Selfless Service – Best Antidepressant

Why do we have the mood swings – against which was the very reason why we took up such practice in the first place. This question was posed  by an ardent devotee to the Master, His Holiness Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar – (you can follow HIM on twitter here @SriSri or through the official Facebook Page  Many of us get into suspicion mode as to why despite so much of sadhana (spiritual practices like yoga, classical music etc) we are not elevated.

HE went about explaining the phenomenon saying, sadhana raises energy levels to such high levels that unless it is channelised productively, there could be some restlessness and uneasiness. The most productive channel is to be of service to others (Seva). Seva thus  is the panacea for these kinds of ills. But then to sustain Seva levels regular Sadhana is a must – therefore both of them go hand in hand. While on the subject, here is a nice story on selfless seva and its benefits to the sevak later on. (The original story is in German and here is the best translation that I could manage – all Credits to the original author for this wonderful story)

The Clouds

One hot summer morning a little Cloud rose out of the sea and floated lightly and happily across the blue sky. Far below lay the earth, brown, dry, and desolate, from drouth. The little Cloud could see the poor people of the earth working and suffering in the hot fields, while she herself floated on the morning breeze, hither and thither, without a care.

“Oh, if I could only help the poor people down there!” she thought. “If I could but make their work easier, or give the hungry ones food, or the thirsty a drink!”

And as the day passed, and the Cloud became larger, this wish to do something for the people of earth was ever greater in her heart.

On earth it grew hotter and hotter; the sun burned down so fiercely that the people were fainting in its rays; it seemed as if they must die of heat, and yet they were obliged to go on with their work, for they were very poor. Sometimes they stood and looked up at the Cloud, as if they were praying, and saying, “Ah, if you could help us!”

“I will help you; I will!” said the Cloud. And she began to sink softly down toward the earth.

But suddenly, as she floated down, she remembered something which had been told her when she was a tiny Cloud-child, in the lap of Mother Ocean: it had been whispered that if the Clouds go too near the earth they die. When she remembered this she held herself from sinking, and swayed here and there on the breeze, thinking,–thinking. But at last she stood quite still, and spoke boldly and proudly. She said, “Men of earth, I will help you, come what may!”

The thought made her suddenly marvelously big and strong and powerful. Never had she dreamed that she could be so big. Like a mighty angel of blessing she stood above the earth, and lifted her head and spread her wings far over the fields and woods. She was so great, so majestic, that men and animals were awe-struck at the sight; the trees and the grasses bowed before her; yet all the earth-creatures felt that she meant them well.

“Yes, I will help you,” cried the Cloud once more. “Take me to yourselves; I will give my life for you!”

As she said the words a wonderful light glowed from her heart, the sound of thunder rolled through the sky, and a love greater than words can tell filled the Cloud; down, down, close to the earth she swept, and gave up her life in a blessed, healing shower of rain.

That rain was the Cloud’s great deed; it was her death, too; but it was also her glory. Over the whole country-side, as far as the rain fell, a lovely rainbow sprang its arch, and all the brightest rays of heaven made its colors; it was the last greeting of a love so great that it sacrificed itself.

Soon that, too, was gone, but long, long afterward the men and animals who were saved by the Cloud kept her blessing in their hearts.

As seen, the fruits of seva continued to linger in form of blessing of the people and animal long after our existence – in case of the clouds the blessings ensured continuing supply of clouds to the mankind. How many songs or verses are written everyday in praise of Clouds to this day.

While we involve and indulge in seva and sadhana, it definitely raises our spirits (the extent of seva should be so high that we should’t have time to worry about our silly problems). We also find that our problems which were insurmountable (in our minds, of course) compares pitiably to the problems many other face much more bravely than us.

Seva is not a duty – it is an Opportunity! I am blessed with loads of opportunity that keeps coming my way, almost every moment. It has indeed enriched and enlivened my life. I am sure it does that to everyone.

