Thursday, January 9, 2014

LET US FOSTER AND SPREAD MESSAGE OF PEACE AROUND WORLD

Let us foster  and spread message of Peace  around   world
(Discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, January 2014)

Hindu Vedic sages in their prayers expressed their longing for living hundred winters “Jeevema saradssatam, pasyema saradssatam”  and also “mrityor maa  amritam gamaya” lead us from death to immortality, and ended all their prayers seeking all round peace thrice “Om Shantih, Santih, Santih”  directed to Supreme Principal. They did realize the severity in life and feared the cold winters of the Himalyas. That is why they said let us live to see 100 winters (Sarad) and not years.  They realized death as a fact of life and also death is only part of the journey in soul’s struggle to earn permanent happiness and oneness with God.   But at the same time they desired full span of hundred years of life to live in sound health and peace serving the people.  [This aspiration to live for hundred years should have come from the scriptures which predicts the age of Brahma as also hundred years but on a cosmic year called Braham Year.  This works out to 311.04 trillion years as the age of Brahmaa. The present Brahma has lived for 155.521972 trillion years till the Year 2000 A.D. In the present cycle the age of the universe is 1971.9617 million years which is comparable to modern scientific facts. Earth planet is 4.55 billion years old. First sign of life of bacteria is 3.3 billion years. Vedas mention of several alien population other than humans]. That is why they practiced Yoga and meditation and sought all round peace including plant and animals which in modern terms we say Eco-friendly measures and Preservation of flora and fauna which is oft-repeated in their prayers. They also brought forth Ayurveda which is the Science of Longevity and not a system of medicine alone as is conjectured today. Ayurveda   means Wisdom for Longevity. These prayers were not meant for sages alone but for all others too as evidenced in their pleadings for God’s intervention for all beings, thus making it a universal prayer.

Sanatana Dharma based on wisdom of Vedas which always stresses for all round peace and wellness in its invocation prayers as well as concluding players as is evident from the Upanishads which modern Hindu worships like Shoedasa upachara Pooja (16 steps worship) and rituals like Amavasya and Sandhyavandana have adopted in spirit if not in action, whose meaning I have explained repeatedly. Vedas have voiced long before the birth of modern  religions and civilization its  mantras  like  “tadekam”, that One,  universal Oneness krinvanto viswa-maaryam”—let us ennoble the whole world and “aatmavat sarvabhooteshu”—Look upon all beings as your own self including all animates and plant kingdom. Later religions propagated brotherhood and neighborhood thoughts   with the object   to improve upon the Vedic wisdom? It is   but human nature for brothers and neighbors to quarrel and fight, and so these concepts have not worked with humanity when you look at the fight and annihilation among the brothers--Jews, Christians and Muslims who   walked out of Eternal Tradition calling them as brothers though originated from the same God they believed in. In Sanskrit brothers and sisters are called sahodara, sahodari and wife saha-dharmini which have all the prefix saha meaning springing from same source or joined together. So the majority religion in the world wants to focus again on Universal Peace all around. European immigrants successfully killed all European traditions and brought up a new culture called American culture in North America. In Latin America they massacred those belonging to old cultures but leaned to Europe. Hindu American immigrants are slowly leaning towards new-found American culture. Even this new found American culture wants to change further exploring the possibility of spirituality which is not based on ritualistic religion or alternatively turning Atheistic. This has given birth even to same-sex marriage, naming child eliminating holy names and fight for justice on those convictions.  It looks as though the focus on Universal Peace could be a binding force among these diversities on which even Pope Francis is seriously thinking.

