Celebrations bring joy to life if we take them in a proper spirit. They definitely bring joy if we make them as a part of our spiritual practice. If we do not connect celebrations to spiritual practice, then often they become mechanical social activities and ultimately bring boredom and drudgery. Often celebrations bring pain. For example if one is poor and cannot buy gifts and sweets as rich people do, then for him/her Diwali brings more pain than joy. However, if we make Diwali as an occasion to do more spiritual practice, then our joy will be doubled irrespective of how much money we have and how much we spend.
Our forefathers were wise and they connected all celebrations with worship of gods and goddesses. During Diwali, as we decorate our homes and shops, the temples are also being decorated and one of the traditional things to do is to perform a special worship at home and go to temples to pray to God.
During Diwali, many worship three goddesses: Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Saraswati. These are three forms of three gunas: tamas, rajas, and sattva respectively. Prakruti, the Power of God is made out of these three gunas. All three gunas are needed in human life. Sri Ramakrishna used to sing a bhajan “Shyama Maa ki aamaar kaalo…” Is my mother Shyama is of dark complexion? People say it, but my mind does not accept it. Because my Mother manifests in various complexions like fair, yellow, brown etc. and she is also beyond all complexions or forms. When we follow right path, then Mother Kali gives us boons. But, when we take destructive paths forgetting the existence of divinity lying within, then Mother Kali appears to us as a terrible tamasik or destructive reality of life. Maha Lakshmi gives us prosperity and worldly pleasures. Maha Saraswati gives us knowledge to realize our inner divinity, Atman (Soul). People also worship Sri Rama and celebrate Diwali as a beginning of a new era of Sri Rama’s kingdom which is based on values and conducive to the well-being of all. Diwali is a time to worship and pray whatever form of God we like and thus grow spiritually.
Diwali is also a festival of light. Shri Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, “Those who love Me (God) and are devoted to Me, I, who is residing in their hearts (as Atman), out of compassion destroy their ignorance with a lamp of knowledge (of Atman).” (Gita 10.11) Lamp is used in all religions of the world. In Vedic time, Rishis and students worship only fire in their Ashramas. Lamp is a symbol of the fire.
Lamp – a symbol of Knowledge, Love & a Purifier:I always tell students that lamp is a symbol of three things: knowledge, love, and a purifier. In the light we see everything clearly. In the darkness we grope around and bumped with things and people. Thus a lamp is a symbol of knowledge. With spiritual knowledge we can live a sane life. Without it we do not know which forces of the mind are acting on us to think, speak, and behave in a certain way. As fire gives us warmth in the winter, spiritual knowledge develops unselfish love in us. There is no warmth like unselfish love. Thus, a lamp is a symbol of unselfish love. Finally, as fire burns everything, spiritual knowledge burns all impurities of our mind. Thus a lamp is a purifier.
Lamp – a symbol of Four Yogas: Lamp is also a symbol of four yogas. The clay holder is a symbol of Karma Yoga (attaining perfection through action) as one has to work to make this clay holder from the clay. Oil is the symbol of Bhakti Yoga, the path to attain God through devotion or love for God. Wick symbolises Raja Yoga, attaining perfection through control on the senses and the mind. To make a wick we have to roll cotton fibers and make the wick pointed at the end. Finally, the flame symbolises Jnana Yoga, a path to attain Self-knowledge through proper reasoning and comtemplation. We have to remember attaining perfection, or God realization, or Self-knowledge are same things.
Now, I will share with you a childrens’ Diwali song which I had written and composed. Unfortunately we do not have Diwali songs that people can sing together. All over India people celebrate Diwali. But, Diwali songs were not developed as the Christmas songs developed in the western countries. I wish poets and musicians can write and compose many popular Diwali songs. It is a great joy to sing such songs on a special occasion.
You can listen to the song by clicking the audio given below and read the words. It was sung by a few of the Vidyapith teachers and students. Here is the song.
Wish you Happy Diwali
We decorate our homes.
We light up our lamps.
We pray to our God.
We greet our friends and family.
