Kamal bhena: My brother-in-law–brother–father-figure and a Good Samaritan to countless

Massachusetts, USA

Started: December 8, 2020, 11:47pm

Kamal bhena: My brother-in-law–brother–father-figure and a Good Samaritan to countless

Kamal bhena and Anita didi during their daugher Shalu’s wedding in Siliguri in 2017

I wanted to write this for the past 2-3 days, but was too grief-stricken – my own, and that of people I dearly love – to get myself to write. Kamal bhena was a man so strong and so tall that you didn’t realize he was the foundation pillar until he is gone.

“Nares, tyo Facebook ko profile picture kina haaleko? Hami eti bela barah din ko mourning ma chaun.” [Naresh, why did you update your Facebook profile picture? We are in a twelve day mourning period], he had said when I put up the picture of my shaven head on Facebook after my father’s passing on September 10. I told him that I was getting surprised expressions from different  people when they saw me with a shaved head and didn’t want to keep explaining, and thus decided to share the picture. There aren’t very many people in a person’s life who will pick up the phone and scold you. We are lucky when we do. These are the people who are there for us, who watch out for us. On Diwali, he personally came with sweets for my mother and brothers’ families to ensure that they were not left without sweets, being the first major festival after my father’s passing.

Kamal bhena watched out not just for me, but for countless other people. He would ask questions to make sure you’re alright, offer spontaneous help – be it financially “paisa chahiyo bhane bhani haalnu” [let me know right away if you need money], physically, or logistically.

Whenever there were major family events where planning was required – weddings, other events, or any crisis situations of any sort – deaths, property issues, etc., I could bank on him for wise, sound, compassionate, and unbiased advice. I believe there are two types of people in the world – those who like doing “us versus them” and those who believe in taking everyone along. He was among those who looked out for all. Generosity and largeness of heart came naturally to him. 

We would call him ‘Kattu bhaiji’, as everyone else did. His name was Kamal Agarwal. A fair-skinned man with a smiling, round face, and a moustache, and a husky voice owing to a vocal-cord issue, he used to be around next door in the neighboring ‘R.K. Agarwal’, the shop-house of my grandfather’s youngest brother.  With three brothers and three sisters, he had grown up in Singtam, a small town by the Teesta river, about 30 kilometres from Gangtok. Sitting by the fire or heater in cold Gangtok evenings, he would tell us stories of the myriad experiences he had had, even as a young, self-made man. His own father had died in his 50s in Arunachal Pradesh, and he and his mother had traveled the hours-long journey in a car with his dead father seated between them. There were stories of handling various situations, and of people. 

My sister Anita didi is six years older to me, and is smart, kind, and loving. We got along extremely well growing up, and she shared everything with me. She soon realized that ‘Kamal’ was the person she wanted to marry and have as her life partner. Once, she and I went and bought a maroon, half-sweater for him – I was thinking for ninety rupees, but she says, sixty. She gifted it to him. Anita didi was very happy to see him wear it, and equally upset when she saw his elder brother wear it one day. Kattu bhaiji had to do a lot of explaining. 

My mother was initially against their getting married for multiple reasons – financial, educational, his voice, and also for the fact that the both his family and ours had the same Garg ‘gotra’ or lineage. One was expected to marry within the community, but not within the absolute same gotra. Finally, when my mother’s father in Kalimpong told her, “Jab ladka-ladki raazi, to kya karega kaazi” [When the boy and girl are ready, then what can the judge do], she relented and agreed.  They found a workaround for the gotra issue, with my mother’s sister from Jalpaiguri doing the kanyadaan – the giving of the bride, and my sister getting our aunt’s gotra for the wedding. My cousin got to do the ceremonies meant for the brother of the bride that I had looked forward to. The wedding took place in the winter after my Class X in Tashi Namgyal Academy – on January 28, 1993 in Gangtok’s beautiful Hotel Tibet in Paljor Stadium road. We had to switch from calling Kattu Bhaiji to Kamal bhena, which seemed odd at first, but we soon got used to it. My school friends were there for the wedding. It was attended by hundreds of Kamal bhena’s friends and people from his large network. People kept pouring in. I had to rush home in a car to ask for more pooris to be made and missed their ‘varmala’ or the garland ceremony – something I regretted for a long time. I remember heaps of wedding gifts and khatas, the white, silken traditional Tibetan and Buddhist scarf used in Gangtok for various ceremonies. Kamal bhena contributed to the reception cost – something unheard of in a patriarchal society where the girl’s family was expected to bear all the wedding costs.  He also refused to take ‘Tika’ or ‘Tilak’ money, where cash was often demanded by the groom’s side. That single act perhaps elevated him greatly in my eyes, and I started looking up to him, and in doing so, joined many other people and families whose lives he’s touched and made a difference to.

