Monday, July 14, 2014

Guru Purnima's Instrinsic Message of EcoDharmic Harmony

As I prepared to observe Guru Purnima something clicked. Wow! Guru Purnima is observed by the entire Dharmic community - Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs and it also has a strong message of environmental harmony.
It became clear to me that one of the common factors in our traditions is learning wisdom from an enlightend teacher - a Gu - Ru, one who removes darkness of our ignorance. (Gu = darkness or ignorance, Ru = the remover of that darkness).
The Dharmic traditions believe Gurus are an important part of our lives as they help us understand the great Dharma-based Spiritual teachings with roots in the Vedas.
Each one of our traditions has several gurus and guru lineages whose teachings we follow in various ways and we have a special day to honor them! Our parampara calls upon us to honor and pay respect to our Guru (Spiritual Guide) on this day.
Buddhists honor the memory of Buddha who gave His first sermon on this day at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Hindu traditional celebrations vary. In the yogic tradition, Shiva became the first Guru, as he began the transmission of yoga to the Saptarishis. Ved Vyasa, author of Mahabharat, was not only believed to have been born on this day, but also to have started writing the Brahma Sutras on ashadha sudha padyami.
In Jain tradition, Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, after attaining Kaivalya, made Indrabhuti Gautam, later known as Gautam Swami, a Ganadhara, his first disciple, thus becoming a Guru himself.
Sikhs honor the Ten Gurus of Sikhism and the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book as the eleventh perpetual guru of the Sikhs.
I wondered why on this day? Why does Guru Purnima fall on the day of full moon, Purnima, in the month of Ashadh (June-July) of the Lunar calendar.
I learnt our tradition is implicitly connected with the environment and with the natural seasonal change. This was the start of the rainy season in which travel was difficult. (Traditionally Gurus traveled, remained unattached as they moved from place to place teaching).
However, for four months - Chaturmas - the Gurus did not travel. They stayed in one place and taught the people of that community. So the community started this period by honoring the Guru and settling to learn from him/her.
The dictates of the natural seasons of Mother Earth guided our Gurus and the communities. Now, many of us hope our communities will honor the teachings from the ancient times and sustain Mother Earth by taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint and develop EcoDharmic conservation habits.
We at HASC are celebrating Guru Purnima through a historic partnership with EPA's ENERGY STAR® program. Our tradition shows our environmental leadership potential which, if harnessed, can influence global climate change policies. Given the ancient intrinsic harmony in our collective Dharmic traditions, surely we can achieve our values of conservation and energy efficiency through our temples and devotees. Could our youth be mobilized to accelerate this effort exponentially?
On this auspicious day of Guru Purnima, as we honor our Spiritual guides, and thank the great Vedic Gurus who from ancient times have held a light to remove the darkness of our ignorance, we urge all to remember the environmental harmony in which our traditions coexisted and celebrated. We hope our Gurus teachings will guide us to become environmental stewards for generations to come.

First Published on Huffington Post

Guru Purnima's Instrinsic Message of EcoDharmic Harmony

Monday, May 26, 2014

Honoring Spiritual Healing Seva

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Memorial Day our hearts are full of gratitude for America's diverse men and women who made this country strong, and for the many who have died in its service and for those who are healing. Today, we salute the many men and women who serve and those who also nurture their spiritual needs.

During VidyaSeva, our theme for the month of May, we pay tribute to the great gurus and teachers who promoted service through education and knowledge. They all taught us to serve; to serve with devotion and honor. This year as we pay tribute to the many men and women who serve through teach, we are inspired by those who are also healing through yoga and other therapies.

Today we honor one such unsung hero who supports our soldiers - Dr. Dilip Sirkar.
Dr. Dilip Sirkar, Executive Advisory Council member to Hindu American Seva Communities, has begun teaching Yoga Therapy at the Pentagon. One of the foremost experts in Yoga Therapy he combines his 45-year experience in Conventional Medicine with his extensive knowledge of Integrative Medicine, including Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy. A recipient of the medal for spiritual fitness, below is his story of VidyaSeva through Yoga.

A few months ago, a Department of Defense ("DOD") employee, who had attended one of my Yoga Therapy workshops in the Washington D. C. area, invited me to teach Yoga Therapy at the Pentagon. He connected me with the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, established after 9-11 to provide multi-faith support for all branches of military in the DOD at the Pentagon. I was asked to share my experiences, due to my background as a retired physician and my personal, transformative experiences through Yoga Therapy.

