Symbolism of Vishnu

vishnuimageIn Hinduism, the religion I was born into is full of Gods, each symbolising something quite deep and profound.

Vishnu who is said to have come to each many times is said to be the preserver of this planet just as Brahma is said to be the creator and Shiva the annihilator.

He is identified with four symbols: conch-shell trumpet or shankh, a discus called sudarshana chakra that whirrs around his index finger, a mace or gada and a lotus or padma.

The conch shell trumpet is a tool that announces one’s arrival. Thinking more deeply, it is actually all about communication. Communicating to others the world  about your aspirations and aims. Sudashrhana signifies awaremeness or experience. The mace or Gadha signifies power and the lotus or Padma signifies remaining unspoilt or untainted despite being among murkiness just as a lotus retains its purity despite being in muddy waters.

This principle, like all principles applies at the individual, societal and global levels.

Now, if we think of all of us as having a Vishnu in us, it is clear that to lead a complete and holistic life, we do need to communicate effectively, be aware of all that is happening around us, utilise our inner power and remain untouched by all the negativity around us,

In society again, we need effective communication, awareness, use of power in a positive way and remaining untouched by the murkiness that is bound to be there.

Naturally, this is how the world is also created. It is we who create the world and our world through our actions and thoughts.

By following the principles of preservation as shown by Vishu, it is possible to keep our planet wholesome and unsullied,

Let us then understand the principles behind symbolism, in this case of Hinduism and Lord Vishnu. I am certain all religions and philosophies must be having similar symbolisms. Understanding these can only enrich our lives.

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Comparisons the bane of life

comparison2“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”, said Oscar Wilde. Truly, in the foolish game of competitions and comparisons that we play, there is too much grief everywhere for absolutely no reason.

 We all are unique and it is absolutely foolish to compare ourselves with another just like it is foolish to compare one fruit with another.

In fact, my wise aunt told me once, “My dear, never compare yourself. It makes you either vain or bitter.” It was good advice but, like most good advice, it was easy to say but could not be followed.

I belong to a family where many are musically inclined. I grew up in North India while many of my cousins were in the South and were all either learning vocal music or to play an instrument. Now, I too loved music and always longed to sing, just for the joy of it but as most of my seemed to know a lot more than me, I was extremely insecure about even opening my mouth, especially in social events. On another note, I was pretty envious of their situation, especially in the musical arena. “How lucky they are that they have so many opportunities to learn, how wonderful it is that they attend the concerts of stalwarts,” I used to keep thinking. Apart from music, I used to think they were studying in better schools, had better teachers, in fact better everything. It was much later that I realised everyone has their own journey in life and it is foolish to compare my journey with theirs.

 Comparison is general just leaves us feeling like we’re just not measuring up to our own expectations or envious, like my wise aunt said.

In the journey of comparison, we keep feeling we are

Not accomplished enough.

Not attractive enough.

Not disciplined enough.

Not passionate enough.

Not smart enough.

Not wealthy enough.

Not _XXX___ enough

It would indeed help if we realise that

 

  1. Comparisons are always unfair.We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others.
  2. Comparisons, by definition, require metrics. Here, we need to know that every good thing cannot be counted (or measured).
  3. Comparisons rob us of precious time.We each get 86,400 seconds each day. And using even one to compare ourself or our accomplishments to another is an utter waste of time
  4. Each of us is too unique to compare fairly. Our gifts and talents and successes and contributions and value are entirely unique to us and our purpose in this world. They can never be properly compared to anyone else.
  5. We have nothing to gain, but a lot to lose.While comparing, we are in danger of losing our pride, our dignity and our passion.
  6. There is no end to the possible number of comparisons.The habit can never be overcome by attaining success. There will also be something—or someone—else to focus on.
  7. Comparisons often result in resentment. Comparison results in resentment towards others and then towards ourselves.

If we must compare, let us set the benchmark as our own selves. Like my grandfather taught and sang to us “Day by day in every way, I shall be better and better and better. So help me God, So help me God”.

Illness as a Sadhana

yogaIllness is a kind of sadhana for all of us  Whether it manifests as several days in bed with the flu or the large scale of years of struggle with a debilitating illness, getting sick has a wonderful way of stopping us in our tracks, forcing us into new priorities, and redirecting our lives.

True healing requires coming into alignment with our highest good, and if we address symptoms without supporting this realignment, we probably won’t sustain a state of health and well-being for long. We’ll need to manifest some new event to help us continue the deeper process of change we’re ready for spiritually.

