The Need For A Chaplain Who Is Hindu

There are many articles written by many distinguished people highlighting the need for a Hindu chaplain. Some of the most popular articles I’ve come across are

Both articles do a great job of highlighting what chaplaincy would look like within the Hindu community. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at length to authors of both articles. I also work closely with Swami Sarvaanandaji as I work towards my board certification.

I wish to offer a slightly different approach to the need for a chaplain who is Hindu.

As I visit patients in the hospital, I walk into a wide variety of situations. There are so many occasions when I have an opportunity to work closely with family members of patients who are going through some major illness and there are times when there is a patient who has absolutely no one else in his or her life to even visit them at the hospital.

One visit comes to mind right now. I was visiting a really elderly woman (let’s call her Ushaji) who had been at the hospital for over ten days. When I visited her, she asked me in broken english – Are you Indian? I smiled at her and answered – Yes, I am. Her face lit up and she asked me whether I could speak and understand Hindi. I said – Yes, I can.

Those three words opened up a whole different personality of this woman who, until that point according to her medical staff, was quiet, reserved in her behavior. The freedom of being able to communicate in one’s language is such a huge freedom for people in a hospital setting. While chaplains are not medical interpreters, just being able to converse in one’s native language can be a major ice-breaker. This is why there is a need for an Indian chaplain.

As I continued to speak with her, Ushaji shared some wonderful stories about her upbringing and her family. Then we struck the real issue – her faith. She did have visits from other chaplains before but she was hesitant to ask them what she asked me. She asked me whether I knew of a particular Guruji who gives spiritual discourse (pravachan). I instantly knew who she was referring to and asked her more about it. Over the conversation, I was able to dig out more information about how important it had been for Ushaji to watch this Guruji every morning and evening – something she had not been able to do for over ten days now.

I told her that I will ensure she gets to listen, if not watch, the pravachan at least once a day when I visited her. I ran a request through my director and was able to bring in my personal laptop to Ushaji’s room so she could watch 15 minutes of this Guruji on Youtube.

Ushaji was elated about this and over the next 4 days, she was responding better than ever to the treatments and was home by the end of 6 days. This is why there is a need for a chaplain who is a Hindu. 

Another example is that in a university setting. There are many Hindus who work in the college/university setting as a Hindu Life Advisor (or Coach or another title of the sort). Their presence allows Hindu teenagers to voice their opinion, share their concern without feeling judged and to have their cultural needs met. An example comes to mind. A sophomore (let’s call him Jeet) at a very good university (hundreds of miles away from his hometown)  was stressed out and through some channel found out that he could talk to a Hindu life advisor who works for the university. Jeet went to the advisor and was able to vent his frustrations about his parents, their expectations of him and so on. Someone had told Jeet that he was an adult (18 years of age or older) and that he could do what he wants. Well, Jeet knew better. He knew that he could not just do what he wants because the opinion of his parents mattered to him. He needed someone who understood that cultural need. This is where the Hindu life advisor on campus was a great resource and support to him. This is why there is a need for a Chaplain who is a Hindu. 

Having shared these stories, it is important to remember that a professional chaplain of any faith will be able to assist a patient of any faith. Actually, it is a critical training component for professional chaplaincy. The challenge, though, is how little others know about the Hindu dharma and the myriad of practices that fall under dharma. This is why there is a need a chaplain who is a Hindu.

To be continued…

Until next time,

Namaste

Life is a school where you learn how to remember what your soul already knows. ~Author Unknown

It’s 2015. Innit?

It’s January 26th, again. I always amaze myself at how quickly time flies by and I am left wondering where did all the time go?

It’s not as if we haven’t paid attention to the dates and all but there are some feelings that seem to have stayed, irrespective of how much time has gone by. It’s India’s 66th Republic Day today. I stayed up late last night watching the parade live on TV. It’s an annual tradition but this time was even better because our current US President, Barrack Obama, was the guest of honor (a huge first in itself).

January 26 has a separate anniversary personally too and just found out today that is also Michigan’s birthday! Special date, indeed.

