Gratitude and Divine Grace

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   To those who worship Me alone, thinking of no other,
of those ever united, I secure what is not already possessed
and preserve what they already possess. (BG 9.22)

The story below appeared months ago prompting some discussion in the Guruvayur yahoo group in which I am a member. Today is Thanksgiving here in America, and this week we also celebrate Gita Jayanti, or the observance of the gifting of the Bhagavad Gita to the world by Shri Krishna more than five thousand years ago.  As my thoughts turn to gratitude, I am reminded of this story below and the responses it produced in the Guruvayur group, and how important it is to always be grateful to the Lord for everything, knowing that He is our eternal well wisher and that everything happens for our highest good, even the things which which appear to be bad or are difficult to endure…everything means everything.

The focus of the discussion was on what should we ask of God. To what end do we pray, asking for this and pleading for that?  Success in this venture, a new job, a happy marriage, a grandchild, a son or a daughter, a husband, a wife, a handsome husband, a beautiful wife, a nice house, a beautiful house, a mansion, good grades in school, a child who is a doctor or the president of the US?  For what is it that we really seek, when all illusions are cast aside and maya’s veil is lifted?  None of the above!!!

What should I seek from the Lord but the Lord Himself? That by His grace, I should know Him as the very Self in my heart, casting aside the shackles of the body and the solitary confinement imposed by the mind. He promises us, in the Gita, that if we are utterly devoted to Him, thinking of Him only, asking only for Him rather than of Him, He will be ours, and as such, will take care of us as needed.  To understand this, to believe this, in full faith, can only be followed by complete surrender to His will, trusting that whatever happens is indeed His divine will operating to bring us out of bondage to birth and into reunion with Him.

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From http://idharudharkee.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-we-should-ask-god.html 

What should we ask of God?

This story from Mahabharata answers this question beautifully and categorically:

The Great War between the Pandavas and Kauravas was to begin. Arjuna, having pondered, decided to gita-101go to Lord Krishna and ask him for help.
He went to the Lord’s abode and found him asleep.

He stood respectfully at his lotus feet, with folded hands and head bowed in reverence. Duryodana, of the Kauravas, had the same idea of asking Sri Krishna’s help. He too came and, finding the Lord asleep, sat arrogantly in a chair placed at the head of Lord’s bed.

In due course, the Lord woke up. Arjuna, being at his feet, was the first person he naturally saw. As he turned to get up, the Lord’s eyes fell upon Duryodana.

The purpose of their visit was known to Him. However, he asked them what he could do for them.

Both answered that they had come to request his assistance in the ensuing war. The lord said that they had placed him in a difficult predicament by asking for the same thing. He said he could not deny either of them. He said he would offer himself, alone, without armies to one of them and to the other he would offer all his armed forces completely. He said that since his eyes had fallen on Arjuna first, he should have the first choice in the matter.

Arjuna promptly prayed to Sri Krishna that he alone should side the Pandavas.. Duryodana heaved a sigh of relief and requested Sri Krishna for all his forces. The Lord agreed to their requests.

We know who emerged victorious. The moral is “We should ask for HIM, not ask for things He can give us”

If the Lord gives us everything in the Universe but withholds Himself from us, we gain nothing. But if we seek HIM for Himself alone, we get not merely Him but all that is His, too!

abhyaasa yOga yuktEna cEtasaa naanyagaaminaa,
paramam pursham divyam yaati paarthaanucintayan

Meaning: 
He who with his mind disciplined through Yoga in the form of practice of meditation and thinking of nothing else, is constantly engaged in contemplation of God attains the supremely effulgent Divine Purusha (God)  (sloka 8 in chapter 8 of Gita)                                                                       Border_2

And what did Arjuna request?  The Lord Himself.  In his earnest bhakti, he intuited that this was the right choice and it was.  When you ask for the Lord Himself, with utter devotion and humility, how can He deny you?  In the Gita, He makes this promise to His devotees…

ananyaaScintayamtO maam yE janaah paryupaasatE
tEshaam nityaabhiyuktaanaam yOgakshEmam vahaamyaham. (BG 9.22)

To those who worship Me alone, thinking of no other, of those ever united, I secure what is not already possessed and preserve what they already possess.
https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/bgita.pdf

But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form—to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have. 
http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/categories/The-Gita%3A-Chapter-9/?Page=2

Those who desire My eternal association precluding all else meditate on me with exclusive devotion; those persons I insure the uniting of their individual consciousness with Ultimate Consciousness perpetually.  http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-09-22.html

Yoga-kesamam, means to provide what they lack and safeguard or preserve what they have. In this context, yoga is said to mean making available what one does not have, and ksema means the preservation of what one already has.  For some, the sloka is interpreted to mean those who recognize the nonduality of the Self, abiding in the Self at all times; for others, this is considered to be a promise from the Lord to take care of His devotees. If we go online, we can find countless articles claiming that the interpretation therein is the right one and that all others are missing the point, thus missing salvation itself!

For me, neither one has the right to claim the other is wrong…it can mean both, one at the level at which we exist as entities in this world of maya, or saguna,  another at the level of the formless nirguna.  The Lord, in His infinite mercy, prescribed numerous paths in the Gita. I am a bhakta. He is my Lord and while I know that philosophically speaking we are indeed nonseparate as it says so in the Gita and in the Vedas, as far as I am concerned, that can only be truly perceived through His Grace.  So, while I am nothing but Him, on another level of worldly perception, this is known and experienced only through the operation of Divine Grace. 

It is so stated in the Mukanda Upanishad 3.2.3:

nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhyo
na medhayā, na bahunā śrutena,
yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyas
tasyaiṣa ātmā vivṛṇute tanūṁ svām.
(Mukanda Upanishad 3.2.3)

This Self cannot be realized by studying the scriptures, nor through the use of reason, nor from the words of others–no matter what they say. By the grace of the Self the Self is known; the Self reveals itself.   http://www.peterrussell.com/Upi/Mund.php

The Supreme Lord is not attained by reasonings or by vast intelligence, nor even by much hearing. He is attained only by one whom he Himself chooses. To such a person He manifests His own form.  http://bvml.org/SBVPGM/sgt.html

And the Katha Upanishad 2.2.23:

The Self cannot be known through study of the scriptures, nor through the intellect, nor through hearing learned discourses. The Self can be attained only by those Whom the Self chooses. Verily unto them Does the Self reveal himself.  http://booksandphotos.blogspot.com/2009/05/upanishads-kena-and-katha.html

This Supreme Self cannot be reached by argumentation, or by applying one’s independent brain power, or by studying many scriptures. Rather, he alone can achieve the Self whom the Self chooses to favor. To that person the Self reveals His own true, personal form.  http://vedabase.net/sb/10/87/27/en1

The reason I have reproduced more than one translation of the Gita and Upanishad slokas above is that I wanted to read them in several formats for my own benefit and I also wanted to offer the reader the option of seeing it as such. So many ways of saying the same thing.  And so many schools of thought want to say that their interpretation is the correct one and all others false and faulty.  In the end, Divine Grace is the operational catalyst, whatever you deem its source.

So, what should we ask of God? Truly, there is no thing to be asked. There is no thing to be given. How can we give Him what is already His? All we can do is realize, through His grace alone, that we are already His, in every sense that we as mortals can conceptualize in our limited minds! Not only will He take care of everything and look after the welfare of the devotee, He will guide us if we listen. Thus, I do have a prayer…to fully surrender, to listen without fear of the consequences, no matter what He asks me to do. Where it will lead, I have no real idea and no plan of action! He is guiding the chariot now. May I sit quietly and not be a backseat driver. Chitta chora!!!

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Call of the Conch-3-Not for Human Consumption: By Joyce Sweinberg

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Dairy products in our current industry, worldwide,
foster the very same adverse effects as meat production and consumption, and even worse,
torture the dairy cow and her offspring repeatedly over time prior to the final slaughter.
 

For years, I drank milk and consumed milk products, never realizing that I had milk allergies which were causing my facial rashes and breakouts.  Finally, someone suggested this to me and when I looked it up online, I was shocked to see how many allergies one can have to dairy products.  This was my first step in removing dairy from my diet, for my own benefit.  I was not always true to my vows and would often give in to pizza and on Halloween, would raid my sons’ candy for Snickers Bars, and on other holidays, eat the chocolate which was everywhere.  In the summer months, I sometimes gave into the soft ice cream cones at the corner ice cream stand. And, usually, I broke out but thought it was worth it.