Wish you Happy Diwali
We wish you Happiness
We wish you Inner Peace
We wish you good health and prosperity.
Wish you Happy Diwali
After celebrating Diwali with spiritual practices, one can enjoy the things associated with Diwali, like rangoli, sweets and fireworks according to one’s capacity and taste.
Diwali is for Daanam (charity): It is also a tradition to give money to the poor and needy and to the people who work hard to provide our needs like maids, cooks, mail-person and others. Diwali comes to teach us to give.
During my stay at the Belur Math, Kolkata, India, I was fortunate to visit Mahendra Nath Gupta’s (M.’s) house. I will be sharing a few pictures I had taken of his house and a few thoughts related to M. and his house.
Most people are familiar with Mahendra Nath Gupta (M.), the recorder of “Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita”, (“The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna”) written in Bengali language. Later, this Gospel has been translated in all major Indian and Non-Indian languages. M. wrote this great immortal book in this house.
I have been regularly reading The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna from my childhood and still each time I read it I get new inspiration from it and I understand the teachings a bit more. Many times when I have questions, surprisingly I find the answers from reading the Gospel. It seems Sri Ramakrishna knew my questions. There is nothing mystical about it. Many have similar experiences. Revered Swami Adiswaranandaji once said that while reading the Gospel, sometimes one feels that some sentences were just addressed to me. I found that according to the state of my mind the teachings of the Gospel appealed to me. Sometimes I wonder whether I had read this portion in the past. I read it before, but it did not draw my attention at that time. It is amazing to see that one can find guidance from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna at every step of spiritual journey from the beginning to the God realization.
I learned so much about M., M.’s house and how he wrote the Gospel from Swami Chetananandaji’s book, “Mahendra Nath Gupta (M.)” – The recorder of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Vedanta Society of St. Louis, USA.
Sri Ramakrishna said to M. on June 25, 1884, “The other day I thought of going to your house. What is your address?” Sri Ramakrishna could not go to M.’s house. But, after Sri Ramakrishna passed away in 1886, Holy Mother Sri Saradadevi lived with M.’s family on many occasions, sometimes for a week, a fortnight, or even a few months at a time.
Once when Holy Mother was staying at M.’s house, Sri Ramakrishna appeared in her dream and asked her to worship Goddess Durga in M.’s shrine. This was M.’s wish which Sri Ramakrishna could not fulfill. On October 8, 1888, Holy Mother installed Sri Ramakrishna’s picture and Sri Chandi Mangal Ghat (a sacred urn filled with water in which Goddess Durga is invoked) on the altar of the shrine on the third floor. At that time M. named his house, “Thakur Bari” (The Master’s House). Holy Mother initiated many devotees in M.’s shrine. Swami Vivekananda and many other direct disciples had meditated there. Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda, M. and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna used the same wooden staircase which is still there to go on to the third floor. When I was climbing up the staircase I felt I am touching the past. At that time the presence of Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda and M. and also of Sri Ramakrishna became real.
Adjacent to the shrine is an annex, and next to that is the roof where M. planted flowering trees in tubs. Swami Vivekananda, M. and other devotees meditated on the roof for hours.
Holy Mother stayed on the second floor. M. had collected the relics of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother, Sri Ramakrishna’s shirt, shawl, chappals, a water pot, a small jug, and the ink pot that M. had used to write the Gospel have been preserved in the room of the second floor. Sri Ramakrishna gave a picture of Sri Chaitanya and his kirtan party to M. as a gift. Sri Ramakrishna kept this picture in his room till he moved to Kolkata in later years. This picture has been kept on the wall of this room.
M. just wrote few words in his diary. Before writing down the whole incident and conversation, M. meditated several times on the incident and when the whole incident came back to his mind, then he wrote it down.