The International Day of Peace, also called World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. In 2013, for the first time, the Day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably. To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace Bell was rung at UN Headquarters (in New York City). The bell was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan from contributions from all continents except Africa, as "a reminder of the human cost of war"; the inscription on its side reads, "Long live absolute world peace". USA observed this event last year about which I talked about. This should not be confused with Christian inspired World Day of Peace, sometimes also referred as World Peace Day. It is a feast day of the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to peace, held on 1 January, on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It was introduced in 1967 by Paul VI, inspired by the encyclical Pacem in Terris of John XXIII and with reference to his own encyclical Populorum Progressio. The day was first observed on January 1, 1968. The World Day of Peace has often been a time when popes make magisterial declarations relevant to the social doctrine of the Church. Paul VI and John Paul II have each year made important statements on the United Nationshuman rightswomen's rights, labor unions,  economic development, the right to life, international diplomacy, peace in the Holy Land,  globalization and terrorism. In England and Wales, 'Peace Sunday' is traditionally kept on the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time which is the Sunday falling between 14 and 20 January inclusive.  The Feast of the Epiphany, marking the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and the new season of Epiphany, is observed on Monday, January 6, 2014.  Epiphany is variously known as Theophany, Three Kings Day, and El Die de los Tre’s Reyes. The Feast of the Epiphany, marking the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and the new season of Epiphany, is observed on Monday, January 6, 2014, Christian celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus to the wider world. This is embodied most in the story of three wise men visiting a newborn Jesus with gifts, found in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12.  Thus the Christmas and New Year Celebration is long and widespread.  January 1  and New Year Celebration for all was promoted by Catholic Popes in the past and present whose speeches indirectly motivated mass conversion though the Popes themselves  might not have intended.  They also included World Day of Peace to the Festival Season. American Hindus  could as well include this theme on to  Makara Sankranti Day to celebrate the New Year and spread the message of Peace  on Earth  dedicating the day for the special worship of Earth and Sun learning from the wisdom of Catholic Popes if not from the wisdom of Vedas.    

Christianity today is the world’s leading religion. The same leads in economy, education and power. They have therefore been successful in making their holiest day like January 1 universal and also their calendar universal calling it after Pope Gregory while making others to blindly follow calling it International. Hindus on their hand dabbled with their Ancient tradition to call it a religion, making it as complex as possible and now feel the pain caused by others confused and confounded. Hindu traditions require for any celebration an auspicious day and time called muhurtam. January 1 is not an auspicious day like our New Years. That is why I suggested January 14 or Makara sankranti.  I do not know what  motivated and prompted even an atheist government led by Karunanidhi of DMK, may be by some divine inspiration which I cannot explain,  to celebrate  that day as Tamil New Year switching from the original auspicious day of Chitra Vishu. January 1, therefore, cannot be a Special Religious Event Day for Hindu Americans though temples can be kept open for long hours and devotees can perform whatever worship they desire. But it should not be blessed as an auspicious day by the management. I have explained before my own foolish venture of driving in the stormy winter night from Albany to Pittsburgh to catch the auspicious hour and receive Lord Venkateswara’s blessings.

Hindu Council of Australia says: "Hinduism is one of the world's oldest religions and is third largest. Hindus call it Sanatana Dharma- the eternal religion, ever present. Its origin lies prior to the recorded history. Hindus have lived in perfect harmony with nature for thousands of years. Hindus worship the sun, the stars, the rivers, the trees and the animals- nature in all its manifestations and glories.
Following is the message of living in harmony with Mother Nature from the Holy Scriptures of Hinduism:
Live in complete harmony with Nature,
Experience the grace of God in the splendor of the universe.
The sweet dawn will sweeten your soul,
The dazzling mid-day will set your hearts aflutter,
And the serene music of your soul will guide you towards peace and prosperity.
And when the day's task is over, you will sleep in the lap of Mother Nature,
All the deities will be favorable to you.                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                          (Mother Nature, Yajurveda 34.37)

