About this blog

I hope to offer some of the ideas of Vaishnava Vedanta which have particular application in revealing the bigger picture of life and the universe as well as many of the simple things of life.

Forgiveness from the Heart

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sun, October 18, 2015 21:34:31

BBC Radio 2 - Pause for Thought
3rd August 2003

A friend of mine recently revealed a personal moment of spirit in action. She had been chronically abused by her father and this had led to an array of deep psychological issues during adulthood. Three years ago, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Reluctantly, she agreed to support her mother on a visit to the hospital. My friend recalled the moment she saw the man who had ruined her life. Lying on the bed, hooked up to monitors and drips, he looked so weak and helpless that something stirred in her heart. Unexpectedly, she then told her father that she forgave him entirely. Somehow, she was able to resolve her pain without compromising her conviction of what she had suffered.

Together, we wondered where such forgiveness springs from. When we analyse a situation within our mind, we generate thoughts of right and wrong, the need for justice, recompense and how to cope with the trauma. And, for years that is all that occupied my friend’s mind. It helped to cope with the issues, but the original suffering haunted her and the hurt lingered.

The Hindu text, Bhagavad-gita, recommends that we shouldn’t just accept the mind’s deliberations on important matters. The mind can be a great friend, it says, but only when it is kept under the control of our higher self. For the Gita, it is the soul - that aspect of our self that is our true identity –which has the clearest vision of what will satisfy us. Whereas the mind generally schemes and plans to maximise enjoyment and minimise pain, the soul hankers for a deeper spiritual pleasure - love - soul-to-soul connection. Forgiveness from the heart happens when the soul asserts its yearning to express love despite the mind’s perception of the awful circumstances we have suffered.

My friend and I concurred that forgiving her father was an instance of her soul reaching out to another tortured soul; superseding, but not ignoring, all the wrong he had done. My friend still cries when she recalls that moment, but now she says they are tears of joy that she could resolve their relationship just two weeks before her father died.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on Radio 2.

Meet Fido – my Guru

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sun, October 18, 2015 21:32:00

BBC Radio 2 - Pause for Thought
2nd August 2003

In the grounds of the estate where I work, there is a set of gravestones. Underneath, are buried a horse and a dog. One inscription written in 1841 by Major J P Holford fondly describes his horse as “fleetest of the mountain race; my gallant, docile, hawk-eyed grey.”

In a second inscription, written two years later, he commends his dog as “the noble, grateful Guard.” He then states: “May he who readeth this equal him in faithfulness and truth. Man can learn virtue from a dog.”

The Vedic scriptures on which Hinduism is based agree; and suggest that all creatures, being sparks of the divine spirit, can teach us useful lessons. Dogs, particularly, have several laudable traits. They rise immediately from sleep, whereas we need the generous use of cold water and stimulating beverages to shake off our night’s rest.

They are alert – usually because they think there is some treat in store – food, walkies or they’ve just spotted the neighbour’s dog.

But, most importantly, say the scriptures, dogs demonstrate exceptional loyalty and faithfulness. They are eager to please and their dearest delight is being rewarded with affection. One spiritual master analysed the difference in psychology of a dog with a good master and the poor street dog. Even if smaller and weaker, a dog with a master feels happy, satisfied and confident in his master’s care. In contrast, the street dog is in constant anxiety, fearful of anything remotely threatening and rarely feels peace or contentment.

If dogs with their wild wolf backgrounds can show such faithfulness to us, humans, can we not, in turn, place our trust in the protection of our Lord and Master? Dogs don’t always understand everything we do for them. Sometimes, like during a trip to the vet’s, they must think we are being horribly cruel. But, they remain devoted. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if as Major Holford challenged, we could equal them in faithfulness, expressed through our devotion to God. Perhaps, then our tails would wag as readily and as guilelessly as any young pup.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on Radio 2.

Spiritual Potential

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Thu, October 08, 2015 19:08:30

BBC Radio Two - Pause for Thought

29th September 2000

Anyone who saw me in front of the TV during the Olympics would have thought I was watching some weapie movie. My eyes glistened when the contestants beat their personal targets. And the tears poured when someone with so much expectancy on them succeeded. I just blubbered away when British rowing star, Steve Redgrave, won his fifth gold medal and when Cathy Freeman, the aboriginal athlete, won the ladies 400m for Australia.

As a Belfast boy myself, the sporting hero of my youth was Georgie Best. Best tells the story of one night when his footballing days were behind him. He had just won £25,000 in the casino, and was staying at some fancy hotel with a former Miss World. A room service waiter was taking care of their needs. But, on his way out, he paused to ask his hero, “ George, where did it all go wrong?” To Best, this seemed a ridiculous question when he had clearly attained a jet-setting lifestyle that others could only dream of.

