Wish you all a very happy and properous deepavali. Festivals such as these make us who we are.. lets try and use these occasions to build bonding, friendship and love among our famiies, friends and others.
A new link to a live darshan of the Kashi Vishwanath temple has been posted. I will also add it in the other relevant sections.
I was so glad to see this email from someone that I have tremendous amount of respect and regard for - I have never had a chance to meet this amazing man or his team which has done eons of spiritual service but here he was, finding this website on his own and getting in touch and inspiring me to do better:
An old presentation that I loved - Reproducing it here.
India will be celebrating its Independence day this week. to celebrate, lets remember why we all love India so much and celebrate some interesting facts about India:
Source: National Portal Content Management Team
I got this beautiful message from the Houston sangha of Swaminarayan on Hanuman Jayanthi, the celebrations for which are coming up soon (March 30). It is reproduced word for word below:
Along with Bhagwan Ramchandra, Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Matsya avatar, the month of Chaitra also witnesses the manifestation of Ramchandra's stalwart devotee Hanumanji, on Chaitra sud Punam.
By the grace of the deities Shiva and Vayu, Anjana (Anjani), wife of Kesari, king of the monkeys, gave birth to Hanumanji. Therefore he is also known as: Anjanisut (sut means son), Anjaneya, Pavansut, Marutsut, Maruti and Vajrang. Pavan and Marut denote Vayu deva. Vajra means indestructible and Indra's weapon. Ang means body.
Once Angira rishi visited Indra in Swarg. Indra welcomed him by arranging a dance by a damsel named Punjiksthala. As soon as she commenced dancing, the rishi closed his eyes to meditate on Paramatma. When the dance ended, the rishi remained silent. Indra then asked him, "O rishi! How was the dance?"
"We were absorbed in meditation of the Almighty. Such dance does not interest us." Indra felt ashamed. However, the ego-filled damsel sneered, "How can such a (fickle) rishi appreciate dancing in Swarg?" Hearing this, Angira cursed her, "Behold! You shall degrade to earth from Swarg. You will be born as a female monkey in the mountain forests."
The whole of Swarg plunged into consternation. The damsel greatly regretted and repented. She repeatedly begged for forgiveness. Finally, the merciful rishi solaced her, "A great devotee of Paramatma will be born to you. He will forever serve Paramatma."
This damsel was the daughter of Kunjar, the king of the monkeys. She married Kapiraj Kesari of Mount Sumeru.
Therefore, Hanumanji manifested as a result of five divine factors:
1. Angira rishi's curse and subsequent blessings
2. Anjani's prayers
3. Shri Mahadevji's (Shiva's) blessings
4. Attainment of Shiva's divine shakti by Vayu deva and
5. The fruit of a Putreshti Yagna
The Shiva Puran cites that since Shiva could not serve Shri Ram in his present form, he inspired the birth of one Rudra from his 11 Rudras, as a monkey, Hanumanji.
Once when Hanumanji was young Surya deva (Sun deity) imbued him with knowledge of countless weapons and mantras. However, his hyperactive nature induced him to think of swallowing the `red, ripened fruit' - the Sun! Before he succeeded, Indra hit him with his Vajra and persuaded him not to. On being hit by the Vajra, his beard - hanu-, became slanted. Therefore he also became known as Hanuman. The "ji" suffix after any name accords respect. Indra then blessed him that he will eternally remain undefeated, victorious. Hanumanji also obtained boons from Varuna deva (water deity) and Yama - deity of death, victory and immortality. From Brahma he obtained the power of inducing fear in enemies, of destroying fear in friends, to be able to change his form at will and to be able to easily travel wherever he wished. From Mahadevji he obtained the boons of longevity, scriptural wisdom and ability to cross the ocean (Padma Puran, Patal Khand, 114, Uttar Khand, 66, Narad Puran, 1.79).
Now Hanumanji attained a supremely formidable form. However as such, he began harassing rishis. Therefore Bhrugu rishi and Angira admonished him that he would forget the ability to use his formidable power and only a divine personality will later guide him to use it appropriately.
Henceforth Hanumanji lived an ordinary simian life in Kishkindha, on Mount Hrushyamuk as Sugriva's advisor. Only when Shri Ramachandra and Lakshman arrived in search of Sita, did the two first meet. (Valmiki Ramayana Kishkindha 1-4). Thus his life turned a new course. Ramchandraji asked him who he was. Gleaning his identity, Hanumanji humbly replied, "O Prabhu! From the body's point of view, I am your das (servant) and From the jiva's view, I am your bhakta."
Pleased with his wise reply, Shri Ram accepted his seva. Hanumanji and Sugriva then gathered and sent a mighty army of monkeys to aid Shri Ram in search of Sita. (V.R.Kishkindha 40-41).
When Hanumanji struck southwards towards Lanka, Ramchandraji gave him his ring. In case he met Sitaji, he would need to show it to prove that he was Shri Ram's envoy. Accompanied by Jambuvan, they all arrived on India's southern shore. Jambuvan graced Hanumanji. This resulted in him recalling his phenomenal power. Uttering "Jai Shri Ram!" Marutsut leaped high across the ocean towards Lanka!
Here, at night, assuming a subtle form, he entered Lanka. He combed through Ravan's palace, yet failed to locate Sitaji.
However during his search his phenomenal level of brahmacharya manifested.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan singularly highlights this in Vachanamrut Jetalpur 2. He avers that while searching for Jankiji (Sitaji), Hanumanji looked at every demoness in Ravan's palace, including Mandodari, Ravan's wife. After leaving, he wondered whether glancing at so many women would affect him (his brahmacharya) adversely? He then realized that he had done this to look for Jankiji by Ramchandraji's command. Additionally, his senses and consciousness by Ramchandraji's grace had not faltered. He then continued his search. In the midst of such allurements, one who remains unallured like Hanumanji, remarked Bhagwan Swaminarayan, is known as a yati.
