Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom, Others.

We were pleasantly surprised to find many people at the Art of Living Ashram looking forward to Sri Krishna Janmashtami Celebrations. Krishna Janmashtami, also called Gokulashtami, celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna. Many educated urban Indians, we knew, thought of Janmashtami as just another holiday for indulging in good food and putting their feet up.

But here the story was different. Probbaly, because of the gusto and fullness with which the celebrations are held in the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji. From Makhan Mishri and Chappan Bhog to rocking Krishna bhajans and beautiful decorations, the festivities make one feels so complete and fulfilled. Well, Krishna himself is supposed to be a “Purna Avatara,” complete in all aspects!

As Sri Sri says, “You see from any angle, there is a totality in Krishna’s personality. This indicates that your innermost has these qualities just like a ray of sun which has all colours. Janmashtami is the day when you enliven the cosmic vision of Krishna in your own consciousness, once again. Letting your true nature manifest in your day-to-day life is the real secret of Krishna’s birthday”

Seeing Krishna reverentially and fondly as a complete incarnation of Divinity is deep rooted in the Indian tradition. How about taking a look at Sri Krishna as a historical figure?

HISTORIC KRISHNA

The practice of Sri Krishna’s birthday being celebrated year after year for 5000 years, confirms that he is a historical figure. This year we celebrate 5124th birthday of Sri Krishna.

Krishna’s birthday is called by different names such as Janmashtami, Sri Krishna Jayanthi, Gokulashtami and the likes, since Krishna was born on the 8th day of the increasing phase of the moon, which in the Indian Calendar System is called Ashtami. The word Ashtami is etymologically similar to Octa in Greek, from which comes the word ‘eight’ in English.

Janmashtami: Since Krishna was born on the day, which was the 8th phase of the moon (Ashtami) and Janma means “birth”, the day when He was born is called Janamashtami.

Gokulashtami: As Krishna’s birth was celebrated first in Gokul, Vrindavan, the day is also called Gokulashtami. The word Gokula means, “place of cows”, Go meaning “cow”, and Kul meaning “lineage”. Gokula is the place of the lineage of people who nurtured cows. Even though Krishna was born in Mathura, His father was in chains along with His mother in prison, where they could not celebrate His birth. They sent him away to safer place, away from His maternal uncle, the vile Kamsa. So, His birth was first celebrated in Gokula, Vrindavan and this day is also called Gokulashtami.

Sri Krishna Jayanthi : Krishna’s birthday is also called Sri Krishna Jayanthi.
Why is it called a Jayanthi? Some aspects in astronomy continue to remain mysteries. Ancient Indian astronomers seem to have fixed certain nomenclature for certain configurations, besides the names of the stars.

The lunar phases occurring at certain stars seem to have been accorded special names. For example,

  • Those that occur at Punarvasu star is prefixed with Jaya. Jaya Mahadwadasi is the Dwadasi, 12th phase of moon, during Shukla Paksha, bright fortnight and when the moon is found at the Punarvasu star in Gemini constellation.
  • Similarly, Jayanthi is prefixed when the moon is at the Rohini star, Aldeberan in Taurus.
  • Nasini is prefixed when the moon is seen at the Pushya star in Gemini constellation.
  • Vijaya is prefixed when the moon is seen at the Sravana star in the Aquarius constellation.

Since on the night of Krishna’s birth, the moon was at Rohini star, a Jayanthi configuration, the day has come to be called “Sri Krishna Jayanthi.” From then on the word Jayanthi, has also come to mean “celebrations”. Over time, every birthday celebration has come to be called a Jayanthi and today we have,

  • Buddha Jayanthi
  • Mahaveer Jayanthi
  • Shankara Jayanthi
  • Shivaji Jayanthi
  • Gandhi Jayanthi
  • Ambedkar Jayanthi and so on…..

 Jayanthi has become popular because of her association with Krishna!

Krishna’s exact birth date

From the unique star configuration described in the Puranic texts and searching for the same back in time, using the planetarium software, one can date the star position when Krishna was born in the prison at Mathura.  The date of His birth in the modern calendar works out to 27st July 3112 BCE.

Krishna’s birth chart

Krishna was born in 3112 BCE. This year is 2012 CE. The difference between 3112 BCE and 2012 CE is 5124 years. So, this year we are celebrating the 5124th birthday of Krishna.