I hope to write more often. I was going through my archives and I realized I’ve been blogging off and on for nearly a decade now. I did have a blog before that I did not save. So technically, over a decade of blogging had I saved my first one.

There’s so much happening both professionally and globally. I realize that it’s time to put in more effort to get these words out.

Chaplaincy is going well and God-willing, it will only get better. There is a huge list of events/incidents, since my last blog post, that need to be committed to memory through writing them down. I intend to do just that.

More updates later.

Namaste.

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

Join us – A R Rahman Invitation

So anyone who knows me at all will know that I am a huge A R Rahman fan. It began with his music and the more he grew with music, the more I realized how certain things come together to guide us on our path. More on that later.

For now, I want to share my thoughts on his latest initiative: An invitation from A R Rahman. It’s amazing to me how much I can relate to this man. Going through this video, I kept saying: exactly! exactly! exactly! so many times in my mind.

And then the second part to this video here: Join hands with me.

I watched this video in awe as A R Rahman goes on to pose such big questions. Each one I feel so strongly about. I think everyone should feel strongly about it. These are the basic questions of survival, of defining humanity as a whole.

I will attempt to answer these questions. I may even end up posting a video response to one of the questions. Who knows? I definitely will be blogging my answers to each questions.

In the process of answering these questions, I hope to bring together my work, my personal life experiences, my voluntary initiative to grow and become a better person with every passing day. As a dear friend always tells me: One day at a time, my friend. One day at a time!

The journey has begun…

Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it, but I am afraid He might just ask me the same question ~ Author Unknown but Appreciated

Worshipping the Female Divinity in these days of horror

Navratras are going on right now. One of my most favorite festivities of the Hindu culture. Growing up, Navratri and Garba and Raas meant 4-5 hours of fun with family and friends. The more interested I became in getting to the essence of Hinduism, the more clearer it is becoming how awe-some everything we practice is. The first time I truly understood the meaning of Navratri, of Garba, of Raas, it transformed from fun to sheer devotion.  In my mind, every circle I make around Maataji’s picture or sculpture, I pray. It is worship and I try my level best to remind myself every single step I take and with every single clap.

Given the work I am doing lately, knowing my roots and my religion has become of paramount importance. So as I was giving a talk recently on a certain aspect of Hinduism, I paused. Suddenly, I felt like such a hypocrite and honestly, very ashamed.

Why do you ask? WHY?!?!

Because we are not deserving enough to worship something that’s as awesome as the Female aspect of Divinity.

There’s not a day that goes by that it doesn’t show up in the news that a female was raped in so-n-so city. Every Single Day. News of Rape Some Where. Every Single Day.

Rampant female foeticide, sheer disgust for just being born a girl is an every day thing in India. A girl in India is abused in SO many ways. Eve-teasing, Rape, Dowry, the pressure to be [and I quote a matrimonial ad] Slim and Fair.

Ugh!!!!! Need I go on?! These atrocities are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s evidence everywhere for these on the internet. As much proof as you want. Feel free to look it up.

So yeah, let’s just not kid ourselves. We are not fit as a culture right now to be worshiping the Female aspect of Divinity. Let’s just not do it until we clean up our acts and not be judgmental towards a girl. Until we can accept a girl for who she really is,until we can accept a girl for her abilities, her intelligence,  I am VERY SURE that the Goddesses are not pleased.

Ekam Sat…The Truth Is One

“Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanti” : The Truth is One; the wise call It by various names. ~ Rig Veda

This sets the theme of the journey that life has brought my way. Or maybe in some way, I am destined to be walking this path. It’s official. It’s happening.

I have just started taking the first steps on the path to combining my faith (Hinduism – Sanatana Dharma) with my career (Health Care) and serve.

So why am I going public with this? Because I realize I need a lot of references, need to do a lot of research and of course, understand and apply it to myself first.

Does that mean I will not have my occasional outbursts? I doubt it. I am sure I will have a post or two every now and then where I am just venting.

I am going to need a lot of pointers and it’s going to be interesting. I am hoping anyone who reads this blog and has pointers will speak up and direct me to a source where I can get more information and expand my understanding.