When I went to study in Singapore in 1995, he was one of the two sureties who signed my scholarship bond. When I bought my first computer while at Nanyang Technological University, I had borrowed money from him. ‘At every step, whenever I needed someone, he was there’. This line could not just be mine – but that of hundreds of other people – whose lives he would have similarly touched. As his daughter Shalu told me, “Unhone kitni families ko apne upar dependent kar rakha tha.” [There are so many families that he had made dependent on himself.] When Anita didi, Kamal bhena and my nephew Neel finally visited me in Singapore in 2007, I had to move houses immediately after their stay. For a person who had his staff to help him while at home, he had asked as he physically helped me move, “Coolie paundaina?” [Don’t you get porters?] I had told him, “Hoina bhena, paundaina.” [No, we don’t here]. The memories with Kamal bhena are too many to write in a short essay. His face flashes right before my eyes. His voice speaks to me in Nepali, the language we conversed in.

My sister, Anita didi, and Kamal bhena were totally co-dependent. Their’s was a love that had developed into deep care for each other. If I spoke to Anita didi on the phone for ten minutes, she would say, “Tero bhena, tero bhena…” ten times. As her childhood friend, Leena didi also told me, “Jaile ta Kamal, Kamal, Kamal bhani bascha.” [She’s always saying Kamal, Kamal, Kamal…] Whether concern or worry or being upset over something – it was all about him. When Kamal bhena would fail to convince my sister over his point of view on something, he would ask me to speak to her. Once, there was a wedding in Surat (of my cousin who had conducted the brother’s ceremonies at her wedding) that she really wanted to attend, but the city was gripped by plague at that time. Kamal bhena was worried about her safety and wanted her not to go. 

Kamal bhena had multiple health issues ranging from ulcerative colitis to diabetes. His uncontrolled sugar levels took a toll on his kidneys, until he required dialysis. Small wounds, like a infection in the big toe, took long to heal. Once he had to be airlifted in a helicopter from Gangtok in order to get better medical care. His goodwill ensured that he always had a stream of people standing up for him. They managed to find a kidney donor for him, and he got a new lease of life, supported by immunosuppressant drugs, medicines that reduce the body’s immune system.

Anita didi took it upon herself to take care of his strict diet, along with the care of her first son, Sahil, who was born premature in 1994. The lack of an incubator in Gangtok’s STNM hospital, and an oxygen overdose during delivery led to his permanent brain and eye damage. He is now a 26-year old, 6-month old baby. Anita didi has always seen Sahil both as blessing and her purpose.

Kamal bhena and Neel in 2017

Their second son Neel was born in 1998, and has been an ideal child, excellent in studies, and devoted to his parents.

In March this year, as the coronavirus pandemic raged across the world, and I saw people taking it lightly, I recorded a video in Hindi to sensitize people of its dangers, and how to maintain social distancing and wash hands often. Along with public concern, I was also scared for my 83-year old father who had survived a stroke, and for Kamal bhena, who had had a kidney transplant. I had long conversations with various people over the phone, and also with Kamal bhena telling him the do’s and don’t’s.

When my father died earlier this fall season in September and was tested as COVID positive upon death, hard as it was, I ensured that Anita didi, Kamal bhena, or Neel wouldn’t come to my house. Kamal bhena himself was mostly careful, and was following guidelines. 

In mid-November, there was another death in town. The man who died was close to Kamal bhena, and he went to the condolence meet. Kamal bhena soon took ill, had fever, and his oxygen level started dropping in the coming days. When it fell below 90, his son consulted with his nephrologist and decided to immediately take him to Siliguri, four hours away. He was hospitalized there at Neotia hospital on November 25.  He was tested for COVID, came out as positive the next day, and was in ICU, with family not allowed to visit. He was allowed a daily short video call with a family. His doctor called during the day with updates. He had breathing difficulty but was stable, and was given 10 liters of supplemental oxygen. 

On the 27th, he was given 15 liters of oxygen to help maintain his oxygen level around 95-96, his immunosuppresent drugs were highly reduced to help improve his immunity, and he was given remdesivir and a steroid. We were told that his lung infection is high. By the next day, he had severe lung infection, and was not stable with 80% external oxygen being given to him. His oxygen levels were around 80 despite supplemental oxygen. In the video call on the 29th, he told his son that he had some breathing difficulty (after 15-20 seconds of talking), “par theek hoon” [but I am okay]. He was still being given 80% oxygen. His oxygen level improved to 94-95 with external oxygen. The ICU in-charge said that he would take time to recover.  By the next day, his oxygen requirement had been reduced from 80% to 70%, but he was still critical. 

In the video call on December 1, Kamal bhena was panting a little, but looked better than the previous day. He said he wanted fruits. He asked his son to come visit him. When Neel said he wouldn’t be allowed, he said he can persuade the liftman. By afternoon, the external oxygen required had been reduced further to 60%, and his oxygen levels were 94-95 with support. 

