Sunday, 18 March 2012

What makes us Human

||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||

Aum Namo Narayanaya

As Hindus we are taught many customs and traditions which propound our teachings of the divinity within each and everyone. Like that, there is a custom which states: Atithi Devo Bhava (treat all guests as God); another says to always make some kind of offering (money, flower, water) at a temple; and to take some offering when visiting a Swami.

A visit to the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa will give one an ideal opportunity to experience Indian hospitality at its highest level. I have always left the Ashram with a huge dose of spiritual energy and a waist size bigger.

The expansive heart of Swami Vimokshananda also ensures that I never leave without a piece of literature which he would personally choose for me. In His divine wisdom, the books would always be relevant and seek to clarify doubts that would run havoc in my mind.
Saint Ramanuja

This week, with an affectionate smile He said: “Yogan, this is for you” as if well aware that I was pensively foraging for some idea to blog. He handed me a book on Sri Ramanuja and on the cover sat this giant of a saint whose life revolved around Narayana. At this point I was overwhelmed with joy as upon reading the last blog, a dear friend remarked, ‘I don’t want to hear about India, please tell me about Father (meaning Narayana).’ It was as if Swamiji and the Lord heeded the call of my friend and decided that this week I shall speak of Narayana’s glory.

Coming from a dark past of oppression and enslavement as a country, we celebrate Human Rights Day on 21 March 2012 - the celebration of a democratic country which operates on a constitution that speaks to the rights of every citizen. The South African constitution is lauded as one of the most progressive in the world enshrining basic human rights as the cornerstone of our democracy.

But as I sit and glance at the world, my mind immediately runs aground confused  at a vast number of  people all over the world fighting for or celebrating achieving human rights, but act contrary to human beings. I think in order to understand why I say this I should maybe define what I see as a human being.

I recall once when Pujya Swami Sahajananda of the Divine Life Society narrated a parable. We often say that man evolved from apes. The parable went on to echo the thoughts of the ape distancing itself from current man stating the following reasons. It does not leave its parent in a home when old; it does not get drunk and beat its wife; it does not murder its kinsmen for wealth. It goes on making these comparisons and finally declares that man cannot be a relative of the ape. The parable sounded quite hilarious at the time, but upon reflection, I realised how profound a statement it made.

Against whom then can we benchmark the ideal human being or for that matter how a human being should behave. On Friday, Hindus throughout the world will start the 10 day celebration of unpacking and discussing the beautiful scripture the Ramayana which accentuates and chronicles the life of the great Lord Rama. This festival culminates with the birth celebration of Shri Rama, who is an incarnation of Narayana.

Sri Rama the ideal brother
I cannot find a more perfect example of a human being than Him. The all merciful Narayana, out of infinite love for His children took this avatar on earth to live amongst man and be the living practical example of perfect divine living.

Those characteristics and qualities that saints and scriptures speak off and implore upon us to live can be found in the life of this giant among men.  As described by Sri Thulsidas oozing with boundless love and devotion: Bhaju deenbandhu dinesh danav-daitya-vansha-nikandanam, Raghunand anandakand koshalachandra dasharath-nanadanam.

The Lord is said to be the friend of the poor; the ideal and perfect son; and a darling of society.

Drenched and overly endowed with compassion, love, truthfulness, respect and righteousness; He is able to carry out His life as a beacon of  hope and divinity for humanity maintaining this even in the midst of the greatest challenges.

Many of you may sit back and have a nice laugh thinking that such a Rama is impossible in this Kali Yuga based on the way society has evolved in competition to the Iron Age.

There is a Rama within each and everyone of us. That is what religion has to do; it has to help you to unearth that Rama and manifest it in your character. Sri Ramanuja gives the following advice that will give impetus to this journey.

He said:

Have sincere faith in the teachings of great Archaryas

Never be slave to your senses

Be not satisfied with worldly knowledge, read the scriptures

Learn to treat all your feelings with indifference

Devote at least an hour of the day for inner contemplation

He who has truly surrendered himself to God should never worry of his future, to do is hypocrisy.

In this earth; find by careful discrimination your friends, enemies and the indifferent. God is your friend. Those who hate God, your enemies and the worldly-minded are the indifferent.  Always seek the company of those absorbed in thoughts of the divine.

If as parents you can adopt these teachings and ensure that you hand these to your children ensuring that at all times they are reared in an environment bombarded with divinity, spirituality and positive inspiring thoughts, then the world can be populated with Ramas. Thus will commence the age of Rama Rajya - a world of peace and love populated with divine beings.

As we celebrate Human Rights Day and Ram Naumi, let us all fight for that ultimate right to be with our father universal - the prince / princess of this creation. I also wish Hindi and Telegu friends and readers a blessed New Year on Friday.

May Lord Rama inspire and guide us is my sincere prayer.

With Love and Prayers Always


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