It is a pity that we have ignored this sublime message of living in complete harmony with nature and enjoying the many splendors of the universe. By our indiscriminate use and abuse of its abundant resources we have spoiled its beauty. Consumerism has been at the core of our ever-increasing desire to possess more and more to add to our so-called comforts for living. We have complicated our lives, and have added a lot to our mental worries. The ever-increasing demand on our energy resources has led to climate change and warming of the earth's atmosphere with some drastic consequences. Obesity has become one of the biggest problems in our society. Eating cheap processed food and living a sedentary lifestyle are the some of the main causes”.   
Nature has provided enough provision to enjoy its bounties and benefits. We should obey the universal laws of nature. If we decide to cut a tree we should plant a tree also elsewhere. You are also aware how plants themselves have a propagation system. Millions of trees in the world are planted by squirrels which bury nuts and then forget where they hid them; so the wise say do well and forget – it will grow. If we pollute something we should also know how to clean and keep the balance. Otherwise we will repeat the misery of pollution saturated Shanghai today. In the discourse on Christmas lighting   you will find something interesting on the advantage of planting eucalyptus around the waste water storage and treatment tank if you find time to go through. Every Human activity needs to be ZERO waste and emission eventually...with 7+ billion humans, there is little choice (if we want to survive in the long term). We have to live with Nature and be a part of Nature...not try to "conquer" Nature. The most compassionate thing to do now (great 2014 New Year Resolution) ...To live in a sustainable manner by reducing climate change, reducing pollution, and preserving the very natural eco-systems that have been keeping us alive! Clean air, water, food, and land are priceless for all living beings including humans.
The slogan Peace on Earth is generally understood in its negative sense of war prevention or pollution control. But it needs a more detailed study. Let me elaborate.

It has become a common feature among Hindu Americans, a Hindu marrying a Christian.  Even among Christians a Baptist marrying a Methodist passed for an interfaith coalition. In my days a Srivaishnava marrying a Hebbar or Mandyam Iyengar was considered as an inter-caste marriage. A marriage between an Iyer (Saivite Brahmin) and Iyengar (Vaishnavite Brahmin) was almost like inter-racial marriage. Now it is a hyphenated world. In a post denominational age in America, people come from eclectic spiritual households—Jewish Buddhist, Hindu-Christian, Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Jew, Hindu-Buddhist, Pentecostal--Episcopal, Catholic-Rastafarian etc.  The world is changing in its perception. 

While this is happening at  social level with  believers of God compromising on the  unavoidable happenings   we  are also seeing the growth of atheists in the human society mostly arising with these emotionally and momentarily decided marriages without thinking of later consequences,  when they settle down in practical life. They are even thinking of same-sex marriage concept. The bold next wave, if it comes, would be the most ambitious and dramatic of all is the coalition of believers and atheists yearning for world peace, united by the fear of death. In the past we have learnt how Upanishads sprang up by the fear of death and our wise sages started meditating upon “mrityor maa amritam gamaya”--Lead us from death to immortality. Atheists and most of the beliefs except Hinduism do not believe in after life and so their worry restricts to holding on to present life as far as possible with the strong conviction   “One life to live”.  So Peace on Earth will be the unifying force for them as well for peace ensures long life.
Pope Francis in last December made an unscripted plea during his Christmas address: “I invite even non-believers to desire peace. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire—but everyone, for peace”. Our ancient sages of Upanishads had compromised on occasional atheist outbursts as long as it obeyed the laws of Dharma like universal peace given expression in many of the Shanti Mantras.   The three   “Saantih” chanted at the end of the concluding prayer is appeal to the phenomenal Supreme Principal to lend peace. Santih means peace. The three shantis are directed to the three sources of disturbances that destroy mental peace and life. The three sources of disturbances are: 1. Aadidaivikam (cosmic disturbances)--These are from phenomenal powers like lightning, thunder, rain, earthquake, tsunami etc. 2. Aaadi-bhautikam (environmental disturbances)—these are noise around, animals growling, insects crawling, hard of breathing due to pollution like what happened recently in Shaghai with the highly toxic and polluted atmosphere putting the whole city in danger with no fresh air. Unknowingly modern man in his greed disturbs the nature and devastates the flora and fauna and contributes for human destruction. 3. Adhyaatmikam (inner disturbances)—these could be from various causes food poison, contaminated water, family feuds and quarrels etc.  

We have also seen several times of alarming atheism lifting its head in Hindu Theology like Charwaaka philosophy, Sankhya philosophy, Jabali’s advice to Rama and inclusion of Buddha of nihilism as an Avatar of Vishnu etc., Communist movement, DK Movement etc., about which we have discussed a lot in the past discourses. It is heartening to note that after a long time Christianity is changing its concept following the wisdom contained in Vedas trying to have a fresh look at Yoga and spiritualism. Atheist tendency is growing at present in USA as its followers are fed up with unconvincing and boring sermons while suffering continues.