Anita didi had been getting anxious to speak to him, so on December 2, the morning video call was with her. However, he couldn’t speak without his oxygen mask. He was asking to meet. After the call, she got more anxious seeing him unable to speak normally. In the afternoon update, we learnt about his severe pneumonia. The external oxygen support was increased back to 80% from the earlier improvement to 60%. The doctor said that the patient is serious and at risk. In a later video call with Neel, he had his oxygen mask on, was communicating by waving his hands, and asked for skin balm. Neel told him, “Aap bilkul theek ho jaoge.” [You will get totally fine], and that he was not allowed to visit. 

As I was able to get normal work done, I wrote this note to myself, “The ability to feel an emotion, compartmentalize it, postpone it, and to transform it is an important ability.” Meanwhile, Neel had been getting more than 60 phone calls each day inquiring about his father’s health. I told him it was the goodwill earned by this father which was eliciting concern from a lot of people. 

On December 3, Kamal bhena said, “Mujhe theek nahin lag raha hai.” [I don’t feel good]. He was pleading that at least one person from his family should come visit him at the hospital. His creatinine was fine and below 1, which indicated that his kidneys were okay. His sugar levels, which were earlier high, were now in control. His oxygen saturation level, which were being maintained around 95-96, was immediately dropping to 75 when his mask was removed to give him food. The 80 percent external oxygen indicated that he was still critical. In the video call on December 4, Kamal bhena said he was not feeling good, was adamant saying he didn’t want to stay in the hospital, and asked for a skin balm. In the daytime update, the doctor asked to wait and watch, and that his status was critical. Oxygen level was being maintained at 80 with 100 percent external supply. He was adamant not to allow food tube through his nose (which would have helped maintain the oxygen level), so was still being fed orally.  His lungs were infected, but he was not in a condition for a chest scan. 

On December 5, I got a message from Neel, “He has been put on the ventilator. Doctor said highly critical. I’m going to the hospital right now.” The doctors said that he would need ECMO therapy. I found out that ECMO or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a technique of providing prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to persons whose heart and lungs are unable to provide an adequate amount of gas exchange or perfusion to sustain life. However, Siliguri hospitals didn’t have the ECMO facility, and he was not in a position to be shifted to Delhi or elsewhere. In the daytime update, we learnt that his blood pressure had fallen to 70/40, and his oxygen was between 60 and 80. The doctor said, “Aap log prepared ho jaiye.” [You all get prepared]. On December 6, his vital parameters were fluctuating. 

For the first time, I discussed with Neel about what would happen if he didn’t make it. Also informed my younger sister and aunt for the first time that Kamal bhena has gotten COVID and is hospitalized. Anita didi was in Gangtok with Sahil. I assured her, and spoke to her normally. Neel and I discussed getting her to come to Siliguri early morning. 

At 1:46 am US Eastern time on Sunday, I got a message from Neel, “Papa is no more.” He had passed away at 11:45am India time on December 6. Later, Neel told me that when Anita didi had just reached Siliguri and was with Neel, he had gotten a call from the hospital. The person said, “Unka heart band ho gaya hai. Unko revive karne ki bahut koshish ki par nahin hua.” [His heart has stopped. We tried a lot to revive but couldn’t.] Neel asked, “Uska kya matlab hai?” [What does that mean?]. “Uska matlab hai ki [it means] he is no more.”

Between busy phone lines, I could only get to speak to Anita didi after a few hours when she was waiting outside the hospital to get one last glimpse of his face (which she did), as, following the hospital COVID protocol, he was to be cremated the same day in Siliguri itself, with two family members – his son and his brother, allowed to perform the last rites. 

While I had anticipated this eventuality for the last few days, facing the reality of it was not easy. A pillar and guardian of the family was gone. Kamal bhena was a mentor to me. A lot of the people skills that I have learned are imbibed from him. I told Neel, “Until now, I was your Maama [maternal uncle]. Now, I am your father too. Never think that you don’t have a father.”  

I was on the phone with crying family members. Ma was saying, “Tera Bapu gaya to mein bardasht kar li. Ab kyaan karoon?” [I tolerated when your father left. How do I do it now.] I heard my aunt in Vrindavan cry for the first time in years, “Meri choti si chori ko ke howgo?” [What will happen of my little girl?” My sister in Nepal said, “Abui na bhan na!” [Don’t say like that] when I informed her of his passing. Leena didi was saying, “Yo ke gareko bhagwan le! Kati dukkha dine mero saathi lai! Pahila euta chora lai esto banayo, pachi Bhaiji lai etro health problem, aafno health, pheri bau lai, aba bhaiji lai laane! Kasto gareko ulle!” [What is this that God is doing! How much suffering will He give my friend! First, he made a son like that, then health problems to [Kattu] bhaiji, her own health, then took her father, and now bhaiji. What is He doing!]

