Partho

Sanjay Dixit

Sanjay Dixit

About the Author

Sanjay Dixit, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Rajasthan, has many feathers in his cap. He graduated as a marine engineer, and sailed the high seas for a few years before changing course to civil services. He is also well-recognised as a cricket administrator who once defeated Lalit Modi in a famous election for the post of the president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association. He considers Rajasthan's first Ranji Trophy title triumph as his crowning achievement. He is also credited with bringing a revolutionary new technology for production of date palms on a large scale in western Rajasthan, transforming livelihoods.

Dixit is a prolific columnist on contemporary topics. He has a deep interest in Indian languages, culture, economics, history, philosophy and spirituality. His six-part series - 'All Religions Are Not the Same' - has won critical acclaim. He also heads The Jaipur Dialogues as its Chairman, creating an India-centric think tank in the process, and hosts the YouTube series 'Weekly Dialogues'.

Francois Gautier

Francois Gautier

About the Author

François Gautier was born in Paris, France. He was South Asia correspondent for Le Figaro, one of France’s leading newspapers. He also wrote columns for Indian newspapers: the ‘Ferengi’s column’ in the Indian Express, then the “French Connection” column in the Pioneer, as well as regular contributions for Rediff., New Indian Express, Times of India blogs, etc.

François has written several books – amongst the latest : A New History of India (Har Anand, 2008), The Art of Healing (Harper Collins, 2011), Quand l’Inde s’éveille, la France est endormie (Editions du Rocher, 2013), « Apprendre à Souffler (Hachette Marabout, 2016) & « Nouvelle Histoire de l’Inde » (Editions de l’Archipel, 2017), « Les Mots du Dernier Dalaï-lama » (Flammarion, 2018), « In Defense of a Billion Hindus » (Har Anand, 2018) & « Hindu Power in the 21st Century » (Har Anand, 2019)

Francois, who is married for 30 years to Namrita, shuttles between Pune and Delhi. He is building a Museum of (real) Indian History in Pune (factmuseum.com).

Makarand Pranjape

Makarand Pranjape

About the Author

Author, poet, and humanities professor. He has been the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla since August 2018. Prior to that he was a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India for 19 years.

Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth

About the Author

Maria Wirth, a German, came to India on a stopover on her way to Australia after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University and an internship with Lufthansa. By chance she landed up in spiritual India, realised the great value of Vedic wisdom, and never went to Australia.

She shared her insights with German readers through numerous articles and two books, as she felt this wisdom is lacking in the West. Only some 15 years ago, she became aware that even many Indians don’t know about their amazing heritage and worse, they look down on it and often consider Christianity and Islam as preferable. This shocked her and she started to compare on her blog the three main religions and also wrote her first book in English, titled “Thank you India”. For her it is clear that Hindu Dharma is the best option for humanity and she keeps explaining why.

Dr. Omendra Ratnu

Dr. Omendra Ratnu

About the Author

Dr Omendra Ratnu from Jaipur is an ENT surgeon who runs a hospital.

He runs an NGO, Nimittekam, with the purpose of helping displaced Hindu refugees from Pakistan and integrating Dalit Sahodaras into Hindu mainstream.

Issues of Hindu survival and conflict with violent faiths are his core concerns for which he roams around the world to raise funds and awareness.

He is also a singer, composer, writer, Geeta communicator and a ground activist for Hindu causes.

He has released a bhajan Album and a Ghazal album composed and sung by him.

Guru Purnima
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Guru Purnima

The Guru is one who personally leads you from the darkness of ignorance and unconsciousness to the undying light of Truth and Immortality. The Guru is the mother who nourishes the spirit even as the biological mother nourishes the body; the Guru is the father who disciplines, teaches, instructs; he is the friend and guide who walks beside you, pace to pace, without judgment or expectation. But more than all that, the Guru is the living embodiment and representative of the Divine. The Guru is the true anchor of the Hindu dharma, not the priest, not the preacher, nor even the scripture. It is the Guru who is the source of all light and knowledge, the unfailing hand that steadies the difficult climb, the rock upon which you can stand, secure and safe. The Guru, in the Hindu tradition, is regarded as equal to God, acharya devo bhava. Acharya — one who teaches and transforms — is another word used commonly for the Guru. Guru Purnima is celebrated annually on the first full moon (purnima) after the summer solstice in the Hindu month of Asadha, corresponding usually to June or July of the English calendar. This period marks the beginning of the monsoon season in India. This is the time when India’s traditional peripatetic monks would rest because of almost incessant rains and take a break from their continuous wanderings. These monks would settle down at a place, an ashram usually, and devote the coming three months or so to spiritual discussions, practices and contemplation. Guru purnima is the day that would mark the beginning of such an auspicious spiritual period, a period dedicated to serious studies and intense meditative practices. There is a symbolic meaning too: Guru purnima also marks the arrival of the rains in India, when the hot and parched land is drenched in the rains and all life springs back to vitality and activity after the oppressive heat of the Indian summer. This reflects so perfectly the inner condition or the bhava of the disciple too, yearning for the “rainfall” of Divine Grace and Knowledge: As the disciple prays to the the Guru: Like this desiccated earth receiving rain, May I, athirst for Knowledge, as parched as this land,Be flooded with the deluge of Thy Grace. The Guru’s Grace and power is believed to increase a thousandfold on the day of Guru Purnima. This is because so many realized sages and masters, through the generations, have poured freely their energies and consciousnesses into the subtle atmosphere of the earth for the spiritual welfare of all humanity. It is well known that the benedictions of a realized sage has the unfailing power of actualization across time and space — such is the power of Truth. And thus, all sincere aspirants for Truth and self-realization await this day to renew their faith in the Guru, to revive their commitment, to consecrate themselves yet again to this upward ascent to the Supreme, an ascent that would become almost impossible to accomplish without the living aid of the Guru. Guru Purnima has a profound significance for all spiritual seekers and devotees of the Hindu dharma. This is a spiritually charged day, and the beginning of a spiritually charged period, a period that opens tremendous spiritual possibilities for evolution and transformation for all those who are even a little open to the higher consciousness. Such a period should not go waste. The disciple only has to concentrate herself on her deepest, her inmost aspiration and leave the rest of the labor to the Guru. A little opening during this period can lead to tremendous results. And the Guru’s assurance is repeated, year after year, through all the planes of consciousness: one small step towards me, and I shall come to thee in leaps… According to Hindu itihasa, Guru Purnima is widely believed to be the day when Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata, was born to Sage Parashara and Devi Satyavati, the daughter of the fisherman chieftan, Dusharaj. The Srimad Bhagvatam states that “in the seventeenth incarnation of Godhead, Sri Vyasadeva appeared in the womb of Satyavati through the sage Parashara, who then divided the akhanda or the integrated Veda into several branches and sub-branches for easier dissemination.” Thus this day is also known as Vyasa Purnima, Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa being regarded as one of the archetypal Gurus of the Hindu Sanatan tradition. Another popular legend, perhaps going further back into the mists of time, tells us that the first Guru, the Guru of Gurus, Shiva, also known as Dakshinamurthy, one who faces the south, gave the first teaching of the Supreme Self to humanity. This is the reason that Shiva is regarded as the first, the archetypal, Guru, the adiguru. It is on this day, millennia ago, that Shiva the adiyogi assumed the mantle of the Guru, becoming the adiguru, the first Guru of the Yogic tradition. The legend goes somewhat like this: A long time ago, four wise men, seeking for deeper answers to their existential queries, were wandering from place to place looking for someone who could give them the key to the understanding they needed. Amongst these, the first wanted to find the secret to immutable bliss, permanent liberation from suffering — the dukkha that dukkha is. The second wanted the secret of prosperity and wellbeing — how to be permanently free of scarcity and insecurity. The third of these men wanted to understand the meaning and significance of life — is there a permanent significance and value of human life? The fourth was a man of knowledge and wisdom, but felt incomplete as his wisdom still did not have the transforming touch of the Supreme Truth that can come only through the living Guru. He did not know how to get to that. So these four seekers came to an old banyan tree in a remote village and found there a young man sitting quite still, with a beatific smile on his face. Looking upon his face, they all had the same thought simultaneously: that this young person would give them the key. So they sat down before him, quietly, and waited for him to open his eyes. The mysterious young man opened his eyes after what seemed an eternity, and looked at the four of them. His smile became more radiant, his eyes looked as if into the very depths of their hearts. But he said nothing. He just made a strange gesture, a mudra. And, as if by some occult transmission, the four wise men understood, got their answers, their enlightenment. The first understood the root of all human suffering; the second understood the root of all fear and scarcity; the third understood the true value and significance of human existence; and the fourth realized sannidhya: the proximity to the living Source, the deep inner contact with the Guru. This indeed was the first transmission of Yogic Knowledge from Guru to the disciple, the shishya. This was the birth of the Guru-Shishya parampara of the Hindu Sanatan dharma, the very underpinnings of our Dharma. This parampara or the tradition of transmission of Knowledge from Guru to disciple continues to this day. This transmission may happen through the spoken or the written word, shabd, through inner inspiration and insight, prerna, or through silence, mauna. It is this parampara that is the backbone of the spiritual Dharma. Adi Shankaracharya composed a beautiful verse to mark this first transmission of Knowledge from the first Guru to the first disciples: मौनव्याख्या प्रकटित परब्रह्मतत्त्वं युवानं वर्षिष्ठांते वसद् ऋषिगणैः आवृतं ब्रह्मनिष्ठैः । आचार्येन्द्रं करकलित चिन्मुद्रमानंदमूर्तिं स्वात्मारामं मुदितवदनं दक्षिणामूर्तिमीडे ॥[1] Roughly translated, this means: Praise and salutation to that Dakshinamurthy (who faces the south),Who explains the true nature of the supreme Brahman,Through his perfect silence,Who is young in looks,Surrounded by disciples who are old Sages,Whose minds are fixed on Brahman,Who is the greatest of teachers,Who shows the Chinmudhra by his hand,Who is personification of happiness,In the state of bliss within himself. Guru Purnima is also celebrated by the Buddhists and the Jains. The Buddhists mark this auspicious day in honor of the Buddha’s first sermon on this day at Sarnath. The Buddha went from Bodhgaya to Sarnath, five weeks after his enlightenment, to find his five former companions, the pancavargika. He had foreseen that these former companions of his would be ready to receive the Dharma from him. When the Buddha found his former companions, he taught them the Dharmacakrapravartana Sutra. This transmission enlightened the companions, and they perhaps became the first monks of the Buddha dharma. This marked the establishment of the Buddha’s Sangha, on the full-moon day of Asadha. The Buddha then spent his first rainy season after his enlightenment at Sarnath. The Jains celebrate Guru Purnima to commemorate the 24th Tirthankara Mahavira accepting his first disciple, Indrabhuti Gautam. From that Guru Purnima day on, the Mahavira became the Guru. The Occult Significance So how does the disciple use the force and auspiciousness of this day? The commonly accepted practice is to worship the Guru. This is significant in its own place. But worship is only the first step. Worship must deepen into inner living contact and intimacy: sannidhya.  To be in spiritual proximity of the Guru, in his living presence, is the essence of the Guru-Shishya relationship. It does not matter if the Guru is physically near or far; it does not even matter whether the Guru is still in the physical body or not. Sannidhya transcends time and space, birth and death; the Guru who has realized the Self is immortal, eternal and can manifest as easily in the supraphysical planes as on the physical. But the disciple must know how to give himself to the Guru inwardly, integrally, for only then can the Guru manifest in the disciple’s consciousness. Entire self-giving is the secret, the master key. The work of the Guru is a tapas of the consciousness. What the Guru transmits in words or gestures is only a mere fraction of what can be transmitted through sannidhya. The whole weight of the teaching comes through the Guru’s silence: it is through the silence of the Guru that the Truth is transmitted in all its force and purity. The disciple must therefore prepare her mind and heart to receive the Guru’s silence, and this can best be done only if the disciple himself is in a state of deep receptive silence. Guru Purnima then would be a day for inner silence, a day for invocation, consecration and concentration. Concentration builds up in the disciple tapas-teja, the force of askesis, without which nothing of the Guru’s Light or Force can be received or assimilated. The true transmission, we must remember, is of spiritual force and not mental knowledge or understanding. Mental knowledge and understanding enlighten but spiritual force transforms, transmutes the old substance into the gold of the Divine. Consecration is as important as concentration. Consecration is the act of giving oneself integrally to the Guru, and by giving oneself, making oneself worthy of receiving the Guru’s grace and force. This is the true meaning of consecration — to make sacred, to prepare oneself for the Divine in mind, heart and body. For the Guru or God can only manifest if the receptacle is pure and whole. Once the consecration is made, and the concentration firmly established, the disciple is ready for invocation — of calling the Guru’s spiritual presence into his inmost being. This calling is exactly what the word implies — a call to come, to manifest, to assume complete control, to become the inner Master, the Lord of one’s whole being, antar Ishvara, the inner Divine. The Mother of Pondicherry Ashram gave us the most prefect mantra for such an invocation: Om namo Bhagavate… Come, manifest, make me the Divine. In the Mother’s own words: The first word, Om , represents the supreme invocation, the invocation to the Supreme. The second word, namo, represents total self-giving, perfect surrender. The third word, bhagavate, represents the aspiration, what the manifestation must become — Divine. This is the eternal call of the human soul for the Supreme Self, of the atman for the paramatman, of the human disciple for the Divine. It is the Guru who is the mediator between the human and the Divine, between the atman and the paramatman — the bridge between the mortal and the Eternal. The disciple must remember that there is no difference between the Guru and God. The Guru stands in the middle ground between the invisible and the visible, the unmanifest and the manifest, the high peaks of Self-realization and the base camp of our human aspiration, our human sadhana. Without the Guru, our ascent would be enormously difficult and may take years of sadhana; with the Guru, we can fly, and compress in a few years the sadhana of a lifetime. Such is the power of the Guru. गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णुर्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः । गुरु साक्षात् परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः ॥ The Guru is Brahma, the creator; Guru is Vishnu, the Preserver; the Guru is Maheshwara, the destroyer. The Guru himself is the living Supreme Brahman; my obeisance to that divine Guru. This year, 2020, the Guru Purnima occurs on July 5th. Purnima Tithi Begins – 11:33 AM on Jul 04, 2020Purnima Tithi Ends – 10:13 AM on Jul 05, 2020 Read in Hindi 1 Mouna vyakhya prakatitha, paraBrahman thathwam yuvanam, Varshishtha anthevasad rishiganai, Ravrutham brahman nishtai, Acharyendram kara kalihtha chin, Mudram ananda roopam, Swathmaramam mudhitha vadanam, Dakshinamurthim eede.
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Reflections On Hinduism (6)

