“If you must be mad, be it not for the things of the world. Be mad with the love of God.”

Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)

Religion is the secret of life. It teaches us to love, to serve, to forgive, to endure and to interact with our brothers and sisters with empathy and compassion. Advaita (non-duality) is a purely subjective experience. But in daily life it may be expressed as love and compassion. This is the great lesson taught by the great saints and sages of India, the exponents of Sanatana Dharma. Mata Amritanandamayi, Kerala-based hugging saint 

Wealth’s nature is to be unenduring. Upon acquiring it, quickly do that which is enduring. Tirukural 333

I swore that I would not suffer from the world’s grief and the world’s stupidity and cruelty and injustice and I made my heart as hard in endurance as the nether millstone and my mind as a polished surface of steel. I no longer suffered, but enjoyment had passed away from me.” Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)

We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home. Australian Aboriginal proverb 

Actions are the louder expression of thought. The quality of thought is ordered by the nature of our inner belief and faith. Swami Chinmayananda (1916-1993), founder of Chinmaya Mission

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Susquehannock proverb

Grace is always present. You imagine it is something somewhere high in the sky, far away, and has to descend. It is really inside you, in your Heart, and the moment you effect subsidence or merger of the mind into its Source, grace rushes forth, sprouting as from a spring within you. Ramana Maharishi (1879-1950)

Would you like to save the world from the degradation and destruction it seems destined for? Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation. Lao Tzu (ca 600 bce), author of Tao Te Ching

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all. Michelangelo (1475-1564), Italian Renaissance artist

A good teacher reveals the faults you are unable to see. Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719), Samurai and author of Hagakure

Where can we go to find God if we cannot see Him in our own hearts and in every living being. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)

One who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life. Rabindranatha Tagore (1861-1941)

By your nature you are free; you have forgotten yourself in your state of slavery. A king may fall asleep and find himself a beggar; he may dream that he is a beggar, but that can in no way interfere with his real sovereignty. Swami Rama Tirtha (1873-1906), teacher of Vedanta

Practice enjoying the moment. It is where we spend our entire lives. I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes

One small step taken to reach a small milestone later helps you achieve the bigger goal. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1830-1880), founder of the Maratha Kingdom

Meditation practice doesn’t stand by itself; the state of consciousness we achieve in meditation needs to influence how we handle experiences as they come to us in our daily activities. Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, publisher of Hinduism Today

The belief in the existence of God everywhere, as an all-pervasive, self-effulgent energy and consciousness, creates the attitude of sublime tolerance and acceptance toward others. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927-2001), founder of Hinduism Today

Did you know?

The Earliest Known Ploughed Field

Kalibangan’s cross-ploughed field. ASI
A model of the town site, showing the major sections. ASI

In the North Indian state of Rajasthan resides what is considered to be one of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization’s major provincial capitals, known as Kalibangan. This archaeological site is unique in that it includes two major fortified sections. The lower one resembles other sites from the early Harappan culture, while the upper section boasts the metropolitan grid layout and city planning associated with later Harappan sites. The whole town is distinguished by its near universal possession of religious fire altars in the houses. These altars, for the most part, are given their own specified rooms. Unique to this site is the discovery of what appears to be the earliest known ploughed field to be excavated. The field shows that the plow was in use by the 3rd millennium bce and alludes to an unbroken  continuity of farming techniques still used today.

A view of an excavated street through the town as it stands today. ASI

In his book New Light on the Indus Civilization, former Director General for the Archaeological Survey of India, B. B. Lal, states: “Kalibangan in Rajasthan has given evidence of the earliest (c. 2800 bce) ploughed agricultural field ever revealed through an excavation…. It shows a grid pattern of furrows, placed about 30 cm apart running east-west and others spaced about 190 cm apart running north-south, a pattern remarkably similar to the one used today.”


Are Hindus Idol Worshipers?

A. Manivelu

In Hinduism, one of the ultimate attainments is when the seeker transcends the need of all form and symbol. This is the yogi’s goal. In this way Hinduism is the least idol-oriented of all the religions of the world. There is no religion that is more aware of the transcendent, timeless, formless, causeless Truth. Nor is there any faith that uses more imagery to represent Truth in preparation for that realization. 

The stone or metal Deity images in Hindu temples and shrines are not mere symbols of the Gods. As Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami wrote, “They are the form through which their love, power and blessings flood forth into this world. We may liken this to our ability to communicate with others through a phone. We do not talk to the phone itself; rather we use it as a means of communication with another person. Without the telephone, we could not converse across long distances; and without the sanctified icon in the temple, we cannot easily commune with the Deity.” 

Divinity can also be invoked and felt in a sacred fire, or in a tree, or in the enlightened person of a satguru. In our temples, God is invoked in the sanctum by highly trained priests. Through the practice of yoga, or meditation, we invoke God inside ourself. The image or icon of worship is a focus for our prayers and devotions.

Another way to explain icon worship is to acknowledge that Hindus believe God is everywhere, in all things, whether stone, wood, creatures or people. So, it is not surprising that they feel comfortable worshiping the Divine in a material manifestation. The Hindu can see God in stone and water, fire, air and ether, and inside their own soul. Indeed, there are Hindu temples which have in the sanctum sanctorum no image at all; just a yantra, a symbolic or mystic diagram. However, the sight of an image enhances the devotee’s worship.

Generally, this question is about the “graven images” which are denounced in various other faiths. Yet, isn’t it true that all religions have their symbols of holiness? The Christian cross, the holy Kaaba in Mecca, the Sikh Adi Granth, the Jewish Torah, the meditating Buddha, all such icons, or graven images, are held in reverence. The question is, does this make all such religionists idol worshipers? The answer is yes and no. From our perspective, idol worship is an intelligent, mystical practice.

The human mind adores the use of forms and symbols that awaken reverence, evoke sanctity and spiritual wisdom. Even a fundamentalist Christian who rejects the Catholic and Episcopal forms of idol worship, would be deeply offended if someone showed disrespect for his Bible, for he considers it sacred. His book and the Hindu’s icon are surprisingly alike in this way.