Kamal bhena at the Baan ceremony of my wedding in 2003 in Gangtok

In 2009, I had created a Facebook album of beautiful people in my life. Including a picture of Kamal bhena with me at a ceremony during my wedding in 2003, I had written, “Kamal bhena: For showing how a son-in-law can be more than a son; for touching and making a difference to countless lives; for saying, ‘Aru ta malai thaha china, tara mero malaami ma chaiyn tumpro manche aauncha hai.’ [I don’t know anything else, but lots of people will come to my funeral.] For being a person with faith in his ‘duita haath duita khutta.’ [two hands and two feet].” He, of course, did not know then that he would die during the Coronavirus panedemic, where funerals would have limited people, and which would also take his life. 

In 2011, when my father’s elder brother passed away at 76, Kamal bhena had told me. “Heri haalnu. Bau aba dui barsa bhanda besi banchdaina.” [Mark my words. Your father won’t survive for more than two years now.]. My father lived for nine more years after that. But little did I know that Kamal bhena himself would not complete three months since my father’s passing. 

Facebook walls have gotten filled with messages like, “We have lost the best person from our community.” “A person with a very big heart that I have come across.” There are many condolence messages, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my colleagues at Simmons University, Boston. 

Anita didi has been inconsolable during the past few days. “Mo theek chuina Naresh” [I am not alright Naresh]. Ma was saying, “Chori bhot himmat karke chale thi. Ba toot taat gi. Kyan dheer bandhawa chori ne!” [The girl had been very brave all this while. That strength is shattered. How do we console her!]. Composing herself, Anita didi says, “Mein himmat karoongi – Neel ke vaaste, Shalu ke vaaste, Sahil ke vaaste, aapke vaaste, sabke vaaste. Mane himmat karni padegi.” [I will be strong – for Neel, for Shalu, for Sahil, for myself, for everyone. I will need to be strong.] 

Completed: December 12, 2020, 1:20am

How to deal with words you don’t like to hear?

Whenever someone says something hurtful, insensitive or something you don’t want to hear, remember:

1) You are not a fig-leaf that can be blown away by the words of anyone
2) You are giving the person TOO MUCH importance by thinking about and being affected by the negative words
3) Separate the words from the person – discard the words (if they are not constructive) and love the person
4) Don’t see intention behind the words
5) Say ‘I forgive you for the words’ and give a mental hug to the person who’s said words you don’t like
6) Listen to the song in the video below 😀

[youtube 9frGc5beJPg 600]

शब्दों के जंगल में तू क्यों फंसा है रे Shabdon ke jungle mein tu kyon phansa hai re
Why are you entangled in the jungle of words?

परब्रह्म के रस से तेरा नस नस रमा है रे Parbrahm ke ras se tera nas nas rama hai re
The nectar of God flows through each vein of yours => there is God in you

आनंद तू ही, परमानन्द तू ही Anand tu hi, Parmanand tu hi
You are happiness and bliss; you are the creator of the supreme bliss

ॐ में खो कर, ॐ में रम कर, ॐ में मिलना है Om mein kho kar, Om mein ram kar, Om mein milna hai
We are to get lost in Om, to blend in Om, to to be one with Om

शब्दों के जंगल में तू क्यों फंसा है रे Shabdon ke jungle mein tu kyon phansa hai re
Why are you entangled in the jungle of words?

परब्रह्म के रस से तेरा नस नस रमा है रे Parbrahm ke ras se tera nas nas rama hai re
The nectar of God flows through each vein of yours => there is God in you

मान अपमान होता कहाँ रे Maan apmaan hota kahan re
What is respect and insult after all?

ये तो है शब्दों की पकड़ Ye to hai shabdon ki pakad
This is just play with words

भले बुरे शब्द तुझे हिला दे Bhale bure shabd tujhe hila de
For good and bad words to shake you

इतना तू नहीं है कमज़ोर Itna tu nahin hai kamzor
You are not that weak

ॐ में खो कर, ॐ में रम कर, ॐ में मिलना है Om mein kho kar, Om mein ram kar, Om mein milna hai
We are to get lost in Om, to blend in Om, to to be one with Om

शब्दों के जंगल में तू क्यों फंसा है रे Shabdon ke jungle mein tu kyon phansa hai re
Why are you entangled in the jungle of words?

परब्रह्म के रस से तेरा नस नस रमा है रे Parbrahm ke ras se tera nas nas rama hai re
The nectar of God flows through each vein of yours => there is God in you

Michhami Dukkadam: Why I must forgive to be happy?

Click here for an audio podcast of this blog post (recorded Sep 13, 2013 in Boston)

I have a simple motto in life, “to be happy always”. This is what I wish for all my friends and all the people I interact with – that they be happy always. I’ve learnt that happiness is not something that comes with circumstances – you don’t become happy when you get something or achieve something. Similarly, happiness is not something you postpone UNTIL you get something or achieve something. We’ve got to be happy right here, right now! Happy with all that we have, and all that we don’t have. It is important to realize that You and I are not leaves, that can be blown away by circumstances – one person says an unpleasant word, and we become unhappy; the train is late and we become unhappy. It’s like exposing our cheeks to the whole wide world, where each person and each event is free to come slap us every now and then in whichever way it pleases. I read somewhere that happiness is an art that ought to be learnt, practised and perfected like playing an violin. I think it is true.

