Misc Articles

PK is not OK

Posted 23rd December 2014 by Swami Muktanand Puri

It is quite astonishing to see movies like PK and Haider being made in India presently and even more shocking to see the Censor Board pass them. There has been an ongoing trend to poke fun, demean and show Hindus in bad light in Indian cinema and television especially by Bollywood. The trend is to deliberately slant and twist the presentation to make the Hindu appear small, to show them down, to make us look nasty and ugly. PK is such an intentional representation. Respecting each other's faith and beliefs unless they are harmful to others or gory is an accepted norm in democratic society. One cannot insist on absolute freedom for in reality there is none as our freedom is always limited by the rights of others. One cannot play loud music and disturb one's neighbors since they have a right to peace and quiet. In the name of creativity, some people like to trample on others sensitivities, insulting them, demeaning their beliefs, and in general promoting a reckless insensitivity by hurting other's beliefs and faith. At the base of all this are many factors. To start with—Is the shock value of a particular act big enough to attract attention and second will it bring financial rewards? In any religious or spiritual system, objects of worship; Gods, Goddesses, Sannyasis, Saints, Prophets, Angels, Monks, Priests have a really high, venerable and honorable place in that particular system. By what right does anybody have the privilege to demean another's value system and to insult somebody's spiritual beliefs? If one does not disturb you, what right do you have to hurt them?

Those who follow dogmatic faiths have reached a misunderstanding that they have a right to barge into another's home and behave as they please. As seen in some cases, they make shoes with Hindu Gods and Goddesses printed on them, in another, comics of deities, further they steal and butcher Cows against the law of the land, victimize girls (the term love Jihad actually came up in UK where young Asian and White girls were and are being victimized), allure and bribe people to convert religion, coerce & force conversions and now movies portraying Hinduism in bad light. The result of these insults will only polarize society, and therefore the movie does harm to the nation to some extent by hurting sentiments. Some people will argue that it is merely a movie; Is it enough to hurt or change people? The answer to that is this continuous projection of Hindus in poor light has finally gotten under our skins and sometime soon one may get a rather shocking reaction from the people of India. Usually, the person who is the source of the provocation may get away but others will suffer for his misdeeds.

Rajkumar Hirani really needs to understand a lot but perhaps what he only wants to understand is how much money will come into his pockets, for his movie project is seriously flawed. There is no real research done to create the movie, just some hotch-potch job. Today, I find a writer of some kind of erotica accusing saints; paid media prosecuting and maligning the reputation of Swamis; and now a munnabhai director trying to dish out what is god and what is not. Perhaps Mr Hirani should understand that playing with God is not his cup of tea. He would not know the difference between a Naga, a swami, a pandit, a vairagi or a Tyagi. Why choose such an un-informed topic and create a shoddy movie? And Mr RajKumar Hirani there is a great difference between a cheap sense of humor and some classy humor. You seem to like cheap humor. Aamir Khan might want to examine his taste and judgment for he could have well refrained from doing such a movie that is in such bad taste and he could have also had much better judgment. How would Muslims like Prophet Mohammed being chased in the toilet and riding a bike? And how would Christians like Jesus under the same circumstances? Mr RajKumar Hirani have you any good sense and judgment? How could you depict Lord Shiv being chased in a toilet, on the road and riding a bike? Is there within you some kind of sadistic streak intent on insulting others? Or was it for the money?

The majority Hindu community has for much too long been at the receiving end of a bad deal from Indian politicians. The winning of the elections by a Hindu party for the first time since Independence, in part, being a reaction to such treatment along with a host of other issues; but then, even deeper than all that are more important questions. Has India really been able to imbibe democratic values? Have all the institutions been able to uphold these democratic values? Is justice really being given to all groups of Indian society? The answer to that is a big NO for turning a blind eye and letting people do what they want to is clearly irresponsible, unjust and poor governance. If the court says, if you do not like it, do not watch it, I hope they will not say next, if you do not feel safe, do not walk on that road. When one person loses his right, so eventually do all the others.

When one salutes the Flag of any country, one salutes the values, the ideals, the rights, the sentiments, the will, the faith, the respect and pride of the people enshrined in the constitution of that nation. One cannot disrespect that flag for it is not just a piece of cloth and a pole but an insignia, an emblem of the people of that country. Try insulting it and you will be jailed. In the same way, when one prays to God, bows to the statues, representations and the form of the deities, it has great meaning; it is about the faith, the respect, the love and all higher values associated with these statues, forms, Deities, Gods and Goddesses. Nobody has a right to disrespect them.