Shiva, The Great God On the white summit of eternity A single Soul of bare infinities, Guarded he keeps by a fire-screen of peace His mystic loneliness of nude ecstasy. (From Sri Aurobindo’s poem, Shiva) Shiva, in Hindu dharma, is perhaps the most evocative of mystical and Yogic representations of the Supreme Consciousness. Shiva, in fact, is the Supreme Consciousness, the eternal existent, Sat, and the eternal consciousness, Chit, out of which this whole manifestation arises and into which it finally resolves.  Yogis regard Shiva as the absolute nothingness out of which all existence arises. Shiva, as Void, is the supracosmic womb of all being, the primordial seed of the universes; it is in Shiva that Shakti, as infinite potential for prakriti, rests; for Shiva is unmanifest, avyaktam, till Shakti awakens and moves, manifesting prakriti. Prakriti is all that is made manifest as Cosmos, world and self, what one could loosely call ‘creation’ or srishti. Shiva is the divine Darkness out of which Light, the progenitor of prakriti, is born. Shiva’s divine Darkness contains all Light, and therefore all creation, in potential. Shiva is like the blackhole, infinitely dense and packed with energy and matter but itself invisible as no light escapes the blackhole because of its infinite gravity. From the outside, if there could be any outside to Shiva, Shiva would appear void, empty, nothing. Yet within, in its own absolute interiority, Shiva is everything and everyone; all possibilities of existence teems within Shiva, all space and time lies coiled within him like an elemental serpent still to awake. Shiva holds in his absolute stillness the infinite expansion of universes, the waves upon waves of brahmagati . This darkness of Shiva is not absence but infinite concentration of light in pure consciousness which is the sthiti of Shiva as avyakta or unmanifest. To know Shiva as the divine Dark is to transcend the universe of ordinary light and duality; Shiva’s divine Dark is the formless non-duality that can only be known when the physical eyes are closed in nirvikalpa samadhi, the immutable, unmodified state of the Yogin, and the third, the occult eye, opens, the self-luminous eye that needs no external source of light: the eye of Shiva in which the seer and the seen, the subject and object, are one. Shiva is the dimensionless consciousness which holds within itself infinite dimensions of life and existence. It is in this timeless and fathomless trance of Shiva that the first divine spark of becoming is lit: that first divine desire to become the Many. Out of this desire arises Shakti, Shiva’s creative consciousness-force that tears Shiva’s singularity into the primordial duality of Ishvara and Ishvari. Thus, out of Shiva’s consciousness womb arises the Divine Mother, the infinite matrix of all manifestation, the source of all being and becoming. But through all this separation and disruption, Shiva and Shakti remain non-dual, one within the other in a supreme transcendental mystery: Shakti is Shiva manifest when Shiva opens his eyes and turns his gaze outward, and Shiva is Shakti held within in seed when Shiva closes his eyes and turns his gaze inward. The Yogin who possesses the truth-vision sees Shakti as Shiva in movement, and Shiva as Shakti coiled up in eternal quiescence.  As Shakti, the Eternal Feminine and the Divine Mother, Shiva becomes the universe, he does not merely project it out of his creative consciousness, he becomes it. Thus the Yogin knows that all that is manifest, all that exists, all that can be seen, known, felt and touched is Shiva himself as his Shakti; and even that which is conscious in himself as himself, that which he is in essence, in tattva, is Shiva. Shivoham therefore becomes the first and primary mantra of Yoga: I am Shiva. And as this mantra penetrates and fills the consciousness of the Yogin, all differences and dualities fall away and Shiva alone stands revealed as Self, world and Cosmos.  Yet, though Shiva permeates all existence, none can know Shiva, for Shiva himself is the knower and the seer of all, the witness of all that is. The supreme attainment of the Yogin is the realization of oneness with Shiva. Shiva is the perfect non-duality and so in him all dualities and divisions of the knower and the known dissolve. To know Shiva is not possible because there is no knower or knowledge outside of Shiva. Thus is Shiva known as Void, as nothingness: not because he is truly void but because he is beyond the reach of all dualistic human consciousness and all human faculties of knowledge. Like the blackhole, Shiva is invisible and inaccessible, and so shunya or void to our human consciousness. But it is this shunya of Shiva that is the background and substratum of all being, for when all is demolished in the timeless spirals of the universes, it is this void that remains, immutable and unfathomable; when all the light in which existence manifests is withdrawn or extinguished, all that remains is the divine Dark of Shiva.  To enter Shiva’s divine Dark is to enter the heart of the supreme mystery, for it is in that divine Dark that one knows oneself in the starkness of being, as the pure and the one — shivoham, shivoham. It is in the inmost cave of the mystic heart that one becomes Shiva in a supreme ecstasy of spiritual union, when Shakti, as Prakriti, the eternal feminine, returns to Shiva, the Supreme Purusha, and resolves herself in him. This is not some distant onetime supracosmic event but an intimate yogic experience that repeats itself endlessly, through all humanity, wherever and whenever a human soul realizes its oneness with Shiva and dissolves into his unfathomable vastness. Dissolution in Shiva is the highest nirvana, the utter liberation, purna moksha. Most Hindus regard Shiva as the destroyer, the God of pralaya or cosmic dissolution. But Shiva does not destroy, there is no necessity of destruction in the Divine’s scheme — Shiva dissolves and absorbs his own manifestation back within himself once the cosmic evolutionary afflatus is exhausted, much like a spider withdrawing its web back into itself; the many return to the One, multiplicity collapses back upon non-duality or singularity. In withdrawing existence back into himself, Shiva does not destroy, he transforms. Pralaya is a misunderstood idea: it is not the final destruction of the universe, it is the dissolution of the false universe and the false self in the Truth of Shiva. Thus the Yogin knows Shiva as the God of transformation and not destruction. In Shiva’s auspicious presence, death itself ceases to be an individual pralaya and turns into a spiritual metamorphosis for the realized Yogin. Shiva’s play of manifestation and withdrawal of manifestation, oneness and multiplicity, projection and dissolution, does not happen only over yugas or aeonic spans of time but through the individual human consciousness in human time. Transformation of consciousness is the natural outcome of all Yoga, and as the Adiyogi, the first, the archetypal Yogin, Shiva presides over all transformation of consciousness: it is Shiva that leads human evolution, through the ages and through human lifetimes. Shiva, therefore, is also known as Yogeshvara, the Lord of Yoga. The ancient sages who had known Shiva intimately in their consciousnesses had said that whosoever surrenders to Shiva sincerely and entirely is led by Shiva himself, the adiyogi and yogeshvara, to the supreme heights of self-realization in a single lifetime. Shiva’s compassion and generosity to whoever invokes him sincerely and persistently is legendary. Shiva is also known to mystics as Swayambhu, self-manifested. He manifests all existence out of himself but he himself has no source, no origin. This is a profound mystery. If existence itself arises in Shiva, Shiva must be beyond existence; and that which is beyond existence cannot exist. This that is beyond existence itself, the sages tell us, is the pure Existent, Sat. Sat, as pure Existent is the source and truth, tattva, of all existence — out of which all existence arises and flows. Therefore the pure Existent is self-manifest, arising out of itself, uncaused and timeless, a mystery beyond all dimensions of being and consciousness, shunya arising out of shunya because that which is not in causality is beyond materiality, a formlessness so incomprehensible that it appears to be nothingness, shunya. The Yogin learns to rest with such mysteries and not try solving them; the way to Shiva’s inmost mysteries is through profound passiveness and surrender where the mind and heart fall into deep silence and the gaze turns inward, for it is within that Shiva resides. To meditate on Shiva as Swayambhu is one of the most powerful ways of transcending the dualities of consciousness and entering the silence of the soul. As Ardhanarishvara, the God who is half woman, Shiva symbolizes deeper ontological non-duality: the perfect blend and balance of the creative force of Ishvara, seen as the masculine, and the sustaining and nurturing force of Ishvari, seen as the feminine. As the non-dual divine consciousness-force, Chit-Shakti, Shiva, as ardhanarishvara, represents the non-separability of the masculine and the feminine[1]. The masculine-feminine duality is the primary polarity of our human universe. To meditate on Shiva as ardhanarishvara is a powerful way of transcending this primary polarity of our existence and restoring the original dynamic equilibrium of meditation and action, chaos and order, evolution and assimilation, the outer push and the inner pull. Whoever transcends these primary polarities comes closer to the repose of a perfect identification with Shiva as the Formless, nirakara.  Worshipping Shiva, in the Sanatan tradition, is an act of consciousness, an inner consecration and offering of body, mind and heart, a constant invocation of his mystical and spiritual aspects through an elaborate system of external symbols and mantras. Shiva can be easily propitiated if one understands his deepest and perhaps best-kept secret, that he is the indweller, the one who is seated within; the one who searches for Shiva in the universe of form and name is sure to be confounded, and the one who can renounce form and name and invoke Shiva within is the one who will be granted the boon of higher consciousness. Thus many smear ash on their bodies, metaphorically or actually, renounce homes and families, become mendicants and ascetics, even practice harsh austerities but come no closer to Shiva’s inmost mysteries, for Shiva eludes them like the horizon. But those who understand that Shiva is the inwardness of being are the ones who unravel his mysteries in their hearts and souls. They are the ones who understand that Shiva’s asceticism is not physical but psychological; Shiva’s tapasya is the tapasya of Truth and purity. Shiva’s devotee must descend into the dark caves of the heart and there find the eternal Light. Shiva is commonly depicted as an ascetic with ashes of corpses smeared on his body. This is a stark symbol of Shiva, the adiyogi as a tapasvi. Tapasya, from the word tapa, heat, is the fire that burns delusion and ignorance. The form of the ascetic represents the inner detachment of the tapasvi who lives in the mortal world, amongst all its attractions and distractions, but constantly aware of its impermanence; the ash (vibhuti or bhasma) of corpses (shava in Sanskrit) symbolize impermanence, death and dissolution — ash being the final residue of the mortal body. Thus, holding always in one’s mind and heart, in constant inner remembrance, the ascetic smeared in the ashes of corpses, the Yogin can rapidly transcend her identification with the body and the material world and attain to the detachment and freedom of Shiva in her own consciousness. The archetypal yogin and tapasvi, Adiyogi Shiva, is also the Mahadeva who is known as Neelkantha, the God with the blue neck, the blue symbolizing the effect of the poison that Shiva takes within his own body as an act of supreme compassion, to protect the universe from the effects of evil. The symbol goes back to primordial times when the ocean of existence is being churned in a great battle between the Devas and the Asuras. This great churning, mahamanthan, releases destructive toxins in the atmosphere that threatens to destroy all life. Shiva, out of his divine compassion, to save and protect existence, drinks the poison, but the Divine Shakti that eternally dwells in Shiva stops the poison from entering the body and the poison remains in Shiva’s throat, turning his neck blue. This is profound and powerful symbolism: the churning is the eternal evolutionary process in the human universe that releases forces of good and evil, forces that strengthen evolution of consciousness and forces that oppose it. Shiva takes in the poison that symbolizes the evil or anti-evolutionary forces and holds it in his throat: he does not consume it nor does he expel it, he instead holds it in abeyance and transforms its effect to permanent good. Meditating on this aspect of Shiva, invoking him as Neelkantha, the Yogin can transcend the duality of good and evil, of devas and asuras, and collaborate in this timeless cosmic battle to transform all forces of evil and destruction to the ultimate good of life in the universe. This indeed is the ultimate aim of the Mahadeva: to transform everything, every form and force in Cosmos, to ultimate Good.  Shiva is also depicted with his hair coiled in matted locks and adorned with the crescent moon. This further adds to the rich tapestry of symbology woven around Shiva. According to mythology, Shiva stopped the descent of the Ganga from the heavens and broke her fall on earth by absorbing Ganga in his hair and reducing her torrent to a trickle. There is obvious Yogic symbolism in this: Ganga is not the river but the symbol of a higher consciousness descending to a fragile earth plane in a torrent that would have flooded the earth. The matted hair symbolizes the higher crown or chakra that alone could contain the descent without cracking. Releasing the flow of Ganga in trickles is symbolic of how the Yogi, in complete control of Prakriti, releases the higher consciousness, chakra by chakra, into the mind, heart and body. Meditating on this aspect, the devotee can open her own mind, heart and body to the descent of the higher consciousness through Shiva.  Shiva is also known as Trayambakam, the three-eyed (traya, three) God. The two eyes of Shiva represent the ordinary dualistic perception, the sense-universe, the right eye representing the sun or the solar influence, the left eye representing the moon, or the lunar influence; the third eye, which opens when the other two close, represents fire, agni, which is the Yogic or spiritual vision, direct perception of Truth which ‘burns away’ all dualities. This third eye, when open, brings the direct perception by destroying the mind’s powerful identification with duality. This is the reason it is said that the third eye can destroy when focused on the outer world: what it destroys is the delusion of duality. By meditating on this aspect, the devotee can ascend to the non-dual direct perception of Shiva.  The crescent moon that Shiva bears on his head symbolizes time and the measure of time; in the Vedantic sense, the measurement of time, or any measurement, is an attribute of Maya. In wearing the crescent moon on his head, Shiva represents complete control over time and the Maya of time. Shiva is eternal, beyond time, and thus he wears the crescent moon as symbol of time itself as ornament which can be taken off at will. The serpent around Shiva’s neck, Vasuki of mythology, represents the vital force of the ego and the deep-seated fear of death. Ego and the fear of death are deeply related, intertwined. The serpent around Shiva’s neck symbolizes complete victory over both, ego and fear of death. Shiva wears the serpent as an ornament which is itself symbolic of mastery. Some devotees regard the serpent as symbolic of the eternal cycles of time, kala. By wearing it thrice around his neck, Shiva represents complete control of kala, time. Time represents mortality. So control of kala is control of mortality. In a deeper sense, ego, time and mortality, and the fear of death are all entwined. By meditating on this aspect of Shiva, by bearing Shiva’s representative form in the consciousness, the Yogin can transcend ego and conquer all fear of mortality and death. Remember that the mrityunjaya mantra, the occult key to conquering the forces of death and decay, was given as beej or seed mantra by Shiva.  The trishula or trident that Shiva carries as a weapon represents the triune reality of Shiva as the one who manifests the universe out of himself, preserves it in his consciousness and finally absorbs it back into himself. To some Yogis, the trishula represents the perfect equilibrium of the three Gunas of nature — sattva, rajas and tamas. Through sattva, Shiva manifests Cosmos, through rajas, he sustains or preserves Cosmos and through tamas, he reabsorbs Cosmos into his divine Darkness. Some others regard the trishula as the triune powers or faculties of the human consciousness: Volition, ichha, knowledge, jnana, and action, kriya. With this triune power in hand, anything in the world may be accomplished. Meditating on this aspect of Shiva, concentrating on Shiva with this trishula, the Yogi can master the three gunas in her own nature, master the powers of her consciousness and work towards accomplising the highest good, even as Shiva himself.   Shiva also carries the damaru, a drum, in one of his hands in a symbolic gesture or mudra called damaru-hasta. This is yet another profound mystic symbol. The damaru or the drum represents the Shabda Brahman or the primordial sound of Aum. When the damaru is played with the right concentration and in the right inner state, it produces the sound of Om, rising to Nada, the primeval cosmic vibration of A-U-M. The Yogin meditating on Shiva with the damaru can enter that consciousness-space where she can merge her being with the Nada and bring something of that divine vibration into her own psychic being. One of the most prevalent symbols associated with Shiva is the Linga. With the linga, the devotee comes to the purest and most powerful of all symbols of sanatan Hindu dharma. The linga is the symbol of the Infinite, Formless Shiva. It is also the most ancient of symbols, going back to times when the now accepted representations of Shiva in image or idol did not exist. The word linga itself means symbol or mark. Swami Vivekananda once described the linga as the symbol of the eternal Brahman.  In certain mythological references, we find that Shiva’s abode, Mount Kailash, which is itself a symbol of the highest consciousness transcending Cosmos, is represented by the linga as the centre of the universe, the central axis around which the Cosmos revolves.  The linga is not just a block of stone but a mark of the great avyaktam, the Unmanifest, and simultaneously, it is the most profound mark of the vyakta, the manifestation; a symbol of the perfect equilibrium of the masculine and feminine, of the visible and the invisible. It stands silent, lone, absolute, evoking in the devotee a silence beyond all descriptions of thought and speech. One who meditates on the linga, understanding its profound Yogic and occult significance, can transcend all duality of manifestation and taste the rarest bliss of the Unmanifest in the Manifest. Through concentration on the linga, one can merge one’s consciousness in that pillar of Shiva’s pure light, the jyotir-linga. The legend goes that Shiva once appeared as a pillar of Light, jyotir-linga, to Brahma and Vishnu, the other two mahadevas of sanatan Hindu dharma, and asked them to find the extreme ends of the pillar. Neither of the great Gods could find the end — and how could they? Infinity has no dimension, no end.  Shiva’s linga is the symbol of the unknowable in the known, the unmanifest in the manifest. To meditate on the linga is to meditate directly on the supreme mystery of Shiva.  However, even after all these descriptions and interpretations, one is aware that one has only scratched the surface of a fathomless mystery. Shiva cannot be known, understood or explained by the human mind, however vast be the knowledge or profound the understanding of the mind. Our attempts to describe Shiva are like a child’s attempts to describe deep space. The deeper one delves, the more one realizes the vastness and profundity of Shiva’s mystery: Shiva is neither God nor Person. Shiva never was, never will be. He is and he is not. All forms are his but he is formless. He is nearer than the nearest, more intimate than our own breath, yet he is everywhere and everything. Where indeed to find such a one? For Shiva is dark and void to those who look for him outwardly, in forms and symbols; for those who can penetrate the symbolism of the symbols and the formlessness of forms, he reveals a bit of himself, just the first glimpses, to lead the soul farther and deeper. But to those who are willing to give themselves inwardly to him, as moth to flame, knowing that he is all there is, he gives of himself, freely and with overwhelming generosity. Shiva’s Grace is the Grace of the Divine Mother. To invoke him is to invoke her. He is the one ever-present, indwelling and luminous in our consciousnesses, as Ishvara and Ishvari. Om Namah Shivaya, Salutations to Shiva, the Luminous One 1Perhaps the first appearance of the Ardhanarishvara was in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as the archetypal creature which was of the same dimension as a man and woman closely embracing, which then fell apart into two aspects out of which were born man and woman.
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The Chinese Crisis & The Dharmic Perspective

The Chinese threat to India is far from over. Though China and India have now agreed on a gradual and verifiable disengagement along the LAC, the Chinese have not relinquished their claim on Indian territory and possibilities of continued transgressions remain as real. The immediate crisis may come to rest over the next few weeks, but that shouldn’t push us into complacence. This was not the first Chinese transgression and this will certainly not be the last. China does not think short term: all its designs and policies are long term, and it goes about their execution with guarded stealth and cunning.  Communist China has one clearly defined agenda: cultural and economic domination of the world, a new world order of which China would be the hub. Interestingly, the idea of world domination was first conceived by China in the period of the Eastern Zhou Empire (770-256 BC). There is a long history behind the Chinese agenda.  Way back in 1918, Sri Aurobindo wrote in one of his books: In Asia a more perilous situation has arisen, standing sharply across the way to any possibility of a continental unity of the peoples of this part of the world, in the emergence of Communist China. This creates a gigantic bloc which could easily englobe the whole or Northern Asia in a combination between two enormous Communist Powers, Russia and China, and would overshadow with a threat of absorption South-Western Asia and Tibet and might be pushed to overrun all up to the whole frontier of India, menacing her security and that of Western Asia with the possibility of an invasion and an overruning and subjection by penetration or even by overwhelming military force to an unwanted ideology, political and social institutions and dominance of this militant mass of Communism whose push might easily prove irresistible. Note that this was written in 1918. Since then, Russian communism has collapsed, Tibet has been annexed and its native culture almost completely eradicated, Chinese communism has grown stronger, all opposition to the Communist hegemony, domestic or international, have been dismissed, disregarded or brutally crushed, and Chinese aggression, military and economic, has grown steadily and surely, as evident in the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Nepal. China’s latest adventurism with India in Ladakh is part of a grand design that seems to be unfolding with increasing boldness.  In 1950, when Mao Zedong invaded Tibet, Sri Aurobindo, once again made this prophetic observation: The basic significance of Mao’s Tibetan adventure is to advance China’s frontiers right down to India and stands poised there to strike at the right moment and with the right strategy.. we must burn it into our minds that the primary motive of Mao’s attack on Tibet is to threaten India as soon as possible.  The Chinese annexation of Tibet, in itself, was a loud and clear indication to the world about Chinese attitude and intention, but went largely unheeded by most world governments, including, unfortunately, India. That was the beginning of the dharmic degeneration of India’s politics. India represents and embodies dharma. Satyameva jayate — Truth alone triumphs —  is India’s national motto. India, more than any other nation in the world, should have stood for Tibetan autonomy. Tibet too, before the Chinese invasion, was a free nation that represented and embodied Buddha dharma, being the hub of Tibetan Buddhism — a branch of Vajrayana Buddhism that evolved from the 7th century CE in Tibet. Since the identity and consciousness of the Tibetan nation is inseparable from the Buddha dharma, the attack on Tibet was directly an attack on dharma, their way of life, their faith, practices and language.  This is a passage from the Tibetan website, Free Tibet (): Prior to China’s invasion in 1950, Tibet maintained a unique culture, religion and language for centuries. Today, this culture is under threat from mass Chinese immigration and the strict control of all expressions of Tibetan culture and national identity. China boasts of huge investment in Tibet but its economic development is primarily intended to cement its hold on Tibet and enhance its ability to exploit Tibet’s natural resources. Economic development has improved conditions for some Tibetans but overwhelmingly it favors Chinese migrants, continuing to disadvantage Tibetans economically.  The Dalai Lama himself wrote in 2008: Although many positive developments have taken place in Tibet under the PRC’s rule, these developments, as the previous Panchen Lama pointed out in January 1989, were overshadowed by immense suffering and extensive destruction. Tibetans were compelled to live in a state of constant fear, while the Chinese government remained suspicious of them. However, instead of cultivating enmity towards the Chinese leaders responsible for the ruthless suppression of the Tibetan people, I prayed for them to become friends, which I expressed in the following lines in a prayer I composed in 1960, a year after I arrived in India: “May they attain the wisdom eye discerning right and wrong, and may they abide in the glory of friendship and love.” The ironic tragedy was that Nehru, our Prime Minister then, did not resist the invasion when he could have. He acquiesced, perhaps unwittingly, to the Chinese design in Tibet, which then led to the “immense suffering and extreme destruction” that the Dalai Lama writes about.  Now it seems that the time has come for the books to be balanced: for dharma to be restored — the post Covid geopolitical situation, the shifting political alignments and the persistent Chinese bullying have set the stage for the right action: recognize the Tibetan government in exile, allow the Dalai Lama to address the world from an India backed political platform and resolutely give up all diffidence in foreign policy matters with regard to China. Confront China with a will deeper than theirs, a will to do good, arising out of dharma, and not out of aggressive realpolitik. This should be India’s first step towards reclaiming lost dharmic ground. The past should no longer matter: what should matter now is what the present government, with its understanding of Indian dharma, must do. Tibet and India are dharmically aligned, and dharmic alliances go far deeper than any economic or political alliances of the world.  As Indians, whether politically active or not, we must remember at all times that we are the sole representatives of an unbroken eight thousand year old civilization that has withstood continuous Islamic invasions since the 12th Century, and a hostile British rule for over 180 years (if we start our count from 1764, the year the British defeated the Mughal Emperor to become rulers of Bengal). Though the Islamic invaders tried their level best to destroy the Vedic Sanatan civilization in India, the Sanatan civilization survived, and in some ways, even thrived, found new strength and vigor. The Britishers then tried their best to replace, often overtly, the Sanatan civilization with their version of a “superior” anglicized civilization based on Christian values and education but, instead, served to catalyze an intellectual and spiritual  renaissance of Hindu thought and culture. For us, dharma is not philosophy but a way of life, and compromising dharma for political or economic expediency is simply not an option. As Sri Aurobindo declared, if the dharma declines, the nation declines.  Yet, this is precisely what we, as a free nation and society, have consistently allowed over the last seventy years — a denial of India’s swadharma and a steady erosion of her political values and integrity leading to a systemic descent into moral bankruptcy and political corruption.  However, all is not lost. Dharmic thinking in India is once again beginning to gain lost ground, the post-Independence national narrative, dominated by the Leftist-liberal brigade, is being increasingly and openly challenged and an increasing number of mainstream intellectuals are beginning to speak up against some of the most deeply entrenched social prejudices and assumptions. These are good tidings. But we still have a long way to go. These are but tentative shifts, somewhat hesitant beginnings — we cannot yet relax, and the battle to recover our dharma must continue unabated.  The Chinese challenge must be understood in its wider dharmic context and that awareness spread across the country. Let us not allow ourselves to forget that the Chinese can destroy what the Islamic and the British forces together could not. The Chinese will not stop at economic conquest, their objective is ultimate eradication of religions and spiritual cultures. Not just Indic dharma, all religions and traditions are in danger — the Christian as much as the Islamic. They have been systematically destroying the Tibetan Buddhist culture and the Tibetan language in Tibet. They now want the next Dalai Lama to be Chinese, and installed by the Communist regime. If that were to happen (and it’s a matter of time before it does), and as before, the free world were to acquiesce, it would be a singular body blow to Tibetan Buddha dharma. So much so, it has compelled the Dalai Lama to openly declare that the tradition of the Dalai Lama may no longer be needed. Cultural genocide is embedded in the Communist DNA, and if we disregard this for whatever reason, we will do so at our own peril.  The Mother of Pondicherry Ashram once spoke clearly about the Chinese invading India, perhaps seeing some strong possibility in the occult planes: But already quite some time ago I saw China invading India, even South India. And that’s the worst of catastrophes.. One can expect anything from them — every possible horror. To be under Chinese domination…it’s better to die first. … I’ve seen them — all, everywhere … horrible!. Which is the end of everything. I mean, it will probably take centuries before things can return to normalcy[1]. The possibility of a Chinese invasion is not as far-fetched as it may seem. We do not yet have global political alliances based on moral grounds, on adherence to the true and the right. Most world leaders still think in terms of political and economic expediency. We haven’t even started thinking in the direction of moral alliances. If a superpower and a bully does invade, the likelihood of other governments standing up for the right and the just is very low. Most governments that are secular are morally deficient, and those that are not secular are sectarian with divisive and supremacist ideologies. So either way, in case of an invasion, all bets are off.  Also let us bear in mind that future invasions may or may not be militaristic. Invasions of the future will be more and more cultural and economic. A military occupation of Indian territories by the Chinese may eventually happen, but what is already happening is a multi-pronged intrusion into India’s psychological space through increasing technological and financial dominance on the one hand and cunning geopolitical maneuverings on the other — China already surrounds India through its various maneuverings in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. For furthering its designs in the Indian subcontinent, it now needs control in the North-east of India, therefore its posturing in Ladakh.  In a recent article[2], the author and award-winning TV producer, Iqbal Chand Malhotra observes: Chinese strategy is to first ‘warn’, then ‘threaten’, then ‘intimidate’, then ‘attack’ and finally ‘dominate’ the enemy. The warning was issued last year in October 2019 at Mamallapuram by Xi Jinping when he told Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speedily resolve the Jammu and Kashmir issue trilaterally among India, Pakistan and China. Modi ignored the warning. The threat was issued when the PLA started crossing the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in large numbers in early April this year. The Indian bureaucracy found false comfort in dubious Russian reassurances that it was merely a PLA military exercise and things would soon go back to normal. The next step was the intimidation at Patrol Point 14 on the Galwan Heights on the night of Monday, June 15th when the PLA executed a pre-meditated attack on an unsuspecting Indian patrol out to verify the withdrawal of the PLA back to its base several kilometres behind the LAC. So far, official figures place 20 Indian soldiers brutally killed by Chinese treachery. It is my assessment that the fourth stage of the five-point Chinese strategy, which is the attack, will occur anytime between June 30th and September 30th if India does not agree to trilateral talks. In the eventuality of an invasion, it is India’s civilization and spiritual culture, her dharma, that will be directly threatened. Technological, economic and political domination for the Chinese are only various means to a greater and more universal end which is unquestioned Chinese hegemony. Reflect further on the fact that all this is gathering momentum in the backdrop of increasing communal tensions in India. The socio-political situation is doubtlessly polarized. The opposition parties are more interested in politics than in policies and parliamentary politics. The leftist forces in India are openly aligned with the Chinese on the one hand and the Islamists on the other. The so-called liberal intellectuals either side openly with the leftists or, where they do not, choose to sit on the fence refusing to take a stand.  We cannot afford an invasion — political, economic or cultural. The opportunity for India to regain her dharmic Light and strength is now, the opportunity for India to assume her destined role as the world’s spiritual leader, jagat-guru, is now. If we lose this opportunity, it may set us back by centuries, as the Mother warns.  We must take a stand now, a collective stand. We must choose dharma consciously and commit our consciousnesses, energies and resources to its resurgence.  A few critical first steps need to be taken across India, a plan of action that must go viral.  First of all, economic resistance, boycott of Chinese products, Chinese software, Chinese capital. This movement seems already to be gaining momentum across the country. This may not seriously dent the Chinese economy but it will make a profound psychological impact. What is needed at the moment is psychological impact, a sense of coming together for a common purpose on a common platform. Unity, solidarity will be our first weapon in this battle.  Second, a united economic build up towards atmanirbhar Bharat. If each of us can consciously contribute to self reliance, even at the cost of personal inconvenience, the nation will go a long way. Buy Indian, Use Indian should transcend the level of sloganeering and become a mantra for action.   Third, a dharmic stand. There is no power on earth that can resist a collective dharmic stand. Our dharma is under threat and each of us must step forward, take up an inner stand for dharma, protect and strengthen the dharma by ourselves becoming living exemplars of it. We must shun all intellectual and vital weakness and moral hypocrisy; weaklings, cowards and hypocrites cannot stand for dharma — they will be the first to fall. Fourth, internal unity. As Indians first and foremost, we must unite, abandon our ideological and political differences, and stand collectively for the nation and for dharma. We must have conscious goodwill for all. Goodwill and harmony are spiritual forces more powerful than martial and economic forces.  Recommended Read   1 The Mother’s Agenda, Vol 12 2 The Article: The Chinese Endgame
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Reflections On Hinduism (5)