The slogan on Peace on Earth in Western Culture is of recent origin. For nearly sixty years, the future   of peace was framed between the Christian West and atheist Cold war Stalinism.  Secular India also experimented with the then stubborn and cunning leader Chou En Lai with its Pancha sheel policy for some time.  Today the old geopolitical division of believer versus non-believer starts to look complex and confused.  War and Killing happen not only in the name of nihilistic hatred and self-hatred but also unfortunately in the name of God and religion. In an era marked by glamorized violence and mass murders, a new dividing line emerges the Forces of Life versus the Forces of Death. In the light of this, pope’s challenge to join the Forces of Life and Death and Decency does not require proof of theological credentials as a Hindu or Religious Christian or any other. Anyone can join, anyone who is serious about what peace requires in the realm of world. For Hindus it is a natural instinct based on their daily prayer seeking for universal peace and happiness. Even when they walk out of their religion their age-old tradition and natural instinct remains to serve the cause of peace.  That is how Hindus have adjusted with Communist Governments and Atheist Governments for decades focusing their thoughts on all round peace.

“Peace” has become a catch word easily sloganized, sentimentalized or even written off as naive. But look at the patient work and sufferings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and others in the past and present that have influenced the whole world with their patient work.  Peace-making, nonviolent movements, arms reduction efforts, habits of empathy, social justice and green sustainability are gaining grounds influenced by those noble souls, and taking to institutional forms and national day of remembrance and prayer. About 400 colleges worldwide now train students as peace scholars and practitioners. “Peace studies today is defined not just as the absence of war as negative peace but also the presence of the positive peace conditions for a just and sustainable peace, including access to food, and clean drinking water, education for woman and children, security from physical harm, and other inviolable human rights as positive contribution” according to the Kroc Institute of International Peace studies at the University of Notre dame.

A sustainable peace means working for human rights and rectifying unjust political conditions, not merely saying “stop the guns”. Peace building conversation partners include military personnel, business men economists, activists in human rights and international law.  Modern peace moments sprang out of    a consequence of mass destruction of World War II. The Nazis with their death camps had invented a new sort of war on humanity, harboring fantasies of a “master race” and insane visions of the fiery destruction of cultures everywhere.  They marinated in the pornography of death. A Nazified spirit of death lives on in attitudes that blame minorities, make a cult of strength and dream suicidal dreams of an all-consuming fire of everything. But it does not have the last word. Now Al-quid-a has started yet another type of war with suicidal holy war package.

Dalai Lama who is also largely influenced by Hinduism living in India has often seen saying, “Peace is the only practical solution left. The alternative is annihilation”. A dream of peace has been working its way into the heart of society for millennia. It is repeated frequently in Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Tradition) and also found later in Old Testament—the comprehensive idea of shalom. It’s central to the familiar Christmas story—Peace on Earth. It is there in Quaker traditions, the civil rights movement and   anti-nuclear talks.  It will require some blessed combination of justice and forgiveness, an expanded view of citizenship and neighbor and sacrifice, a review of the good life.  Wendell Berry wrote: “We have lived by the assumption that what was a good for us would be good for the world… We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it”.  A believer non-believer peace coalition as spoken by the Pope is in that direction does not surprise us.
It is appropriate to quote here the important and customary concluding peace prayers of Hindus at the end of their daily worship as well as at the conclusion of sixteen steps worship ritual (shoedasa upachaara pooja) in temples:

Dyauh shantihAntariksam santih prithivee santih aapah santih oshadhayah santih |
Vanaspatayah santh viswedevaah santih brahma santih sarvam santih saantireva santih saa maa saanthiredhi //

May there be peace in the heavenly region! May there be peace in the atmosphere! May peace reign on the Earth! May there be coolness in water! May the medicinal herbs be effective and healing! May the plants contribute to be peace! May there be harmony in the celestial objects and perfection in spiritual knowledge! May peace prevail in everything in the universe! May peace pervade everywhere, May that peace come to me too! May there be peace, peace, peace!