Until I saw some of the videos posted in the earlier parts of this series. When I saw how the dairy cow and her offspring are abused, I could no longer seek out dairy products in any way.   But for some of us, we need to have other reasons than that, so I am including this part to highlight the unknown facts that dairy products really are not that healthy for us or our world, and can cause a multitude of environmental and physical problems.  Many of us operate under the false assumption that dairy products make for healthy bones and this is being proven to be untrue in studies.  The fact is that it is hard for people to give up their false belief systems if it would require them to remove dairy products from their diets.  I have reproduced some excerpts below from online websites along with the link to the actual site for further reading.

Many sites will address the adverse environmental and other effects of the meat industry while including dairy products as a viable alternative to meat.  An honest and  intelligent assessment of the available facts cannot support such a conclusion.  Dairy products in our current industry, worldwide, foster the very same adverse effects as meat production and consumption, and even worse, torture the dairy cow and her offspring repeatedly over time prior to the final slaughter.  The simple indisputable fact is that by consuming dairy products or using them in worship, one is promulgating torture of these defenseless animals, and in the process, violating the foremost principle of dharmic behavior, ahimsa.

Let me add this about myself.  While I now check the ingredients on everything I buy and I will not knowingly purchase anything which contains meat products or animal products or dairy products, I find it is still a challenge to determine whether there is dairy or animal product in what I eat when I am out, either in a restaurant or at a social event. If I am in doubt, and if the product is one which normally has dairy or eggs in it, I will politely decline.

When I am at temple, it is a more difficult position…I can refuse offers of yogurt or payasam or curd rice, or anything which is obviously milk based. But so many of the prasad offerings are laced with dairy or cooked in ghee that it is impossible to tell. I do still partake, asking His mercy and guidance in what I do. And I write this acknowledging that in co-writing this series, I am educating myself as I go along, making some decisions and deferring others as I ponder the solution that will work for me. I offer these writings to you, the reader, in the same spirit.

FROM  PETA…
“Environmental DestructionLarge dairy farms have an enormously detrimental effect on the environment. In California, America’s top milk-producing state, manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds of square miles of groundwater, rivers, and streams. Each of the more than 1 million cows on the state’s dairy farms excretes 120 pounds of waste daily.(22) Overall, animals in animal factories, including dairy farms, produce 1.65 billion tons of manure each year, much of which ends up in our waterways and drinking water.(23) The Environmental Protection Agency reports that agricultural runoff is the primary cause of polluted lakes, streams, and rivers. The dairy-products industry is the primary source of smog-forming pollutants in California; a single cow emits more of these harmful gases than a car does.(24)

Eighty percent of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food or to grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the contiguous 48 states.(25) Each cow raised by the dairy-products industry consumes as much as 50 gallons of water per day.(26)

Human Bodies Fight Cow’s Milk  Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they are 2 years old.(27)

Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.(28) Most people begin to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk, when they are as young as 2 years old. This reduction can lead to lactose intolerance.(29) Millions of Americans are lactose intolerant, and an estimated 90 percent of Asian-Americans and 75 percent of Native- and African-Americans suffer from the condition, which can cause bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting, headaches, rashes, and asthma.(30) Studies have also found that autism and schizophrenia in children may be linked to the body’s inability to digest casein, a milk protein; symptoms of these diseases diminished or disappeared in 80 percent of the children who switched to milk-free diets.(31)

A U.K. study showed that people who suffered from irregular heartbeats, asthma, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems “showed marked and often complete improvements in their health after cutting milk from their diets.”(32)

Calcium and Protein Myths

Although American women consume tremendous amounts of calcium, their rates of osteoporosis are among the highest in the world. Conversely, Chinese people consume half as much calcium (most of it from plant sources) and have very low incidence of the bone disease.(33) Medical studies indicate that rather than preventing the disease, milk may actually increase women’s risk of getting osteoporosis. A Harvard Nurses’ Study of more than 77,000 women ages 34 to 59 found that those who consumed two or more glasses of milk per day had higher risks of broken hips and arms than those who drank one glass or less per day.(34) T. Colin Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, said, “The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.”(35)

Humans can get all the protein that they need from nuts, seeds, yeast, grains, beans, and other legumes. It’s very difficult not to get enough calories from protein when you eat a healthy diet; protein deficiency (also known as kwashiorkor) is very rare in the United States and is usually only a problem for people who live in famine-stricken countries.(36) Consumption of excessive protein from dairy products, eggs, and meat has been linked to the formation of kidney stones and has been associated with colon cancer and liver cancer.(37,38) It’s also suspected that consuming too much protein puts a strain on the kidneys, which compensate by leeching calcium from the bones.(39)”

http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=98

FROM A PETA SPONSORED WEBPAGEHarvard School of Public Health, on the Consumption of Dairy Products (2005):

“The recommendation to drink three glasses of low-fat milk or eat three servings of other dairy products per day to prevent osteoporosis is another step in the wrong direction. … Three glasses of low-fat milk add more than 300 calories a day. This is a real issue for the millions of Americans who are trying to control their weight. What’s more, millions of Americans are lactose intolerant, and even small amounts of milk or dairy products give them stomachaches, gas, or other problems. This recommendation ignores the lack of evidence for a link between consumption of dairy products and prevention of osteoporosis. It also ignores the possible increases in risk of ovarian cancer and prostate cancer associated with dairy products.”

Cow’s milk is an inefficient food source. Cows, like humans, expend the majority of their food intake simply leading their lives. It takes a great deal of grain and other foodstuffs cycled through cows to produce a small amount of milk. And not only is milk a waste of energy and water, the production of milk is also a disastrous source of water pollution. A dairy cow produces 120 pounds of waste every day — equal to that of two dozen people, but with no toilets, sewers, or treatment plants.

In Lancaster County, Pa., manure from dairy cows is destroying the Chesapeake Bay, and in California, which produces one-fifth of the country’s total supply of milk, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned vast expanses of underground water, rivers, and streams. In the Central Valley of California, the cows produce as much excrement as a city of 21 million people, and even a smallish farm of 200 cows will produce as much nitrogen as in the sewage from a community of 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to a U.S. Senate report on animal waste.

FOR YOUR HEALTH:  Dairy products are a health hazard. They contain no fiber or complex carbohydrates and are laden with saturated fat and cholesterol. They are contaminated with cow’s blood and pus and are frequently contaminated with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Dairy products are linked to allergies, constipation, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s leading authority on child care, spoke out against feeding cow’s milk to children, saying it can cause anemia, allergies, and insulin-dependent diabetes and in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease, America’s number one cause of death.

And dairy products may actually cause osteoporosis, not prevent it, since their high-protein content leaches calcium from the body. Population studies, backed up by a groundbreaking Harvard study of more than 75,000 nurses, suggest that drinking milk can actually cause osteoporosis. Find out more by visiting our links page.”

http://www.milksucks.com/index2.asp    

Other resources:

https://luthar2.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/bookofcompassion2ed.doc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYpafipJyDE&feature=player_embedded

Nursing calf photo can be found at   http://www.faqs.org/photo-dict/phrase/5743/calf-nursing.html

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Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyaa prayacchati;
Tadaham bhaktyupahritamashnaami prayataatmanah.

If one offers Me with love and devotion of a leaf,
a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it with joy. BG 9.26

b36

  https://luthar.com/call-of-the-conch-introduction/
https://luthar.com/call-of-the-conch-1/
https://luthar.com/call-of-the-conch-part-2/

Call of the Conch-Part 2: By Joyce Sweinberg

 

WARNING:  THE  STILL AND VIDEO IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE
ARE GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF VIOLENCE TO DAIRY COWS AND THEIR OFFSPRING.

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We need to realize that milk is not an “Innocent”
animal product as it is thought to be, but is a
highly violent, cruel, and immensely exploitative food.
The most important factor in cow abuse is the economic factor;
we need to realize that as long as we, the consumers
of milk and leather, continue to buy these violent products,
the exploitation of the cow and the killing of her calves
will continue to occur.
~Shri Kamlesh

 “The female dairy cow spends her life confined in close quarters with other cows, being pumped with hormones calculated to produce pregnancy after pregnancy as long as she is capable of bearing calves, both to increase the population of the cows for milk and meat production and to spur the female to produce more milk. When her calves are born, they are taken from her within a few days of birth, giving rise to the grief of separation for both the mother and the child.”  https://luthar.com/call-of-the-conch-1.  The videos below depict the artificial insemination of the dairy cow, the birth of the calves, and the removal of the calf shortly after birth…on it’s way to either the slaughterhouse if it is male, or to its own pathetic future as a female dairy cow, soon to face the same fate as the grieving mother who gave birth to her,  bearing in her heart the infant grief of separation from her mother and facing the maternal grief in the heart of a mother forced to face the loss of her child.

The motherless child…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiRxkU_opyQ&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZrX1rTddho

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kM387cI4rk&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAiIIZMKPC0&feature=player_embedded

Contrasts a dairy calf searching for his mother on a farm with undercover footage of calves at a slaughterhouse.

