Friday, May 8, 2009

Welcome to e-Sri Sanai, Buddha Purnima, 2009

by Sri Sandip Dasgupta
Welcome to the Buddha Purnima 2009 edition of our blog, e-Sri Sanai. Our maiden venture has in general been well received, and Sri Sri Babathakur has now provided us with some suggestions on picking topics. He has constantly been encouraging us to use this informal medium to express ourselves as we try to see the eternal guiding light that He is showing us. He has asked us to begin studying some of His teachings (e.g. a chapter from Sambodhi Param) and then write up whatever it is that we have understood about the topic. I am sure all of us can do that once a quarter, can’t we? So, here is a request for all of you to do the same and send in at least one article for the Janamashtami issue that will be published on August 13, 2009.

In one of the Bhajans, His bhaktas refer to Him as ‘Jini Nitya, Shuddha, Buddha, Mukta’ (He who is Eternal, Pure, Buddha and free). So, let me try to look at why he is referred to as Buddha, the Enlightened One. After 49 days of intense meditation under a Bodhi tree, Lord Buddha is said to have realized complete awakening and insight into the nature and cause of human sufferings. According to Lord Buddha, the root cause of all sufferings in this world is ignorance. He also urged his devotees to follow an eight-fold path to eliminate suffering.

Prajnanpurush Sri Sri Babathakur is a Self-Realized soul who has realized the total identity of the Truth Divine with His own Self, as also the Self of all, symptomatizing the I-Reality. He asserts that Absolute I-Reality is the only Reality and everything else is a reflection of this I-Reality. According to Him, we have forgotten the existence of this background Consciousness and are always identifying ourselves with our physical body, family, relatives, friends, the world we live in, the objects of this world etc. This false identification causes us to establish relationships amongst each other, as well as between us and the objects of the world. We thus feel sad when somebody insults us or does not pay us the respect we expect of them. We feel sad when we do not obtain certain objects that we desire. This false identification causes us to attach ourselves to certain people or to certain objects of the world. We feel sad when those individuals leave the mortal world. I believe that this false identification (Ajnan) is the same ignorance that Lord Buddha had referred to as being the cause of all sufferings in the world.

Sri Sri Babathakur begins by asserting “All Divine, For all time, As It Is”.

What He is saying is that everything and everybody in this world is made of the same essence – and that is indeed the Divine Saccidananda. This is what he means by “All Divine”. He urges us to accept everybody and everything as the same. He further goes on to tell us that the apparent differences between people are caused by our minds and are not real. When we go into deep sleep, the mind is absent and these differences disappear! That’s why He says – “Accept All, Reject None”.

Sri Sri Babathakur is also saying that this Divine essence is so homogeneous that It does not change ever – in space or in time. What this means is that if we go from place A to place B, the nature of our Divine nature (Saccidananda) does not change – just as the sky is the same, no matter where we go. Similarly, He is asserting that the nature of our background Consciousness remains completely unchanged with the passage of time. Hence His august proclamation – “All Divine, For all time, As It Is”.

Sri Sri Babathakur also tells the worldly people to make- Right use of time- Right use of money- Right use of energy- Right use of education and- Right use of environment

This teaching is very similar to Lord Buddha’s prescribed eight-fold path of right faith, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mental attitude and right meditation. I will now attempt to present my interpretation of Sri Sri Babathakur’s aforementioned teachings:

Right use of time – Sri Sri Babathakur has repeatedly urged us to move towards perfection, no matter what action we are performing. He has told us that we are performing all the actions for the Lord and hence the results of the actions belong to Him. We must keep this in mind while going through our daily chores. Sri Ramakrishna had said “Do your duty with one hand and with the other hold to God. After the duty is over, hold to God with both hands”. Sri Sri Babathakur is similarly asking us to keep some time aside regularly for bhajan, satsang and contemplation on His teachings. He is also asking us to spend some time for charity and volunteer work – because we can utilize the opportunity to serve the Divine (as explained in “All Divine, For all time, As It is”).

Right use of money – I believe that he is asking us to not splurge money on things that will please the physical body. Instead we should spend some money on charity and serving others by remembering that the receivers are divine too - and that we should consider ourselves lucky to be given the chance of serving them.

Right use of energy – Can we imagine doing anything without energy today? So, if we do not want to become a completely inert being that wants to sit idly in one corner of a room – then we do need energy – whether it be bodily energy needed for movement, energy needed to power appliances, or energy needed to power a car. The amount of energy available to us is finite and constant - we must make the best use of that energy and conserve energy.