Here’s the thing: I finally realize what it means to “love” God. I am now beginning to have an idea as to how Meerabai and Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji felt towards Shri Krishna. I am beginning to realize how madly you must “love” God to have that unwavering faith in God’s work like Narsinh Mehta did.

I also realize, it’s a long long way for me to where I can even come close to claiming to feeling the same.

Join me on this journey…

Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

The Roar of the Ganges…

The Roar of the Ganges… These words have been stuck in my head ever since I’ve heard them. It feels like a call to awaken my self. To take that next step. To get a break through.

I know I have taken forever to update this blog, but I think this time around I will keep myself motivated to post regularly.

There are a few things brewing to materialize soon in the life of yours truly. It would be too early to go public with it at this moment. But what I can actually give out is that these developments are nothing short of life-defining.

For the curious mind, it is a combination of Health Care + Hinduism + Spirituality; it is all beautiful to say the least.

There’s more to come…a lot more to come…

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it. ~Buddha

Colors

A flurry of activity. I am a little dizzy. Is it due to not eating or a rush of excitement? Everyone knows what I should be doing, except for me. He is here. From the window, in a sea of sky blues dotted with silver stars and greens lined with gold, amidst the yellows and the pinks, I try to look for maroon and white. He did say he will make sure that his outfit matches mine. Its time to go.

I steal a look at the mirror. The maroon gemstones emit a glow as if they have been connected through the veins to my heart. The color of henna on my palm is almost black. The friends cannot stop teasing me. They say when the color of the henna on the girl’s hands is dark, she is very loved by her in-laws. Its time to go.

Looking for him, he turns and flashes a big smile from the alcove. His eyes are as radiant as the diamond studded golden tear-drop broach he has on his suit. I sit next to him. We are surrounded by daisies in every color of daisies possible. He knows I like daisies. Together we do as we are told, all the while stealing glances at each other, smiling. A lot of smiling.

Round one. He will make sure that he will take great care of me. Through the snow-white winters to the greens and reds of spring to the monsoon blues to the sunny yellows of summer. Round two. We will make sure that we will help each other achieve goals, both material and spiritual. Round three. I will step ahead of him when death comes calling. Round four. Our endeavors will be fruitful. Godspeed.

Time to eat. The dinner table is set in green and orange. I do not remember how and why these colors were chosen. Oh, I never asked what his favorite sweet dish is. I wonder.

Two trips around the sun.

Round one. He will not object to me listening to music all the time. Round two. We will make sure to not fight over who gets to watch T.V. when both the Indian ‘Men in Blue’ Cricket team and the Boston ‘Club Green Celtics’ are playing at the same time. We will just watch Tennis instead. Round three. I will make sure he gets his weekly dose of a Bollywood movie. Round four. I will make sure not to keep talking about how hot the British accent is or Australian cricketers for that matter.

Oh, he brought me orange daisies today. I think to myself again and smile, “Ah, arranged marriage!”


This was one of the first pieces I wrote for my class. Due to this piece, everyone in my class for the entire semester thought that I was married. I found out on the last day of class and had a good laugh.

What you resist, persists; What you accept, transforms ~ Carl Jung

N.R.I – Non-Respected Indian

Its the return of the NRI. Only this time, NRI stands for Non-Respected Indian.

Its all over the news. Racism against residing Indians in Australia. Racism here. Riots there.

NRIs, Non-Resident Indians, as they should correctly be called are becoming the scapegoat species.

Back in India, we are the Non-Returning Indians, the Non-Reliable Indians. We cannot voice our concerns to the ones living back in India because obviously we ‘don’t know how it feels’ since we don’t live there. We cannot critique something about India or else we will be branded and be told stuff such as, “Oh firangi already! Arey, this is India. This is how we work.” And it gets worse. We even get told that people who do not live in the country should not say anything about the country.

In our adopted countries, we are just (sometimes, maybe more now given the economic times) seen as the Non-Required Indians. Initially, it was being seen as conservatives to now being called job-stealers.

Sometimes it does give an overall feeling that we do not belong anywhere. Living in Canada and interacting with so many other nationalities, I’ve realized that this feeling is not limited to the Indian diaspora. Other nationalities too feel similarly and it is obviously not categorized in the way the NRIs are subjected but in their own issues.