The Symbol & the Symbolized  If Brahman, the Divine, saturates this whole Cosmos, sarvam brahmamayam jagat, then what of the objects within the Cosmos? What of the infinite life forms that populate the Cosmos? Hindu darshan categorically, through its several mahavakyas, states that Brahman pervades this universe from the subtlest to the grossest, from the atomic to the galactic, from the single cell to the body of mammoths, from the first quivers of nervous energy in matter to the cosmic consciousness of the maharishi — all is Brahman, there is no other, neha nanasti kinchan. Therefore, to the Hindu who understands, there is nothing in the whole universe that is not the Divine, not God. Every object and every living being in the universe is sacred, the whole of existence is Divine and the entire universe is the temple of the Divine, and life itself the offering and the sacrifice to the Divine. This is indeed the high and vast truth that the forefathers of Sanatan Hindu dharma brought to earth, not for a particular sect or society but for all humankind. As our Vedic forefathers declared millennia ago: as long as men shall live, so shall the Dharma; for verily, the Dharma is the eternal guide and protector. For the Hindu who understands the deeper truths of her own dharma, there is no necessity for a separate religion — for her life itself is religion, life itself is dharma. The living of life in the spirit of consecration and sacrifice is indeed the highest good: this is the Vedic secret that is brought so perfectly to fruition in the Bhagavad Gita through the idea of all life and works being a constant sacrifice, Yajna, to the Supreme Self, Purushottam.   Life as sacrifice to the Supreme Self is the key idea of Sanatan dharma.  What is the Self? This is perhaps the one idea of the Upanishads that causes most confusion to the uninitiated, for the self in English denotes a psychological entity, (myself, yourself etc.), always associated with a person or a personality. But the Self of the Upanishads, the atman, has nothing to do with personality, it does not represent a particular entity; it is impersonal, universal, eternal.  Sanatan dharma does not hold a supreme God amongst other gods as the ultimate; the ultimate and supreme Truth, param Satyam, of sanatan Hindu dharma is being itself. This being itself is known as Brahman or Sat, pure undifferentiated being whose original status is unmanifest, avyakta. Brahman, as pure undifferentiated being, then differentiates and manifests, becomes vyakta, as existence or astitva. The Self, or atman, is the consciousness that knows Brahman, the Divine being, as astitva, existence. Therefore, for the Self, all existence is divine, all is Brahman. For the mind however, which is but a portion of the Self, existence is broken up into myriad forms and attributes and does not appear as the one Brahman. Thus it remains bewildered by appearances of multiplicity till it awakens to the Self within.  Astitva is like a boundless ocean in which we all have our individual existences, and nothing literally exists or can exist outside of this ocean, for anything outside of existence would be non-existent. This boundless ocean of astitva is all Brahman just as an earthly ocean is all water; and just as a fish in the earthly ocean may not know the whole ocean or the water at all, the human immersed in the astitva-ocean may not know Brahman at all. Yet, Brahman, being astitva itself, is manifest in all objects, forms and forces. One does not need to look for Brahman anywhere: Brahman is all there is. Looking for Brahman would be like the fish in the ocean looking for water.  Grasping this truth of the mahavakya that all is Brahman, and Brahman is this astitva, it is possible to realize oneself as astitva, and astitva itself as Brahman. In fact, to know and realize all existence or being as Self is the summum bonum of Hindu sanatan dharma — aham brahmasmi, I, as Self, am Brahman, the Divine. But realizing Self as Brahman is the first of a threefold realization: having realized Self as Brahman, one realizes all selves, all beings, as Brahman, for if Self is Brahman in one being, then it follows that everything and everyone that possesses Self is equally Brahman; and that the Self is the same in everything and everyone, it is one but manifests multiply in infinite forms and variations.  Therefore, the Hindu who knows and understands the truth of his dharma, regards all forms and forces and movements, sarvarupa-sarvagati, as the One Divine, the One Brahman, and bows in reverence to all, big or small, significant or insignificant, high or low. To the Hindu who understands, this whole Cosmos, in all its myriad forms and movements, is the Divine and nothing and none is excluded, from the microbe and virus to the bird and beast, from the primitive savage to the human, from the first self-awakened human to the great gods and goddesses, all are equally manifestations of the One Self.  This profound mystical realization is the practical basis of Hindu sanatan religion — either all is the Divine or none; the Hindu regards even the asuras and rakshasas, those opposed to Light and Truth, as forms, however seemingly distorted, of the Self. For the sanatan Hindu, there is no such thing as implacable evil, no such thing as irredeemable hostility to the Divine, no such thing as original sin. In fact, even the Vedantic concept of sin is impurity of consciousness — duality is the only impurity, say the sages of old: where one sees the other, hears the other, knows the other, is impurity; where one sees the Self, hears the Self, knows the Self, is purity.  The true knower of the Hindu sanatan dharma does not, therefore, regard even images and idols as lifeless objects — each idol, each totem, is representative of an aspect of the infinite formless Brahman. Brahman, though saturating and informing the entire universe, itself is formless and can only be apprehended, however approximately, in living forms or forms created by the living. Thus the Sanatani Hindu regards all forms as sacred representatives of the One Divine. When the Hindu devotee erects an idol of a god or goddess, she first infuses life-force into it, as prescribed by tradition, before the image or the idol assumes ‘divinity’ and can be worshipped. This infusion of life force, through an occult Yogic process, is known as prana-pratistha, literally, establishing the life-force. Once this is done, the idol or the image assumes an aspect of divinity and becomes like a live wire connecting the aspiring human consciousness to the Divine, or to that aspect of the Divine that the external form represents. Those spiritually or intuitively open can sense and feel the divine presence in these forms.  The Mother says, all this (idol worship) is based on the old idea that whatever the image – which we disdainfully call an ‘idol’ – whatever the external form of the deity may be, the presence of the thing represented is always there. And there is always someone – whether priest or initiate, sadhu or sannyasi – someone who has the power and (usually this is the priest’s work) who draws the Force and the Presence down into it. And it’s true, it’s quite real – the Force and the Presence are THERE; and this (not the form in wood or stone or metal) is what is worshipped: this Presence. The presence of the Divine, invoked or latent, in all forms, then, is the key. If the presence can imbue even one form anywhere on earth, it can imbue all forms. Thus, whether a block of stone or granite or an entire mountain, a carved wooden statue or tree, a lake or river, sun or moon, a photograph or an object of daily use, in everything one can sense the divine presence and force if one is open in heart and spirit. The animating force is not in the object of adoration but in the consciousness of the one who adores.  Sri Aurobindo once visited a temple in Karnali, on the banks of the Narmada, near the end of his stay in Baroda (1904–06). At that time, he was quite an atheist. As he shared in one of his evening talks: Once I visited Ganganath (Chandod) after Brahmananda’s death when Keshwananda was there. With my Europeanized mind I had no faith in image-worship and I hardly believed in the presence of God. I went to Kernali where there are several temples. There is one of Kali and when I looked at the image I saw the living presence there. For the first time, I believed in the presence of God. Regarding the same experience, he wrote to Dilip Roy: … you stand before a temple of Kali beside a sacred river and see what? A sculpture, a gracious piece of architecture, but in a moment mysteriously, unexpectedly there is instead a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight in you has regarded the World-Mother. The presence of the Divine can be felt and touched anywhere, in a piece of stone or a single leaf, if the consciousness is open, wide and receptive. The modern intellectual mind does not grasp this, not half as well as the savage mind instinctively used to, because it lives in concrete structures of thoughts and prejudices. Most regard idol worship as superstitious and primitive, unmindful of the fact that almost all modern day consumerist society is engaged,  in one way or another, with idol worship  and idolatry. Almost all of our movie industry, fashion, advertising and politics will collapse if all idolatry were to be eliminated.  The idol worship of the Sanatani Hindu is, however, far more advanced and sophisticated than the idolatry of the 21st century consumerist homo-commercialis.  For the Hindu, the idol is the symbol, and the symbol is that which is symbolized. This is a deep truth of Hindu mysticism — this whole universe symbolizes the infinite, formless Divine; all things and beings are symbols; and each symbol is a little bit of that which is symbolized. Therefore, when Ramakrishna stood before the clay idol of Kali, he did not see mere religious symbolism: he saw and experienced the Divine Mother herself in that symbol; the symbol for him was the symbolized, the image of the Mother for him was the Mother. That which is symbolized is always the Real and the symbol is always the external representation of the Real. It is through the symbol that the Real enters the external. When the Real is forgotten or recedes from consciousness, the symbol loses its spiritual significance and is reduced to a mere ritualistic object. The problem, then, with all symbols is when the inner gets disconnected from the outer, the Real is no longer expressed in the external, the symbol is no longer the symbolized.   This disconnect applies to several other aspects of Hindu dharma besides idol worship. The mystical significance and beauty of temples, the profound symbolic significance of sacrifices and offerings, the tremendous significance of the Devas and the Asuras, the spiritual significance and power of mantras are all aspects of Hinduism that need to be restored to their inner truths, reconnected with their spiritual and mystical source, and revived in a post-modern form and formulation.  We shall delve into these in the coming weeks. 
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Mahayuddha, The Great Battle

A dharma yuddha, unlike other battles fought on the ground, is mostly invisible and inaudible, it is waged in the depths of consciousness and engages ancient unseen forces that have always been on earth to resist the victory of Light and Truth.  Dharma is not religion but the creative force of Truth, and it has always struggled to maintain its foothold on earth, for human nature, still largely unregenerate and driven by forces of ignorance and egoism, opposes Truth in all possible ways.  The earth, as our ancients explained, is the field of evolution and therefore critical for both, the forces of Truth and those of Darkness and Ignorance. It is on earth alone that the consciousness can grow to its true heights and fathom its true depths; and for this, the noblest souls choose to be born on earth so that they can participate in the evolution. There are other planes of consciousness too besides earth, but those are all typal planes where the being neither evolves nor devolves. It is on earth alone that one can evolve to a perfect godlike consciousness, daivic, or devolve to a demonic one, asuric. Therefore the forces of Truth and Falsehood have been engaged in a timeless battle for supremacy on earth — for whichever force dominates earth will dominate evolution. If Falsehood were ever to dominate earth (no, in spite of all contrary appearances, it still does not), this universe would be one of falsehood where the Asuras would grow in stature and become the godheads of this Cosmos. Instead of a Rama or Krishna, we would have a Ravana or Kamsa presiding over the evolution of consciousness on earth.  This timeless great battle, the Mahayuddha, took a major and decisive turn in 1956 when the Supermind (Truth Consciousness, Vijnanamaya Shakti) descended into the earth atmosphere after ages of intense tapasya and spiritual struggle against the forces of evolution. The descent of the Truth Consciousness itself changed the course of the spiritual history of humanity decisively, irreversibly. But that did not mean that the victory of Truth was assured. On the contrary, the asuric forces intensified their energies and multiplied their efforts to push back the Truth, perhaps destroy it altogether.  However, Truth being what it is, it cannot be destroyed, but it can be pushed back, opposed and resisted, driven underground. And that is what is happening today, all around us, from global religious and political platforms to our homes and hearts, wherever even a trace of falsehood exists, there the battle rages, unseen and unsounded.  Make no mistake about this: each one of us is an instrument, a nimitta, in this great battle for earth. Which way the battle will go depends on how much of ourselves, our consciousnesses and will, we put into this battle, how much of our skin is in the game, how conscious and silent we can remain even as the battle rages furiously on.  But to fight, to be in the thick of this battle, to be effective and efficient instruments of the Truth in this pitched battle against cosmic, terrestrial and psychological falsehoods, there is a necessary preparation that all have to undergo, a secret Kshatriya training of old, a training as much spiritual as physical and psychological.   The true warrior of Light must be immersed in the Light first. None should allow even a shadow to be cast on one’s mind or heart. One has to have complete and unrelenting fidelity to Truth, to Light, to what our ancients called jyoti parasya. This is nothing short of tapasya but it needs to be enormously concentrated and hastened. We do not have the time for years of sadhana. These are times for intensification, concentrated acceleration. For this intensification and acceleration, two conditions are necessary: deep inner silence and absolute samata. Samata is equality of spirit, equality of mind and heart: there must not be the least inner disturbance, agitation or excitement. The warrior of Light must always wear a luminous armor. As Sri Krishna says to Arjuna: agitation obscures the Light. Remember, this is what the asuras around us want, to obscure our Light through contaminating our own inner state, by throwing into us their disturbances and excitements, their bitternesses and grievances, their soul-sapping selfishnesses and fears. Remember too that there is no way an asuric being can directly attack an armor of Light — they can only attack by using our consent and our will, which sometimes we too innocently and willingly give. Samata is a shield in this battle. None can pierce the shield of perfect samata. No matter how disturbing or hostile the circumstances, our equality of spirit must be firm, unshakeable, absolute. It is this shield that the Divine Master in us needs to wage this battle. Without this shield, even the Lord cannot fight. This shield of perfect samata is not too difficult if we understand the two elements needed to create it: an absolute faith in the Master, in Sri Krishna; and a vast surrender to Him. Nothing else is needed. With faith and a perfect surrender, the warrior can go through any battle unscathed.   Inner silence is the psychological condition for the battle. No thought must arise, no desire to destroy, no fear of being destroyed. The mind and heart must remain immutably calm, the being quiet and concentrated. With such an inner condition of silence, of unbreakable mauna, the warrior becomes one with the Force of Narayan working through him or her. This is our unseen battle, and this is the inner preparation needed. There is no time to waste. The stakes are high. But we have, on our side, the Shakti of the Truth Consciousness itself. 
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Reflections on Hinduism (4)
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Reflections on Hinduism (4)

The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Mystery of the Self We are now ready to delve deeper into the mysteries of Hindu dharma. Once the Veda secret in the heart has awakened and leads forth the disciple, the path becomes safer and quicker, for the Veda in the heart is an infallible guide, it is the voice of the Divine seated in our hearts as the inner guide and Guru.  In the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most lucid and comprehensive of all shastras of Hindu Dharma, Sri Krishna, the Divine Teacher, says to Arjuna, the disciple — Ishvarah sarva bhutanam hriddeshe’rjuna tishthati[1] — O, Arjuna: the Divine is seated in the heart of all living beings. This one simple statement is the master key to the myriad mysteries of Hindu Dharma. Ishvara, as the Divine Teacher and Guide, is seated in the heart of every living being — this is a mahavakya: a statement of profound and seminal importance which can have the effect of potent mantra if taken to heart and followed through to its natural conclusion (more on mahavakya a little later). One who can base his whole consciousness on this single truth will need no other teaching or teacher, for the Divine in the heart will become for him the source of unfailing and unwavering trust, faith and motivation. Knowing that the Divine is in one’s own inmost self, where else would one need to go? Grasping this one thread, the seeker can walk through all possible psychological and metaphysical mazes unerringly on his way to the realization of the Self or God.  The first step on the path to realization is to turn one’s attention inward from the external world and its objects and plunge within, into one’s inmost being, the heart or the hridaye, and there find the presence of Ishvara as one’s own most intimate self, the atman.  When Sri Krishna declares that Ishvara is seated in the heart of all living beings, he is referring not to the physical heart, nor even to the heart centre in the body, but to the heart which is symbolic of the centre of one’s consciousness — the hridaye guhayam or the cave of the heart in Hindu Vedic mysticism; this cave of the heart is the centre of one’s consciousness. The inner plunge of the mystic is the act of withdrawing one’s attention from the objects and subjects of the world and concentrating it on the centre of one’s consciousness. This is the first practice of dhyana in mystical Hinduism.  The cave of the heart, hridaye guhayam, the secret centre of one’s consciousness, is the altar of the Divine, this is where Ishvara is seated as one’s own inmost being, the self or the atman. The discovery of the atman, the inmost Divine, is the first indispensable spiritual realization of Hindu dharma; one may safely say that the true pilgrimage of sanatan Hindu dharma begins only with this all-consuming discovery of Ishvara as one’s most intimate self.  As one approaches the atman, one begins to receive the first glimpses of the supreme mystery of the Divine, one begins to experience Ishvara not only as the centre of one’s own consciousness but the selfsame centre of all consciousnesses in all forms. This is a mula anubhava, essential realization, of the seeker of sanatan dharma, that the same Ishvara resides in all living beings as atman, and the atman is the same everywhere.  The rigid boundaries of one’s egoistic consciousness then begin to melt, and for the first time, one begins to experience oneness in all creation; the world is no longer experienced in terms of differences and contradictions but increasingly in terms of one unbroken existence, everything and everyone made of the same spiritual substance and possessing the same psychic essence. This new way of seeing and relating to the universe arises from anubhava, inner experience, and can therefore be tremendously powerful and transformative.  It is on the basis of such spiritual realizations of oneness that Hindu dharma declares the truth of human unity in such trenchant syllables — vasudhaiva kutumbakam: the whole world is but one single family[2].     The experience of the atman is a fundamental movement in one’s progress towards the realization of the Divine. The realization of atman, the Divine in the heart, becomes the practical basis for the higher realizations of Hindu dharma. For once the Divine is known in the centre of one’s consciousness, the Divine in revealed in all objects and beings — as if the whole universe becomes divine, and all sense of division, isolation and fear falls away permanently from the consciousness of the seeker. The seeker then becomes a devotee, and all mental seeking and knowledge are swiftly replaced by spiritual wisdom or prajna. Prajna (a term used to denote higher or deeper wisdom in both Hindu and Buddhist psychology) is the opening of a higher order, supra-intellectual faculty which grasps truth intuitively, without having to work its way through processing of information and logical reasoning. The Dharma, at this point, transcends the reasoning buddhi in its ascent towards the supreme Truth and finds for itself a higher vehicle and expression in the prajna.  Through the higher workings of prajna, the devotee now comes to the threshold of the next fundamental realization of the Sanatan Dharma: that the atman is indeed Ishvara, the Divine, and in finding the atman, one finds Ishvara.  The Divine in Hindu Dharma What is the nature and attributes of Ishvara, God or the Divine in Hindu darshan and dharma? The first Upanishadic pronouncement on the nature of the Supreme God of Hinduism is that the Supreme God — param Ishvara — is unknowable by mind and indescribable by human thought or speech, it is anirvacniya, that which cannot be thought or spoken of. Param Ishvara is Truth itself, Sat, and can only be known by becoming one in consciousness with Sat, what the sages call knowledge through identity. The human seeker or devotee can indeed identify with that param Ishvara only because that param Ishvara already dwells in the consciousness of living beings.  Having stated that Ishvara can only be known inwardly through identification in consciousness, the Upanishadic seers then attempt to describe Ishvara through a series of mahavakyas, defining pronouncements or maxims of Hindu darshan (literally, maha, great; vakya, pronouncement or statement). These mahavakyas are aphoristic pronouncements with profound mantric power — if rightly analyzed, meditated upon and assimilated, each of these mahavakyas can take the disciple to the essential truths and realizations of the deeper Hindu Dharma.  Ishvara is seated in the heart of all living beings is one such mahavakya which opens the gateway to the profoundest mysteries of the Dharma. Having realized the truth of the mahavakya in one’s inner experience, the devotee moves on to the realization that not only is Ishvara seated in the heart as one’s atman, as Supreme Brahman, It (He or She in a more personal sense) pervades and fills the whole manifested universe. Not only this, the deeper truth is even more compelling — that this manifested universe with all its infinite variations of form is nothing but Brahman.  Sarvam khalvidam brahma, this Upanishadic mahavakya, takes us right to the heart of the Dharma. From the Chandogya Upanishad, sarvam khalvidam brahman literally means that all this — all that is manifest and unmanifest, all that is known, not-known  and not-knowable — is equally Brahman, the Divine.  Gleaned from across the span of the Upanishads, one can attempt at least a working approximation of Brahman: Brahman (from the root brh, expand) is unlimited, without dimension or boundary, infinite and eternal: akshayam, sarvam, anantam, nityam. Brahman, as the all-transcendent, parabrahman, is beyond all manifestation, and as atman and Ishvara, is immanent in all manifestation.   That which the human mind cannot know, nor the senses apprehend, is Brahman, jnanatita, sarva-indriyatita; Brahman is that which cannot be described in any human language, cannot be brought into thought or speech, anirvacniya. Brahman as the Supreme Self, purushottama, is the Knower of all that is and can be known, the Seer of all that is and can be seen; the consciousness of all that is conscious and can be made conscious. Brahman, as param Ishvara, is the Supreme Godhead, the source and end of all that is, was and ever shall be; the all-pervasive, sarvavyapi, that which saturates the Universe, sarvam brahmamayam jagat; that which is the substratum of all being and becoming, mula adhara, the background of all experience, is Brahman; Brahman is the very fabric of space and time; the all-Perfect, purnam, the perfect peace and knowledge: shantam, jnanam. Not only does Brahman pervade all as the Vast, the brihat, it even penetrates into the minuscule, the subtlest — into the smallest particle of matter and pulsation of energy, into the very cells and nuclei of life, even into the subtlest movements of consciousness, right down to our subtlest thoughts and intentions, all is pervaded and informed by Brahman. If Brahman were to withdraw, even for the most infinitesimal fraction of a second, all this that we know as the manifest universe would simply vanish into nothingness. But even after having attempted such a description of Brahman in such superlatives, it still eludes human understanding, remains unexplained and unknowable, for if Brahman is all there is, if there’s none or nothing outside of Brahman, then who is there to know Brahman? Brahman, being the all-consciousness and all-existence, is the only Knower, so how shall the Knower be known?  Several Hindu sages have declared this point as the final cul-de-sac: none can go further with the existing mental machinery and the weight of mental knowledge. All knowledge, all thinking and reasoning must now be abandoned. This is the culmination of the Vedas as we know it — vedanta.  Vedantic Hinduism Tat twam asi Even before we can fully comprehend this stupendous idea of Brahman, the all-pervading Infinite Consciousness surrounding, possessing and filling us like some invisible ocean, we come to another equally awesome idea that this Infinite Sea of Consciousness, this Brahman, is what we, in our essence, actually are. Tat twam asi — a resounding Upanishadic mahavakya states unequivocally that the human (twam, you), in her inmost atmic truth of being, is Brahman, the Divine (tat, That; asi, are).  At first, most would baulk at such a pronouncement: for who amongst us can hold the thought of being Brahman for even a few seconds without the mind crashing? The human mind pushes outward, the truths it seeks are always outside, somewhere high up in some remote heaven. Men can have faith easily in a remote God in the high heavens but to believe (and live) the truth that one is God oneself in one’s inmost depths is somehow too farfetched. Yet, this is the profound truth of Hindu dharma: that the Vast and Infinite Brahman is the same atman within the cave of the heart. This atman, says another profound Upanishadic mahavakya, is that Brahman: ayam atma brahman.  But to know oneself as Brahman one must first enter those sublime depths of being where the atman shines through in all its radiance, one must leave behind all the dross of the human world, all its din and tumult, and learn to live, more and more, in a silence unbroken even by thought.  In that silence, that inner chamber of the temple to Brahman, one experiences the inner alchemy as one’s knowledge of the mind, jnana, ripens into sraddha, the creative force of faith that can bring into reality whatever one holds in one’s mind and heart with sincerity and unwavering perseverance; sraddha is a psychic force for realization, and with sraddha, all things become possible.  Sri Krishna explains sraddha to Arjuna in these words: The faith of each man takes the shape given to it by his stuff of being, O Bharata. This Purusha, this soul in man, is, as it were, made of sraddha, a faith, a will to be a belief in itself and existence, and whatever is that will, faith or constituting belief in him, he is that and that is he[3]. Sraddha then is the creative force that transforms knowledge into faith, devotion and surrender to that which one seeks to become. The completion or purnata of Hindu dharma happens naturally when jnana or knowledge (the mind’s knowing) transforms through sraddha into bhakti, love and devotion, and flows out spontaneously into karma, action as inner sacrifice to the Divine. These three, jnana, bhakti and karma, are the three pillars of Sanatan Hindu dharma. Through these three streams, the devotee realizes her identity with the Supreme Being, Brahman as Purushottama.  Anubhava, the Unfolding of the Experience In small measures, in ever so subtle and simple ways, the devotee realizes that there is no object of knowledge out there, there is only the Knower and the knowing; and there too, there is no duality, for the knowing is only Self-knowing. She begins to understand, ever more practically, that the world or universe she believed to be outside of herself is not outside at all: it is all one’s own reflection. There is no outside or inside: there are only reflections. The so-called world “out there” is a mirror of consciousness, and all one sees and experiences there is Self. In a more fundamental sense, the so-called objective world is only a mode of Self-knowing. The devotee then truly begins to see, his vision passes beyond the gross into the subtle reality of things and beings, and he develops a new way of seeing, what our seers called sukshma drishti, the subtle vision. It’s not that the world becomes subtle, the world remans what it is; it is one’s perception that begins to discern the subtle in the gross, the spirit in matter, the true in the mithya.  This subtle perception, sukshma drishti, sees beyond the appearance of multiplicity and sees the One Self everywhere, in all, from oneself spreading outward through all of the known universe. The best description of this perception comes, perhaps, from Sri Ramakrishna who once said, do you know what I see now? I see that it is God Himself who has become all this. It seems to me that men and other beings are made of leather, and that it is He Himself who, dwelling inside these leather cases, moves the hands, the feet, the heads. I had a similar vision once before when I saw houses, gardens, roads, men, cattle — all made of One substance; it was as if they were all made of wax.  This subtle seeing begins of course with oneself: It is one’s own personal self that is the first veil or mask to fall away and reveal the true Face. It is only when we see our own personal form as a veil at once concealing and revealing the Self, regard our very act of perception as the conscious gaze of the Self seeing through “our” physical senses and knowing through our minds, that we begin to see through all outer faces and façades, and glimpse the one same Self gazing outward through all physical forms and embodiments. It is like seeing in a different light: the face of the other becomes transparent and we begin to see the Self behind the face, and not really “behind” in a physical sense but we see the outer physical face as a mere superimposition on the true Face which is more of a countenance, an expression, and not a physical shape at all. The outer physical face, the form or rupa, is still there but the True Face is so clear in the background that we no longer pay attention to the outer face. The outer face is a façade, a mask, which becomes increasingly transparent to the growing inner vision of the One in all forms. This is what Hindu darshan calls the advaita bhava, the sense of non-duality in multiplicity. It is this bhava that is the practical basis for living the Hindu dharma.    When the Hindu therefore says ahimsa paramo dharma, non-violence is the supreme dharma, he does not mean it as a moral injunction or an intellectual idea: he means it practically and concretely; since he sees the one Divine in all forms, how can he not be non-violent? The Hindu does not seek to propagate non-violence as an ideal: he seeks to eliminate the last tendency of violence, from the grossest, the most physical to the subtlest psychological, from all parts of his being; in other words, he seeks to embody ahimsa. Likewise, when he speaks of truthfulness and sincerity, it is not from the moralistic or intellectual standpoint at all; in these too he seeks to embody truth not because he has an intellectual conception of it but because he lives it in anubhava: these are for him aspects of an integral experience to be lived.  Thus, to know Brahman as this universe, in all its details, and to know the self as Brahman, and to know all other forms, all selves, as the same Brahman, is the threefold dharma of the Hindu. This is the Dharma that was given the name Sanatan by the ancient seers and sages. This Sanatan Dharma, known today as Hindu dharma or Hinduism, is the actualization of the Divine in humanity’s mind, life and body. This Sanatan Dharma knows no outsider, no alien; none can be permanently hostile to the Dharma for in all, even in that which appears antithetical to Dharma, adharmik, there dwells the same Divine, the same Truth. Therefore the Hindu, standing firm on the realizations of Sanatan Dharma, can say that Truth or Dharma will finally prevail — satyameva jayate.  Those who choose to walk the path of the Dharma, not merely profess to be religious, those who can free themselves of the gravitational pull of their egoistic consciousnesses and give themselves in mind, heart and body to the demands of the Dharma, those who can walk boldly the Upanishadic path, ascending peak upon peak of human consciousness in their relentless quest for Truth, Light and Bliss are the ones who will emerge victorious in the eternal Light. These indeed are the children of Immortality, amritasya putra, who alone have the spiritual right to carry forth the Sanatan Dharma from age to age. 1ईश्वरः सर्वभूतानां हृद्देशेऽर्जुन तिष्ठति। भ्रामयन्सर्वभूतानि यन्त्रारूढानि मायया।।— Bhagavad Gita, 18.61 2From the Maha Upanishad — अयं बन्धुरयंनेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् / उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् — The distinction this person is mine, and this one is not is made only by those who live in Ignorance and duality. For those of ‘noble conduct’, who have realized the Supreme Truth and have transcended the multiplicity of the world, the whole world is one family. 3सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत। श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्धः स एव सः।। Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 3. The rendering of this verse in English quoted above is Sri Aurobindo’s. [Continues next week]
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Reflections on Hinduism (3)

