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Vedanta Sandesh

The Free Monthly E-zine of Vedanta Mission

May 1999

SANATAN DHARMA (HINDUISM) SPECIAL

"India is the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."

- Mark Twain-----

CONTENTS

Click on the 'Topic' to go to it

SECTIONS

TOPICS

1. Preface :

Sanatan Dharma - the eternal Law of Being

2. Vedanta :

Religion & Philosophy

3. Our scriptures :

Vedas

4. Queries :

Untruths about Hinduism !

5. Special :

Some FAQ's about the creed, articles & scriptures of Hinduism

6. General :

India the Great

7. VM Activities :

Earlier : Gita Gyana Yagna at Mumbai, Sankaracharya Jayanti celebrations at Vedanta Ashram, New net-publications released.

Forthcoming : Gita GyanaYagnas at Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow, Sadhana Camp at Kayavarohan.

8. VM Office details :

Central Office Address, Telephone, Fax, e-mail & Home Page

PREFACE

Sanatan Dharma - the eternal Law of Being …by Swami Atmananda

The most appropriate word for Hinduism is 'Sanatan Dharma'. This alone is the word which we have been using to refer to our ancient religion. The name Hindu has been given to us by the foriegners. Sanatan means 'eternal', and Dharma roughly means the 'Law of Being'. Thus what is commonly known as Hinduism in fact represents a compendium of all those eternal laws of nature which are essential for the very existence & sustainance of man.

Going slightly deeper in to the word Dharma we see that this Sanskrit word is derived from the root Dhr which means 'that which sustains'. That which makes & sustains an object to be what it is, is in fact the real Dharma of that object. Dharanat Dharmah. Thus the dharma of fire is heat, of sun is light and so on. We cannot imagine a cold fire or a dark sun. The word Dharma not only indicates that fundamental essence which sustains us, but also a whole package which lifts & takes us to that basic essence. The diagnosis of all human problems by the Vedic Rishis was that whenever a person is ignorant of that 'basic essence which makes him what he is' then consequently some mis-apprehensions are brought about and thus starts a dream like life of baseless presumptions, limitation & endless seekings. Only when a person awakes to the truth of that basic essence of his own Self and lives as per that truth that he lives a life of fullfillment, daring, creativity & love. He alone is really a healthy man. Thus the word & package of Sanatan Dharma includes both the end and means to attain that goal. It includes simple do's & dont's for new initiates, and also the whole methodology to bring about the inner awakening & fullfillment. The package encompasses & touches every aspect of our lives, and thus is often called as a way of life. Even though every religion has a goal, but because of the duality in which they operate, the do's & dont's have to be followed for the entire lifetime, while here the do's & dont's are merely a temporary means to help bring about conditions for the inner awakening, thereafter there are no prohibitions & injunction for him, just as there are no medicines when a person has become healthy.

The most tricky part of all religions is to help discern what is right in a particular situation. We may have our constitutions & penal codes, yet it requires a person of high caliber who adorning the seat of a judge to help us remove chaff from rice to see the truth. What is right in a situation requires in-depth understanding of all the possible parameters involved in that situation - both extraneous & subjective, and then alone one can disern what is right or not. So we have lots & lots of litrature which helps us decide various things by logic, examples and ultimately on the basis of scriptural commands. Knowing and following the Sanatan Dharma is not a choice of any person but a neccissity of one & all. It amounts to following those eternal laws of nature which are essential for our very being & fulfillment.

Sanatan Dharma reveals facts of life which are applicable at all time & at all places, yet the beauty is that there is no coersion & compulsion involved here. Everyone is motivated allright, but every one has to tread alone to the alone, using the loving guidance of scriptures & guru. The journey begins with the deep-rooted faith towards the package as such. Following the precepts of Sanatan Dharma any person of any background will not only be a man with positive & dynamic personality but also a complete holistic person exuding the divine Godly fragrance.

