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FESTIVALS THIS MONTH:

AUG. 9: RAKSHA BANDHAN

AUG. 15: INDIA INDEPENDENCE DAY

AUG. 15: GOKUL JANM’A-ASHTMI

AUG. 27: GANESH CHATURTHI


TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER

HINDU TEMPLE OF FLORIDA: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; 5509 Lynn Road, Tampa, FL 33624; (813) 962-6890.

SHIV MANDIR: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday; officiating priests are Pandit Balraj Maharaj and Ram Maharaj; 2001 N. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL 33607; (813) 907-6311.

DADA BHAGWAN’S GROUP OF TAMPA BAY: Satsang every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.; everyone is invited; call Ramesh Patel at (813) 926-1143 or Mukesh Patel at (813) 969-1740.

JAIN SOCIETY OF TAMPA BAY: Monthly bhavna from 3 to 5 p.m. every fourth Sunday; also, non-Jains can take Dev Darshan of statues made of marbles by sculpture-artist from Rajasthan; 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.; both events at Days Inn hotel at Fletcher Avenue and Interstate 75; call Kini Shah at (813) 503-0715 or Pradeep Bavishi at (727) 525-5400.

VISHNU MANDIR: 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday only, discourse by Pandit Vishnu Sharma; 5303 Lynn Road, Tampa, FL 33624; (813) 654-2551.

SANATAN MANDIR: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; 311 East Palm Ave., Tampa, FL 33602; (813) 221-4482.

SHRI SARASWATI DEVI MANDIR: 9:30 a.m. to noon Sunday only; officiating priest is Pandit Purnanan Sharma; 16220 Livingston Avenue, Lutz, FL 33559; (813) 264-1539.

SHRI RADHA-KRISHNA MANDIR: daily morning arotik at 7 followed by Srimad-Bhavatavam class; 6 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday Bhagavad-Gita class followed by prasadam; 14610 N. 17th St., Tampa; (813) 971-6474 or click on www.iskcontampa.com

BAPS SHRI SWAMINARAYAN MANDIR: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; darshan is closed between noon and 4 p.m. but reopens at 4 p.m.; 9226 E. Fowler Ave. (between Interstate 75 and U.S. 301); (813) 986-5473.

MANAV DHARMA ASHRAM: sumiran is from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. first Thursday of every month; satsang is 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, followed by dinner; yoga classes begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday; bhajans are 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every third Sunday; 7520 Caron Road, Tampa, FL 33615; call the ashram at (813) 889-7155, Himatlal Parekh at (813) 969-1661 or Ashok Modh at (813) 935-3439.

SHREE YAMUNA PREETI SEVA SAMAJ: Pushtimargiya Satsang Mandal invites Vaishnavs of Tampa Bay area to weekend Satsang sabhas and kirtans; 1340 Robin Road S., St. Petersburg, FL 33707; call Smitabein Patel at (813) 961-3816 or Himatlal Parekh at (813) 969-1661.

ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF TAMPA BAY AREA MOSQUE: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; 7326 E. Sligh Ave., Tampa, FL 33601; Tel: (813) 628-0007.

GURDWARA: 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. daily; 15302 Morris Bridge Road, Thonotosassa, FL 33592; (813) 986-6205.

ORLANDO AREA

HINDU SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: 8:30 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 1994 Lake Drive, Casselberry, FL 32707; (407) 699-5277.

GURDWARA, SIKH SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: 11:30 A.M. to 1 p.m. Sunday; 2527 W. Aloma Ave. (west State Road 426), Oviedo; (407) 805-0404.

MASJID AL-RAHIM, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA, WEST ORLANDO: five times daily prayers and pray on Friday; 4962 Old Winter Garden Road, Orlando, FL 32811; (407) 523-7882.

SARASWATI DEVI MANDIR/INDO CARIBBEAN CENTER: Sunday service is from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; all special days observed with worship; 1453 N. Pine Hills Road, Orlando, FL 32808; for information, call (407) 522-1988 or click on www.saraswatidevimandir.com

SHRI SHIVDHAM HINDU TEMPLE AND BRAHMRISHI YOGASHRAM: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily; 460 O’Berry Hoover Road, Orlando, FL 32825; (407) 380-2661 or e-mail ymcco@yahoo.com

SANTOSHI MA TEMPLE: bhajan and aarti first Friday of every month; 10900 Park Ridge Gotha Road, Windermere, FL 34786; (407) 996-2830.