So at best one can call PK really cheap tasteless entertainment but in reality PK is an act of aggression on the Hindu population, a deliberate provocation meant to hurt the sentiments of the Hindus. And at the same time a grave failure of the Indian Democratic institutions to ensure the respect of the majority community.

Immature Indian Media

Posted 11th November 2014 by Swami Muktanand Puri

Was just watching an episode of Newslaundry in which Ms Madhu Trehan interviews Shri Rajdeep Sardesai. Quite surprised to hear Rajdeep finally admit that he committed a mistake when he got physical with an NRI in New York. Both of them seem to blame it on Trolls. Funny, it looked to me more like Rajdeep was the troll, asking outright inciting questions to an Indian crowd in a foreign land, trying to elicit the kind of response he wanted, but did not get and in the end, in frustration venting out his aggression by being physical. It isn't clear why being called "Paid Media" riled him, after all, he was the one, all the while asking obnoxious questions, so a small measure of his own medicine shouldn't have hurt.

Fact it, for the Indians in US it was a big event to have their Prime Minister visiting. Most people back home do not realize that most NRI's tend to be more of a nationalist than the average person in India. In large part, the reason is that being away from home one realizes the values of the Hindu and Indian system are really incomparable and one has pride for one's country. Now to put out anti-national questions trying to rile and instigate a nationalist crowd can only be termed as outright stupid. Somehow these Journalists have been pretending that part of their journalistic duties are to ask hate filled, illogical, often stupid, provoking and even sadistic questions to persons and that they must be tolerated in the name of journalism and media. Since when did stupidity & aggressive questioning pass of as journalism. Agreed that aggressive questioning may be used as an exception in interviews where there is reason to do so, but using it most of the time, making it into an almost patent style for a Journalist is unacceptable. Ms Madhu Trehan goes on to ask if Rajdeep and his channel were changing their News style "So are you giving the news or Is it the usual shouting?" What? Did I hear "Usual Shouting". Now Lady, did you know just how much some of us hate what the media has done to news, reporting and journalism in this country? Whenever there is a Debate, it is absolutely intolerable to hear those voices on the TV, always fighting, always aggressive. It has reached a level where it is impossible to follow the discussion any more as the sheer aggression has crossed all boundaries of decency. This is what the media has done—they lack the consciousness required to promote higher cultural values and have instead by the means of programs such as 'The Big Fight' promoted an aggressive and obnoxious culture. If anyone is guilty of reducing our culture to a value where misbehavior is the norm, it is in large measure due to these News TV channels who try to sensationalize News, trying to dramatize and spice it up, in the manner they present it that alters the behavior of people. It is not just that, but it is also the way in which these TV channels and their Anchors disrespect people, all the while promoting this culture of disrespect which is at great odds with Hindu, Indian and might I add Muslim culture as well; thus giving rise to a new rougher culture. Actually, this kind of shouting will never be accepted in the West either.

Can you imagine a leading Anchor of CNN or BBC referring to the Pope or a leading spiritual leader as that Guy? Irrespective of their other deficiencies, in the western world, at least the Western Media does not allow itself the unprofessionalism and the privilege of being casual and disrespectful to individuals, to their leaders, and especially to their spiritual leaders. Further in the episode Madhu Trehan asks Rajdeep rather sarcastically "I will do to you what Shri Shri Ravishankar did; Ask you if you are really happy". And somewhat down the interview (2-3 lines) Rajdeep replies that as a journalist one gets to meet all these guys (including Shri Shri RaviShankarji). Just for clarification, neither am I a follower of Shri Shri nor do I have any contact with him, but it is just that I find it really unacceptable the way the media address people—politicians, spiritual leaders and even individuals. This is decay of our culture and the Indian media has promoted a culture of disrespect and crudeness. On numerous occasions I have observed how the media had very improperly addressed numerous Sannyasi's and on occasion even none less than the Shankracharya has been addressed casually and improperly. Now is Shri Shri RaviShankar just another guy on the street? Really? I would have thought he deserves much more respect than that. Why such a casual and unproffessional attitude?

Actually, the Indian Media suffers from an acute dose of overconfidence, a lack of professionalism, over sensationalization and over dramatization of news and other programs. They also lack the correct attitude of a journalist which should be neutral. Why is such crude behavior being passed off as Journalism in India? And when will Indian Media become mature and reasonable? But then let me address an issue which is far greater in depth than that of mere rudeness or disrespect though they are deeply linked. At least, I always had the impression that the media and journalists were our champions and would project our causes, project righteousness, right thinking and stand up for humane issues. But the above incidents from amongst a host of similar events will clearly make one understand that the media is not a champion of the masses, but that individuals and channels wish to project themselves for gains in finance and popularity. Do any of these journalists actually understand democratic values and hold them dearly? Do they actually uphold them and are they really the fourth estate? These are the questions one may ask.

