What An Elevating Weekend!

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

Indeed it has been. As Subhamoy Das wrote on his website, ‘this week began with a number of auspicious occasions in the Hindu almanac – converging on Monday, April 4, 2011. While several Indian states celebrated the coming of their regional new year, two Hindu lunar calendars turned a new leaf and stepped into the future… The Hindus of Kashmir started their new year 5087 — Navreh — yesterday.

At the same time, the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh observed their new year — Ugadi, the Marathas celebrated Gudi Padwa, and the Sindhis Cheti Chand, the coming of new year.’

Such diversity, all expressions of an underlying unity of thought, can only add up to a rich cultural fare, which anyone who has had experience of in India can testify to. And it is reflected locally too, to the great enjoyment and delight of all concerned, direct or indirect participants.

There was also the beginning of the nine-day fast of Vasanta Navaratri, the Spring ritual of honoring the Mother Goddess, along with Ram Nawmi being celebrated all over the island. At the Ramayana Centre in Union Park, we have been privileged to have Ajay Yajnik and his group from New Delhi performing yet again, and he will be chanting the Sunderkanda in various mandirs around the country over the next several days.

Leading the local convergence was an auspicious event that took place on Friday and Saturday last, when hundreds of devotees were blessed to have the darshana of Amma, known as the ‘hugging Goddess.’ No words can express what that expression means, and those who have been imbued with her light are forever marked. I asked a young swami who was accompanying her what was his background. He told me that 22 years ago he was doing his Master’s in Microbiology and Biochemistry in Mumbai, and then he got the darshana of Amma: at that moment there was a transformation. The result is that now he is based in Europe, and travels around the world with Amma to spread her message of love and carry on her good works.

Love is what Amma gives abundantly. As she hails from Kerala in South India, she speaks Malayalam mainly, but Love is all languages and none. In fact the true language of Pure Love is Silence when we think of it – before any language existed there was Silence, and a moment’s reflection will make us realize the truth that the most powerful expression of Pure Love is Silence. Pause for a moment to think, and allow this to sink in. So much more would be accomplished if we only carried on our work in an atmosphere of Silence! But we human beings are natural noise makers — and we call that noise civilization…

This is also the time when Christians are observing their 40 days of fast that will culminate in Easter, and there is thus a charged atmosphere of spirituality that is prevailing. Would that it all this add up to a genuine change of attitudes and hearts, and lift the darkness that tends to dominate as we go about our daily chores.

We get so many chances to become better human beings, and we so often dash them to the ground when we could use them to lift ourselves up to higher levels of interactions with our fellow human beings, extending a hand here and relieving some suffering there. At the minimum let us spare a prayer for all those who are these days the innocent victims of no other than their own kith and kin. Witness the heart-rending brutality in the Middle East and Ivory Coast, where the Light seems to have great difficulty to penetrate through the forces of darkness that are holding sway.

It is the same story all over, down the ages of mankind: responsible for that darkness is the Ego, and Ram Nawmi reminds us powerfully of how it led to the destruction of the hydra-headed Ravana, King of Sri Lanka, and his country. He was intelligent and well versed in the scriptures, yet he allowed himself to be ruled by his vile desires: the tamasic element predominated in him, and he was blinded by his ambition to control and conquer what was not his. Thwarted by the refusal of Sita, wife of Sri Rama, to bend to his base instincts, he preferred the path of conflict to that of conciliation, convinced of his superior intelligence and greater strength.

But neither intelligence, nor ambition or physical strength were any match for the sagacity and devotion of Sri Rama’s most humble devotee, Hanuman. Those qualities were put at the service of Sri Rama, and Ravana and his acolytes were overwhelmed and overcome. Sri Rama made a triumphant return to Ayodhya with Sita by his side, and Ramarajya was established, based on dharma: an integrating force which operates for the larger good.

It is a perennial lesson that humanity systematically refuses to learn, but would be so much better off if it did. The same message will keep being repeated during this period of Navaratri and Ram Nawmi, that the greatest gift we can ever have is not what we possess — material riches, money, degrees and so on – but what we do with what we have, what good we have done; soothing pain, relieving suffering, removing sorrow.

For, at the end of the day, what matters most is not whether we are remembered or not, but whether we have left scars with our boots or soft prints on the sands of time. A little thinking will make us understand that the choice is not at all difficult.

* Published in print edition on 8 April 2011

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