The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Veda Secret in the Heart There is a practice of Hinduism, similar to most other religions, that leads the mind outward, towards an external God, through external forms of worship, sacrifice and offerings. Sri Aurobindo once referred to this as the Hinduism that takes its stand on the kitchen[1]. This is the outer shell of mystical Hinduism and needed for a certain class of followers who still live largely in a material and externalized consciousness. Mystical Hinduism, the Hinduism that seeks God in the soul, turns the mind inward and through layers of ever-deepening introspection and reflection leads to meditativeness, dhyana, and spiritual realization and knowledge, jnana. There are two distinctive steps through which mystical Hinduism leads the follower to dhyana and jnana: Study and contemplation of Shastra Practice of Yoga The study of the shastras is not merely an intellectual or academic pursuit but a thorough and systematic intellectual and psychological training of the mind of the seeker to receive and assimilate the higher knowledge of darshan and Dharma. This training proceeds from listening and reading, through discussion and debate, to rigorous contemplation and self-reflection. The training culminates in deep concentration and identification with the subject or object of study.  This extensive training of the mind through the study and assimilation of the shastras opens the seeker’s mind to the depths and heights of Hindu darshan (closest English word, philosophy) and prepares her for living the Dharma. Note that the seeker is not brought to the dharma without a thorough preparation in darshan. Darshan paves the way for the true flowering of Dharma.  Darshan, though translated as philosophy, is not to be understood only as a pursuit of intellectual knowledge or abstract reasoning but intellectual formulations of spiritual experiences and realizations. The word darshan itself means seeing (from the root dṛś, to see), and is therefore concerned with what one can directly experience, realize, see and know. The most learned and wisest of Hindu sages are regarded as seers, drashtas (from the same root dṛś), and not thinkers. In spite of a plethora of metaphysical interpretations and commentaries that exist in Hindu darshan, the unremitting focus remains on what can be known and realized in direct experience, anubhava. The theoretician and the scholar bows to the one with anubhava; this is the inviolable protocol. That which cannot be experienced and realized is not worth knowing. The overarching purpose of darshan and shastra in Hindu Dharma is to bring the seeker to the realization of the highest Truth knowing which all else in known. This is the ultimate knowing, the param Satyam (param, from para, means supreme or transcendental; Satyam is Truth) or the Supreme Truth. This knowledge of the Supreme Truth is known as paramarthika jnana in Hinduism. The closest English translation of paramarthika jnana would be knowledge of absolute Truth.  Though paramarthika jnana or the knowledge of absolute Truth is the ultimate concern of the shastras, it is not the only one. The shastras lead the seeker through the lower strata of knowledge to the higher — through the knowledge of the world and the universe (vyavharika jnana) and the knowledge of one’s own mind and its workings (pratibhasik jnana) to the absolute. Thus, the shastras provide an integral knowledge because Truth is integral in Hindu Dharma — the absolute Truth does not exclude the truths of world and self.  The source of the integral knowledge of the shastras were the numberless sages and seers of Hindu Dharma, each of whom had scaled the heights of spiritual realization and had identified themselves with the highest Truth. None of them claimed to “know” the truths or the Truth through reading or hearsay: each of them stood on the solid ground of personal experience and realization; their knowledge was not derived but directly apprehended and lived.  Because the shastras were given or revealed directly by those mighty sages of old, the Hindu Dharma and darshan are nurtured still by their timeless spirit and life force; the prana that runs through the shastras and the darshan can still awaken and transform any mind or soul that may approach the Dharma with faith, humility and surrender. Shastra to Darshan Shastra is the first line of transmission from the Seer or the Rishi to the aspirant, and is relevant only insofar as it can carry the living truth of the Seer’s realization to the seeker’s mind and soul; for shastra to reach darshan, it must be able to connect to the seeker’s inmost being and awaken there a soul resonance, as of a living guide. No written scripture, obviously, can do this. The written scripture, the external shastra, must open the seeker to another and deeper level of itself, a revealed or inner shastra, the Veda secret in the heart. The outer shastra can only lead effectively to a point, beyond which it necessarily becomes intellectual. This is the point where the seeker exhausts the need for scriptural guidance and is ripe in spirit for a living intervention of a Guru. It is at this point, by the touch of the Guru, or by the increasing pressure and intensity of the aspiration, the inner shastra begins to unfold, reveal itself through gradual or rapid movements. The outer shastra, then, ploughs the mental terrain, as it were, sowing the seeds of insight, intuition and realization. The Vedas and the Upanishads are perhaps the finest examples of the outer shastra ploughing and preparing the mind to receive the higher illumination. The Vedas are the oldest extant scriptures of the Hindu Dharma while the Upanishads, only some of which survive, are generally regarded as the Vedanta, culmination and fruition of the Vedas (anta meaning end or culmination). Both, the Vedas and the Upanishads, are mantric in quality — their intent is not to inform but to invoke and evoke. The Truth cannot be taught or learnt since it is inherent in the human consciousness, seeded in its depths, waiting to be called out to surface. This calling out — evoking and invoking — are the essential functions of the Shastra. All the philosophical explanations and debates are secondary, and meant mainly to reinforce the evocation and the invocation. Mantra is that which evokes and invokes. The word is a sound expressive of the idea. In the supra-physical plane when an idea has to be realised, one can by repeating the word-expression of it, produce vibrations which prepare the mind for the realisation of the idea. That is the principle of the Mantra, says Sri Aurobindo[2]. The key to reading the shastra is therefore in grasping the mantric nature of the shastra — not to read it as mere scripture for intellectual or moral edification but to approach it as a dynamic meditation for invoking the Spirit or the Truth within oneself, as if actually reading the words seated in the proximity of the Master, imbibing from the Master not only the import of the word but the living vibrations of the spirit. It is only then that the shastra transforms from written or spoken word, Vak or Logos, to revelation, shruti or apokalupsis. Once the seeker begins to resonate with the shruti (that which is heard and revealed to the inner ear) concealed in the shastra, she is ready for transition from darshan to Yoga, from seeing to becoming, identifying. Darshan to Yoga Yoga is union and identification with the object of one’s seeking. The culmination of all Truth-seeking is in union and identification with Truth, becoming of Truth-consciousness, no longer subject to falsehood or ignorance. The shastra to be true to its spirit and intent must bring the seeker to Yoga through anubhava (direct perception and experience). The first step towards this is the invocation and evocation of the spirit of the shastra in the seeker; then, as the spirit of the shastra comes alive in the seeker, the progressive awakening of the shastra within, the Truth seeded in the depths of the consciousness, what Sri Aurobindo calls the Veda secret in the heart. Sri Aurobindo, describing the shastra of the Integral Yoga writes — the supreme Shastra of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being. The lotus of the eternal knowledge and the eternal perfection is a bud closed and folded up within us. It opens swiftly or gradually, petal by petal, through successive realizations, once the mind of man begins to turn towards the Eternal. The eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being is the culmination of all shastras: the rising from deep within of the eternal Truth in the wordless silence of intuition and inner revelation, transcending word and awaking through the vibrations of pure mantra the soul or psychic in the seeker. Thus the seeker comes through the written word of the shastra to the eternal Truth of his or her being. This is the Vedanta. Only when the seeker has thus come to her truth of being, has become a faithful disciple of the self-revealing Veda in her heart, and when all other external supports of religion have dropped off, that she realizes the Dharma within and truly becomes an embodiment of Dharma, sakshat dharma. One no longer needs to ‘practice’ Dharma, then: one is Dharma, one is the shastra. These are not metaphors — when I say one becomes the Dharma or the shastra, that is precisely what it means: one has become identified in consciousness with the Truth of the Dharma and the shastra, one has become a living and conscious instrument, nimitta, of the Dharma. As nimitta (nimittamātra, the mere agent or instrument), it is the wisdom and will of the Dharma that manifests through the consciousness of the instrument, and the personal will is either eliminated or made entirely subservient to the higher will and wisdom. Do bear in mind that Dharma is synonymous with Ishvara, the Divine and realizing Dharma within oneself is the same as realizing Ishvara, the indwelling Divine, within oneself: there is no duality between the two. One realizes the essence of Dharma and Shastra within oneself and becomes one with them. This is indeed a siddhi (fulfillment) for the disciple of the Dharma, an attainment of his Yoga. In the mystical and yogic sense, Dharma then is the manifestation of Ishvara in life and action, and Shastra is the knowledge body of Ishvara. Ishvara can manifest only through a fruition of the two in the disciple’s consciousness and not through the worship of external form and sacrifice to external authority. It is because of these deeper spiritual truths that it can be said of Hindu shastras that no shastra is fixed or final, and of its preceptors and prophets that no human preceptor or prophet is infallible or final. Truth, Dharma or Shastra must finally grow and manifest in the awakened human consciousness, and as consciousness is timeless, its manifestation must be timeless too. Because the Dharma cannot be limited to time, place or person, because its fruition happens in timeless consciousness, the ancients referred to the Dharma as eternal — sanatan dharma. The whole purpose of Dharma is to prepare human consciousness to receive and manifest the Supreme Truth; to become, over time, Truth-consciousness itself. Only when human consciousness becomes Truth consciousness will the work of Dharma be done and human beings will surpass Dharma and ascend into a purer and wider supramental being where Dharma will become natural and spontaneous, like breathing. But that is still a distant and high peak hidden in the mist and clouds of time. 1There are two Hinduisms; one which takes its stand on the kitchen and seeks its Paradise by cleaning the body; another which seeks God, not through the cooking pot and the social convention, but in the soul. (Sri Aurobindo: The Harmony of Virtue) 2Read More: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Mantra
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Reflections On Hinduism (2)
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Reflections on Hinduism (2)

The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Infinite Beyond Hindu dharma has a deep mystical core that rises like sap into the various branchings of the dharma. Without understanding the mystical core, we lose the true Hinduism and end up with the external chaff of rituals and rules.  The mystical core, the very heart, of Hinduism is the Vedantic idea of Brahman, the One Supreme Truth that manifests as Cosmos, as matter, life and consciousness. All is Brahman, sarvam brahmeti,  is the ruling mantra of Hindu dharma’s mystic core. If we were to peel off all the layers of what is popularly known as Hindu religion, and reduce all its varied and divergent philosophies and practices to one fundamental idea, what we would have is Brahman.  The word brahman in Sanskrit simply implies expansion (root: bṛh, to expand; therefore, that which expands). Brahman is not to be confused with Brahmin, a caste nomenclature. The English equivalent for Brahman would be the Divine, the Supreme.  Thus, when the Hindu says that all is the Divine, he is stating what all other religions state: that the Divine is omnipresent, and all is the Divine. But the Hindu dharma goes a step beyond with this and states further that there is nothing else but the Divine, neha nanasti kinchan. Nothing else, in fact, is needed: idam purnam, this is perfect and complete.  This one central idea of the Hindu dharma pervades all of Hinduism, all of its philosophical and metaphysical streams, its darshan, its scriptures, its processes and practices, its gods and goddesses, its art and architecture, its culture and literature, even its social customs and rituals.  This ‘idea’ of Brahman is, however, not intellectual; Brahman is not metaphysical speculation or even intuitive reasoning — it is a Truth directly experienced and lived by innumerable sages and prophets, the Maharishis and Yogis, of Hindu tradition, those who have been, through the generations, the forerunners and exemplars of the Hindu dharma. None amongst them, not even those regarded as the greatest, the most advanced, have even once claimed that their realizations were absolute and final and could not be attempted by any other. On the contrary, each of them went to tremendous lengths, as preceptors and guides, to explain the path, the discipline, the methodology to attain to such realizations. These paths, disciplines and methodologies are the Yogas of Hindu dharma. Yoga (from the root yuj, meaning to join) literally implies union, union with the Divine, with the Supreme Truth.  This is yet another driving ideas, idee-force, of Hinduism: that all humans have the spiritual right or adhikara, to attain to the highest and deepest realizations of the Hindu dharma; none is excluded, none is unworthy. The only precondition for realization is the psychological preparedness of the seeker, his or her sincerity, willingness to follow the path, for the Yogas are exacting and all-consuming.  Consider further that if Brahman is the sole existence, and there is none else, if all that is manifest (and not yet manifest) is that Brahman, then the seeker, the devotee too is Brahman. Not only that, each living being, every life form, every animate and inanimate object in the universe, is Brahman. The logic is inescapable: everything and everyone is that Brahman; and if so, then where and how does one search for Brahman? Who, in fact, searches, and who is the sought? Is it not all the same?  This is where the seeker comes to the mystic core: the realization that Brahman cannot be sought nor found, as long as one functions out of human mind and consciousness. The human mind and consciousness is still rooted in the falsehood, and glimpses Truth only through several filters of falsehood. The Hindu sages called this condition Ignorance, avidya (root word is vid, to know). Human beings are not born in sin and are not automatons in the hands of an all-powerful God. The only ontological issue is spiritual ignorance, or more precisely, ignorance of one’s spiritual source.  According to Hindu dharma, since all is Brahman, the source of the universe, and of all humans in it, is also Brahman. Not knowing that one arises from Brahman (and one will subside in Brahman) is the root, the ontological, Ignorance. And this ignorance, avidya, can be overcome by deep and sustained self-enquiry into the nature of being and becoming and delving into the depths of one’s own consciousness. The depths, or heart, of one’s consciousness conceals the Truth of not only self but the universe. This heart of consciousness is known as the Atman in Hindu dharma. Next to Brahman, atman is the only other central idea and idee-force of Hinduism, because the atman is that faculty within us that bridges the Ignorance and the Truth. To know one’s atman is the first supreme attainment of Hindu dharma; and to know the atman as Brahman, one in identity, is the other supreme attainment of Hindu dharma. Attaining these two supreme realizations is indeed the first fruition of Hindu dharma in its devotee or disciple.  But it is still ‘first fruition’ because even these supreme realizations are not the end of the path; as Sri Aurobindo says, these are in fact the beginning of the higher ascent to Truth. One may consider these two supreme attainments as the base camp for the ascent to the Everest of Supreme Truth.  Such is the vast and mighty sweep of Hindu dharma and darshan. And such indeed is its simple premise, so trenchantly formulated through the centuries, that there is no end-point of the evolution of consciousness, no final judgment day; there is only a continual going beyond, because Truth is infinite, like Brahman. As one nears the Everest, the Everest recedes. Anyone who has ever managed to scale such heights of spiritual realization has always come to the one question that Hindu dharma or darshan has no answer to: Is there an end, a final consummation of it all?  Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth Century, one who undoubtedly scaled the supreme heights of Vedic realization, said from his timeless vantage point that there was still an infinite beyond.  The ancient Vedic Rishis, when confronted by the same mystery, resolved it in a simpler way: that it was anirvachaniya — that which transcends thought and speech. 
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Dharma
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Reflections on Hinduism