Sometime back, I was watching a video of Shri Rajat Sharma at IIT where he seemed to project immense hurt when the media was called paid and criticized by Shri Arvind Kejriwal. What struck me was the great agony that Shri Rajat Sharma projected over Shri Arvind Kejriwal's statement of punishing dishonest/ paid journalists, nearly as though the criticism had been directed personally to him. I was rather stunned by his reaction, he being such a senior well known journalist and find it difficult to digest the attitude that Shri Rajat Sharma was showing and that being that one has to consider all members of the journalistic fraternity as honest, almost like a Dogma. "No Indian Journalist is dishonest". Is that what Shri Rajat Sharma would have us believe? Can such a position be termed as neutral, realistic, or even possible? Why is the Indian Media so averse to being questioned, to being criticized? After all, Is that not what they do?

The Indian media desperately needs a fresh perspective, much introspective thinking and a drastic change in their working to become truly professional for in their present working they are decades and boundaries removed from professionalism.

My Path to Light

Posted 14th October 2011 by Swami Muktanand Puri

Early on, when I started walking on the spiritual path, one of the things that I read was the Philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism which looks upon the Guru as one of the powers of god called grace. The Guru is both a tattva as well as a person, the person is representative of a door or a path to perfection, to god. (The word Tattva means a distinct state of existence of being. It is a technical term used to explain the philosophy. For example the solid state is distinct from the liquid state and these states can be termed as Prithvi Tattva or earth state (solid) and Jal Tattva or water state (liquid) respectively. Similarly at the subtle level there exist many states or forms of energy distinct from each other. These too are termed as Tattvas. In Sankhya philosophy and other philosophies we come across the term Manas Tattva or mind which is a state of subtle matter, Buddhi Tattva or intellect state that is a again a state of subtle matter and Ahamkar Tattva or identity state; a state of subtle matter.)

Swami Tarkeshwaranad Tirth of Jabalpur is one of the Swamis that I met in the beginning of this spiritual journey, though I did not see him frequently, yet he played a pivotal role in my journey. The first time I met Swamiji was in the year 2001 after the Allahabad MahaKumbh in Benaras. There he graciously invited me to his ashram in Jabalpur. Swami Tarkeshwaranand is a direct disciple of Swami Vishnu Tirth who was one of the most respected masters in his time and was well known in certain restricted circles. Swami Vishnu Tirth had travelled to US and other countries as well, but again was known only in restricted circles. He was the author of many books almost all of which were in Hindi except for 'Devatma Shakti' which was written in English. This lineage is the main Lineage of the 'Shaktipat' tradition (similar to Swami Muktananda's Ganeshpuri lineage) and has remained very closed and restricted. This lineage has the maximum number of monks and sadhaks of the shaktipat tradition and yet is the least publicized. I bring up Swami Tarkeshwaranand's name because it he who set many benchmarks for me on the spiritual path.

One of the things that he had explained to me was that the Guru is like a transformer between god and the human being. Since an average person cannot tolerate the unlimited million volts of energy that is god or that god possesses, so god created gurus, so that the guru could pass on a much lower voltage, say 220 volts much like a step-down transformer. It was again he who reinforced what I already knew, that the physical Guru is an instrument in the hands of god, that the guru is the aspect of god as grace. All this impressed my mind and among other things this lead to a much broader conceptual understanding of the Guru and Guru Force in comparison to the usual understanding that most common people have. This is not to say that the person who is your Guru is a mere instrument. To clarify, for the student the Guru should always be considered as a living, walking, talking god.

Swami Tarkeshwaranand is very well versed in many forms of Tantra Sadhanas (here the word tantra means spiritual practices, mostly the practice of repetition of mantras, reading of textual practices, use of Yantra in worship and so on.) most of which he obtained from teachers who were legends. Commenting on everything that he had learned he said "The Guru sent me to learn various forms of prayer and sadhanas, perhaps my mind was complicated. I do not know why I had to learn so much" referring to numerous types of practices that he had performed and completed. One of the other concepts that he passed on to me was that the greatness of a sannyasi lies in his ability to remain unknown. After all a sannyasi is like a Lion, all he needs to do is roar and he will be heard, but to the contrary here it is the effort to withhold that roar, to remain almost anonymous that makes him great. He said "Great are not those who are known, but great are those sannyasis who remain unknown" echoing the thoughts and words of other great masters including well known saints like Swami Vivekanand.