“Roughly 50% of the calves are male calves which are considered to be the by-products of the milk industry and do not have any value. These male calves are the most unfortunate souls of the milk industry; they are the silent sufferers in the background that no one bothers to notice. They sacrifice their lives so that we can drink the milk which was meant for them.These calves meet their deaths wherever factory farming occurs both in India and in the western world.

India.

Before mechanized farming, the male calves were highly sought after as draught animals that would till the land and become the farmer’s best friend. But with tractors taking over the role of draught animals, the male calves are useless and the farming/milk industry no longer feels it necessary to sustain them.

Due to the cultural heritage of India, where beef eating is not popular and cow killing is illegal, these calves are not slaughtered for calf-meat or “veal” as in the western countries. But since they pose no value to the farmer these calves are killed in the most horrific manner.

 dead-calf

Most male calves in India are separated soon after their birth… they are strangulated to death, starved and then even buried alive in compost mounds to dispose their bodies. In some cases a stuffed animal like structure is covered with the hide of the dead calf and placed near the cow, so that she continues to give milk thinking that the stuffed doll is her living calf! Many are slaughtered in illegal slaughter houses to make fancy “calf leather” belts, purses, wrist bands etc.

Western Countries.

In the west the male calves are seen as sources of “calf-meat” or veal, which is the most perverted food any human can eat. The specialty of veal meat is that it is very tender, fatty and succulent and to achieve this, the calves are taken from their mothers immediately after birth and raised so as to deliberately induce borderline anemia.

 sick_calf

veal

They are then confined in small cages called as veal-crates, usually measuring 2-feet-wide, in which they cannot turn around or stretch their limbs all their lives. This is done so that their flesh does not build muscle which is considered to be tough to eat. After about 3-5 months of living confined to their cages, these innocent calves are then slaughtered to satisfy humans’ perverted thirst for flesh.

 

cattle-veal-13 preg-conveyorbeltbig

The plight of the female calves is worse, they are raised so that they can be perpetually inseminated to give us their milk for the rest of the lives. If they are so unfortunate so that they become sick or break their legs which they often do, due to being continuously pregnant they are then mercilessly slaughtered, ending as meat and leather.

It is a well known fact the cows raised for milk (Dairy cows) have to undergo much more abuse and sufferings than the cows which are raised for meat (Beef cows)”

These are NOT isolated incidents, but are in fact routine procedure to dispose the male calves as profitably as possible depending upon the location, either in India or in the west. This suffering and killings are a direct result of the milk industry, which satisfies our thirst for milk, our cravings for ice-creams, payasams and chocolates at the cost of these innocent animals.

While we enjoy our milk, the silent killings go on!   ~Shri Kamlesh*

 Having one’s actions grounded in ahimsa for the Lord’s creatures, all of them, calls to our spiritual conscience with the power of the sounding of the conch. The conch, held by Vishnu, the preserver, represents life. When it is sounded, it is the sound of victory, as by Krishna and Arjuna heralding the defeat of the adharmic influences in the battlefield of the mind symbolized in the Holy Gita.  May the adharmic influences inherent in the dairy industry fall to the ground in defeat at the call of the conch.

cow-gomatha_vishnu… dhenoonaamasmi kaamadhuk…

Among the cows, I am Surabhi, the wish-fulfilling cow. B.G. 10.28

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 https://luthar.com/call-of-the-conch-introduction
https://luthar.com/call-of-the-conch-1

*The italicized text of Part 2 in this series was written by Shri Kamlesh, who also provided many of the images used. Any edits were to context, not to content. I offer my namaskarams to him.

Njanappaana by Poonthaanam Nambudiri-2

translation and commentary by Smt. Savitri Puram 

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Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana!
Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava! 
Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!

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Introduction

Njanappaana can be considered as the Bhagavad Gita of Malayalees. This is a Darshanika kaavyam or philosophical poem expressed in the most simple Malayalam language for ordinary people. Poonthanam Nambudiri, an ardent devotee of Shri Guruvayurappan, transformed his unbearable sorrow from his infant son’s death into a “yogavishesham”. He used this sad experience to build his Bhakthi soudham or house of devotion and opened it for all devotees for all time. Even though the language is very simple, this njaanappana, or song of wisdom deals with the essence of all vedas and upanishads. May Bhagavan Guruvayurappan, Bhagavathy Sarswathi Devi and Sri Poonthaanam Nambudiri bless us to become wiser by going through this great Song of Wisdom!!

This is continued from Part One… https://luthar.com/njanappaana-1

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 Chuzhannitunna samsaara chakratthil
Uzhannitum namukkarinjeetuvaan
Arivulla mahatthukkal undoru
Paramaartham arul cheythirikkunnu
Eluthaayittu mukthi labhippaanaay
Chevi thannithu kelppin ellaavarum

We are restlessly moving (uzhannitum) up and down in this rotating (chuzhannitunna) wheel of material world (samsaara chkratthil). For us to know (namukkarinjituvaan), great njaanis( arivulla mahatthukkal) have preached (arul chythirikkunnu) the paramaartham (Supreme truth). All of you listen to this (kelppin ellaavarum) because to attain salvation (mukthi labhipaanaay) easily (eluthaayittu) God has given you the sravanaedriyam or ears (chevi thannithu). The meaning of “chevi thannithu” can also be taken as “give your ears” or listen to what Mhaathmaas told us.

Getting human life is rare and even after getting human life, very few people are blessed to pursue the spiritual path. But great sages of the past realized this pitiable condition of ordinary souls and have prescribed easy ways to know the Supreme Truth. One of the easiest method for Kaliyuga suggested by them is Naamasankeerthanam. Since this is the opinion of self-realized bhakthaas, Bhagavan Himself approves this method and tells in Bhagavad Gita: “yajnaanaam japayajnosmi” or Among all the sacrifices, sadhanas, austerities or forms of tapas, I am represented by japa” and thus supporting the words of Mahaathmaas.

(Bhagavan always supports Bhakthaas. When Poothaanam once read Amaraprabhu as Maraprabhu while chanting Vishnusahasra naamam, a few Sanskrit scholars made fun of him. Bhagavan could not take his dear devotee’s grief and told from the sanctum sanctorum : “I am Amara prabhu as well as Maraprabhu, meaning I am also the lord of trees or in Malayalam maram”.)

We are all going up and down on the wheel of material world rotating with extreme speed and it is very difficult to escape from that. But once we know the Supreme Truth, we will be relieved from the samsaarachakra. This Brahma jnanam is possible by sincerely chanting the auspicious names of God because Naamam or names of Lord are even greater than Naami or Lord Himself.  Hanumanji had to just chant Raama naamam to cross the ocean where as Lord Raama had to construct the bridge to cross the ocean to Lanka!

Also as explained in the previous lines [https://luthar.com/njanappana-1 ], anybody can chant naamam anytime and anywhere. So Poonthaanam is asking us to listen carefully to what Mahaathmaas have told us about Supreme Truth. Like sravanedriyam or ears can be used for hearing the greatness of Lord, all other indriyaas should be used for the purpose of serving God. Sankarrachaaryar also gives this idea in a very beautiful sloka in Soundarya Lahari:

JapO jalpa: shilpam sakalam api mudraa-virachanaa
Gathi: praadakshiNya-kramanam ashanady aahuthi-vidhi:
PraNaama: samvesha: sukham akhilam aathmaarpaNa -drushaa
Saparyaa paryaya: thava bhavathu yan mae vilasitham

Let my spoken words become manthras, let all my hand gestures become mudraas, let all my steps become circumambulation or pradakhinam to you, let my lying down to sleep become prostration to you, let the food I consume be an offering to the sacred fire lit for you, let what ever I do become a worship to you. 

Nammeyokkeyum bandhicha saadahanam
Karmam ennariyendathu mumbinaal

First and foremost (mumbinaal), we should know (ariyendathu) that karmam is the thing (saadhanam) that binds (bandhiccha) all of us (naameyokkeyum) to this world.

Even before telling us more about the easiest path for salvation, poet starts with the big word : “Karma” and how we are all bound in the cycle of birth and death by karma. Both good and bad karmaas are binding and hence we have to know what is the root cause for making us do karmaas and eradicate the root cause. In this context, an example of a burning stick is appropriate. If we move a burning stick in a circle, a burning circle will seem to appear. In reality (understanding the reality is njaanam) the circular movement of the stick causes the illusion. Likewise the wheel of time is moving with very high speed dragging us along with it and forcing us to do good as well as bad karmaas with ego (or feeling of “I am the doer). This causes the illusion of bondage. So we have to have the njaanam or knowledge to go beyond this illusion or Maya to escape from the bondage. Also the famous example of seeing a rope and misunderstanding it as a snake is appropriate. Until we know that it is only a rope, we will be scared and stressed. What will lead us to this knowledge of Brahmam? Continuous remembrance of Lord through Naamasankeerthanam will help us to detach us from the karma-bound cycle and lead us to Njaanam and moksham. 