Hinduism. . . gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Santana Dharma . . . Sri Aurobindo, India’s Rebirth Hinduism and the Future Can a religion evolve over time, revise its fundamentals, and respond creatively to new conditions and demands? Or is religion to be forever bound to its initial conditions, forever repeating revelations and beliefs of its founder or founders? If humanity evolves in consciousness over time, should religions not evolve as well? Do religions have an evolutionary relevance for humanity? The answers to all these very important questions will depend largely on how a religion has originated and evolved over time so far; and how its followers have been able, or allowed, to use the religion in their own personal spiritual quests and journeys.  For the purposes of our analysis, we will be classifying religions as either static or dynamic. A static religion is one that is organized around a central and more or less fixed belief system originating directly from its founder or founders; a dynamic religion is one that is mystical / spiritual and does not adhere to a particular belief system or values.  A dynamic religion is therefore evolutionary while static religions are conservative. But this is not always entirely true. In reality, things are more nuanced. No religion is either wholly dynamic or wholly static: all religions have some evolutionary elements and possibilities and some conservative elements and practices. What makes a religion dynamic is how the evolutionary and the conservative are balanced in application and practice, what is emphasized and what is de-emphasized over time. Responsiveness and adaptability would be significant markers of a dynamic, evolutionary religion, whereas rigidity and strict adherence would be markers of a static and conservative religion.  In the initial sections of this article, we shall explore the Hindu dharma to see what its evolutionary possibilities are and whether it can remain spiritually relevant for a 21st Century humanity.  Hinduism and Evolution: Can a religion evolve over time? If a religion is bound to a particular sacrosanct tradition or infallible theology, a particular prophet, messiah or scripture, then obviously it cannot. For a religion to evolve, it must also necessarily be able to outgrow several of its traditional beliefs and practices. There can be no real growth without a certain outgrowing of forms and formulations no longer relevant or meaningful to those who follow the religion.  For a religion to evolve, it must keep the spirit of enquiry as its principal value and experiential spiritual knowledge as its core.  Hinduism is arguably the one religion that has the potential of evolving into newer forms and bodies of experience and knowledge more suited to a humanity of the 21st Century. And it can do so precisely because Hinduism has grown as a religion only by a constant revision and evolution over ~5000 years of its existence.  Hinduism, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, has always been a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. This is how Hinduism, as a vast and varied body of spiritual knowledge, has grown over the years: by continuously enlarging itself, emphasizing an uncompromising spirit of enquiry instead of strict adherence to belief, and insisting on Truth instead of dogma.  Direct spiritual experience has always been valued more in Hinduism than dogmatic beliefs and scriptural references. Shruti (what is revealed and heard) and sakshatkara (direct seeing and knowing) have always been profoundly important in the Hindu tradition and preferred over any other source or authority. It must however be noted here that shruti, direct intuitive and spiritual revelation, is a dynamic ongoing process. What is revealed to one Rishi (seer, sage or prophet) can be superseded by what is revealed to another, at a later time or even contemporaneously. The Hindu dharma has always unambiguously stated that no one seer or prophet can have the final or last word. Consciousness is a dynamic and ever-evolving process and there can be no single end-product of such a process. No seer or prophet can be the final word, but every seer and prophet of Hindu dharma is a necessary link, a stepping stone, to the Supreme Truth. Each seer and prophet is a facilitator, a teacher and guide, and each has his or her place in the Hindu scheme of things.  It is true that the Hindu dharma has its scriptures, but it is not bound to any of its scriptures, it considers no scripture infallible as it considers no teacher or seer infallible. Fallibility, in fact, is a basic assumption of the Hindu dharma. As long as one lives in relative ignorance, and as long as one has not become completely identified and one with the Supreme Truth Consciousness, one will always be fallible. The only “infallible authority” the Hindu dharma acknowledges and reveres is the Divine Truth within, the Inner Teacher and Guru, the Indwelling Divine or Ishvara. This is important to understand: the final spiritual authority is the Truth within, Sat, accessible by anyone willing to devote his or her energies sincerely to this endeavor. It makes no difference to the Truth whether the seeker is low caste or high caste, atheist or believer, born into Hinduism or born into some other faith — Truth is Truth, and all human beings have equal access to it regardless of time or place.  If this be the central tenet of the Hindu dharma, then it implies that the source of the dharma is living and dynamic and cannot be fossilized within a historic structure or tradition.  This has enormous implications. For one, no true disciple of the Hindu dharma can quote scripture or teacher to block debate, dissent and revision; however exalted and advanced a teacher or Guru may be, the final arbiter is always the Inmost. This is the reason why, at a Vedanta conference in Madras, during a debate on a certain scriptural point, when a pundit objected to Vivekananda making an assertion because it was not sanctioned by authority, Vivekananda could retort, “But I, Vivekananda, say so!” This is also the reason why Sri Aurobindo, one of the foremost exponents and exemplars of Hinduism, one who is widely regarded as a Maharishi in the Hindu tradition, could take Hinduism beyond its scriptural and traditional boundaries and extend its scope far beyond even what was attained and declared by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, inarguably one of the most revered texts for Hindus anywhere in the world.  As expected, the traditional orthodox interpreters and followers of the Hindu dharma could not stomach Sri Aurobindo’s bold innovations and criticized him openly for claiming that his Yoga was “beyond” all that was hitherto attained by all of the past Hindu Gurus and avatars.  Not only that, Sri Aurobindo also indicated, more than once, that the Hindu tradition of avatars (Divine Incarnations) was not a finished thing, there was no concept of the last avatar in Hinduism. As long as there shall be an evolutionary need for avatars, so long shall avatars be born upon earth.  Hinduism then contains the possibilities of further evolution — it has evolved so far through its foremost practitioners through the ages, and shall continue to do so, regardless of what the traditionalists feel. Whether the orthodox Hindu (Hinduism permits and absorbs within itself both the orthodox and the heretic, the traditionalist and the modernist) likes it or not, Hinduism is a dynamic and creative religion, not a static one. This is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and most other world religions.  Hinduism is dynamic and creative primarily because it is a spiritual and mystical religion at the core. A spiritual religion, by definition, must follow the soul, the spirit in man; it cannot be the other way round where the spirit follows or is constrained to follow the religion. A religion that claims precedence over the spirit becomes external and non-spiritual; and a non-spiritual religion will inevitably become subservient to external authority (of the scripture, priest and the church) and will not allow the freedom of spiritual quest and expression to its followers. Any individual spirituality outside the theological or ecclesiastical confines of the religion will be regarded as heretical or blasphemous.  A spiritual or mystical religion, on the other hand, cannot have any theological or ecclesiastical confines as that would be a contradiction in terms. The soul in its quest for Truth will soar beyond all outer forms and formulations, as the Truth it seeks is infinitely beyond anything that even the vastest and wisest mind can conceive. Thus, as the consciousness evolves, so must the religion. As the Vedas and the Vedanta reveal: Truth is vast, brihat, encompassing and transcending all space and time, and cannot thus be contained in any one timeframe, however cosmic that timeframe may be. Not only is it vast or brihat, it is universal and supra-cosmic, encompassing and transcending the entire cosmos, and thus cannot be contained by any one human sect, society, nation or religion. To claim that a particular community, faith or nation possesses this Truth would be like a sea wave claiming that it possesses the entire sea.  Hinduism is a spiritual and mystical religion because the source of Hindu thought and dharma is the eternal, living Truth of the soul or the spirit; and it is mystical because its entire body of knowledge and practice derives from direct and intuitive spiritual and yogic experience.  Thus, being spiritual and mystical at the core, Hinduism can, and indeed must, evolve into a religion in alignment with the needs and demands of a future humanity. It must not only be progressive but radical in accelerating the pace of human evolution. If this does not happen, Hinduism too, like most other world religions, will soon become obsolete and irrelevant, and die out in a few generations.  To stay dynamic and relevant, Hinduism must remain true to its core and spirit, and be open to change and revision, be willing to outgrow many of its past formulations and abandon many of its old dogmas, practices and beliefs.  Hinduism will need to preserve and revivify its Sanatan core, its deep and vast Vedic and Vedantic knowledge; and it will need to reach out into an equally vast evolutionary future, the seeds of which it hides in its heart as its supreme and final mystery — rahasyam uttamam.
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श्रद्धाशक्ति तथा भविष्य निर्माण
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Agni Purusha, Being of The Fire

Creating The Future & The Power of Belief There are those who are not content being what they are or doing what they are doing. You can make them out quite easily: they stand out with their intensity of being, their restlessness, their quiet defiance of all that is established and accepted. You cannot fit them into neatly labelled categories. They are also not nice people to know. They provoke, they attack. But they are also very humble, and very vulnerable in their humility.   Very often, their discontent arises not from failure or apprehension of failure but, ironically, from  success. The more they do things well, the more they are acknowledged to be good in their work, the more they grow disenchanted. This is disenchantment that drives them towards higher heights, deeper depths. They do not rest till they have driven themselves to their utmost. You find them in every field: sports, business, art, media, even religion. I call them “beings of the Fire”.  Many years ago I had met an old mystic in the Himalayas who had told me that the earth survives on spiritual fire, the fire that is at the core of the sun and in the core of our being — he had called it Agni. Without this Agni, he had said, the earth dissipates into cold death and life into cold night. All life and consciousness is the blaze of this Cosmic Fire, the Agni in the soul. Now the time has come, he had told me in grave and intense syllables, for the balance to be tilted, one way or the other: the dark and cold night or the Sacred Blaze, the Fire.  “And who tilts the balance, Baba?” I had asked in my timorous innocence.  “You,” he had replied, without hesitation, with force and meaning, “You and those like you who have the courage to seek, the courage to call, the courage to demand from life nothing but the highest!” “But we are seekers, we don’t know, we don’t even know if what we demand is real..” “No,” the old mystic had said, “You are beings of the Fire. Agni Purusha. Those like you will keep the Sun alive. Or else, it will be death and darkness!”  It is this Fire that is at the heart of human existence, the shakti, the force, that animates all life towards more growth, more consciousness, more life. This is the fire of evolution.  It took me many years and much inner labour to even begin to understand the words of that old Himalayan mystic.  But when I did begin to understand, I began to seek out these Agni Purushas, these Beings of the Fire. First, of course, in myself; and then in others whom I’d meet.  One thing immediately became very clear: that such beings of the Fire are rare. They are like a different species, still very few, and very scarce. Probably like the first mammals must have been in the twilight age of the dinosaurs. It is the mediocre that dominate the world; those Bright and Radiant beings of the Fire retire into anonymity or renounce altogether this dismal world of ours. And they leave it, by sad default, to the mediocre. Generations go to waste, preoccupied with the banal, the inane, while the spirit of the earth rots.  Someone has to speak for the earth and for her spiritual truth. Now or never. Or else, we will lose our future to the careless and the wanton. Some angel in some imagined heaven will write our epitaph in the Bard’s words: ‘twas a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.  This is the decisive hour. This hour will tilt the balance. The hour of God, as Sri Aurobindo wrote. And what are we — the worthies of earth’s evolution — doing? Those who can act, labour, and create, have offered their souls to the all-pervading god of Money. Their very identity is related to material success and monetary gain. And those who can think, study, contemplate and teach, the philosophers and intellectuals,  are unable to inspire and lead by their philosophies and teachings. Somehow, the Fire is not in their Word. And so the young remain clueless about their own and their world’s futures. And the elders are lost in either nostalgia or cynicism.   The thinkers only talk, they have mastered that skill — and thank God for that, for at least something is mastered. The doers, the actors and the managers on the world-stage, only rush from one deadline to the next, clueless of what is happening and where they are headed. The doers have no time or patience for the thinkers; the thinkers, cynical to the marrow of their bone, distrust the clueless doer.  And so there is this great divide. The philosopher sits in his spacious armchair and smokes his metaphorical pipe, dreaming of some distant utopia. The doer struts and frets his brief apocalyptic hour on the stage, and then is heard no more! So, the question: Who shall lead? Or, to be more precise, what shall lead? The mind? But the mind is all confused, full of jargon and statistics, either too cynical to act or too carried away by its own all-consuming self-interest to care. The heart? But the heart is too timid, too hesitant to act decisively and potently: it has grown too old, too sad, too soon to affect anything real at all. In other words, mind and heart are both tottering and ineffectual. It must something else, then.   And that something else — may it not be the spirit, the soul that our gurus and seers hold as the supreme attainment? The Inner Wisdom of the Zen Master, the indwelling Buddha, the Inmost One of the Vedas? It really doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you believe in it, believe that something like that exists in you, a pure flame of consciousness, an unchanging source of wisdom, compassion and love that is independent of all circumstances and relationships. An unerring will, intention, and judgment that simply knows what is right and just and does not need to struggle with contending and contradictory pulls.  Believing this will be a first important step. And that, in itself, will be the beginning of the cure of that dreaded malady of cynicism that seems to have gripped everyone across cultures and societies: a crippling inability to believe in anything good or noble. And this is precisely the point where things come apart: for if we cannot believe, we cannot lead, inspire, or affect. The true cause of our collective impotence is this: that we cannot believe. We have become a society of non-believers, of cynics and sceptics; and following the inviolable law of life, we end up actualizing in our personal and collective lives what we hold in our expectations. So we get the worst because we expect the worst! We get the Devil because we cannot believe in Godhead, our religious sentiments notwithstanding.  So to create meaningful leadership, we must first create belief, faith, hope and confidence in ourselves, in our civilization, our culture, our human future. But this must not be the hope and confidence of mere positive thinking or self-hypnosis. This faith and belief, hope and confidence, must arise from a deeper source within, a deeper and truer consciousness, a surer and more luminous inner knowing and wisdom. In other words, we need to rediscover in ourselves spiritual faith: and spiritual faith does not mean faith in a god dwelling in some high heaven but faith in godhead in humanity: we need to believe that we ourselves are capable of the good, the true, the noble, and the beautiful.  Reflect on the fact that it is a lot easier to believe in a god dwelling in the high heavens than in a godhead dwelling in ourselves as our highest possibility. Believing in a  heavenly God can happily coexist with not believing in humanity. But to believe in the human, in myself and in you, demands extraordinary effort — the effort of understanding human nature, of accepting blunders and stupidity and still not losing hope, of refusing to surrender to mindless cynicism or heartless despair. Such effort implies a tremendous vision of our own future. And a tremendous understanding of human nature, a profound feel of human growth and possibility. After all, what does cynicism really mean?  Does it not simply mean that we have not delved deep enough into ourselves? That we have not understood the true significance of human life? That we are only skimming the surface, and believing what we see at the present moment to be all of the truth? It is like looking at an unfinished painting of an artist and dismissing it as bad work just because we do not know how the finished work will look like. At best, impatience; at worst, childish stupidity.  But to see the emerging whole in the struggling part, to glimpse the dawn in the darkest night or the perfect form in the uncarved stone, to imagine the flower in the closed seed, to feel the torrent in the trickle of a stream: these call for imagination, faith, insight, understanding, patience, humility. And, of course, a new way of seeing, a new kind of perception.  And this new kind of perception is no mystic mumbo-jumbo: it is a simple and practical way of re-looking at ourselves, our history, our possibility, our dynamically unfolding spiritual reality. It is a pragmatic way of reassessing the human story, the human narrative, of learning to understand deeper patterns, subtler nuances. I call this spiritual seeing: spiritual not in the religious sense at all but in the sense of immediate, direct, essential seeing; seeing without the veils of mental biases and emotional conditionings, social or cultural prejudices, personal or personality-driven blind-spots; seeing that is pure, an intuitive, non-intellectual direct perception of the essence rather than overt detail.  When you begin to see this way, you begin to notice details that you had never noticed before. Things fall in place like pieces of a cosmic puzzle. Meanings unfold, naturally and effortlessly. A wisdom dawns, a quiet light of understanding fills the hours of your days and nights, the very quality of your everyday life changes, and you begin to catch at least the first and tentative glimpses of the Wonderful in the mundane, the Splendour in the ordinary.  The sequence is simple: believe in that something in you, the Buddha within, the Wisdom, the Light of your own highest possibility; be attentive to it, and it will grow more and more conscious and concrete in your experience. Once that begins to happen, try to hold it more and more consciously in your everyday life and acts, in your thoughts and feelings.  It isn’t difficult. In fact, it  is much simpler than holding on to the things we usually hold on to, and it is infinitely more liberating.  Read in Hindi
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Editorial

A Perspective On Sanatan Dharma

India is an ancient civilization. In fact, it is the only civilization that has survived unbroken, and essentially unchanged, for nearly five thousand years. Much more than a nation, as understood in our modern geopolitical sense, India is a civilization arisen from a wide and profound quest for the deepest truths of human existence. Most civilizations in history have centered their existence around economic growth and geopolitical expansion. The Indian civilization has always been centered around the human quest for Truth, Knowledge and Immortality — satyam, jnanam, amritam. No other civilization we know of has pursued such a quest for Knowledge and Immortality with such relentless zeal. The Indian psyche, in its most essential sense, has been historically preoccupied with the philosophical and spiritual quest for Truth. In the early formative years of the Indian civilization and what may be called the Indian spiritual philosophy (darshan), the Indian mind had intuitively grasped that all existence is one indivisible continuous reality manifesting in all form and movement — the seed of the great philosophical system of Advaita Vedanta. Vedanta continues to this day an unbroken and unmodified psycho-spiritual tradition of self-enquiry and self-realization. The sciences, the mathematics, the arts, the poetry and literature, the mythology and the several religions that spread across the spectrum of Indian civilization all blossomed, in one way or another, from the seed of advaita Vedanta. Vedanta is also the base for Sanatan Dharma, the eternal Law of being, which is the core of what is widely known as the Hindu religion. Sanatan is eternal and universal — not subject to time, circumstances and change, nor limited to a particular geography, society or ideology; and dharma is the binding Law, the principle of being, without which a thing or a being would cease to exist as an independent or autonomous entity. Sanatan Dharma is not religion in the popular sense of the word. It is not a philosophical or ethical system to be “practiced”, though several philosophical and ethical systems have arisen from Sanatan Dharma. In itself and in its purity, Sanatan Dharma is the quest for the perfect Truth of being, Satyam, and its perfect manifestation and expression in living, Ritam. Satyam and Ritam therefore constitute the true basis and practice of Sanatan Dharma. And it must be noted that Satyam and Ritam are not philosophical, cultural or ethical concepts but truths to be realized and lived in the most mundane and practical sense. The realization of Satyam, Truth of being, and Ritam, Truth in becoming, are the twin foundations of Sanatan Dharma and Sanatan life. Without these, there can be no Sanatan Dharma or Sanatan life. This is a fundamental condition. Therefore, the realization of Truth (of being and in becoming) is the primary business of Sanatan Dharma, and all that can be thought and said of Sanatan Dharma must be in accordance with this, and must always refer back to this. In this sense, Sanatan Dharma cannot possibly belong to a particular culture or community. It is in this sense that Sanatan Dharma may be regarded as the base of Hinduism but not Hinduism itself. And equally, in this sense, Sanatan Dharma may be regarded as the true basis of any human religion. If we were to translate the original language in which Sanatan Dharma was first articulated into the English language, for instance, we would find no trace of any religious or cultural narrative in Sanatan Dharma at all. The phrase Sanatan Dharma itself would translate into Eternal Law or Principle. Taken out of its traditional Sanskritic settings, Sanatan Dharma could be perfectly expressed in completely secular and scientific language and understood in any human context. Sanatan thought is free of the idea of a single or only God or a single and definitive Scripture. In fact, there is not even the idea of God as the primary or ultimate being. Being itself is primary and ultimate and does not need a “God” to complete it. If one searches for a name of a Supreme God in Sanatan philosophy, one will find none. What one will find is the Sanskrit phrase Sat-Chit-Anand (usually written as a single word Satchidananda or Sacchidananda) as the ultimate description of Reality. Sat means Existence, Truth, or Reality; Chit refers to consciousness; Ananda means bliss, or the bliss of perfect fulfillment. This ‘perfect fulfillment’, is the flowering of the realization of oneself as Satchidananda, and is the peak realization of Sanatan Dharma, out of which all life and living, all values and rules, all relations and standards of conduct arise naturally and seamlessly. There is therefore no divine reality or truth out there, outside of oneself. All truth and reality, human or divine, is within. There are no heavens beyond: the within is the only heaven. There is no one scripture or teaching that tells one how to come to this fulfillment. There are many ways to come to it and none of the ways can be prescribed or described. Each one who wishes to come to this realization must find his or her own way. There is no priestly class or specific group of people appointed to lead the seeker towards this realization. There are facilitators, teachers, guides for sure, but the realization itself is accessible to any one who really wants it. With or without teachers and guides. This is the beauty of what we describe as the Sanatan dharma. धार्यते इति धर्म​That which upholds is Dharma
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Mahayuddha, The Great Battle

A dharma yuddha, unlike other battles fought on the ground, is mostly invisible and inaudible, it is waged in the depths of consciousness and engages ancient unseen forces that have always been on earth to resist the victory of Light and Truth.  Dharma is not religion but the creative force of Truth, and it has always struggled to maintain its foothold on earth, for human nature, still largely unregenerate and driven by forces of ignorance and egoism, opposes Truth in all possible ways.  The earth, as our ancients explained, is the field of evolution and therefore critical for both, the forces of Truth and those of Darkness and Ignorance. It is on earth alone that the consciousness can grow to its true heights and fathom its true depths; and for this, the noblest souls choose to be born on earth so that they can participate in the evolution. There are other planes of consciousness too besides earth, but those are all typal planes where the being neither evolves nor devolves. It is on earth alone that one can evolve to a perfect godlike consciousness, daivic, or devolve to a demonic one, asuric. Therefore the forces of Truth and Falsehood have been engaged in a timeless battle for supremacy on earth — for whichever force dominates earth will dominate evolution. If Falsehood were ever to dominate earth (no, in spite of all contrary appearances, it still does not), this universe would be one of falsehood where the Asuras would grow in stature and become the godheads of this Cosmos. Instead of a Rama or Krishna, we would have a Ravana or Kamsa presiding over the evolution of consciousness on earth.  This timeless great battle, the Mahayuddha, took a major and decisive turn in 1956 when the Supermind (Truth Consciousness, Vijnanamaya Shakti) descended into the earth atmosphere after ages of intense tapasya and spiritual struggle against the forces of evolution. The descent of the Truth Consciousness itself changed the course of the spiritual history of humanity decisively, irreversibly. But that did not mean that the victory of Truth was assured. On the contrary, the asuric forces intensified their energies and multiplied their efforts to push back the Truth, perhaps destroy it altogether.  However, Truth being what it is, it cannot be destroyed, but it can be pushed back, opposed and resisted, driven underground. And that is what is happening today, all around us, from global religious and political platforms to our homes and hearts, wherever even a trace of falsehood exists, there the battle rages, unseen and unsounded.  Make no mistake about this: each one of us is an instrument, a nimitta, in this great battle for earth. Which way the battle will go depends on how much of ourselves, our consciousnesses and will, we put into this battle, how much of our skin is in the game, how conscious and silent we can remain even as the battle rages furiously on.  But to fight, to be in the thick of this battle, to be effective and efficient instruments of the Truth in this pitched battle against cosmic, terrestrial and psychological falsehoods, there is a necessary preparation that all have to undergo, a secret Kshatriya training of old, a training as much spiritual as physical and psychological.   The true warrior of Light must be immersed in the Light first. None should allow even a shadow to be cast on one’s mind or heart. One has to have complete and unrelenting fidelity to Truth, to Light, to what our ancients called jyoti parasya. This is nothing short of tapasya but it needs to be enormously concentrated and hastened. We do not have the time for years of sadhana. These are times for intensification, concentrated acceleration. For this intensification and acceleration, two conditions are necessary: deep inner silence and absolute samata. Samata is equality of spirit, equality of mind and heart: there must not be the least inner disturbance, agitation or excitement. The warrior of Light must always wear a luminous armor. As Sri Krishna says to Arjuna: agitation obscures the Light. Remember, this is what the asuras around us want, to obscure our Light through contaminating our own inner state, by throwing into us their disturbances and excitements, their bitternesses and grievances, their soul-sapping selfishnesses and fears. Remember too that there is no way an asuric being can directly attack an armor of Light — they can only attack by using our consent and our will, which sometimes we too innocently and willingly give. Samata is a shield in this battle. None can pierce the shield of perfect samata. No matter how disturbing or hostile the circumstances, our equality of spirit must be firm, unshakeable, absolute. It is this shield that the Divine Master in us needs to wage this battle. Without this shield, even the Lord cannot fight. This shield of perfect samata is not too difficult if we understand the two elements needed to create it: an absolute faith in the Master, in Sri Krishna; and a vast surrender to Him. Nothing else is needed. With faith and a perfect surrender, the warrior can go through any battle unscathed.   Inner silence is the psychological condition for the battle. No thought must arise, no desire to destroy, no fear of being destroyed. The mind and heart must remain immutably calm, the being quiet and concentrated. With such an inner condition of silence, of unbreakable mauna, the warrior becomes one with the Force of Narayan working through him or her. This is our unseen battle, and this is the inner preparation needed. There is no time to waste. The stakes are high. But we have, on our side, the Shakti of the Truth Consciousness itself. 
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Reflections On Hinduism (6)