There is an important prerequisite to happiness — forgiveness. To be happy and in peace with ourselves and the entire world, we’ve got to forgive EACH and EVERY person in the world. I was once told a story where there was a man who said that he was ready to forgive the whole wide world, but he could NEVER forgive two people Mr X and Ms Y, who had really hurt him in the past. The fact is, nobody can hurt you without your permission. This person was told that if he wanted, he was free to hold grudges against the entire world…all he had to do was to forgive these two people.

Until we forgive people who’ve pained us, we continue to give them a lot of undue importance and they continue to dwell in our minds. Thus, contrary to our liking, we end up closely holding those people who we supposedly dislike.

The Jains have a lovely festival. Each year, at the end of an 8-day festival, they ask for forgiveness from all and sundry, saying, “Michhami Dukkadam” [Michchami=fruitless; Dukkadam=bad deeds] [“My bad deed (with you) be fruitless”] [“May any bad deeds I have committed towards you be forgiven”]. I got to know of this lovely festival when I received an email from a friend and his wife about two years ago with the subject: “Michchami Dukkadam”, and with words something like, “I request your forgiveness, if I may have hurt you, intentionally or unintentionally by thoughts, words or action.” I couldn’t remember them having hurt me, but it didn’t matter. The greeting (whether in person, on the phone, through a letter, email, sms, a facebook message or a tweet) is to be sent to (or felt for) one and all.

Today happens to be that day for 2009. So to everyone, Michchami Dukkadam!

क्षमा Kshama [forgiveness]
वीरस्य Veerasya [of the brave]
भूषणं Bhushnam [is the ornament]

Forgiveness is the ornament of the brave! So forgive all those who’ve hurt you, seek forgiveness from all those you’ve hurt, seek forgiveness from yourself. On this day, let us all endeavour to forgive and be happy!

If you want to practise forgiveness, I found the following steps on the world wide web, attributed most likely to Dr Christiane Northrup in her book on women: “Northrup, C. (2006). Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing, 3rd edition. Bantam Dell: New York, NY.”

step 1
close your eyes….for a moment just reflect on what the word
might really mean.

What is forgiveness?
[ponder for a short while and after contemplating goto next]

step 2
And now, very gently — no force — just as an experiment in truth —
just for a moment — allow the image of someone for whom you have
much resentment — someone from whom you have anger and a sense
of distance — let them just gently — gently, come into your mind —
As an image, as a feeling.

May be you feel them at the centre of your chest as fear, as resistance.
However they manifest in your mind body, just invite them in very gently
for this — moment — for this experiment.

And in your heart, silently say to them, ‘ I forgive you’.
‘I forgive you for whatever you have done in the past that caused me
pain, intentionally or unintentionally. However you have caused me pain,
I forgive you’.

Speak gently to them in your heart with your ownwords- in your own way.
[close your eyes and talk in your heart with them- only for forgiveness]

In your heart, say to them, ‘I forgive you for whatever you may have done in
the past, through your words, through your actions, through your thoughts
that caused me pain, intentionally or unintentionally. I forgive you.’

Allow….Allow them to be touched… power of your thought is immense
and it would touch them….
just for a moment at least…
by your forgiveness.
Allow forgiveness.

It is so painful to hold someone out of your heart.
How can you hold on to that pain,
that resentment, even a moment longer?
Fear, doubt… let it go… and for this moment,
touch them with your forgiveness.


Now let them go gently, let them leave quietly.
Let them go with your blessings.

step 3
Now picture someone who has great resentment for you.
Someone near or dear
May be a friend, customer/client oremployer/employee…..
staff or family…
supplier/creditor or a banker/broker of insurance
anyone who has any cause of resentment for you.
Could be spouse or parent, children or neighbour
who had any cause of resentment for you in recent past.

Feel them in your chest, may be in heart, seeing themin your mind as an image
— sense of their being. Invite them gently in.
Someone who has resentment, Anger —
someone who is unforgiving towards you.
Let them into your heart at this moment.
And in your heart, say to them ‘ I ask your forgiveness,
for whatever I may have done in the past that caused you pain,
intentionally or unintentionally —
through my words, through my actions, through my thoughts.
However I caused you pain,
I ask your forgiveness. I ask your forgiveness.’

‘Through my anger, my fear, my blindness, my laziness.
However I caused you pain,
intentionally or unintentionally — I ask your forgiveness.’

Let it be. Allow that forgiveness in.
Allow your self to be touched by their forgiveness.
Power of your thoughts is immense… they are forgiving you.
If the mind rises up
with thoughts like self-indulgence or doubt,
just see how profound our mercilessness is
with ourself and be open to the forgiveness.

