You learn more quickly under the guidance of experienced teachers. You waste a lot of time going down blind alleys if you have no one to lead you. -
W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965), the Razor's Edge, 1943
I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. -
One of the values that has driven me all these days is the fundamental belief that – ‘Learning is a never ending process’. I have steadfastly adhered to this principle in life. Often, we all get so caught up with the demands of our day-to-day life that we do not think much about enriching our knowledge. All that I want to say in this brief article is that we should never give up learning and that if we have the will to learn, we will accomplish it no matter what. My journey on the spiritual path has been idyllic.
Well-known Maharashtrian spiritual guru – Wamanrao Pai made that famous statement in Marathi – “Tu ahey tujha jeevanacha shilpakar” (You are the architect of your own destiny). I must admit that I wasn’t a votary of the logic of mind power. But today, I firmly believe that your thoughts eventually shape your future. As they say, it is all in the mind.
My upanayanam (or sacred thread ceremony) was performed in March 1987. As a true Brahmin, I should have been doing the sandhya-vandanam (a ritual where the Gayatri Mantra is chanted by following a certain process; it is generally done in the morning hours and evening hours). But over the years I followed the ritual only on and off.
You begin the sandhya vandanam by doing “Achamanam” - the sipping of water from the base of the palm of your right hand. This ritual involves the touching of certain fingers of the right hand at certain points on the face and body, along with propitiation of mantras invoking Lord Vishnu. This symbolises the purification of the chakras.
For close to 23 years, I did not know how to do “Achamanam” in the proper way. I am not ashamed to say this. One fine evening in May 2010 after I had returned home from Mumbai after the upanayanam (thread ceremony) of my son, I sat in our balcony and pondered about this. I took the guidance of the book and started practicing “Achamanam”. I struggled for the first four days and was on the verge of giving it up. But I persisted. Today, when I sit down to do sandhyavandanam, when I do achamanam, my fingers move as though by reflex action. Please do not mistake this as hubris. But it dawned on me that practice truly makes a man perfect.
I have literally grown up listening to my father chanting the Venkatesha Stotra – “Kamala kucha choochuka kumkumatho”.So, recently, I tried hard to memorise it and was amazed that I could recite those stanzas with so much ease. I am not 100% perfect in this as yet, but hope to master this.
Similarly, the popular hymn –
karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai,
om tat sat
I offer all that I do, to lord narayana, whatever I do with my body, whatever I do with my mind, whatever I do with my brain, whatever I do with my soul, and whatever I do with natures help! Om that is the truth.
I used to be awestruck when I heard my father recite this from memory. Today, I have learnt this hymn after some effort.
As I mentioned in one of my earlier articles on chanting of hymns, chanting the Lord’s name always creates positive vibrations around you. When you learn something new, there are always challenges, but by being persistent in your efforts, we move closer and closer to realization of our objectives. Every time I learnt a new hymn, I felt a sense of peace in my heart. I felt that I was moving closer to God. When you desperately seek something, it always eludes you. The only exception is – devotion to the Almighty.
I have become greedy now as I want to memorize the Hanuman chalisa – the powerful hymn in praise of Lord Hanuman. In the last 4 months that I have unfailingly started reciting the Gayatri Mantra as part of Sandhya Vandanam, I encountered numerous obstacles – lack of concentration, impure thoughts threatening to destroy the tranquil state of mind, but I never gave up reciting the Gayatri Mantra.
The Gayatri Mantra is called as the mother of all mantras not without reason. It is a powerful shloka and every time I sit to chant the mantra, I pray to Mother Gayatri, “O, Mother, please forgive me for all my sins; show me the path of righteousness and lead me there; O, Mother, please protect me, please protect my family; please protect this son of yours”. Today, if I don’t recite the mantra even for one day, I get terribly upset with myself. As I continue to pray to Mother Gayatri, hope, a sense of well-being and positivity seem to be competing with each other to energize my existence.
The water used in the japa is sprinkled on my plants and I believe that this will promote their growth. We have started growing Tulsi at home and I pray to Mother Tulsi in the evenings seeking her benevolent grace. Thank you, Dr. Kirit Soni (Mumbai) for helping me realise the immense potential of the Gayatri Mantra. Dr Soni, a doctor by profession, always prides on being a Gayatri-upasak (a great devotee of Mother Gayatri). Thus, relearning Sandhya Vandanam and recitation of the Gayatri Mantra has enriched my intellect.
Lord Christ said – “You ask and you will be given”. Last week when I visited the Mata Sherawali temple, I prayed to mother once again and sought her protection. I pleaded with her to give me the ability to learn new things in life and progress ahead.
Thus, I have begun walking on the spiritual path and I honestly feel that the journey is something that I will definitely enjoy. What about you ?