Swami Nikhilananda, the founder and Spiritual Head of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York (1933-1973) did an excellent translation of “Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita” from Bengali to English and gave a title, “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.” Thus, the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna were introduced to the western world. In its forward the famous English writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) wrote the following:
“”M”, as the author modestly styles himself, was peculiarly qualified for his task. To a reverent love for his master, to a deep and experiential knowledge of that master’s teaching, he added a prodigious memory for the small happenings of each day and a happy gift for recording them in an interesting and realistic way. Making good use of his natural gifts and of the circumstances in which he found himself, “M” produced a book unique, so far as my knowledge goes, in the literature of hagiography. No other saint has had so able and indefatigable a Boswell. Never have the small events of a contemplative’s daily life been described with such a wealth of intimate detail. Never have the casual and unstudied utterances of a great religious teacher been set down with so minute a fidelity….”
Swami Vivekananda’s lectures and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna played a significant role in making people aware of the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna all over the world. Many great personalities have expressed their tribute to Sri Ramakrishna.
Leo Tolstoy called Sri Ramakrishna a “remarkable sage.”
Romain Rolland considered Sri Ramakrishna to be the “consummation of two thousand years of the spiritual life of the three hundred million people.”
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Sri Ramakrishna’s life enables to see God face to face. He was a living embodiment of godliness.”
Maharshi Aurobindo wrote, “When skepticism had reached its height, the time had come for spirituality to assert itself and establish the reality of the world as a manifestation of the spirit, the secret of the confusion created by the senses, the magnificent possibilities of man and the ineffable beatitude of God. This is the work whose consummation Sri Ramakrishna came to begin and all the development of the previous two thousand years and more since Buddha appeared has been a preparation for the harmonization of spiritual teaching and experience by the Avatar (Incarnation of God) of Dakshineshwar (Sri Ramakrishna).”
Jawaharlal Nehru described Sri Ramakrishna as “one of the great Rishis of India, who had come to draw our attention to the higher things of life and of the spirit.”
After M. published second leaflet of the part of “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,”
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi wrote to M. on July 4, 1897, “My dear child, whatever you heard from the Master was true. You should not feel any fear in publishing them. At one time he left those teachings in your custody, and now he is bringing them to light through you. Know for certain that people’s spiritual consciousness will not be awakened without bringing out those teachings… One day while I was listening to your manuscript, I felt as if the Master was saying all those things.”
Swami Vivekananda wrote to M. on November 24, 1897, “My dear M. Many many thanks for your second leaflet. It is indeed wonderful. The move is quite original and never was the life of a great Teacher brought before the public untarnished by the writer’s mind as you are doing. The language also is beyond all praise-so fresh, so pointed and withal so plain and easy. I am really in a transport when I read them. Strange, isn’t it? Our teacher and Lord was so original and each one of us will have to be original or nothing. I now understand why none of us attempted his life before. It has been reserved for you-this great work. He is with you evidently. P.S. Socratic dialogues are Plato all over. You are entirely hidden. Moreover, the dramatic part is infinitely beautiful. Everybody likes it here and in the West.”
Holy Mother once remarked about M., “Is he an ordinary man? He has recorded so many teachings of the Master. Is there any other avatar whose picture and conversations have been taken and recorded in such detail? It as if the Master himself is speaking in M.’s book.”
The following are three famous shlokas of the famous collection of hymns of the Mother of the Universe Durga. The collection is called “Shri Durga Saptashati,” which means 700 verses regarding Mother Durga.
I will give a very simple meaning of these three shlokas which are recited regularly in thousands of Hindu temples, and Ashrams, and in millions of homes. I will also share few of my thoughts related to these shlokas.
Sarva mangal maangalye Shive sarvaaratha saadhike
Sharanye tryambake Gauri Naaraayani namostu te (11-10)
Gunaashraye gunamaye Naaraayani namestu te (11-11)
Sharanaagata dinaarta paritraana paraayane
Sarva syaarti hare Devi Naaraayani namostu te (11-12)
Sarva mangal maangalye – Mother Durga is most auspicious among those that are auspicious
One finds word “Mangala” in several Hindu hymns, like “Mangalam Bhagavan Vishnu, Mangalam Garudadhwaja…” or in a bhajan of Lord Hanuman, “Mangala murati….” Why and how Mother Durga, or Lord Vishnu, or Lord Hanumana is auspicious? We have to experience this fact. Without having any experience of this auspiciousness, these will be just words. Suppose we repeat thousand times “Himalayas are great.” But, without seeing Himalayas, we cannot comprehend the greatness of the Himalayas. Similarly, we have to do spiritual practice, make spiritual progress, and go near Mother Durga, or any form of God to feel Her/His auspiciousness. When we go closer to God in the form of Mother or Father or Formless Brahman, we see positive transformation in our lives and then we appreciate their auspiciousness. We feel that our lives were blessed by spiritual progress. After that experience these words mean much more to us.
