Question 1: What is the purpose of Sri Krishna’s avatar (=incarnation)?

Answer 1: “Avatara is a DESCENT of God for the ASCENT of Man. A RAY from the Hiranyagarbha descends on earth with mighty powers to keep up the harmony of the universe. The work done by the Avataras and their teachings produce a benign spiritual influence on human beings and help them in their upward divine unfoldment and Self-Realisation…. Many Avataras have discharged one function, but Krishna’s activities were MANY-SIDED. He is styled as the Purnavatara, or the Complete Incarnation.” (pgs. xxiii-xxiv, Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings by Swami Sri Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh)

Question 2: Did Sri Krishna have any sons?

Answer 2: Yes, he had 16,108 wives, and each of them begot him 10 children.

Question 3: If I want to find out more about Sri Krishna, where could I get that information from?

Answer 3: Bhagavata. The author of this book is Vyasa… There are many commentaries on this book. Sridara Swami’s commentary is the most famous and AUTHORITATIVE one. (pg. xxxv, Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings by Swami Sri Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh)

Question 4; There are some people who say that Lord Krishna is ONLY an ordinary man. Some even find fault with his life and character. They even go to the extent of saying that he is not the Lord of the Universe, not an avatara but a passionate cowherd boy who lustfully played with the Gopis.

Answer 4: “Those who find fault with the Lord have NO idea of His greatness and glory, as they have not practised Yoga, as THEIR faults have not been purged by the practice of Yama and Niyama, and as they have NOT taken recourse toSatsangs with sages. They have NO REAL insight into Adhyatmic science. (pg. xlii, Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings by Swami Sri Sivananda maharaj of Rishikesh)

Question 5: So, what is the fate of those find fault with the Lord, calling Him names, and deriding Him as a passionate man?

Sri Krishna answers: “Those devoid of reason think of Me as an ordinary human being having taken a body from the unmanifested state on account of Prarabdha. They know NOT My supreme nature, imperishable, most excellent. [Gita 7:24].

“The foolish disregard Me, when clad in human semblance, IGNORANT of My supreme nature, the great Lord of beings. empty of hope, empty of deeds, empty of wisdom, senseless, they verily are possessed of the DECEITFUL, BRUTAL, DEMONIACAL nature [Gita 9: 11-12].

“They, ENWRAPPED in darkness, think wrong to be right and see things in perverted light. These men know neither action nor renunciation, neither purity nor right conduct, neither truth nor unrightness. They do NOT know what ought to be done and what ought NOT to be done. DELUDED, birth after birth, they WANDER in the worldly mire of Samsara, SUFFERING innumerable ILLS AND MISERIES, and NEVER attain salvation.” (pgs. xlii-xliii, Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings by Swami Sri Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh)

Question 6: Is there a condensed version of the Bhagavata, especially for busy people?

Answer 6: “It is very difficult for busy people to go through the whole of Bhagavata. Therefore, I have CONDENSED Sri Krishna’s Life, Lilas and teachings in (my book “Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings“) in a MOST palatable and tasteful form. Even if you study ONE or TWO pages DAILY, you WILL develop devotion towards the Lord and attain eternal peace, bliss and immortality.” (pg. xliii, Lord Krishna, His Lilas and Teachings by Swami Sri Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh)


Krishna Birth – 18th July 3228 BCE

Krishna Death – 18th February 3102 BCE (the start of Kali Yuga)

According to above time lines Lord Krishna lived for 126 years and 5 months. If we had Gregorian calendar at the time of Lord Krishna’s birth it would had been 23rd June -3227 on Gregorian calendar. Panchang data show that on 18th July 3228 BCE during Nishita or Hindu midnight both Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra were prevailing.

Fasting Rules on Krishna Janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami is also known as Krishnashtami, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti and Sree Jayanthi.

According to the scriptures, one should observe strict fast, i.e., without food and water on the day of one’s Ishta-Devata. However, if one is not able to observe it owing to medical conditions or other disabilities, then, one ought to follow the rules set for Ekadashi fasting: no grains should be consumed during Janmashtami. And according to Smartha Sampradaya, one breaks the fast the next day after Sunrise: when Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra are over.

Most of the time, Krishna Janmashtami is listed on two consecutive days. The first one is for Smarta Sampradaya and other one is for Vaishanava Sampradaya. Vaishanava Sampradaya date is the latter one.

Many people will notice unanimity in North India on choosing the day to celebrate Krishna Janmashtami. The reason behind this unanimity is the institution of ISKCON. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, commonly known as ISKCON is founded on the principles of Vaishnava traditions and most followers of the ISKCON are the followers of Vaishnavism.

ISKCON is one of the most commercialized and global religious institutions that spend money and resources to promote ISKCON brand and ISKCON culture. In North India, therefore, most people observe Janmashtami on the day chosen by ISKCON. Many people who are not the followers of Vaishnavism don’t even understand that ISKCON traditions are different and the most appropriate day to observe Janmashtami fasting might not be same as that of ISKCON.

Smarta followers who understand the difference between Smarta and Vaishnava sectarian don’t follow ISKCON date to observe Janmashtami fasting. Unfortunately ISKCON date to observe Janmashtami is unanimously followed in Braj region and most common people who just follow the buzz observe it on the date followed by the ISKCON.