Right use of education – Sri Sri Babathakur refers to education in a very very broad sense. He repeatedly tells us that the formal education in schools and colleges are necessary for us to do our daily duties. However this education is not sufficient to bring us eternal happiness and joy. Hence, his repeated call for all of us to get acquainted with the I-Reality that lives within all of us, contemplate on It and become conscious of It. According to him, once we become conscious of our I-Reality, we will be working on behalf of this I-Reality. The results (happiness and sadness) will cease to belong to the individual. This “Right Knowledge” will be our path to salvation.

Right use of environment – As said earlier, everything in our environment is divine too. We are being given good food, clean water, sunshine, rain etc – all because of our environment, which is essentially divine. Therefore, it is very important for us to not waste the natural resources given to us by the Lord, and to take care of our environment properly.

It can easily be concluded that Sri Sri Babathakur is shining the direct light of Self-Realization onto the ignorance referred to by Lord Buddha. Like Lord Buddha, He is showing us a path to remove that ignorance (darkness) and realize the Divine within us. So, on this auspicious occasion let us resolve to listen to His words, reflect on them, follow the light being shown to us by Sri Sri Babathakur – and share our reflections with others by contributing our thoughts to the Janamshtami issue (and beyond) of e-Sri Sanai.

A Miraculous escape by Divine Intervention

by Smt. Sharmila Dasgupta
You may have seen a car flying in a movie. Yet I can bet that you have not had the experience of being inside a car being driven at 85 MPH, then flying in the air for a short while, with everybody miraculously escaping injuries. This can only happen through divine intervention – so please read on …

It was the summer of 1994 and my parents-in-law were visiting us from New Delhi. We had decided to take them to Los Angeles (approximately 400 miles from our house) for the weekend to visit our close friends, Sandip and Lila Dasverma. While we were in Los Angeles, we had also planned to take our sons, Rishi and Raja to Disneyland. Rishi was five, and Raja just two years old at that time. We started our journey on a Friday afternoon after work and reached Los Angeles at approximately 11 p.m. Sandipda and Liladi were very happy to see us and we talked till late into the night. Next morning we took Rishi and Raja to Disneyland. It was a very hot day and there were very long lines for almost every ride. We returned back to the Dasverma residence at 1 a.m. that night. All of us were extremely tired. Although we had a good night’s sleep, the exhaustion persisted. Since the next day was a working day, we had no choice but to start on our seven-hour return journey on Sunday afternoon – immediately after lunch. Sandipda’s then eleven year old daughter, Tulki also decided to come with us – so that she could spend a few days with us.

Before I describe the actual event, it is pertinent to provide some background information:
· At that age, Rishi would sometimes not keep his seatbelt on – this was one of those days, when he was not wearing his seatbelt.
· My mother-in-law was never a fan of wearing seatbelts and today was another day that she was not wearing her seatbelt.
· Much of the stretch from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area runs through a rural section of highway 5. There is hardly any civilization in this area. Both sides of the highway are surrounded by arid land, with hardly any vegetation. Due to the lack of scenery, this drive is very boring. Several fatal accidents have occurred on this stretch of the highway as drivers have gone to sleep at the wheel.
· Highway 5 is a two-lane highway in the rural section, where the speed limit is 70 MPH. However, cars are typically driven at approximately 85 MPH.
· There are a lot of huge trucks on this highway at all times. These trucks are driven on the right lane and cars typically are driven in the left lane. I was driving on the left lane at 85 MPH.
· There is a shoulder lane that runs to the right of the right lane. This is for emergency stopping of vehicles.

My husband drove for the first couple of hours and then I took over from him. I had driven for a couple of hours when this incident occurred. I was averaging a speed of 85 MPH. My elder son, Rishi suddenly decided to get up from his seat, walked up to my mother-in-law and declared “Time to put on our seatbelts”. He put on her seatbelt, checked everybody else’s belts, went back to his seat and put on his belt.

Suddenly I heard my husband asking me “Are you awake?”. Since I had gone to sleep at the wheel, my first reaction was to slam on the brakes. I lost control of the van. Due to sudden braking, the van took off in the air, cutting across the right lane (which is always occupied by trucks), across the right shoulder, and over the arid area along the highway. I could hear my mother-in-law chanting “Joy Ma, Joy Ma”. I was quite sure that we wouldn’t survive. The van finally landed into a dense bush – the only bush in sight within that arid area! It was like a baseball landing on a wide open baseball glove waiting to receive the ball.

