Monday, January 20, 2014

VEDA Calendar – A Priceless Service in the Honor of Time

Here's my preface on page 8 to the calendar at:

http://www.siliconvalleytemple.net/VEDACalender2014.pdf



Year after year, for the last 7 years, the temple’s unique calendar has been emerging as an integral part of devotees’ dinacharya. Albert Einstein proved to the world that the three dimensions of space and the 4th dimension of time are inseparable. The physical existence of the three dimensions of our body and mind are incomplete without the context of time. Time has some most powerful, divine properties, realizing which will have a great impact on the three dimensions of our physical existence. These properties are not too difficult to comprehend, but we still fail to see them because of the abstract nature of time. Instead, we get obsessed with the more perceptible three dimensions of our physical body.

Fortunately, religion helps here. Hinduism is full of deep knowledge that reveals itself only to the analyzing mind that’s in constant quest for truth. Truth is a matter of time. No lie can hide from time. As said in Bhagavad Gita, time is God Himself, who is the absolute truth. Truth is pure, which is beautiful (Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram). There is no death to Siva even when he drinks poison. Even Siva’s own power in Bhasmasura’s hands could not destroy Siva. That's the power of truth, purity, and inner beauty: Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram. The purity that loves even Bhasmasura; the truth that is accepted even when it is poison; the inner beauty that is conspicuous even when covered with ashes. The three never die. Take all yuga purushas (the person of the times) – Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, and Lord Buddha. We see these three qualities in abundance in them. Time imbibes all the three qualities into one who is in quest of these qualities.

The VEDA calendar, which incorporates the panchanga and various unique features, can be used as one of the tools for such a quest. It helps understand and practice the impact of time on life. This new year, let us resolve to bring about a paradigm shift – from our obsession with the destructible, physical self to a deep indulgence into the 4th dimension of us – the time. When we so indulge, we automatically do what the time likes and preserves – the good. We will also then perceive the energy or the life in us, which is indestructible like the time. Just like the principle of conservation of energy, I believe there is this principle of conservation of life. The energy in us, called the life, never dies, even when the body it takes on dies. It is this timeless, indestructible life in us that we need to get obsessed with – not the transient physical forms that it takes on. I earnestly believe and hope that the VEDA calendar is a great help to us in this lofty New Year resolution. Happy New Year and Happiness Always!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happiness really depends on how we define it

Browsing through the weekend news stories, I feel like commenting on these two of huge significance:

Live-in relationship neither a crime nor a sin: Supreme Court

"Live-in relationship neither a crime nor a sin": Can the Hon'ble judges say the same thing to their daughters and reward them for that behavior? How about to their sisters? When they don't like to say that to their family members, why impose it on others' family? We care so much for material values - see how aggressively governments try to keep up the GDP, growth rate and other economic measures. Why then are we degrading moral values, which are much more important to survival? Marriage is a noble institution. Why is the law increasingly encouraging behaviors contradicting this institution?

Justice Ganguly named by law intern in sexual harassment case

If the allegations are true, at a minimum, ALL judgments passed by the benches which comprised the Hon'ble Lord, particularly those concerning women must be thoroughly reviewed by a special bench. In that case, the country should also revisit how much supreme, unquestionable, and ultimate authority these fallible Lordships should be accorded.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

People and the Public Poilicy

Having read some of the gotchas of the new Obamacare Health-law, one would wonder: If this is the fate of the American President's signature health-law, what would be the assessment for several other laws and their implementation? I think it is a reflection on the huge disconnect between the people reality and the public policy, the world over. That's why i tend to conclude that no amount of law or other social artifacts can substitute for the trust and living up to that trust to ensure universal well-being and fairness. We should improve the micro level, one-on-one interactions first than depending on law to reform the world. If Sociology progressed at the same pace as technology, we'd probably be having heaven on earth by now. - Vishnu Pendyala :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Justice Miscarried

When people don't act in good faith the burden falls on proof, which is expensive and is often elusive. Justice gets miscarried like in the following case. A few years ago, San Jose Mercury News carried a series of articles on similar wronged convictions. This is the reason i said earlier on social media that: The paradox of law is that its spirit lies in good faith that is beyond proof, while its practice is deep rooted in proof. Vishnu Pendyala

Wrongly convicted man released after 34 years

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kali-fornia?



I still wonder if Kaliyug will / has started in Cali-fornia – particularly for its contribution to the way the concept of family – the unit of civilization is being revolutionized and its protection of individual liberties, sometimes at the cost of common good. Congress enacted 366 Federal bills in 2009-2010, (source:

whereas California introduced 869 bills containing the keyword ‘family’ alone during the same period (source: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html). More than a decade ago when I visited the CA State Capitol, we were told that 10,000 bills on an average are passed by the California legislature every year. I think it is mistake to solve every problem by passing (and then sometimes bypassing those laws). Law was never meant to be a silver bullet.  Too many laws protecting individual liberties, encourage litigation. Litigious societies erode the precious values such as love, trust, and tolerance needed for universal welfare. As I said before, law starts where love ends. We should try to solve more problems by love than by law.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Temple Persona

Here’s my perspective on one of the roles that temples can play in our lives. It was published in the souvenir released today at the Inauguration of Sri Satyanarayana Swamy Devasthanam

Deho Devalaya.” The Upanishads equate the body with the temple. This similarity can be interpreted in many ways. Just like the body provides us with many tools to live a rich and fulfilling life, the temple provides innumerable tools to live an enriching, complete life. One should practice the art of sensing the world through the organs of the temple, just like we practice the art we are born with, of sensing the world through the organs of the body. The religious teachings, the rituals, and the symbolisms that constitute the temple provide us with the right ways of sensing the world. For instance, take the most treasured sense of taste. Just like the body provides teeth, tongue, saliva and other artifacts to revel in this sense of taste, temple provides many ways to appreciate this same sense.

While the body provides those artifacts to cherish the senses in the very basic plane of existence – the bottom most slice of Maslow’s pyramid, the temple provides ways and means to enjoy the senses at the highest plane of happiness. What we eat in the temple, called the Mahaprasadam, is respected as the God Himself. "Annam parabrahma swaroopam" – food is a manifestation of God, claim our scriptures. Temple teaches us to devour food as if it were divine. Temple food is deliberately rich and delicious - not to be hogged and consumed to satisfy a basic need, but to be enjoyed as a divine blessing at a much higher plane.

When we see divinity in the objects of desire like food and opposite sex, the lowly basic need that lets the senses loose, transforms into a want of the higher plane of love and devotion. The female form of God is revered at the highest level in the temple, as Adi Parashakti – the ultimate power behind the entire creation. When we imbibe the temple’s ritual to revere the female form as the most powerful, our basic instincts give way to discretion and devotion. Vijaya Dasami or Dasara as it is popularly called is one of the most celebrated festival in the temple and is devoted entirely to the worship of the female form.

Vijaya Dasami, means Victorious 10th (day). My interpretation of Vijaya Dasami, however, is Victory over the ten senses. The festival symbolizes the destruction of tamo guna that feeds into the senses. What is the most tempting sensation to a man, that even sage Viswamitra, with his severe penance and determination, could not overcome? It is the female form. What better entity can we propitiate to conquer this sensation than the female form of divinity itself? When I was small, my grandmother used to call Dasara as an essentially boys' festival and always insisted that I celebrate it as much as I can - wear new clothes and recite hymns in praise of the goddesses, at least. I didn't understand then, but it does make sense now. Not that only boys need to conquer the ten senses, but they do need it more, at least in this context.

Durga, the goddess who is worshiped for the festival, means unattainable - cannot be reached. As long as we have a terrestrial form, absolute victory over the senses is unattainable. But the festival symbolizes the goal that we should try to achieve, even if it is unattainable in this birth. It reminds us of the need to keep trying to detach from worldly matters by practice, devotion and dispassion. We cannot imbibe all these deeply rooted symbolisms to refine our existence, without the help of the temple and the rituals it prescribes.

Bhadram Karnebhih Shrinuyama Devah” - Oh God, may we hear Good with our ears, proclaim the invocation in Mandukya Upanishad that is often recited in the temple. “Bhadram Pashyema-Akssabhir” comes next - May we See with our Eyes what is Auspicious. Those are the best ways to utilize the hearing and visual senses. Temples help us do that – we hear only good in the temple and see only that is auspicious. With practice, we can do the same everywhere else – hear only good and see only auspicious ignoring all the rest.

Another claim from the same Mandukya Upanishad is: “Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati” - One who knows God becomes One with It. If we contemplate on God at all times, trying to know and experience Him and His qualities, like in the various sahasranama recited at the temple, we will become one with Him. Then, as said in the Narada Bhakti Sutras, “Tasmin Tajjane Bheda Abhavaat” - there is no difference between the God and his devotees. That is why, the Manu Samhita says, “Krante Vishnum” - Contemplate on God (Vishnu) in your every step. The temple inculcates this habit.

The “Deho Devalaya” aphorism can be given another interpretation. Like all rivers flow into the ocean, the temple that the body is, is always longing to submerge into the Devalaya, the temple. “Jivo Brahma Sanatana” – the indweller in the body is God, is the next part of the aphorism. Food, a form of God does not fulfill its raison d’etre until it submerges into the God in the body. Similarly, the temple that the body is, does not realize its true purpose until it dissolves in the purity of the Devalaya, the temple.

The serene vibrations of the mantras (man-tra: that which rescues the mind) recited in the temple purify the mind and body. How do we react when we see a long lost friend after many years? How about when we hear our dearest song – a bhoole bisre geet - that we grew up with? Our heart jumps with joy. That is exactly what happens to our eons old soul when we hear the ancient mantras that have been in existence for almost as long as our souls. Even some 3-year-old kids recognize the mantras wherever they are played, as “those recited in the temple.” It goes to prove that their soul is well acquainted with them. Recognizing those sounds would not have otherwise been possible at such a young age and in such a short period without the “Poorva Janma Vasana Balam”.

Participating in the Siva Abhishekam on Monday evenings and reciting Rudram and other suktas along with the priests is one of the most treasured activities that I look forward to, in my weekly routine. Seeing the pleasant personalities of the idols, priests and devotees makes me forget all the stress and unwind. We never see an angry or upset face in the temple. Temple automatically stimulates pleasantness, which then becomes contagious. We are very fortunate to have the temple in the heart of Silicon Valley under the stewardship of the highly learned Sri Marepalli Naga Venkata Shastri garu. To the devoted, the temple makes every day a festival and every routine, a ritual.

It is not spirituality if its experience does not create happiness. Temple helps experience the happiness of spirituality. The depth of a religion is unfathomable to those who never see beneath the rituals it prescribes. Temple helps fathom the depth. I made temple an integral part of my daily life and hope you will too.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Firm Faith in Future

When the child knows that her parents will relieve her from a hurtful situation, her pain is so much reduced. When the employee believes that his management understands and protects him and his job from unreasonable treatment or untruthful complaints, he will not get affected by team politics. When spouses understand that they have each other at all times to protect and care, they are so much better as persons. So, what is helping in all these situations? It is their firm faith in future. When we know that time will eventually solve all our problems and time will like only what is good, our restlessness disappears. When every calamity is viewed as a small disturbance in the eventual calm and serene existence, life feel so much better and we are in better control of ourselves. When we know that there is a supernatural power that no other power can overpower, which takes care of us in the very long run spanning eons, we have nothing that can be allowed to possess us. We are then in our own control. Anyone familiar with the Greedy Algorithm can quickly realize that worrying about daily happenings without a vision of the ultimate future that is no different from the God, is indeed greedy and in all likeliness, less optimal. Suffering stems from the self, external happenings are only excuses for our ignorance.