Tuesday, April 12, 2016

RAM NAUMI SPECIAL EDITION - LESSON 3: SHABRI AND NAVDHA BHAKTI - HINDU VERSION OF NINE COMMANDMENTS NEED TO PRACTISED IN REAL LIFE.


LESSON 3:  SHABRI,NAVDHA BHAKTI AND SIMPLICITY

Thakur Ranjit Singh

In lesson three we speak about one devotee of Lord Ram, Shabri. Despite being a simpleton and considered light-minded (with “loose nut”, pagli), she had unwavering devotion in Ram. Bhagwan so much loved her selfless, firm and simple faith and devotion, that He walked to her place. He even tastefully ate half eaten wild berries (jhutha bair).It shows that one need not possess knowledge of rituals, understanding of mantras or so called proper ways.  One’s non-deceitful and steadfast devotion (shradha) in Lord overrides all materialistic riches, mantras and rituals.

Ram -Shabri Mila- this meeting has so much significance for us Hindus, WITH MANY LESSONS. The first lesson is to be very simple, you need not be rich, but be a good person. That means being spiritual, without necessity of being religious. GOD WILL THEN WALK TO YOUR PLACE.
That is a lesson to all of us that God does not need big ceremonies, expensive set-ups, huge Mandirs, big Brahmin/Pundit and loud music. Shabri’s episode is a lesson to all people. Ram tells her that He only recognises one’s devotion. Despite caste (jaati), kinship (paanti), lineage (kull), religiousness (dharm), reputation (badhaai), wealth (dhan), physical strength of family (bal), accomplishment and ability (gunn, chaturai), a man lacking in devotion is worth no more than cloud without fain. 

Hence this is a direct message to our rich and mighty and influential people in society who think they are more equal than the others and have "bought" God with their riches. No one can buy their way into God's kingdom. We need donors to run organisations, but one does not buy devotion with wealth. The real devotee was a poor, lowly caste, half-witted rustic villager like Shabri. Those who perceive themselves of higher caste (especially Brahmans) or those at higher financial level or in hierarchy in community, without devotion and selfless feeling for others are like barren soil, not worthy of any crop and useless in the eyes of God.

Ram imparting nine commandments for Hindus to Shabri. The underlying message is to have faith in God, have respect for elders and people who love God and his ways (sant) and love God by loving your fellow beings.

Bhagwan Ram then narrates and explains Navdha Bhakti – The Nine Steps of Devotion. I translate here so Pracharaks can explain to the modern generation in English.

NAVDHA BHAKTI

1) Pratham Bhakti Santan kar sangaa

The first step to devotion (Bhakti) is to keep company (fellowship) of the saints (Satsang). Note saints are NOT necessarily Brahmins, Pundits Swamis or Babas living in Mandirs. They are anybody with good character and good and righteous deeds. 

2) Doosri rati mam kathaa prasangaa

The second step is to enjoy listening to (fondness of) legends/lectures pertaining to the Lord.

3) Guru pankaj seva, teesri bhakti amaan

Selfless service to the Guru’s (perceptor/ teacher) lotus feet without any pride is the third step. Remember, PARENTS are the first Guru.

4) Chouthi Bhagati mam gun gaan, karai kapat tajee gaan

The fourth step is to earnestly sing praises of the Lord’s virtues with a heart clear of guile, deceit or hypocrisy. Our people need shed off trickery.

5) Mantra jaap mam dridh Visvaasaa, Pancham, bhajan jo Ved Prakaasaa

Chanting God’s Name with steadfast (unwavering) faith is the fifth step as the Vedas reveal.

6) Chattha dasa seela birati bahu karmaa, nirat nirantara sajjan dharma

The sixth, is to practice self-control, good character, detachment from manifold activities and always following the duties as good religious person. This simply means is that all you need to love your God is to love your fellow beings, and have compassion.

7) Saatvam sam mohi main jag dekhaa, motey sant adhik kar lekhaa

The seventh step is to perceive the world as God Himself and regard the saints higher than the Lord. One should be compassionate to others, humans and even animals, see God in all living beings. As I said, saints are not with saffron cloth and big beards with big tikka. They need not be pundits or Brahmins.

8) Aathvam jathaa laabh santoshaa, sapneu nahin, dekhai par doshaa

The eighth, is remaining contented with whatever he gets and not detecting faults of others. Being content or “Santosh” is a virtues rarely found in many.

9) Navam saral sab san chhal heena, mam bharos heenya harash na deenaa

In this state, one has full faith in the Lord, and becomes (child-like) simple with no hypocrisy or deceit. The devotee has strong faith in the Lord with neither too much happiness and expression of praise, nor depression. One needs to maintain calm emotions.