Miraculously nobody was physically hurt since we all had our seatbelts on. Everybody was wearing a seatbelt, courtesy of divine intervention inspiring Rishi into spurring us all to buckle up. Although the right lane on Highway 5 is always full of cars and trucks, our flying van did not hit any vehicle because that section of the highway happened to be empty at that instant – purely through divine intervention! Lastly, our van did not suffer any damage because it got directed towards the bush – again thanks to divine intervention!

My husband alighted from the van and looked for an emergency phone to call the police. Luckily, some passing drivers had already informed the police and they arrived at the spot promptly. They too were surprised to see how little damage had occurred to the van. They declared the van safe to be driven home – still 150 miles away. They escorted us for a couple of miles till my husband felt comfortable driving it home. I was mentally shattered and could not sleep for several nights. Fifteen years have passed by, but I still have not regained the confidence to drive a van.

Yet here I am alive and relating this miraculous escape after fifteen years. Do I need to say anything else about Divine Intervention?

Probhu Amar: by Smt. Sroddha Patranabis

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My father's words of wisdom

by Mr. Subbu Subramaniam

According to Sri Sri Babathakur, a "Guru" is the one who provides us with the light to destroy our ignorance and helps us grow. He has often emphasized that our parents are our first gurus since they are the one who brought us into this world, and they are the ones who provide us with our first lessons in life. In the following article, Mr. Subramaniam reflects upon the deeper meaning of the lessons his father had taught him while he was growing up.

I never realized the power behind some of the things my father used to mention from time to time. It has been more than a dozen years since he passed away, and some of these words come back to me now. I cannot claim to be living these words all the time, but as I begin to understand my father better, I realize that he really was living them. Perhaps if I share them with more people, I can do better at living these values myself.

"What you give, you get. What you get, you lose. What you lose, you give"

I don't know if the original source of the quote was my father, but I have heard these words from him often. The play of words impressed me back then. The philosophy behind it has just about started sinking in.

The first part of the quote talks about giving. My father always believed that you need to have earned anything you get. And the way you earn your good fortune is by giving. I grew up as a member of a lower middle class family in India. We never starved, nor were we ever denied our education for want of funds. We did lead a very simple life though, even by Indian standards of the 60s and 70s.

Throughout all this, my father's motto of giving never changed. He could afford little, yet give he did. He also gave a lot with his body and mind, being available to help anyone in need at any time. I can never forget the time when my father came home saying that an assistant of his would be eligible for promotion if he took a leave of absence for a month, and that assistant filled up his position during that month. He happened to have enough vacation, so he applied for a month off right away. The best part was that he went to work every day of that month to help that assistant since the assistant was not yet familiar with things! My father was on leave merely on paper!

The second part warns us not to gloat over something that we’ve received for "free". For, if something came our way without our earning it, it is bound to evaporate just as quickly as it came! We’ve all encountered this on several occasions.

The last part helps us deal with our losses a little easier. I remember clearly, the day I walked in from school saying that I lost my brand new Physics text book! My mother was upset (it would cost to get another one), but my father just said the words above, and asked us to imagine that we had given it away to someone in need. He asked me to go and get a text book right away, and write my name on the book.

"Compare lower, not higher"

Like every child, I too had my list of things I wish I could posses. I used to come up with examples of people who were "lucky" enough to afford a fancy bicycle, a TV, or a fun week at Kulu/Manali. His advice to me on these occasions was to compare myself with those who have less than me, not the other way around. "You will feel much better that way," he would say.

Growing up in India helped in this regard. All we needed to do was to step out and look around. Within a few minutes, we would be able to spot many people much less fortunate than ourselves. Instantly one would feel better realizing that he was at least fed and clothed, and not needing to worry about there being dinner on the table. In that sense, it is a little harder for children growing up in America, for the less fortunate are not so easily visible.

I don't ever recall him reminding me that this holds true for education too. I think he never worried about my grades, only about my effort. He was willing to accept the grade I got, but not willing to see me loitering around, not studying or doing my home work. When I got a bad grade in Hindi (a tale of a "madrasi" having a hard time digesting the fancy literature of Sur Das and Prem Chand), his only response was that he would be glad to engage a tutor for me. Taking tuition (outside of school) was below dignity back then, and I refused, deciding to go at it with my own efforts. Sorry for digressing, but I sort of got carried away recollecting my early years!