It was very interesting being with a Guru of the caliber of Swamiji. When I first met him in Jabalpur, his eyes were red like live burning coal or like the rising sun. Later, after a few months when I met him, his eyes had calmed down to the normal colour. When I asked him about the previous red colour of his eyes and the change, he said that it was due to the effect of the Kundalini in a particular position that the eyes had turned red.

During the time that I was with him in the ashram he started explaining to me many different subjects. Some of these subjects were difficult for me to understand especially the Hindi and Sanskrit terms as I had studied more of English. This lack of my ability to understand these terms and many other things annoyed him and one day he rebuked me especially in context to my being a Brahmin by birth by saying "You do not know this, your father did not practice this nor did he teach you and so on, referring to some basic spiritual practices; but I had followed a somewhat different system". Most people will understand how difficult it is to accept criticism, especially when your father is being rebuked along with you, but I realized that in his given position he was correct and accepted his rebuke as Prasad. (Since I write this article for your benefit, allow me to point out that acceptance of one's own shortcomings along with the acceptance of the Guru as a well wisher, are the first steps in the process of spiritual transformation. On the spiritual path in our tradition this step is a major step on the path to success.) From amongst many things that he advised me to do, one thing that I followed particularly was his advice to learn different prayers.

During our interaction over a few days, at one point, Swamiji had offered to initiate me into the shaktipat tradition saying that after the diksha I would be immediately able to initiate others into the shaktipat tradition. In the few days that I stayed with him I could feel my body starting to rotate in a movement of the Kundalini peculiar to the Shaktipat tradition. For me it was very intense, quite uncomfortable and generally intolerable. I understood that I was not ready for such a massive dose of energy transfer as well as the accompanying life style and that the rapid pace of change was going to be almost impossible to keep up with, both physically and mentally. (Here it is worthwhile pointing out that many persons look upon this energy transfer or initiation as some kind of game. It is important to understand that neither is the initiation a game nor a monk, a sannyasi and a guru a toy that one may buy as though he is some kind of specialty.) Swamiji too realized that. Then, it was he who directed me to Swami Shukdevanandji.

If an initiation is real it will start a real change. The most important thing to understand is that spiritual energy is a dynamic energy that will start a process of change. Unfortunately, most people, especially westerners do not really comprehend this process. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. A real initiation will start a change and one has to let go of the old habits and circumstances and adapt to a new life. If you cling to your old life and you wish to have this spiritual power, then it will only be possible if you are already in a very clean spiritual state. Otherwise, one will have an internal conflict that will end only in, either the removal and destruction of this spiritual energy that your Guru gifted you or you will end up doing some of those negative deeds with even greater negative impact on yourself as well as damaging and lowering your own spiritual and mental state than the initial one. I would like to point out that at one stage there is destruction of inhibition often with the feeling of euphoria of unparalleled freedom. Most frequently it is accompanied by the fulfilling of many wishes. This is only a temporary or initial positive sign from prakriti (or mother nature). For westerners and modern Indians often this converts into a sexual freedom where those who you want appear and wishes start getting fulfilled. At this point if you chase your desires you will become spiritually doomed and if you survive it will be with really big spiritual losses. This is one point where you need the support and guidance of the Guru which will be possible only if you have surrendered to the Guru and in even rarer cases one may survive due to the spiritual merits of past lives.

Swami Tarkeshwaranand has Vak siddhi meaning whatever he says has the power of turning into reality. That makes him and similar sannyasis with similar powers, perhaps for lack of another term I will use the term -- dangerous. The next time I saw him he again reprimanded me and told me to go and live in the forest. I later came to realize that this was part of the reason for my long period of sadhana spent in the forest. After that I spent about two years in the forest with Tatambari baba. A very good experience but, it completely ruined my body and health, though, spiritually it was very rewarding. Another one of my very dear master's, Swami Hariharanand Bharti had similar power, to add to this Swami Hari loved to joke. Usually, I would stop Swami Hari from joking since it scared me. Actually, I suppose it is the same with all siddh's (perfected masters), they all have strong will power (Iccha Shakti). I have tried to explain the term willpower in the spiritual context in my article Iccha Shakti. In this article the example that I give of the Guru and shishya who were travelling together when the fire broke out refers to Swami Vishnu Tirth and Swami Tarkeshwaranand Tirth.

The beauty of being able to spend time with such spiritual masters was that one is able to learn so much in a much shorter time both due to the presence of this dynamic spiritual energy as well as the knowledge. One is also able to see the habits and practices of the Guru. One time I was visiting another master who is a siddh with some other sannyasis. In the conversation a devotee points out "Do what the Guru says but do not copy what he does. If you copy him you will get into very big trouble. Guruji bathes in cold water at midnight in the winters in the Yamuna river. If I had to try that I would be sick in bed for a couple of weeks."