Shabri's offer of "jhutha bair" and acceptance of that by Ram shows  God loves simplicity and only understands the language of has for those who have devotion and unwavering love for God and good ways to God. We need to learn from the lessons taught by Ramayan.

The meaning and lessons here need to be clearly imparted to the audience. We have halls full of so called devotees, but many do not possess good character as explained in Navdha Bhakti. You still find many, full of deceit, hypocrisy, being two-faced, are thieves, full of tension or depression, being discontented with life, feeling jealous of others, being cruel to others, lacking self-control, having no respect for parents and passing oneself as religious without having qualities of being a good person. 

I personally know such people, and this shakes my faith in religion and our ways of prayers. Some have organised Ramayan path for Ram Naumi at their place or Mandir. They have been singing Ramayan, being part of a Mandali or Mandir for many decades, yet their hollow and deceitful character have not changed to follow good ways taught by Ramayan.

In many Hindus of modern-times, no personal improvement are noted in their personality, despite years of Ram Naumi and Ramayan.  I would rather befriend one who does not go to Mandir, does not sing Ramayan, does not belong to a Mandir or Mandali, but still is a good human being (spiritual without being religious) and a truthful and trustworthy person who respects  elders and parents and treats others with compassion.

We are so short of people who can walk their talk in Hinduism. They need to read and understand Navdha Bhakti, and see how God visits an uneducated lowly ranked, of very low caste woman who lacked all knowledge about prayers of rituals, but had non-deceitful and unwavering faith n God. We need more Shabris who are real Ram Bhakt and not ponga (deceitful) bhakts masquerading as religious people.

Lessons from Ram-Shabri Milan to modern man is to shed all showmanship, your richness and big-ness in whatever form, and be nice to your fellow beings, and just be a good person to reach God. You do not reach God through donations to Mandirs and Mandalis alone. One cannot bribe God or buy your way into God's heart. 

The lesson here is not to indulge in rituals,showmanship or display of wealth to reach God. Be simple, but devoted and a nice person, with faith and compassion, like Shabri.

And God will walk to your place.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a blogger, a media scholar and a person who has been singing Ramayan since he started reading Hindi over five decades ago.  He advocates Ramayan pracharaks and those conducting discourse to also preach about the relevance of Ramayan to modern man in a language they understand. E-mail : thakurji@xtra.co.nz]

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

RAM NAUMI SPECIAL- LESSON 2: RAVAN – VIBHISHAN – WE LACK VIBHISHANS WHO CAN SPEAK THE TRUTH


Thakur Ranjit Singh

This is the second lesson from Ramayan that you may not have heard before, in such light, with relevance to modern man.


After, Ravan, the King of Lanka, “stole” Lord Ram’s wife, Sita, and heard that Ram’s battalion was on its way to Lanka, he called a meeting to take views of his advisers. All of his Ministers advised him to go to war with Ram, as they felt Ravan was "undefeatable", so the logical advice was war.



Ravan is the type of demon god who only wants your advice if you tell him what he wishes to hear.
However, Ravan’s brother, Vibhishan advised him not to go to war. He stated that it did not suit a King like Ravan to commit this cowardly evil deed of stealing someone’s wife, therefore he should return Sita to Ram and seek forgiveness and peace.

Vibhishan was very brave to stand up to Ravan to tell him he was wrong. Ravan is the type of demon god who only wants your advice if you tell him what he wants to hear. (Remember some people you know like that?). Anybody doing otherwise would suffer the consequences. Vibhishan pleads to Ravan and tells him that Ram is God and Ravan has abused his powers. Clasping Ravan’s leg, Vibhishan prays and tells him that “where there is wisdom, prosperity of every kind reigns; where there is lack of knowledge, misfortune is the inevitable end. This is from the famous Chaupai (quadruplet): jahan sumati tahan sampati nana, jahan kumati tahan bipati nidana.” 


Ravan accused Vibhishan of taking the enemy’s side, and asks him to name somebody he had not defeated. He tells Vibhishan to go and join the enemies if he so much loves them. Ravan then kicks his younger brother while he was clasping Ravan’s feet. That kick and departure of Vibhishan was the beginning of end of Ravan. While departing, Vibhishan gave advice to them in this Doha:


Sachiu, vaidh, guru tini joh, priya bole bhay aas; Raj dharam tann tini karr hoi beghi naas”


When a Minister (advisor), a physician (doctor) and a religious preceptor (guru, teacher, mentor) – these three use pleasing words from fear (darr) or hope of reward (lalach), the result is that dominion (country) health, and faith – all the three forthwith, go to dogs (meet sad end)



Vibhishan pleads to Ravan and tells him to come to his senses, return Sita to Ram, and seek forgiveness and peace.
A lesson in real life of this lesson is the fall of Mahendra Chaudhry’s peoples Coalition Government on 19 May, 2000 in Fiji. Many Vibhishans came to advise Chaudhry to shed his trade-union type arrogance and behave like a statesman Prime Minister, but he ignored all advice. Yours truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh also joined in as a Vibhishan to tell him to improve his ways in Radio Fiji’s Fiji Hindi programme ‘Tanik Humri Bhi Suno. (Hear me out, dude). 

