Natural & Healthy Living

Updated after inputs from a Doctor, who is also a devout Sri Vaishnava.

The human body is a wonder of nature.  Our Acharyas and ancestors lived along with nature and lived hale & healthy for a long time. But these days, in the guise of fighting for and leading a so called Luxurious life has resulted us in becoming unhealthy at a very young age. Nothing can be a bigger pointer than doctors advising people aged just above 35 to regularly undergo checks. (My grouse is not against the doctors, but the unfortunate situation we have put ourselves in.) I chanced upon to read few books on healthy & natural living and have attempted to write down the best ideas from them. Along with the information in the books, I have added my own observations too. Please feel free to leave your thoughts (health professionals especially) and correct adiyean wherever wrong.

Spices

The following tips might not relieve you of all ailments, but they very well help in our body becoming naturally healthy, so we are better prepared to avoid illness and recover quickly and naturally, when we fall ill. It’s just a natural way to take the body to healthiest possible.

Daily Activities

  • Early morning 4 to 6 is Brahma Muhurtham. At this time the atmosphere is charged with energy. Getting up in this time helps us gain this wonderful energy.
  • Get up with a small Prayer of your favourite slokam or the Dhvayam.
  • Wash your face and Splash cold water on your eyes for 8 – 10 times. This helps your eyese refresh & relax.
  • Drink a glass of plain water or warm lemon water (withour Sugar) the first thing in the morning.
  • Practice Pranayama for 5 – 15 mins. I have practised and felt Nadi Shodhan or Anuloma Viloma to be very useful. Joining Yoga classes that help you understand the basics would be very useful.
  • Chant the “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna” mahamantra for 15 – 20 mins. Keep uttering the Lord’s name right through the day.
  • Bathing – Remember bathing in lakes / rivers? Early in the mornings the water is just little warm, in noon it’s mildly chill. This is the ideal temperature for bathing, just a little warmer or colder than room temperature. Never boiling hot or too cold.
  • Whenever possible, prostrate before the Lord fully (Sashtanga Namaskaram) as many times as possible and try to walk as much as possible. This will not only save transportation costs but also increase your good cholesterol (HDL).
  • In the evenings also chant this Mahamantra in evenings. This helps us relax after a tiring day and also get a better sleep in the night.
  • Never sleep immediately after eating.

Food

  • Needless to say, Home cooked food is the best. Avoid readymade foods – the 2 minutes stuff, preserved gravies, fry & serve foods, etc – please don’t consider such readymade food to be home cooked.
  • Cooking in Mud Pots – I have been trying it for past 6 months and it is definitely not as difficult to use as one might feel. In-fact its easier than stainless steel – After cooking the food inside remains hot much longer, while the pot is just warm enough to serve / handle. Food tastes much better when cooked in pots. I have observed food doesn’t either rapidly heat of get cold in a mud pot. I have a feeling food should not be rapidly heated or cooled to preserve its nutrient value. And when the pots get old, just break it in your backyard and it just decomposes – extremely eco friendly. I can assure it is completely worth the effort of searching a potter and buying it.
  • Traditional Indian foods often have medicinal values (For ex: Ragi, Kambhu dishes). Internet is abound with many recipes for traditional Indian food (This blog might be useful). A lot of booklets are also available. Once you get an idea of nutritional value of foods and the recipes, you might very well find it very interesting and rewarding too (with good health).
  • Try to eat more of uncooked and partly cooked vegetables, do not drain away all the water after cooking. Ratio of food should be: 2 parts of vegetables to 1 part of rice or chapathi and 1 part of protein in the form of sambar and/or curd. Do not eat fruit at the end of the meal but may be in the evening or at the time of going to bed (light quantity only at night).
  • Always eat in a relaxed way and enjoy your meal. When you chew your food well, you can digest the food much better and easily.
  • Please have your dinner by 7.30 pm. There should be a gap of at least 2 hrs between night food and sleep.
  • Use Silver Plates / Jugs. Here’s a scientific proof to silver inhibiting growth of bacteria. Copper jugs too can be used for water. Plantain leaf for food is preferable. Avoid plastic plates / spoons – especially with hot dishes.
  • In case you are dining outside, the following tips can help. The thumb rule is to start and end with something healthy & easily digestible. Start with fresh salads (please don’t think why spend so much on just vegetables / fruits; health is invaluable). Go for gravies with a lot of vegetables or something simple like Dhal etc. Choose breads made of Atta instead of Maida (Roti instead of Naan). Drink warm water, or if you are not comfortable, plain water, avoid Chilled water. But the best is to drink warm / plain water half an hour before or after meal and not while eating. If you have dined heavily, make sure to eat lightly with fruits & vegetables the next day.