Shive – One who brings good to us
As Lord Shiva brings good to all, Mother Durga brings good to all. Actually, Shiva and Shakti (Universal Mother) are same. Shakti is the power of Shiva which manifests in the role of creation, preservation, and dissolution. Again, through spiritual progress we can realize how Mother Durga brings good to our lives. This does not mean that we always have a good time and miseries do not come. Miseries do come. But, we think that these miseries are sent by the Mother and they may have some underlying purpose. We try to avoid miseries, but if they come, then we have to go through them and wait till we understand their purpose. Swami Vivekananda said that many times we learn greater lessons from miseries than from happiness. It is a fact that miseries had made many great people. If we do not take this attitude, then we fall apart in miseries. It is our choice.
SarvaarthaSaadhike – Mother fulfills all our legitimate desires
Not all desires are bad. We can have desires to be virtuous, to develop knowledge and devotion. Also, when we make spiritual progress, then we realize that some of our desires are harmful to us and some are foolish. We drop such desires. We also realize that Mother fulfills our legitimate worldly desires. Finally, when God-realization comes, then we have such infinite bliss that we do not need any desire. We desire to be happy. When we attain infinite bliss then we do not need any desire.
Sharanye – Universal Mother is the only refuge for us all
Why should we take refuge of a person or a place which has limited capacity? Why not take refuge of the Universal Mother who had created the sun, the earth, all beings, food and everything that exist and she is taking care of us all? One can say that in practical life we may have to take refuge of a person or a place. It is true. But, in that case, we have to think that the Universal Mother is giving us refuge through this person or a place. This way we have self-dignity and we do not become a slave of a person or a place. All Saints and Sadhus who have renounced everything, they completely depend on God. And they experience how God takes care of them. We find many such incidences in the life of Swami Vivekananda during his life as a wandering monk. He had taken refuge of the Universal Mother and in critical times Mother took care of him in various ways.
Tryambake and Gauri– Both are names of Mother Parvati. Again, Shiva and Shakti are same. Just as Shiva has an eye of Knowledge, Universal Mother has an eye of Knowledge. Gauri is another name of Mother Parvati, the power of Lord Shiva.
Naaraayani – Naraayana is Lord Vishnu. Naraayani is the power of Lord Vishnu. Narraayana also means God who is omnipresent, who is everywhere. The Mother of the Universe is also omnipresent. We are all children of the Mother. The Universal Mother is living through us and is manifesting through the whole universe.
Namostu te – I salute to the Mother Durga.
Saluting means respecting Mother and making Her the ideal of our lives.
Srushti-sthiti-vinaashaanaam shaktibhute – Mother is the Power of God that creates, preserves, and dissolute the universe.
We have to admit that there is some power which had created this universe, is preserving this universe and can destroy or dissolute this universe in any minute. If this power wants to destroy this universe, then no human power or science or religion can save it. Sri Ramakrishna says that God laughs when a doctor says, “Don’t worry mother, I am going to save your son.” He does not know that the son is going to die. Sooner we understand this fact that God creates, preserves, and destroys or dissolute, better for us. Then, we do not talk foolish things and do not behave as an ignorant person. Doctors do save life. But, sensible doctors know that everything is not in their hands.
Sanaatani – Mother Durga (the Power of God) is eternal.
Everything in this universe is for a short time. Anything that is created is going to die or parish. This is an undeniable fact. Only Brahman or Its manifestation (its Power Mother Durga) is eternal. The Universe comes out from Brahman, remains in Brahman and merges in Brahman. One may call it Cosmic Consciousness or by any other name. Scientists also tell the same thing. One day this universe will consolidate into energy and merges with the energy.