Law of Karma is a law of justice and it is straight forward, impartial and inescapable. The only thing that can nullify the effects of Karma is Bhagavan’s grace. Bhagavan’s blessings loosen the tightly bound law of Karma and makes the otherwise impossible escape possible for us. In Kaliyuga the easiest way to obtain Bhagavan’s blessings and grace is naamasnakeerthanam. 

In Mahabharatha, Sahadeva advises his elder elder brother Yudhishtira on the subject of Karma. He says that when ever we do Karmaas with the feeling of “I am the doer” or “mine (two letter sanskrit word “mama”) those karmaas lead us to the cycle of birth and death. But when we do karmaas thinking that we are not the doer, the results of the karmaas also will not be ours. This feeling is called “I am not the doer” or not mine (in Sanskrit, it is expressed in three letters “na mama”). Karmaas performed with this attitude are not binding and and free us from the eternal cycle of birth and death. Again, how can we develop this attitude in Kaliyuga? Poonthanam assures us along with Bhagavan that Nammasankeerthanam will eventually give us this “na mama” attitude and lead us to njaanam and moksham.

How can we forget to mention Shankaraachaaryar’s lines

punarapi jananam punarapi maranam
punarapi jananii jathare shayanam
iha samsaare bahudustaare
kripayaa apaare paahi muraare

Born again, death again, birth again to stay in the mother’s womb! It is indeed hard to cross this boundless ocean of samsara. Oh Murari! Save me through Thy mercy.

 

Munnam ikkanda viswam aseshavum
Onnaayulloru jyothi swaroopamaay
Onnum chennangu thannodu pattaathe
Onnilum chennu thaanum valayaathe
Onnonnaayi ninakkum janangalkku
Onnukondariyaavunna vasthuvaay
Onnilum urakkaattha janagalku
Onnu kondum thiriyaatha vasthuvaay
Onnu pole onnillaathe ullathil
Onnaayulloru jeeva swaroopamaay
Ninnavan thanne viswam chamachu pol,
Moonnum onnil adangunnu pinneyum

During pralaya or dissolution (word “munnam” refers to pralayam) this whole world (viswam asheshavaum) becomes the one and only one (onnayulloru) jyothi swaroopam or parama thejopunjam. This jyothiswaroopam is only a witness, this is neither attached to anything in this world (line four) nor let anything in the world get attached to this (line 3). Those Jnaanis and Bhakthaas (predominantly of saatwic and raajasic nature) who try to figure out one by one (onnonnaayi ninakkum janangalkku) using “nethi, nethi” process or “not this, not this” process, perceive “It” as one thing through which everything is known (onukondariyaavunna vasthuvaay). For those people whose minds are restless, fickle and out of control (onnilum urakkaattha janangalkku -predominantly of Thaamasic nature) “It” cannot be comprehended or understood by any means (onnukondum thiriyaattha vasthuvaay). Outwardly each and every being is different (oonu pole onnillaathe), but the spirit or jeeva swaroopam in all  beings are the same (ullatthil onnaayulloru jeevaswaroopamaay). The same jeeva swaroopam that exists in everything (ninnavan thanne) created the whole universe (viswam chamacchupol) and “It” again (pinneyum) contains all the three . (moonnum onnil adangunnu)

During pralaya or dissolution, everything is merged in Lord and nothing remains except the parama jyothi swaroopam or light of lights (or paramaathma chaithanyam). This is compared to the disappearance of stars and moon at sunrise. Likewise, the whole universe including the sun, moon, stars and all planets dissolve and become part of that great Jyothi swaroopam. One of the prayers we chant during aarathi or deepaaraadhana expresses the same idea:

Na thathra suryo bhathi, na chandratharakam
nema viddhutho bhanthi kuthoyamagni
Thameva bhantham anubhaathi sarvam,
thasya bhasa sarvamidham vibhathi.

“There the sun does not shine, nor the moon nor the stars; these lightnings also do not shine – how then (can) this earthly fire? Verily, everything shines after Him reflecting His glory. This whole world is illuminated with His light.”

But this light of lights is “Anaadimadhyaantham” or beginningless,middleless and endless. At the end of the dissolution phase, each individual soul again takes birth depending on the accumulated karmaas. These individual souls with accumulated karmaas do not get salvation during dissolution, but just remain hidden in Easwara Chaithanyam and then take birth again to experience the results of their good and bad karmaas.

These lines specifically explains how Bhagavan is not tainted by our karmaas. Even when we disappear into the jyothi swaroopam, that jyothi swaroopam remains unaffected. So our sorrows and happiness do not affect Bhagavan and Bhagavan is not responsible for our sorrows and happiness. Our experiences are the direct results of our own karmaas. Then how does Bhagavan help us? When we realize that the jyothi swaroopam with in all of us is the same as the paramaathmachaithanyam, all our actions become an offering to the Light of Lights, “mama or mine” attitude disappears, and “na mama or not mine” attitude arises. But only in a pure mind this realization happens and in Kaliyuga, Nammasnakeerthanam is the most practical method to attain purity of mind.

“Onnukondariyaavunna vasthu” indicates that for ordinary people like us, Brahmam can be known only through the path of Bhakthi. Bhakthi leads to Njaanam. Little Prahlaada believed that everything existing was Naarayana swaroopam and when he told his father that God is omnipresent, Lord did come out from the lifeless pillar to protect Him. Gopikaas were ordinary housewives and just because of their intense and blind devotion to the Lord of Vrindavan they attained Jnaanam and moksham. Fickle minded ordinary people who are distracted every moment with the the various temptations of life cannot comprehend the greatness of Bhagavan. First the aasuric or thaamasic or demonic characteristics of our mind has to be reduced by the constant remembrance of Lord and the power of Naamam will elevate ourselves to purer and purer levels.

Last line talks about the number three. This three can refer to several things: Prakrutthi, mahatthathvam, Ahamkaaram or  Satva Gunam, Rajo Gunam, Thamo Gunam or Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswaran or  three worlds. At the time of dissolution, everything merges into the paramachaithanyam and this explains the transient nature of everything we see or feel in this world. Poonthanam explains this to develop an attitude of detachment in our mind and hence perform Nishnkaama karmam and attain the Lotus Feet of Lord by chanting His names.

Onnu kondu chamachoru viswatthil
Moonnayittulla karmangalokkeyum
Punya karmangal paapa karmangalum
Punya paapangal misramaam karmavum
Moonu jaathi niroopichu kaanumbol
Moonnu kondum thalakkunna jeevane

In this universe (virtually) created (chamachoru viswatthil) by our own Avidya or ignorance (here “onnu kondu” means “due to avidya or ignorance”), all karmaas (karmangalokkeyum) can be divided into three categories ( moonnaayittulla). They are namely Punya karmaas, Paapa karmaas and Punya-Paapa-misra karmaas. (lines 2 and 3) When we think (niroopicchu kaanumbol) about the above three types of karmaas (moonnu jaathi), we can see that jeevaathma (jeevane) is bound (thalakkunnu) by all three types of karmaas (moonnu kondum)..

Just like the moon is lit by the reflected light of the Sun, we are alive by the chaithanyam or light lit by the Light of Lights, Paramachaithanyam. A person who is ignorant of the fact that sun’ light causes the moon-light, thinks that it is moon’s own light. Similarly, this whole universe is not different from the paramaathma chaithanyam itself and with our inability to comprehend this and internalize the truth, we do three types of karmaas with “ahambhaavam” or feeling of “I and mine” and these sakaama karmaas (result oriented actions) bind us to the eternal cycle of birth and death. It is difficult to exactly differentiate punya karmaas and paapa karmaas. Some of them can be labelled with out any doubt. But, some of the karmaas can be classified only according to the context.That is why Poonthaanam mentions about the third type called mixed karmaas.

There is a small story to illustrate this point. Once a very pious sage was resting in his hermitage in the forest. A just and righteous King followed by a group of robbers entered the forest. King was running about one mile ahead of the robbers and turned east near the sage’s hermitage. (Hermitage was in junction near a river and one can go in any direction from there). While running, he specifically told the sage not to disclose which way he ran to the robbers following him. As expected robbers came and asked the sage about the direction in which the King ran. This sage who had never spoken untruth in his life did not want to say a lie to the robbers. He could have either said “I do not know” or to save the King’s life he could have even said  “west or south or north”. Instead he told them “east” to save his sathyavratham or vow of truth. Later he had to experience the negative results of his paapa karma because in that particular context, saying the truth was not a punya karma or dharmam. By saying an untruth he would have saved the life of a righteous king and his country. But he cared more for his own vow of truth than saving the life of a just and righteous King. Because of his selfishness, even though he told the truth, it became a paapa karmam.