I arrived on the day of the program and observed a beautiful mural outside of the Deputy Chaplain's office, displaying images of the Chaplains of various faiths providing support at events. The top of the mural stated the Office's mission to provide "spiritual fitness for the Pentagon family." I took a tour of the building with the Deputy Chaplain and observed several informational posters about my upcoming presentation throughout the building. Employees approached me and asked for details about the event. It was clear to me that Yoga Therapy had arrived at the Pentagon and was already a part of the military discourse on wellness and lifestyle choices.

Once inside the presentation area, I noticed the room fill up and the organizer had to add seating to the venue because of the positive response. I began by introducing the 150 or so participants to the principles and practice of Yoga Therapy. I offered gentle relaxation chair poses and then introduced breathing techniques because they were in uniform and seated in chairs. The Deputy Chaplain had informed me beforehand that the employees were interested in meditation, so I concluded by doing a guided meditation. My primary focus was on Yoga Therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and drug dependency, because I felt many DOD staff would benefit from this type of practice. 

During the practice session, the attendees were deeply engaged and followed each posture and breathing technique that I offered. As I looked out at the audience, I was struck by the fact that even though the participants were uniformed and from the outside looked so alike, each person's expression of the poses was truly individual and varied from one person to the next. I felt grateful for such a connection and positive response to what I was offering. The attendees were all comfortable with the practice and appeared very relaxed at the end. The stillness in the room during the meditation was palpable and significant, given the hustle and bustle of the more than 30,000 employees working in the Pentagon every day.

Immediately after the presentation, people began asking questions about their individual health problems, ranging from neuropsychiatric disorders to musculoskeletal and cardiovascular issues. The Office of the Chaplain had arranged for lunch for the event, and we continued the Q&A into lunch. The attendees gave immediate feedback and spoke about how wonderful they felt after the practice session. Many connected to the breathing techniques to help treat PTSD and other psychiatric conditions. An employee who is also a certified yoga teacher said he enjoyed the chakra-awakening meditation. I learned more about each participant's background. They shared some of the stresses of their daily life with me and explained how much physical and mental strength is needed to get through their day. I was reminded of the similar stresses I felt in my career as a vascular surgeon, spending long hours in the operating room with a full roster of surgeries daily, and how that led to a significant heart attack when I was 52. I shared how beneficial Yoga Therapy has been in activating the relaxed, parasympathetic part in my body's nervous system, instead of constantly being in a fight or flight state of being.

Many employees asked when I would return to do a longer session. I also received several emails inquiring about another event, and the wheels are already in motion to make that happen. I look forward to going deeper into Yoga Therapy philosophy and practice with employees and their friends and family in a larger setting. The DOD staff are a vibrant, welcoming community who have truly adopted Yoga Therapy into their lifestyle.
Before I left Pentagon Chaplain's office the Deputy Chaplain gave me a medal for spiritual fitness excellence.

It is wonderful to see our Dharmic traditional tools and resources augmenting the spiritual well being. HASC honors Dr. Sirkar for his Dharmic seva/service to our brave men and women and pray for everyone's well being.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi
"May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Celebrate Holi - the Festival of Equality - with Colors in Motion 5k run

Holi is just around the corner on March 17th.  It is not only a fun festival filled with colors, but is also a celebration of equality. The colors equalize all and serve as a reminder that no one should be perceived as higher or lower.  Let us celebrate Holi by serving all in need equally. 

 HASC is partnering with Colors in Motion 5k run in Washington DC on April 19th to celebrate HoliFest. The Color in Motion 5k run is inspired by the festival of Holi. We invite you to participate. Use the promo-code  to get a discount; a portion of the proceeds will be donated for seva and social justice causes.  UtsavSeva (Festivals of Seva) invokes the underlying value, the spirit of equality of the Holi festival - HoliFest - to serve all.  

All donations collected for this event will be used for the following Dharmic causes: Feed the Homeless; Promote Wellness and Nutrition; Empower Women and Youth; Promote energy conservation and environment protection. Please donate generously.

Register for the event and serve the community:  Please share this announcement with your friends and family.

Contact HASC at with any questions you may have and with your feedback.