Kaale varshatu par-jan-yaha Prithavee sasya-saalinee /
Desoyam kshobha-rahitah  Braahmanaah  santu nirbhayaah  //

May the rains fall at the right time! May the crop-bearing land be fertile! May the country where I live, be free of famine! May the spiritual thinkers be fearless to practice their religion!

Sarve bhavantu sukhinah Sarve santu niraa-mayah
Sarve bhadraani pasyantu Maa kaschit dhukhinah bhavet //

May all beings be happy! May all beings be free of disease!   May people learn to see good things in  others! May none suffer!

Western style greeting cards for the New Year contain the usual messages wishing happiness and prosperity. Today the world seems to be decaying, degenerating and drifting towards destruction. The earth is being plundered, heritage is being ignored and culture is being eroded, all in the name of progress. Vast destruction is caused and enormous pain inflicted on humanity by natural causes like tsunami, floods and pollution and man-created internal strife, revolts and revolution. Therefore of late   New Year Greeting Cards focus on Peace on Earth.

The most universal wish at any time of the year is “Peace on Earth.” The sentiment is timeless, but especially comes to mind as the beginning of a new calendar year approaches. Sending personalized New Year Cards depicting Peace on Earth   conveys your true wish for the holiday season and New Year. The message of Peace is always “politically correct” and all-inclusive; it leaves out no nationality, ethnic group, or ideology.  When the calendar year advances toward its conclusion, and especially as our American holiday of Thanksgiving (this was an yearning for peace making apologizing for the past injustice) reminds us, we tend to take stock of the past year to make new resolution. We are more likely to pause in our hectic activities to ask what we have done this year to better our world. We also question what we might do in the New Year to make the planet, and our little piece of it, a finer place in which to live and thrive. Sending wishes for Peace on Earth with a New Year   card is an excellent beginning.  

But all such messages and beyond are contained in Hindu Universal Conclusion Prayers recited above which is focused on all beings including flora and fauna.  Vedas proclaim ‘Vasudaiva kutumbakam’ whole world is one family and therefore Hindu prayers are for the whole humanity.

Let us also pledge in the following manner seeking Universal Peace:

Sarve vayam gotramiva sma ekam promaadaraslakshna-gunaanubaddhaah /

Yoddhum sadaa chaakhiladush-pravritteeh  seneva siddhaa niyataasva dheeraah //

We stand as one family bound to each other with love and respect. We serve as an army, courageous and disciplined, ever ready to fight against all low tendencies and false values within and without us!

Sevaa-parityaaga-mayaayushaa cha pratigrahebhyo adhikameva daanam /
Manasvitaa-sadruna-dhairya-maarge traatum prasaadaaya bhajaama eesam //

We live honestly the noble life of sacrifice and service producing more than what we consume and giving more than what we take. We seek the Lord’s grace to keep us on the path of virtue, courage and wisdom!

Prabho kripaa te cha subhasishoe-asmad dwaaraa-abhito-asmin jagati stravantu
swadesa-sevaiva cha devasevaa sadeti bho! Viswasimo dhridham cha //

May Thy grace and blessings flow through the world around us! We believe that the service of our country is the service of the Lord of all Lords!

Janeshu bhaktih parmaatmabhaktih iti svakaaryaani cha sushthu vidmah /
Tesham prapoortyaih  kripayaa prabho noe balam cha dhairyam vitaropa-yuktam //

We believe that devotion to the people is the devotion to the Supreme Self. We know our responsibilities; Give us the ability and courage to fulfil them!