People who are not the followers of Vaishnavism are followers of Smartism. Hindu religious texts like Dharmasindhu and Nirnaysindhu have well defined rules to decide Janmashtami day and those rules should be followed to decide Janmashtami day if one is not the follower of Vaishnava Sampradaya. Ekadashi fasting is one of the good examples to understand this difference. Rules to observe Ekadashis’ fasting are also different for Smarta and Vaishnava communities. However there is more awareness about different Ekadashi rules followed by Vaishnava sectarian. Not only Ekadashis, Vaishnava fasting day for Janmashtami and Rama Navami might be one day later than Smarta fasting day.

The followers of Vaishnavism give preference to Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra. The followers of Vaishnavism never observe Janmashtami on Saptami Tithi. Janmashtami day according to Vaishnava rules always fall on Ashtami or Navami Tithi on Hindu calendar.

However rules followed by Smartism to decide Janmashtami day are more complex. The preference is given to Nishita or Hindu midnight. The preference is given to the day, either Saptami Tithi or Ashtami Tithi, when Ashtami Tithi prevails during Nishita and further rules are added to include Rohini Nakshatra. The final consideration is given to the day which has the most auspicious combination of Ashtami Tithi and Rohini Nakshatra during Nishita time. Janmashtami day according to Smarta rules always fall on Saptami or Ashtami Tithi on Hindu calendar. 

Source: Pundits at Dhrik Phanjng


Question: I have seen people chanting on their chanting beads (=rosaries) in public places, and on the trains and buses. Is this practice all right?

Swami Satyananda Saraswati answers: “First of all, the practice of Japa should NOT be done in front of ANYBODY, especially a non-practitioner. It is a different matter if five or ten people are sitting together in a room and all of them ARE practitioners; then, it can be done…. it is natural law that when psychic acts are performed before others, they LOSE their POWER; therefore, the rule has always been that japa (=chanting) should be done in absolute secrecy and NOT as a show. That is one COMMON error in japa.” (pg. 159, Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati)

Note: Swamiji was a direct disciple of Swami Sri Sivananda Maharaj of Rishikesh.


Question 1: My friends and I discuss a lot of spiritual issues at bhajans/satsangs (=spiritual gatherings). We discuss valuable quotations that we have gathered from the scriptures and from the books of mahatmas or enlightened masters. A friend of mine says that all these are SHEER WASTE OF TIME and especially effort. What are your views on this opinion? 

Mata Amritanandamayi answers: “It ISN’T enough to read ABOUT living spiritual life, or to HEAR about it, or to just TALK about it—you have to put it into practice… Attending a lecture on the THEORY of cooking ISN’T enough to remove hunger. To appease your hunger, you have to cook the food and eat it. If you want to grow fruit, just STUDYING agriculture ISN’T enough. You have to plant the fruit trees and nurse them.

“It is NOT enough to know that there is water beneath a particular spot, because that WON’T give you ANY water. You have to dig a well there. Nor can you quench your thirst by merely looking at a picture of a well. You have to draw water from a REAL well and drink it. Is it enough to sit in a parked car, staring at a map? Tp reach your destination, you HAVE to travel on the road which is shown on the map.

“In the same way, it’s NOT enough to just take part in SATSANGS, or to READ the SCRIPTURES. To experience the Truth, you HAVE to LIVE according to those words.” (pgs. 273, 292, Eternal Wisdom Vol. 2)

Question 2: So, attending regular SATSANGS is a waste of time? 

Mata Amritanandamayi answers: “…To someone who DOESN’T make any effort, satsang is like a COCONUT given to a jackal; his hunger will NEVER be appeased. A tonic will improve your health, provided you follow the directions written on the bottle and take the right dosage. SATSANG is like learning those directions, and sadhana is like drinking the tonic. Satsang teaches us about the eternal and the transitory, but only through sadhana will we be able to experience and realise what we have learnt.” (pg. 293, Eternal Wisdom Vol. 2)


Saint Dnyaneshwar was the second of the four children of Vithalpant and Rukminibai Kulkarni, a pious couple from the village Apegaon near Paithan (old Pratishthan) in Maharashtra on the banks of River Godavari.

Vithalpant studied Vedas and Shastras and became well versed in them at a very young age. Being extremely pious and detached towards worldly matters he spent much of his time on pilgrimage. During one of the pilgrimages he visited Alandi about 30 Km from Pune and camped in the local Hanuman temple. Sidhopant, a local brahmin, was very much impressed with the youth and thought him as a suitable match for his daughter Rukmini. He met Vithalpant and after making enquiries proposed the marriage. Not having any interest in setting up a family, Vithalpant declined but because of instructions received in a vision he later consented.

After marriage Vithalpant remained at Alandi for some time but due to his lack of interest in family life his father-in-law took him to Apegaon where Vithalpant’s father Govindpant and mother were happy to see their married son. Unfortunately both passed away shortly thereafter leaving the family responsibilities to Vithalpant who could not make the two ends meet due to his disinterest in worldly matters. Finally Sidhopant took the couple back to Alandi under his shelter. But that did not make any difference to Vithalpant who one fine day went for bath on the river and instead of returning home, went to Varanasi.