SHRI DEVI BHAVAN: 9 A.M. TO 11:30 a.m. every Sunday; Pandit is Eshwar Persaud; 6206 W. Amelia St., Orlando, FL 32835; (407) 822-8057.

SHRI LAXMINARAYAN MANDIR: 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday; 269 N. Klondike Ave., Pine Hills, FL 32811; (407) 877-7916.

SHRI SWAMINARAYAN MANDIR (BAPS): 1325 W. Oak Ridge Road, Orlando, FL 32809; (407) 857-0091.

POINCIANA HINDU MANDIR INC.: 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each Sunday and on special festivals; 3999 Monterey Road, Kissimmee, FL 34758; (407) 873-2679.

LAKELAND(POLK COUNTY)

SHRI SWAMINARAYAN TEMPLE: 2793 New Tampa Highway, Lakeland, FL 33815; (863) 682-8260.

ALACHUA (ALACHUA COUNTY)

ISKCON OF ALACHUA (International Society for Krishna Consciousness): founder is A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, P.O. Box 819, Alachua, FL 32616; (386) 462-2017.

INVERNESS (CITRUS COUNTY)

SHIRDI SAI CENTER: 4707 Pleasant Grove Road, Inverness, FL 34452; for timings of the center and any other information, call (352) 860-2181 or e-mail shirdi@gowebco.com

JACKSONVILLE/ORANGE PARK

HINDU SOCIETY OF NORTHEAST FLORIDA (HSNEF): 714 Park Ave., Orange Park; for information, call (904) 269-1155 or click on www.jaxhindutemple.org

SOUTH FLORIDA (MIAMI AREA)

SOUTH FLORIDA HINDU TEMPLE: 13010 W. Griffin Road, Southwest Ranches, FL 33330; for timings and classes at the temple, call (954) 438-3675 or e-mail info@sfht.org

SHIVA VISHNU TEMPLE OF SOUTH FLORIDA: 5661 Dykes Road, Southwest Ranches, FL 33331; 9 a.m. to noon and 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holidays; call (954) 689-0471 or click on www.shivavishnu.org

SHIVA MANDIR: 3000 N.W. 29TH Ave., Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309; for information, call (954) 735-3560 or click on www.fhosm.com

ISLAMIC CENTER OF BOCA RATON: 3100 N.W. FIFTH AVE., Boca Raton, FL 33431; for information, call (561) 395-7221 or click on www.icbr.org

SIKH GURUDWARA: 1600 S.W. 60th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33331; for information, call (954) 680-0221.


Send information on upcoming events to Nitish S. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647
or e-mail editor@khaasbaat.com
Deadline for submissions is the 18th of each month to be included in the next issue.





Pandit Vishnu Sharma
SHRAVANI UPAAKARM - RAKSHA BANDHAN
By PANDIT VISHNU SHARMA

Raksha Bandhan will be celebrated on Aug. 9.

There is a synonymous relationship between the celebrations of Shravani Upaakarm and Raksha Bandhan. This article is meant to define, distinguish and add clarity between these two occasions. Among the many mythological legends of Hinduism, we learned from Nirnai-Sindhu of one such occasion where the control of the heavenly regions was won by the Asuras from the Devatas.

As the lord of the heavens, Lord Indra requested advice and counsel from his preceptor, Brihaspati. When Brihaspati arrived, Indra was not home. Brihaspati then give Indra's wife (Indrani) a Rakhee (a protective amulet) with instructions to tie it on Indra's right wrist or drape it across his shoulders. This was done upon Indra's return and we learned that he was subsequently successful in his battle to regain control of the heavenly regions.

In time, this day has been identified as Shravani (August) Upaa (near) Karm (an action), meaning that the Guru will visit the student and invest upon him/her, this protective amulet, which was meant for their protection in facing their challenges of life. Since it was not practical for the Guru to visit everyone, the wives were charged with the responsibility to put this amulet on their husbands before they went into battle.

By this act, the wife was asking for victory, success and the safe return of her husband from whom she is dependent for all her protection. For those men who did not return from battle, their wives would engage in the act of Sutie (voluntary euthanasia), which was considered to be the highest form of sacrifice in the face of any potential defamation of their character as a widow. As more men were not returning safely from battle, their wives were losing the desire to live out their lives. As this sentiment drew stronger, the importance of survival was shifted to the unmarried sisters of the men, as the sisters were considered to be the progenitors for the continuation of the society and culture.