A few Learnings

Every year, Janmashtami reminds us to celebrate the historical, the divine and the adorable Krishna along with all the knowledge that He gave us through his life and the Bhagavad Gita.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji says, “Krishna was so attractive and mesmerizing. There are so many stories to indicate that the Divine is extremely attractive. This is so that the little attractions that the mind hankers after are freed and that is why he is called Mohana. The Taste of love hooks you on to the infinity, to the Divinity and intoxicates you. That with the knowledge brings stability in life”

Krishna always stands with a perfect balance — with one foot firmly on the ground, the other foot crossed over, as though it is touching, but not really touching. Life is about balance. Through his life Sri Krishna showed how to balance materialism and spirituality. He ruled the country, advised as minister and so on… and He gave the highest knowledge to Arjuna and Uddhava. Hence the most authentic way of celebrating Janamashtami is knowing that you have to play a dual role — of being a responsible human being on the planet and at the same time to realize that you are above all events, the untouched Brahman.This could perhaps be the secret of Krishna’s ever present smile even though his life was filled with troubles of many kinds.

Imbibing a bit of avadhoot and a bit of activism in your life is the real significance of celebrating Janamashtami.

On the auspicious occasion of Sri Krishna’s birthday, let us renew our commitment to imbibe these noble virtue of Krishna in our everyday lives. Happy Janmashtami to you and your near and dear ones.

D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan. They may be contacted through bharathgyan@gmail.com . Follow Bharath Gyan on Twitter@bharathgyan and join on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/Bharathgyan

About Art of Living, Art of Living Review, Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Some books have a longlasting impact on us. ’29 gifts’ is one such book.I read the book almost six months back and was deeply moved by the autobiographical account of the author.29 Gifts shows how a simple, daily practice of altruism can dramatically alter your outlook on the world and make you a master of the Art of Living.

At age thirty-three, Cami Walker was burdened by an intensified struggle with multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease that left her depressed and she was barely able to walk.This happened just a month after her marriage.Then she received an uncommon “prescription” from South African healer Mbali Creazzo: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.“By giving,” Mbali told her, “you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life.”

29 Gifts is the insightful story of the author’s life change as she embraces and reflects on the naturally reciprocal process of giving. The gifts were simple—a phone call, spare change, a Kleenex. Yet the acts were transformative. By Day 29, not only had Walker’s health and happiness improved, but she had created a worldwide giving movement.

By the time I finished reading the book, I signed up for the 29 Days Giving Challenge and have been on the giving journey since then.It’s great to be a part of this wonderful community and have met some amazing people there: Deb,Lois,Ann,Michelle…It’s inspiring to read the amazing stories about the power of giving.This small community is working towards reviving the giving spirit in the world.

I had written the following post on my personal blog some time back…Am sharing this here as a tribute to Cami Walker- a living inspiration for people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Random Acts of Kindness

What this world needs is a new kind of army – the army of the kind.  ~Cleveland Amory

What is it that brightens up your day when you are feeling a little low ? A gentle smile , a kind word or a friendly hug ? You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. Imagine how beautiful the world would be if everyone is kind to others.

Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. Giving begins the receiving process.Whatever you want in your life,give it to others.If you want joy then give joy to others.If you want happiness,spread happiness wherever you go.If you want love, give love. You will see how abundance increases in every aspect of your life if only you learn to be kind and generous.

A random act of kindness is a gift that costs nothing but is always appreciated.And the giver too receives the return gift of joy and happiness and a sense of fullfilment.So how to get started ?

Here I have listed a few ideas.Put them into practice and also create your own:

  1. Smile Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.  It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.
  2. A word of appreciation Sometimes all we need is a little appreciation. At the same time, let us not forget to appreciate others around us.
  3. Hugs There’s something in a simple hug That always warms the heart, It welcomes us back home And makes it easier to part…. ~Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr., “A Simple Hug”
  4. Donate old clothes or toys to a charity or an orphanage
  5. Feed the hungry While eating out or when you see someone hungry,don’t forget to share a slice with the less fortunate.
  6. Flower power A bunch of flowers is the sweetest gift that can be given on all occasions.Try the flower power by giving out rose buds to strangers.
  7. Volunteer for a cause Find a cause that interests you and be a volunteer by devoting some hours from your busy schedule.
  8. Spend time with the elderly The elderly have so much to offer, not the least of which is valuable life experience. Visit old age home or spend time with the elders of your family.They will love it  and this is certainly a time well spent.
  9. Kindness to animals Feed a stray animal or keep an earthern bowl filled with water outside for the birds.
  10. Online donations You can donate online for some NGO. There are so many organisations who are doing amazing work for different causes and they are constantly in need of money to support them.
  11. Thank You Cards Put your creativity to use ,make some beautiful thank you cards at home and send them to the ones who have helped you in the past.
  12. Books Gift a book to a friend or donate your old books to a library or old textbooks of your child to someone needy.
  13. Be anonymous Send someone a small gift anonymously.
  14. Surprise treat Treat a friend to the movies for no reason or pay for the drinks on the next table at a café or buy chocolates to a kid in the departmental store.
  15. Domestic chores Help your mother in the kitchen or walk your friend’s dog.
  16. Cleanliness drive Pick up some rubbish in the road which would otherwise be lying around.
  17. Giving up Give up your seat for someone, not just an elderly person.Give another driver your parking spot.Let someone jump the queue at the bank or ticket counter.
  18. Stretch your hand first Stretch the hand of friendship to someone new or if you have fallen out with an old friend, be the first to set things right.
  19. Sharing your talents If you are good at cooking,painting,dancing,public speaking or any other creative form then you can teach it to others for free.
  20. Drop boxes We find donation boxes placed at departmental stores or hospitals etc.Make sure to put in some change in the drop box.

Keep doing the random acts of kindness.Don’t think what difference it will make.Just remember that no matter how big or small, every act of kindness makes a difference!

About Art of Living, Art of Living Experiences, Yoga and Meditation.

“To be beautiful is to be yourself”

“If you need be accepted by others, you have to accept yourself”

Does looks matter? This is a question that we all face at some point in time. When our priorities change in life, often looks take a back seat and by the time we again consider it important, it is beyond repair!

For your information ,. I am 36 years with two children … With every baby, I gained about 4kgs forever … I never bothered really until it crossed beyond what was acceptable to myself

Not that I m fat … a little overweight! But that indeed did affect my self esteem!

Life is a garden of flowers with thorns & fragrance

It was the time I have achieved some control over my mind through Art of Living. Yet my looks continued to dominate my body. Whoever says size does not matter? When the size has to do your own body, it does matter!!

At some point in time I started trying to get back my previous body! I tried a lot of things to get it back.. But phew, nothing worked!

One day Art Of Living announced Yogathon…. with a challenge to do 108 Surya Namaskaar… Well, I can be obstinate when I am convinced of something. I readily took up the challenge!

I started with 75 Surya Namaskaars and gradually increased the numbers. Now I am doing complete 108 rounds! As a result … My belly fat has disappeared!! I feel light …. I feel as if I am flying …

I don’t have to write here about my weight … But the change that made in me…what I am today, I was not yesterday!

The Beautiful Me – Inner and Outer Beauty Personified

Yeah… You just read it, SIZE DOESMATTER!! When it comes to your looks and your

self-esteem! (Size Matters – humorous spoof was published earlier on this blog)

Along with Surya namaskaar, I been doing very regular with Sudarshan Kriya too… Together, they were causing some changes in me!

I remember in my early days of Art of Living, I was told by so many people that everything will be the same and yet, something will change! I always wondered, ‘Arey Bhai what will change?’

Well, I followed the Patanjali Yoga sutras … Kept doing the kriya and finally I have started looking beautiful …Naah I am not complimenting myself.. But its men & women of all ages keep saying so …

Well, and I believe so! I started loving myself! To love one’s own self is the first thing we must do…. Yes, of course without encouraging our ego!

It boosted my morale… I knew that now all what I do is not perfect … I do make mistakes … But for me. my health, my body, my spirit must remain positive and nothing should bother me….

I kept that smile…sometimes even faked when there was none .. I haven’t hurt myself or cried for so many years now! And yes I am still emotional and compassionate.

To cut it short, Surya Namaskaar takes care of body, Sudarshan Kriya takes care of soul …. When both combines it makes you a beautiful soul in a beautiful body … That’s what others see … and you feel wanted and valuable, FINALLY !

The Surya Namskar Lady a they call me after the event

I am a living example that there’s something inside you which changes with Art of Living…and when you are happy about yourself, it shows up the BEAUTIFUL YOU to the world 🙂

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Can anyone attain liberation without Nadhopasana ?? – Sings the muscial Saint Swami Thyagaraja (One of Trinity in South Indian Carnatic Music)

The word Nadhopasana, coming from Sanskrit lanuage, is made up of two words Naadha –and Upasana.

Upasana means sitting near or being with. Naadha Upasana means being with the Naadham.