Gunaashraye – Mother Durga is a support of three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tams.
According to the Sankhya Philosophy, this universe is made out of Purusha (Consciousness) and Prakruti (Matter). Both are eternal. Prakruti (which is also considered as the Power of God) is made out of three gunas; sattva, rajas, and tams. The whole universe is functioning because of the imbalance of these three gunas. When the three gunas are balanced all the activities of the universe stop and it merges into Purusha or Brahman. This is an excellent way explaining the activities in the universe. One has to study in greater detail to understand this explanation. In Bhagavad Gita, these three gunas have been described in detail, especially in chapters 14, 17, and 18.
Gunamaye – Mother Durga is full of virtues.
We ask Mother to help us in developing virtues in us. Sri Ramakrishna says that when a king is coming to someone’s house, then one can see that roads leading to his house are paved, trees and plants are planted on this road, house is fixed, excellent furniture arrives etc. Thus, when one is going near God, then all the virtues like compassion, unselfish love, truth, non-violence, forgiveness and others manifest in the life of that person.
Sharanaagata-dinaarta – One who has surrendered to Mother, is humble, and suffering (another meaning is intensely desiring to realize Mother’s presence in everything).
Three words are important; to surrender, having humility and inner urge to realize the Mother or God.
Sharanaagata – One who has surrendered.
What does it mean by ‘surrendering to the Mother’? It means to realize that in reality the Mother is doing everything and we are just Her instruments. Bhagavad Gita says to renounce ‘doer-ship’ and ‘owner-ship.’ Sri Ramakrishna used to sing a bhajan, “Sakoli tomaari ichhaa,” meaning, “O Mother! You are doing everything, but people say that ‘we do it.’ O Mother! We are the machines and you are the operator.’ He also said that the way a house-maid takes care of everything of a master’s house as if all belong to her, but in her mind it is clear that nothing belongs to her, similarly we have to live in this world taking care of everything but keeping in mind that everything belongs to the Mother. We do not even have control on our body and all the systems working in our body. If we realize this then we feel the presence of the power of God, or the Universal Mother.
If we surrender, then we will have peace of mind. We do not take the burden of the world on ourselves. We do not worry for which we cannot do anything. Just as a child is worry-free in the presence of his/her mother, we will be worry-free thinking that the Mother will take care of us. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that just like a child he just eats, sleeps, and enjoys living in the world being completely dependent on the Mother.
There are three kinds of surrender: a monkey baby holding its mother, a kitten being held by its mother cat, and a dead body carried by people. When we hold on to God as a baby-monkey holds its mother, then there is a fear of falling. After some spiritual practices, when the Mother or God holds our hands, then there is no fear of falling, means giving up spiritual practice or start living improper life. One can complain like kittens when the Mother puts one in uncomfortable situations. Surrendering like a dead body means no complain at all. Whatever the care-takers do to the body, it is okay. That means one is completely dependent on the Mother in any situation of life. This does not mean that a person becomes inert. But, in this state person has such deep conviction that the Mother does everything, then why to worry. Just keep performing once responsibilities and let no other thoughts come and disturb the mind.
Dina – one who is filled with humility.
In this state, one prays, ‘O Mother of the Universe! I am devoid of virtues. Please help me develop virtues in me. I have many weaknesses. I am trying to get rid of them, but I am not getting successful. I need your help. I cannot focus my mind. My mind is difficult to control. Help me Mother.’ All great Saints and Sadhus had expressed such feelings. For example, Shri Shankaraachaarya said in a hymn, “Matsamah paataki naasti…,” “O Mother! There is no sinner like me and there is no purifier like you. Knowing this do whatever is appropriate.” One saint said, “Mo sam kaun kutil khala kami,” meaning “who else is wicked, crook, and lustful than me?” Then, the saint asked for help from God to get rid of these weaknesses. One saint said, “I went to the world to look for a bad person. I could not find any bad person. When I saw my mind, I found that I am the worst person.” This is not to degrade oneself. But, one who is sincerely trying to become a good person goes through this stage. Vedanta says that each person is potentially divine. So, this state is a passing state for the person who is trying to realize his/her divinity within. It is not the final state. However, if one thinks out of ignorance that ‘I am great, I am good, I do not need to improve’ does not improve at all and does not realize the divinity either. A true seeker knows that perfection has no limit. The sign of knowledge is humility. A knowledgeable person knows one’s limits.
