Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Art of Living ‘Upanayanam’ – A Peaceful Revolution by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji against Caste, Gender & Racial Discrimination !!


Recently I was going through some text books of short stories on the discrimination in society on the basis of casts, gender, race and religion.  I was really shocked to know the kind of tortures & inhuman treatment that was meted out to people belonging to the (socially constructed and so called) lower castes, females & blacks in the past. I would have never known about the extent and intensity of their agonies, pains & hardships, had I not been introduced to the accounts of their experiences through these books.  I realized how Shudras (dalits, people from so called lower castes) & Blacks were supposed to live the life of slaves and/as untouchables and how females were denied even the basic human rights & were exploited under the pretext of social or religious norms/customs.  Fortunately, with changing times, these saddening and redundant practices & social customs have also diminished to a large extent but even today we come across, in one way or the other,  few horrific incidents which proves that the ghost of caste system & gender inequality still lingers on and continues to ruin the lives of many(so called) lower castes & females, specially in small towns & rural areas.  I was wondering if we will ever be able to live in a harmonious world, unfettered by such inequalities!!



Last week, I planned to undergo the ceremony of Upanayan Sanskaar (Yagyopaveet; Thread Ceremony of Hindus). I was under the impression that this ceremony was limited to the Brahmins only (so called the ‘Higher Castes’ in Hindus) and in some rare cases vaishyas & kshatriyas  could also get this ceremony done. Shudras were out rightly banned from undergoing Upanayan Ceremony which traditionally signified a new birth in the Spiritual world towards the higher knowledge of the Self. People who undergo this ceremony are more popularly referred to as being ‘twice-born’ or ‘Dwija’. Attainment of such Spiritual knowledge was strictly forbidden for “Shudras” (Dalits or the so called ‘lower castes’ in Hindus).  Also having been raised in a liberal yet patriarchal society, I grew up believing that “Upanayanam” (the thread ceremony) is only for males. On questioning the limitation of this tradition to males, I was showered with innumerable but all too mythical and pseudo sensible reasons, advocating its validity. If I may correctly recall, I also happened to come across an explanation as weird as this-

“A boy's upanayana must be performed when he is seven years old. A girl must be married at the same age. If a boy is to be initiated into brahmacarya before his mind is disturbed by kama, a girl is to be married before she feels the carnal urge. She must also accept her husband as her guru. According to sastras, the guru must be looked upon as Isvara. In the same way a child bride must think of her husband as both guru and Isvara and dedicate herself whole-heartedly to him”.

As a matter of fact, many modern age websites are not only flooded with such other ridiculous statements but can also be found advocating them as a valid explanation for questions like why Upanayanam should be denied to girls and why should she accept her husband as her Guru or God or even, why at all should she get married at such a tender age. 


Fortunately, I happened to participate in a group Upanayan Ceremony (Yagyopaveet or the Thread ceremony) organized by “The Art of Living”- an organization, founded by the global humanitarian Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji. This course was different and not like any other Upanayanam .I was
Yagyopaveet (pic taken from web)
extremely happy to be a part of it, more so, because it went far beyond the conventions, breaking the barrier of differences which we still hold on to, falsely believing it to be a reasonable legacy.  I was not only surprised but also overwhelmed to know that the group of people who were planning to have their “Upanayan Sanskaar” consisted more of women than men. Two of the main organizers themselves were women. I was overjoyed as I saw this utopian thing happening in this ceremony. But hold on! There was something more to elevate my consciousness. I realized that the participants hailed from different castes & segments of the society. There were Brahmins, Vaishyas, and Kshatriyas & there were Shudras too. Nobody was asked about their castes or religion as a pre requisite for getting this ceremony done. 
Blessed & Happy souls after the Upanayanam :)


I underwent the sanskaar along with other participants. The Process was phenomenal and the sandhya vandan & agni karya (rituals in the upanayanam), which was taught while the ceremony, took me to another level of consciousness. While the ceremony, we were also given an option to change and adopt the “Gotra” of our Gurudev, meaning from that moment onwards, we could all, upon our discretion, be socially equal as per the Hindu caste system.  What an opportunity to be the change we want to see in the society- I thought to myself.  


