History – An Unintended Consequence Of Migration.

As I wrote in my last Friday post, I am deeply into reading about history and here is something fascinating that I found which I am sure will be of interest to my readers too.

In the late 13th Century BC, a military elite called The Mitanni migrated from the East (India) into Northern Iraq and there are many war stories about them in that region’s history. A treaty that they entered into with the Hittites was solemnized in the name of Vedic Gods Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatya. The Mitanni also took with them technology of Indian origin – Iron. Noteworthy is the fact that this was five centuries after mass production of iron took place in South India.

Interestingly, the Mitanni God Mitra would remain a popular deity in the Middle East and, centuries later, would witness a major revival in the Roman empire (where he would be known as the solar god Mithras). The cult of Mithras would become very widespread in the late Roman period, and would produce serious competition with Christianity. The pagan Romans used to celebrate a big festival called Saturnalia that went on for a week from December 17. At the end of the festival on 25th December, the Mithras cult would celebrate the feast of Sol Invictus or Unconquered Sun. Many scholars believe that when the Christians came to power they simply took over the popular pagan festival. (After all, the exactly date of birth of Jesus Christ is not known.)

Mind you,not every one agreed with this choice and the Orthodox Church still celebrated Christmas on 7th January. The Puritans would later disapprove of the unseemly heathen celebrations that clung to the festival and would try to ban Christmas in North America and Britain in the 17th and 18th Centuries. 25th December survived nevertheless as official Christmas day and a festival celebrated by Christians and non Christians alike. Thus one of the unintended consequences of early iron age migration seems to be that the world has come to celebrate the birthday of an ancient god from Haryana in India!

PS. Even today, the phrase Indo Aryan is used in many communications, like the Wikipedia article on Mitanni though the Aryan invasion / migration of India has been thoroughly disproved by archeological and genetic findings. This is a topic by itself for another post in the future.

PPS: My source – The Ocean Of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal.

Schmaltz.

This is a communication from a friend, a hard boiled banker / successful entrepreneur who recently lost his pet dog, unexpectedly and suddenly.

“Is it true that pets can take on their caretakers illnesses and sacrifice their lives in order to save their caretakers? Three months ago, when I was declared diabetes free after a struggle of 15 years, I was ecstatic. Little did I know that XXXXX was the price I would have to pay for this freedom. She passed away because of Diabetes.”

schmaltz
ʃmɔːlts,ʃmalts
noun informal
excessive sentimentality, especially in music or films.
“at the end of the film the audience are drowned in a sea of schmaltz”

Earlier this week, many stories were published all over the world about families reuniting after decades. And, while I was looking for material for this post, I came across another story. I leave it to my readers to decide whether it is a true one or created out of some fertile imagination.


There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.

“What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply.

“I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand,” she told him.

The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me a story that I never forgot and I have tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. Here’s her story:

“In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favourite part because I knew something better was coming . . . like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance!’

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork? Then I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork . . . the best is yet to come.”

The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolised to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

This topic is my idea for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog posts. I suspect that the other blogger is likely to come up with a totally different idea. Please do go over to see what Shackman has to say at his blog.

Sleep Is The Best Meditation.

The title is a quote from The Dalai Lama.

Way back in 1978 I was burning both ends of the candle and a very dear friend put me on to Transcendental Meditation to prevent me from self-destructing. I found it very helpful and became an evangelist for it with the zeal of a typical convert. I subsequently moved on to Vipassana Meditation and have stayed with it for over 34 years now. In between, I also learnt Yoga Nidra which I take recourse to on and off at need. I had learnt all three techniques from trained and qualified teachers.

Having explained my qualification and experience to write about meditation let me come to the topic and what I think that the Dalai Lama meant with that quote.

Meditation of all three techniques listed above takes one into stages of conscious awareness and deep silence. Properly and regularly practiced, this takes one to a lifestyle free of tension and anxiety. It helps if one also follows some kind of spiritual / religious life, though not necessary as a precondition.