In Varanasi Vithalpant met a great saint Ramanandswami. Suppressing the fact that he was a married person he requested Ramanandswami to be accepted as a disciple and to be initiated as a sanyasi. Now, according to the rules, a married person cannot become a sanyasi unless he is permitted by his wife. The ritual of adopting the sanyas requires undergoing the rituals performed for a dead person. All his past is supposed to be erased and he is given a new name. Vithalpant was renamed as Chaitanyashram.

One day Ramanandswami set upon a pilgrimage to Rameshwar and on the way halted at Alandi. While he was camping there Rukminibai who now spent her time in worship and other spiritual pre-occupations to drown her grief, went to meet Ramanndswami who uttered the words of blessing to her Putravati Bhava or “May you have children”. Rukminibai started laughing at these words and when asked to explain told the Swamiji the situation that her husband had deserted her. Swamiji probed her and realised that the description of her husband fitted his disciple Chaitanyashram. According to the shastras he was also to blame for having initiated Vithalpant. He immediately abandoned the pilgrimage and returned to Varanasi and accosted Chaitanyashram who confessed to his guilt. He ordered Chaitanyashram immediately to return to his wife and establish a family.

Vithalpant returned to Alandi but was excommunicated from the community because it was unheard of and against shastras to abandon sanyas and adopt family life again. Vithalpant managed to spend his time in the study of Vedas and Shastras. In the course of time four children were borne to the couple: Nivrutti in the year 1273, Dnyandeo (Dnyaneshwar) in 1275, Sopan in 1277 and the fourth a daughter Muktabai in 1279. Everything was fine until Nivrutti was seven years old which is the time when a boy of brahmin parentage has to undergo thread ceremony and be inducted as a brahmin. He approached the brahmins of Alandi to be permitted to perform the thread ceremony but the conservative orthodox community refused.

In a state of extreme distress Vithalpant went to Triambakeshwar (near Nasik) with his family for performing worship at the Shiva temple. Triambakeshwar is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas or luminary lingas of Lord Shiva. While they had gone for performing pradakshina (circumambulation) of the temple one night they encountered a ferocious tiger (in thirteenth century the area was a deep forest) The members of the family ran helter skelter and were dispersed. Nivrutti wandered into a cave in the Anjani mountain where Gahininath, one of the nine Naths was staying for some time. He was attracted towards Nivrutti and in spite of his young age initiated him into Nath sect assigning him the mantra “Ramakrishna Hari” instructing him to propagate devotion to Shri Krishna. That is how Nivrutti became Nivruttinath. The matter of excommunication did not affect this because the Nath sect does not bother about caste system and though socially it may be observed it is ignored in spiritual matters.

All the four children were very intelligent and pious. They studied the Vedas and Shastras under their father but because they were excommunicated they could not join the brahmin community or study in schools run by them. In desperation Vithalpant went to Apegaon and appealed to the brahmins there who after studying the shastras opined that death was the only atonement for the sin. In a hopeless state of mind Vithalpant and Rukminibai abandoned their children at Apegaon, travelled to Prayag and drowned themselves in the River Ganges.

The orphan children somehow grew up begging for dry alms from sympathetic people which they would cook and eat. In the course of time they too approached the brahmin community of Paithan to accept them as brahmins after whatever purification rites necessary but the brahmin community refused. However, considering the excellent behaviour of the children and their learning they permitted them to live in the community on the condition that they will observe celibacy and produce no progeny. This was in 1287 when Dnyandeo was twelve years old.

About this time Nivrutinath initiated Dnyanadeo into the Nath sect and instructed him to write a commentary on Gita. Thus we have a unique situation of a fourteen year old Guru instructing his twelve year old disciple to write something which has become the hope of humanity. The children moved to Nevase, a village in Nagar district on the banks of Pravara river. There Dnyandeo began his commentary on Gita. He used to give a discourse on it to a group of seekers, some of them belonging to the Nath sect but many were followers of the path of devotion. A local devotee by name Sacchinanandbaba wrote down whatever Dnyandeo said. A prominent person among the audience was the saint Namdeo known for the miracle where Vithoba the presiding deity of Pandharpur had eaten the food offering brought by Namdeo when he was a mere boy. Dnyandeo and Namdeo had met earlier at Pandharpur and developed mutual friendship.

There is a legend regarding Sacchitanandababa mentioned above. On the day Nivrutiinath, Dnyandeo etc. entered Nevase, Sacchitanandababa had died and was being carried to the cremation ground accompanied by his wife Soudamini who wanted to commit Sati. Somebody suggested that a saint had come and she should get his blessings before going as Sati. She found Dnyandeo sitting in meditation under a tree. She bowed to him when he blessed her with the words “Akhand Saubhagyavati Bhava” meaning may you never be a widow. When he came out of meditation he realised the odd situation but praying to God and Guru and using his powers he brought back Sacchitanandababa to life. The latter remained his devotee for life.