Allow yourself to be forgiven.
Allow yourself to be forgiven.

However I caused you pain,
I ask for your forgiveness.
Allow yourself feel their forgiveness.
Let it be.
Let it be.

And gently …. very gently … let them go on their way
in forgiveness for you — in blessings foryou.

step 4
And turn to yourself in your own heart and say
‘ I forgive you’ to you/rself.
whatever tries to block that
the merciless and fear.
Let it go.

Let it be touched by your forgiveness andyour mercy.
And gently in your heart, calling yourselfby
your own first name, say,
‘ I FORGIVE YOU ‘ to you.

It is so painful to put yourself out of your heart.
Let yourself in. Allow yourself to be touched
by this forgiveness.
Let the healing in.
Say, ‘ I FORGIVE YOU ‘ to you.

[ you will feel very peaceful…light hearted and relieved
if not, try repeating step 2,3 & 4….
till you have softened your heart, feel your inner peace…
then goto step 5]

step 5

[ say with immense love and joy,….openly, loudly…]

Let that forgiveness be extended to the beings all around you.
May all beings forgive themselves.
May they discover joy.
May all being be freed of suffering.
May all beings be healed.
May they be at one with their thru nature.
May they be free from suffering.
May they be at peace.
Let that loving kindness,
that forgiveness,
extend to the whole planet…
extend to entire universe
to every level of existence, seen and unseen.
May all beings be freed of sufferings.

May they know the power of forgiveness,
may they know their true being.
May they know their vastness
their infinite peacefulness.
May all beings be free.
May all beings be free.


Which name of God is greater?

Ever since organized religion has existed in the world, people in different parts of the world have tried to establish the name by which they call God as greater than any other name used to call God. Those who use the same name as theirs come within the ‘We or Us’ circle. Those who use a different name are addressed as ‘They or Them’ and fall outside the ‘We’ circle.

Some say “Krishna is the greatest”, some say “Shiva is the greatest”, some say, “There is no God but Allah”, some say “Christ is the greatest”…

Those who call God by the names of Rama/Krishna/Vishnu, they call themselves Vaishnavas or Gaudya Vaishnavas (represented in ISKCON or Hare Krishna movement today that establishes Lord Krishna as supreme). Those who call God by the name of Shiva call themselves Shaivas. In India, if you go to Maharashtra, you’ll see people remembering God by the name of Ganesh. If you go to West Bengal, you will find people chanting the names Durga or Kali. In India and in other parts of the world, those who know the son of God by the name of Jesus Christ call themselves Christians (or Roman Catholics or Protestants, etc. when they disagree over various aspects). Similarly, those who do not recognize any other name for God apart from Allah call themselves Muslims (or Shias or Sunnis, a distinction established after the death of Prophet Mohammad when his followers couldn’t agree on whether the leadership after the great Prophet should be based on lineage or capability).

Remember God by any name (including those of Energy, Time, Consciousness, etc.), and He (or She if you see God in the female form) will manifest within you in that particular form [जाकी रही भावना जैसी प्रभु मूरत देखहिं तिन तैसी Jaaki rahi bhawna jaisi, Prabhu murat dekhi tin taisi “One sees God as per his/her feelings”, or “the form of God you see is a reflection of your thought process”, says Tulsidas in Ram Charit Manas]. Call God by any name you wish, s/he’ll present himself/herself in the image, form, symbol (or lack thereof) you wish to see.

In this beautiful video from the new Ramayan made by Sagar Arts and presented in the Indian channel ‘NDTV Imagine’, Lord Ram establishes that He is a bhakta or devotee of Lord Shiva (thus, He’s a Shaiva). On the other hand, Lord Shiva establishes that He is a devotee of Lord Rama (thus, He’s a Vaishnava). Thus, Lord Rama sings and plays the instrument in devotion of Lord Shiva. On the other hand, Lord Shiva dances in devotion of Lord Ram. Each is trying to please his Lord. Each is the devotee of the other. Each is the Lord of the other.

In Hindu scriptures, there are 18 puranas – each dedicated to a particular name for God – and each establishing that name as supreme. The Shiva purana establishes Lord Shiva as the greatest. The Vishnu purana establishes Lord Vishnu as the greatest. The Shrimad Bhagvad Purana establishes Lord Krishna as the greatest. Do you see a contradiction? There is a welcome contradiction. It has been done purposely so that the devotee can be free to choose the name/form of God s/he is most comfortable with, and also be assured that the name s/he is chanting is the greatest. Similarly, there is nothing wrong when we, as Christians, recognize the name Jesus Christ as the greatest or when we, as Muslims, recognize the name Allah as the greatest.