Naadha is the primodial vibration that controls the entire Universe. In every sound that we hear, we can observe a certain Naadha. In the rotation of the Earth, the Naadha associated is called as the Omkara Pranava (The AUM). This sound Aum has been used in all religions. We can not claim that Aum belong only to the Hindus. The Christians, Jews, Parsis as well as Muslims use different dimensions of this very same Aum.

Similarly, the expansion and contraction of this Universe has an associated Naadha. Even our inner most self has a Naadha associated with it.

In the year 2010, at Pune, The Art Of Living Foundation had organized an event named “AntarNaad” which means Inner Naadha. At Chennai, in the year 2011, Naadha Vaibhavam (meaning Celebration of Naadha) was organized by Art of Living. Way back in 2008, a thousand Sitarists & string musicians played on one platform for the first time in the world, in the Brahm Naad concert for world peace. The superlative performance held in New Delhi brought Art of Living in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Why is Naadha very important

This question will dawn on many of the minds of who are reading this. There are basically seven Swarams (notes) in Indian music. These seven swaras are associated with the seven chakras (Energy Centers) of our body. Similarly, each energy center has a syllable associated with it. Hence, when we associate ourselves with Naadhopasana, these seven energy centers of our body get tuned leading to greater spiriutal and material well being.

During the soul-stirring symphony AntarNaad, Poojya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (can be followed on @SriSriSpeaks on Twitter) explained that, each of the seven swaras is associated with a particular animal. Namely, Sa – Peacock, Ri – Rishab (Bull), Ga- Goat, Ma – Gounch Pakshi , Pa – Kokila , Da – Horse, Ni – Elephant. Gurudev added that, only human beings have the capability to sound all the seven swaras.

Even if you are not able to sing or play instruments, its advisable to listen to good music. A great quality of the Naadha is that even if you do not play or sing yourself, listening to the music produces the same effect. Thus all the seven chakras get tuned, leading to a meditative mood. Deep meditation releases stress from the body and mind, and makes us more calm, joyful and focused.  Poojya Gurudev hence, has made Satsangs an integral part of the Art of Living. It is my understanding that Naadhopasana happens in satsangs and that is why we feel so expanded and uplifted during and after satsangs.

If we start giving more time to satsangs, we can easily attain more sattva and Nadhopasana will start happening naturally within us.

Aravind Soundararajan

About Art of Living, Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Stories.

The 250 calm faces, deeply immersed in meditation, belie the fact that everyone in this group belonged to armed militancy that has claimed thousands of lives in the North East of India.  An amazing transformation is unfolding currently at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore where over 250 surrendered militants from Assam, belonging to various outfits, are undergoing a month-long rehabilitation training programme.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with former ultras in rehabilitation training at Art of Living International Centre

“It’s a new life for me. I find a lot of enthusiasm and determination to lead a new life,” these simple words coming straight from the heart of Shyamanta Handique, 45, met with instant applause and nods of approval from the group of former insurgents during an exclusive session with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji at the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore. The words echoed the sentiments of almost everyone present.

Former insurgent groups from Assam receiving arms training in jungles of Myanmar and Bhutan

The quick and definite transformation of these men, whose major expression of life was laced with violence, into higher versions of themselves — happy, sensitive, respectful and responsible has been quite dramatic. Surely, the group hadn’t anticipated this kind of turnaround when the government sent them to Art of Living Ashram for a training. A senior intelligence officer, assigned to keep a tab on the trainees, was so touched by the change in former rebels that he has decided to join the Art of Living after retiring from paid service in two years and further this work of inner transformation.

A majority of the former rebels had been baptized into guerrilla warfare in the Kachin jungles  of Myanmar and Bhutan. A couple of them received their training in China. The former militants now feel comfortable dropping the guns and explore non-violent ways of resolving the problems of life.

So what is the secret of transformation? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living explains, “Most rebels are good human beings with a lot of dedication and commitment for the country. If they could do a little bit of understanding of spirituality, they could do what others cannot.”

The commitment was palpable, when a few of them shared with Sri Sri that they have renewed commitment for the betterment of their people after training at the Ashram. To quote one of them, “Earlier we were lions. Now we are bigger lions!” Realizing that vested interests used them by putting guns on their shoulders, they vowed to continue working for the betterment of Assamese people not through bullets but through the ballot!  22- year-old Ratul Boras said that he would join politics, win the hearts of people and bring about a development in his district. Amarendra had similar plans. Sri Sri blessed them saying Art of Living would provide full support to such self less endeavors.In the past, he has commended such youth for their strong commitment, which needs to be channelised appropriately to bring about a positive change in society.

