May 31, 2013

Trip to Gnanananda Thapovanam

I remember, mom and granny used to take us to an Ashram roughly since 1993's. Not sure if I visited Thapovanam during my college days 2001-2005. But, I didn't visit it after my college days. Last couple of weeks, I had an inherent urge to travel to Thapovanam. Last weekend (25 May 2013), I, granny and mom started after lunch and reached Thapovanam around 4:30pm. We took accomadation at Thapovanam premises and registered for morning poojas. We attend the evening poojas. Next day morning, after the morning poojas, around 11:00am we started to Ulagalandha Perumal Temple at Tirukovilur. Subsequently we reached back to Pondicherry. Though it was hardly a 24 hour trip, it was such a memorable pleasant trip one can ask for which I asked for. 

About Gnananandha Thapovanam
Gnananandha Thapovanam can be tagged as an ashram, as a mutt, and as a veda padasalai (Veda School). This humble ashram is located on the banks of River Thenpennai. One would would find a peaceful temple with lots of open space. There are many trees within the premises giving a close to nature feeling. This Thapovanam was founded by Sri Gnananandha Giri Swamigal. Every morning, poojas are performed starting at 4:00 am - Purushasuktam, Suprabhatham, 5:00am - Ko Pooja, Deepa Jyoti, 6:00 am - Ganapathi Homam, 7:15 am - Paadha Pooja and 8:30 am - Adhistaanam. Everything would be over by 10:00am.  In the evening, poojas are performed at 5pm - Manimandapam (an Abisheka for Gnananandha Giri Swamigal & Sloka chanting), 6:15pm - Adhishtaanam, Nei Vilakku and Anjaneyar Vadamalaai. Everything would be over by 7:45pm. A simple delicious lunch (Sambar, Curry, Rasam, Mor) is served at 10:30am and 8:00pm. 

I have just said you the daily schedule. But, intrinsically, the rituals are much more than what we could read as texts. They are religiously performed in the most unhurried manner you could ever see. And the plainly dressed young children (who are mostly from the Thapovanam premises) flawlessly chant Slokas (including Vishnu Sahasranaamam) in unison which are so divine to listen on an early morning and in the evening. It is nowadays getting rare to see and be part of such non-profit oriented rituals. I am glad that Thapovanam is still the same as I first visited in mid 1990s. That is precisely a reason I would want to go regularly. There are no silence boards nor volunteers to protect the silence, but a gentle silence blankets the entire premises.

Within Thapovanam there are many portions where people stay. Many of them are purohits of the temple and other staff members viz cooks, watchmen etc. Opposite to the temple, there are accommodation facilities for visitors (for those who are performing poojas on next day morning). They do not ask any money for it. 

If one goes there to find bamboo cane based chairs, vanish painted teak pillars, tables, cupboards, group people humming chants and doing mediation or somebody having a kiosk for some rejuvenating camp or yoga-cum-meditation camp, or well maintained lawns - then one would be disappointed. They only serve pooja's to God. They only serve to God.

I would highly recommend this place to everyone. People who want rejoice or solace can definitely escape to Gnananandha Thapovanam. 

Gnanananda Thapovanam Website:

டிவது மற
Meaning: Never hurt somone with your words

May 27, 2013

Gandhi & His Experiments with Truth

I mentioned in my March 2013 post that I have started to read Gandhi  - The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Due to consistent travels I couldn't read it for a brief period. But, last two weeks, I made it a point to read it regularly. And now I have read it.

After reading, I confidently say that my mix conceptions about Gandhi have definitely shattered into pieces. I would say that the book was, in a sense, deeply spiritual. After reading the book, I (we) wouldn't find that Gandhi did extraordinary things to attain the stature that he enjoyed those days and his soul enjoys today. I honestly accept that I would miss many things that I liked about Gandhi. Nevertheless, let me list down what I liked about Gandhi and the story about his experiments with the truth.

1) True to the title of the book, the book had only Truth. Gandhi had written it with remarkable frankness as well as mentions his failures.

2) Explains why he staunchly followed Vegetarianism [though he once ate meat (misled by a friend in childhood]

3) His conviction and experiments on natural medicines. And he didn't depend on modern medicines. He believed that modern medicines might solve the problem but would also generate many side effects.

4) The social service he did in London and how he did social networking even in those days and the kind of respect he commanded from everyone in the Indian diaspora. 

5) Gandhi explains that role of a husband and how he had to teach his illiterate wife though he failed many  times because it took him a lot of time to overcome the lust.

6) Gandhi accounts every single anna and shillings every night and showed that this discipline helped him in maintaining large funds of public money.

7) Gandhi frankly says the relationship he had with a London girl and says how he felt when he felt/afraid that she might have some other feelings on him when he was already a father of a son. And the letter he had written with utmost maturity to that lady explaining the situation.