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VEDANTA SECTION

Religion and Philosophy … by Swami Atmananda

Related like science & technology :

Religion & Philosophy are like two sides of a coin of a life based on the eternal truths of life. Taking resort to one at the cost of other brings about disasterous consequences. Swami Vivekananada had once said that "Religion without Philosophy is superstition, and Philosophy without Religion is mere idealism". They are both inter-related as the proverbial blind and the lame man. One can see but cant walk, while the other walks and sees not. Philosophy reveals the truth, and with the precepts of religion we tread to the sublime goal revealed by philosophy. These two terms can also be compared to the often used terms of science & technology. One reveals facts while the other helps us translate that in our day to day life.

Philosophy :

Like Pure Science in philosophy also one has to go into simply understanding facts & aspects of life. Who am I ? What is this creation ? How has it come about ? Who is the creator ? What is the truth of life ? What is my goal ? What can be the means to attain that goal ? What is happiness & sorrow ? etc etc. The whole thrust is for understanding the secret of life in its entirety. But unlike the methodology of science which goes about on its pursuit of truth only on the basis of objectively understanding what is directly perceptible, the path of philosophy does join the various bits & pieces and even tries to see beyond to present a hypothesis of holistic picture, which of course has to be subsequently tested & confirmed on the basis of our personal experiences. From effect to cause is the path of science while from cause to effect is the path of philosophy. Einstien once said that "Let me know the desire of God, rest are all details".

The Vedic philosophy reveals that there exists a transcendental & eternal reality which is of the nature of Sat-chit-anand i.e. that which is pure unconditioned existence, consciousness & bliss, therein called as Brahman. From that alone this entire creation has come about, in that alone it is sustained and into that alone it goes back. The nature of this creation is such that the basic reality remains untouched and unchanged. This has been termed as the "Vivarta" wherein an effect is brought about without effecting the cause in any way. This being a fact the creation is compared to a superimposition and the cause as the substratum. The implication of this fact is that inspite of any changes there exists a level which remains unaffected by all change, inspite of all problems at the level of mind there exists a dimension which is is free from all limitations and problems. This fact is verifiable by anyone at any place and at any time. The awakening of a person to this dimension of his self is one of greatest fulfilling experience of life, it has been termed as Moksha - liberation. That is the ultimate goal of human life. The entire culture centers around this fact of life. He who has awakened to that dimension alone is worshipped & emulated. All Gods symbolise an awakened one and also motivate all to tread the path to that subjective awakening.

Religion :

Once we are aware of some basic facts of life then the next obvious thing to do is to bring about whatever necessary changes so as to facilitate the subjective awakening. There will lots of things in which we have to give great attention, and there will be things from from we have to dissociate. There will be do's & dont's, all aimed at either turning our attention to that, or helping us get prepared for the in-depth enquiry & awakening. Religion addresses every aspect of our life - relationships, duties, social setup, life styles, culture etc. The crux of all religious practices is to bring about great faith in the existence of that eternal truth called God, and also facilitate bring about an integrated & holistic personality. This is the basic thrust, rest are all details. The objective & veracity of all religious practices is to help attain the above objectives. If the religious practices do not help bring about these then obviously there is something fundamentally wrong with either the understanding or the following up of religious practices.

The Vedic philosophy & religion are highly acclaimed all over the world by various philosophers for their time-tested and verifiable tenets. It is the oldest living culture. Not only the Advaita Vedanta philosophy but even the Sanatan Dharma is full of so unique & perfect tenets that when the great Sri Adi Sankaracharya discussed them with the Buddhist teachers during his times, then the nihilist philosophy of Buddhism was literally wiped off from the land. It is indeed a matter of great pride to be born in this land of Vedic philosophy & Sanatan Dharma.