It is remarkable that in a few weeks of the training, that ends of August 4th, the youth are ready to return to the mainstream society and are clear about what they want to do. Many of them, who own land back home, want to practise organic farming and dairy farming. A few are looking forward to further training and become yoga teachers to spread the inner peace they have experienced for the first time in their own life. As part of rehab training the group was taught yoga, pranayams, Sudarshan Kriya, meditations, various life skills and vocational training in mushroom cultivation, paper products and electrical maintenance.

Surrendered militants sell paper products made by them at Art of Living International Centre

Former Ulfa members Maqbool Hussain and Monuj Roy have made a common promise, “We will change our society for the better.” Well they have already started walking the talk. In a heart rending gesture, the group of surrendered militants donated the proceeds from their first sale of paper products to the victims of the current riots in Assam.

“The condition of our life and that of our state Assam, would have been better off had we received this kind of training and met Guruji 30 years ago, ” the group shared. Well as they say, better late than never. Once begun is half done!

Our very best wishes to the new members of the Art of Living family to start a new life back home in Assam 🙂

Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Spiritual knowledge can keep your mind peaceful

My son just got back from his exams and there was a nice little story for his language comprehension section. He gave this paper to me (quite unusual and asked me to read the passage – which was a lovely story). It was such a conincidence that the currently active topic appears in the question paper. The theme – why it is better to forgive than nurse hatred within.

He wanted to know what could be the morals… So please keep posting the moral of the story (He can learn 🙂 and he already thanks everyone in advance.

Here is the unadulterated version as it appeared in the question paper.

A kindergarten teacher has decided to let her class play a game. The teacher told each child in the class to bring along a plastic bag containing a few potatoes. Each potato will be given a name of a person that the Child hates, so the number of potatoes that a child will put in his/her plastic bag will depend on the number of people he/she hates.

So when the day came, every child brought some potatoes with the name of the people he/she hated. Some had 2 potatoes; some 3 while some up to 5 potatoes.

The teacher then told the children to carry with them the potatoes in the plastic bag wherever they go (even to the toilet) for 1 week.

Days after days passed by, and the children started to complain due to the unpleasant smell let out by the rotten potatoes. Besides, those having 5 potatoes also had to carry heavier bags.

After 1 week, the children were relieved because the game had finally ended.

The teacher asked: ‘How did you feel while carrying the potatoes with you for 1 week?’ The children let out their frustrations and started complaining of the trouble that they had to go through having to carry the heavy and smelly potatoes wherever they go.

Then the teacher told them the hidden meaning behind the game. The teacher said: ‘This is exactly the situation when you carry your hatred for somebody inside your heart. The stench of hatred will contaminate your heart and you will carry it with you wherever you go. If you cannot tolerate the smell of rotten potatoes for just 1 week, can you imagine what is it like to have the stench of hatred in your heart for your lifetime???’

Apart from some basic story related questions, the last question was “What are the learning from this story?”

Based on listening to  Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during various Art of Living Satsangs and my learnings from the same, My answer to him:

Learnings :

It is better to forgive and love for our own good (rather than carry the stench)

Destiny decides who comes across into our lives and our actions decide who stay on in our lives (Fate vs Heart)

Art of Living Review, Others.

By Dr Hari & Hema

So the Olympics 2012 are upon us. The London games started off with a pretty good opening ceremony throwing open the way for thrilling competitions to begin. The Olympics Games are the largest sporting event drawing worldwide interest and participation. Every four years, the games remind us that the World is One Global Family- Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Every human being, every living being, both from the plant kingdom and animal kingdom belong to one Universal family.  This very philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is shared and practiced by The Art of Living enthusiasts in different parts of the world.

How Olympics made a comeback 1896

The modern Olympics Games, as known today, were revived in 1896 in Athens, Greece after a discussion between William Penny Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertin in a small town, Much Wenlock in 1866 in England. After the discussion Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894. Baron Pier de Coubertin, was instrumental in organizing the first Olympics in 1896 and is considered the father of modern Olympics

How the Olympics were revived

From L to R – Willwam Penny Brookes, Baron Pierre de Coubertin and the town of  Much Wenlo

The Ancient Times

The name Olympics is attributed to the fact that the ancient games were conducted at the town called Olympia in Ancient Greece between 776 BCE and 394 CE, close to 1000 years. It is said that the Olympic Games started as a festival to honor the Greek gods Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of Mount Olympus.