Dnyandeo started on his commentary which he called Bhavarthadeepika in the year 1287 when he was merely twelve year old. He finished it two and half years later in 1290. By that time he had developed a great friendship with Namdeo. He had also realised that the path of yoga on which the Nath sect gives a great stress could not be easily followed by everyone and the path of devotion was a key for all seekers irrespective of his or her caste, creed or gender. Perhaps he was influenced in this by Namdeo who was a tailor by profession and therefore traditionally belonged to Shudra caste.

Shortly after the completion of Bhavarthadeepika, Dnyandeo joined the varkari movement probably under the influence of Namdeo and virtually became their leader. The varkari sect is known by that name because it is considered essential to visit Pandharpur at least twice a year, on the two Ekadashi (11th day by lunar calendar) in Ashadh (which falls sometime in August) and Kartik (which falls sometime in November) months. It is a path of devotion to Vithoba, the presiding deity of Pandharpur who is same as Shri Krishna. Peculiarity of this deity at Pandharpur is that it wears a crown with Shivalinga on it, thus linking the Shaivaites and Vaishnavaites. This deity used to be in Karnataka and was later brought to Pandharpur. For the sake of the devotees Dnyandeo wrote Amritanubhava, again in verse form dealing with spiritual and devotional topics. The commentary was renamed Dnyaneshwari (Jnanesvari) later. Both Dnyaneshwari and Amritanubhava are holy texts for the Varkari sect today.

Dnyandeo then accompanied Namdeo and several other followers of devotee path like Savata Mali, began a pilgrimage of all the holy places of north, east and west India. Immediately after returning to Alandi Dnyandeo (in 1296) expressed his desire to leave his body by taking samadhi. He chose the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of Kartik for the final samadhi. People gathered and had final round of bhajans etc. Dnyandeo embraced his brothers and sister and close friends like Namdeo. With tears in the eyes of all he entered the cave and sat in the yogic posture, The cave was sealed by a stone and Dnyandeo left his body by yogic process. Dnyandeo was only 21 years of age at this time.

Within a year and a half of this event his brothers and sister also left the material world. Sopandeo took samadhi at Saswad near Pune. Nivruttinath travelled with his sister on a pilgrimage along Tapi river where both were caught one day in a thunderstorm. In the roar of thunder, rain and lightning Muktabai vanished without trace. Soon after, Nivruttinath took samadhi at Triambakeshwar. Thus was the end of an unusual family who enlightened the world spiritually and continue to do so even today. All the children were highly spiritually evolved persons. Muktabai, even as she was in her teens became Guru to a highly accomplished yogi named Changdeo who was believed to be several centuries old.

Soon after this the Muslim invasions India started in India and affected the religious and spiritual life of India, ending a spiritually golden era. It became progressively difficult to venture upon vari and pilgrimages. But copies of Dnyaneshwari were preserved by many families and were read regularly. In the course of copying and probably due to the additions of their own works, many copies got corrupted. Three hundred years later in 1584 Saint Eknath collected several available copies and after careful studies prepared a good copy as free of corrupt text as possible. Even today different copies available show slight differences in their contents as regards some words (and hence the meaning) and also the number of ovis. But that is not a very serious matter except to a historian.

Ekadasi in Singapore in 2014

Posted: January 12, 2014 in Hinduism

Dates
Month
Day
Name of Ekadasi
Breakfast Time: Next Day
11
Jan
Sat
Putrada
09:52:36 to 11:12:21
27
Jan
Mon
Sat tila
07:15:41 to 11:16:56
11
Feb
Tues
Bhaimi
07:16:40 to 11:18:07
26
Feb
Wed
Vijaya
07:14:45 to 11:16:28
12
Mar
Wed
Amalaki
07:11:04 to 11:13:04
27
Mar
Thurs
Papamocani
07:06:08 to 10:21:35
11
Apr
Fri
Kamada
07:01:18 to 11:04:02
25
Apr
Fri
Varuthini
06:57:47 to 11:00:52
10
May
Sat
Mohini
after 11:30:52
24
May
Sat
Apara
09:17:09 to 10:59:40
09
Jun
Mon
Nirjala
06:58:10 to 11:02:05
23
Jun
Mon
Yogini
07:01:06 to 11:05:02
09
Jul
Wed
Sayana
07:04:13 to 11:08:03
22
Jul
Tues
Kamika
07:05:38 to 11:09:16
07
Aug
Thurs
Pavitropana
07:05:18 to 11:08:36
21
Aug
Thurs
Annada
07:03:04 to 11:06:01
05
Sept
Fri
Parsva
06:59:07 to 11:01:42
20
Sept
Sat
Indira
06:54:23 to 07:33:03
05
Oct
Sun
Pasankusa
06:49:55 to 10:51:47
19
Oct
Sun
Rama
06:46:57 to 10:48:34
03
Nov
Mon
Utthana
06:46:04 to 10:47:26
18
Nov
Tues
Utpanna
06:48:10 to 10:49:21
02
Dec
Tues
Moksada
06:52:46 to 10:53:51
18
Dec
Thurs
Saphala
07:00:08 to 11:01:09

Question 1: Is it wrong to attend spiritual talks by people who are quite well-read and informed?