Since all the three types of karmaas binds us, only destruction of all karmaas can free us from bondage. But it is impossible for ordinary people to live with out doing any karmaas. There is not even a moment when we are not doing karma either by body, by words or by thoughts. So the only solution is to do karmaas with renunciation of the fruits action which is called Nishkaamakarmam. Bhagavan says in Bhagavad Gita;

yasya sarve samarambha:
kama-sankalpa varjitha:
jnanagni dagdha karmanam
tam ahu: panditham budha:

He, all whose undertakings in this world are free from the bondage of expectation, who has sacrificed all the results of his actions in the fire of knowledge is a pandithan or scholar -so says intelligent people or (great seers)

Even though all these philosophical concepts are mind boggling to ordinary people like us, Poonthanam assures that Naamasnakeerthanam will clear our mind and help us to develop an attitude of surrender and intense devotion. Then Bhagavan takes over and assures us : Na mae bhaktha pranashyathi- my devotees will never perish. Bhagavan’s grace will lead us from Rakthi —> Bhakthi—-> Mukthi.

Ponnin changala onnipparanjathil
onnirumbu kondennathre bhedangal
Randinaalumeduthu panichaiytha
Changalayallo misramaam karmavum

Bondage comes from three types of karmaas and one string (changala) formed as a result of satkarmaas or punyakarmaas or good deeds is made of Gold (ponnin), another one (onnu) formed as a result of paapa karmaas or negative karmaas or dushkarmaas is made of Iron (irumbu) and the third  string ( formed as a result of the mixture of the above two types of karmaas-misrakarmam) is made of a mixture of both Gold and Iron (randinaalumeduthu pani cheytha).

Even though Gold and Iron are different metals with entirely different properties, when they are used for tying or binding some one it hardly makes any difference for the bound victim. The word “changala” and “thalakkuka” are usually used for chaining elephants. By using these words, Poonthanam brings out the fact that breaking the strings of bondage is as difficult for us as it is for an elephant to break it’s thick Iron chain. But with lot of effort, sometimes elephants do break and run to freedom. So with continuous and sincere effort human beings blessed with the power of discrimination, can break all three binding chains. Even people with predominantly satva gunaas find it hard to break the bondage effortlessly. As long as their satkarmmas are result oriented, they will not be freed from the cycle of birth and death.  They live to enjoy the results of satkarmaas, again do satkarmaas to be born again and again. Only renunciation of the fruits of action can break the bondage for Punyaatmaas (great souls), Paapis (sinned souls) and those punyaathma-paapaathma combination souls . The only difference is that when we do Paapa karmaas we are subjected to negative experiences and punya karmaas yield positive experiences and mixture of both will give both positive and negative experiences. But eternal freedom from this cycle calls for Nishkaama karmam.

Even if a cage is made of Gold, a bird sees it only as a cage in which it is trapped. It does not enjoy the beauty of Gold. It only wants freedom. Likewise our souls crave for eternal freedom to join the Parmaathma. Because of the avidya or ignorance, jeevathma goes after transient pleasures and with egoistic actions accumulates all three types of karmaas. Poonthaanam advises us to do naamasnkeerthanam which  removes ignorance and makes us realize that we are trapped in this eternal cycle of birth and death. Naamam persuades us to strive with the determination and force of a “matthagajam” or mad elephant to break this chain of bondage. Poet assures that this force to break the chain can be derived from chanting Lord’s name. By the power of Naamajapam even an athiest (who does not believe in God or in prayers) goes through different stages of Bhakthi or devotion and reach the highest state of Uttama Bhaktha or perfect devotee. A Bhaagavatotthama ( the highest type of devotee ) is one who sees the glory of Bahgavan in all animate and inanimate beings, and also perceives all beings as dwelling in Him. So all his karmaas become an offering to God and practically becomes a Jeevanmuktha. Then he discards the body when the results of the accumulated karmaas are exhausted and merges with the Paramaathma.

Where does God live? Bhagavan says to Narada:

Naham vasami vaikunte na yogi hrudaye ravau
Mad bhaktha: yatra gayanti tatra thishtami narada.

“I dwell not in Vaikundha, not in the hearts of yogis, nor in the Sun, I live where my devotees sing my glory and divine names.” 

Brahmaavaadiyaay eecchayirumbolam
karmabaddhanmaar ennatharinjaalum
Bhuvanangale srishtikkayennathu
Bhuvanaantha pralayam kazhivolam
Karmapaasatthe lamkhikkayennathu
Brahmaavinnumeluthalla nirnayam
Dikpaalakanmaarum avvannam ororo
Dikku thorum thalachu kitakkunnu

Know the fact that (ennatharinjaalum) starting from Brahamadevan and other devaas (Brahmaavaadiyaay) to flies and ants (eeccha irumbolum), all of God’s creation are bound by Karma (karmabaddhanmaarr). Creation of universe (bhuvanangale srushtikkayennathu) continues until the dissolution or pralayam of the universe (bhuvanaantha pralayam) is completed (kazhivolam). That means it is definitely (nirnayam) not easy (eluthalla) even for Brahmadevan (Brahmaavinu) to break (lamkhikkayennathu) the binding thread of karma (karmapaashatthe). In the same way (avvannam) eight devaas ruling the eight zones or quarters of the universe also (dikpaalakanmaarum) are lying bound (thalacchu kitakkunnu) in their own directions (dikku thorum).

In these lines, poet says that there is no body (it literally means any jeevaathma dwelling in any type of body) in this world who is not bound by Karmaas. Even Brahmadevan dwelling in a body continuously does srushti or creation and then of course Vishnu Bhagavan has to maintain the universe and Mahadevan has to take care of annihilation. When Dharma declines, Vishnu Bhagavan incarnates in different forms, perform necessary karmaas with out attachment and goes back to Swadhaamam or home discarding the body used temporarily. Only the Nirguna Brahmam or Paramajyothi swaroopam, who is only a witness of all these, is free of this bondage of Karma. But thrimurthis (Brahma-Vishnu-Maheswara) know that they are none other than the Brahmam and they are neither attached to the karmaas or the fruits of their karmaas. Because of their knowledge of the essence of srushti-sthithi-samhaaram (creation, maintenance and annihilation) they do not experience the uncertainties of life like other demigods or mortal human beings. They just perform karmaas with out attachment. (Vaikundhavaasi, ananthashaayi Vishnu Bhagavan and Bhagavaan’s all incarnations are not Jeevathmaa occupying a body, but Paramaathma Himself. With apaara kaarunyam or ocean of mercy, that Paramachaithanyam is letting us worship in any form (sagunam) we prefer. Even though in incarnations, Bhagavaan discards the body after the purpose of incarnation, He would appear before us in any form we worship because He is eternal with form and with out form. In one of the stories, He even takes the form of a “male buffalo” to please his devotee. Bhagavaan appeared as the minister Mangaattacchan to save Poonthaanam from robbers!)

Even Thrimurhis (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) do not break the chain of Karmam. So where do we stand?  By their actions, Thrimurthis are demonstrating this truth to the world. The word “Nirnayam” indicates that to destroy the karmaas each and every individual should strive. In the spiritual world there is no proxy and each person should take responsibility for their own advancement. A Guru or satsangam can help to initiate one’s effort and the rest is in each inividual’s sincere effort.  Above all of these, we need Bhagavaan’s blessings every moment and Poonthaanam’s only solution in this Kaliyuga is chanting of naamam. It is interesting to note that Poonthaanam used the words “thalacchu kitakkunnu” for the eight devaas who rule the eight directions. Dikpaalakaas are not as detached to the karmaas as Brahmadevan or in other words they are not Brahmajnaanis and hence they are helplessly lying bound in the eight directions.  Ordinary human beings are far inferior to this dikpaalakaas. To elevate ourselves from the Maanava state to Maadhava stage, Poonthanam recommends Naamasankeerthanam. In Bhagavatam, Sri Shuka Maharshi tells King Parikshit:

Kalair dosha nidhe rajan astihyeko mahaan gunaan
Kirtanaad eva krishnasya mukta sanga: param vrajet

My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age:  Simply by chanting  Hari keerthana, one can become free from material bondage and attain salvation.

Shankarrachaaryar’s explanation on the importance of Naamajapam is very interesting. He says Naama japam gives us mukthi or salvation faster than any other form of worship or prayer because of two main reasons:

1. It is very simple and can be done by anybody, anywhere and anytime. No restrictions have to be followed.

2. Second one is the most important reason. We are not asking God for any favours or special blessings or anything in particular when we worship with naamasankeerthanam. We only glorify God with His auspicious names and try to continuously remember His divine form. Naamasankeerthanam promotes Nishkaama Bhakthi which leads us to salvation or mukthi. 