Focus on the aim

Posted 11th November 2014 by Swami Muktanand Puri

This is a small tale from the Mahabharat, an epic and a great scripture.
The Guru Dronacharya gave weapons training to the princes of Hastinapur. He taught them how to use the bow and the arrows. Along with the princes, Guru Dronacharya's son Ashwatthama also studied. Ashwatthama was jealous as he felt that his father was partial to the Prince Arjun. So one day he asked his father why he thought that only Arjun was fit for the highest teaching. Guru Dronacharya told Ashwatthama that he would prove Arjun's calibre.

One day Guru Dronacharya set up a test for the numerous princes. Guru Dronacharya asked them "Look there what do you see"? One student said "I see you, all the students, the field and the trees", another said "I see the trees and their branches with many leaves and a bird on the tree. A third said "I see a tree with a bird on it". And so on and so forth. When Guru Dronacharya asked Ashwatthama he said "I see you and the tree and the bird on it". Finally Guru Dronacharya asked his favourite student "Arjun, What do you see?" Arjun said "Guruji, I see only the eye". Arjun was referring to the eye of the bird that was kept on the tree for target practice. So Guru Dronacharya said "Shoot" and promptly Arjun shot the target bird in the eye and brought it down.

That is focus.
If any spiritual practitioner has to observe all the nonsense that happens around him while doing a practice then he would never finish even one single practice. If one had to observe all the activities that go on in an ashram, one could very well forget the purpose of living there. If I had to listen to who was saying what, or care for my comfort, or disobey the Guru or let others misguide me or get involved in other activities, or be scared of animals, or of poisonous snakes, or be distracted by imaginary fears, or follow imaginary dreams or forget my prayers then I would have never ever gotten one anushthan (spiritual practice of 41 days usually done in the forest) completed.

One has to decide one's aim, and then go for it with complete determination, total dedication and focus on the goal alone. Only then does a sadhak (spiritual practitioner) complete one's sadhana (spiritual practice).

Strive to be focussed
A sadhak or spiritual practitioner has to be extremely focussed on his goal. A lot of spiritual people spend their time in empty talk, seemingly spiritual, garbed in make believe spirituality. None of this leads to spiritual development. Many people will say "We can't sit for more than an hour in a day" or "Our mind doesn't stay on the prayers, we have so many other problems" or "We do not have the time". To such people what can the Guru say? They have all the time in the world for spiritual practice but their minds are so undisciplined that they cannot get themselves to do what they need to do. They simply lack focus. Such minds are not ready for spiritual work. The process of doing one's spiritual practice has to be even more focussed and disciplined than the effort needed to earn one's living. Spirituality demands very serious commitment if one wishes to be Enlightened or Liberated.

One must be able to practice like the movements of the clock or the rising and setting of the Sun. Continuously day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, and that is the only way.

When you aim, aim for the highest- for enlightenment, for liberation. One must work so hard that he is liberated, that one leaves this cycle of repeated births and deaths, and that one is never born again.

It is not just lack of focus that leads to destruction of one's effort but there are two other very important points. One is lack of respect for the Guru or teacher. There is a popular saying in India that spiritual masters have their feet on the earth but their heads are in the heaven, meaning that they may seem ordinary but they have very high consciousness.

The other point concerns the ego of the Sadhak or the student. This is actually the main obstacle to spiritual growth. One of the key ways in which the ego acts is when the aspirant starts to feel that he is spiritually very advanced. There is a saying "It takes a lot to know how little you know". This is some ways sums up the position of the aspirant. One must respect the spiritual practice or the mantra that is given by the Guru. Overconfidence leads to many problems. Each spiritual practice has an effect, once the aspirant has received the practice from the Guru, one must practice as instructed. Once the practice starts taking effect there is a reaction within the mind. The practice attempts to remove dirt from the person's mind. If the practice is overdone it will give a sharper reaction therefore the guidance of the Guru is essential. If the practice does not have any effect or has a poor effect then what is the point of doing it? So one must stick to the instructions of repetition of the mantra and to any other instructions that were given.

As with all other things in the world not everyone who does a practice may understand the practice or the system, therefore if in doubt ask the Guru. Do not let others undermine your confidence or misguide you.

In all traditions of the world it is said that god is pure. That means that to let the power of god or for god to live in you, one must become pure. To become pure is a very long and continuous process. One cannot expect to achieve it in a short period. It can take many years, for some, it may even be more than one lifetime. Therefore maintain your focus at all times.