So, the sisters were vested with the responsibility to install the amulet of protection on their brothers, as they leave for war. It was felt that they would perform this act with the same love as the wives, as they were known as Dayaya Bhagni Murti, meaning that the sisters were the "embodiment of mercy". This was a prevalent and common act during the time of the Rajput dynasty of India. It also was felt that if the Moguls ultimately captured the sisters, they, as mothers could still influence the children's development toward the Rajput culture, though they would be fathered by Mogul blood.

Because the sisters began to perform this act, this occasion was improperly identified as Raksha Bandhan as it was somewhat synonymous with the exchange of brotherly/sisterly love between Yam and Yami on the occasion of Yam-Dvitiya, which is celebrated later in the year in conjunction with Deep-Avali. We learned in Bhagvat Puran, that Yam and Yami became separated for a long time. Upon Yam's return, his sister Yami was overjoyed to see him. She immediately served him with food and tied a Rakhee on his right wrist with the mutual promise that they would never be separated again.

This act between Yam and Yami is the correct and appropriate interpretation of the term Raksha Bandhan, meaning that for our mutual protection (raksha), we are now bonded (bandhan) together. Even though the tying of the amulet were vested with the sisters, we must remember that the original symbol of Shravani Upaakarm represents the Guru's benediction to the student, who is about to embark upon a major undertaking. That's why this day is regarded as the best day in the whole year to invest the children with the sacred thread as part of the Upanayan Sanskaar. In contrast, Raksha Bandhan is a profound act of love from a sister to a brother and a simultaneous request for harmony and understanding between them.

The reciprocal exchange of emotions between the brother (Yam) and sister (Yami) is captured in her tying the Saubhagya Sutra on his hand. We differentiate between the two occasions by understanding that in Yam-Dvitiya (Raksha Bandhan), the reason is an exclusive _expression of a sister's love for her brother because of a reunion after a long absence. In Shravani Upaakarm, the reason is a sincere and profound wish for the anticipatory protection of the brother who is going on an uncertain journey, for his safe return and protection of his sister. In Yam-Dvitiya, it is a case of singular dependence whereas in Shravani Upaakarm, it is a case of mutual dependence.

JANM’A-ASHTMI

Janm’a-Ashtmi will be celebrated on Aug. 15.

The word Janm’a-Ashtmi has no particular name associated with it. Specifically, it only indicates that an occurrence (Janm’a) will happen on a particular day (Ashtmi). The reason for this is that ESH-VAR (an extremely high potency of the Lord) Himself, will be manifested on this day.

Though a name (Krishna) was given to this personality, He repeatedly said that he represents the Lord. The appearance of Lord Krishna occurs in the month of Bhadrapada (August) in the Varsha Ritu (rainy season). Because it is the rainy season, it also is called Rituraj (king of all seasons).

This is because rain (water) is the vital source of all life. He is called Purn-Puroshotama, meaning that He is the source of all life, which is vicariously represented by the rain. He also is Vishvan-Bhar, meaning that He looks after the whole world. Vishvanbhar is further defined to imply that He looks after the whole world by the constant process of procreation through the medium of food, which is produced by the rain.

Since Bhadrapada is the best of the rainy months, everyone has high hopes for bountiful crops and vegetation etc. And so the Lord comes at this time to fulfill the aspirations of the devotees. His appearance on the eight (Ashtmi) dark night of the month symbolizes the crossroads of life, and our most challenging and difficult situations. With the darkness of the midnight-hour symbolizing our greatest fears, the Lord appears as a source of satisfaction for our needs. The circumstances under which the Lord appeared are specific, appropriate and auspicious. The considerations in identifying the correct day and time of the celebration are based on the following criteria.

The ashtmi tithi must cover the mid-night (Vyapini-Ratri) period (Madhyan), as the Lord appeared 18 Ghari from Sunrise on ashtmi tithi.

The Moon should be prevailing over Rohini Nakshatra.

The Moon also should be prevailing over Vrishav Rashi.

The Sun should be prevailing over Singh Rashi.

Ashtmi Tithi must start with the beginning of the 8th lunar day on the month.

Among the five criteria listed, the most important considerations are given to the starting and ending times of the Lunar Tithi, Nakshatra and Rashi, with the Tithi taking precedence, if all three criteria are not synonymous with one another.

Some people will celebrate Nand Mahotsav the following day. This is in honor of Nand and Yasoda seeing Lord Krishna for the first time, the following morning after His appearance.

Note that Vasudev had taken Lord Krishna to the home of Nand and Yasoda the night before and brought back their daughter, who was the Lord’s yogmaya, manifested as Shakti (Durga).