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KNOW YOUR SCRIPTURES

Vedas … by Swami Atmananda

Just as Science is a compendium of knowledge about which no one can boast to be a father, but is a treasure of knowledge of this objective world to which so many scientists the world over have contributed, so also the facts of life coming down to us as Vedic philosophy does not have any one person from who is said to be its sole author. There were thinkers & seers, all equally great, who have together contributed to it being what it is. If at all we have to say who is the father of this treasure of knowledge then the finger obviously is turned to that one non-dual reality, which has manifested the truth through the medium of these various dedicated seers. Almost every mantra in Vedas have their respective Rishis who was said to be the one who realised that fact. Even today we have all the details of each and every Rishi - the seer. The treasure of knowledge thus brought about is today called as VEDAS. Vedas are the basis of Sanatan Dharma. Just as today there is great respect towards science, and therefore the moment someone says that this is what science says then the whole way of looking at something changes, so also there was a time when the people of India looked upto Vedas. It commanded so much respect that to say something is written in Vedas was tantamount to taking that as real & truth. Sri Veda Vyas ji is said to have compiled and organised the various mantras in what is today known as Vedas. On the basis of its chanting methodologies the mantras were compiled in four volumes called the Four Vedas. The Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana Vedas. The followers of Sanatan Dharma believe that Vedas have been revealed by God himself at the beginning of creation, but the western scholars believe that Rig Vedas was revealed somewhere in between 5000 to 10000 years BC, and it thus becomes the oldest available litrature to man.

From the point of view of the subject matter of Vedas they have three distinct parts. They are Mantra Section, Brahmana Section, and the final Upanishad Section. The Mantra Section comprises the revelations of the great Rishis, the Brahmana Section deals with the application of mantras for our day to day use, they thus deal with elaborate rituals, do's & dont's etc, while the last section of Upanishad deals with the philosophy of the Vedas. Upanishads do not prescribe any do's & dont's, they rather ask a person to just relax and thoroughly understand the things of life deeply & thoroughly. Upanishads are in the form of dialouge between a teacher and his desciple. They being the last section of the Vedas they are also called as the - Vedanta.

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QUERIES

Some Untruths about Hinduism … by Swami Atmananda

(Reply by Poojya Guruji to an article sent to Arjunas List)

Unlike other world religions, it(Hinduism) does not prescribe any do’s and don’ts.

Where on earth did you get this from ? We have Vedas - the foundation of Hinduism giving specific do’s & dont’s, so many Smriti-granthas (Yagnavalkya, Narada, Manu etc) elaborating on such Vedic mantras, the Dharma-shastra of Jaimini - which organises the tenets given in various places and so many such litrature which provide elaborate do’s & dont’s to every kind of person. However, unlike other religions the do’s & dont’s prescribed in Hinduism are case-specific and are modified as per the disposition & age of the person.

It allows you to live life the way you like.

Nonsense. If every person lives a life as per his or her own whims & fancies then what is this so called "way of life" all about. Is the objective of Hinduism just to validate what anybody does.

It allows freedom of thought.You do not have to agree with its philosophy unless you are convinced about it.

It certainly allows freedom of thought, but has a very definite thought of its own. It does not believe in coersion, compulsion & blind following, but teaching, discussion, debates to communicate the vision of Vedas. If you are not convinced about its philosophy then the Upanishads clearly say that ‘please remember you alone will be the loser, not anyone else.' Also 'Satyameva Jayate, nanratam' (Mundaka Upanishad).

Buddha questioned the authority of the Vedas, Adi Shankaracharya reformed Hinduism, yet not one of these critics was harmed unlike the Sufi saints who proclaimed they were God. It has a very broad encompassing philosophy and is a tolerant religion. It is a relentless pursuit of truth. You have to discover its philosophy yourself. It absorbs new ideas very easily.

It is the most tolerant religion all right, but please dont forget each & every God of Hinduism is armed, and the stories of all Gods have in them chapters of fighting it out to death on the battlefront. The only difference is that they dont resort to war imediately, but keep it as a last resort. If a person is found to be following values which are detrimental to the society on the whole then such people are uncompromisingly handled. Either they change their ways or they are wiped off. Moreover, Sri Adi Sankara was not a reformer, he was one of the finest teachers of Vedanta, who wrote many books and also established institutions to further the cause of knowledge of truth to one & all. Right knowledge does wipe off many things which are sustained by ignorance.

Unfortunatley, some evils like the rigid caste system, superstitions have crept in over the years.

Caste system is not anything evil. It is a psychologically perfect system for the division of labour to the people, which every Hindu should be rather proud of. The problem today is the way it is wrongly understood & practised. Discernment of caste was on the basis of intrinsic inclinations of a person and not birth. Depending on the basic inclination of a person the Gurukulas initiated them in that field, and it was this reason that we had great specialists in every field. They were chosen and trained right from childhood, not like the education system of today, where education is just information-feeding and cant even gaurantee a job what to talk of profeciency in every field. The negativities of caste system can not be removed by branding the system per se as evil, but by bringing to fore-front the exact truth of it. If just because on the basis of the way it is being practised today the caste system is evil, then democracy is still more evil - because the people who are suppose to run it are making a mockery of it. Please remember that no religion in the world realised or professed the neccessity of psychological compatibility of the disposition of person & his work. Just because some western scholars or some local politicians could not understand and therefore denigrated this system the neo-literates too just keep repeating this nonsense like parrots.

On one hand the writer says that till about 2000 years ago Hindus never worshipped idols, and on the other hand he also says that seals of Lord Shiva were found in Harrapa, which are about 5-6 thousand years old. Vedas do talk about the necessity of symbolising the infinite into some finite symbol - which is what idol worship is all about. Please see the Kenopanishad (part of Vedas) where we have the first ever reference of the infinite manifesting in human form too. Apart from Vedas we also have a unique class of litrature called Puranas, which were there years before Buddha came, and all of them give elaborate details of idol worship. Yes, he is right when he says that this idol-worship is just a means for some higher end and is not the ultimate sadhana.

I am sorry to say that ‘almost’ every line of this so called essay on Hinduism is wrong and deserves outright rejection. It is such baseless untruths which have done greater harm to Hinduism than anything else. I humbly suggest to the author of this essay to first study Hinduism from beginning once again and then try to enlighten others. With love & om.

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SPECIAL SECTION

Some 'Frequently Asked Questions' about Hinduism … by SwAtma

Q : What is the fundamental Creed of Sanatan Dharma ?

A : The Seven point Creed of Sanatana Dharma which every follower or aspirant of truth accepts & declares are :

1. I believe in God, the Supreme Reality, the Unity behind all this diversity, the changeless Truth behind all appearances, at once immanent and transcedent, in all the divine Essence which permeates the Universe.

2. I believe that God manifests himself as the Creative and Preserving Power of the whole Universe and unto Him it returns. In short, the entire world of phenomena rises, exists, dissolves and again and again in him.

3. I believe in the principle of Avatar - that God assumes Forms from time to time and comes in the midst of erring humanity to bring them back to the path of Sanatan Dharma.

4. I believe that man is not only this body-mind-intellect complex, but that which sustains and enlivens these equipments.

5. I believe that the Atma of all beings & persons is essentially divine and by nature, pure and perfect, infinite in power and free. It was never created, and will never die. It is verily Brahman itself. Till the time anyone realises this truth of him/her self so long alone the limited entity - the Jiva exists. This Jiva alone transmigrates from one body to another in search of the perfection & fulfillment which is realised by awakening to the truth of oneself alone.

6. I believe in the Law of Karma. I am the creator of my own destiny, that my present condition is due to my past thoughts, words, deeds and conduct and that my future state will depend directly on my past and present actions. The role of God is to provide us with all the conditions, equipment, energy, intelligence and also the various laws of nature which make our pursuits possible. God never interferes in the karmas of anyone.

7. I believe that the Vedas are the words of God himself, which reveal the eternal facts of life. I believe that Vedanta reveals the knowledge of Self as Brahman, and the Upanishad, along with Brahma Sutras & Bhagwad Gita constitute the three canons of knowledge of Vedanta. (The Prasthana trayi). All other texts like Shriti, Ityihas, Purana etc just help to us understand & live the percepts of Vedas better.