In sleep one goes through stages of awareness, dream states and deep sleep sans dream stages. Exactly the same sequence that one goes through in meditation albeit with full consciousness. I suspect that the Dalai Lama wants to convey the need to sleep effectively to recharge one’s battery as it were, which is what meditation does. If one cannot meditate, at least proper sleep should be sine qua non for a stress free life.

If one is blessed with both, so much the better!

I have suggested this topic for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog posts where Shackman and I write on the same subject. Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the matter.

Do you have a code that you live by?

The answer to the question is, in all humility, yes, I try to. While I succeed mostly, I confess that there are occasions when I slip. I normally take whatever steps that need to be taken to make amends when I slip.

As my readers know, I am a Vedantin and as such try to follow the Indian code of conduct called Yama and Niyama.

Yama consists of the Moral paths and Niyama consists of the ethical paths.

Yama.
1. AHIMSA: Respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards others.
2. SATYA: Truthfulness.
3. ASTEYA: Non stealing.
4. BRAHMACHARYA: The virtue of celibacy when unmarried and fidelity when married.
5. APARIGRAHA: The virtue of non-covetousness.

Niyama:
1. SAUCHA: Cleanliness/Hygiene. (Physical and Mental)
2. SANTOSHA: Contentment.
3. TAPAS: Spiritual practices and austerities.
4. SVADHYAYA: Self education / Life long pursuit of wisdom.
5. ISHVARA PRANIDHANA: Surrender to the Supreme Power.

This topic has been suggested by Shackman for this Friday 2 on 1 blog post where he and I write on the same topic. Yu can see what he has to say at his blog.

Memory Trigger – The American Chickaree.

I thank Mike for inspiring this post with his beautiful post on the American Chickaree.

Reading that took me back to my childhood when I first heard the story about how the Indian squirrel got the three stripes on its back.

In our epic The Ramayana, when Rama uses the army of monkeys and bears to cast rocks into the sea to build a bridge from the Indian shore to Sri Lanka, a squirrel wanted to contribute as well, and starts picking up small pebbles and casts them into the sea. Seeing this,  Ram is overwhelmed and picks up the little creature and caresses it to express his gratitude. That caress on its back leaves a permanent mark on its back and since then lore is that all Indian squirrels have had the three stripes on their backs.  This story was repeated ad infinitum to drive home the moral that no effort is too small for a worthy cause.

I still remember the time that I told my mother that I most decidedly did not want three stripes on my back and got a hoot of laughter for a reward.

India is also home to the Malabar Giant Squirrel found mostly on our Western Ghats.

There is a sanctuary just about sixty five Kms from my home called the Bhimashankar which is also famous for its temple. I have had the privilege of visiting the temple and the sanctuary on a few occasions and have sighted the giant squirrels there. It is heartening that the once endangered species is making a strong and sustained comeback thanks to the conservation efforts here and elsewhere.

I bet that Mike would be zapped that his innocuous post would lead to this rather unusual, for me, post.

 

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost!


This famous quote by J R R Tolkein in his poem “All that is gold does not glitter” in The Lord Of The Rings, along with the title of the poem itself has become more or less a cliche used in many situations. Here is the poem:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I don’t glitter.
I am not lost despite a great deal of wandering.
I have not withered despite having crossed the proverbial three score and ten long ago.
My roots are still very deep and strong.

Now, I need to philosophise.

In one of our Upanishads, Ishopanishad, a verse states:

Vayur anilam amritam
athedam bhasmantam shariram
om krato smara kritam smara
krato smara kritam smara

Let this temporary body be burned to ashes, and let the air of life be merged with the totality of air which is deathless. Now, O my Lord, please remember all my sacrifices, and because You are the ultimate beneficiary, please remember all that I have done for You.

With that invocation, I hope that from my ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring, and the blade that was broken will will be renewed and I shall be king again.

Thathaasthu.

My fellow 2 on 1 Friday blogger Shackman has suggested today’s topic. I hope that he finds my take on it satisfying. Please do go over to his blog to see his take on the subject.