It will be fitting and proper to   honor this day directed to the worship of Panchabhootas, especially oriented to Watern (Aapah), Sun God (s Surya) and Mother Earth (Bhoodevi) in American Hindu Temples, presided over by Mother Earth to focus on eco-friendliness, environmental protection, preservation of flora and fauna and maintaining the pristine beauty of Mother Earth while enjoying her gift of nature with standard norms. Mother earth is hailed in Vedas as Universal Mother, mother of all mothers; mother is always the first god in Hindu concept (matru devo bhava).  Here we need the blessings of both Sun (Surya) and Mother Earth as well as another important element of nature water (Aapah). Though Mother Earth figures in all Hindu daily rituals and in worship of processional Vishnu deity as his other consort along with Lakshmi (Sridevi and Bhoodevi) no particular day is earmarked for her worship, as seen for Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga on many days in a year.  We have a special Day earmarked for Sun God by way of Surya Namaskar on Ratha Saptami Day where Sun element is the presiding deity. It is important to remember Hindu worship started with the worship of elements of nature. In Rigveda you can hardly find any direct reference to Brahman, but these elements of nature are worshiped and meditated upon as Vyahritis (aggregates) of Brahman.  Later, Hindus in their devotional fantasy created 33 crores and more of Gods which process has not stopped even today. We have Saibaba, Swami Narayan, Andal, Bharat Mata and many others with the concept, more the merrier.  Upanishads could not stop this emotional and devotional surge wave, and so the sages wisely compromised saying “Eko Viprah bahudaa vadanti, (The one Pundits call as many) constantly reminding us about “Tadekam” (That One) Universal Oneness and also reminding everything in the world is Vyahriti (aggregate) of Brahman. Lord Krishna repeated the same in Bhagavadgeeta “Samoham sarva bhooteshu”-- I am present equally in all beings, and also said;
Yoe maam  pasyati sarvatra sarvam cha mayi pasyati | tasyaaham na pranas-yaami sa cha may na pranasyati || (6-30)
He who perceives the Supreme Spirit everywhere, and perceives all things in it, will find that the Supreme Spirit is not lost for him, nor he lost to it.
[Who sees Supreme Spirit in all things and all things in the Supreme Spirit, he is never far from the Supreme Spirit, and the Supreme Spirit is never far from him.]

Even Ganesha was the creation of the devotees in distress who bothered by the vast destruction of their agricultural fields by elephants and mice, started worshiping the elephant itself in association with the mice, crystallizing their thought as Brahman in elephant calling him Gaja-raja, with a powerful human combination of strength and intellect. They worshipped him first as Vighnaraja, God of Destruction and then meditated upon him as Vighna-Naasaka, remover of obstacles.  Ganesha is of recent origin and only Lord Kartikeya figures in Ramayana describing his birth with no mention of Ganesha anywhere that inspired later Kalidasa to come out with his literary excellence Kumara Sambhava. There is no dearth for devotionally inspired Hindu ingenuity in creating Gods of their fantasies whose every activity is invariably fabricated with religion!

The Christmas and New Year Celebration is long and widespread and is a package deal of many religious events and peace messages impressing all as world’s leading faith for hope as seen above.  January 1  and New Year Celebration for all was promoted by Catholic Popes to start with  in the past and present whose speeches indirectly motivated mass conversion though the Popes themselves might not have motivated such violent conversions.  They also included World Day of Peace to the Festival Season to be observed on January 1 when Pope addressed the world. American Hindus could as well include this theme to Makara Sankranti Day to celebrate the New Year and spread the message of Peace on Earth   dedicating the day for the special worship of Earth and Sun learning from the wisdom of Catholic Popes, if not from the wisdom of Vedas. They could conduct a Yajna for Viswashanti recalling their every- day prayer for Peace for the World on a magnified reverential scale inviting participation by all and also  making it  significant for all like what Catholics Popes made for the world through their religious observances. This could be a significant Spiritual contribution by Hindu Americans to the world.

REFERENCES:
1) Anantha Rangacharya N.S., Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru, India.
2) Swami Vimalananda, Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad,Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India. 
3) N.S. Anatarangacharya, Rigvedaratna Samputa, Bengaluru, DVK Murti Publishers, Mysore, India.
 5)  Sri Ganesha Temple, Bhajan Book, Nashville,TN, USA.
6) My Prayers, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, India
7) Ray Waddle, Foster peace around world, The Tennessean, January 4, 2014.
8) Srinivasan N.R., Various discourses, Hindu Reflection: <nrsrini.blogspot.com>