Q : What are the basic Articles of the above Creed of Sanatan Dharma ?

Ans : There are three basic Articles of the creed of Sanatan Dharma. They are :

1. Brahman or God is Sat-Chit-Ananda swaroop i.e. of the nature of Pure Existance-Knoweledge-Bliss.

2. The three functions of Creation, Sustainance and Dissolution are but three different aspects of the activities of one Supreme Reality. When we think of Him as the Creator, he is called Brahma; when we at him as the Preserver, he is designated as Lord Vishnu, and when we think of Him as the Destroyer or the Annihilator, we call Him Siva.

3. God as pure Consciousness permeates the entire Universe and He incarnates from time to time according to the requirement of time. The ultimate purpose of an Avatar or an incarnation of God is always the re-establishment of Sanatan Dharma in the world.

Q : What are Vedangas ?

Ans : There are six Vedangas. They comprise those subjects which facilitate us to understand the Vedas better & properly. They are :

1. Shiksha or the Science of Phonetics

2. Kalpa or the Texts dealing with the religious rites

3. Vyakarana or Grammar

4. Nirukta or the Vedic Glossary

5. Chhandas or the Prosody

6. Jyotisha or Astrology

Q : What are Upavedas ?

Ans : The Upavedas are books of knowledge dealing with other important aspects of human life. There are four Upavedas. They are :

1. Ayurveda or the Science of Life (Good health & longivity)

2. Dhanurveda or the Science of Warfare

3. Gandharva Veda or the Science of Art & Music

4. Sthapatya Veda or the Science of Construction & Mechanics

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GENERAL SECTION

India the Great … Sent by Umesh to Arjunas List

1. Quotes about India

Albert Einstein said :

"We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."

Mark Twain said :

"India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."

Romain Rolland (French scholar) said :

"If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India."

Hu Shih (Former Ambassador of China to USA) said :

"India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border."

2. Facts about India

- India never invaded any country in her last 10000 years of history.

- The World’s first university was established in Takshila in 700BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects.

- The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.

- Sanskrit is the mother of all the European languages. Sanskrit is the most suitable language for the computer software - a report in Forbes magazine, July 1987.

- Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans. Charaka, the father of medicine consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago. Today Ayurveda is fast regaining its rightful place in our civilization.

- Sushruta is the father of surgery. 2600 years ago he and health scientists of his time conducted complicated surgeries like cesareans, contracts, artificial legs, fractures, urinary stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery.

- Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India.

- Over 125 surgical equipments were used.

- Deep knowledge of anatomy physiology, etiology, embryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics and immunity is also found in many texts.

- India was at one time the richest country on earth and the fact was well known all over the world. Cristopher Columbus was attracted by her wealth.

- The art of Navigation was born in the river Sindh 6000 years ago.

- According to the Gemological Institute of America, up until 1896, India was the only source for diamonds to the world.

- Chess (Shataranja or AshtaPada) was invented in India.

- Bhaskaracharya calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. Time taken by earth to orbit the sun: (5th century) 365.258756484 days.

- The value of pi was first calculated by Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century long before the European mathematicians.

- Algebra, trigonometry and calculus came from India. Quadratic equations were propounded by Sridharacharya in the 11th century.

- USA based IEEE proves what has been a century old suspicion in the world scientific community that the pioneer of wireless communication was Prof Jagdeesh Bose and not Marconi.

- The earliest reservoir and dam for irrigation was built in Saurashtra. According to Saka King Rudradaman-I of 150 CE a beautiful lake aptly called ‘Sudarshana’ was constructed on the hills of Raivataka during Chandragupta Maurya’s time.

- When Europeans were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley Civilization)

- India invented the Number System. Zero was invented by Aryabhatta.