Sleep (Some are from my personal observations too, feel free to share your thoughts)

  • An average person’s sleep requirements vary from 7 – 9 hours. When your body gets the right amount of sleep, you would wake up much fresher & active. Track & identify the number of hours required by you over a period of 2 or 3 weeks and tweak your sleep schedule accordingly.
  • I have observed I have a much better & sound sleep when I calmly lull myself into sleep for 10 – 15 mins and also wake up much fresher. During days when I was already very sleepy and just crashed into bed and slept off, I couldn’t sleep well and woke up earlier and feeling less active or fresh. My theory is that along with your body, we need to slowly relax and calm down our minds too for a better sleep, it’s not just the body alone. This is just my personal observation. Feel free to leave your thoughts in comments.
  • Avoid using Computer / TV / Mobiles / Tablets at least 60 mts before you go to sleep. This may be difficult, but please do try. It is very, very helpful.
  • During the 10 – 15 mins I lull myself into sleep, I do nothing other than just chant the wonderful “Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare! Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!!“. I also wake up with the same Mahamantra. (You may chant any mantra that is close to your heart.) Starting and ending the day thinking of Lord Sri Rama, gives me so much calm all through the day.

This is just my humble attempt in helping readers lead a healthy life. Please feel to share your views and correct adiyean wherever wrong. I also encourage to share your experiences  / tips cooking in Mudpots. It would be very useful for others too.

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The 5 truths every Sri Vaishnava should know – Artha Panchakam

As Sri Vaishnavas we are blessed to have so many wonderful literatures to read for a lifetime. Artha Panchakam is one of the gems of Sri Vaishnava literatures. The book says something that both a layman & Sri Vaishnava alike would yearn to know. Similarly the book would be equally engaging for learned Sri Vaishnavas also. So what does the book say about? It answers the basic but important questions every person who believes in God would ask himself every now and then.

  1. Who are we? (Sva-svarupa)
  2. Who is the Lord? (Para-svarupa)
  3. What’s our goal? (Purusaartha-svarupa)
  4. The ways to attain the goal. (Upaya-svarupa)
  5. The hindrances in attaining our Goal. (Virodhi-svarupa)

The above points might seem simple, but if we think deeply we realise that these carry answers to a lot of spiritual questions one might have. Also in these points, lie the answer to why and how to escape this vicious cycle of life & death. For a layman it answers questions like What is birth & death, Who created him and What is he?

Artha Panchakam is also mentioned in Nammalwar’s Thiruvaimozhi. Swami Pillai Lokacharya has also written about Artha Panchakam. These are known as the 5 basic truths every Sri Vaishnava should know.

A simple english translation of Artha Panchakam Sri A. Govindacarya Swami can be downloaded here. Sri Chinna Jeeyar swami’s discourse on Artha Panchakam in Telugu can be found here – chinnajeeyar.org/Downloads/ArthaPanchakamPravachans.aspx.

Found Book : Sri Periyavachaan Pillai’s commentry on Thirupallandu in English

Another wonderful initiative by The Kinchitkaram Trust – to translate all the Commentaries of Swami Periyavaachan Pillai to English. This simply means we will soon have English Translation for the entire Divyaprabhandhams (As Swami Periyavaachan Pillai has commented on all the 4000+ Divine Hymns). This is really a very commendable effort by the trust as this will help people with limited knowledge of Tamil & Sanskrit learn more in-depth about Sri Vaishnavam.

ThiruPallandu

Kinchitkaram Trust's English translation of Thirupallandu vyakhanam.

As a part of the project, Kinchitkaram Trust have brought out an English Translation of Swami Periyavaachan Pillai’s commentary on Periyalwar’s ThiruPallandu. Before I read the book, I was impressed by the neat design and print quality of the book. The content is also equally good. The explanations are very clear and elaborate.

After every Pasuram {Hymn/Song}, meaning for every word is given. The meaning for every word is then followed by a brief explanation of the pasuram as a whole. After this, detailed explanation and the inner meaning of every word is given. These explanations highlight the beauty of the songs. The pasurams can be explained in 4 – 5 lines or 4 – 5 pages. Either ways the message conveyed by these lines are same, the greatness of Sriman Narayana and the trivial nature of this world.