Perhaps, the waiter was thinking that, despite all of Bestie’s fantastic sporting triumphs, there could have been even more. It’s natural to feel that high-living pleasures aren’t really a substitute for taking full advantage of our special abilities.

Whether it is in sport, education, career or relationships, unfulfilled potential does seem to be a tragedy. But, even if we are highly successful in our chosen field, the sages of the various faith traditions warn us not to miss out on a more crucial aspect of human potential.

One Hindu poet wrote, “Wake up, sleeping souls. You are lying on the lap of the witch of illusion. She has tricked you into thinking that you have so much time in front of you. But, with every rising and setting of the sun, a day is lost and you have not yet realised your life’s purpose.”

Deep inside the human heart, there is that nagging feeling that we are supposed to fulfil some greater destiny. It’s one of those innate feelings that remind us that material life cannot be the all-in-all. And, that we should be doing something about it – soon!

The Hindu scriptures say, “Athatho brahma-jijnasa. Now! Now, is the time to look to God and ask: how can I fulfil my spiritual potential?”

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on Radio 2.

Diwali Exam

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sat, October 03, 2015 19:15:38

Radio 2 - Pause for Thought

17th October 1998

Good morning. Who today thinks that how you play the game is more important than winning? Never mind professional football, our local coach couldn’t pacify my six-year-old with such quaint words as he cried his eyes out having lost 4-1. And this week, I’m trying to convince my daughter of the same idea as she contemplates with dread her forthcoming school entrance exam.

She’s not the only one facing the test. In many ways, mine is harder. How do I maximise her chances of success – without becoming an OAF – an Over-anxious Father with unrealistic expectations for his children?

India’s scriptures recommend a combination of attention to detail in our efforts along with an attitude of detachment from the result. The philosophy behind this is that our own efforts are within our control, but the results aren’t. Life is so complicated that any outcome is the result of a myriad of incidental events – our own actions being just part of the equation. Even the best endeavour of a doctor to save a life; a businessman to make a profit; or a parent to raise a child may not in themselves yield the desired result.

That’s not to say that our actions are unimportant. Their value is in the quality of the effort. Why, because the universal law of karma judges us not on the final result, but on our application in all the activities of our life.

The danger is that, in our attachment to achieving our end goal, we justify using questionable means. For example:- an Oaf who forces his kids to succeed and fills them with a sense of despondent failure if they don’t? Or the political party which accepts dubious donations. Or Maradonna’s famous “Hand of God”. It may be that the result is achieved – maybe it would have been anyway. But, in karmic terms, we have simply decreased our good karma and simultaneously increased the amount of bad karma awaiting us in future.

Whatever we want to achieve, we should do it in a way that there is an overall increase in our stock of good karma. That means not only avoiding treading on others’ toes, but also positively helping them.

So, what are the exam tips for a parent with Oaf potential, but who is keen not to cause undue distress for his daughter. One:- inspire her to focus on doing her best without worrying how it all comes out. And Two:- be satisfied that whatever the result, there’s no loss – we’ve all gained from the exercise.

Oh, and three:- keep my fingers crossed!

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on Radio 2.


PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sat, October 03, 2015 19:12:28

Pause for Thought

17th April 1997

Yesterday was another one of the fasting days within Hinduism called Ramnavami. We have a whole range of fasts - short ones ‘til noon; and those that last all day. Not all Hindus follow the same calendar of fasting either, or follow them in the same way. So, we’re not always sharing the exact experience of abstinence together, which makes it a little bit harder.

It’s funny how the mind works. On any normal day, I can quite happily skip breakfast and maybe lunch as well without a thought; but when I’m fasting for a reason, my mind regularly reminds I’m hungry. If you have access to something, you don’t hanker; but if you deny yourself, that thing seems essential.

The Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, warns of these tricks of the mind. Just imagine, Terry, you arrive home and your wife announces that you’ve won the Lottery jackpot. Immediately, you’re euphoric. “Forget the BBC,” you say, “pack up the house - we’re off to Hawaii.” But then you check the numbers - and dear-oh-dear there’s a mistake. No jackpot, no Hawaii and back to the studio. From an initial neutral state, you rose to the heights of ecstasy, and then crashed to bitter disappointment. But, in reality, your life never changed from when you entered the door.

So much of our emotions are like that - ups and downs created purely in the mind. They aren’t in the here and now. We allow ourselves to be elated by fantasising future enjoyment and disappointed by failed fantasies.

