Shiv temple and just be in peace for 15 mins. I cannot wait to get started here and move from Shantikunj – the crowd there is unbelievable!

I met someone from Delhi,who started giving me a lecture on the lack of culture in Americans. What about Indians?? The whole social reform of Sharmaji is about the lack of culture and compassion in Indians! So don’t tell me about Americans!

It is getting hotter by the day here…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2nd June: Shivir - Day 2

After a very stormy night I got up a little later than yesterday as I had to go and meet with Dr. Pandya and Jiji today at 7:30 am.   As usual the people in Abroad Cell, my guides, were late in getting there. The meeting went well, Dr. Pandya already knew about my arrival – as he does about everyone’s arrival.  After the meeting I went on to my morning lecture.

Morning session
It was all about Gayatri mantra and its power. It is supposed to give everyone sadbuddhi.  The other way to get sadbuddhi is by the path of knowledge.

There was discussion about social reform
  • keeping the environment clean
  • social elevation of women
  • elimination of the dowry system and
  • getting girls as educated as the boys.
Afternoon session
It was all on the importance of guru. One can learn everything from a guru, so chose your guru carefully.

Evening session
History of Shantikunj.  How Sharmaji got the calling from his guru to go the Himalyas and to do the jap he did.  Through the Divya Dristhi given to him by his guru he was able to see the 7 Rishis (saptrishi) in the Himalyas.  They were sad that their way of life did not exist anymore, so they asked Sharmaji to bring it back.  Each one of the saptrishi have their special place in our culture.  Sharmaji is trying to carry on that culture in his own way. (I tried to take good notes but sometimes some things got away from me…)

1.       Charak - ayurved:  Shantikunj has a full fledged ayurvedic pharmacy.
2.       Parashuram – eradication of unjust customs and traditions from the society: This is one of the seven revolutionary constructive movements run by Gayatri Pariwar in the society.
3.       Valmiki – sanskaar, proper management of family, creation of Vedic literature.  Sharma ji, through his books and regular training sessions, promotes Indian values and culture. Shantikunj is an embodiment of a huge family.
4.       Vashishtha – politics guided by righteous duties (dharma) and wisdom: Through his books and lectures Sharma ji encourages people to take just decisions and develop a righteous stand on national and global issues.
5.       Yagyavalkya – yagyopathy. At Shantikunj, yagya is done on a daily basis and there is scientific proof that this can improve life and purify the environment. (Yagya is a fire ceremony, which is done by burning different kinds of herbs and wood, and the aroma or fumes from these can have a purifying effect). 
6.       Vishwamitra – Made Gayatri Mantra available to everyone:  Sharma ji also says that Gayatri Mantra is for everyone. He explained in detail the meaning of Gayatri Mantra and demonstrated its benefits for the holistic development of the entire humanity.
7.       Bhagirath – removed vices by propagation of righteous knowledge; just as he brought river Ganga on earth to wash away vices of his ancestors; Sharma ji does this through his books – he gives righteous knowledge to people for their all round development.

For anyone coming to Shantikunj the purpose is usually to
1)     Learn about yourself; that you are part of God – not some independent entity.
2)     The 9 day shivir can help people make small changes in their lives to improve it.
3)     Learn about our ancient culture.
4)     And in general just be away from everything else in this world for a few days.

Personal Thoughts for the Day:
Today was a hard day for me as the food did not agree with me at all (can food be too Satvik?).  I could not keep any food in me today, so in general I was very weak today so did not get to do a lot of jap.  On the whole I really like the idea of satsang, one gets to listen to good poeple and great thoughts.  I just wish the other people there would be more serious as they are disturbing me when I am trying to pay attention!

Butt is really aching today after two days of sitting on the floor :-)
(PS: Please correct me anyone about anything that I may have written wrong)