To summarize, It pays to serve…It pays to do sadhana

PS: The photograph clicked from a flight in Chennai Skies on return flight from Colombo

In the Eyes of a Potter (Bhakta Kumbara)


A bit philosophical this evening. Was watching the video of Commentaries on the Bhakti Sutras of Narada by my beloved Master, HH Sri Sri Ravishankar. No, I am not going to redo the commentary here (nothing beats the style in which it is delivered – suggest everyone should watch this set of 14 VCDs – it is a good pastime, the commentaries delivered in His Characteristic Humour at the same time Rich with knowledge). However this blog entry is related to something that I did a couple of weeks ago (I wrote down 2 blogs subsequent to this incident though). Excuse me if my diary looks haphazard with utter disregard to Chronology.

On another of my favourite blogsite, a fellow blogger wanted lyrics of an All-time Hit Song, sung by Sri PB Srinivas for a movie called Bhaktha Kumbara (The Devoted Potter). PBS has special place in my hearts, for one he is a regular furniture in the Drive-in Woodlands Restuarant, Chennai sipping his endless supply of favourite Filter Coffee with his trademark Hat and a black coat. With reams of old newspaper on the table, he is busy penning new verses (these days he is a good lyricist) apart from exhausting the cup of coffee. Coming back to the song, it goes with the Title, “manava dehavu mULe mAmsada taDike

While I was contemplating on nothing in particular, suddenly hummed this song the lyrics of which I recently posted to the fellow blogger (it was quite fresh in my minds). This was a song which was thoughtlessly sung by me since when I was a kid, but today when I hummed it I was touched by the profound purport of each and every word in that song.

The stanza below means that the body is just a lump of flesh and bones and as long as you breathe, why be with the attitude of Me, Mine, and the moment the breathing stops, it is crematorial rites. Then why be so self seeking materialism (feverish desire) for the sake of this decaying body that would be consigned to the earth.

“usiraaDuva thanaka naanu nannadhemba mamakara
nintha maru galigeye masaNadhe samskaara,
maNNali berethu, mellage koLethu, mugiyuva dehake vyamohaveke?”

The gist of the song is – unlike any other so called lowly living beings, human body has some value only as long as Prana (breath) is present. The moment human body stops breathing , it becomes useless (while part of many other animals find lot of uses even after they die, ivory of the elephant, wood from the trees, hide of animals like buffaloes and cows that goes into making leather etc). Human body is disposed at the earliest (traditionally before sunset). It is only when the light of life glows in the body that it has any charm, after that even the closest of the relative (wife, children) refer to it only as a Body. What a depth these words carry, isnt it? Are we acting so petty or mean to maintain this piece of flesh? Degrading everything around us that made us in the first place.

The song goes on to say, we came into the world nude, we will go from the world nude and from the time or arrival to the time of departure (between life and death) it is darkness. So brighten you life by immersing yourself devoted to the Lord.

baruvaaga beththale hoguvaaga bethethale
bandu hOguva naduve bari kaththale
bhaktiya belaku baaLige beku
mukthige vittalana kondadad beku

The couple of stanzas excerpted here touched me to the core. The purport can’t come out in toto in my translation (the reason why I reproduced it in Kannada for those who know the language) Food for thought. The inimitable rendition of the song by Sri. PBS made it even more profound (just heard it online once again). Upon specific request from HH Sri Sri Ravishankar, Sri PBS rendered this song, in the whole world’s view (25 million converged in Bangalore during the 3 days and millions more watched it live on TV or Webcast), during the final day of the Silver Jubiless Celebrations of the Art of Living in Bangalore.

It now has changed my perspective and outlook to life in general  (atleast in this present moment). Put down this thought to reflect sometime later even if things settle down and it probabily becomes a memory tomorrow and out of my active thoughts! But the Truth expressed by the poet in this Verse is real and eternal too.

You can watch the video and hear it in Sri PBS Voice

Pongal – Tribute to our Culture & Nature

Indian Festivals are a celebratory way of thanking the Divine for providing us with everything that we have and also to seek blessings for continued prosperity. As people, say it is us in India who worship anything and everything and it takes a helluva lot of maturity to do it. We have been taught to respect even non-living things are divine, let alone living beings.

