A Fantastico Tale on Charity!

Thanks to the Tax exemption rules, we have people who come forward to give donations to the needy at least for the sake of tax exemption. No matter how much we earn, be it in thousands or in crores, we will always have desires and commitments more than our earnings. That’s how our way of lives have become today. However, devoting a little percentage of our monthly salary towards charity can make a huge difference in somebody’s life.

Charity reminds of a fantastic tale I read recently from the book, ‘Mejda’ which is about the early life of Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda by his brother Sri Sananda Lal Ghosh. His mother is known for her tenderness towards less fortunate people. However, most often when she approaches their father for a big sum for charity, he would rebuke her saying that she must keep her charity within the limits of the family budget. their difference of opinion even made her once to board a horse carriage to go to her maternal home. Her brother who appeared there coincidentally finally managed to convince them.

This incident happens at Lahore where the family has been recently transferred from Gorakhpur. One day, a poor little girl comes to her asking for alms. Sensing the sadness in that small child, she makes her sit in the living room while personally goes to request her husband for ten rupees which is a huge amount for charity, considering the economical situation of the then India. Her husband refuses and offers only Re.1, narrating how he has suffered in his childhood without money and how he had remained hungry and had to walk bare feet so many miles to school. She immediately reminds him if he wants this little girl too suffer a similar pennyless childhood because he cannot forget his past. This single question from her moves him so much that without an answer he gives her demand, ten rupees, with blessings.

Though a simple story, it made an unforgettable impact on me. How true it is that we often remember our stories of struggle when it comes to helping others. And ironically instead of helping others, we restrict ourselves to the confinement of self-centered thoughts.

There are a number of NGOs, charitable trusts, orphanages, old age homes, hospital trusts and needy people around us. It takes only a few minutes to offer a donation online. To all of you reading this post, I request you to make at least Rs. 250 donation to any organization of your choice. It is not a matter to analyze and decide upon. It’s just a matter of willingness.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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Inspiring songs from Paramahansa Yogananda’s Collection

It was only years after I became a kriyaban that I came to listen to Paramahansa Yogananda’s voice and songs. The narration about music in his Autobiography of a Yogi has stunned me that someone who had never had a formal education in music could write with so much clarity on the subject.

When I began to visit YSS satsangs, I cherished listening to and singing Paramahansa Yogananda’s bhajan songs. The light harmonium background and melody in the songs have always touched my soul. To those of you who are looking to listen to songs of Paramahansa Yogananda, here are five of my most favourite songs from the collection.

  1. I will sing Thy Name
  2. Listen Listen Listen
  3. Spirit and Nature Dancing Together
  4. So Do Thou My Lord
  5. Who is in my Temple

Each of these songs have filled my heart during several cherished moments. Most often, I begin the day by listening to this song collection. As reiterated by Paramahansa Yogananda, chanting is an important step in spirituality. His songs have been inspirational to me, for several years now, in yearning for the love of the divinity. Through his voice, he speaks to each one of us, who seek God with faith. The one who had remained a mental image got manifested with life through his devotional songs. During times when the forces of delusion, pull me away from spirituality, all it needs to get back to the path of light is listen to the songs just once.

As said often, music is a form of expression that can open the blocked energies from our nadis. Especially, while singing with true love and devotion to God, I’ve felt that the heart and throat chakras shed off their blockages and pave way for our souls to connect to higher centres.

In 1926, Paramahansa Yogananda writes about his experience of chanting together “O God Beautiful” with his devotees in New York,

“For one hour and twenty-five minutes, the thousands of voices of the entire audience chanted…in a divine atmosphere of joyous praise….The next day many men and women testified to the God-perception and the healing of body, mind, and soul that had taken place during the sacred chanting, and numerous requests came in to repeat the song at other services.”

Source: http://yssofindia.org/

One can buy the CDs from any of the YSS centres or through the online website of YSS or SRF. Though listening to his voice directly from a CD is a soul-lifting experience, I also recommend you to attend a near-by weekly satsang where devotees sing the devotional songs in chorus.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

A Little Pep up in Life!

