Sunday, July 9, 2017

Guru Purnima

Today is Guru Purnima, the day Hindus, Buddhists and Jains pay their respects to spiritual and academic teachers, and one of the most significant days in the calendar. A Guru doesn't necessarily have to be a spiritual master: he or she can be anyone who has made a positive difference in your life; someone who has guided you on the path of wisdom, compassion and righteousness — your school teacher, your parent or your mentor at work — and helped you realise your potential to be a good human being and held a mirror to the perfection within you.

I want to share this lovely Guru Purnima message from the late Indian spiritual teacher and author, Eknath Easwaran, who established the nonprofit Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in California in 1961. It is from Easwaran's The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living: Volume 1. I recommend all his books.



"The word guru means "one who is heavy," so heavy that he can never be shaken. A guru is a person who is so deeply established within himself that no force on earth can affect the complete love he feels for everyone. If you curse him, he will bless you; if you harm him, he will serve you; and if you exploit him, he will become your benefactor. It is good for us to remember that the guru, the spiritual teacher, is in every one of us. All that another person can do is to make us aware of the teacher within ourselves."

Photo: bmcm.org

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Remembering Swami Vivekananda

“We must not only tolerate others, but positively embrace them, and that truth is the basis of all religions.” 

Swami Vivekananda was only 39 when he died on July 4, 1902, at Belur in West Bengal. But in that short period of his life, Narendra Nath Datta, by birth, accomplished more than most people struggle to achieve with twice his lifespan.

At the young age of 30, Vivekananda captivated the hearts of men and women in the United States with his soul-stirring speech at the Parliament of World's Religions in Chicago, on September 11, 1893 — a speech that he, quite unexpectedly, began with the words “Sisters and Brothers of America.” It was to become a household doctrine for the universality of races and religions everywhere.


French writer and philosopher Romain Rolland was so enthralled by the speech that he remarked, “The thought of this warrior prophet of India left a deep mark upon the United States... I cannot touch these sayings of his...without giving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!”

Overnight, Vivekananda, the foremost disciple of 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, catapulted from a relatively unknown monk to a world-renowned seer. He was, beyond a shadow of doubt, one of the greatest social thinkers, reformers and teachers to walk the earth. He was instrumental in taking Indian spiritual culture and philosophical thought to a global audience, propagating harmony and mutual respect among people of different religious faiths, reviving Hinduism in India and making it stand among the pantheon of world religions, and raising the voice of nationalism against colonial rule.


Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Swami Vivekananda was so far ahead of his time and thought that he galvanised an entire generation, a whole nation, to be fearless and steadfast in faith, live for an ideal, and rest not till the goal was reached. In thought, word and action, the yogi was a revolutionary who believed that we were masters of our own destinies, responsible for what we are and what we wish to be, and that the power to scale the Everest of success was in our own hands. 

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

Today, 115 years after his death, Swami Vivekananda continues to inspire and motivate, and his teachings — rooted in spiritual regeneration — are as relevant today as they were in his time. Perhaps, more so. These are extracts from that rousing speech he gave over a century ago, their message of universal tolerance holding a mirror to the troubled times we live in.


I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation.

I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

If there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature.