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Vedanta Sandesh

The Free Monthly E-zine of Vedanta Mission

March 1999

A VERY PIOUS & HAPPY RAM NAVAMI TO ALL

" Salutations to you, O Lord Rama ! May our heart remain ever attached to your lotus-feet, our speech remain devoted to chanting your name & recounting your stories, and may our hands remain engaged in the service of your devotees, and our existence merge in you."

CONTENTS

SECTIONS

TOPICS

1. Preface :

Message of Lord Rama

2. Vedanta :

Nityanitya Viveka

3. Know your scriptures :

Kathopanishad

4. Queries :

What is Holi ?

5. Special :

Thoughts on Conversion issue by Kanchan

6. VM Activities :

Earlier : Youth Meet at Mumbai, Gita Gyana Yagna at New Delhi, Satsang at Lucknow.

Forthcoming : Gita GyanaYagna at Mumbai, Postponement of World Tour

PREFACE

Message of Lord Rama

Goswami Tulsidasji in his Ramcharitmanasa says that 'Patience, religiousity, friend and ones wife are tested in hard times'. This is a blessing & positive aspect of unfavourable circumstances. Ability to retain a positive attitude even in such times are indications that teachings of our Gurus & scriptures have been really inculcated. With equanimity in place one can learn from ones mistakes and continue to tread ahead instead of falling in the negative reactions of dejection & despondency. This alone is the purpose of saying that God alone is the Karma-phala-data. If he alone is the dispenser of all fruits then what ever has come to us should be an indication of his wish & wisdom. Following the precepts of religion does not gaurantee the unobstructed fulfillment of our wishes but helps bring about a state of mind wherein one can accept success & failures with a balanced & unreacting mind.

Religion & God are many a times taken as means to fulfill our desires through some incomprehensible divine intervention & grace which were otherwise not possible merely by our individual efforts. Even scriptures use this line of thought to a certain extent to help us associate God with our lives. The devotees are never short of talking about various 'chamatkars' about their Gods & Gurus, and all these relate only to how their 'work was done'. Presence of Guru many a times assures devotees of the unobstructed fulfillment of work. This is all a negative line of thinking. The dynamics of action & its result are entire different story. Wisdom of religion should be seen more in integrated & enthusiastic execution of our work & receiving of the subsequent fruits with equanimity & holistic attitude, rather than mere fulfillment of our desires. With guaranteed results there is no adventure & kick in life, it will be just satiation of our sense of enjoyership. It will be contrary to what God himself comes & demonstrates here in this world. Let God play his role and let us play our roles. In this game we do not & should not know where the ball is going to be placed next. Let him place it any where he wishes and on our part let us work hard to return it to him. Let the suspense & adventure remain. Then every moment will be alive & vibrant and not merely the moments of achievements.

Let us all emulate this beautiful teaching of Lord Rama on the auspicious occasion of Sri Ram Navami - his birthday.

VEDANTA SECTION

Nityanitya Viveka … by Swami Atmananda

It is indeed a very pertinent question as to why some people can understand the message of these scriptures very easily, while others just do not seem to get the proper wave length. Not knowing the real reasons the tendency to attribute the cause of inability to some superficial factors like varna, ashram, age, sex, nationality, religion, times - like this or that yugas, modern or ancient, or to people of east or west etc. becomes inevitable. So it is extremely important to know the right qualifications. If at all someone is facing some difficulties then the best way is to see what is it out of these four-fold qualities which the person concerned seems to be lacking in. If at all we continue to give this knowledge to a person without making this point clear, then two things are possible; if the person doesn’t have great sraddha on scriptures then the person will brand the text or the entire philosophy as intractable, difficult or even impractical, or if the person has too great a sraddha on scriptures or its author, then he will start taking him or herself as incompetent etc. To avoid both these negative consequences it is extremely important that one should know as to who exactly is ready to go into all this. The Four-fold qualities of the student of Vedanta as revealed in the Vedantic scriptures themself are : Viveka, Vairagya, Six qualities, & the Yearning for liberation.

Out of these the first one is the discrimination or the Nityanitya Vastu Viveka. The quality of in-depth discrimination (viveka) is the hallmark of human mind. It is his greatest asset. It is because of this ability alone that man has progressed to mind-boggling heights in various fields. Whether it is the field of science, business, defense, relationships or any thing whatsoever, the understanding of right or wrong pertaining to that field is what makes him a scholar of his field. By education also this ability to see through the truth & untruth of each field is strived to be manifested. Thus not only the power of discrimination is present in one & all, but is also unanimously understood as the greatest asset of human beings. Discrimination is the ability of the intellect to see through a situation, so as to ‘see’ rice & chaff separately without even physically doing so. A good investor can ‘see’ the profit or loss in a given situation, even when a layman can’t comprehend a thing. This is his power of discrimination in the field of his investments. So also with the experts in all other fields. Thus in discrimination there is no need or question of physical separation of two entities or inter-mingled probabilities, one has to just see through the situation or object, and separate the two in our intellect itself.

When ever in course of ones life, a realisation dawns, that the genesis of all my problems is non-apprehension of the exact truth of life, that the real search starts. Not knowing that which really matters the mind subsequently apprehends that which is untruth as the truth. This further compounds & complicates the problem, and the result is eternal, never ending seeking, along with inevitable heart breaks and discontentment. This is called samsara. With this realisation starts the process of conscious endeavor to know that which is permanent and what is not. If a man really wants to know then he will know, because all he wants is understanding of that which is the truth of all that which is. He is not looking any where beyond, but right here in the present, outside as well as inside. The process of identifying that which is eternal or permanent is basically a very easy job, because that which is the untruth keeps changing constantly and thus keeps declaring its ephemerality. This has just to be kept aside by affirming that ‘this is not what I am looking for’. When thus the mind which has been crowded by so many mis-apprehensions is cleaned, then to identify and know that which is eternal is not a difficult job. The straight forward job of knowing the truth as truth does become extremely difficult for one who is yet to realize the untruth as the untruth. Our attention is already on untruth, and one should start from here alone. See the untruth deeply enough so as to appreciate this fact in its entirety that ‘this is something ephemeral’. Don’t be in a hurry to know the truth, first let the cloud of various mis-apprehensions whither. Then & then alone the ‘discrimination’ of that which is eternal and that which is not dawns.

In the process of this appreciation, what is subsequently realized is that ‘all that which is perceived is transitory’, and that light, awareness or consciousness, because of which this realizations are possible alone appears steady. A person endowed with this understanding is said to possess the first pre-requisite of a student of vedanta. It should be noted here that this viveka is not the end but the beginning of the study of vedanta. A person who already has this much understanding is best poised to go deep into the secrets of mind & self. The conviction that ‘all that which is perceived is transitory’ and ‘that which illumines all this’ appears relatively permanent, is by itself a great leap forward, but is not the entire truth. Thus inspite of this knowledge the person keeps suffering though relatively less. Such people have become ‘introvert’ in the real sense of the term. Their fascinations for extraneous things gets reduced drastically, they seem to have more time & energy at their disposal. There is quititude in their minds and thus the intellect becomes all the more sharp & subtle. They can now become sensitive to subtler & finer things of life, and overall stand apart from the rest. This viveka is by itself a great blessing, but there is still miles to go before he can sleep or rather awake. The thrust of the knowledge of vedanta is to thereafter reveal that which is the very substratum of the knower, known and the process of knowing. That substratum is not really an object of our knowledge in the ordinary sense of the term, for the simple reason that to know the substratum of the knower, we have to transcend this knower. We are no more a knower. With the negation of the knowership that which remains is that which is revealed as the truth. While in a fragmented state we may have turned inwards because of some understanding about that which is transitory, but are far from truth. This fragmentation has to drop for the unfragmented to get revealed, and mind you, our ability to discriminate doesn’t call for physical separation of permanent and impermanent. Inspite of the apparent fragmentation, the person can ‘see’ that which is ‘not fragmented’. Study of Vedanta makes this power of discrimination all the more sharp & clear. As far as the requisite of the student is concerned, it refers only to his realisation that all that is dryshya, seen is impermanent, and that which is drg or the seer is permanent. Rest of the knowledge is the Guru prasad brought about by the study of vedanta.

KNOW YOUR SCRIPTURES

Kathopanishad

In the Oct 98 issue of Vedanta Sandesh we had introduced the Upanishads in this very section. Now from this issue onwards we shall briefly introduce the various Upanishads which are have commentaries written by our great Acharyas. In this issue we will talk about the famous Katha Upanishad or Kathopanishad.

Kathopanishad is an Upanishad found in the Yajur Veda. It is in the form of a story & dialogue between a young Brahmin boy called Nachiketas and the Yamaraj - the Lord of Death. The Upanishad has two chapters, and each of the chapter has three section each called Vallis. So in all the Upanishad has six sections. In the entire Upanishad there are 120 mantras. The Upanishad has commentary on it by Bhagwan Sri Adi Sankaracharya.

The story goes that there was a pious Brahmin called Vajasravas who decided to perform a special ritual in which the person is supposed to give all his property & wealth to others. With great fanfare the ritual was announced & subsequently performed. When he was finally giving out his cows to various people then his attachment towards his son made him give only old & unproductive cows and was keeping back good cows for his son. This was not liked by the son, who could see that because of the attachment of the father to his son he was compromising with his vow. The son approaches his father and puts forward a question that 'O Father ! to whom will you be giving me'. Indicating therein that attachment for me should not come in the way of performing this great ritual which he himself had desired to do. The father obviously did not like the question and ignored the boy. But the persistence of Nachiketas made him very angry, and he said that 'I am going to give you to Yamaraj'. This was more in the tone of 'Get lost', or 'Go to hell'. But the boy took the words very seriously and retreated from there. He started thinking, Why is my father giving me to Lord of Death, Is it that I was not a good boy or a good student ? Have I not performed my duties properly ? etc. He finally decides to go & meet Yamaraj - in person. The story does that the boy manages to reach the palace of Yama, who was incidently out. The boy decided to sit outside and without partaking any food or water kept on waiting for three days. When Yama finally came he was very happy to see the austere decision of the boy and decided to give him three boons.

As a first boon the boy asked for the well being of his father & others at home. He asked that 'when I finally go home my father should not only recognise me but also forgive me'. As the second boon he asked for the the knowledge of attaining heavens. The third boon forms the real basis of the entire Upanishad. He asked Yamaraj as to what happens after death, some say that there is existence after death & some say that it is not. You being the Lord of death are the best person to help me eliminate this doubt. Before answering the boy the Lord Of Death tests the boy a lot to see whether the boy is reaaly interested in this question pertaining to this secret of life. When he got satisfied then he starts his great discourse which forms the crux of this immortal scripture. The thrust of the discourse is not to tell about the journey & lokas of the jiva, but to reveal the immortality to the Self. The Self is revealed as the timeless, transcendental divinity which if realised ends this cycle of life & death.

QUERIES

What is Holi ?

(Letter from & to "Clayton Barden" <beherenow60@hotmail.com>

Hi all...namaste... I need to know what Holi is and how to celebrate or rather what happens and what happened to make this a sacred day. I am new to Hinduism for 2 years now and go to temple but I have no idea what is going on....
Charles

Guruji's Reply :

Hello Charles ! Namaste !
It is nice to know about your interest in Hinduism. Holi is our annual festival of colors. It comes just before the advent of spring season. The farmers celebrate the arrival of their new crops, and others celebrate this festival as a victory of goodness over evil, by using dry & wet colors on one & all. No distinctions of class etc come in the way on this festival. Later in the evening, people go to their elders to take their blessings.
The story goes that long time back there was an evil King called Hiranyakashyapu, who had a son called Prahlad, who was just the opposite of his father, very religious & virtuous, which the King did not like. The King tried his best to dissuade the boy, but to no avail. Various efforts to even get rid of the boy also failed. The King had a sister named Holika, who had been bestowed with a boon of not getting burnt with the fire. The King asked her to sit in a pyre of fire with the boy in her lap. Then the boy would certainly get burnt, and later Holika could come out. They planned their sinister game and on this particular day, the fire was lit with Holika sitting with Prahlad on her lap. To their surprise what happened was just the opposite. Holika got burnt and the boy came out unscathed. That is the story of Holi, which till date is celebrated with the affirmation of the conviction of people that ‘Where ever there is Goodness & virtue, there alone will be all happiness & success. Even God helps these people in various ways. The King was later killed by the Narsimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Temples or for that matter any religious place is meant for offering our gratitude to God in various possible ways, which come down to us through our traditions. In Hindu Temples the basic idea is to receive stimuli associated with God through all our five sense organs, namely ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. So we have a ‘form’ of Lord, the ‘smell’ of incense sticks, the ’sound’ of bells & mantras, the ‘taste’ of prasadam and finally the ‘touch’ of blessings by the priest. All of these make us ‘feel’ the presence of God which is the basic purpose. There are also prayers, rituals for various objectives etc. and for various deities. With love & om,

Swami Atmananda

SPECIAL SECTION

Thoughts on Conversion … by Kanchan Datwani

(Mail sent by Kanchan in the 'Arjunas Mailing List'. Poojya Guruji's reply will be published in the April '99 issue of Vedanta Sandesh)

Lying in the VHP and Christian brigade, is the premise of Religious Fundamentalism. It’s not about which religion is better, its about what drives religions and faiths, its about what tolerance encompasses and what it doesn’t, et al.And that is what Section 1 and Section 2 of this e-mail, try to throw light upon.I’m sorry this e-mail is rather long, but, I’d really like to get your views on this. It attempts to analyse religions from a rather ‘technical’ and research-oriented perspective.

Section 1: "What constitutes religious fundamentalism with respect to various other popular religions" ? Let us analyze religious fundamentalism in a broader sense so that we mayarrive at what the term "Hindu fundamentalism" really means. The major world religions and philosophies are as follows:

— Western religions : Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoarastrianism, and Bahai

— Indic religions (Philosophies): Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism

— Eastern religions (Philosophies): Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and Zen

— Aboriginal religions : Numerous local faiths around the world

— Atheism : Around the world- also an element of Communism

— Secularism : Around the world- also an element of modern day progressive administrations.

This is a rather naive classification, because each of these faiths has many sub-groups. Nevertheless, this classification gives us a frame work within which we can analyze what fundamentalism means to each of the various faiths.

The original meaning of fundamentalism is "belief in literal truth of the Bible." If strictly followed, it would amount to converting the entire humanity to Christianity with TOTAL DISREGARD towards all the other faiths. Koran holds a slightly broader view than the Bible (Koran refers to Jews and Christians as people of the Book and others as infidels), still the meaning of fundamentalism as understood above is applicable. Because, Koran also proclaims itself as the final revelation of God and has the mission to bring the entire world under its truth. Thus, both Christian and Islamic fundamentalisms are a threat to each other as well as to the other faiths. It is no surprise that these two faiths have spread with much vigor and have devastated many faiths and cultures. Together these two religions account for most of the tears and bloodshed since their inception. The cruelty they have shown even towards the followers of their own root religion Judaism, is a testimony to their power of destruction. This is not to say that they do not have the power to heal. But, as far as I know healing has come only after they have brought down a pre existing peaceful and a viable situation (hold back the perfect, because there is no such thing). Even so, much of this rejuvenation has happened because of the natural divinity that exists in all peoples including the Christians and the Muslims (an Indic thought)!

Fundamentalism as applied to Judaism would mean that only the Jews are the chosen people, and their God is the only true God. It would also mean that the frontiers of Israel (Promise Land) as described in the Old Testament belong exclusively to them. Because they do not seek converts, Judaic fundamentalism has no direct threat to the faiths that are outside the Biblical promise land.Fundamentalist Zoarastrianism and Bahai pertain largely to retaining their identity and unique customs. They do not seem to pose any threat to other religions. Buddhist and Jain fundamentalism would mean denying the existence of God (please correct me if I’m wrong here). Because of their difference with the religions of faith, they are a potential threat to religion of faith. The same is true for all of the Eastern religions and Philosophies as listed above.Sikhism believes in one God and does not aggressively seek converts. Thus, it would appear that Sikh Fundamentalism is not a threat to other religions per se. Most of their fundamentalism focusses on retaining the Sikh identity and fighting for a Sikh nation. Recent history has shown that this nationalistic zeal can be a threat to Sikhs as well as to others specially the Hindus.The impact of fundamentalism in the various aboriginal faiths pertains to their locale and most of the threat is against all those who may have exploited them.Their fundamentalism takes the form of retaining their identity and "regaining their territories."Communistic ideology has the mission to annihilate all religious faiths. The way China has extinguished Tibetan order is a prime example.Secularism per se is not a threat to any religious institution. It advocates an ethical and a moral code independent of all religious considerations or practices. This is perhaps the most reasonable, desirable and rational system to have for coexistence in a multi-faith (or no faith) world. A threat to secularism is in short a threat to all religions as well as to basic human freedom and dignity itself.

Section 2 : "What amounts to Fundamentalist Hinduism" ? Hindu fundamentalism in the strict sense would mean: Respecting, assimilating or tolerating all faiths and philosophies. Thus fundamentalist Hinduism would let every faith there is, there can be, there may be and there will be to prosper. Hinduism recognized that multiple faiths are inevitable, long time ago. This view should not be confused with cover up, submission or surrender or putting up sheepishly all abuses and atrocities committed on Hinduism.Generally, Hindus practice indifferentism (reasoned disregard) or indifference in matters of defending their faith. However, many have given their life to preserve for us the Hinduism that we cherish. At times these souls may have violated the fundamental tenets of Hindu principles, just so they can preserve them from total onsalught. If not for their efforts, perhaps the India we know today would not be any different from Pakistan, or Bangladesh in terms of religious freedom and thought.Does this mean that the Hinduism does not pose any threat to other faiths.Sure, it does. The one major threat, if you like to call it so, is that the various faiths and philosophies MAY lose their original identity and merge into Hinduism (or any new name you may choose to give: Because the important thing here is not the name but the principle). Another threat is that the Hinduism may be making a subtle and unintended mockery of other faiths for their rather narrow and rigid focus. Further, most Hindus fail to acknowledge the differences that exist between religions and say all religions are same, which by definition is blasphemous to several religions. A final but valid threat is that many from other religions may voluntarily take up Hinduism.Now come the great dilemma, how to prevent Hinduism from the onslaught by other religions? Because of a fundamental difference between Hinduism and the other systems (except for secularism), at times it becomes essential for Hindus to violate the basic principles of their own religion for the sake of self-preservation.

It is known that Christian schools consider the Arab world to have Satan as their ‘ruler’. If so, why are Moslems not targeted for conversions? It is a well known fact that if the church even considers such designs, the Moslems would be after their blood well before the Government seizes their passports! No, the Hindus are better targets... they are docile, they don’t fight back, they are ‘tolerant’. If they ever fight back, we will play the ‘tolerance’ card against them!Poverty is a good base to start with, feed them and preach hatred toward their own motherland. Even while considering conversions are good and address some problem/s, it is the worst form tyranny to preach hatred against the nation that feeds them. Education teaches that what is not understood by science or not established by statistics is to be treated as trash. India unfortunately continues to adopt these materialistic views of education ignoring the rich traditional knowledge in metaphysics that is gradually dawning upon the West. This knowledge can only be found in India. It is high time that this knowledge is revived from its over 200 years of British suppression and over another thousand years of barbaric Muslim intolerant destruction.

Here is an excerpt from Swami Vivekananda’s speech delivered in Madras on his return from the US:"It is not true that I am against any religion. It is equally untrue that I am hostile to the Christian missionaries in India. But I protest against certain of their methods of raising money in America."What is meant by those pictures in the school-books for children where Hindu mother is painted as throwing her children to the crocodiles in the Ganga? The mother is black, but the baby is painted white, to arouse more sympathy, and get more money. What is meant by those pictures, which paint a man burning his wife at a stake with his own hands, so that she may become a ghost and torment the husband’s enemy? "What is meant by the pictures of huge cars crushing over human beings? The other day a book was published for children in this country (America), where one of these gentlemen tells a narrative of his visit to Calcutta. He says he saw a car running over fanatics in the streets of Calcutta."I have heard one of these gentlemen preach in Memphis that in every village of India there is a pond full of the bones of little babies. "What have Hindus done to these Disciples of Christ that every Christian child is taught to call the Hindus ‘vile’, and ‘wretched’, and the most horrible devils on earth? Part of the Sunday School education for children here consists in teaching them to hate everybody who is not a Christian, and the Hindus especially, so that, from their very childhood they may subscribe their pennies to the mission..." That is Swami Vivekananda talking about missionary propaganda a 100 years ago.