Life can never be the same after children grow big and leave you in search of their future and destiny. Every time my daughters leave home after a few days of vacation, I wish they stayed with me a little longer. It has been fifteen years since the first one left for college and now I am used to the ups and downs that my heart feels during their visits. For an ordinary house wife whose life surrounded only her home, husband and bringing up children, time is the biggest curse. No matter how much of household work I do now, time doesn’t seem to entertain me. An unexplainable gloom continues to fill my being and I know it’s mostly because I miss being with my children.

However, the new entries to our family has spiced up my otherwise gloomy life. Yeah, my grandchildren. When they are here, I absolutely cherish the little sweet talks and plays they do non-stop. Children of today are far peppy then their parental generation. Their energies and brilliancy often stuns me.

Yesterday, my grandson and I went to the terrace garden to water the plants. This is one of his favourite activities because he loves plants, water, sunlight and the jet planes that constantly fly over our heads. For a change, he carried his toy aeroplane to the terrace. There’s a flight training centre close-by, so it offers all the delight that my grandson needs. Here’s the peppy little conversation we had in the terrace:

Hrish: Grandma, how do these planes fly?

Me: They have wings to fly.

Hrish: Hmmmm……what are their wheels for then?

Me: For landing and take off from the ground.

He drove his toy aeroplane a couple of times and turned back to me.

Hrish: Do you think I can drive a plane?

Me: Why not? Of course, when you grow big.

Hrish: What do you mean by grow big?

Me: When you become old enough to join pilot training.

Hrish: Tomorrow?

After I finished my heart-felt laughter, I replied, “No. It will take many years.”

Hrish: I can’t wait. Now c’mmon, get behind me quick.

He gestured to sit behind him like we would do on a bike. To encourage hs amusement, I did.

Hrish: Lock your seat belts. Hold me tight. We are going to take off now. zzzzzzzzzzz…zz.z.z.z.z.z.zzz.z.z.z………Don’t feel scared. We are flying up above the world so high now. Hah…..do you see our terrace now? Your roses all looking up at us! Next time I shall take you dear roses. That’s grandpa’s car. It looks smaller than my toy car. Heee..hehheee……There we go near those jet planes. Grandma, did you see the pilot? He was only a little taller than me. That means I can soon learn to fly. Here, look at the birds!!! Move, move, move…….watch your fly, dudes! I think we are running out of petrol. Let’s do the landing now. It might be scary, but hold me tight. I will take care. zzzz…zzzzzz..zzz……thud! Wait until I switch off the engine. Here, we’ve landed down safely. How was the ride grandma?”

All of the peppy narration with standing still at one place 😆

All you need to pep up your life a little is little children. They can make the impossible possible with their fantasy and imagination. And most of all, they can transfer a little of their peppy-ness to you, definitely.

Now, during times, when life pulls me back to the gloom, I know whom to speak to!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Characters of Mahabharata: The Impact

Beyond the plot, our great epic Mahabharata has bestowed on us several life lessons. Following every event of the epic closely will help us to contemplate about the manifold mysteries of life. Also, will the myriad of characters in Mahabharata! Having heard and read the stories of Mahabharata since early childhood, here I write the deepest impact that three of the most respectable characters had on me:

Lord Krishna

Of the numerous Gods and Goddesses I am introduced to, Lord Krishna stands as the most serene God in my memory. While mythological stories revolve around varied emotions of Hindu Gods – spanning anger, lust, vengeance, fear –  Lord Krishna has always been the one who has never showed extremes of emotions. For His even-mindedness and balance of emotions, I turn to Him for every little guide I need in life.

Ved Vyasa

Sage Vyasa, though not a consistent character in the epic, his short appearances are marked with great importance. When he is assigned with the job of Niyoga, surrogate fatherhood, he instructs Satyavati to let the queens Ambika and Ambalika to purify themselves. Unheeding to his warning, Satyavati hurriedly summons the queens to beget children with the sage, resulting in one blind son and one pallid son. This message has ever-remained in my thoughts. And this is one advice I always give to young couples who are planning to get pregnant. Keeping in good physical and mental health and most importantly, being in a beautiful state of love with each other is significant for a healthy child development.