On my last leg of my stay in Chennai, my karma Bhoomi, here is a tribute to the culture and people of Tamil Nadu. And what better way than to elucidate my expereince of spending the previous Pongal in the countryside. Thanks to a colleague and her parents who invited us over to their home in Kovilpatti and gave us an experience of a traditional Pongal festivities, its significance and lessons for us.

Pongal is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It marks the beginning of Sun’s journey towards the north (Uttarayana – which according to Hinduism is considered very auspicious phase as opposed to Southwards – Dakshinayana traversal of the sun). Pongal is celebrated with lot of pomp and gaiety over a period of 4 days. Since the Souramana calendar (Western Calendar based on the Solar phases) is followed, the dates usually remain the same i.e. Jan 13th to Jan 16th of every year.

Day -1:
The last day of Margazhi (Dec/Jan) is the first day of Pongal and called Bhogi Pongal. All the homes are cleaned and the unwanted, disposable things are collected and set aflame. This signifies transition from the old to the new. We were not expected to carry our old belongings to be burnt away there. Nevertheless as the host said, burn away your old and bad thoughts   Had to give it to him for his timely wit (and wisdom too)

(the Makara Sankaranti) is the first day when Uttarayan begins. This day is called the Surya Pongal and begins with the worship of the sun. We the city folks woke up to find the whole home a buzz of activity, the courtyard beautifully decorated with colourful Rangoli. This festival is a thanksgiving to the Divine for the abundant harvest and in turn prosperity bestowed. Pongal literally means “Rising up” and by extension refers to “Boiling over”, signifying abundance of prosperity. The freshly harvested crop (rice in TN) is cooked and allowed to rise over the brim of the pot and boil over. Yummm….the aroma was so mouth watering and we could not wait for the rituals to get over (our hostess saw the obvious impatience on our faces and went through the rituals in express speed – she clarified she never skipped any processes). The platain leaf on which it was served was almost licked clean by all of us.

The third day is called Maatu Pongal, maadu meaning cattle. Cows and Bulls were decorated with paint and bells and people pray to them with kum kum placed on their head, and people pay respects to them by bending down, touching their feet and foreheads, offering the cattle pongal. The devotion with which this was done was inexplicable – each one gave it more than 100% and there was a genuine expression of gratitude on the faces of the family of our host. We people were so scared to go near the cow and the bull. All it took was a big moo….from one of them for my son to rush far away from the courtyard. It was left for the three brave ones left (me, my wife and daughter – not to mention that we stood behind our host and just about reached the forehead of the cow – prayers to the bull were of remote type)

The fourth day called, Kaanum Pongal is devoted to meeting up other members of the family and paying their respects to the elders of the family offering them new clothes with a Dakshina. This is the day our host also left some food out on the terrace for the crows to eat. She said the belief is that the crow carries the food to the departed elders of the family. This was quite emotional because it was carried out with so much of feeling and intensity and we had to believe that the crow indeed carried the delicacy prepared right to the stomach of the departed souls.

Look back this festival has a lot of relevance to all of us

We should turn away from the darkness of hallucinating worldly experiences in which we live, allow the light to enter us and make us shine brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge, even as the sun does, from the time it rises everyday.

Thanking the divine for all the good bestowed to us. Worshipping the sun which just goes about doing its duty without expecting anything in return. Worshipping the cattle signifies our appreciation of the part they play in our betterment of our lives.

Sharing, caring, appreciation, expression of gratitude, respect for elders and most importantly considering everything around as valuable.

This year, it was a special one for us in Chennai. Divya (Akhila) my daughter appeared on a local Television Channel performing for the Pongal Special program. She presented a folk dance (with a dash of Bharatnatyam) She made us proud with the rave reviews she elicited with her superb performance and our phones has never stopped ringing ever since the telecast……trrrrrinnng triiiinnnnggg…..let me rush, another phone call…..

Happy Pongal and Shankaranti