Sunday, 19 January 2014

Thai Poosam - a lesson in sacrifice and selfless service

Murugan- pic google images
||Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||

||Aum Namo Narayanaya||

The psychological experiments concerning conditioning and association by  Pavlov seemed to re-enact itself out as I made my way to the Sandfields Siva Soobramaniar Temple on the occasion of the Annual Thai Poosam Kavady Festival. Growing up in a predominently South Indian community -Kavady, like the Mardi Gras of Brazil- was a community event that we never missed. The mere thought of the word Kavady floods my mind with nostalgic sights, smells and sounds of the yesteryear. The air around the temple or ground from where the Kavady procession normally sets off would resonate with the voice of A.R.Ramanai Ammal singing at the top of her high-pitched-voice... glories to Lord Shivan and Murugan. The blazing heat which normally accompanied the festival was no deterrent to families... well protected from the scorching rays, strolling in their numbers. Devotees stood silently next to their Kavadies adorned with the sacred ash in communion with their beloved Lord, oblivious to the raucous caused by the clashing cymbals, beating drums and singing of more than 30 bhajan groups as they overlap each other around the arena.

Thai Poosam is the marvel of Hindu Dharma, bringing the community together... breaking down the barriers of social status, where everybody patiently follows the queue to make their offerings and collect their meals or refreshments. When God becomes the central focus and objective, we see harmony, tolerance and love penetrate beyond every person's ego.

This huge festival -full of colour- which demonstrates with great magnitude the devotion and sincerity of people... also in a unique way illustrates the importance working together as a community, helping one another to raise ourselves from imperfection to perfection. Many people and organisations fail to see the merit in extending service to another.

They operate with the attitude that they can achieve alone. Swami Vivekananda cut asunder such a foolish notion when He said: "So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them." No man or organisation can reach the zenith of their ideals without the assistance of others. The second part of Swamiji's statement speaks to this idea that upon the introspection of your successes you will find that it was achieved through the sacrifices of ordinary men and woman.

Take for example the South African Indian context. All the millionaires and professionals who enjoy the luxuries today are products of the cane-cutter, through whose blood sweat and tears have emerged successful generations. Today however, many of these people turn a blind eye towards uplifting others... and those who are in positions of influence take a condescending approach to their peers and counterparts.

Thai Poosam is dedicated to Lord Murugan and falls in the month of January. Although in India, devotees of Lord Murugan may carry Kavady on any day of the year, periods of the year are marked as special festival periods to observe Kavady. The legend surrounding the origin of this particular festival is that Lord Muruga who was born out of the power of Shiva was doing battle with a very pestilent demon or asura. Although Lord Muruga was extremely powerful, agile and strategic... it was through the Vel(lance- weapon) gifted to Him by His Mother that He was able to vanquish the asura. I am in awe at the attitude of service, humility and sincerity displayed by the Divine Mother, who did not let ego, pride and arrogance get in Her way of assisting Lord Muruga to perform His duty of slaying the asura, who eventually will get the fame of slaying the demon. It is stated that on this Poosam day, Lord Muruga received this weapon from Mother Parvati. This little episode has profound significance and relevance in our lives. It teaches us humility, sincerity of purpose, duty and the importance of assisting one another in achieving our common goal of peace and prosperity.

Like every magnificent building or edifice is underpinned by a network of foundation and the  beams and pillars which are normally camouflaged out of general sight of people... if any system fails to take care of the society then that system will eventually collapse.

On Tuesday, the Ramakrishna Mission worldwide commemorated the Birth Anniversary of Swami Turiyananda or Hari Maharaj as He was affectionately known. To the world the towering spires of the movement are sculptured with the names of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. The Holy Trio had the indomitable task of conceptualising the ideals of the movement. It was the work of the brother disciples and the devotees who re-enforced and expanded the work to where we are today.

Swami Vivekananda said to Hari Maharaj: "I have made a new path and opened it to all, up until now it was thought that liberation could only be attained through meditation, repetition of God's name, scriptural discussions and so forth. Now young men and woman will attain liberation by doing the Lord's work. Can't you see that I have laid down my life inch by inch, in fulfilling the mission of the Master, till I am on the verge of death? Can you merely stand looking on and not come to my help relieving me of a part of my great burden?"

Swami Turiyananda like His other brother disciples could not refuse this entreaty from their leader and if you read how like a wildfire... they got into action and took on the work in America and throughout India without a stain of selfishness.

These episodes have thought us that the victories in our lives or organisations come through the sacrifices of others. At no time should we allow our egos to think otherwise. Therefore we must all play our part in being the network of foundations and re-enforcing that will allow our society and community to prosper and rise. Let this wonderful festival of Thai Poosam Kavady and the lives of our great saints inspire us to be selfless servants and workers for the benefit of our communities and mankind.


Affectionately Yours

Yogan Naidoo

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