Aarta – One who is suffering.
Mostly people suffer because they do not get what they want in the world or are going through miserable situations in life. However, there are few people who have everything in the world and are not going through miserable situation, but they are sad because they are not making enough spiritual progress. Sri Ramakrishna, in his initial stage of spiritual practices, was crying profusely seeing sunset. He will roll on the ground crying and thinking that ‘Another day had passed and I have not realized God. Is my life going to be wasted without the vision of the Mother?’ Intense desire is needed to make spiritual progress and to realize God. Sri Ramakrishna said that, ‘People weep profusely for children, spouses, family, money, and pleasures, but who cries for God? If one sincerely cries to realize God, then definitely one can realize God.’ When one feels that I will die without being with God, just like a child feels lost without mother, then one can realize God.
Paritraana-paraayane – Mother is engaged in removing the suffering and lifting up devotees (who have surrendered, are humble, and had intense desire for spiritual progress)
Universal Mother is the Mother of all and is engaged in removing suffering of all. But, people who are busy in enjoying the worldly objects and not aware of the Mother’s presence do not see this compassion and love. Sri Ramakrishna says that as long as child is busy in playing toys, mother gets her work done in the kitchen. But, when a child throws away all the toys and cries for the mother, then mother gives up all work and takes the child in her lap. Those who have surrendered to the mother, are humble, and have intense desire to see Mother, then Mother helps these people to achieve their goal.
Sarvasyaartihare Devi – Mother removes all miseries
When we do spiritual practices and go towards the Mother, then we become aware of everything that is going in our mind. We realize that many miseries were self-created. Their causes are our useless desires and fancies. We drop them off and we get relief from the miseries. Sri Ramakrishna said that a kite caught a fish and sat on a tree to eat it. But, several crows followed the kite and would not let the kite eat that fish. Wherever the kite went, crows followed it. Finally, the fish was dropped from the kite’s mouth and all crows followed the fish and the kite was at piece. Thus, miseries like crows follow our desires. When unnecessary desires are dropped, miseries go away. There are unavoidable miseries. But, if we go closer to the Universal Mother, then she gives us strength to face these miseries. Many times in miseries we go closer to the Mother and feel peace of mind.
Naaraayani Namostu te – I salute to the Universal Mother
We salute to the Mother and ask for knowledge and devotion.
Holy Mother Sri Saradadevi and Sarva Mangal Mangalye…
At the end of March 1911 Holy Mother with a few devotees went to Banglore as a part of her pilgrimage in South India. One evening Holy Mother went to a hill of rocks in the back of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama and sat there to do japa. Swami Ramakrishnananda (Shashi Maharaj) who was sent by Swami Vivekananda in the South India to inspire the devotees and who started all the Ramakrishna Ashramas there heard that Holy Mother had climbed up the hill. He was worried about her. He immediately went up the hill and found that Holy Mother is sitting quietly there and doing japa. He saw her as Godess Parvati. Swami Ramakrishnananda’s heart was filled with devotion and he recited “Sarva mangala maangalye….” and saluted Holy Mother. Then, Holy Mother blessed him. We find that in all Ramakrishna Mission Ashramas and all places where Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother are worshipped, this hymn is being sung every day as a part of Aratrikam.
Happy Navaratri to people who are celebrating during October 5-13, Durgashtami on October 12th and Dushera on October 14th.
‘Worshiping God as Mother’ is a wonderful way to think of God and express our love. Most of us have enjoyed love of our mothers.