So let us chant along with Suka Muni, Shri Shankarrachaaryar, Poonthaanam Nambudiri and millions of devotees: 

Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana!
Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava! 
Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!

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Samasthaaparaadham kshamaswa.

Sreekrishnaarpanamasthu.

Call of the Conch-Part 1: By Joyce Sweinberg

 

WARNING:  THE  STILL AND VIDEO IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE
ARE GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF VIOLENCE TO DAIRY COWS.

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Lord Sri Krishna vividly describes the three types of foods,
Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Milk in the olden days was definitely Sattvic.
However now it is 100% Tamasic due to the abundant violence and abuse it entails.
Drinking such milk is equal to eating beef. In fact the animals raised for meat
do not have to suffer so much as these unfortunate dairy cows are made to suffer.

~Shri Kamlesh

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Ahimsa (nonviolence) is considered the first principle of the spiritual life. Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of Arunachala has clearly stated, “Ahimsa Param Dharma”. Translated this means that nonviolence is the supreme religion… My friends, in order to gain peace, one has to give peace to others. This is the universal law as described and explained by the doctrine of karma. What we give to others, we give to ourselves. If we are able to learn this lesson by heart, it will influence our actions in this world. It is not an easy lesson at all.Nonviolence is the most beautiful expression and manifestation of the unconditioned recognition of the Nature of Reality. This is our conviction. This ideal is our aspiration. As many times as we fall, we get up and stand on the foundation of nonviolence as our nature. ~Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

                                      https://luthar.com/ahimsa-and-self-realization-by-dr-harsh-k-luthar

Can you hear her crying?

There was a time, a time when the dairy cow was nurtured and revered for her milk, when the calf came first and the human after, when she was part of the family, not part of their property. When she lived out her life with decency until the end, even after she no longer produced milk. But that time is long gone, replaced by industry production methods aimed at one goal…profit.  And in that goal, all decency was lost, replaced with the torture, plunder and cruelty of the present milk farms, both here in the US and abroad.

The female dairy cow spends her life confined in close quarters with other cows, being pumped with hormones calculated to produce pregnancy after pregnancy as long as she is capable of bearing calves, both to increase the population of the cows for milk and meat production and to spur the female to produce more milk. when her calves are born, they are taken from her within a few days of birth, giving rise to the grief of separation for both the mother and the child. (This and the fate of her calves will be the subject of its own article)  Her body knows no rest, either from pregnancy, the drugs used to induce pregnancy and milk production,  or the milking machines which relentlessly squeeze the very life out of her, slowly and painfully.  This relentless assault on her body frequently causes her to develop mastitis, an extremely painful condition of the udder, which results in blood and pus accumulating within the infection and often being expelled into the milk.

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The link below graphically depicts the puncture of  an inflamed udder…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqqSeO4vqcw&feature=player_embedded

Although the average life span of the cow can be in the neighborhood of  25 years,  the cow in the milk farm is ready for death after approximately 4-5 years.  By this time, the multiple pregnancies, coupled with the hormones and other drugs pumped into her system have taken their toll.  More often than not, by this time, she can barely walk on her own, either due to excess weight gain from the drugs and/or broken bones and the condition is often referred to as a “downed cow.”  This has significance in the market, as a “downed cow”, by law in most states, is not to be introduced into the slaughterhouse and the meat which is being sold to the ever willing population of meat eaters.  For this is her final destination…once she is no longer useful for bearing calves or bearing milk, she is sent to the slaughterhouse to be butchered and sold as meat.

A note about organic farming is in order. Although the cow may not be confined or treated with antibiotics and other drugs, it is quite likely that she will be impregnated, separated from her offspring and slaughtered in the end.

Even as she approaches her last moments, she is prodded and abused to keep her “up” so she can “walk” past the inspectors and into the knife of the butcher.  The videos in the link below show the cows being hit in the face with sticks, prodded with electric prods, chained to forklifts and dragged just to get them “on their feet.”  Once on the feet, the cow is continually pushed, her tail twisted, electric shocks applied to her, anything to keep her moving and get her into the kill box, where all of this will finally come to an end, and she will be slaughtered. The link below to the Humane Society video, taken undercover at a dairy farm in California, illustrates some of this abuse…

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/foodlaw/2008/02/horrible-dairy.html

  Abuse is not limited to America…

INSIDE THE INDIAN DAIRY INDUSTRY

“The cows are cramped into these trucks, with no food, water for days these poor exhausted animals are then literally thrown from the trucks on to the ground. Many cows break their legs, and bones and cannot walk, to hoist them to the slaughter house acid is poured into their eyes and noses or their tails are broken. These abuses are wide-spread because of lax laws and corrupt officials and the demand for cheap leather products. Some how when these cows are lead to the slaughter house, the cows are literally hammered by a large hammer on their heads and after they are immobile their necks are slit so that they are bled to death. At least their miserable lives have now finally come to an end. The farmer now gets his money from the dead cow’s flesh and leather and buys a younger cow to continue the cycle.”  ~Shri Kamlesh

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjYA2K7ke0E&feature=player_embedded

 DOWNED COWS

The cows pictured below, either because of broken legs or other diseases affecting them due to the abuse of their bodies in the production of milk, can no longer stand on their own. They are left stranded, unable to move, even to get away from their own excrement, unable to escape the violence which awaits them as they are either “euthanized” or butchered for meat production.

  Many of the images below can be located at http://www.goveg.com/photos_cows.asp
with detailed explanations of the images…

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 Once they are forced up, this is where they end up, along with their male counterparts…

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  http://www.goveg.com/photos_cows.asp

Having one’s actions grounded in ahimsa for the Lord’s creatures, all of them, calls to our spiritual conscience with the power of the sounding of the conch. The conch, held by Vishnu, the preserver, represents life. When it is sounded, it is the sound of victory, as by Krishna and Arjuna heralding the defeat of the adharmic influences in the battlefield of the mind symbolized in the Holy Gita.  May the adharmic influences inherent in the dairy industry fall to the ground in defeat at the call of the conch.

gita-101

 

 Matkarmakrinmatparamo madbhaktah sangavarjitah;
Nirvairah sarvabhooteshu yah sa maameti paandava.

Whoever works for Me, looking upon Me as the goal;
whoever is My devotee, free from attachments
and from antagonism to any being –
such a one shall enter into Me. (BG 11.55) 

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Njanappaana by Poonthaanam Numidiri-1

 
translation and commentary by Smt. Savitri Puram 

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Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana!
Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava! 
Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!

Introduction

Njanappaana can be considered as the Bhagavad Gita of Malayalees. This is a Darshanika kaavyam or philosophical poem expressed in the most simple Malayalam language for ordinary people. Poonthanam Nambudiri, an ardent devotee of Shri Guruvayurappan, transformed his unbearable sorrow from his infant son’s death into a “yogavishesham”. He used this sad experience to build his Bhakthi soudham or house of devotion and opened it for all devotees for all time. Even though the language is very simple, this njaanappana, or song of wisdom deals with the essence of all vedas and upanishads. May Bhagavan Guruvayurappan, Bhagavathy Sarswathi Devi and Sri Poonthaanam Nambudiri bless us to become wiser by going through this great Song of Wisdom!!boarder

Gurunaadhan thuNa chaika santhatham thirunaamangal naavinmel eppozhum
Piriyaatheyirikkanam nammude nara janmam saphalamaakkiduvaan

May my Gurunathan help me (thuna chaika) to keep the auspicious names of Lord continuously on my tongue (naavinmel eppozhum) and to make this human life (narajanmam) meaningful and fruitful!(saphalamaakkituvaan).

The only way to to make the human life fruitful and meaningful is to constantly chant the auspicious names of Lord. So, the poet is seeking the blessings of his Gurunaathan to help him retain the naamam on his tongue for ever. Who is Poonthanam’s Guru?  He is considering Guruvayurappan as his Guru because Lord is both the remover of the darkness of Anjaanam or avidya (Guru) and the protector and saviour of all (Naathan). After innumerable births in lower species,we finally got narajanmam in Kaliyuga. Kalisantharanopanishad and many other scriptures reinforce the importance of naamasankeerthanam in Kaliyuga. Naamasankeerthanam can be done any time anywhere.

Innaleyolam enthennarinjeela Ini naaleyum enthennarinjeela
Innikkanda thadikku vinaashavum Inna neramennaethumarinjeela

We really do not know what happened until yesterday or what would happen tomorrow. Neither we know when this body we see today will perish.

When we look at the literal meaning, we may feel like responding: “I know what happened until yesterday and I can roughly guess what will happen in the coming days. I am hail and healthy and unless I get into an accident or so I should be able to live many more years”.