In all my experience, I have found including a sincere prayer of thanking the Universe, the Cosmos or whatever we may call a Higher Presence does make us focus all our energies on positivity and only positivity.

There are many proponents of mind-body healing spectrum who say we’re responsible for the health or illness of our physical body. I really do not want to focus too much on this but do believe that when we take a longer, spiritual view, and let go of the notion that illness is bad or that we must have done something wrong to bring it upon us. All illness can be seen as purposeful, both to the personality and to the soul. The ego, (that is, the part of us that believes we’re defined by the limits of our physical body and, thus, highly vulnerable) can’t help but find illness threatening and regard it as the enemy. The ego, which tries to “control” its way to safety, turns the idea of self-responsibility into an exercise in fearful personal control, with illness being a sign of failure. However, as we address more deeply in another lesson, “responsibility” is not the same as “control.” We can only control what’s within the range of our conscious awareness. Illness is often a way we bring hidden, aspects of self to the surface and open to new options. This is, perhaps, one of its most important functions. So, rather than seeing illness as our failure to be responsible for our health, it’s more useful to view it as a sign that we’re ready to grow. The part of us that chooses illness is the “Self” with a capital “S”, the Spiritual Self that sees our highest good in a way the limited perceptions of our ego can’t.

 

From the perspective of spiritual reality, illness is a step toward wholeness. No one consciously chooses pain or illness, yet the experience of dealing with these challenges can lead us on a journey that ultimately delivers great rewards. I’ve heard many people with cancer and other life-threatening diseases describe their illness as one of the greatest blessings of their lives because it forced them to completely reshuffle priorities and pursue new paths that brought profound fulfillment. The illness gave them permission to make choices they wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

In my case, my grappling with multiple sclerosis has certainly made me a better person, emotionally, spiritually and yes, even physically.

Those who wish to buy my book on healing from multiple sclerosis can do so at

<http://www.flipkart.com/dancing-life-living-multiple-sclerosis-english/p/itme9bdjmhmjbynn?pid=9789381398814&ref=L%3A-2962529945395445276&srno=b_70

Or

http://www.amazon.in/Dancing-Life-Living-Multiple-Sclerosis/dp/938139881X/ref=sr_1_1/279-7583332-8041567?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442035925&sr=1-1

Users outside India can buy the book at

http://www.uread.com/book/dancing-life-jamuna-rangachari/9789381398814

The eBook versions are available at

Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.in/Dancing-Life-Living-Multiple-Sclerosis-ebook/dp/B01HB9KRDM

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dancing-with-life-jamuna-rangachari/1123950921?ean=9789381398753

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/dancing-with-life-2

 

Alexander’s last words

Sometimes, we get teachings from the most unlikely source. Recently, my uncle, whom I would have never thought of bring philosophical shared this known but rarely applied story with me when having a cup of tea

He told me about the time Emperor Alexander lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.” With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.

“My first desire is that,” said Alexander, “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” After a pause, he continued, “Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury.

“The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. Alexander’s general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. “O king, we assure you that your wishes will all be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?”

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: “I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt. I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.

The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the way to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world.”

His last words were,Bury my body, do not build any monument, keep my hands outside so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying“.

We all know this and it has been told in various ways by many traditions but still fail to know that material wealth is of no use while working on our own inner selves that is our eternal wealth.

My uncle works hard but said he always remembers this story to remind him not to take any success or failure too seriously. This is why I feel apart from an apple a day, we all need a story a day to remain healthy.

 

 

Commonality and not differences

commonalityMy maid, who happens to be a Muslim was here when my sister-in-law was fasting once, abstaining even from water. The season was summer and it was quite difficult to not drink water. My husband and others kept telling my sister-in-law to have something to eat or  at least drink water. “You may get dehydrated in this heat,” she was told. Still, she stuck to her decision and did continue her fast saying “God will take care of me just like He takes care of everything else”.

The next day, my maid while giving a glass of water to my sister-in-law said, “You are right, Didi. God does take care even when we fast during Ramadan. I have been told by so many not to fast but have never felt tired or weak all through the month. They both smiled for they had completely understood each other.

This really was a true moment of solidarity. We often think of all the differences we have with each other but the fact is, we have more in common with each other. Especially in the area of faith, we all believe in a higher power, whatever we may call it. What really matters is we know we will be taken care of as there is someone up there, who always has our interest at heart.