Here’s how the meaning of every pasuram is explained. I have taken the 4th paasuram of ThiruPallandu “Edu Nilathil…” for an example.


The Pasuram

 

yEdu nilatthil iduvathanmunnam vanthu
yengaL kuzhAm puhunthu
koodu manamudayeerkaL varam pozhi
vanthollaik-kooduminO!
Naadu Naharamum nankaRiya
NamO NaarAyaNAya yenRu
paadu-manamudaip-pattharuLLeer
vanthu PallANDu kooRuminE

Word to Word Meaning

Edu nilattil : To the gory place, viz., burial ground
iduvadan munnam : Before taking you
vandu : Come out of your group
Engal kuzham pugundu : Enter our group
Kudum manam udayirgal : Those who have the mind to join
varambu ozhi vandu : Come breaking your boundary (of self enjoyment)
ollai kudumino : join us quickly
naadum : common folk living in villages (city outskirts)
nagaramum : knowledgeable folks living in cities
nangu ariya : in a way that they clearly understand
namo narayana enru : uttering the eight syllabled mantra
paadum manam udai : those who have the inclination to sing, as a vent to their pleasure
pattar ullir : if there are loving devotees
vandu : come, join us
pallandu kurumine : and sing this auspicious benediction

Brief Meaning

Those who wish to join our group should give up their old contacts and join us quickly (before its too late) being taken over to the burial ground. Break your boundaries of Self Enjoyment. Chant the Eight Syllabled Mantra in a way that those who live in villages & towns clearly understand it. If there are loving devotees, let them come and join us in singing this Auspicious Benediction.

Explanatory

(This is given for every word. Here I have just given for one word)
Nilathil Iduvadhan munnam : Before merging it with the Primordial Nature, its original source. This is how it is to be interpreted. The word yEdu means “body” both in its gross & subtle states; before it becomes one with the Prakrti from which it has come into existence. It has to be understood that Alwar is inviting them (who are interested in Kaivalya) after seeing te great calamity that awaits them.


In short, this is a wonderful book for those with limited knowledge in Tamil & Sanskrit. Lets pray that Kinchitkaram Trust comes out with more such translations for the entire Divyaprabhandhams.

 

Published By : Kinchitkaram Trust
Price : Rs.120 / $ 5
Contact info : USA : 001-508-3978635, UK : 00-44-208-7554813, INDIA : 91-44-24992728
Book available at Kinchitkaram Trust Offices

Western culture has a ghastly hole in it – A westerner

This westerner is Martin Buckley, a well known and respected Journalist and Travel Writer. Ever since Martin Buckley bought the Ramayana as a 22 year old, he had a dream – to retrace the route of Sri Rama from his birthplace in north India to the climax of his confrontation with Evil in Sri Lanka. 25 years later he fulfills his dream and his book “An Indian Odyssey” is all bout his travels through India, using the Ramayana as the compass.

Here is a part of his interview that was published in The Hindu.

Q: Also, there’s a definite nostalgia about the India that was, a sense that the nation is losing some essence of Indianness.

A: I feel that India is at a point of cultural crisis. I see that the English-speaking classes, the secular classes, are very patronising of religion, and there’s this notion that somehow to have the secular state, you can’t embrace Hinduism. Certainly you shouldn’t persecute any minorities, but why this knee-jerk rejection of what is the richest, continuous, unbroken culture of its kind in the world? Hinduism is just a deep, deep well of wisdom and I hate to see the English-speaking sophisticates turn their back on it.

Q: If there was one thing you’d want the reader to take away from this book, what would it be?

A: The fundamental message of the book is that the Ramayana is an eternal story, such as the Odyssey or the Iliad. Another huge purpose of the book was to talk about spirituality. I had a deeply spiritual experience in India, which was a turning point in my life. I believe that people who don’t have a spiritual dimension have a lack in their lives; I think Western culture has a ghastly hole in the middle of it.

The entire article from the Hindu can be read here.

indian-odysseyMyth, travelogue and holy writ, the Ramayana – the Journey of Rama – is India’s best-loved book, an inspiration to schoolchildren, monks and movie-makers. It’s one of the world’s great epic tales, yet is largely unread in the Western world.

