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He stares openly at spaces. He keeps on praying to God to help him fight fears and the unnecessary, unwanted and irrational thoughts that have been troubling his soul. He has already visited a psychiatrist and a hypnotherapist. But to no avail. With each passing day, he struggles to maintain his mental balance. He is unable to meditate or do his yogic exercises peacefully. Reason: Inability to concentrate? Suicidal thoughts hound him.
Meet Vishwanath Iyer (not his real name) who works for a software firm in Marthahalli.
Then there is Sankaran (not his real name) mama & his wife whose only job is to visit all the temples in and around their residence. Not a single day passes by without Sankaran mama and mami visiting temples both in the mornings and evenings. Sometimes, their young son also joins them and their daughter-in-law is also forced to join them. A visit to their home will reveal the apathy with which they have maintained their home. Kitchen is spick and span with no traces of cooking have been done. Balcony is full of junk material which is lying unattended since the last 6 years. The housekeeping standards in their residence near Ulsoor are extremely poor. Not surprising because mama and mami have only time to visit the temples but no time to look after their home and hearth. What is wrong?
Akhila mami recently suffered a nervous breakdown. A resident of Sion in Mumbai, Akhila mami felt isolated after her children moved away from home and settled abroad. Every day Akhila mami kept targets to recite the following shlokas in the morning – Sri Lalita Sahasranama, Vishnu Sahasranama, Sree Suktam, Mahalakshmi Asthakam, Mahishasura Mardini stotram, Skanda Sasthi kavasam, Abriami Andadi. Evenings were spent reciting another set of shlokas – Durga Saptha Sloki, Skanda Guru Kavacham, Annapoornaashtakam, Kamakshi amman pathigam, Kolaru Pathigam etc.

Akhila Mami’s husband, a retired PWD executive, tried to reason with her. But Akhila mami did not listen. Today she is in a hospital and recovering slowly. What happened?  In Tamil, this is often called as “pitthu piddikarathu”.
Akhila Mami in  her  attempt to fight isolation started seeking solace in spirituality. Nothing wrong with that. However, she set too many targets for herself and when she was unable to do shloka chanting on a particular day, she hated herself. She blamed herself and criticized herself. Akhila Mami’s husband was forever spending time outside with his own friends’ circle (all senior citizens) without realizing the torture that Akhila Mami was subjecting herself to. 

This is the main problem that many of us – mostly Tamil Brahmin community – faces. A thousand and more shlokas and hymns exist and there is free advice available in abundance. Chant this shloka 108 times, chant that mantra 1008 times, chant this mantra 24 times….You open any spiritual magazine in Tamil and you will have dollops of advice.
In the hot pursuit of all these mantra-chanting and hymn-chanting, people forget to relax, strain themselves excessively and kill themselves. Any mantra has to be chanted with love, affection and devotion. There is no need to force yourself into it. A simple – Om Namo Narayana chanted a few times is enough. Merely saying – Achutaya Namaha, Ananadaya Namaha, Govindaya Namaha is enough.  Recite one shloka sincerely and be flexible about the same.