As seen in the little anecdote above, people who understand the true intent behind an act always see the commonality and never the differences.  This is how solidarity is born.  Through and with complete understanding. Without trying to do this, we often keep criticising and judging others which is why even something like a fast, music or prayer is criticized and condemned. Instead, if we just take a moment to look at another’s statement or situation with complete understanding, the world would indeed be a better place.

Club of the 99

bagofcoins

Stories always have a lot to teach us. We may be familiar with the story of a king who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content. One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked.

This fascinated the King; why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy. The King asked the servant, “Why are you so happy?”

The man replied, “Your Majesty, I am a mere servant, but my family and I don’t require much – just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies. We’re content with that.”

The king was not satisfied with that reply. Later in the day, he sought the advice of his most trusted advisor. After hearing the King’s woes and the servant’s story, the advisor said, “Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of the 99 Club.”

“The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?” the King inquired.

The advisor replied, “Your Majesty, you shall see if you place 99 Gold coins in a bag and leave it at this servant’s doorstep.”

The curious king had it done. When the servant saw the bag lying at the door, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy… So many gold coins!

He began to count them. After several counts, he was at last convinced that there were 99 coins. He wondered, “What could’ve happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins!”

He looked everywhere he could, but that final coin was elusive. Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection.

From that day, the servant’s life changed. He became overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that 100th gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King became more curious. He summoned his advisor who explained: “Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined The 99 Club.”

He continued, “There are those people who have enough to be happy but are never contented, because they’re always yearning and striving for that extra coin. They keep telling themselves: “Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life. And this goes on and on..”

We can be happy, even with very little in our lives, but the minute we’re given something bigger and better, we want even more! We lose sleep, happiness and we hurt the people around us who care; all these as a price for our growing needs and desires. Then we’ve joined the 99 club!

Author Unknown

 

This story is familiar. We hear such stories but forget the lessons it has to teach us. The fact is we never learn to count our blessings but look at what we don’t have be it in the area of wealth, relationships or even health.  This kind of discontentment does make us dissatisfied with life itself which is why ‘our’ world and by extension ‘the’ world seems a horrible place to be in. On the other hand, if we count our blessings, our perspective changes and the world correspondingly seems an amazing place to be in.

Mild or severe that is only semantics

yoga_postPeople often tell me now that the multiple sclerosis must have been pretty mild. The fact is, mild and severe are just words. Here, I can share only my story. In 2002, I was thirty-three and working as a software professional in Mumbai when multiple sclerosis (MS) first struck me, though it took me nearly four years to be diagnosed and begin the healing process in earnest. MS is an inflammatory disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate with each other and the rest of the body.

I was caught by surprise by the various health problems that had started attacking me one by one; for all these years I had been taking reasonably good care of my health. Every morning I took a walk by the sea side. Though I never really went to the gym, I usually used the stairs in my building instead of the lift as a minimum fitness routine.

Since I didn’t know back then that I was suffering from MS, I kept myself engaged in my literary pursuits. Two of my books, One and The Magic Liquid were published in early 2005.

But at the time that my mind was active, my physical condition was plunging low. MS was slowly and stealthily entering my life, though I was not aware of its entry.

So, in a sense, I became a writer at more or less the same stage as MS entered my life … and writing became my tool towards healing myself as well as helping society. I had started writing in 2002 as an outlet for the anger and helplessness I felt after the Godhra riots. Many followed after that. Now my sixth book Dancing with Life: Living with Multiple Sclerosis talks about my journey with MS and how it has changed me as a person. However, before reading this book, you must know what this book is not. This is NOT a medical book of any kind. It is NOT about a universal solution to MS, the ailment I was diagnosed with. It just talks about therapies and thought processes that have proved beneficial to me, and I hope might prove beneficial to others. This has made others also better and essentially, that is my best reward of all.

Essentially, its is a book affirming the power of life, the power of hope, and the power of strong determination to live life with a purpose. It attempts to give hope and power to everyone, whether or not one has a health challenge.

In other words, it is a book that tells us to never give up on life.