Shiva, The Great God On the white summit of eternity A single Soul of bare infinities, Guarded he keeps by a fire-screen of peace His mystic loneliness of nude ecstasy. (From Sri Aurobindo’s poem, Shiva) Shiva, in Hindu dharma, is perhaps the most evocative of mystical and Yogic representations of the Supreme Consciousness. Shiva, in fact, is the Supreme Consciousness, the eternal existent, Sat, and the eternal consciousness, Chit, out of which this whole manifestation arises and into which it finally resolves.  Yogis regard Shiva as the absolute nothingness out of which all existence arises. Shiva, as Void, is the supracosmic womb of all being, the primordial seed of the universes; it is in Shiva that Shakti, as infinite potential for prakriti, rests; for Shiva is unmanifest, avyaktam, till Shakti awakens and moves, manifesting prakriti. Prakriti is all that is made manifest as Cosmos, world and self, what one could loosely call ‘creation’ or srishti. Shiva is the divine Darkness out of which Light, the progenitor of prakriti, is born. Shiva’s divine Darkness contains all Light, and therefore all creation, in potential. Shiva is like the blackhole, infinitely dense and packed with energy and matter but itself invisible as no light escapes the blackhole because of its infinite gravity. From the outside, if there could be any outside to Shiva, Shiva would appear void, empty, nothing. Yet within, in its own absolute interiority, Shiva is everything and everyone; all possibilities of existence teems within Shiva, all space and time lies coiled within him like an elemental serpent still to awake. Shiva holds in his absolute stillness the infinite expansion of universes, the waves upon waves of brahmagati . This darkness of Shiva is not absence but infinite concentration of light in pure consciousness which is the sthiti of Shiva as avyakta or unmanifest. To know Shiva as the divine Dark is to transcend the universe of ordinary light and duality; Shiva’s divine Dark is the formless non-duality that can only be known when the physical eyes are closed in nirvikalpa samadhi, the immutable, unmodified state of the Yogin, and the third, the occult eye, opens, the self-luminous eye that needs no external source of light: the eye of Shiva in which the seer and the seen, the subject and object, are one. Shiva is the dimensionless consciousness which holds within itself infinite dimensions of life and existence. It is in this timeless and fathomless trance of Shiva that the first divine spark of becoming is lit: that first divine desire to become the Many. Out of this desire arises Shakti, Shiva’s creative consciousness-force that tears Shiva’s singularity into the primordial duality of Ishvara and Ishvari. Thus, out of Shiva’s consciousness womb arises the Divine Mother, the infinite matrix of all manifestation, the source of all being and becoming. But through all this separation and disruption, Shiva and Shakti remain non-dual, one within the other in a supreme transcendental mystery: Shakti is Shiva manifest when Shiva opens his eyes and turns his gaze outward, and Shiva is Shakti held within in seed when Shiva closes his eyes and turns his gaze inward. The Yogin who possesses the truth-vision sees Shakti as Shiva in movement, and Shiva as Shakti coiled up in eternal quiescence.  As Shakti, the Eternal Feminine and the Divine Mother, Shiva becomes the universe, he does not merely project it out of his creative consciousness, he becomes it. Thus the Yogin knows that all that is manifest, all that exists, all that can be seen, known, felt and touched is Shiva himself as his Shakti; and even that which is conscious in himself as himself, that which he is in essence, in tattva, is Shiva. Shivoham therefore becomes the first and primary mantra of Yoga: I am Shiva. And as this mantra penetrates and fills the consciousness of the Yogin, all differences and dualities fall away and Shiva alone stands revealed as Self, world and Cosmos.  Yet, though Shiva permeates all existence, none can know Shiva, for Shiva himself is the knower and the seer of all, the witness of all that is. The supreme attainment of the Yogin is the realization of oneness with Shiva. Shiva is the perfect non-duality and so in him all dualities and divisions of the knower and the known dissolve. To know Shiva is not possible because there is no knower or knowledge outside of Shiva. Thus is Shiva known as Void, as nothingness: not because he is truly void but because he is beyond the reach of all dualistic human consciousness and all human faculties of knowledge. Like the blackhole, Shiva is invisible and inaccessible, and so shunya or void to our human consciousness. But it is this shunya of Shiva that is the background and substratum of all being, for when all is demolished in the timeless spirals of the universes, it is this void that remains, immutable and unfathomable; when all the light in which existence manifests is withdrawn or extinguished, all that remains is the divine Dark of Shiva.  To enter Shiva’s divine Dark is to enter the heart of the supreme mystery, for it is in that divine Dark that one knows oneself in the starkness of being, as the pure and the one — shivoham, shivoham. It is in the inmost cave of the mystic heart that one becomes Shiva in a supreme ecstasy of spiritual union, when Shakti, as Prakriti, the eternal feminine, returns to Shiva, the Supreme Purusha, and resolves herself in him. This is not some distant onetime supracosmic event but an intimate yogic experience that repeats itself endlessly, through all humanity, wherever and whenever a human soul realizes its oneness with Shiva and dissolves into his unfathomable vastness. Dissolution in Shiva is the highest nirvana, the utter liberation, purna moksha. Most Hindus regard Shiva as the destroyer, the God of pralaya or cosmic dissolution. But Shiva does not destroy, there is no necessity of destruction in the Divine’s scheme — Shiva dissolves and absorbs his own manifestation back within himself once the cosmic evolutionary afflatus is exhausted, much like a spider withdrawing its web back into itself; the many return to the One, multiplicity collapses back upon non-duality or singularity. In withdrawing existence back into himself, Shiva does not destroy, he transforms. Pralaya is a misunderstood idea: it is not the final destruction of the universe, it is the dissolution of the false universe and the false self in the Truth of Shiva. Thus the Yogin knows Shiva as the God of transformation and not destruction. In Shiva’s auspicious presence, death itself ceases to be an individual pralaya and turns into a spiritual metamorphosis for the realized Yogin. Shiva’s play of manifestation and withdrawal of manifestation, oneness and multiplicity, projection and dissolution, does not happen only over yugas or aeonic spans of time but through the individual human consciousness in human time. Transformation of consciousness is the natural outcome of all Yoga, and as the Adiyogi, the first, the archetypal Yogin, Shiva presides over all transformation of consciousness: it is Shiva that leads human evolution, through the ages and through human lifetimes. Shiva, therefore, is also known as Yogeshvara, the Lord of Yoga. The ancient sages who had known Shiva intimately in their consciousnesses had said that whosoever surrenders to Shiva sincerely and entirely is led by Shiva himself, the adiyogi and yogeshvara, to the supreme heights of self-realization in a single lifetime. Shiva’s compassion and generosity to whoever invokes him sincerely and persistently is legendary. Shiva is also known to mystics as Swayambhu, self-manifested. He manifests all existence out of himself but he himself has no source, no origin. This is a profound mystery. If existence itself arises in Shiva, Shiva must be beyond existence; and that which is beyond existence cannot exist. This that is beyond existence itself, the sages tell us, is the pure Existent, Sat. Sat, as pure Existent is the source and truth, tattva, of all existence — out of which all existence arises and flows. Therefore the pure Existent is self-manifest, arising out of itself, uncaused and timeless, a mystery beyond all dimensions of being and consciousness, shunya arising out of shunya because that which is not in causality is beyond materiality, a formlessness so incomprehensible that it appears to be nothingness, shunya. The Yogin learns to rest with such mysteries and not try solving them; the way to Shiva’s inmost mysteries is through profound passiveness and surrender where the mind and heart fall into deep silence and the gaze turns inward, for it is within that Shiva resides. To meditate on Shiva as Swayambhu is one of the most powerful ways of transcending the dualities of consciousness and entering the silence of the soul. As Ardhanarishvara, the God who is half woman, Shiva symbolizes deeper ontological non-duality: the perfect blend and balance of the creative force of Ishvara, seen as the masculine, and the sustaining and nurturing force of Ishvari, seen as the feminine. As the non-dual divine consciousness-force, Chit-Shakti, Shiva, as ardhanarishvara, represents the non-separability of the masculine and the feminine[1]. The masculine-feminine duality is the primary polarity of our human universe. To meditate on Shiva as ardhanarishvara is a powerful way of transcending this primary polarity of our existence and restoring the original dynamic equilibrium of meditation and action, chaos and order, evolution and assimilation, the outer push and the inner pull. Whoever transcends these primary polarities comes closer to the repose of a perfect identification with Shiva as the Formless, nirakara.  Worshipping Shiva, in the Sanatan tradition, is an act of consciousness, an inner consecration and offering of body, mind and heart, a constant invocation of his mystical and spiritual aspects through an elaborate system of external symbols and mantras. Shiva can be easily propitiated if one understands his deepest and perhaps best-kept secret, that he is the indweller, the one who is seated within; the one who searches for Shiva in the universe of form and name is sure to be confounded, and the one who can renounce form and name and invoke Shiva within is the one who will be granted the boon of higher consciousness. Thus many smear ash on their bodies, metaphorically or actually, renounce homes and families, become mendicants and ascetics, even practice harsh austerities but come no closer to Shiva’s inmost mysteries, for Shiva eludes them like the horizon. But those who understand that Shiva is the inwardness of being are the ones who unravel his mysteries in their hearts and souls. They are the ones who understand that Shiva’s asceticism is not physical but psychological; Shiva’s tapasya is the tapasya of Truth and purity. Shiva’s devotee must descend into the dark caves of the heart and there find the eternal Light. Shiva is commonly depicted as an ascetic with ashes of corpses smeared on his body. This is a stark symbol of Shiva, the adiyogi as a tapasvi. Tapasya, from the word tapa, heat, is the fire that burns delusion and ignorance. The form of the ascetic represents the inner detachment of the tapasvi who lives in the mortal world, amongst all its attractions and distractions, but constantly aware of its impermanence; the ash (vibhuti or bhasma) of corpses (shava in Sanskrit) symbolize impermanence, death and dissolution — ash being the final residue of the mortal body. Thus, holding always in one’s mind and heart, in constant inner remembrance, the ascetic smeared in the ashes of corpses, the Yogin can rapidly transcend her identification with the body and the material world and attain to the detachment and freedom of Shiva in her own consciousness. The archetypal yogin and tapasvi, Adiyogi Shiva, is also the Mahadeva who is known as Neelkantha, the God with the blue neck, the blue symbolizing the effect of the poison that Shiva takes within his own body as an act of supreme compassion, to protect the universe from the effects of evil. The symbol goes back to primordial times when the ocean of existence is being churned in a great battle between the Devas and the Asuras. This great churning, mahamanthan, releases destructive toxins in the atmosphere that threatens to destroy all life. Shiva, out of his divine compassion, to save and protect existence, drinks the poison, but the Divine Shakti that eternally dwells in Shiva stops the poison from entering the body and the poison remains in Shiva’s throat, turning his neck blue. This is profound and powerful symbolism: the churning is the eternal evolutionary process in the human universe that releases forces of good and evil, forces that strengthen evolution of consciousness and forces that oppose it. Shiva takes in the poison that symbolizes the evil or anti-evolutionary forces and holds it in his throat: he does not consume it nor does he expel it, he instead holds it in abeyance and transforms its effect to permanent good. Meditating on this aspect of Shiva, invoking him as Neelkantha, the Yogin can transcend the duality of good and evil, of devas and asuras, and collaborate in this timeless cosmic battle to transform all forces of evil and destruction to the ultimate good of life in the universe. This indeed is the ultimate aim of the Mahadeva: to transform everything, every form and force in Cosmos, to ultimate Good.  Shiva is also depicted with his hair coiled in matted locks and adorned with the crescent moon. This further adds to the rich tapestry of symbology woven around Shiva. According to mythology, Shiva stopped the descent of the Ganga from the heavens and broke her fall on earth by absorbing Ganga in his hair and reducing her torrent to a trickle. There is obvious Yogic symbolism in this: Ganga is not the river but the symbol of a higher consciousness descending to a fragile earth plane in a torrent that would have flooded the earth. The matted hair symbolizes the higher crown or chakra that alone could contain the descent without cracking. Releasing the flow of Ganga in trickles is symbolic of how the Yogi, in complete control of Prakriti, releases the higher consciousness, chakra by chakra, into the mind, heart and body. Meditating on this aspect, the devotee can open her own mind, heart and body to the descent of the higher consciousness through Shiva.  Shiva is also known as Trayambakam, the three-eyed (traya, three) God. The two eyes of Shiva represent the ordinary dualistic perception, the sense-universe, the right eye representing the sun or the solar influence, the left eye representing the moon, or the lunar influence; the third eye, which opens when the other two close, represents fire, agni, which is the Yogic or spiritual vision, direct perception of Truth which ‘burns away’ all dualities. This third eye, when open, brings the direct perception by destroying the mind’s powerful identification with duality. This is the reason it is said that the third eye can destroy when focused on the outer world: what it destroys is the delusion of duality. By meditating on this aspect, the devotee can ascend to the non-dual direct perception of Shiva.  The crescent moon that Shiva bears on his head symbolizes time and the measure of time; in the Vedantic sense, the measurement of time, or any measurement, is an attribute of Maya. In wearing the crescent moon on his head, Shiva represents complete control over time and the Maya of time. Shiva is eternal, beyond time, and thus he wears the crescent moon as symbol of time itself as ornament which can be taken off at will. The serpent around Shiva’s neck, Vasuki of mythology, represents the vital force of the ego and the deep-seated fear of death. Ego and the fear of death are deeply related, intertwined. The serpent around Shiva’s neck symbolizes complete victory over both, ego and fear of death. Shiva wears the serpent as an ornament which is itself symbolic of mastery. Some devotees regard the serpent as symbolic of the eternal cycles of time, kala. By wearing it thrice around his neck, Shiva represents complete control of kala, time. Time represents mortality. So control of kala is control of mortality. In a deeper sense, ego, time and mortality, and the fear of death are all entwined. By meditating on this aspect of Shiva, by bearing Shiva’s representative form in the consciousness, the Yogin can transcend ego and conquer all fear of mortality and death. Remember that the mrityunjaya mantra, the occult key to conquering the forces of death and decay, was given as beej or seed mantra by Shiva.  The trishula or trident that Shiva carries as a weapon represents the triune reality of Shiva as the one who manifests the universe out of himself, preserves it in his consciousness and finally absorbs it back into himself. To some Yogis, the trishula represents the perfect equilibrium of the three Gunas of nature — sattva, rajas and tamas. Through sattva, Shiva manifests Cosmos, through rajas, he sustains or preserves Cosmos and through tamas, he reabsorbs Cosmos into his divine Darkness. Some others regard the trishula as the triune powers or faculties of the human consciousness: Volition, ichha, knowledge, jnana, and action, kriya. With this triune power in hand, anything in the world may be accomplished. Meditating on this aspect of Shiva, concentrating on Shiva with this trishula, the Yogi can master the three gunas in her own nature, master the powers of her consciousness and work towards accomplising the highest good, even as Shiva himself.   Shiva also carries the damaru, a drum, in one of his hands in a symbolic gesture or mudra called damaru-hasta. This is yet another profound mystic symbol. The damaru or the drum represents the Shabda Brahman or the primordial sound of Aum. When the damaru is played with the right concentration and in the right inner state, it produces the sound of Om, rising to Nada, the primeval cosmic vibration of A-U-M. The Yogin meditating on Shiva with the damaru can enter that consciousness-space where she can merge her being with the Nada and bring something of that divine vibration into her own psychic being. One of the most prevalent symbols associated with Shiva is the Linga. With the linga, the devotee comes to the purest and most powerful of all symbols of sanatan Hindu dharma. The linga is the symbol of the Infinite, Formless Shiva. It is also the most ancient of symbols, going back to times when the now accepted representations of Shiva in image or idol did not exist. The word linga itself means symbol or mark. Swami Vivekananda once described the linga as the symbol of the eternal Brahman.  In certain mythological references, we find that Shiva’s abode, Mount Kailash, which is itself a symbol of the highest consciousness transcending Cosmos, is represented by the linga as the centre of the universe, the central axis around which the Cosmos revolves.  The linga is not just a block of stone but a mark of the great avyaktam, the Unmanifest, and simultaneously, it is the most profound mark of the vyakta, the manifestation; a symbol of the perfect equilibrium of the masculine and feminine, of the visible and the invisible. It stands silent, lone, absolute, evoking in the devotee a silence beyond all descriptions of thought and speech. One who meditates on the linga, understanding its profound Yogic and occult significance, can transcend all duality of manifestation and taste the rarest bliss of the Unmanifest in the Manifest. Through concentration on the linga, one can merge one’s consciousness in that pillar of Shiva’s pure light, the jyotir-linga. The legend goes that Shiva once appeared as a pillar of Light, jyotir-linga, to Brahma and Vishnu, the other two mahadevas of sanatan Hindu dharma, and asked them to find the extreme ends of the pillar. Neither of the great Gods could find the end — and how could they? Infinity has no dimension, no end.  Shiva’s linga is the symbol of the unknowable in the known, the unmanifest in the manifest. To meditate on the linga is to meditate directly on the supreme mystery of Shiva.  However, even after all these descriptions and interpretations, one is aware that one has only scratched the surface of a fathomless mystery. Shiva cannot be known, understood or explained by the human mind, however vast be the knowledge or profound the understanding of the mind. Our attempts to describe Shiva are like a child’s attempts to describe deep space. The deeper one delves, the more one realizes the vastness and profundity of Shiva’s mystery: Shiva is neither God nor Person. Shiva never was, never will be. He is and he is not. All forms are his but he is formless. He is nearer than the nearest, more intimate than our own breath, yet he is everywhere and everything. Where indeed to find such a one? For Shiva is dark and void to those who look for him outwardly, in forms and symbols; for those who can penetrate the symbolism of the symbols and the formlessness of forms, he reveals a bit of himself, just the first glimpses, to lead the soul farther and deeper. But to those who are willing to give themselves inwardly to him, as moth to flame, knowing that he is all there is, he gives of himself, freely and with overwhelming generosity. Shiva’s Grace is the Grace of the Divine Mother. To invoke him is to invoke her. He is the one ever-present, indwelling and luminous in our consciousnesses, as Ishvara and Ishvari. Om Namah Shivaya, Salutations to Shiva, the Luminous One 1Perhaps the first appearance of the Ardhanarishvara was in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as the archetypal creature which was of the same dimension as a man and woman closely embracing, which then fell apart into two aspects out of which were born man and woman.
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Reflections On Hinduism (5)

The Symbol & the Symbolized  If Brahman, the Divine, saturates this whole Cosmos, sarvam brahmamayam jagat, then what of the objects within the Cosmos? What of the infinite life forms that populate the Cosmos? Hindu darshan categorically, through its several mahavakyas, states that Brahman pervades this universe from the subtlest to the grossest, from the atomic to the galactic, from the single cell to the body of mammoths, from the first quivers of nervous energy in matter to the cosmic consciousness of the maharishi — all is Brahman, there is no other, neha nanasti kinchan. Therefore, to the Hindu who understands, there is nothing in the whole universe that is not the Divine, not God. Every object and every living being in the universe is sacred, the whole of existence is Divine and the entire universe is the temple of the Divine, and life itself the offering and the sacrifice to the Divine. This is indeed the high and vast truth that the forefathers of Sanatan Hindu dharma brought to earth, not for a particular sect or society but for all humankind. As our Vedic forefathers declared millennia ago: as long as men shall live, so shall the Dharma; for verily, the Dharma is the eternal guide and protector. For the Hindu who understands the deeper truths of her own dharma, there is no necessity for a separate religion — for her life itself is religion, life itself is dharma. The living of life in the spirit of consecration and sacrifice is indeed the highest good: this is the Vedic secret that is brought so perfectly to fruition in the Bhagavad Gita through the idea of all life and works being a constant sacrifice, Yajna, to the Supreme Self, Purushottam.   Life as sacrifice to the Supreme Self is the key idea of Sanatan dharma.  What is the Self? This is perhaps the one idea of the Upanishads that causes most confusion to the uninitiated, for the self in English denotes a psychological entity, (myself, yourself etc.), always associated with a person or a personality. But the Self of the Upanishads, the atman, has nothing to do with personality, it does not represent a particular entity; it is impersonal, universal, eternal.  Sanatan dharma does not hold a supreme God amongst other gods as the ultimate; the ultimate and supreme Truth, param Satyam, of sanatan Hindu dharma is being itself. This being itself is known as Brahman or Sat, pure undifferentiated being whose original status is unmanifest, avyakta. Brahman, as pure undifferentiated being, then differentiates and manifests, becomes vyakta, as existence or astitva. The Self, or atman, is the consciousness that knows Brahman, the Divine being, as astitva, existence. Therefore, for the Self, all existence is divine, all is Brahman. For the mind however, which is but a portion of the Self, existence is broken up into myriad forms and attributes and does not appear as the one Brahman. Thus it remains bewildered by appearances of multiplicity till it awakens to the Self within.  Astitva is like a boundless ocean in which we all have our individual existences, and nothing literally exists or can exist outside of this ocean, for anything outside of existence would be non-existent. This boundless ocean of astitva is all Brahman just as an earthly ocean is all water; and just as a fish in the earthly ocean may not know the whole ocean or the water at all, the human immersed in the astitva-ocean may not know Brahman at all. Yet, Brahman, being astitva itself, is manifest in all objects, forms and forces. One does not need to look for Brahman anywhere: Brahman is all there is. Looking for Brahman would be like the fish in the ocean looking for water.  Grasping this truth of the mahavakya that all is Brahman, and Brahman is this astitva, it is possible to realize oneself as astitva, and astitva itself as Brahman. In fact, to know and realize all existence or being as Self is the summum bonum of Hindu sanatan dharma — aham brahmasmi, I, as Self, am Brahman, the Divine. But realizing Self as Brahman is the first of a threefold realization: having realized Self as Brahman, one realizes all selves, all beings, as Brahman, for if Self is Brahman in one being, then it follows that everything and everyone that possesses Self is equally Brahman; and that the Self is the same in everything and everyone, it is one but manifests multiply in infinite forms and variations.  Therefore, the Hindu who knows and understands the truth of his dharma, regards all forms and forces and movements, sarvarupa-sarvagati, as the One Divine, the One Brahman, and bows in reverence to all, big or small, significant or insignificant, high or low. To the Hindu who understands, this whole Cosmos, in all its myriad forms and movements, is the Divine and nothing and none is excluded, from the microbe and virus to the bird and beast, from the primitive savage to the human, from the first self-awakened human to the great gods and goddesses, all are equally manifestations of the One Self.  This profound mystical realization is the practical basis of Hindu sanatan religion — either all is the Divine or none; the Hindu regards even the asuras and rakshasas, those opposed to Light and Truth, as forms, however seemingly distorted, of the Self. For the sanatan Hindu, there is no such thing as implacable evil, no such thing as irredeemable hostility to the Divine, no such thing as original sin. In fact, even the Vedantic concept of sin is impurity of consciousness — duality is the only impurity, say the sages of old: where one sees the other, hears the other, knows the other, is impurity; where one sees the Self, hears the Self, knows the Self, is purity.  The true knower of the Hindu sanatan dharma does not, therefore, regard even images and idols as lifeless objects — each idol, each totem, is representative of an aspect of the infinite formless Brahman. Brahman, though saturating and informing the entire universe, itself is formless and can only be apprehended, however approximately, in living forms or forms created by the living. Thus the Sanatani Hindu regards all forms as sacred representatives of the One Divine. When the Hindu devotee erects an idol of a god or goddess, she first infuses life-force into it, as prescribed by tradition, before the image or the idol assumes ‘divinity’ and can be worshipped. This infusion of life force, through an occult Yogic process, is known as prana-pratistha, literally, establishing the life-force. Once this is done, the idol or the image assumes an aspect of divinity and becomes like a live wire connecting the aspiring human consciousness to the Divine, or to that aspect of the Divine that the external form represents. Those spiritually or intuitively open can sense and feel the divine presence in these forms.  The Mother says, all this (idol worship) is based on the old idea that whatever the image – which we disdainfully call an ‘idol’ – whatever the external form of the deity may be, the presence of the thing represented is always there. And there is always someone – whether priest or initiate, sadhu or sannyasi – someone who has the power and (usually this is the priest’s work) who draws the Force and the Presence down into it. And it’s true, it’s quite real – the Force and the Presence are THERE; and this (not the form in wood or stone or metal) is what is worshipped: this Presence. The presence of the Divine, invoked or latent, in all forms, then, is the key. If the presence can imbue even one form anywhere on earth, it can imbue all forms. Thus, whether a block of stone or granite or an entire mountain, a carved wooden statue or tree, a lake or river, sun or moon, a photograph or an object of daily use, in everything one can sense the divine presence and force if one is open in heart and spirit. The animating force is not in the object of adoration but in the consciousness of the one who adores.  Sri Aurobindo once visited a temple in Karnali, on the banks of the Narmada, near the end of his stay in Baroda (1904–06). At that time, he was quite an atheist. As he shared in one of his evening talks: Once I visited Ganganath (Chandod) after Brahmananda’s death when Keshwananda was there. With my Europeanized mind I had no faith in image-worship and I hardly believed in the presence of God. I went to Kernali where there are several temples. There is one of Kali and when I looked at the image I saw the living presence there. For the first time, I believed in the presence of God. Regarding the same experience, he wrote to Dilip Roy: … you stand before a temple of Kali beside a sacred river and see what? A sculpture, a gracious piece of architecture, but in a moment mysteriously, unexpectedly there is instead a Presence, a Power, a Face that looks into yours, an inner sight in you has regarded the World-Mother. The presence of the Divine can be felt and touched anywhere, in a piece of stone or a single leaf, if the consciousness is open, wide and receptive. The modern intellectual mind does not grasp this, not half as well as the savage mind instinctively used to, because it lives in concrete structures of thoughts and prejudices. Most regard idol worship as superstitious and primitive, unmindful of the fact that almost all modern day consumerist society is engaged,  in one way or another, with idol worship  and idolatry. Almost all of our movie industry, fashion, advertising and politics will collapse if all idolatry were to be eliminated.  The idol worship of the Sanatani Hindu is, however, far more advanced and sophisticated than the idolatry of the 21st century consumerist homo-commercialis.  For the Hindu, the idol is the symbol, and the symbol is that which is symbolized. This is a deep truth of Hindu mysticism — this whole universe symbolizes the infinite, formless Divine; all things and beings are symbols; and each symbol is a little bit of that which is symbolized. Therefore, when Ramakrishna stood before the clay idol of Kali, he did not see mere religious symbolism: he saw and experienced the Divine Mother herself in that symbol; the symbol for him was the symbolized, the image of the Mother for him was the Mother. That which is symbolized is always the Real and the symbol is always the external representation of the Real. It is through the symbol that the Real enters the external. When the Real is forgotten or recedes from consciousness, the symbol loses its spiritual significance and is reduced to a mere ritualistic object. The problem, then, with all symbols is when the inner gets disconnected from the outer, the Real is no longer expressed in the external, the symbol is no longer the symbolized.  This disconnect applies to several other aspects of Hindu dharma besides idol worship. The mystical significance and beauty of temples, the profound symbolic significance of sacrifices and offerings, the tremendous significance of the Devas and the Asuras, the spiritual significance and power of mantras are all aspects of Hinduism that need to be restored to their inner truths, reconnected with their spiritual and mystical source, and revived in a post-modern form and formulation.  We shall delve into these in the coming weeks. 
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Reflections on Hinduism (4)
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Reflections on Hinduism (4)