Says Narayana Murthy who lives in Kengeri, “Many people who have now retired will give tons of advice. But honestly, if a person goes to work, spends a grueling day at work and spends 2 hours on the road while returning back, how can you expect him to do an elaborate Sandhya vandanam?”
He adds – “We should not forget that when these things were created originally, people did not lead stressful lives. Those who worked in the farms returned home by 5 or 5.30 pm; Brahmins employed in Govt offices returned home by 6, did their evening Sandhya vandanam, had their dinner, watched TV or listened to music and retired for the day. But today with a 24 x 7 work culture where is the time for all that?”
Spirituality is important to act as an anti-dote to stress – it is not meant to create stress or add to your stress. In our over-enthusiasm of trying to becoming a super-hero, most of us end up adding loads of stress to our troubled souls and this paves the way for life style diseases like Diabetes, Pre-diabetes, Thyroid, Hyper tension etc at a young age. Why should we set unrealistic, impossible targets!
Koramangala based  Swami Sukabodananda even wrote a popular book – Manase Relax Please. (Oh Mind Please Relax)… It is important to relax the mind.
What is it that makes people like Sankaran mama, Viswhanath Iyer kill themselves mentally by setting such high and unrealistic targets? Why? Will not life get very mechanical if we start indulging in so many rituals? Akhila Mami could have joined a bhajan group, read old Tamil novels and gone for evening walks instead of entering a vicious cycle that comprised of unrealistic targets.
The problem with today’s Internet-driven era is that there are millions of people who will give “free “ advice – do this, do that. Very few will actually come to help you when your life is in a mess. It is easy to give advice but very difficult to help someone who is in distress. You need a large heart for that.
Vishwanath went for counselling which only worsened his phobias and so now he has stopped everything. He simply lights a lamp and a few incense sticks, chants – Om Namo Narayana and leaves for office. In the evenings, he comes home at 8 pm, chants Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram, goes for a leisurely evening walk in the Domlur BDA complex park and watches TV at nights to relax himself. This useful advice was given by ….. who else but his spouse?
Life is not lived getting entangled in a complex mesh of rituals. There is no point in setting targets – I will do this today, I will go to that temple today….and if you are not flexible and constantly start blaming yourself, the day is not far when you will end up in a mental asylum.
So, doing yoga is good. But if you feel terrible because one day you were not well and could not do it, then it is time to tell yourself that – heaven is not going to fall if you do not yoga for a day. There are thousands of gurus who will give subjective, one-size-fits-all advices. If you start blindly following them, you are in for great trouble ahead. 
Set realistic targets. Set small targets. Do simple things. Do not complicate matters. It is the simple things in life that give us the greatest happiness. Don’t read all the negative news in today’s sensational-crazy media. In fact, stop reading news -papers!  Whatever you do, do it with love and affection.  Do it in a relaxed manner.
No spiritual guru has ever said that go to temples and shirk your duties and responsibilities towards your family and society.

Manam  enra Mahashakti is a book  popularised by Giri Traders, this can be read to attain peace and health. One matter is certain: important priority is 1)aim to be healthy 2) use your health to satisfy food shelter and clothing, sufficient to take care of your needs for present and future  and then 3)pray - with pranayam - to thank God to have bestowed upon you no. 1 and 2. 

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Hello Mannu Thanks for your comments. I have reservations about astrology. Most often it is subjective and intended to create a scare. Real astrologers do not charge you any morning. They only take fruits and flowers. But again it depends. One has to be very careful. Tiruvannamalai is a wonderful place to visit. I strongly recommend Girivalam at least once a year. Chant a particular mantra and make it a habit. To break bad habits, you have to neutralize them by cultivating good habits. Mantra chanting helps your mind to focus. The power of positive thinking is truly amazing. The only solution to most problems is to pray and have faith in the Almighty and think positive always. Meditation for at least 10 minutes every day is a must. Just focus on your breath.

04/13/2016 00:39 AM

Comment Hello Venkatesh, 1. Thanks Venkatesh for such an important article on how people torture themselves on performing many rituals. You have rightly brought out the scenario that exists presently in the society, though in a fictionalised way. Also, you have suggested simple worshipping methods through the character of Vishwanath. 2. Having said that, there are also many people who are surrounded by personal problems like financial issues, marital issues, job issues etc.. These people also undergo various ritualistic practices like chanting, visiting temples suggested to them by astrologers, TV astro programmes etc...I dont know whether they are right or wrong in performing these practices as they are plauged by problems. What do you suggest to such persons? 3. On a personal level, I would like you to share what spiritual practices like chanting/visiting temples do you practice. May be your experiences will be a good guide to the readers. Warm regards, Mannu

02/29/2016 05:37 AM

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