Mata Amritanandamayi: Everyone has something to say on every topic. People are under the impression that they are all authorised to speak on any subject under the sun. Amma remembers a story. A boy once said, “I know a professor. What a great man he was!” When asked why he thought the man was great, the boy said, “He can talk for hours, no matter what the topic (is). Even if you give him an insignificant topic, he can speak for more than five hours!” Another boy who overheard this said, “Your professor can speak for only five hours, and that (has to be on) a topic! My neighbour, however, can go on talking for days on end without any topic!… (People) do not practise anything that (they) preach. (pgs. 2-3, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

Question 2: For many years, I have been studying the holy scriptures, viz., Gita, Upanishads, etc., and I have mastered them in a way. But I do not feel the oneness of life in all. I still take delight in gossiping, backbiting, rumour-mongering, etc; I still get jealous, angry; hypocrisy subtly exists in me. Therefore, are scriptural studies of no avail? Are the scriptures for mere study alone?

Swami Sivananda: “Mere study of the Vichar Sagar or Panchadasi cannot bring in the experience of pure Advaitic consciousness. Vedantic gossiping and dry discussions on scriptures cannot help a man in feeling the unity and oneness of life. You should destroy ruthlessly all sorts of impurities, hatred, jealousy, envy, idea of superiority and all barriers that separate man from man. This can be done by incessant, selfless service of humanity with the right mental attitude. Practical Vedanta is rare in these days. There are dry discussions and meaningless fights over the non-essentials of religions. People study a few books and pose as Jivanmuktas. Even if there be one real Jivanmukta, he will be a great dynamic force to guide the whole world. He can change the destiny of the world. The present-day Jivanmuktas are mere bookworms. Many imagine that they can become Jivanmuktas by a little study of Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi and Tarka. Oneness of life can be had only by Self-realization through constant spiritual practice. Study of scriptures can help you a bit, but it cannot make you a Jivanmukta.” (pgs. 143-144, May I Answer that?)

Mata Amritanandamayi: “…Learning becomes complete only when one is able to express what one has learnt in one’s life. One who strives to do is a true disciple.” (pg. 4, October 2013, Matruvani, Vol. 25)

 


Scientists are getting close to proving what yogis have held to be true for centuries — yoga and meditation can ward off stress and disease.

John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, is leading a five-year study on how the ancient practices affect genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work follows a study he and others published earlier this year showing how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function.

While hundreds of studies have been conducted on the mental health benefits of yoga and meditation, they have tended to rely on blunt tools like participant questionnaires, as well as heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. Only recently have neuro-imaging and genomics technology used in Denninger’s latest studies allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail.

“There is a true biological effect,” said Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals. “The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”

The government-funded study may persuade more doctors to try an alternative route for tackling the source of a myriad of modern ailments. Stress-induced conditions can include everything from hypertension and infertility to depression and even the aging process. They account for 60 to 90 percent of doctor’s visits in the U.S., according to the Benson-Henry Institute. The World Health Organization estimates stress costs U.S. companies at least $300 billion a year through absenteeism, turn-over and low productivity.

Seinfeld, Murdoch
The science is advancing alongside a budding “mindfulness” movement, which includes meditation devotees such as Bill George, board member of Goldman Sachs Group and Exxon Mobil Corp., and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch recently revealed on Twitter that he is giving meditation a try.

As a psychiatrist specializing in depression, Denninger said he was attracted to mind-body medicine, pioneered in the late 1960s by Harvard professor Herbert Benson, as a possible way to prevent the onset of depression through stress reduction. While treatment with pharmaceuticals is still essential, he sees yoga and meditation as useful additions to his medical arsenal.

Exchange Programme
It’s an interest that dates back to an exchange program he attended in China the summer before entering Harvard as an undergraduate student. At Hangzhou University he trained with a tai chi master every morning for three weeks.

“By the end of my time there, I had gotten through my thick teenage skull that there was something very important about the breath and about inhabiting the present moment,” he said. “I’ve carried that with me since then.”

His current study, to conclude in 2015 with about $3.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, tracks 210 healthy subjects with high levels of reported chronic stress for six months. They are divided in three groups.

One group with 70 participants perform a form of yoga known as Kundalini, another 70 meditate and the rest listen to stress education audiobooks, all for 20 minutes a day at home. Kundalini is a form of yoga that incorporates meditation, breathing exercises and the singing of mantras in addition to postures. Denninger said it was chosen for the study because of its strong meditation component.

Participants come into the lab for weekly instruction for two months, followed by three sessions where they answer questionnaires, give blood samples used for genomic analysis and undergo neuro-imaging tests.

‘Immortality Enzyme’
Unlike earlier studies, this one is the first to focus on participants with high levels of stress. The study published in May in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. There was an effect even among novices who had never practiced before.

Harvard isn’t the only place where scientists have started examining the biology behind yoga.
In a study published last year, scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn found that 12 minutes of daily yoga meditation for eight weeks increased telomerase activity by 43 percent, suggesting an improvement in stress-induced aging. Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, shared the Nobel medicine prize in 2009 with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak for research on the telomerase “immortality enzyme,” which slows the cellular aging process.

Build Resilience
Not all patients will be able to stick to a daily regimen of exercise and relaxation. Nor should they have to, according to Denninger and others. Simply knowing breath-management techniques and having a better understanding of stress can help build resilience.