How the Olympics started

Ancient town of Olympia

The Olympics comprised competitions among representatives of different city states of ancient Greece. During this period, hostilities between the city states were dropped and truce was declared so that athletes, officials and spectators could travel and participate in the games in a conducive, friendly atmosphere. Thus the games ensured periods of friendship among the different member states of the Greek civilization.

The games at Olympia also provided a platform for politicians to merge alliances, for artists, poets and scholars to interact and exchange ideas. Much as it is today, the games provided a platform to one and all.

In 394 CE, Roman Emperor Theodosius I banned the games as a part of his campaign to impose Christianity as a state religion in Greece.

Games in Ancient Rome

Conducting large game festivals in ancient Europe was unique to Olympia or Athens, Greece. Similar sporting events, especially Race, were held in Ancient Rome regularly. A clear reference to this is available in thefamous play of Julius Caesar written by Shakespeare.

An interesting conversation between Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonious at one of the games, was that, if a runner touches a woman during the race, then that woman is blessed to give birth to a child. Julius Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia had not given birth to a child till then. So, Julius Caesar requested Calpurnia, to stand by the lane and asked Marcus Antonius to touch her, in course of the run and not to forget to do so, “in haste”.  Such games were very popular in many parts of ancient Rome and many beliefs were attached to them.

People in ancient Rome loved to play all kinds of games

L to R-Ball games, Naval games and Board Games were played frequently in Ancient Rome

Games in Ancient India

Similar games were also conducted in Ancient India, not just around the turn of the first millennium, when games seem to have become popular in Ancient Europe, but much much earlier in 3000 BCE itself. In the excavation, at the Kalibanga and other excavation sites of India that are contemporary to the Harappa and Mohenjo-daro period, similar stadium sites as of Greece and Rome have been excavated.

Ranga Manch

These ancient stadia, play fields of India, date back to 5000 years. They were referred to as Ranga Manch. Ranga stands for “colourand Manch for “platforms”. These were platforms to exhibit cultural pageants, dances and the sporting events of those days which included sports such as archery – Dhanur Yuddha, wrestling – Mal Yuddha, mace fight – Gadha Yudha, running and various other such games – kreeda, which found flavour in those times.

Lighting the flame

In modern Olympics, the first ceremony is lighting the Olympic flame. It starts with young women lighting the torch with the heat from the Sun.The flame is kept burning throughout the games.

Young women lighting the Olympic flame

young Women lighting the Olympic flame

This modern ceremony of lighting the Olympic flame evolved from the practices of ancient Olympics that were held in Greece, where the flame was revered and used as a mark to start the game. The modern practice of lighting the Olympic torch at Olympia, taking it to different parts of the world, and finally reaching it to the city where the games are to be played, culminating in the Olympic stadium, started at the games of 1928, at Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The flame ceremony has been respected across the world, during all times and in all traditions.

6 Vestal Virgins

Similar to the ceremony of the women lighting the flame in Greece, ancient Rome had the concept of the six vestal virgins guarding the flame.

In ancient Rome the fire was also worshipped

Vestal Virgins of Rome

Persia

Similarly, further to the east in ancient Persia, we have the concept of eternal flame, Azure. This was venerated and popularized by Zarathustra.

Azerbaijan

The modern day country of Azerbaijan, whose name comes from the word Azure, still has an eternal flame, burning to this day.

In Azerbaijan the fire is also sacred

The Eternal Flame at the Fire Temple in Azerbaijan

India

Further to the east in India, for the last 5000 years and more, the concept of flame in the form of Agni has been venerated through the ages. Agni is one of the primary divinities in the pantheon of divinities in the Indian thought..

In India the fire still plays an important role in worship

Homa Kunda

Since in practice, as found from archaeological excavations, Fire as Agni has been venerated in India, right through antiquity, in the mists of time, probably the concept of venerating Fire could be traced to Indian practice and knowledge system.

America

In America today, the main symbol of freedom is the statue of liberty. The figure in the statue carries a flame in her hand, symbolizing a similar ethos across times, across traditions.

Statue of Liberty also upholds a flame

Statue of Liberty holds the flame

Olympic Village

The Olympics and its tradition bring together practices, sporting excellences and people from all around the globe in a spirit of fair play and brotherhood.  The Olympic village where people from different parts of the world congregate and live together in fraternity, as well as every game played in all earnestness to compete and win laurels, bring forth an aspect of human nature — a multifaceted blend of competitiveness and friendship.