The impact of sage Vyasa on me is best reflected in my blog title! Equal to Lord Krishna, Ved Vyasa is another key player in the events of Mahabharata. When I hear debates about the unending caste feuds, I often bring Ved Vyasa to my thoughts. Born to a fisherwoman and an exalted Brahmana sage, Parashurama, Ved Vyasa has surpassed all caste differences through his birth and life. While an epic written by such an enlightened sage is glorified, isn’t it good enough a reason to dissolve the caste barriers in our society?

Vidura

My most fond-of character in Mahabharata! Vidura is the right epitome of the Gita verse, ‘Do your duty without expecting anything in return’. He does everything calmly very well knowing the effects of the happenings at the royal court of Hastinapur. In spite of his ineligibility to kingship, he does what he is expected to, at every stage. And Vidura is one of those few people of the epic who attain the final salvation. He has been an inspiring character to me, who reminds me of the ultimate goal that I must strive to achieve in this lifetime.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can  apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Wake up to a Gold Morning!

When I look back, all the mornings of my by-gone years have passed in cooking, packing the lunch boxes and getting the children and husband ready. After I got over with such duties, my true spiritual life began. From my experiences, here I give a few mantras of waking up to a gold morning that’s peaceful and meaningful, to aspiring spiritualists:

The fire to follow a spiritual path might be burning in you. But constant responsibilities might bog you down from focusing  in a practice. By the time you wake up, you would already have a huge list of duties waiting for you. Be it a home maker or a professional, everyone have busy routines these days. However, remember that every small step which you take towards spirituality is fruitful. If you continue feeling stuck up in the mundane duties of life, you will have to wait for several years and even then you will not be sure when all your duties will end. Hence, make a decision that no matter how difficult it gets, you must spend some time for seeking the ultimate, everyday.

Of course, early morning hours are the best time for spiritual practices. The quiet outside world is what you need as a beginner. And that can be sought only by waking up early. My basic mantra of gold mornings is to wake up early. Most of the times, the moment we open our eyes, we are ready to wake up. But the laziness in us pulls our will down and puts us back to sleep. The first step towards spiritual realization is to follow your instinct to wake up the first time.

Refresh yourself with clean brushing* and face washing even if you wouldn’t be able to have a bath. Find a place, anywhere at your home where you can be left alone. Whatever spiritual practice you follow, yoga asanas or rajya yoga meditation, or breathing exercises, or any method you are able to acknowledge, begin it without any second thoughts. Even if it is only for ten minutes, pursue it. That’s the small step that you can take today for a fruitful tomorrow. In the beginning, your mind might wander elsewhere. Refrain from getting impatient. Come again the next day to the same place. Pursue your path. Such determination is the only mantra that can turn your ordinary mornings to gold mornings.

Remember this saying of Paramahansa Yogananda at those times when you get discouraged.

Self-Realization

 

Photo Courtesy: divinedaytripper.blogspot.com

*Check ‘Colgate 360 Charcoal Gold toothbrush’ which gives a thorough cleaning including to your teeth, gums, tongue and cheeks for #Colgate360GoldMornings!

Dakshineswar, Kolkata – the abode of Ma Kali!

Dakshineswar
Dakshineswar

Two of my dream places that I always wanted to visit were Dakshineswar and Kolkata, yes to experience the land that has been hallowed by great saints like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda and Sarada Matha. Ever since I read the accounts of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi about his experience at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, I felt compelled to visit Dakshineswar. Believe me, till today, the few hours I’d spent at the two Kali temples were of immense memory that I shall name Dakshineswar and Kolakatta as my favourite places.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple Entrance
Dakshineswar Kali Temple Entrance