“A certain amount of stress can be helpful,” said Sophia Dunn, a clinical psychotherapist who trained at King’s College London. “Yoga and meditation are tools for enabling us to swim in difficult waters.”

Sources:
http://hms.harvard.edu/news/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-meditation-benefit-11-21-13

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-22/harvard-yoga-scientists-find-proof-of-meditation-benefit.html


Question 1: A high premium has been placed on Japa (=chanting). Isn’t chanting but incantation of a certain formula or a group of words? How could a mindless repetition of a set of words can become a life-saving instrument, or one that has the key to life mysteries?

“A SPIRITUAL mantra puts us in touch with the highest goal of human life, the Self. Such a mantra is NO ordinary combination of letters and syllables, but a living force. The Nam,e of God is not different from God.” (pg. 80, Where Are You Going? by Swami Muktananda)

Question 2: How is it different from other practices like meditation, yoga, ritualistic prayers, etc.?

“While other techniques are means of attaining Him, mantra (chanting) is His very being. That is why it is SO easy to experience God by repeating the mantra. Mantra repetition bears fruit very quickly.”  (pg. 80, Where Are You Going? by Swami Muktananda)

Saint Tukaram, “With the Name of God on your lips, the bliss of liberation is right in your hand.” (pg. 80, Where Are You Going?)

Question 3: Everyone about me is chanting but I do not see any difference in them or in their lives. They have not changed or changing. How come chanting isn’t working for them?

Saint Tukaram, “Everyone repeats the Name of Rama (=God), including cheats, thieves, and priests. But the way in which the great devotee repeats the Name is entirely different, because the Name redeems them.” (pg. 81, Where Are You Going?)

“The mantra has its own power. However, if we want to obtain the full fruit of the mantra, we have to repeat it with FULL AWARENESS of its meaning… Most of the time, we repeat the mantra with the WRONG understanding, thinking that the syllables of the mantra and the object of the mantra are different from each other and from ourselves. That is why the mantra does not bear immediate fruit for us.” (pg. 81, Where Are You Going? by Swami Muktananda


In 2004 Hindu Human Rights Group contacted the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation )over its tabloid programme Secret Swami which portrayed India’s venerated Guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba in an ill founded, malicious light. However this elicited no response from BBC and it is interesting to note that the aforementioned documentary by journalist Tanya Datta is still continuing to be used as the basis for allegations regarding inappropriate behaviour by Sathya Sai Baba. These allegations mainly centre around sex abuse. Yet as is usual with such exposés what the BBC included in its documentary is as important and relevant as what was conveniently ignored.

Since Sathya Sai Baba’s death and after the emergence of counter evidence in the last seven years that absolve him of any such allegations, this entirely negative and therefore non-objective portrayal has, instead of being discontinued, only been enhanced by the litany of obituaries which almost in unison denounce India ’s most revered guru and humanitarian as a sinister con-man. The BBC by making and promoting such a documentary has thus displayed lack of professionalism and balanced perspective taking that would fairly examine all sides of a debate, as any other objective investigative journalism would provide. Instead we have a rather odd collection of neo-intellectuals who seem to lack even balance in the mental sphere as they seem unable to distinguish between opinion and fact, between rational documentary making and sensational cinema creation.

This Secret Swami documentary was aired by BBC2 on 18 June 2004. The programme, compered and led by reporter Tanya Datta, was not just blatantly superficial but sensationally demeaning in its content. Ms Datta breached all standards of objective journalism by displaying her bias at selecting only those subjective testimonies and presenting only that information which would support and drive home her viewpoint of portraying Sathya Sai Baba as a sex-offender. One would logically question whether Ms Datta was trying to ‘make’ news or report it? She frequently made references to Satya Sai Baba as being deemed to be “God” by gullible Hindus (millions of them) without explaining what is meant by the term “God” in Hinduism or even what a basic word such as “Swami” represents in the Hindu lexicon. In fact by using the word “Swami” in its title the BBC ensured that the ordinary British viewer links the expression to Hinduism thus making explicit a connection between “Swami”, “Hinduism” and sexual misdemeanours, fraud and even murder.

Furthermore the self-proclaimed experts that were employed to substantiate the stand taken by this documentary would be dismissed by any rational jury as lacking any sense of authority, integrity or credibility for the case to be argued. The first to be presented was Mr Khushwant Singh (journalist and author) who was asked about his expert opinion on Sathya Sai Baba’s alleged sexual behaviour.

What we were not told however was that Mr Singh, acknowledged in India for the often implicit sexual innuendoes in his writings has been known for basing all his so-called expert reviews of Sathya Sai Baba on his American friend Tal Brooke who is further well-known as a Christian fundamentalist and fanatic author, who believes that ‘enlightenment is an evil path to Satan and that God-Men and Gurus are in a state of perfect demonic possession’. Moreover, Tal Brooke has also been known to claim “out of body experiences”, hearing the voices of “spirit guides”, seeing spiritual entities and having “demonic encounters” on the astral realm and has also personally admitted to experimenting with LSD and being involved with a pro-LSD organization (i.e., Neo-American Church).