Those who wish to buy my book on healing from multiple sclerosis can do so at

<http://www.flipkart.com/dancing-life-living-multiple-sclerosis-english/p/itme9bdjmhmjbynn?pid=9789381398814&ref=L%3A-2962529945395445276&srno=b_70

Or

http://www.amazon.in/Dancing-Life-Living-Multiple-Sclerosis/dp/938139881X/ref=sr_1_1/279-7583332-8041567?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442035925&sr=1-1

Users outside India can buy the book at

http://www.uread.com/book/dancing-life-jamuna-rangachari/9789381398814

The eBook versions are available at

Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.in/Dancing-Life-Living-Multiple-Sclerosis-ebook/dp/B01HB9KRDM

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dancing-with-life-jamuna-rangachari/1123950921?ean=9789381398753

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/dancing-with-life-2

 

 

 

Cancer injected with a gift of happiness

happinessI met a young mother full of verve in my colony recently. She knew almost everything about nutrition and health. I asked her if she was a doctor or a nutritionist to which she just shook her head.

After she left, another young woman who was sitting next to us told me her story, which one could call heart wrenching or inspiring, depending on one’s perspective. This lady’s young son was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just ten. After a few rounds of chemo , radiation and the works when she found no improvement, for a while she felt extremely  depressed and went into the “Why me?” kind of thought pattern.

The doctors did not have an answer, her friends did not and she just started praying again and again for guidance.

Serendipitously she met a senior in the ward who told her that all she could do now was to make her son as happy as he could be in the days of his life to make his mind and spirit more robust.

With this began her journey of looking for solutions for a complete life for her son. She began consciously giving him healthy, nutritious food and taking him to see all the events he loved. The boy started taking part in all games and sports in the colony, read a lot of books and made many friends everywhere.

With this, the little boy’s life changed from being only about treatment to one that made him look forward to life.  Life for him and the family started becoming joyous with hope for complete wellness injected in the process.

“I do not know what will happen next but I do hope and pray for as must happiness as is possible for my son. This can happen only if I myself remain as happy as I can be. This is possible only with complete faith that I shall be guided on the right path by the Almighty,” became her mantra in life, which is why she became an inspiration to everyone around her.

After all, this mantra is indeed applicable to all of us.

Gratitude, the mantra of life

gratitudeRecently met an old man who was aged 87 on a morning walk. He was grappling with Parkinsons and had recently lost his wife who had also been grappling with an illness.

“The very fact that I had an opportunity to serve my wife is something I was always grateful for,” After a pause, he continued, “I also had a home in which I could take care of her.” I asked him if he missed her now to which he said, “Of course I do but I do know she has moved on to a better world and am therefore thankful for God’s mercy in not subjecting her to more challenges,” he said. As far as his own illness is concerned, he again only thanks God for his mercies in giving him a complete life. “Then and now, my only communication with God is to thank him for all that he has given me,” he said.

I realized more than ever before that it is indeed only gratitude that we should eternally convey to the Almighty no matter whatever the situation that we may be placed in may be. Life is indeed all about perception. We become what we are through our own perception of the world. A challenge becomes an opportunity instead of an obstacle and we then become inspirations not people who are either ignored or pitied.

This is true for all situations in life and like the gentleman said, our world could indeed become a better world with just the simple prayer of thanking and not deriding or asking for anything.

If we all begin thinking like this, the world itself would be a better place where we perceive blessings and not problems.  The more we notice blessings, the more the blessings that are endowed on us. This is the pattern of the Universe.

Maturity with awareness

maturityI recently got a message that talked about what maturity, or what was termed in the message as ‘spiritual’ maturity.

Now, I am a staunch believer of a higher power, whether we call it a higher consciousness, inner power or spirituality. The fact is whatever one may call it we all need to focus on what we need to do.

The fact is any kind of maturity is possible only when we work on our own selves in all areas. We often do not this at all but just focus on the externals, whether it is other people and what they should be doing or see what even we think they should be thinking of us and everything in the world.

The reality is that the more we focus on others, the less work we do on ourselves. This is a simple, logical truth.

No matter how much success we get in the external world, true success is when we are comfortable with where we have reached and what we have attained. This comes only when we know what we are doing and this comes only with complete awareness of our own selves.

Essentially, peace comes only when we seek to please own selves. This does not mean we do not care about others. In fact, when we seek to please own selves we will realise that the more we please others, we will understand it is indeed relationships and understanding others that is the one factor that makes us more complete. Even if there are so called conflicts, we need to think about what these issues are trying to teach us.

After all, we must remember that life itself is all about learning lessons all the time, however old we may be. After all, when we stop learning, we stop living.

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