I asked students (KG-12th graders), “I know why you do not like your mothers. It is because she wakes you up early to go to school, she asks you to keep your room clean, scolds you when you do not behave well, makes sure you study and do not fool around, etc. But, let me ask you, why do you love your mother?” The answers were, “Because she loves us, she takes care of us, she gives us food, she gave us births, and many more reasons.” Now, imagine about a mother who loves all children equally as her own children, young and old, irrespective of their color, creed, culture, religion, power, position, wealth, virtues, or any external thing. Think of this mother, who gave birth to all beings and everything that exists in the universe, and mother who provides us food and all necessities for our growth. This is the Universal Mother who is being worshiped for nine days and nights.
Sri Ramakrishna says that this Universal Mother is the active aspect of God. When the Divine Power is inactive, we call It Brahman or Shiva. When It creates, nourish and dissolves the universe, then we call It as Mother Kali or Durga, or Shakti. Brahman and Shakti are identical. Fire is in wood as unmanifested, but when it burns and cooks our food then it is the manifested fire. Thus, Brahman or God in inactive state is Infinite, and Unmanifested, but in an active state It manifests as Universal Mother, the power of Brahman.
The Universal Mother has a key to open the door of Brahman. Only by her grace we can realize Brahman or God. We cannot negate Her existence. We cannot fight with Her power. If we live a proper life, she showers her blessings and if we live improper life, then she punishes. Mighty Mahishasur ignored Her power and he was punished.
Let us feel the love of the Universal Mother as we feel love of our own mother. Let us sing Her glories and ask Her blessing to realize our true identity which is Atman.
Happy Dushera: Fireworks is fun. But, we have to destroy Ravana (ignorance and impurities of our mind) who had kidnapped our intellect by misguiding us. This intellect as Sitaji, should be with Atman, Rama. Once our intellect is focused on Atman and we realize Atman, then, we will have real peace of mind, satisfaction, fearlessness, and fulfillment of life.
Mahatma Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869. He was six years younger than Swami Vivekananda. We see that many of Swami Vivekananda’s teachings were exemplified in Mahatma Gandhi’s life, especially to love poor and the untouchables, and serve them as God, and treat all human beings equally with respect irrespective of their religions and other external differences.
The famous scientist Albert Einstein said, “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this (Mahatma Gandhi), even in flash and blood, walked upon this earth.”
The famous writer and thinker Romain Rolland wrote Mahatma Gandhi’s biography in 1924. At that time Mahatma Gandhi’s launched movement had failed to win its objective. Mahatma Gandhi was in jail atoning, Christ-like, for the failing of his own countrymen. Romain Rolland wrote this biography to fully support Mahatma Gandhi. For him Gandhiji was the dawn of new hope for humanity. They both met in 1931 and then remained friends till end.
The following is a wonderful word-picture of Mahatma Gandhi written by Ramain Rolland.
“… a small frail man, with a thin face and rather large protruding eyes, his head covered with a little white cap, his body clothed in coarse white cloth, barefooted. He lives on rice and fruit, and drinks only water. He sleeps on the floor-sleeps very little, and works incessantly. His body does not seem to count at all. There is nothing striking about him-except his whole expression of “infinite patience and infinite love.”
W.W. Pearson, who met him in South Africa, instinctively thought of St. Francis of Assisi. There is an almost childlike simplicity about him. His manner is gentle and courteous even when dealing with adversaries, and he is of immaculate sincerity. He is modest and unassuming, to the point of sometimes seeing almost timid, hesitant, in making assertion. Yet you feel his indomitable spirit. He makes no compromises and never tries to hide a mistake. Nor is he afraid to admit having been wrong.
Diplomacy is unknown to him; he shuns oratorical effect or, rather, never thinks about it; and he shrinks unconsciously from great popular demonstrations organized in his honor. Literally “ill with the multitude that adores him,” he distrusts majorities and fears “mobocracy,” and the unbridled passions of the populace. He feels at ease only in a minority, and is happiest when, in meditative solitude, he can listen to the “still small voice” within.
This is the man who has stirred three hundred million people to revolt, who has shaken the foundations of the British Empire, and who has introduced into human politics the strongest religious impetus of the last two thousand years.”