The other “expert” presented was the amateur magician and conspiracy theorist Basava Premanand, parading under the title of “rationalist”. Interestingly, Premanand, who was called India’s leading Guru buster, and who had placed himself on the high pedestal of rationalism went on to endorse, promote and publish a book by a well-known charlatan, ‘psychic trance medium’ and ‘psychic pet healer’ Conny Larsson, who in turn had openly claimed that he contacted the spirits of the deceased and even channelled the spirit of Vedic sage Veda Vyasa.

What was then glaringly missing from this assembled cast of highly questionable characters was any practicing and respected Hindu scholar (which Khushwant Singh and Premananda were clearly not) who might have been able to give an informed opinion on the matter. Instead Ms Datta chose to portray this as a government conspiracy in a country of a billion-strong democracy. One would wonder why the BBC felt itself well endorsed to make so-called serious programmes which revolve around the Hindu world and its adherents without a single inside view.

Moreover it is indeed alarming that the BBC would show such a programme based on allegations alone. One would not expect that charges which are so highly serious and disturbing as the ones made would be based on allegations alone and on flawed sources of information, without substantiated evidence or the testimony of the accused. The BBC has had ample experience of going undercover to gain hard corroboration to highlight all kinds of abuse and fraud and yet it had not done so in this instance.

Satya Sai Baba had been tried and found guilty on the basis of allegations alone and on the basis of trial by camera. (One would wonder if the BBC would also have gone so far as to apply for a government charter to sentence this man?) More importantly, India with its own vast internal security, intelligence agencies and its judicial system would have enforced its own laws (in the last seventy years when Baba started his social work) of investigating and even convicting Sathya Sai Baba had they found any shred of evidence that implicated him for such alleged crimes. Instead, the then Prime Minister of India released a letter that officially reinstated the innocence and honour of Sathya Sai Baba:

“We are deeply pained and anguished by the wild, reckless and concocted allegations made by certain vested interests and people against Sri Sathya Sai Baba. We would normally expect that responsible media would ascertain the true facts before printing such calumny – especially when the person is revered globally as an embodiment of love and selfless service to humanity. Since this professional ethic has not been observed by a section of the media, we have elected to go public with this signed statement.”

(Excerpt from the letter released by A.B Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, 1st December, 2001, signed by former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India and the National Human Rights Commissioner)
Even today the same level of respect and honour is still meted out to Sathya Sai Baba by other eminent political figures of India. Former President of India, A.P.J Abdul Kalam wrote a tribute to Sathya Sai Baba in the Hindustan Times on April 22nd, called ‘Sathya Sai Baba: The Divine Legend’, honouring Baba for all the philanthropic work he has done. Current Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, also said during the funeral ceremony of Sai Baba that “Sri Sathya Sai Baba as a preacher of the highest human values was an iconic figure for over five decades”.

Now we find that much of the information provided in the documentary would be considered inadmissible in any court of law for lack of corroborating evidence. The US Department of State- Bureau of Consular Affairs (which was mentioned in the documentary for having taken a concerned stand against Sathya Sai Baba) withdrew its indirect and erroneous reference to Sathya Sai Baba from their official website on July 17th, 2007. UNESCO which withdrew from a conference that it was due to co-organize with the Institute of Sathya Sai Education in 2000 by releasing an official statement (due to being e-bombed and victimized by the same anti-Sai propaganda and misinformation campaigns) later withdrew their statement while expressing regret over their blunder. Even the British Consular (that was approached by anti-Sai activists) refused to issue a travel warning (against Sathya Sai Baba) as there was never any police investigation underway and as they never received any complaint against Sathya Sai Baba or the Sai organization.

Yet today, even after all suspected claims and accusatory information in the documentary has been falsified, even after the main victim Alaya Rahm (presented in documentary) a self-confessed alcoholic and drug abuser, has withdrawn his own allegations, even after no charge or implication for sexual abuse by Sathya Sai Baba has been made in any court of law or the Indian embassy, even after no single case of abuse has been confirmed or proved anywhere, the documentary continues to remain in circulation and the BBC turns a convenient blind eye to the facts and counter-information that now destroys the case and subjective findings of its documentary. By not legally withdrawing their documentary or apologizing for the obvious errors made, the BBC’s rigid stand and intentions could easily be questioned on grounds of harbouring a non-secular and venomous anti-hindu bias which aids the endemic prejudice and propaganda directed towards marring the image of Hinduism’s gurus and traditions.

We also find that by ignoring the refutation of their reported allegations against Sathya Sai Baba and by further adding insult to injury the BBC continues their smear campaign by still weaving the same web of lies and slander with Ms Datta’s recent obituary on Sai Baba that presents Alaya Rahm’s testimony even after he has withdrawn his case (Case No. 05cc01931). Ms Datta even goes as far as to question the integrity of India by accusing the Indian government of being involved in some malicious conspiracy that provides a cover-up for Sathya Sai Baba. “He was a fraudster,” she writes in her obituary, “dogged for years by controversial allegations of sexual abuse yet protected from prosecution by virtue of his powerful political sway… The lack of any legal proceedings against the guru was perhaps not surprising in light of the level of influence that he commanded”. So from all parts of the political spectrum, the Indian politicians according to Ms Datta’s reasoning are tied up together and lack better judgement or worse yet they defend Sathya Sai Baba because they have some deep, dark and sinister secrets to hide. What credibility can one attribute to a journalist and a news network that subliminally disseminates conjured theories and misinformation not very different from the ones spun by the psychologically impaired about the world being taken over by aliens?