Politically Speaking... Tolerance has its limits. How many of us know...Nehru had Vande Mataram truncated in 1937 to appease Muslims who considered certain parts of it callous in nature to Muslims’ feelings. Various national governments are trying to brand the Indian ‘Nationalistic’ party at the center as a ‘Theocratic Democratic’ setup. It is ridiculous that other ‘Governments’ should back proselytizing by their own societies on another country, and expect the ‘victim’ nations to keep quiet! Instead of condemning the attacks why don’t they call it a day and instruct the missionaries to go back home with good memories, and part as friends while the going is good ? We have declared ourselves a secular, socialist, democratic society - without understanding or having respect for our own people and our cultural patterns. Perhaps ours is the only constitution in the world to have given away a paradise to the minorities at the cost of majorities.While Hinduism has reached a stage where it faces greater danger form its overzealous defenders (on the tolerance funda) than it does from its opponents, it is high time we redefine Secularism and identify those who subscribe to it publicly - before we decide to celebrate the success of cricket matches. A simple belief that the goodness of Hinduism will itself permeate through the world before acceptance, will not work as long as there are ‘totalitarian’ religions where: i) entry is one way — by force — and exit means death, by fatwa, ii) where people believe that jannat is for those who use all their might, even give up life, to destroy all that is identified as ‘kafir’. Suppression of freedom of speech does not help in driving home the point to the totalitarians; let not people have to be branded as ‘belonging to one community’.Who is protecting whom ? Who is fooling whom ? It is true that the issue has been politicised, but, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold water. Think about it, it’s being done for you — the vote bank. And contrary to your belief, it is those Christian missionaries who are making fools out of you, NOT your politicians.

Thus, Next time, if we encounter the term "Hindu fundamentalism" in the popular media, we should remind ourselves that it is a misnomer. What it actually means is that some Hindus have deviated from the basic tenets of the Hindu Dharma, perhaps for self preservation !

VM ACTIVITIES

Forthcoming & Earlier Programs :

Earlier Programs :

1. Youth Meet at Mumbai :

A Youth Meet was organised by Vedanta Mission-Mumbai at the residence of Sh. & Smt. Khandari at Bandra on 21st Feb. A group of about 20 members had a very open & interesting discussion with Poojya Guruji. The topics of discussion ranged from Meditation, Destiny & Karma and also the topic of Conversion. Later the hosts offered snacks to the whole group.

2. Gita Gyana Yagna at New Delhi :

A Gita Gyana Yagna was organised at Kailash Vidya Teertha in New Delhi by Poojya Guruji from 25th Feb to 1st Mar. The maiden Yagna at New Delhi was received very well and the Satsang Hall of the Ashram overflowed with devotees. The Discourses began with the traditional puja of the Vyas Peetha & the speaker by Poojya Swami Sridharananda ji, the incharge of the Ashram. The texts on which discourses were conducted were Laghu Vakya Vritti in the mornings and Gita Chapter 12 in the evenings.

The devotees have requested for organising regular pravachans of this kind. As such the Delhi Chapter of Vedanta Mission was formally constituted and two sessions, one in Summers and one after Monsoons are being planned there.

3. Satsang at Lucknow :

Poojya Guruji paid a three days visit to Lucknow. Taking advantage of his presence a Satsang was organised there. Subsequent to this the Lucknow unit of Vedanta Mission was also constituted and a Gita Gyana Yagna is being planned there from 17th May 99.

Forthcoming Programs :

Gita Gyana Yagna at Mumbai :

A Gita Gyana Yagna to be conducted by Poojya Swamini Amitanandaji is being organised at Bandra Hindu Association Hall from 29th Mar to 4th April. The texts will be Gita Chapter 15 in the evenings and Vakya Vritti in the mornings.

Postponement of World Tour :

The proposed World Tour of Poojya Guruji had to be postponed because of the problems of getting the US Visa. The legal presumption of the US Consulate authorities that every visitor is a potential immigrant has to be negated for getting the Visa. The authorities were apparently not convinced. Now the trip is being rescheduled & re-planned.

Central Office of Vedanta Mission

'Vedanta Ashram'

E / 2948-50, Sudama Nagar

INDORE – 452 009. INDIA

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Tel : 91-731-486055, Fax : 91-731-789497

E-mail : vedantamission@usa.net

Home Page : http://members.tripod.com/vedantamission/index.html

OM TAT SAT