8) Gandhi explains how fearless he was when he demanded complete free hand to find out the Truth from the Government authorities, Judges, Court, whenever he took over a case. And he explains that he got more joy in reconciling the client and the opponents and considered that has a duty of a barrister. 

9) Gandhi explains the importance of Mother Tongue. I remember there are few lines which says, the one who don't teach and speak mother tongue to their children is betraying his/her children and the nation. They are keeping their children away from culture and spirituality offered by that nation.

10) Gandhi details the irony he had to came across, where he was the first person to speak in Hindi in a meeting which had mostly Indians and very few British bureaucrats 

11) Gandhi firmly believed that having milk, non-veg are deterrents to follow Brahmacharya and explains that fasting alone doesn't purify a person. Rather, stopping the thoughts alone would purify a person.

12) Gandhi cities that we should not kill the venomous snakes and reptiles in the agricultural farm lands. If we don't harm them, then it will not harm us as well. And he gives an example that in 20 years in a farm no death was due to an animal. And it is no fortuitous accident rather it is the grace of God.

13) Gandhi vowed not to take milk. But he and his wife, in different times, had to undergo  some operations. Doctors, saints, well wishers compelled them to have beef tea, milk etc. But he said a firm NO to those things even for his treatment and his wife. At one stage in his life, he was so weak and he was once again compelled to at least have Goat's milk. Though Gandhi vowed not to take Cow's milk and Buffalo's milk, yet he was deeply pained to take Goat's milk because he firmly believed though he vowed only Cow's and Buffalo's milk, yet he implicitly vowed not to take animal products. By having Goat's milk, he felt he has breached the Truth.

14) Gandhi explains the state of third class compartments in South Africa and it was no different when compared with that of first class compartments. But he found that third class compartments in India were very untidy. And he says that all businessmen, bureaucrats must travel in third class compartments and demand equal service.  (And sadly even in 2013, Indian Railways is not much different)

15) Gandhi explains the importance of keeping one's place clean and neat. 

16) Gandhi says everyone should have his thought, creed, and deed to be clean and pure all the time.

17) Gandhi doesn't believe in propaganda of the superiority of a religion over other religion. 

18) Gandhi firmly explains the importance of doing exercise in day to day life. And every person must at least spend thirty means to walk thereby creating an appetite. 

19) Gandhi explains how he cut down the food to only twice a day and how it helped him to bring the frequency of headache and later disappearing. And he also explains this stern belief on fruits, nuts as food as well having the dinner before it gets dark.

20) Gandhi doesn't believe much in literary education. But he says that if a parent teaches his children everyday at least one hour (or maximum 2 hours) then he can really bring a wonderful person. And he says that it is the duty of the parents to take care of the children's upbringing in the right way imparting them with moral values.

21) Gandhi explains how Bhagavath Gita helped him throughout his life and acknowledges that he found answers for every question he had in that.

22) His glimpses on religion

23) Gandhi was completely a spiritual man, but he didn't completely believe in the concepts of having bath in Kumbh Mela. Because he felt that self-purification must start from purifying the thoughts and automatically everything falls in place.

24) Gandhi shows how he trained the spirit which is very important. 

25) Gandhi persuaded his wife and children and returned all the gifts (and jewels) that he received when he was returning from South Africa to India. He firmly believed that, if he hadn't done those social service, no one would have gifted him anything. And he believed that he should not take anything in return of social service.

26) Gandhi mentions he drew inspiration from Tolstoy and others. From "Unto the Last", he mentions that it is worth living a life of an artist or any other profession.

27) His love for British and his regard for the British empire. He wanted Swaraj but he didn't hate British. He always felt that Swaraj should not be transfer powers from British to wrong hands in India. 

28) Gandhi was a many of limited words. He carefully chose is words and gave only the required information. His writings were to the point and were not out of scope.

29) His aversion to Medical Insurance. I really liked that very much.

30) And of course, how he conceived Satyagraha and put it in practise. 

I am sure I have missed many things (there are 125 chapters). Hence I HIGHLY RECOMMEND "Gandhi - The Story of My Experiments with Truth" to everyone. Especially to people in the age group 15 to 35 years. While we read, we would automatically feel that, for self-purification it only takes a human effort not a superhuman effort. 

P.S: There are many translations of this book originally written in Gujarati. I read the translation by Mahadev Desai (the original translator name is not said in public). I felt that the book was adequately translated and the spirit was captured rightly.

Soft copy of the book is available in this link (Click it).
You can purchase the book from Flipkart in this link (Click it).

And Einstein rightly said 
“Revolution without the use of violence was the method by which Gandhi brought about the liberation of India. It is my belief that the problem of bringing peace to the world on a supranational basis will be solved only by employing Gandhi’s method on a large scale…
…It should not be forgotten that Gandhi’s development resulted from extraordinary intellectual and moral forces in combination with political ingenuity and a unique situation. I think that Gandhi would have been Gandhi even without Thoreau and Tolstoy.
Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
Meaning: Do not mingle with naiveté