I really found this change as a revolutionary move in the history of Hinduism.  It meant that divine is not for a particular but for all. The spiritual / highest knowledge is for everyone who chooses to walk the path of knowing the self.  No bar of Caste, Gender, Religion or Race can restrain anyone from attaining spiritual knowledge. There exists no criteria expect for the willingness to evolve. It only welcomes love & Joy to blossom eternally in such a beautiful society. 


There was so much to learn from our teacher Swami Onkarananda ji who beautifully explained us about the magnanimity of “Upanayanam” , “Sandhya vandan” , “Gayatri Mantra” & “Agni Karya”. He also eliminated the doubts regarding denial to females or dalits (shudhras) of this sanskaar. We were told how in the middle ages, the text & verses present in the Holy Books of Hindus had been misinterpreted by mistake or for personal benefits in some instances. He explained that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji is a firm believer of equality among all genders, castes & segments of the society & this is the reason why he has opened the gates of knowledge for everyone despite all criticisms. I was also surprised and amazed to know that followers of Christianity, Islam, Judaism & many other religions have also undergone this sanskaara, that too without changing their faith, or converting their religion . 


I was awestruck with my entire “Upanayanam” experience & was so much in gratitude for my Guru H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji who is continually working towards the creation of a Healthy, Stress free & Violence free society. A society where differences are meant to be celebrated and not to divide people. 

That's me.... in gratitude :)


Today, on the occasion of Guru Poornima, Tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks when I realized His subtle but very remarkable step step toward the elimination of such unfair practices  existing among various segments of the society. He has initiated nothing less than a peaceful revolution against Caste, Gender & Racial discrimination through such ceremonies, courses, preaching & through the wave of love which he has created. I feel grateful & proud to have Him as my Guru. I am nobody to offer Him any gift on the blissful occasion of Guru Poornima but still I bow down to my master & make a promise that I will try to walk on the path shown by Him & make this world a better place for everyone.

Jai Guru Dev

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Meaningful Birth-Day :-)

Birth Day … I remember, since a long time Birthday was a very usual day for me , for me it was just like any other day & there was nothing special about it. Though lovely people around me always make it a very special event for me by showering their love & blessings.

On Second thought, I believe that Birthdays can be a very special day of our lives . They can be a very special reminder for all of us to introspect on the real purpose of our birth on this planet. We usually are not aware/ or forget the real purpose of getting the human body & get stuck in mundane. At times, Birthdays further intensifies this cloud of ignorance & we are seen demanding special celebrations, special treatment , beautiful gifts, beautifully expressed wishes & so on….we become happy when we get more than our expectations & get sad when we don’t get what we expect…But my question is, does it liberate us?? Doesn’t it instead make us slaves of other people’s actions & behavior?? 

Introspection on Birthday Meaningful Spiritual Birthday
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I think, for me, the real celebration of Birthday can come out of the question… why did I come on this planet? Have we come on this planet to seek or to give??… for momentary pleasures or for a never ending joy??.. to live like a beggar or like a king??….to get served by people around us or to serve the society??

Most of us mistakenly equate the means of survival as the very purpose of being born on this planet but we can get the answer only when we seriously introspect over this question (purpose of this birth) sincerely and  by again & again addressing this beautiful question, discarding all the answers which are just the means of living on this planet.

The real celebrations starts when we actually start getting the right answer(s) of this question & when we are celebrative inside then we have no option but to make everyone part of this celebrations..make them happy …love the divinity & every thing that belongs to the divinity…. Life becomes so amazing when this celebration starts from within. When you realize that you, yourself are the source of love then you don't seek love & attention, you are just seen spreading it to everyone & making this world a better place to live.