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VM ACTIVITIES

Earlier & Forthcoming Programs :

Earlier Programs :

1. Gita Gyana Yagna at Mumbai :

A Gita Gyana Yagna was very successfully & satisfactoriy conducted by Poojya Swamini Amitanandaji at Bandra Hindu Association Hall, Mumbai from 29th Mar to 4th April. The texts were Gita Chapter 15 in the evenings and Vakya Vritti in the mornings. The Hall overflowed. On Sunday the 4th there was an open-house Question-Answer session followed by Preetibhoj.

2. Sri Adi Sankaracharya Jayanti celebrations :

A one day Camp was organised at Vedanta Ashram on the day of the Adi Sankara Jayanti. The day started with a pravachan of Poojya Swaminiji on the Prataha Smarana Stotra of Sankara, followed by a discussion session which discussed the problems faced by devotees to live the religious values in todays context. After a sumptous lunch and some rest the delegates gathered in the Satsang hall for an elaborate Puja of the Paduka of the great master. Sh. Manohar Bhokardankar conducted the ritual on behalf of the delegates. Later in the evening Poojya Guruji concluded the session by throwing light on the life of Sri Adi Sankara.

3. Release of new Net-publications :

Four new publications were released during the month. They were :

(a) Home Page of Sri Adi Sankara. On the auspicious occasion of Adi Sankara Jayanti.

(b) Tattva Bodha-1. This is a compilation of the first section of Tattva Bodha Lessons in one single Page.

(c) Letters of Guruji - Six volumes. These are compilation of letters written by Poojya Guruji to various desciples, devotees or seekers all over the world.

(d) Snippits from Lists - Two volumes. Snippits from Lists also are compilations. They comprise of light, informative & intersting reading material culled out from the various Mailing Lists run by the Mission.

Forthcoming Programs :

1. Gita Gyana Yagna at Ahmedabad :

A Gita Gyana Yagna to be conducted by Poojya Swamini Amitanandaji is being organised at Sri Ramkrishna Mission Hall, Ahmedabad from 7th to 13th May. In the Yagna Poojya Swaminiji will be conducting discourses on Gita Chapter 3 in the evenings, and the Isavasyopanishad in the morning sessions. The discourses will be in Gujarati. …………………………………………………………………….(Contact : NB Pandya - 5324602)

2. Gita Gyana Yagna at New Delhi :

A Gita Gyana Yagna to be conducted by Poojya Guruji Swami Atmanandaji at DDA Community Center (opp B-Sector market) in the Vasant Kunj locality of New Delhi from 9th to 15th May. The text of the discourses will be Gita Chapter 7 and Drig-Dryshya Viveka in the evening & morning sessions respectively. ………………………… (Contact : Prof OP Chawla - 6137771)

3. Gita Gyana Yagna at Mumbai :

A Gita Gyana Yagna to be conducted by Poojya Guruji Swami Atmanandaji at Hinduja House from 31st May to 6th June 99. The text of the discourses will be Gita Chapter 7 and Mandukya Upanishad Karika-Chapter- 2 (Vaitathya Prakarana) in the evening & morning sessions respectively.

4. Gita Gyana Yagna at Lucknow :

A Gita Gyana Yagna to be conducted by Poojya Guruji Swami Atmanandaji at Rai Balinath Preksha Grah, near Music College, Hazratganj from 10th June to 15th June. The text of the discourse will be Gita Chapter 12, and there will be evening discourse only. ………………………………………………………………..(Contact : Lt.Col. P. Misra - 480324)

5. Sadhana Camp at Kayavarohan :

A Sadhana Camp to be conducted by Poojya Guruji & Swamini Amitanandaji will be organised at Kayavarohan Teertha from 20th to 25th June 99. The texts to be taken during the Camp will be Upadesha Sar, Gita Chap-16, and Narad Moha Prakarana.

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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 : 789497

E-mail : vmission@iname.com

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

Published by

Swami Atmananda Saraswati

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OM TAT SAT