Vaishnava devotees will celebrate this occasion based on the Sun’s movement. This can shift the celebration to the ninth tithi, i.e., the next night.

Pandit Vishnu Sharma is a priest at Vishnu Mandir, 5303 Lynn Road, Tampa, and can be reached at (813) 654-2551.


RELIGION: IN A SERIES
WISDOM OF THE ‘YOGA VASISTHA’
By SWAMI SURYADEVANANDA



Swami Suryadevananda
FIFTH SECTION ON CREATION

Seeing things as they are

Rama asks the Sage Vasistha where God is, and how He can be reached. The great Sage Vasistha replies that God is not at any distance from us at all. His presence can be felt within as ‘pure intelligence’ and, externally speaking, as the world, or creation. The world, or creation, is the ‘Presence of God’ as pure intelligence that somehow appears fragmented as external objects and persons because of an error in perception.

We have come to give names for appearances that are perceived, but this does not alter the oneness of substance, which is the reality rising as forms. The activity in forms strengthens the perception of spatial separation to which we attach names and qualities for reference. But the power with which the differences are presented vehemently to the senses and mind insist on them being accepted as realities, and not as the processes that they are. They are processes because they have a beginning and an end, having arisen for a specific purpose. This purpose, when fulfilled, will cause the form to subside in their previous form, or to evolve into another form for another purpose, which seeks _expression through the play of forms.

This play of the waves on the ocean becomes the focus of our attention, and we see only the waves — completely forgetting that they are ocean only. The ocean does not change in form or substance of being just ‘water’ with the rise and subsidence of waves which are nothing but the movement of energy through the substance of water. If this is broken down further, it is atoms of hydrogen and oxygen that unite to present the substance we call water, and then the same energy or intelligence that brings about this substance of water moves through its own self and presents myriads of forms within its own being. Cosmic intelligence pervades all of what is seen as matter as the bonding force and still presents diversity in appearance by localized points of vision as perception.

The Supreme Soul

Rama raises a question about the form of the Supreme Soul, the knowing of which one attains to liberation. The Sage Vasistha replies that this Supreme Soul is not an object of perception as we perceive external objects, and he gives an analogy of how we can be conscious of our mind, even while moving about. This analogy, and others used throughout the scripture, are not to be taken literally but as examples that point to something subtle — a subtlety that cannot be expressed through verbal _expression. The truth, pointed to, is to be realized — each for one’s self — in one’s meditation.

Rama asks how the Absolute and Infinite Reality also can be present in everything and still remain Absolute. The Supreme Soul is devoid of any visible form, says the Sage Vasistha, and the best course is to know the Supreme Being as Truth who is the only Being, and in whom all this seems to take place as a real experience. God is, at the same time, transcendent and immanent, and this the mind cannot accept because of its limitations. Here comes the need for empowering the higher mind with conviction, which arises through logic and inference; a conviction arrived at that can stand over the doubts and limitations of the lower mind!

Tremendous self-effort is called for in this lofty attainment of abidance in the Truth of All, as externality consciousness is vehemently presented externally through perception and erupts internally through the grooves formed in the mind by our own likes and dislikes. The battle seems to be external and internal but what is calling our attention is the recognition and acceptance of God as the multiplicity which our senses and mind insist is diversity only. We see the world and have dealings in the world; how can this not be real? This is what we are faced with but just as when we are driving a car on a rainy day, we have to be extra careful even with the wind-shield wipers working as we just do not get the clarity and we somehow compensate for this in many ways. We slow down, keep a bigger distance between cars and have all the lights on; in the same way we will need ‘all-round protection’ of great love for the ideal, unflinching adherence to truth and relentless self-effort in our journey.

This is the reason sincerity in approach and great ardor is called for in spiritual life. It is like shifting the capital of a country; great turmoil is created. There is resentment felt at all levels as some feel that they have something to loose and the benefits of the new location are not felt for a while. There is much opposition, even within the ranks of the party that felt it was a good idea initially. It is not till the implementation gains momentum that the murmur and grumbling of the disgruntled turns into dissatisfaction and even resentment. One has to be prepared for this right in the beginning itself, and to enter into the life spiritual thinking it is an activity like many that we are engaged in, it is not like this. Spiritual life is the harmonizing of all aspects of our existence; seen and unseen; known and unknown and living in the principle of the spirit that pervades all of these.

Swami Suryadevananda is with The Divine Life Society, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, India. He can be reached at suryadevananda@gmail.com by email.





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