Moreover, recently in 2007 the same Alaya Rahm was trying to provide an alibi for a crack cocaine drug dealer friend, however despite his alibi his friend got convicted for thirty years, in return throwing light on Alaya Rahm’s dubious and questionable character which Ms Dutta had conveniently ignored.

One would basically have expected the international media to have much higher standards of objectivity, sophistication and investigation in such sensitive matters but it stands to reason that such irresponsible and partial reporting exposes not only BBC’s keen flair for the dramatic but also its concealed potential for deception. Such irresponsibility and conscious misleading has the power to cause trauma to devotees all over the world as this documentary is still being used and promoted as leverage and ammunition to target devotees and attack them on their religious beliefs rendering them as objects of ridicule.

Moreover, not only has this unintelligent initiative by the BBC raked up unfounded controversies and indirectly insulted the Indian Government and millions of people from all walks of life who paid respect to Sathya Sai Baba but it has also indirectly and as a chain result brought under attack a wider institution of humanitarian work established by Sathya Sai Baba that has been over many years aiding and uplifting millions of poor in India. Baba’s devotees all around the world have over the years been known for their zealous dedication to voluntary service towards uplifting humanity. Furthermore, Baba’s charitable organizations and networks have taken up some of the biggest projects in India that have established super-specialty hospitals with state-of-the-art technology providing all services, including open-heart surgeries for free.

These hospitals have been a boon and refuge to millions of people from thousands of villages and poverty stricken areas in India and beyond. Baba’s social welfare programmes have also constantly worked at providing free quality medical care to all. Not only hospitals but Baba’s work extended to the education sector where he established schools providing comprehensive education from kindergarten to post-graduate level, with all tuition made available for free. Every year these schools have known to yield the finest graduates of India excelling not only in superior academic intelligence but in strong values of self-discipline, integrity and spiritual wisdom. There are also many Sathya Sai Baba schools operating in other countries and over five hundred schools in the world utilizing Baba’s ‘Education in Human Values’ curriculum.  In addition to this Sathya Sai Baba created vast water supply systems and canals for draught-stricken areas in South India that has been providing water to millions of people.

By haughtily attacking Sathya Sai Baba and demeaning him not on rational grounds but on baseless arguments and false allegations of the kind that one could expect of insensitive sociopaths and cowardly critics who excel at sitting on the fence, the BBC has in similar resultant effect debased Baba’s work, his philanthropic organizations and disgraced and demoralized thousands of individuals who inspired by Baba still selflessly carry on his charitable work.

In the final analysis, it is extremely shocking to see that a well-known and well-established international corporation such as the BBC renders its viewers and the British television license payers the dishonour of financing a broadcasting organisation which along with the bulk of the western media uses so-called evidence from disgruntled ex devotees, mentally unstable drug addicts, UFO watchers,conspiracy theorists, shape-shifting believers , New Age pseudo spiritualists, Christian fundamentalists and even white supremacists. As is usual the Hindu element is omitted just as it was with the original documentary when the BBC did not even have the decency to reply to HHR’s concerns and enquiries on the matter. This has inadvertently lead us to believe that the BBC has had no respect for India’s culture and traditions and as usual has used the Hindu community as a soft target which it has felt does not merit respect and so has not applied the same rigorous standards of journalism and broadcasting to issues pertaining to Hinduism and Hindu society.

Over ten years of its experience in this field HHR has found that there still lingers this disrespectful outlook and selective bias of a persisting colonial mentality that seems to shape the perceptions and general attitude of the western media and academia as a whole which   unreasonably judges and intellectually tramples upon the faith and cultural ethos of those unlike itself. Instead of understanding the diversity of traditions and transcending socio-cultural barriers to bring people together the media rather uses discriminatory standards of reporting that divides people on the basis of their faith, ethnic background and culture.

Such overt bias cannot but deepen the prejudice with which Hindus are perceived in the west, in manner not meted out to any other community, religion, culture and civilisation where the media is always very careful not to cause any controversy which may be deemed offensive, even if it means compromising objective analysis. On the other hand where Hindus are concerned almost any Hindu perspective even if it is brought in, has always been deemed as insignificant. Terms such as extremist, right-wing and fascist are still the favourite swear words used to deny Hindus even legitimacy in issues which concerns them.

Given the years of injustice and slander seeded by the documentary and in light of the damage caused by BBC’s incorrect portrayal of Sathya Sai Baba, it would only be befitting and fair of the BBC to now issue an official public apology and legally withdraw the program from being broadcasted on various public channels such as YouTube, etc. apart from also withdrawing all direct and indirect references (of the false allegations) made on their official websites. Instead, and as an act of professional compensation for the damage and defamation engendered the BBC should direct its future efforts at making more honest and educative programs that provide accurate information on Sathya Sai Baba, his work and organizations and on Hinduism as a whole to educate the ignorant masses about the authentic Hindu culture and its ethos, thus setting an honest precedent for future standards of international journalism.

Source: http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/the-secret-behind-the-bbcs-secret-swami/