However, we should understand that while we have the right to call the name we know for God as greatest, other fellow human beings have the right to call the name they know for God as greatest. This essentially means that call Him (or Her, if you’re a feminist) by any name, we are all reaching out to the same God within us and outside us and all around us. Instead of fighting over which name is greater, devote yourself in realizing the name/form/words of the God you worship deep within you. If you’re a Hindu, be a good Hindu. If you’re a Muslim, be a good Muslim. If you’re a Christian, be a good Christian.

While it is perfectly fine to have your favorite name for God, don’t give your faiths a bad name by looking down at those in other faiths who address God by their own favorite name(s), or by having the misconception that those who address God by different names or try to reach him through different paths will go to hell. Observe the other path(s), go for a trek using the other path(s), meet and speak to people who’ve taken that way, read the guidebooks detailing those path(s) and you’ll find that it may be better or worse laid out, there might be more people treading them or less people treading them, but they too lead to the same peak up there! We are giving ourselves too much of credit when we think that there is only one superhighway leading to God and that anybody who is not on it will land up nowhere and that it is our moral duty to coerce them, beg them, pull them into the highway – even if the person was already on a well-paved road leading to the peak. If you really want to help the person, show him how to be a better driver or trekker on the road s/he already is, instead of trying to change his/her road to the peak.

When the missionary E. Stanley Jones had met with Mahatma Gandhi, he had asked him, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi had replied, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today,” he added (Dibin Samuel, 14 Aug 2008, Mahatma Gandhi and Christianity, Christian Today).

On quest for conversion to Christianity, Gandhi’s message was that instead of preaching Christianity, if a Christian Missionary was to live his life in service as exemplified by Christ, the message would be better received…”live the life according to the light…. If, therefore, you go on serving people and ask them also to serve, they would understand. But you quote instead John 3:16 and ask them to believe it and that has no appeal to me, and I am sure people will not understand it.” “A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance. The fragrance is its own sermon; the fragrance of religious and spiritual life is much finer and subtler than that of the rose.” (Dibin Samuel, 14 Aug 2008, Mahatma Gandhi and Christianity, Christian Today).

For Martin Luther King: “Mahatma Gandhi was the first person in human history to lift the ethic of love of Jesus Christ, above mere interaction between individuals and make it into a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. We may ignore him at our own peril”. When an American churchman upbraided him for this he replied “It is ironic yet inescapably true that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity.” (Ambassador (Retd) Alan Nazareth, Gandhi and Christianity, mkgandhi.org)

“Ekam sat vipra bahauda vadanti” (There is but one REALITY, though the wise speak of it in many ways), declared the Rig Veda [I.164.46 ], the oldest scripture of the oldest living religion in the world. In the few millenniums since the Rig Veda, the human race is still struggling to understand this simple truth.

Thus, instead of trying to establish the supremacy of Krishna or Rama or Shiva or Allah or Christ, we should recognize that they are different ways to address the same God (who is all pervading and within each one of us and all around us). Our quest should be to realize this God within us – to remove the layer of dust that is covering our inner soul. As a Hindu and as an Indian, I can safely say that this is the essence of Hinduism. This is the essence of India!

हर मानव में छिपी हुई है दिव्य गुणों की आग – Har maanav mein chipi hui hai divya gunon ki aag
दिल से मर्म शिखा बस छू दो तुरंत उठेगी जाग – Dil se marm shikhaa bas choo do, turant uthegi jaag

“Inside every human is hidden a fire of divine qualities
Simply touch the molten tip with all your heart, and it will immediately set ablaze”

So forget about establishing which name of God is the greatest! Go seek out the God inside you. Once you know that there is God within you, and that God can do anything, you’ll see that nothing is impossible! Go, outshine the stars!!

Making ourselves useful to others as we live

In Day 36 of his blog, Amitabh Bachchan acknowledged a poem written by the grandfather (Shri Krishna Mittra) of one of the 494 commentators on his previous day entry (where Amitabh had described the person his father, the well-known poet, Mr Harivanshrai Bachchan was).

The poem by Shree Krishna Mitra is indeed beautiful. I believe it brings forth the purpose of our lives and can serve as an inspiration, as it was to his granddaughter Vibhuti.

श्रीकृष्ण मित्रा द्वारा लिखी गई कविता
(उनकी पोती ‘vibhuti love’ ने अमिताभ बच्चन के Day 35 ब्लॉग के comments में post किया)

आँख जिनकी नहीं उनकी आंखें बनो aankh jinki nahin unki aankhein bano (those who don’t have eyes, become their eyes)
पंख बिन कुछ परिंदों की पंखें बनो pankh bin kuch parindo ki pankh bano (become wings of those birds who are without wings)
जिनको चलने में होती हैं कठिनाईयाँ jinko chalne mein hoti hai kathinaayeian (those who have difficulty walking)
बन सको तो बनो उनकी परछाईयाँ ban sako to bano unki parchaiyaan (if you can, become their shadows)
जिनके बाजू को थोड़ा सा बल चाहिए jinke bazoo ko thoda sa bal chahiye
(those whose arm requires a little strength)
या जिन्हें ज़िंदगी में पहल चाहिए ya jinhein zindagi mein pehal chahiye (or those who need to get ahead in life)
उनके हर काम में तुम सहारे बनो unke har kaam mein tum sahaare bano (become their support in whatever they do)
रौशनी के लिए चाँद तारे बनो roushni ke liye chaand taare bano (to spread the light, become the moon and the stars) 

In the same vein, I’m reminded of the lines of the song of a Hindi movie I watched years ago on Doordarshan as a kid…(which incidentally I listened today after all these years. I remember Ashok Kumar singing to a group of kids.