Olympic village 2012 in London

Olympic village 2012 in London

It is befitting that the primal human spirit of sportsmanship and brotherhood has been acknowledged this year by opening the One Planet Centre at the heart of the Olympic Village. The One Planet Centre is a reflection of the desire of London 2012 games to build a better world for future generations through information and activities about positive steps to be taken to build a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future. Basically, what the folks at Art of Living have been talking about all along – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam!

The Art of Living sees the World as One Family: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan.They may be contacted on bharathgyan@gmail.com and followed on twitter on @bharathgyan 

About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects.

The recent spate of large-scale riots in Assam, according to conservative estimates, has claimed 58 lives and rendered 400,000 people homeless in various districts of the north eastern state. We, as members of the Art of Living Family, and believers in the principle of One World Family, extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims.

Relief work is the need of the hour after the violence

The primary aim of Art of Living volunteers right now is to provide help and assistance to the displaced people from 400 villages who are staying in relief camps in Assam. The 124 teachers of the Art of Living in Assam along with thousands of volunteers have jumped into relief and rehabilitation work for the lakhs of people taking shelter in 270 refugee camps.

Amid all this bloody carnage, a gleam of hope is emerging from three villages which have become islands of peace in riot-hit Assam. Two of these villages Borlao and Borpara, where Art of Living has been carrying out its community development programs, saw absolutely no incidence of violence. The folks in these villages took the initiative to guard their villages themselves. They did not allow any outside person to enter the village. The three villages are from Chirang and Kokrajhard – the worst riot affected districts. Considering that the village inhabitants are a mix of Bodos, Muslims, Asamese and Bengalis this is an exceptional display of solidarity against forces of division. 164 children from these villages receive free education in the Art of Living tribal schools in Chirang and Kokrajhar.

Tribal schools of The Art of Living in Chirang and Kokrajhar

164 children receive free education in Art of Living Tribal Schools of  Chirang and  Kokrajhar

The surrounding villages, where Art of Living has not yet started its work, succumbed to the fury of violence unleashed by escalating ethnic tensions between indigenous Bodo community and migrant  Muslims  from Bangladesh.

It has been proven repeatedly that spiritual education is the only long-lasting basis for a sustainable, peaceful and responsible living at individual and community level.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, founder of the Art of Living has appealed to all in Assam not to retaliate irrespective of your community and ethnic background. He said, “There are good people in every community. Art of Living will do the work of applying balm to the hearts and minds of traumatized riot victims.”

As fellow human beings and citizens of India it is our duty to reach out to the people of Assam and do our best to bring normalcy in the lives of displaced people. We hope the government takes speedy and definite steps to resolve the fundamental issues that led to the riots before they snowball to uncontrollable dimensions.

Art of Living Stories, Art of Living Wisdom.

Goddess Lakshmi has a spiritual significance also

Namastestu Mahaamaaye Shreepeete Surapoojite
Shankha Chakra Gadaa Haste Mahaalakshmi Namostute.

Vara Mahalakshmi is the festival of goddess Lakshmi celebrated in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra mainly by women folk on the second Friday in the month of Shravana . As the name suggests Vara Mahalakshmi is the one who grants Vara (boon). The festival is observed by the married woman for the well being of all family members, especially husband.

It is believed that worshipping goddess varalakshmi on this day is equivalent to worshipping Ashtalakshmis, the 8 forces or energies namely Sri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Saraswati (learning), Preeti (love), Keerti (Fame), Shanti (Peace), Tushti(Pleasure) and Pushti(Strength). Each force is considered as Lakshmi and all 8 forces as Ashta Lakshmis. Lord Vishnu is also considered as the asylum for the Ashta Lakshmis (Eight-Lakshmis or forces).

Puja ceremony at homa for health and happiness

Ashtadala Padma Rangoli (Ashta is 8, dala is leaf, padma is lotus) is drawn on a wooden plank (peeta in kannada) which is tied with thorana (mango leaves) and bale kandu (banana stems) on both the sides. A Kalasha is kept on a plate spread with rice. Lamps are lit on the either sides of the kalasha. Kalasha is filled with little rice, water, beetel nuts, beetel leaves, Kharjura(dry dates) and one coin. Turmeric n kumkuma is applied evenly to a coconut without husk and is kept on the kalasha with mango leaves surrounding it. Face of goddess(eyes and nose) can be drawn on the coconut or the ready silver faces are available which can be tied to the coconut. Arishina dara (Yellow thread) with nine knots are kept on beetle leaves to the right of kalasha. First Lord Ganesha is worshipped. Ganapati Ashotthara is read. Then the Varalakshmi Puja is performed in the  prescribed manner. After puja Sumangalis (Married Women) tie the yellow thread to their right hand. Katha (Story) is read by the elderly person of the family.