The fact of the matter is what is it that the NRIs don’t do for their homeland as well as their adopted country. Be it helping their homeland monetarily or serving the adopted country through businesses, we do our part. Even then, we are still treated as we do not belong.

What can we do to change that? Should we do something to change that? These are open questions.

Will the near future change all this? Will NRI stand for Now-Required Indians? New Resplendent Indians?

There are too many people, and too few human beings. ~Robert Zend

To my four mothers…

Yes. To the four mothers.

First, the biological mother or the adoptive mother (The Mata, Maa): the one who gives birth to you. She is the one who bring you in this world and looks after you until you no longer need her (or that’s what you think!)

Second, the Mother Land (The Matrubhoomi): the country, the land that you are born in; The one who gives you an identity beyond your family.

Next, the Adopted Land (The Karma bhoomi ): the one that you move to; the country where you live, earn and settle.

Finally, Mother Nature (The Shakti, The Creative Power of the Universe): the power, the energy that allows all of the above to exist in herself.

It’s such a big deal to be a mother: To be the one to conceive, to give birth, to create another life form. Inexplicable.

Appreciating parents is a major part of the Indian culture. How honestly are we doing so is something that is a debatable topic. Either way, hailing from this culture, I know what the status of biological parents is in a person’s life.

The idea of Matrubhoomi was introduced to me when I was a lot younger whilst watching Mahabharat on Doordarshan. A person owes loyalties, has a duty towards the land that he or she is born in.

The same is true for Karmabhoomi. One also has a duty towards the adopted land. Moving to another country has its perks. So if you intend to enjoy the perks, you should also make sure that a sense of duty is also involved. It is part of ethical living.

And of course there is Mother Nature. Most people think of Mother Nature when there are storms brewing or something out of human control occurs. When everything is running ‘normally’, no one seems to think about Her. It is not news how majorly humans have messed up this beautiful blue planet. I think it’s high time, we show some appreciation in this aspect as well.

Having said all of this, I don’t think just one day is enough to show a mother how appreciated she is. So make sure, the next time you see or think about any one of these mothers…say a little prayer of gratitude. She deserves it.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

I am Nagar – II


As I had mentioned in my previous post, the principal deity of all Nagars is Lord Hatkeshwar.

Every year Hatkeshwar Patotsav, also known as Ochchav, is celebrated by all Nagars. The Hatkeshwar Jayanti falls on the Chaudus (fourteenth) of the Chaitra month in the Hindu calender. It is believed that Lord Shiva incarnated as Lord Hatkeshwar on this day.

The celebrations include puja, and a procession called Palakhi no Varghodo.

The day begins with decorating the deity and then begins the puja. There are recitations of Rudrabhishekh, recitals of the Shivmahimna Stotra and so on. In the evening, the Lord is taken around town in a varghodo (procession) symbolizing the arrival of the Lord in the lives of Nagars. After that, all of the people gathered go to the Hatkeshwar temple to perform puja.

The Patotsav is almost always a proper Nagar feast.

Memories: Personally, I attended the Ochchav every year whilst I was in India. I have fond memories surrounding this day. Even though it almost always happened that the Ochchav fell on a school day, so we were not able to attend the entire day’s puja but we made sure that we went to the temple as soon as school was done. All the Nagars in the city converged to meet at the old city Hatkeshwar temple.

Everyone took to the streets as the procession got ready to make a round of the old city. The Palkhi was preceded by kids dressed up in a variety of costumes ranging from Lord Shiva to fairies. Some were on horses while others opted to walk in procession. Following all of this, came the Palkhi carried on the shoulders of men who in no way showed a sign of pain from carrying the doli. The others walked chanting the name of Shiva, along with filling the air with gulal and giving out oblations to the believers. Something like this

After the Palkhi was taken back to the temple, we visited the temple and prayed before heading home. In the back of our minds, these words keep reverberating

Namami Natkeshwaram
I bow to you, Lord Natkeshwar
Bhajami Hatkeshwaram
I worship you, Lord Hatkeshwar

Jai Hatkesh