A few quotes of Mahatma Gandhi:
“I am giving you a bit of my experience and that of my companions when I say that he who has experienced the magic of prayer may do without food for days together but not a single moment without prayer. For without prayer there is no inward peace.” (January 23, 1930)
“I suggest we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else.” (February 19, 1925)
“To me God is Truth and Love; God is ethics and morality; God is fearlessness. God is the source of Light and Life and yet He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even atheism of the atheist. For in His boundless love God permits the atheist to live.” (March 5, 1925)
“Daridranarayana is one of the millions of names by which humanity knows God, who is unnamable and unfathomable by human understanding and it means God of the poor, God appearing in the hearts of the poor.” (April 4, 1929)
“I venture to suggest, in all humility, that if India reaches her destiny through truth and non-violence, she will have made no small contribution to the world peace for which all the nations of the earth are thirsting and she would also have, in that case, made some slight return for the help that those nations have been freely giving to her.” (March 12. 1921)
Note that these three events happened in 1893:
(1) Swami Vivekananda gave his famous speech in Chicago Parliament of World Religions on September 11, 1893.
(2) In 1893, Mahatma Gandhi as M.K. Gandhi went to South Africa, where he spent 20 years opposing discriminatory legislation against Indians. As a pioneer of Satyagraha, or resistance through mass non-violent civil disobedience, he became one of the major political and spiritual leaders of his time.
(3) In February 1893, Sri Aurobindo arrived in India from England. He started working in Baroda, Gujarat and started taking active interest in the politics of India’s freedom struggle against British rule.
I can share couple of incidents which were imprinted in my mind.
(1) It was around December 1982. Our son was in the middle school. I went to his school to give him something. His principal, Mr. Alfred Baumann who was also a mayor of the town, saw me and asked me, “Mr. Jani, would you be able to see me on your way back?” I said, “Okay.” I thought there might be something related to our son. When I was going back, I saw him waiting for me. He then took me inside his office and asked me to take a seat and he sat on his chair on the other side of the table. Without any other formalities, he asked me, “Did you see Gandhi movie?” I was pleasantly surprised. I said, “Yes, I saw it.” He asked, “Did you like it?” I said, “Yes. I liked it. Director Attenborough and the actor Ben Kingsley had done a wonderful job.” Then, Mr. Baumann lean little forward on the table. His face was filled with loving emotions. He said, “Look, I am a Christian. After I saw that movie I was thrilled with the thought that a Christ-like person was living on earth when I was a young boy. In the movie, when a person in South Africa could not burn a passport because he was beaten by a police, I felt like going there and throw the passport in the fire.” Then we talked about Mahatma Gandhi for a while. I was amazed by his reverence for Gandhiji.
(2) This was around early 1970s. With my friends we went to attend a Sunday morning service conducted by a group which was more Vedanta oriented. The organizers, though Caucasians, knew Hindu chanting. After the service, while I was taking some snack which was offered to all, I heard someone was humming a very familiar tune. I recognized that it was the tune of “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram.” I turned to my right and found that the Minister (who conducted the service) was joyfully humming this tune. I asked him, “Do you know what you are humming?” He calmly said, “Yes, it is ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ which was favorit of Mahatma Gandhi.” I was surprised. I asked whether he had met Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “I was not fortunate to meet him. But, whenever Mahatma Gandhi was fasting for protest or for purification in India, we, a group of young boys, used to fast here in USA to support him.”
(3) This incident I have heard from Shri Narayanbhai Desai. He visited Vivekananda Vidyapith and told his reminiscences of Mahatma Gandhi. He said that he was in Canada and one Canadian (non-Indian) person was driving him. Road was clear and he was going with the fastest allowed speed. He was asking Shri Narayanbhai about his association with Mahatma Gandhi. When Shri Narayanbhai said that he was fortunate to sit on the lap of Mahatma Gandhi, immediately this person turned his car to the shoulder and applied break to stop the car. It was a jerky stop. After stopping the car, he turned to Shri Narayanbhai and said, “Can I touch your hands which had touched Mahatma Gandhi?”
These three people were not directly related to Gandhiji, but were deeply impressed by him.