Kalasha with Mahalakshmi face - Alankar and Post Puja

Vara Mahalakshmi Vratham Story

According to Hindu mythology, once Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva about a vratha that will be beneficial to women. Lord Shiva then mentioned the importance of Varalakshmi Vratha. The conversation on Varalakshmi Vratha between Parvati and Shiva takes place in the Skanda Purana. To illustrate the importance of the Vratha, Lord Shiva narrates the story of Charumati.

The story happens in a beautiful town located in the Kingdom of Vidarbha (Vidarba Rajyam). Pleased with Charumati’s devotion to her husband and family, Goddess Lakshmi appeared in her dream and asked her to perform the Vara Mahalakshmi Vratha. The pious Charumati invited all her neighbors, friends and relatives and performed the Vara Mahalakshmi puja as directed by Goddess Lakshmi. Soon after the puja, all the people who participated in the puja where blessed with wealth and prosperity. She recites the following sloka along with other women with utmost faith and devotion.

Lakshmi Ksheerasamudra rajatanyam sri rangadhameswareem
Dasibootha samastha devavanitham lokaika deepamkuram
Sri manmanda kataksha labdhivibhat brahmendra gangadharam
Twamtrayamlokyakutumbhineem sasijavandemukunda priyam

Meaning: Goddess Lakshmi, who is the daughter of the king of the ocean of milk, whose abode is Srirangam (with Lord Ranganatha), who is served by all the divine ladies in heaven, who is the guiding light for the world, who has obtained the sustained (continued, everlasting) glance (Grace) from Brahma, Indra and Shiva, whose abode is the three worlds (Bhu, Bhuva, Suvaha) – I offer my prostrations to Thee, the beloved of Lord Krishna (Mukunda).

PS:

I  wrote this blog after attending the Lakshmi Puja performed by HH Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar in Art of Living ‘s International Ashram in Bangalore , which made it the second puja that I attended on this auspicious day

About Art of Living, Art of Living Review.

I was born in a family that follows Jainism. Hence the first time I heard of The Art of Living and saw the picture of a saint, I wondered, “How genuine is Sri Sri?” After a few more proddings from my doctor who was strongly recommending the Art of Living Program to me, I enrolled for it. Very soon I would find out the answer to my question: how genuine was Sri Sri.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar founder of The Art of Living

The first time I met Sri Sri was in Mumbai at a very small media gathering at a devotee’s place. Being a journalist I was trained to be sceptical, to question the genuine-ness of everything. I had interviewed a few prominent religious leaders earlier and so I was prepared for a series of instructions from his devotees prior to the meeting. Usually I was told to sit far away from the leader so that I do not pollute their aura and shout out questions, or I was frisked. I don’t know how valid such procedures were but it had got me to wonder how genuine it all was.

But none of that happened here.  We were simply ushered into a room where we sat in a small circle along with Sri Sri. The simplicity, the ease and the genuine manner in which it was conducted and in which he answered struck a chord in me. Yes! Here was a genuine saint. Natural. No frills, no drills.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the founder of the Art of Living

This has been an enduring impression in my future interactions with him – a genuine saint. I saw the media associate big-time industrialists and businessmen with him. But he remained unfazed by all that they had to offer, politely declining anything offered in excess. What could he want from anyone? His mission was to bring peace and happiness in people’s lives. And he was going about it in a practical way; a way in which he and his organisation, The Art of Living, were self-sufficient; a way in which he did not have to compromise on the genuine-ness of his purpose.

Once I happened to be on the same flight as him. He had just finished meeting  thousands in Bangalore and boarded a flight to Mumbai. When we got off, I saw at least 500 devotees at the airport who sought to reach out to him and in the process pulled his hair, his scarf, scratched his hands. The police struggled, hollered, pushed but it continued. Such was the frenzy but when I looked at Sri Sri, he had a smile, a genuine one, blessing all with his flower.  When someone asked, “How do you handle this each day, everywhere?” He simply said, “See the love behind the act. The intention is important.” Only someone with genuine intention would look beyond the act.

He works twenty-two hours, seven days a week. The other two hours he sleeps on the floor. Here is a saint who doesn’t preach. He lives it, naturally. People ask him his mantra for success. I say it’s his genuineness which touches the hearts of the millions who follow him. Millions around the world can’t be fooled!

NK

The author is a journalist