The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Mystery of the Self We are now ready to delve deeper into the mysteries of Hindu dharma. Once the Veda secret in the heart has awakened and leads forth the disciple, the path becomes safer and quicker, for the Veda in the heart is an infallible guide, it is the voice of the Divine seated in our hearts as the inner guide and Guru.  In the Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most lucid and comprehensive of all shastras of Hindu Dharma, Sri Krishna, the Divine Teacher, says to Arjuna, the disciple — Ishvarah sarva bhutanam hriddeshe’rjuna tishthati[1] — O, Arjuna: the Divine is seated in the heart of all living beings. This one simple statement is the master key to the myriad mysteries of Hindu Dharma. Ishvara, as the Divine Teacher and Guide, is seated in the heart of every living being — this is a mahavakya: a statement of profound and seminal importance which can have the effect of potent mantra if taken to heart and followed through to its natural conclusion (more on mahavakya a little later). One who can base his whole consciousness on this single truth will need no other teaching or teacher, for the Divine in the heart will become for him the source of unfailing and unwavering trust, faith and motivation. Knowing that the Divine is in one’s own inmost self, where else would one need to go? Grasping this one thread, the seeker can walk through all possible psychological and metaphysical mazes unerringly on his way to the realization of the Self or God.  The first step on the path to realization is to turn one’s attention inward from the external world and its objects and plunge within, into one’s inmost being, the heart or the hridaye, and there find the presence of Ishvara as one’s own most intimate self, the atman.  When Sri Krishna declares that Ishvara is seated in the heart of all living beings, he is referring not to the physical heart, nor even to the heart centre in the body, but to the heart which is symbolic of the centre of one’s consciousness — the hridaye guhayam or the cave of the heart in Hindu Vedic mysticism; this cave of the heart is the centre of one’s consciousness. The inner plunge of the mystic is the act of withdrawing one’s attention from the objects and subjects of the world and concentrating it on the centre of one’s consciousness. This is the first practice of dhyana in mystical Hinduism.  The cave of the heart, hridaye guhayam, the secret centre of one’s consciousness, is the altar of the Divine, this is where Ishvara is seated as one’s own inmost being, the self or the atman. The discovery of the atman, the inmost Divine, is the first indispensable spiritual realization of Hindu dharma; one may safely say that the true pilgrimage of sanatan Hindu dharma begins only with this all-consuming discovery of Ishvara as one’s most intimate self.  As one approaches the atman, one begins to receive the first glimpses of the supreme mystery of the Divine, one begins to experience Ishvara not only as the centre of one’s own consciousness but the selfsame centre of all consciousnesses in all forms. This is a mula anubhava, essential realization, of the seeker of sanatan dharma, that the same Ishvara resides in all living beings as atman, and the atman is the same everywhere.  The rigid boundaries of one’s egoistic consciousness then begin to melt, and for the first time, one begins to experience oneness in all creation; the world is no longer experienced in terms of differences and contradictions but increasingly in terms of one unbroken existence, everything and everyone made of the same spiritual substance and possessing the same psychic essence. This new way of seeing and relating to the universe arises from anubhava, inner experience, and can therefore be tremendously powerful and transformative.  It is on the basis of such spiritual realizations of oneness that Hindu dharma declares the truth of human unity in such trenchant syllables — vasudhaiva kutumbakam: the whole world is but one single family[2].     The experience of the atman is a fundamental movement in one’s progress towards the realization of the Divine. The realization of atman, the Divine in the heart, becomes the practical basis for the higher realizations of Hindu dharma. For once the Divine is known in the centre of one’s consciousness, the Divine in revealed in all objects and beings — as if the whole universe becomes divine, and all sense of division, isolation and fear falls away permanently from the consciousness of the seeker. The seeker then becomes a devotee, and all mental seeking and knowledge are swiftly replaced by spiritual wisdom or prajna. Prajna (a term used to denote higher or deeper wisdom in both Hindu and Buddhist psychology) is the opening of a higher order, supra-intellectual faculty which grasps truth intuitively, without having to work its way through processing of information and logical reasoning. The Dharma, at this point, transcends the reasoning buddhi in its ascent towards the supreme Truth and finds for itself a higher vehicle and expression in the prajna.  Through the higher workings of prajna, the devotee now comes to the threshold of the next fundamental realization of the Sanatan Dharma: that the atman is indeed Ishvara, the Divine, and in finding the atman, one finds Ishvara.  The Divine in Hindu Dharma What is the nature and attributes of Ishvara, God or the Divine in Hindu darshan and dharma? The first Upanishadic pronouncement on the nature of the Supreme God of Hinduism is that the Supreme God — param Ishvara — is unknowable by mind and indescribable by human thought or speech, it is anirvacniya, that which cannot be thought or spoken of. Param Ishvara is Truth itself, Sat, and can only be known by becoming one in consciousness with Sat, what the sages call knowledge through identity. The human seeker or devotee can indeed identify with that param Ishvara only because that param Ishvara already dwells in the consciousness of living beings.  Having stated that Ishvara can only be known inwardly through identification in consciousness, the Upanishadic seers then attempt to describe Ishvara through a series of mahavakyas, defining pronouncements or maxims of Hindu darshan (literally, maha, great; vakya, pronouncement or statement). These mahavakyas are aphoristic pronouncements with profound mantric power — if rightly analyzed, meditated upon and assimilated, each of these mahavakyas can take the disciple to the essential truths and realizations of the deeper Hindu Dharma.  Ishvara is seated in the heart of all living beings is one such mahavakya which opens the gateway to the profoundest mysteries of the Dharma. Having realized the truth of the mahavakya in one’s inner experience, the devotee moves on to the realization that not only is Ishvara seated in the heart as one’s atman, as Supreme Brahman, It (He or She in a more personal sense) pervades and fills the whole manifested universe. Not only this, the deeper truth is even more compelling — that this manifested universe with all its infinite variations of form is nothing but Brahman.  Sarvam khalvidam brahma, this Upanishadic mahavakya, takes us right to the heart of the Dharma. From the Chandogya Upanishad, sarvam khalvidam brahman literally means that all this — all that is manifest and unmanifest, all that is known, not-known  and not-knowable — is equally Brahman, the Divine.  Gleaned from across the span of the Upanishads, one can attempt at least a working approximation of Brahman: Brahman (from the root brh, expand) is unlimited, without dimension or boundary, infinite and eternal: akshayam, sarvam, anantam, nityam. Brahman, as the all-transcendent, parabrahman, is beyond all manifestation, and as atman and Ishvara, is immanent in all manifestation.   That which the human mind cannot know, nor the senses apprehend, is Brahman, jnanatita, sarva-indriyatita; Brahman is that which cannot be described in any human language, cannot be brought into thought or speech, anirvacniya. Brahman as the Supreme Self, purushottama, is the Knower of all that is and can be known, the Seer of all that is and can be seen; the consciousness of all that is conscious and can be made conscious. Brahman, as param Ishvara, is the Supreme Godhead, the source and end of all that is, was and ever shall be; the all-pervasive, sarvavyapi, that which saturates the Universe, sarvam brahmamayam jagat; that which is the substratum of all being and becoming, mula adhara, the background of all experience, is Brahman; Brahman is the very fabric of space and time; the all-Perfect, purnam, the perfect peace and knowledge: shantam, jnanam. Not only does Brahman pervade all as the Vast, the brihat, it even penetrates into the minuscule, the subtlest — into the smallest particle of matter and pulsation of energy, into the very cells and nuclei of life, even into the subtlest movements of consciousness, right down to our subtlest thoughts and intentions, all is pervaded and informed by Brahman. If Brahman were to withdraw, even for the most infinitesimal fraction of a second, all this that we know as the manifest universe would simply vanish into nothingness. But even after having attempted such a description of Brahman in such superlatives, it still eludes human understanding, remains unexplained and unknowable, for if Brahman is all there is, if there’s none or nothing outside of Brahman, then who is there to know Brahman? Brahman, being the all-consciousness and all-existence, is the only Knower, so how shall the Knower be known?  Several Hindu sages have declared this point as the final cul-de-sac: none can go further with the existing mental machinery and the weight of mental knowledge. All knowledge, all thinking and reasoning must now be abandoned. This is the culmination of the Vedas as we know it — vedanta.  Vedantic Hinduism Tat twam asi Even before we can fully comprehend this stupendous idea of Brahman, the all-pervading Infinite Consciousness surrounding, possessing and filling us like some invisible ocean, we come to another equally awesome idea that this Infinite Sea of Consciousness, this Brahman, is what we, in our essence, actually are. Tat twam asi — a resounding Upanishadic mahavakya states unequivocally that the human (twam, you), in her inmost atmic truth of being, is Brahman, the Divine (tat, That; asi, are).  At first, most would baulk at such a pronouncement: for who amongst us can hold the thought of being Brahman for even a few seconds without the mind crashing? The human mind pushes outward, the truths it seeks are always outside, somewhere high up in some remote heaven. Men can have faith easily in a remote God in the high heavens but to believe (and live) the truth that one is God oneself in one’s inmost depths is somehow too farfetched. Yet, this is the profound truth of Hindu dharma: that the Vast and Infinite Brahman is the same atman within the cave of the heart. This atman, says another profound Upanishadic mahavakya, is that Brahman: ayam atma brahman.  But to know oneself as Brahman one must first enter those sublime depths of being where the atman shines through in all its radiance, one must leave behind all the dross of the human world, all its din and tumult, and learn to live, more and more, in a silence unbroken even by thought.  In that silence, that inner chamber of the temple to Brahman, one experiences the inner alchemy as one’s knowledge of the mind, jnana, ripens into sraddha, the creative force of faith that can bring into reality whatever one holds in one’s mind and heart with sincerity and unwavering perseverance; sraddha is a psychic force for realization, and with sraddha, all things become possible.  Sri Krishna explains sraddha to Arjuna in these words: The faith of each man takes the shape given to it by his stuff of being, O Bharata. This Purusha, this soul in man, is, as it were, made of sraddha, a faith, a will to be a belief in itself and existence, and whatever is that will, faith or constituting belief in him, he is that and that is he[3]. Sraddha then is the creative force that transforms knowledge into faith, devotion and surrender to that which one seeks to become. The completion or purnata of Hindu dharma happens naturally when jnana or knowledge (the mind’s knowing) transforms through sraddha into bhakti, love and devotion, and flows out spontaneously into karma, action as inner sacrifice to the Divine. These three, jnana, bhakti and karma, are the three pillars of Sanatan Hindu dharma. Through these three streams, the devotee realizes her identity with the Supreme Being, Brahman as Purushottama.  Anubhava, the Unfolding of the Experience In small measures, in ever so subtle and simple ways, the devotee realizes that there is no object of knowledge out there, there is only the Knower and the knowing; and there too, there is no duality, for the knowing is only Self-knowing. She begins to understand, ever more practically, that the world or universe she believed to be outside of herself is not outside at all: it is all one’s own reflection. There is no outside or inside: there are only reflections. The so-called world “out there” is a mirror of consciousness, and all one sees and experiences there is Self. In a more fundamental sense, the so-called objective world is only a mode of Self-knowing. The devotee then truly begins to see, his vision passes beyond the gross into the subtle reality of things and beings, and he develops a new way of seeing, what our seers called sukshma drishti, the subtle vision. It’s not that the world becomes subtle, the world remans what it is; it is one’s perception that begins to discern the subtle in the gross, the spirit in matter, the true in the mithya.  This subtle perception, sukshma drishti, sees beyond the appearance of multiplicity and sees the One Self everywhere, in all, from oneself spreading outward through all of the known universe. The best description of this perception comes, perhaps, from Sri Ramakrishna who once said, do you know what I see now? I see that it is God Himself who has become all this. It seems to me that men and other beings are made of leather, and that it is He Himself who, dwelling inside these leather cases, moves the hands, the feet, the heads. I had a similar vision once before when I saw houses, gardens, roads, men, cattle — all made of One substance; it was as if they were all made of wax.  This subtle seeing begins of course with oneself: It is one’s own personal self that is the first veil or mask to fall away and reveal the true Face. It is only when we see our own personal form as a veil at once concealing and revealing the Self, regard our very act of perception as the conscious gaze of the Self seeing through “our” physical senses and knowing through our minds, that we begin to see through all outer faces and façades, and glimpse the one same Self gazing outward through all physical forms and embodiments. It is like seeing in a different light: the face of the other becomes transparent and we begin to see the Self behind the face, and not really “behind” in a physical sense but we see the outer physical face as a mere superimposition on the true Face which is more of a countenance, an expression, and not a physical shape at all. The outer physical face, the form or rupa, is still there but the True Face is so clear in the background that we no longer pay attention to the outer face. The outer face is a façade, a mask, which becomes increasingly transparent to the growing inner vision of the One in all forms. This is what Hindu darshan calls the advaita bhava, the sense of non-duality in multiplicity. It is this bhava that is the practical basis for living the Hindu dharma.    When the Hindu therefore says ahimsa paramo dharma, non-violence is the supreme dharma, he does not mean it as a moral injunction or an intellectual idea: he means it practically and concretely: since he sees the one Divine in all forms, how can he not be non-violent? The Hindu does not seek to propagate non-violence as an ideal: he seeks to eliminate the last tendency of violence, from the grossest, the most physical to the subtlest psychological, from all parts of his being; in other words, he seeks to embody ahimsa. Likewise, when he speaks of truthfulness and sincerity, it is not from the moralistic or intellectual standpoint at all; in these too he seeks to embody truth not because he has an intellectual conception of it but because he lives it in anubhava: these are facts of integral experience to be lived.  Thus, to know Brahman as this universe, in all its details, and to know the self as Brahman, and to know all other forms as the same Brahman, is the threefold dharma of the Hindu. This is the dharma that was given the name Sanatan by the ancient seers and sages. This Sanatan Dharma, known today as Hindu dharma or Hinduism, is the actualization of the Divine in humanity’s mind, life and body. The Sanatan Dharma knows no outsider, no alien; none can be permanently hostile to the Dharma for in all, even in that which appears antithetical to Dharma, adharmik, there dwells the same Divine, the same Truth. Therefore the Hindu, standing firm on the realizations of Sanatan Dharma, can say that Truth or Dharma will finally prevail — satyameva jayate.  Those who choose to walk the path of the Dharma, not merely profess to be religious, those who can free themselves of the gravitational pull of their egoistic consciousnesses and give themselves in mind, heart and body to the demands of the Dharma, those who can walk boldly the Upanishadic path, ascending peak upon peak of human consciousness in their relentless quest for Truth, Light, Bliss are the ones who will emerge victorious in this timeless battle of Dharma against the forces of adharma. These indeed are the children of Immortality, amritasya putra, who alone have the spiritual right to carry forth the Sanatan Dharma from age to age. 1ईश्वरः सर्वभूतानां हृद्देशेऽर्जुन तिष्ठति। भ्रामयन्सर्वभूतानि यन्त्रारूढानि मायया।।— Bhagavad Gita, 18.61 2From the Maha Upanishad — अयं बन्धुरयंनेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् / उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् — The distinction this person is mine, and this one is not is made only by those who live in Ignorance and duality. For those of ‘noble conduct’, who have realized the Supreme Truth and have transcended the multiplicity of the world, the whole world is one family. 3सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत। श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्धः स एव सः।। Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, Verse 3. The rendering of this verse in English quoted above is Sri Aurobindo’s.
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Reflections on Hinduism (3)