The Drive to Dakshineswar

From Kolkatta Airport, we reached the other side of the road by an auto Rickshaw, from where we boarded a local bus to Dakshineswar. The journey to Dakshineswar has stayed fresh in my mind, like the feeling of a new bride returning back to her parental home for the first time. Hailing from the South, we were total strangers to this land. But it was easier to make our travel to the place than we would have in our own place. People of Kolkatta were unbelievably friendly. Even strangers on the bus could strike casual conversations with each other as though they were neighbours for several years; something that I’ve seen in the South. And when I touched the soil of the temple premises, it was an awe-inspiring feeling! Every wall and every air I had breathed inside the temple, I was reminded of the presence of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Though we could get Ma Kali’s darshan for just a few seconds, Her presence could be felt everywhere in Dakshineswar.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple Entrance
Dakshineswar Kali Temple

The Dakshineswar to Kolkatta Connection

The best boat ride I’ve ever experienced in my life is from Dakshineswar to Belur. The warmth of the waters and the joy seen in the little boys enjoying their dives still permeates through my being. The scenic boat ride proved a great connectivity option from Dakshineswar to Kolkatta instead of taking the road route. One that we could easily reach Belur to witness the land of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and also we could cherish half an hour’s time through the serene waters. Again from Belur Mutt, we could easily get a tuk tuk to reach the main road from where a local bus took us to the main city of Kolkatta.

The Design of Kolkatta

We were never stranded on the roads in Kolkatta. Local buses, tram, ferry rides, yellow taxis, trains, tuk tuks…….the city is greatly designed for fantastic transport systems. Howrah station is reachable from almost parts of the city from where we could travel by train to anywhere. I admired the dynamic connectivity that Kolkatta offers its residents and tourists. Especially, yellow taxis were abundant and the rides were of reasonable rates.

Our visit to the Kalighat Kali temple was another dream-come-true place. Though a small temple, the divine vibration of Ma Kali was all powerful. For an ardent devotee of Ma Kali, Dakshineswar and Kalighat temples were like the birth place of Kali Ma. What I missed to witness was the city during the times of Navrathri. Certainly, my next visit to Kolkatta would be during Durga Puja.

Celebrate Sweetness without Sugar

What to cook, what to eat? These questions often disturb me. We keep hearing so much of ‘Cut the sugars. cut the cholesterol’. There’s so little left to eat then 😦 Especially the sweet savouries we’ve been relishing since ages! Now, at the age of sixty, refraining from having nice sweets is difficult.

I’ve been reading about rock candies and sugar free substitutes. I tried one of our favourite family sweet dishes with Sugarfree Natura. Here’s the recipe:

Semiya (Vermicelli) Kesari

All semiya recipes are, in general, easy to prepare, Semiya upma and semiya payasam are the most common dishes that are prepared using vermicelli. Semiya kesari is seldom popular. For once I replaced Rava (suji) with semiya in preparing kesari and also substituted white sugar with Sugarfree Natura. This recipe requires very less ghee; so overall, it makes a healthy and yummy kesari!

DSC05569

Ingredients:

Semiya (Vermicelli) – 1 Cup

Sugarfree Natura – 1/2 Cup

Water – 2 Cups or required quantity

Ghee – 2 tsp

Cardamom – 3 pieces

Cashew nuts – 5 nuts

Kesari powder (Orange) – A pinch

Method:

  1.  Heat 1/2 teaspoon of ghee in a pan. Roast the cup of semiya in heated ghee for two minutes or until it turns golden yellow.
  2. Add two cups of water in another pan. When the water comes to a boil, add the roasted semiya and wait till it gets cooked. You can wait till all the water is evaporated and semiya becomes soft. If the semiya seems to be uncooked, add more water and let it boil for some more time until completely cooked.
  3. Add sugar Free Natura to the cooked semiya, mix well. Add a pinch of orange, kesari powder, stir well.
  4. Add a spoon of ghee and stir continously until the semiya mixture comes out of the sides of the pan.
  5. Finally, roast cashew nuts in heated ghee separately and add it to the semiya kesari along with ground cardamom.

For Your Information

Sugar Free has two variants:

  • Sugar Free Natura, made of Sucralose
  • Sugar Free Gold, made of Aspartame

This table, adopted from the Sugar Free official website provides information about the two and how they are different from the regular, white sugar.

Sugar Free