[youtube 0vcZxELBvZ0 600]

Somewhere, I’ve been affected by the beautiful lines. Looks like its from the movie ‘Anurodh’ and sung by Manna Dey (the 89-year old legend lives in Bengaluru) and chorus. The lyrics (by Anand Bakshi) speak for themselves:

तुम बेसहारा हो तो किसी का सहारा बनो (२) tum besahaara ho to kisi ka sahaara bano (2) (if you are helpless, become somebody’s support)
तुमको अपने आप ही सहारा मिल जायेगा tumko apne aap hi sahaara mil jaayega (you will automatically get help and support)
कश्ती कोई डूबती पहुँचा दो किनारे पे kashti koi doobti pahunch do kinaare pe (take a drowning boat to the shore)
तुमको अपने आप ही किनारा मिल जायेगा tumko apne aap hi kinaara mil jaayega (you will automatically find the shore)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो किसी का सहारा बनो tum besahaara ho to kisi ka sahaara bano (if you are helpless, become somebody’s support)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो tum besahaara ho to (if you are helpless…)

हंस कर ज़िंदा रहना पड़ता है hans kar zinda rehna padta hai (we have to smile and live/survive)
अपना दुःख ख़ुद सहना पड़ता है apna dukh khud sehna padta hai (we have to bear our pain/difficulties ourselves)
रस्ता चाहे कितना लंबा हो rastaa chahe kinta lamba ho (howsoever long the path might be)
दरिया को तो बहना पड़ता है dariya ko to behna padta hai (the stream has to keep flowing)

हो ho
तुम हो एक अकेले तो tum ho ek akele to (if you are all alone)
रुक मत जाओ चल निकलो ruk mat jaao chal niklo (don’t stop, come on, get up)
रस्ते में कोई साथी तुम्हारा मिल जायेगा raste mein koi saathi tumhara mil jaayega (along the way, you’ll meet some friend/companion)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो किसी का सहारा बनो tum besahaara ho to kisi ka sahaara bano (if you are helpless, become somebody’s support)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो tum besahaara ho to (if you are helpless…)

ला ल ल ल ला (२) laa la la la laa (2)
ल ल ला (२) ला la la laa (2) laa
ल ला (३) la laa (3)

जीवन तो एक जैसा होता है jeewan to ek jaisa hota hai (life is the same)
कोई हँसता कोई रोता है koi hansta koi rota hai (someone laughs/smiles someone cries)
सब्र से जीना आसान होता है sabra se jeena aasaan hota hai (to live with patience/perseverence is easier)
फिक्र से जीना मुश्किल होता है fikra se jeena mushkil hota hai (to live with worry is difficult)

हो ho
थोड़े फूल और कांटे हैं thode phool aur kaante hain (there are a few flowers and a few thorns)
जो तकदीर ने बांटे हैं jo takdeer ne baante hain (that destiny has distrubuted)
हमको इनमें से हिस्सा हमारा मिल जायेगा humko inmein se hissa hamaara mil jaayega (we will get our share from these)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो किसी का सहारा बनो tum besahaara ho to kisi ka sahaara bano (if you are helpless, become somebody’s support)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो tum besaaraa ho to (if you are helpless…)

The sad version has an additional paragraph:

ना बस्ती में ना वीरानों में na basti mein na veeranon mein (not in the village, not in the wilderness)
ना खेतों में न खलियानों में na kheton mein na khaliyaanon mein (not in the fields)
ना मिलता है प्यार बजारों में na milta hai pyar bazaaron mein (neither can you find love in the markets)
न बिकता हैं चैन दुकानों में na bikta hai chain dukanon mein (nor is peace of mind sold in shops)
ढूँढ रहे हो तुम जिसको dhoond rahe ho tum jisko (the one you’re looking for)
उसको बाहर मत ढूंढो usko baahar mat dhoondo (don’t search outside)
मन के अन्दर ढूंढो प्रीतम प्यारा मिल जायेगा man ke andar dhoondo preetam pyara mil jaayega (search within your mind, you’ll find your dearmost lover)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो किसी का सहारा बनो tum besahaara ho to kisi ka sahaara bano (if you are helpless, become somebody’s support)
तुम बेसहारा हो तो tum besahaara ho to (if you are helpless…)

My poem ‘A passage to dreams‘ has similar sentiment.