Poonthaanam is putting his forefinger on his nose with an expression of “what a pity?” because he meant much more than the literal meaning of yesterday, tomorrow and our present body. He persuades us to think deep about the uncertainty of life. Yesterday and today also means previous janmaas and future janmaas. We do not know about our previous janmaas or good and bad karmaas we have accumulated. A great part of our good and bad experiences in this janma is the direct result of our past karmaas. We cannot undo the sins or suffering by anything other than sincere prayers. Bhagavaan is the only one who can change the results of our praarabdha karmaas and in Kaliyuga, naamasankeerthanam pleases Bhagavan more than anything. We do not know what is in store for us tomorrow. How can we make sure that our future is in safe hands? Only by offering ourselves in His strong and kind hands. Then what about today? At present we live in this body and the moment jeevathma leaves the body, it becomes lifeless like a log of wood. We have absolutely no idea when that will happen. Here Poonthaanam used the word “thati” for body to specifically tell us that body is like a log of wood or worse than a log of wood when it is lifeless. A dead body that is not preserved starts deteriorating in a few hours where as a log of wood may remain intact for several months or even years. Poonthaanam advises us to think deep about these truths and use every moment available to worship Lord with naamams. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also said that there are no hard and fast rules for chanting naamaas. Anytime one can chant and under any circumstances one is allowed to chant. “Shuchir va ashuchir va sarva avasthaasu sarvada” meaning in any condition clean (purified) or dirty (impure) one can chant the auspicious names of Lord.

Kandukandangirikkum janangale  Kandillennu varuthunnathum bhavaan
Randu naalu dinam kondorutthane Thandiletti nadathunnathum bhavaan
Maalika mukaleriya mannante Tholil maaraappu kettunnathum bhavaan

If Bhagavan wishes, those people whom we see today may disappear (may be dead) by tomorrow. Again if Bhagavan decides, with in a few days (two or four days) a healthy man’s dead body may be carried to the funeral pyre. In the same way, by God’s wish, a king sitting in a palace (maalika) can become a beggar with a dirty bag (maaraappu) hanging from his shoulders (tholil).

Poonthaanam explains how transient is our life, wealth, poverty, sorrows and everything that we see in this world. A man walking and having fun this moment can embrace death the next moment. Everything is Lord’s wish! In Kerala, usually a dead body is tied to a wooden ladder or a piece of long wood and carried by relatives (normally by sons) to the funeral pyre. However hail and healthy one may be, when the time decided by Lord approaches, chaitanyam or jeevan disappears leaving the dead body to be carried to the funeral pyre. It can happen any time, in one day, two days or four days (randu naalu dinam kondoruthane). Here Poonthanam used the word “mannan” for king (mannante) because “mannan” also means “drushtan” or “aviveki”. He advises that those people who have money and power should have the vivekam to use both dharmically remembering that they came to this world with nothing and would go from this world with nothing. Bhagavan can take it any moment from anybody.

By Lord Krishna’s blessings, Kuchela or Sudama became wealthy overnight. What about Ravana? He lost everything that he held dear and finally he lost his life too at the hands of Lord Rama. Even if we are destined to go through sufferings due to our past karmaas, surrendering to Lord will lessen the negative effects and lead us to Satgathi. “Bagavan says in Gita: “na hi kalyaanakruth kashchid durgathim thaatha gacchathi” meaning “If you do good, it will definitely lead you to satgathi or protect you from any harm”. Poonthaanam tells this truth from his own experience of the tragic and sudden death  of his infant son.

I have heard several versions of the story. But the following is the one I heard from my parents. Poonthaanam’s son was 5 months old and anna praasham (giving rice for the first time is called “choroonu” in Malayalam and usually it is done either the 5th month or 7th month ) ceremony was fixed. He invited several relatives and that morning after feeding the baby his wife made a bed in the room next to the hall where the ceremony was to be conducted. Usually there will be an entrance to that room from the kitchen also. Baby was sleeping and his wife was busy with all the preparations. It was morning and one namboothiri lady finished her bath and put the wet clothes in the same room where the baby was sleeping. That room was dark even during day time and she did not see the baby and unfortunately wet clothes were put on the baby’s face. ( I can very well believe this because in my house, there is a room on the north side called Vatakkini which is very dark even in day time. So when our parents told us this story, we listened with tears in our eyes and we felt it could happen in any Nambudiri house.) Then the next lady came after bath and seeing the wet clothes in a corner she also put hers on the top of it. One after another a few ladies unknowingly put wet clothes on  and around the baby. Nobody noticed and it was about muhurttham time and Poonthaanam asked his wife to bring the baby. She was shocked to see what happened to her helpless baby and we can imagine the rest.

This sorrow gave birth to Njanappana and Poonthaanam advises us to realize the uncertainty of everything in this world and persuades us to think of God by continuous chanting of His auspicious names.

Kandaal ottariyunnu chilarithu Kandaalum thiriyaa chilarkkethumae
Kandathonnumae sathyam allennathu Mumbe kandangariyunnithu chilar

Some people see this truth, understand it or internalize the truth. But some people cannot comprehend the truth even when they see it everyday. But there are some others who know that all that they see are not real and it is all Maaya.

Here Poonthaanam divides humans into three categories. Utthama purushaas (or wise people or perfect human beings) are able to understand the transient nature of this world. People like Shankaraacharyar, Sreeraamakrishna Paramahasar are examples who belong to this category. Then there are Madhyama purushaas (or reasonably wise people) who understand it when they themselves or people near, dear and around them experience the ups and downs of life. Then the third category of people known as Adhama Purushaas (people with low level of wisdom) do not understand or even do not have the attitude to think more about it even if they or their beloved ones go through the negative as well as the positive experiences including successes, death, suffering and disease. Yudhishtira Maharaj says to the Yaksha who asks ” what is the biggest wonder in the world?”

Even though everybody who is born embraces death eventually, the living people refuse to believe that death will eventually embrace them also. What is more surprising than this? Even though we see it everyday we live as if death is only for somebody else.

Again Poonthanam indirectly tells us that only with Bhagavan’s blessings we can have this vivekam or power of discrimination. So we should pray Bhagavan to include us in that category of few people (the word “chilar” indicates that these kind of people are rare) who are capable of seeing the truth. In this Kaliyuga, the most doable form of worship is naamasnakeerthanam and he encourages everybody to chant auspicious names to purify our mind and elevate ourselves from the state of Adhama Purushas to the state of Uttama Purushas.

Palarkkum ariyenam ennittallo
Pala jaathi parayunnu saasthrangal

Many people (palarkkum) want to know (ariyenam)about all these (including the power of discrimination of human beings, about the mystery of God, how to go beyond Maya and attain salvation etc) and hence so many saasthraas (saathrangal) tells (parayunnu) about or explain these subjects in so many different ways (pala jaathi).

Which saasthra or which philosophy appeals to each one depends on each individual’s nature, attitude and circumstances. Some people like certain approach whereas others like a totally different approach. Saathraas contain so many different philosophies to satisfy the varied interests of ordinary people. Just like we all choose different professions or jobs for the sole purpose of survival, different people accept different saasthraas to advance spiritually and increase the awareness of parmaathma chaithanyam or God. There are Vaishnavaas, Shaivaas, Shaaktheyaas or another group who worship all 33 million gods alike etc. Goal is the same and only paths are different. There is a saying that “vitthamaeva param nrunaam janmaachaarakalodaya:” meaning people choose different ways and methods for the sole purpose of acquiring wealth.

Outwardly each and every philosophy may appear different, but once the essence is understood, the differences slowly disappear and all the paths unite to become one path. The word Saasthraas (saathrangal) is used because they advise to follow certain restrictions and rules to advance smoothly in the spiritual path. How is it possible to choose the right path and who will guide us through? Poonthanam has only one solution: chant the auspicious names of God and He will guide us through the right path.

Karmathiladhikaari janangalkku
Karma saasthrangalundu palavidham
Saankhya saasthrangal yogangal enniva
Sankhyayillyathu nilkkatte sarvavum

For those people (janangalkku) who are authorized to do karmaas like yaaga or yanja, homam, poojaas etc (karmaathil adikaari- it can even mean those who desire to do karmaas or those who are entrusted with the duty of performing karmaas) several different (palavidham) karma saashtraas are available (karma saasthrangalundu). Saankhya saasthra, yoga saasthra etc are among the innumerable or countless(sankhyayillya) saasthraas available. But for the time being, let us keep aside ( nilkkatte) all of them (athu sarvavum)

Just like the diversity of the world and its inhabitants, saasthraas also are diverse. Different types of yanjaas, poojaas, and homams are described very clearly in many scriptures. Initially even though devotees perform them with some specific desire, as the Bhakthi bhaavam matures, Bhagavan’s blessings help them to do Nishkaama karma or do karma with out expecting anything in return. There is a small conversation between Jabali Muni and a vartthaka or business man called Thulaadhaara. Even though Jabaali Muni was an embodiment of kindness, he was proud of his achievements and considered himself as the greatest Dharmishttan. Then he heard an ‘ashareeri” or wise words from God to visit Thulaadhaara. He visited him and Thulaadhaara explains to him how we all should do our swadharmam with out expecting anything in return. Thulaadhaara told him that Yanjaas and poojaas are done to show our gratitude to God, Forefathers, Rishis and other Maahaathmaas for what blessings they  have already bestowed on us. Renunciation of the results of the karma is nishkaama karma  and Nishkaama karma purifies our mind. God’s chaithanyam gets reflected only in pure minds.