An Indian Odyssey – A rich account of a country bursting with piety and mysticism. Travelling by land, sea and a small plane Martin Buckley recreates one of the great journeys in world literature, the Ramayana.

Some pages from the book “An Indian Odyssey” can be read here.

Kulasekara Alwar Thirunakshatram

Today is the Thirunakshatram of Kulasekara Alwar. Alwar’s vaibhavam can be read in this blog post & also from our own blog post last year.

Kulasekara Alwar is famous for his Mukundamala, the only Sanskrit composition by any Alwar. All the lines show Alwar’s immense devotion to the Lord. There’s an interesting commentry / translation of Alwar’s Mukundamala by Srila Prabhupada. You can find it at the end of the post. The translation is very simple and makes an engaging read.

Today is also the Thirunakshatram of Kandhadai Aandaan, son of Swami Mudhali Aandaan {an important sishya of Swamy Ramanujar}. Kandhadai Aandaan has said that a Sri Vaishnava should live without any fear and have faith in Sriman Narayana. A person who has fear cannot be a Sri Vaishnava.

Srila Prabhupada’s Commentry on Mukundamala.

Good Platform for Sri Vaishnava e-books

Generally if we need to find a variety of   Sri Vaishnava e-books, we look for them in a number of Sri Vaishnava websites. But recently I have come across a good site to find & even publish a good number of Sri Vaishnava (and any other book) e-books – Scribd.

scribd1

Scribd is a site where you can read, write and publish books. You can  just copy and paste text or upload Word, OpenOffice & PDF files. Documents on Scribd gets frequently indexed by Google, and will be viewed with its unique fonts, graphics and other details. So if you have been looking for a way to share your work with hundreds of other readers, Scirbd is a good way.

When you are uploading make sure you give a proper description of the work, so it will be indexed & searched properly. If you are uploading files that you don’t own, clearly mention the source.

If you are just searching for Sri Vaishnava books, Scribd is equally good. Just use the search at the top right and you will find a lot of Sri Vaishnava books. Though the collection is not exhaustive, its still a good place to find out e-books by different authors.

You can also embed the article in your website & blog. Below is a sample article – Thiruppallandu Vyakhyana Saram (written by TCA Venkatesan, acharya.org).

Book : Stories from Vedanta

A book actually meant for Children, “Stories from Vedanta” presents the teachings of Vedanta in simple stories that can be easily understood by everyone. There are stories from Mahabharatha, Upanishads & from lives of many saints.

One interesting story is that of Narada’s marriage. Once Narada wanted to see what Maya was really like. So he asks Sri Krishna to show him the powers of Maya. After some days, Sri Krishna asks Narada to accompany him for a trip, to which Narada readily agrees. As they were walking, Sri Krishna asked Narada to get Him some water. Narada being a ardent devotee immediately ran to find some water, but he couldn’t find water anywhere. After sometime he found a hut and went there to get water for Sri Krishna.  A pretty girl opened the door and Narada was captivated by her beauty. They started speaking and Narada totally forgot about Sri Krishna and the glass of water. All that was in Narada’s mind was the pretty girl.

He asked the girls parents for marriage and they both marry. They set up a house on a river bank and lived happily for 12 years with kids. One day, towards the end of the monsoon season, the river overflowed and floods his hut. Narada decides to move to a safer place with his kids and wife. Initially Narada managed to hold his wife & children steadily. But soon the river becomes more violent and Narada looses his wife and all children. Narada is swept away and after a full hour is washed ashore. Narada, exhausted began to lamanet his misfortune.

Suddenly Narada hears a voice “It’s been half an hour, you had gone to get me some water”. It’s Sri Krishna behind, smiling at him. It dawns on Narada that Sri Krishna had shown him a glimpse of Maya, 12 years of expereince in 30 minutes! Narada immediately requests Sri Krishna, “I have seen enough of Maya, let’s get back”.

Maya [the world we see] is only an illusion and once spiritual wisdom dawns,we will no longer be affected by it. The foremost amongst alwars, Nammalwar threw away this Maya right after birth. So, Nammalwar never experienced hunger or misery. Sriman Narayana was his only source of happiness. When all the other alwars went to temples to sing on the Gods, all the Gods of various temples would come before Nammalwar, so that Alwar will sing about Them.

Book Available at all Ramakrishna Missions.
ISBN : 81-7505-241-4
Price : Rs.25
Publisher : http://www.advaitaashrama.org