"Forget what you give, remember what you get"

He never ever allowed us to talk ill of someone who was (say) not very nice to us in spite of what we did to him. He used to say, "When you help someone, do it with your full heart, never expecting anything in return. It does not matter if that person changed colors later - you should have the satisfaction of having done something for someone in need".

On the other hand, he used to say "Always remember what someone gives you -- including small gifts". Be sure to mention to them how grateful you are, or how much you love the gift they gave you". If I think about it now, not only does it make the other person feel much better, it induces the giver into give even more! The large scale effect of this can be really amazing.


by Siddhartha Dasgupta

When I was very very young, Sri Sri Babathakur asked my parents to sing a few of His revealed bhajans every evening at home. He had predicted that the atmosphere thus built-up would attract my brother and I to join the bhajan sessions. This is how I got introduced to His revealed bhajans and today His bhajans are a very important part of my daily life.

In the beginning, my mother and my grandmother (whenever she would be visiting us from New Delhi) used to lead these bhajans, with me trying to follow along. I am told that our neighbors (Subbu uncle and Latha auntie) joined us on a regular basis. When the Sat Vilas cassettes were released, we began listening to the bhajans in our car. This became a ritual as we listened to the bhajans whenever we went for a car ride. As the subsequent cassettes were released (Cit Vilas, Ananda Vilas and Sambodhi), we got to listen to a richer variety of His bhajans. I also attended the bhajan sessions whenever I was in India. The bhajans rendered at the Guru Purnima functions were very enriching for me.

As we got exposed to a wider variety of bhajans, I attempted to lead some of the bhajans along with my mother. When I was 13 years old (2002), my voice broke and I could no longer lead the bhajans at our house. I used to lock my self in the Puja room and try to play the harmonium to the tune of the bhajans. I suddenly found that I could play the harmonium well and I began focusing on playing the bhajans on the harmonium. I also began listening to the cassettes every night as I went to bed. I also began to write down the lyrics of the songs in English since I could not read Bengali at that time. My grandmother also wrote down the lyrics of the bhajans in English.

After about a year, my voice started improving and I began singing the bhajans again – this time along with the harmonium. I gradually began to take over the role of leading our evening bhajans at home. I also began focusing on learning the bhajans based on the solo style of Mr. Kedar Narayan Bodas. Soon, I found myself spending a lot of time singing solo bhajans – which I had picked up by listening to the cassettes at night! When my grandmother visited us, we would host bhajan sessions with several of our family friends and relatives joining us. We also sung these bhajans at a couple of temples in the San Francisco Bay area.

From 2003 onwards, I began singing at some of the bhajan sessions in New Delhi and Kolkata. At that time, I also used to visit “Bombay Ma” frequently. I would sing some of her favorite bhajans for her. One of her favorites was “Mon re Amar Poran Khule …” sung in the baul style.

One of the happiest moments in my life was when I received the “MAIN KAUN” CD sung by Mr. Kedar Bodas. The music and tune of the bhajans were fabulous but I could not read the lyrics as they were in Hindi. When my father wrote down the lyrics in English for me, it became very easy for me to pick up these songs. Since that day, I have been listening to these bhajans almost everyday at bedtime. I have also sung these bhajans at various occasions both within India and USA.

Nowadays I begin my day by singing some of Sri Sri Babathakur’s bhajans in the morning. We continue to listen to these bhajans in the car. We sing these bhajans at home every evening and I go to sleep while these bhajans are playing in my room. I have loaded these bhajans on my iPod, so that I can listen to them while travelling. In short, Sri Sri Babathakur’s bhajans have become a very important part of my life.

Last year, when Sri Sri Babathakur had asked Partha uncle and my father to organize an evening of these bhajans in North America, I was extremely happy. I began preparing a list of our friends who maybe interested in the program. I began distributing copies of the “Main Kaun” CDs. I began researching airfares for the artists and looking up hotels for their accommodation. I really was looking forward to being close to artists like Kedar uncle. It was a big disappointment to know that his application for a US visa had been rejected. It looks like I may have to wait another year before attending an evening of His revealed bhajans in North America.

"Kothae Ami": by Smt. Sunetra Chakroborty