But, if we are being swept along in constant emotional turmoil, we won’t understand life. We’ll lose perspective. We won’t see what’s important to be glad about, and what’s important to grieve for. And we may miss the lessons and growth that both can bring us.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on the Wogan programme Radio 2.

Return of Rutland

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sat, October 03, 2015 19:10:06

Radio 2 Wogan - Pause for Thought

10th April 1997

Last week, instead of driving home to Wales, I stayed over and headed up the M1 on Friday morning on my way to Uppingham in recently restored Rutland.

This was a revelation to me, having never been in that part of England before. Uppingham definitely qualifies as “quaint”, which I liked, because I’m into a bit of pastoral romanticism.

Of course there’s been the jokes about tiny Rutland - instead of an A-Z street guide, it has A-B. But small size has advantages. One man I met was promoting a plan to make Rutland the first environment county and, on that scale, it could be possible.

I felt like Colombus discovering America - it was new to me, but in fact, it’s always been there. It’s the same as discovering God in your life. He’s always been there, but you’d never really noticed.

So like Rutland, like God. I learnt about it when I was young. But later, it didn’t seem so relevant. Then, it kind of disappeared altogether - society had dispensed with its usefulness. Suddenly, it’s back on the agenda for my life. I now have friends connected with it. I am no longer a passive believer; I’ve had the Rutland experience - and enjoyed it!

In Hinduism, belief in God is not all-important. It is only the first stage. Nothing happens in religion, science, business or anything unless it is initiated by faith. But, faith is the starting-point - not the goal. The seed of faith must be watered by regular devotional practices. It then grows into a deep realisation of God as our friend and guide. And finally, it blossoms as overwhelming love for God.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on the Wogan programme Radio 2.

Holi colours & elections

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sat, October 03, 2015 19:06:46

Radio 2 Wogan - Pause for Thought

3rd April 1997

It was only last week we were celebrating Holi - the Hindu Festival of Colours. The idea is to shower everyone in glorious technicolour - powders, dyes whatever. Not something to be done in your designer outfits. At our own temple, we try to keep the participants separate from the spectators, but frankly, you’re in more anxiety as an innocent bystander because the likelihood of remaining unscathed is pretty slim. Best to enter into the spirit with full exuberance.

This spirit seems to have been taken up by the political parties this week as they start their electioneering in earnest. They also want to shower us in colours - or at least their own particular hue; whether it be red, blue or orange. Good luck to them all I say, but I do have one big request.

I don’t know if I’m alone on this one, but I really cringe when the various politicians say, “We’re going to win”, or “we won this seat last time”. It seems odd to claim credit for victory when you’re addressing the very people who made winning possible i.e. the electorate.

It’s one thing for the Cambridge boat team to say “We won”. But a politician is totally dependant on the grace of the voters. In Hinduism, we would call this Maya or illusion. I think I am the cause of my own success, but I fail to recognise that behind every result, there is someone pulling the strings. It’s said that not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of the Lord.

Better we consider by who’s power we achieve our aspirations, and since the politicians are meant to lead us, they can start by changing their diction. No more empty bluffing:- “We are going to win”; instead, a thoughtful prayer:- “If you want, you can award us the result”.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on the Wogan programme Radio 2.

Just Hold On!

PausesPosted by Akhandadhi das Sat, October 03, 2015 19:04:00

Radio 2 Wogan - Pause for Thought

27th March 1997

It was great to see the hero yaughtsman, Pete Moss arrive back in France and being honoured for his bravery. It wasn’t just a momentary act of courage. He really knew the danger he was putting himself in when he set off against a force nine gale to save a fellow yaughtsman lost in his dingy.

He wrote in his diary how at any moment one of the fifty-foot waves could have smashed his boat and how he felt powerless in the face of nature - something that we in our cosy little world never really experience. We worry about a bit of drizzle, but whenever I hear the shipping forecasts I’m reminded that some people daily have to be wary of the awesome power of mother nature.

The nearest I’ve got to sailing was a session of wind-surfing on a holiday in Crete. My helpful instructor kept asking me “Why you got off?” every time I fell in the water. His one instruction was “Just hold on!” And actually he was right. If you just get hold of the bar and hang on to it, then somehow you stay up and the surfboard sails along. It’s an amazing feeling.

It’s also a great bit of advice - “Just hold on”. In Hindu scriptures, life is often compared to being tossed around in a vast ocean, but there is a boat to carry us across - and that is the instructions of spiritually realised teachers. All we’re being asked to do is just hold on to them.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Pause for Thought” on the Wogan programme Radio 2.

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