I ran this programme at Radio Fiji in 1999-2000, among others with Dinesh Sharma and Zarina Begum Reece. Gyan Prabha Nand and Veena Bhatnagar (now Assistant Health Minister in Bainimarama Government) from Radio Fiji were the anchors. In one crucial programme that resulted in death of our programme, we had pleaded with Chaudhry to get rid of his arrogance, show some respect for Chiefs and Fijian institutions, and win support of ITaukei population. Like Ravan, he kicked us out from the programme, as like Ravan, he was not prepared to listen to what he did not wish to hear. With his Communications Assistant Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, they shut us off from Radio Fiji. This was an assault on democracy and media. And his government was assaulted in return by the Fiji Times and George Speight and the rest is history.


Unfortunately, while many sing Ramayan, they fail to appreciate this bold lesson taught by Vibhishan: even if your brother is wrong, stand up for righteousness, peace, and truth. Do not do ill to others. There is shortage of see people with courage standing up to ills in the community. Many are afraid to walk the talk of religious teachings. Because of my obsession to do right things, I generally find myself ostracised by the rich, mighty and influential in our community, who like Ravan, get offended when they do not hear from me what they wish to hear. It is for this reason that some Indian media in Auckland have black-banned Thakur. This is for the truth I spoke against these media organisations.  Their rich and influential proprietors, like Ravan, think they could also kick away this Vibhishan. Even some of the elites have told some organisation I associate with, that they will not donate if Thakur is associated with them. Hence, we have the Ravans of Kaliyug lurking around us, kicking Vibhishans, who speak the truth.

Ravan tells Vibhishan to go and join the enemies, if he so much loved them. Ravan humiliates and abuses him, and kicks his younger brother while he was clasping Ravan’s feet, pleading him to save Lanka from ruins, and wrath of Lord Ram. He chases the one speaking the truth, at his peril, and that spells end of Ravan.
But we just hope, the pracharaks and pundits preaching Ramayan, and in particular, this episode, try to relate it to current times. We still have arrogant Ravans around us. And like Ravan’s Ministers and advisers, many still, for fear or hope of reward, (darr or lalach) advise them what they wish to hear. What our society needs is more Vibhishans who can stand up to Ravans of modern times and make a difference by speaking the truth that many amongst us are afraid to do. Unfortunately, I personally find myself punished and side-lined for being the Vibhishan amongst us. And this is generally by those who purport to be disciples of Bhagwan Ram. Wah re prabhu ke bhakt (Hail such prophets and followers of Lord Ram)

I hope you will learn from the teachings of Ramayan. Do not be a fearful bystander - speak the truth, be honest and liberate your loved ones by speaking the truth. Point them out, like Vibhishan, if they are wrong. May you be blessed by Shri Ram. This has been the second lesson from Rishi Thakur Ranjeet.


[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a blogger, a media scholar and a person who has been singing Ramayan since he started reading Hindi over five decades ago. He is former Secretary of Nasinu Branch of Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji. He advocates Ramayan pracharaks and those conducting discourse to also preach about the relevance of Ramayan to modern man- and communicate to the modern generation (millennials) in a language they understand.]

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ram Naumi Special Edition - LESSON 1: AVOID “MANTHRA” OF MODERN TIMES – THOSE WHO BRING DISPUTES AND DISCORD IN FAMILIES.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Ramayan for modern generation is full of teachings very relevant to us. But the lament is that in many cases, people sitting on vyas gaddi, or pracharaks and those delivering lectures do not take this opportunity to make a link between Ramayan’s teachings and it relevance to us today. Many people tell the same old stories of Ramayan we have been hearing for decades. We all know it, BUT HOW IS IT RELEVANT TO US TODAY. Very rarely heard from those sitting with mikes.

The relevance of Ramayan for modern man (new generation) is to be careful of an evil "Manthra" who plants seed of discord, disunity and infighting between peaceful and loving families. So be warned against such Manthras and recognise and know them in advance before they can cause you misery. And do not fall for them. ESTABLISH FACTS BEFORE ACTING-DO NOT JUST BELIEVE WHAT OTHERS SAY.

