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Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Finished-studying-and-nothing-to-do post

I've been meaning to write a post for a long long time, but have never gotten the time. I still have one more exam left to finish, then I'm free!!!!!! :) But for today, I've done studying, so got some free time to share some things I've learned today in Hindu Centre class.

Today's class was superb interesting and I have gained a lot of insight from it! Such a beneficial class I would say, that has opened up new doors of thought for me! Every Sat is the same; I always get new insights, learn about new facts of Hinduism that I never knew existed. Each time my devotion just increases, and each time I become more and more happy (not proud) to have been born as a Hindu, completely convinced that I must have done so much good deeds in my past lives! I don't see the need to be politically correct here, so you can make any inference you want from my previous sentence, because I meant what I meant.

Sharada stotram - chanting and commentary by Kathir

This part of the lesson was so interesting! I never knew that by just chanting this Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) stotram could actually mean we have worshipped the Goddess in the form of Knowledge! "Sharada" is the name given to the Goddess of Knowledge in Kashmir, which means a form depicting the season autumn. Why autumn? Because it is in the middle of two extremes; you neither experience the scorching heat, nor the shivering winter. Autumn relieves you from extremes: metaphorical meaning would be sinful deeds basically. Meaning Sharada Devi, the Goddess of Knowledge, relieves us of our sinful deeds. The whole stotram is about how knowledge is so important that it can relieve us from our sins committed in this life and our past lives.

One particular verse caught my attention:

Yaa shraddha dhaaranaa medhaa vaagdevi vidhivallabha

You are the shraddha (faith), the power of concentration (dhaaranaa) and the power of retention (medhaa). You are the divinity in speech (vaagdevi). You are the consort of Lord Brahma, the creator (vidhivallabha).

So this is basically the translation. This verse alone extols all the virtues of gaining knowledge and how wonderful it is.

Faith (Shraddha)

You need to have faith in life in everything to be able to do your daily duties and actions. You apply for a degree in a certain university, but that university will not guarantee that you will attain that degree! Nothing in life is given to you as immediate. So you need faith in yourself and it is very important to have faith in Ishwara (God) also! Faith (on the unseen and unknown) motivates you to keep going and not give up in any pursuit of your life. So if you have this faith in you, you have Saraswati in you (in the form of shraddha)!

Concentration or focus (Dhaaranaa)

Lot of us have trouble concentrating on something for a prolonged time. We easily get bored of stuff quickly and keep changing. Concentration and focus of mind is very difficult to achieve for us. We can't keep focus in lectures for long, for example. But without a one-pointed mind, we can easily lose ourselves and our motivation. When we climb a mountain for example, our faith and our ability to focus and concentrate is tested in the middle of the expedition. Oxygen levels are low, our body starts aching, and our breathing becomes difficult. At that time, the only thing that will propel us forward to reach the summit is our faith in ourselves and our focus or concentration on our end-goal. So in this stotram, you are actually praying to Sharada Devi to grant you that dhaaranaa. When that dhaaranaa is in you, you have Saraswati in you!

Medhaa (power of retention of what we learned, ability to understand)

Our brain is so hardwired nowadays such that our power of retention and our ability to grasp things immediately and understand them perfectly have significantly decreased. People who have this medhaa shakti (power of retention of what they learned), don't have to study for any tests. They can actually remember and understand the concepts taught in lectures, for example, so easily that they need not study for exams! But why can't everyone do this? Because our brain is literally slacking!! We have lecture notes, textbooks, internet, library, wikipedia!!! All the information are already stored in there! So why do we have to put them in our brain?

Back then in the past, they did not have any books, texts, or any writing instruments. Everything was orally taught! But now, the situation is different. "I don't have to listen because there is a webcast for this lecture!" So automatically, our value for medha shakti has decreased and so we don't utilise it often. Our brain has so much power that we always underestimate it! There are people in India who can actually chant the whole 100,000 verses of Mahabharatha from memory!! There are scholars and priests in India who have the whole Veda in their mind and can recite by memory alone! And not to mention, we only utilise so little of our brain even when we are great scientists or engineers!

So do NOT underestimate the power of retention of your brain!! Try listening to a lecture, with so much of concentration (dhaaranaa) and faith (shraddha) in you, without taking any notes! You will actually realise that you are capable of understanding the lecture perfectly without any aid, but just by listening!!! I've tried this in one of my Hinduism classes, and I didn't forget anything. It is always our fear that we will forget what we learned later that impels us to take notes during class. But our brain is not hardwired to multitask and pay multi-attention. Our brain can do only one thing at a time. If it is multi-tasking, then its concentration is only on one thing and the rest of the tasks are mechanical/automatic/subconscious. So by taking notes & listening, you will not benefit much, you will lose on some information. So try listening and understanding! It will work. All you need is strong faith in you!! So don't ever underestimate your power of retention and understanding!!

Divinity in speech (Vaagdevi)

Why does divinity reside in our speech? This is because No knowledge can take place without speech. Our ability to speak is a gift given by the Goddess! There were other things said during class, which I don't want to share here, because prior knowledge is required. So pardon me :)

Consort of Brahma, the creator (vidhivallabha)

This means that you need Knowledge to create! You cannot just create without knowledge. In every object of creation, the knowledge of the creator is within it. Take Ravivarma's painting for example. His aesthetic value and emotions are contained within his paintings. Similarly, the knowledge of the creator (the God) is contained in this Universe. This means that the God who created this Universe is ALSO a manifestion/part of this Universe! Hard to understand, but it will make sense if you think about it more.

So why do we chant these shlokas?

Basically, chanting shlokas have certain benefits attached to them. The pronounciations of Sanskrit with all the 50 syllables in the shloka, wil produce desirable vibrations in our body. Some shlokas have the power to relieve our fever, or any other ailments, especially if we chant it with FAITH, DEVOTION & UNDERSTANDING! Not just suka suka chant you know! The connection of the chant (sound) and the mind should be there, together with the devotion. This can only happen if we completely understand WHAT we are chanting! That was why this lesson was conducted.

Also by chanting shlokas, it can create positive vibrations that will help to increase our concentration, and our retention power of the brain!! This change can only be seen long term, after a few months of daily chanting. You can just chant Ganesha 108 names everyday (will take only 10 mins maybe), and that alone can help you a lot (if done with faith and devotion)! I am willing to teach anyone to chant any shlokas, if you are interested :)

I hope what I've shared here was of use to your understanding. Please share your comments here too :)


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