Throughout the Ramayan one observes that whenever a vexing problem arose warranting diplomacy, Valmiki lauds Hanumanji as a confluence of such virtues as: integrity, valor, intelligence, strength, patience and wisdom. Hanumanji resolved such problems with finesse and devotion. When he finally located Sitaji, to first soothe and gain her trust, since more than likely she'd be frightened and would take him as one of Ravan's mayic form, he began to recite the glory of King Raghu's lineage while hidden among the trees. He then further recited Ramchandraji's glory. Sitaji's misery, loneliness and distress vanished. Charged with joy, she then requested the deity who sang the glory to present himself!
When Ravan's son Indrajit used his miraculous weapons, rendering Shri Ram and Lakshman unconscious, Hanumanji's supreme devotion as the ideal devotee manifested. Advised by the Ayurvedic physician Sushena, to fetch the four types of herbs on mount Dronachal to revive the two, Hanumanji flew there. Not recognizing the herbs, he returned with the whole mountain! This miraculous power arose from his unalloyed devotion to Shri Ram and his brahmacharya.
During Shri Ram's coronation, Sitaji gifted her invaluable pearl necklace to Hanumanji in jubilation. Being a detached and loyal devotee, he cracked a few pearls with his teeth. Not discovering his master inside, he discarded the necklace!
In a packed assembly, when somebody questioned him whether he really had Sita and Ram in his self, he literally tore open his chest to reveal both, in his heart! Seeing such zealous devotion, Ramchandraji embraced him and granted a boon. "Wherever my katha is being recited, you shall always be there... I shall never ever be estranged from you!"
Shri Ramchandraji further added, "O Hanuman! You have helped me countless times. Even if I give my life for you repeatedly, I cannot repay your debt. What then can I give you?" After pausing a few moments he added, "I give you what I possess; I gift you my love and grace!" He then embraced Hanumanji! Such occasions are a true devotee's supreme moments of fulfillment.
Another virtue of Hanumanji that Valmiki lauds is Buddhimataam Varishtham - the supreme among the wise. One well known episode reflects his wisdom. Once Mahadevji visited Shri Ram's court in Ayodhya. Ramchandraji welcomed him by offering a grand seat. He then requested Hanumanji to fetch milk. On fetching the milk, Hanumanji experienced a slight dilemma. Being a pativrata devotee (supremely loyal) of Shri Ram, how could he offer the milk to Mahadevji? Instantly he handed the bowl to his Master. Therefore Ramchandraji pointed out, 'O Hanuman. The guest is Mahadevji. Why do you offer me the milk?'
Instantly Hanumanji replied, "Prabhu! Mahadevji is such a lofty guest that it would not be fitting for a lowly servant as me to offer him anything. It would only be appropriate for you to offer him the milk!"
Bhagwan Swaminarayan lauds his glory as: one who has Pativrata - unalloyed bhakti towards Shri Ram (Gadhada III.16), being ideal in dasatva bhakti (Gadhada II.62) and as supreme yati (Jetalpur 2). Muktanand Swami accords him the titles jitendriya - one who has mastered his indriyas and naishthikendra - one who is a naishthik brahmachari. In the Hindu Dharma, he is rightfully venerated as a deva who is an ideal devotee of Ramchandra Bhagwan. The appellation "monkey god" by non-Hindu writers is a flagrant misnomer, depicting their ignorance. This too applies to Shri Ganeshji, who is also a deva and not an elephant god.
In the Vachanamrut then, Bhagwan Swaminarayan exhorts every devotee to imbibe Hanumanji's three foremost virtues of the ideal bhakta; pativrata bhakti, Dasatva bhakti and Naishthik brahmacharya.
In the Shikshapatri, Bhagwan Swaminarayan advocates Hanuman pujan on Aso vad 14 (Kali Chaudash) and enjoins those afflicted by evil spirits to chant the Hanuman Stotram (Shik. 127, 85).
In all the mandirs of the Swaminarayan Sampraday Hanumanji and Ganeshji are consecrated in their own special shrines in the front of the mandir. He is offered special pujan on Saturdays with oil and white ankada flowers( Calotropis gigantea - Swallow wart )
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir - Houston
It is a time of turmoil at some level in the spiritual field in India. Many swami's are caught in sting operations living up to a far lower standard than what we would like to see in a guru. I don't belive that there is any need for us to follow any guru that sets a low standard, especially after we find out about him or her. The reason for this is that we have had many great gurus that have just recently passed away who were epitomes of what a great hindu guru should be.
One of the great gurus that comes to mind is Kanch Paramacharya. His work - Deivathin Kural (VOICE OF GOD) is still available for people to read and follow. When such lofty teachings are available, why get upset over as few charltans with siddhis not living upto erxpectations?
March 12th is Sant Tukaram's Jayanti. Tukaram was one of the most well known Marathi poets and a great devotee of Lord Krishna from the 17th century. He wrote abhangs in praise of Lord Krishna in the form of Lord Panduranga which are very popular throughout India even today.
A beautful website is included here for more information on Tukaram.
Video clips from a 1937 movie which won a best film award at the Venice Festival are also included.
A friend forwarded me this email, which I think is very relevant.
..something to think about...
Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing?........... ....
....take the time to smell the flowers...dance in the rain.....blow bubbles..... .just look around you and smile....... .....ENJOY. ........