I will fill that vacuum over this period of Ram Naumi. The first lesson that I wish to speak on is the “Manthra”, the backbiter, the ‘chugalkhor”, the gossiper, the spoiler – the one very near to the family, but who does great damage to family unity. Yes, something that I have personally been through, being victims of people who belong to Ramayan mandalis, act as devoted Hindus, sing Ramayan, but never learn anything from the real teachings of Ramayan. There are many around us. I wished to warn you of such characters, who would be very near you, part of your family or your group, but doing negative distorted reporting and influencing your mates, friends or family members in a negative ways. This brings discord in the family, between brothers, sons, sisters-in-law and many other relatives. Many of you may have been through this situation.

In Ramayan, Kekei was very loving “mother” to Ram, and Ram mutually loved her very much. So did Ram’s father, Dashrath, for whom this love for Kekei became a “fatal attraction” (as he loses his life in fulfilling the vows he gave her). She was one of the three Queens of King Dashrath. He lost his life for a “vachan”, promise or vow he (Dashrath) had given Kekei in time of vulnerability in a war. Kekei was almost unaware of it, till her servant from her father’s place, Manthra, reminded her of this on the last night before Ram was to be made the King. Manthra” filled the ears” of a hitherto loving mother, Kekei, with false situations that she would be rendered as a slave queen and Kaushalya (Ram’s biological mother) would become the Queen Mother. In the lust to become Queen Mother, at insistence and “filling the ear” by Manthra with evil thoughts in a loving family, Kekei halts Ram’s coronation and had him banished and exiled to forest for 14 years, while announcing coronation for her son Bharat. However Bharat (also called Dharam Raj or the righteous one) rejects this, insisting that the eldest brother, Ram should rightfully be the king. He oversees the kingdom of Ayodhya in trust for Ram, till his return 14 years after the exile. (One of the reason for which we celebrate Diwali)

Be careful of modern-day Manthra spreading the seeds of disunity in families.
But the problem we have in Kaliyug, our modern times, is that we stopped producing righteous and selfless brothers like Bharat. We are full of selfish people, brothers, who have been singing Ramayan for decades, but still failing to learn much from the half-brotherly love depicted in Ramayan – the sacrifices that a half-brother Bharat does for his elder brother Ram. Ramayan is full of very noble and good teachings for modern men, but unfortunately, much of these are not imparted by those preaching Ramayan. Most often, they tell the story only, and abstract teachings with little relation to current times.

Hence, the lesson we should learn from Ramayan is to be careful of people like “Manthra” –the modern day Manthra, masquerading as your friend and relative, but in reality, holding much malice against you and your family, and spreading false rumours or feeding others with gossip that causes rift in the family. Some audience may feel bad and assume that such teachings and lessons refer to them. Too bad, if the hat fits you, and you happen to be acting like “Manthra”, the gossiper and backbiter, then put the hat on. Improve yourselves from lessons and morale delivered by Ramayan. No use going to the Katha, eating prashaad and food, (and some consuming grog) and going home. It is waste of time-you have been doing this for many years, in fact decades.

Manthra feeding the evil thoughts in the mind of Queen Kekei - the type of people we need to be wary of in modern times who feed us with mis- information and divisive information which ultimately result in destroying peace and the family unity.
And much important lesson is for the victims of such gossip, false-rumours and hearsay things that are intended to spoil the relationship. We have a Fiji-Indian saying that if somebody tells you that a crow has flown away with your ears, DO NOT RUN AFTER THE CROW- FIRST FEEL YOUR EARS AND SEE THAT THEY ARE INTACT. What that means is that do not fall for such rumours and unfounded second-hand gossips. ESTABLISH THE FACTS BEFORE MAKING ANY RASH DECISIONS. Do not fall for the conspiracy.

The face of Kekei in 'the latest Ramayan serial, "Siya Ke Ram"
Please I hope you will learn from the teachings of Ramayan to be careful of becoming victims of “Manthra” of modern times. They are lurking around you, both as males and females, as friends-many are your relatives. I know some of them, but they do not know that I know-but I remain careful-and do not give a damn to what they say. So, be warned and be blessed by Shri Ram. This has been the first lesson from Rishi BabaThakur Ranjeet.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a blogger, a media scholar and a person who has been singing Ramayan since he started reading Hindi over five decades ago. He is former Secretary of Nasinu Branch of Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji. He advocates Ramayan pracharaks and those conducting discourse to also preach about the relevance of Ramayan to modern man-not just narrating the story.]