Says preacher Narendra Ramji Nandu at the at the annual festival of Paryushan Parv at the Jain temple in Mattancherry
By Shevlin Sebastian
“If you treat somebody badly, you are treating God badly,” says Narendra Ramji Nandu during the annual festival of Paryushan Parv at the Jain temple in Mattancherry. “Suppose you have a friend, who is fair-skinned. If he were to go into a coal mine and then come out he will look black. But you know that he is white inside. Whatever a man looks on the outside, inside he is God. Remember that all human beings are white underneath. No doubt many do wrong actions, yet there is something good in everybody.”
The Mumbai-based Narendra is a preacher who, unlike a Jain monk, is married and has a son. For the past forty years, he has been traveling all over India preaching to people. But since 1998, he has been spending long stretches of time giving talks to Jains living in the USA and Europe.
In his talks, he enunciates on the principles of Jainism. “The most important concept is that of ahimsa or non-violence,” he says. “Do not hurt a living being, be it a man, animal or insect.”
He urges his fellow Jains to be truthful. “Be honest and do not steal from anybody,” says Narendra. “Lead a simple life. And do not forget the powerful impact of karma. Whatever incident takes place in your life, it is because of actions done in the previous life. If you do wrong in this life, you will suffer in your next life. If you do good things there will be positive results.”
One of the most remarkable aspects about Narendra is that he eats one meal every second day. The rest of the time he survives on drinking warm water between sunrise and sunset. 13 months of this tapasya is called Varsithap. “For the past 16 years I am on Varsithap,” says Narendra. “As a result, I have no health problems whatsoever.”
If you eat less food, paradoxically, you get more energy, especially if you learn to meditate at the same time. “When you meditate, the energy is conserved,” says Narendra. When asked about the right method, the preacher says, “Close your eyes and observe whatever thoughts come to the mind. Do not get attached to them. Just remain an observer. Over a period of time, you will notice that your mind has become silent. Another way is to concentrate on the breath going in and out. This will also help to silence the mind.”
It is clear that this combination of very little food and meditation has resulted in a tremendous energy radiating from Narendra. As businessman Malay R. Chandaria says, “At 9 p.m. after a long day of pujas and talks, he is as fresh as ever. In fact, Narendra Guru goes to sleep only at 2 a.m. and is awake at 5 a.m.”
For Dilip D Khona, the secretary of the Sri Cochin Swetamber Jain Sangh (SCSJS), it is Narendra’s humility that impresses him the most. “Apart from that, he is a spell-binding speaker,” says Dilip.
In his travels all over the world, Narendra has noticed that the Jains, like people of all faiths, suffer from two major problems. One is poor health, caused by the stresses of daily life. And the other is money. “The lack of money is a problem,” says Narendra. “But when a person has too much wealth, he has no peace of mind.”
For the rich, he advocates sharing of the wealth. “This will create an inner happiness and will enable them to lead a simple life,” he says.
And, of course, Narendra advocates the constant chanting of the Navkar Mantra, the most powerful hymn in the Jain religion. It goes like this:
Namō arihantānam: I bow to the people who have gone before us
Namō siddhānam: I bow to the fully liberated souls
Namō āyariyānam: I bow to the spiritual leaders
Namō uvajjhāyānam: I bow to the teachers
Namō lōē savva sāhūnam: I bow to the monks
Says Nitin J Javeri, the treasurer of the SCSJS: “When Narendra Guru chants the Navkar mantra, there is a special energy in the hall. All of us experience inner peace and tranquility.”
In a world of endless conflicts and bloodshed, Narendra’s emphasis on love and spirituality is a much needed balm.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)