Maharshi Kapila’s Saankhya philosophy regards Universe as consisting of two eternal realities Purusha and Prakriti. Pathanjali Maharshi’s yoga saasthra describes different types of yogas like Hatha yoga, Raja Yoga etc. They all lead one to the knowledge of Brahmam, but those paths are very difficult and with out an able Guru (in every sense of the word) it is impossible to follow those paths. But in this Kaliyuga, Bhaktha Kavi Poonthaanam advises us to set aside those difficult paths (which are as sharp and dangerous as the edge of a razor) and follow the most simple and enjoyable path of Bhakthi or devotion. What is the first and final step in the path of devotion? Naamasankeerthanam. Bhakthi starts with Naamam and ends with Naamam. It is for ordinary people as well as for self realized souls. No question of whether you are authorized, whether you have enough knowledge to pursue or whether you have the right comes into question in this way of worshipping Lord. Anybody can do naamajapam, anytime, anywhere. 

 

Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana!
Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava! 
Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!

Part One…To be continued…

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Call of the Conch-Introduction: By Joyce Sweinberg

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“We need to challenge our age old habits and tradition
if they are in direct contrast to the principles of
non-violence and dharma laid down by Sri Krishna in Gita.”

Lord Krishna is also known as Gopala, or protector of the cows. His love for and relationship with the cows of Vrindavan forms a major part of His transcendental past times.  Among the artwork depicting His holy image, there are just as many showing Him with His beloved cows as there are images depicting Him with His beloved Radha and the gopis.  As Giridhara, He lifted the mountain of Govardhana to protect the citizens and the cows from destruction.  When He played His flute, the cows were there, His most ardent audience.  When He wanted to eat, the cows were there, His most willing suppliers of milk and butter.  When He wanted affection, the cows were there, His most unselfish companions, wanting nothing from Him but His caress and His embrace, which they freely returned.  And so, it is not surprising that from these stories and for other reasons, the practice of offering Him prasadam made with dairy, and bathing His image in milk developed and took hold as the cornerstone of devotional rituals.

At abishekam, a devotional service, the offering of milk is one of the most common items donated by devotees.  Sometimes mixed with honey and other items, the milk is poured onto the deity and flows freely and amply throughout the ritual, allowed to drain into metal bowls, collected and then poured back into the bottles for the devotees to take home, now blessed by the Lord.  A small vessel is also passed around the room, with each of us given a small spoonful to drink the blessings of Divinity. Food is also offered to the Lord for prasadam and usually contains milk and ghee, a form of clarified butter.  After the puja is complete, the food is shared by devotees partaking of the Lord’s blessings, gathering together in the sangha of God’s worship.

What appears as a charming expression of devotion now has lurking behind it a vile abuse of this most sacred creature of the Lord, both in India and here in America, knowingly perpetrated by the suppliers of the dairy products and unwittingly financed by the Lord’s devotees.  While I converted to a vegetarian diet years ago, I continued to include some dairy in my diet, although very limited due to my developing concern with ahimsa and allergic skin reactions.  But I continued to accept the prasad, I continued to pour the milk when the occasion arose and I relished the sweets and the wonderful Indian cuisine so freely shared where I worship. I told myself that any hesitations I had should be quashed within myself because these were offerings to God and had been blessed and cleansed of any sins committed in their procurement. Lately, though, I was becoming uneasy about it, but not voicing my thoughts and not knowing quite how to voice my developing uncertainty over the source of these offerings.

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Until recently, when Kamleshji, another devotee on a bhakta forum posted a message directly confronting this subject, and ripping open my cloak of uncertainty to the naked truth that cannot be denied if one looks with one’s eyes open, if one hears with one’s heart and if one thinks with one’s conscience. From his post and subsequent communications from him, I quote a few lines below…

“….as devotees of Lord Sri Krishna we must definitely pay attention to the plight of His most beloved animal, the Cow (Go-mata).

Just recently on Sri Krishna Jayanthi, we bathed Lord Sri Krishna in milk, curd, ghee and offered Him His favourite naivedhyams such as paal payasam,  ghee and butter.

However we must be aware how this milk is obtained in this Kali yugam, especially where milk is obtained in commerical farming techniques (as in big cities in India and especially here in the US).  Before this exploitative factory farming age, our saints used to procure Milk products in harmony and without cruelty, the milk was taken from the cow only after the calf has had it’s fill and the cow was worshipped as Go-matha.  Such offerings are certainly pleasing to the Lord.

However in the present age,  factory produced milk is a very cruel exploitative product of torturing cattle. The poor cows are  enclosed in a tiny space, chained in its own waste in darkness, cold and filth for the rest of its life. It is pumped with insane amounts of hormones, and other toxic medications to artifically increase milk production.

These large amounts of hormones, antibiotics and other unnatural feed, cause the cow to grow large and make it prone to bone fractures and other very painful diseases. To add to this torture the cows are artifically inseminated to produce calves to ensure regular supply of milk.

The most unfortunate of the calves are male calves  (called Bobby calves) who are considered to be useless and are sold off to be butchered for meat when they are just five days old. The mother cows separated from their calves cry in agony, yet they are not spared and are administered more hormones to continue milking them.

After milking the cow till it has been exhausted and after ensuring that the cow cannot yield anymore milk, it is sold off to be slaughtered in the most brutal manner for meat and leather.  I request all bhaktas to please think about this, will our Lord ever accept our abhiseghams and Naivedhyams if it means that His favourite innocent animals are killed slowly and extremely painfully all their lives?  Let us not act in an adharmic manner and perform unthinkable atrocities and sins by offering factory produced milk and milk based products especially in our sacred rituals and also in our diets. I can only be certain that we shall never suceed in our sadhana if it causes so much needless pain for innocent animals.

Lord Sri Krishna, vividly describes the three types of foods, Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Milk in the olden days was definitely Sattvic however now it is 100% Tamasic due to the abundant violence and abuse it entails. Drinking such milk is equal to eating beef.  In fact the animals raised for meat do not have to suffer so much as these unfortunate dairy cows are made to suffer.

We cannot afford to fool ourselves into believing that just because we are vegetarians and do not eat beef, we are protecting the cows. We need to challenge our age old habits and tradition if they are in direct contrast to the principles of non-violence and dharma laid down by Sri Krishna in Gita.”

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His post prompted me to respond to him and to also go online to view some of the websites which I knew would show me the truth, as painful as it might be to watch and to listen. I am now convinced that I must be even more vigilant in my avoidance of all dairy products where I do not know the source.  I will also post several more blog entries examining this subject in more detail, in the hope that each of us can look more honestly into our hearts about what we put into our mouths and onto our bodies, and onto the Lord.

The Luthar.com blog already has several articles on the subject of vegetarian diet…this short series is specifically examining the vegan diet.  We will look at ahimsa as the foundation for a vegan diet, the economic incentives fueling the abuse, the ways in which the dairy cows are abused, including their offspring, and how they are slaughtered in the end. We will examine the human health consequences of ingestion of dairy products and the environmental effects of the mass procreation of cows for human consumption.  We will explore the organic industry as well. We will post photos and links to videos so you can see for yourself what is happening to the dairy cows.  We will also post links to organizations geared to helping the abused cows and offering alternatives to the current system.  We will offer suggestions and ideas on how to substitute other products in our diet and in our worship. We ask that you the reader examine the facts with an open heart. Together with Kamleshji, who has studied the subject extensively and speaks with eloquence and fortitude in His devotion to the Lord on this subject, I will continue to post, seeking His blessings and inspiration.

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi and I take this opportunity to post the first in this series on this day with this prayer…that I serve the Lord without reservation acting as best I can on His wishes, and that I open my mind and my heart enough to let Him speak through me as He guides me.  Ganesha Saranam!

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Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyaa prayacchati;
Tadaham bhaktyupahritamashnaami prayataatmanah.

If one offers Me with love and devotion of a leaf,
a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it with joy. BG 9.26

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