The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Veda Secret in the Heart There is a practice of Hinduism, similar to most other religions, that leads the mind outward, towards an external God, through external forms of worship, sacrifice and offerings. Sri Aurobindo once referred to this as the Hinduism that takes its stand on the kitchen[1]. This is the outer shell of mystical Hinduism and needed for a certain class of followers who still live largely in a material and externalized consciousness. Mystical Hinduism, the Hinduism that seeks God in the soul, turns the mind inward and through layers of ever-deepening introspection and reflection leads to meditativeness, dhyana, and spiritual realization and knowledge, jnana. There are two distinctive steps through which mystical Hinduism leads the follower to dhyana and jnana: Study and contemplation of Shastra Practice of Yoga The study of the shastras is not merely an intellectual or academic pursuit but a thorough and systematic intellectual and psychological training of the mind of the seeker to receive and assimilate the higher knowledge of darshan and Dharma. This training proceeds from listening and reading, through discussion and debate, to rigorous contemplation and self-reflection. The training culminates in deep concentration and identification with the subject or object of study.  This extensive training of the mind through the study and assimilation of the shastras opens the seeker’s mind to the depths and heights of Hindu darshan (closest English word, philosophy) and prepares her for living the Dharma. Note that the seeker is not brought to the Dharma without a thorough preparation in darshan. Darshan paves the way for the true flowering of Dharma.  Darshan, though translated as philosophy, is not to be understood only as a pursuit of intellectual knowledge or abstract reasoning but intellectual formulations of spiritual experiences and realizations. The word darshan itself means seeing (from the root dṛś, to see), and is therefore concerned with what one can directly experience, realize, see and know. The most learned and wisest of Hindu sages are regarded as seers, drashtas (from the same root dṛś), and not thinkers. In spite of a plethora of metaphysical interpretations and commentaries that exist in Hindu darshan, the unremitting focus remains on what can be known and realized in direct experience, anubhava. The theoretician and the scholar bows to the one with anubhava; this is the inviolable protocol. That which cannot be experienced and realized is not worth knowing. The overarching purpose of darshan and shastra in Hindu Dharma is to bring the seeker to the realization of the highest Truth knowing which all else in known. This is the ultimate knowing, the param Satyam (param, from para, means supreme or transcendental; Satyam is Truth) or the Supreme Truth. This knowledge of the Supreme Truth is known as paramarthika jnana in Hinduism. The closest English translation of paramarthika jnana would be knowledge of absolute Truth.  Though paramarthika jnana or the knowledge of absolute Truth is the ultimate concern of the shastras, it is not the only one. The shastras lead the seeker through the lower strata of knowledge to the higher — through the knowledge of the world and the universe (vyavharika jnana) and the knowledge of one’s own mind and its workings (pratibhasik jnana) to the absolute. Thus, the shastras provide an integral knowledge because Truth is integral in Hindu Dharma — the absolute Truth does not exclude the truths of world and self.  The source of the integral knowledge of the shastras were the numberless sages and seers of Hindu Dharma, each of whom had scaled the heights of spiritual realization and had identified themselves with the highest Truth. None of them claimed to “know” the truths or the Truth through reading or hearsay: each of them stood on the solid ground of personal experience and realization; their knowledge was not derived but directly apprehended and lived.  Because the shastras were given or revealed directly by those mighty sages of old, the Hindu Dharma and darshan are nurtured still by their timeless spirit and life force; the prana that runs through the shastras and the darshan can still awaken and transform any mind or soul that may approach the Dharma with faith, humility and surrender. Shastra to Darshan Shastra is the first line of transmission from the Seer or the Rishi to the aspirant, and is relevant only insofar as it can carry the living truth of the Seer’s realization to the seeker’s mind and soul; for shastra to reach darshan, it must be able to connect to the seeker’s inmost being and awaken there a soul resonance, as of a living guide. No written scripture, obviously, can do this. The written scripture, the external shastra, must open the seeker to another and deeper level of itself, a revealed or inner shastra, the Veda secret in the heart. The outer shastra can only lead effectively to a point, beyond which it necessarily becomes intellectual. This is the point where the seeker exhausts the need for scriptural guidance and is ripe in spirit for a living intervention of a Guru. It is at this point, by the touch of the Guru, or by the increasing pressure and intensity of the aspiration, the inner shastra begins to unfold, reveal itself through gradual or rapid movements. The outer shastra, then, ploughs the mental terrain, as it were, sowing the seeds of insight, intuition and realization. The Vedas and the Upanishads are perhaps the finest examples of the outer shastra ploughing and preparing the mind to receive the higher illumination. The Vedas are the oldest extant scriptures of the Hindu Dharma while the Upanishads, only some of which survive, are generally regarded as the Vedanta, culmination and fruition of the Vedas (anta meaning end or culmination). Both, the Vedas and the Upanishads, are mantric in quality — their intent is not to inform but to invoke and evoke. The Truth cannot be taught or learnt since it is inherent in the human consciousness, seeded in its depths, waiting to be called out to surface. This calling out — evoking and invoking — are the essential functions of the Shastra. All the philosophical explanations and debates are secondary, and meant mainly to reinforce the evocation and the invocation. Mantra is that which evokes and invokes. The word is a sound expressive of the idea. In the supra-physical plane when an idea has to be realised, one can by repeating the word-expression of it, produce vibrations which prepare the mind for the realisation of the idea. That is the principle of the Mantra, says Sri Aurobindo[2]. The key to reading the shastra is therefore in grasping the mantric nature of the shastra — not to read it as mere scripture for intellectual or moral edification but to approach it as a dynamic meditation for invoking the Spirit or the Truth within oneself, as if actually reading the words seated in the proximity of the Master, imbibing from the Master not only the import of the word but the living vibrations of the spirit. It is only then that the shastra transforms from written or spoken word, Vak or Logos, to revelation, shruti or apokalupsis. Once the seeker begins to resonate with the shruti (that which is heard and revealed to the inner ear) concealed in the shastra, she is ready for transition from darshan to Yoga, from seeing to becoming, identifying. Darshan to Yoga Yoga is union and identification with the object of one’s seeking. The culmination of all Truth-seeking is in union and identification with Truth, becoming of Truth-consciousness, no longer subject to falsehood or ignorance. The shastra to be true to its spirit and intent must bring the seeker to Yoga through anubhava (direct perception and experience). The first step towards this is the invocation and evocation of the spirit of the shastra in the seeker; then, as the spirit of the shastra comes alive in the seeker, the progressive awakening of the shastra within, the Truth seeded in the depths of the consciousness, what Sri Aurobindo calls the Veda secret in the heart. Sri Aurobindo, describing the shastra of the Integral Yoga writes — the supreme Shastra of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being. The lotus of the eternal knowledge and the eternal perfection is a bud closed and folded up within us. It opens swiftly or gradually, petal by petal, through successive realizations, once the mind of man begins to turn towards the Eternal. The eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being is the culmination of all shastras: the rising from deep within of the eternal Truth in the wordless silence of intuition and inner revelation, transcending word and awaking through the vibrations of pure mantra the soul or psychic in the seeker. Thus the seeker comes through the written word of the shastra to the eternal Truth of his or her being. This is the Vedanta. Only when the seeker has thus come to her truth of being, has become a faithful disciple of the self-revealing Veda in her heart, and when all other external supports of religion have dropped off, that she realizes the Dharma within and truly becomes an embodiment of Dharma, sakshat dharma. One no longer needs to ‘practice’ dharma, then: one is dharma and one is the shastra. These are not metaphors — when I say one becomes the Dharma or the shastra, that is precisely what it means: one has become identified in consciousness with the Truth of the Dharma and the shastra, one has become a living and conscious instrument, nimitta, of the Dharma. As nimitta (nimittamātra,  the mere agent or instrument), it is the wisdom and will of the Dharma that manifests through the consciousness of the instrument and the personal will is either eliminated or made entirely subservient to the higher will and wisdom. Do bear in mind that Dharma is synonymous with Ishvara, the Divine and realizing Dharma within oneself is the same as realizing Ishvara, the indwelling Divine, within oneself: there is no duality between the two. One realizes the essence of Dharma and Shastra within oneself and becomes one with them. This is indeed a siddhi (fulfillment) for the disciple of the Dharma, an attainment of his Yoga. In the mystical and yogic sense, Dharma then is the manifestation of Ishvara in life and action, and Shastra is the knowledge body of Ishvara. Ishvara can manifest only through a fruition of the two in the disciple’s consciousness and not through the worship of external form and sacrifice to external authority. It is because of these deeper spiritual truths that it can be said of Hindu shastras that no shastra is fixed or final, and of its preceptors and prophets that no human preceptor or prophet can be infallible or final. Truth, Dharma or Shastra must finally grow and manifest in the awakened human consciousness, and as consciousness is timeless, its manifestation must be timeless too. Because the Dharma cannot be limited to time, place or person, because its fruition happens in timeless consciousness, the ancients referred to the dharma as eternal — sanatan dharma. The whole purpose of Dharma is to prepare human consciousness to receive and manifest the Supreme Truth; to become, over time, Truth-consciousness itself. Only when human consciousness becomes Truth consciousness will the work of Dharma be done and human beings will surpass Dharma and ascend into a purer and wider supramental being where Dharma will become natural and spontaneous, like breathing. But that is still a distant and high peak hidden in the mist and clouds of time. 1There are two Hinduisms; one which takes its stand on the kitchen and seeks its Paradise by cleaning the body; another which seeks God, not through the cooking pot and the social convention, but in the soul. (Sri Aurobindo: The Harmony of Virtue) 2Read More: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Mantra
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Reflections On Hinduism (2)
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Reflections on Hinduism (2)

The Mystical Core of Hindu Dharma The Infinite Beyond Hindu dharma has a deep mystical core that rises like sap into the various branchings of the dharma. Without understanding the mystical core, we lose the true Hinduism and end up with the external chaff of rituals and rules.  The mystical core, the very heart, of Hinduism is the Vedantic idea of Brahman, the One Supreme Truth that manifests as Cosmos, as matter, life and consciousness. All is Brahman, sarvam brahmeti,  is the ruling mantra of Hindu dharma’s mystic core. If we were to peel off all the layers of what is popularly known as Hindu religion, and reduce all its varied and divergent philosophies and practices to one fundamental idea, what we would have is Brahman.  The word brahman in Sanskrit simply implies expansion (root: bṛh, to expand; therefore, that which expands). Brahman is not to be confused with Brahmin, a caste nomenclature. The English equivalent for Brahman would be the Divine, the Supreme.  Thus, when the Hindu says that all is the Divine, he is stating what all other religions state: that the Divine is omnipresent, and all is the Divine. But the Hindu dharma goes a step beyond with this and states further that there is nothing else but the Divine, neha nanasti kinchan. Nothing else, in fact, is needed: idam purnam, this is perfect and complete.  This one central idea of the Hindu dharma pervades all of Hinduism, all of its philosophical and metaphysical streams, its darshan, its scriptures, its processes and practices, its gods and goddesses, its art and architecture, its culture and literature, even its social customs and rituals.  This ‘idea’ of Brahman is, however, not intellectual; Brahman is not metaphysical speculation or even intuitive reasoning — it is a Truth directly experienced and lived by innumerable sages and prophets, the Maharishis and Yogis, of Hindu tradition, those who have been, through the generations, the forerunners and exemplars of the Hindu dharma. None amongst them, not even those regarded as the greatest, the most advanced, have even once claimed that their realizations were absolute and final and could not be attempted by any other. On the contrary, each of them went to tremendous lengths, as preceptors and guides, to explain the path, the discipline, the methodology to attain to such realizations. These paths, disciplines and methodologies are the Yogas of Hindu dharma. Yoga (from the root yuj, meaning to join) literally implies union, union with the Divine, with the Supreme Truth.  This is yet another driving idea, idee-force, of Hinduism: that all humans have the spiritual right or adhikara, to attain to the highest and deepest realizations of the Hindu dharma; none is excluded, none is unworthy. The only precondition for realization is the psychological preparedness of the seeker, his or her sincerity, willingness to follow the path, for the Yogas are exacting and all-consuming.  Consider further that if Brahman is the sole existence, and there is none else, if all that is manifest (and not yet manifest) is that Brahman, then the seeker, the devotee too is Brahman. Not only that, each living being, every life form, every animate and inanimate object in the universe, is Brahman. The logic is inescapable: everything and everyone is that Brahman; and if so, then where and how does one search for Brahman? Who, in fact, searches, and who is the sought? Is it not all the same?  This is where the seeker comes to the mystic core: the realization that Brahman cannot be sought nor found, as long as one functions out of human mind and consciousness. The human mind and consciousness is still rooted in the falsehood, and glimpses Truth only through several filters of falsehood. The Hindu sages called this condition Ignorance, avidya (root word is vid, to know). Human beings are not born in sin and are not automatons in the hands of an all-powerful God. The only ontological issue is spiritual ignorance, or more precisely, ignorance of one’s spiritual source.  According to Hindu dharma, since all is Brahman, the source of the universe, and of all humans in it, is also Brahman. Not knowing that one arises from Brahman (and one will subside in Brahman) is the root, the ontological, Ignorance. And this ignorance, avidya, can be overcome by deep and sustained self-enquiry into the nature of being and becoming and delving into the depths of one’s own consciousness. The depths, or heart, of one’s consciousness conceals the Truth of not only self but the universe. This heart of consciousness is known as the Atman in Hindu dharma. Next to Brahman, atman is the only other central idea and idee-force of Hinduism, because the atman is that faculty within us that bridges the Ignorance and the Truth. To know one’s atman is the first supreme attainment of Hindu dharma; and to know the atman as Brahman, one in identity, is the other supreme attainment of Hindu dharma. Attaining these two supreme realizations is indeed the first fruition of Hindu dharma in its devotee or disciple.  But it is still ‘first fruition’ because even these supreme realizations are not the end of the path; as Sri Aurobindo says, these are in fact the beginning of the higher ascent to Truth. One may consider these two supreme attainments as the base camp for the ascent to the Everest of Supreme Truth.  Such is the vast and mighty sweep of Hindu dharma and darshan. And such indeed is its simple premise, so trenchantly formulated through the centuries, that there is no end-point of the evolution of consciousness, no final judgment day; there is only a continual going beyond, because Truth is infinite, like Brahman. As one nears the Everest, the Everest recedes. Anyone who has ever managed to scale such heights of spiritual realization has always come to the one question that Hindu dharma or darshan has no answer to: Is there an end, a final consummation of it all?  Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth Century, one who undoubtedly scaled the supreme heights of Vedic realization, said from his timeless vantage point that there was still an infinite beyond.  The ancient Vedic Rishis, when confronted by the same mystery, resolved it in a simpler way: that it was anirvachaniya — that which transcends thought and speech. 
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Reflections on Hinduism

Hinduism. . . gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Santana Dharma . . . Sri Aurobindo, India’s Rebirth Hinduism and the Future Can a religion evolve over time, revise its fundamentals, and respond creatively to new conditions and demands? Or is religion to be forever bound to its initial conditions, forever repeating revelations and beliefs of its founder or founders? If humanity evolves in consciousness over time, should religions not evolve as well? Do religions have an evolutionary relevance for humanity? The answers to all these very important questions will depend largely on how a religion has originated and evolved over time so far; and how its followers have been able, or allowed, to use the religion in their own personal spiritual quests and journeys.  For the purposes of our analysis, we will be classifying religions as either static or dynamic. A static religion is one that is organized around a central and more or less fixed belief system originating directly from its founder or founders; a dynamic religion is one that is mystical / spiritual and does not adhere to a particular belief system or values.  A dynamic religion is therefore evolutionary while static religions are conservative. But this is not always entirely true. In reality, things are more nuanced. No religion is either wholly dynamic or wholly static: all religions have some evolutionary elements and possibilities and some conservative elements and practices. What makes a religion dynamic is how the evolutionary and the conservative are balanced in application and practice, what is emphasized and what is de-emphasized over time. Responsiveness and adaptability would be significant markers of a dynamic, evolutionary religion, whereas rigidity and strict adherence would be markers of a static and conservative religion.  In the initial sections of this article, we shall explore the Hindu dharma to see what its evolutionary possibilities are and whether it can remain spiritually relevant for a 21st Century humanity.  Hinduism and Evolution: Can a religion evolve over time? If a religion is bound to a particular sacrosanct tradition or infallible theology, a particular prophet, messiah or scripture, then obviously it cannot. For a religion to evolve, it must also necessarily be able to outgrow several of its traditional beliefs and practices. There can be no real growth without a certain outgrowing of forms and formulations no longer relevant or meaningful to those who follow the religion.  For a religion to evolve, it must keep the spirit of enquiry as its principal value and experiential spiritual knowledge as its core.  Hinduism is arguably the one religion that has the potential of evolving into newer forms and bodies of experience and knowledge more suited to a humanity of the 21st Century. And it can do so precisely because Hinduism has grown as a religion only by a constant revision and evolution over ~5000 years of its existence.  Hinduism, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, has always been a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. This is how Hinduism, as a vast and varied body of spiritual knowledge, has grown over the years: by continuously enlarging itself, emphasizing an uncompromising spirit of enquiry instead of strict adherence to belief, and insisting on Truth instead of dogma.  Direct spiritual experience has always been valued more in Hinduism than dogmatic beliefs and scriptural references. Shruti (what is revealed and heard) and sakshatkara (direct seeing and knowing) have always been profoundly important in the Hindu tradition and preferred over any other source or authority. It must however be noted here that shruti, direct intuitive and spiritual revelation, is a dynamic ongoing process. What is revealed to one Rishi (seer, sage or prophet) can be superseded by what is revealed to another, at a later time or even contemporaneously. The Hindu dharma has always unambiguously stated that no one seer or prophet can have the final or last word. Consciousness is a dynamic and ever-evolving process and there can be no single end-product of such a process. No seer or prophet can be the final word, but every seer and prophet of Hindu dharma is a necessary link, a stepping stone, to the Supreme Truth. Each seer and prophet is a facilitator, a teacher and guide, and each has his or her place in the Hindu scheme of things.  It is true that the Hindu dharma has its scriptures, but it is not bound to any of its scriptures, it considers no scripture infallible as it considers no teacher or seer infallible. Fallibility, in fact, is a basic assumption of the Hindu dharma. As long as one lives in relative ignorance, and as long as one has not become completely identified and one with the Supreme Truth Consciousness, one will always be fallible. The only “infallible authority” the Hindu dharma acknowledges and reveres is the Divine Truth within, the Inner Teacher and Guru, the Indwelling Divine or Ishvara. This is important to understand: the final spiritual authority is the Truth within, Sat, accessible by anyone willing to devote his or her energies sincerely to this endeavor. It makes no difference to the Truth whether the seeker is low caste or high caste, atheist or believer, born into Hinduism or born into some other faith — Truth is Truth, and all human beings have equal access to it regardless of time or place.  If this be the central tenet of the Hindu dharma, then it implies that the source of the dharma is living and dynamic and cannot be fossilized within a historic structure or tradition.  This has enormous implications. For one, no true disciple of the Hindu dharma can quote scripture or teacher to block debate, dissent and revision; however exalted and advanced a teacher or Guru may be, the final arbiter is always the Inmost. This is the reason why, at a Vedanta conference in Madras, during a debate on a certain scriptural point, when a pundit objected to Vivekananda making an assertion because it was not sanctioned by authority, Vivekananda could retort, “But I, Vivekananda, say so!” This is also the reason why Sri Aurobindo, one of the foremost exponents and exemplars of Hinduism, one who is widely regarded as a Maharishi in the Hindu tradition, could take Hinduism beyond its scriptural and traditional boundaries and extend its scope far beyond even what was attained and declared by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, inarguably one of the most revered texts for Hindus anywhere in the world.  As expected, the traditional orthodox interpreters and followers of the Hindu dharma could not stomach Sri Aurobindo’s bold innovations and criticized him openly for claiming that his Yoga was “beyond” all that was hitherto attained by all of the past Hindu Gurus and avatars.  Not only that, Sri Aurobindo also indicated, more than once, that the Hindu tradition of avatars (Divine Incarnations) was not a finished thing, there was no concept of the last avatar in Hinduism. As long as there shall be an evolutionary need for avatars, so long shall avatars be born upon earth.  Hinduism then contains the possibilities of further evolution — it has evolved so far through its foremost practitioners through the ages, and shall continue to do so, regardless of what the traditionalists feel. Whether the orthodox Hindu (Hinduism permits and absorbs within itself both the orthodox and the heretic, the traditionalist and the modernist) likes it or not, Hinduism is a dynamic and creative religion, not a static one. This is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and most other world religions. Hinduism is dynamic and creative primarily because it is a spiritual and mystical religion at the core. A spiritual religion, by definition, must follow the soul, the spirit in man; it cannot be the other way round where the spirit follows or is constrained to follow the religion. A religion that claims precedence over the spirit becomes external and non-spiritual; and a non-spiritual religion will inevitably become subservient to external authority (of the scripture, priest and the church) and will not allow the freedom of spiritual quest and expression to its followers. Any individual spirituality outside the theological or ecclesiastical confines of the religion will be regarded as heretical or blasphemous.  A spiritual or mystical religion, on the other hand, cannot have any theological or ecclesiastical confines as that would be a contradiction in terms. The soul in its quest for Truth will soar beyond all outer forms and formulations, as the Truth it seeks is infinitely beyond anything that even the vastest and wisest mind can conceive. Thus, as the consciousness evolves, so must the religion. As the Vedas and the Vedanta reveal: Truth is vast, brihat, encompassing and transcending all space and time, and cannot thus be contained in any one timeframe, however cosmic that timeframe may be. Not only is it vast or brihat, it is universal and supra-cosmic, encompassing and transcending the entire cosmos, and thus cannot be contained by any one human sect, society, nation or religion. To claim that a particular community, faith or nation possesses this Truth would be like a sea wave claiming that it possesses the entire sea.  Hinduism is a spiritual and mystical religion because the source of Hindu thought and dharma is the eternal, living Truth of the soul or the spirit; and it is mystical because its entire body of knowledge and practice derives from direct and intuitive spiritual and yogic experience.  Thus, being spiritual and mystical at the core, Hinduism can, and indeed must, evolve into a religion in alignment with the needs and demands of a future humanity. It must not only be progressive but radical in accelerating the pace of human evolution. If this does not happen, Hinduism too, like most other world religions, will soon become obsolete and irrelevant, and die out in a few generations.  To stay dynamic and relevant, Hinduism must remain true to its core and spirit, and be open to change and revision, be willing to outgrow many of its past formulations and abandon many of its old dogmas, practices and beliefs.  Hinduism will need to preserve and revivify its Sanatan core, its deep and vast Vedic and Vedantic knowledge; and it will need to reach out into an equally vast evolutionary future, the seeds of which it hides in its heart as its supreme and final mystery — rahasyam uttamam.
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Dharma

Indic Resurgence

Towards An Indic Resurgence Based on Sanatan Dharma The political and cultural narratives in India are changing — the signs and indications are everywhere. While the leftist-liberal narratives struggle to retain relevance in an emerging new India, the resurgent Indic sentiments are rapidly gaining in strength and spread. The Modi years will be remembered as a watershed in India’s struggle for national identity (1). But, however positive and reassuring the signs may be, there is still a long way to go; we are just about turning the corner. It is now that all who represent the Indic/Indian nationalist worldview need to come together, gather their energies and resources, and get to work. We need a focused plan of action and quick, effective execution. The Philosophical Framework No social or political movement can succeed without philosophical underpinnings. No cultural or political narrative can be built and sustained without a fundamental worldview, values and principles. In other words, a darshan and a dharma. The philosophical framework for India was, and will always be, Sanatan Dharma. In Sri Aurobindo’s categorical words — When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great… It is for the dharma and by the dharma that India exists. I say that it is the Sanatan Dharma which for us is nationalism. This Hindu nation was born with the Sanatan Dharma, with it it moves and with it it grows. When the Sanatan Dharma declines, then the nation declines, and if the Sanatan Dharma were capable of perishing, with the Sanatan Dharma it would perish. The Sanatan Dharma, that is nationalism. India’s struggle for national identity is, in a fundamental sense, India’s struggle for Hindu dharma, her sovereign law of being. India must recover that essential Hindu character, her Hindutva (2), and stand unapologetically as a Hindu Rashtra to fulfill her true role amongst the nations of the world. Without her Hindutva, she will remain weak and vulnerable. Hindutva is a much misunderstood and maligned term in today’s political landscape. This needs to be corrected. Hindutva is the essence of being Hindu. And that essence cannot be understood unless one understands the philosophical basis and rationale of Hinduism, Sanatan Dharma. The idea of the Hindu Rashtra, based on the foundations of Sanatan Dharma, does not in any way violate the idea of secularism, as the Leftist-Liberals mistakenly believe and propagate. This mistaken and pernicious belief arises from the simple fact that they neither understand Hinduism or the Sanatan Dharma, nor do they care to. Sanatan Dharma, which is the philosophical and spiritual basis of Hinduism, is secular by its very nature. All belief systems, faiths, philosophies and schools of thought are included in the universal sweep of the Sanatan Dharma. Nothing that is human is outside the scope of Sanatan Dharma. Even the asura and his evil find a rightful place in the cosmic scheme of things. The immediate question for us is how to bring Sanatan Dharma back to the national centre stage without creating an imbalance of political forces. If we were to keep politics entirely out of the play, a Hindu Rashtra based on Sanatan Dharma would not be a challenge at all. It is politics that has polarized India and not culture or religion; and therefore we need to de-polarize India by de-politicizing Dharma. The one sure way of de-politicizing dharma is to strengthen dharma. It is by strengthening dharma that India will stand tall and firm as a truly secular nation where all religions and cultures will be regarded equally as the play of the One Divine. It is by strengthening dharma that juvenile notions of intolerant Gods, infallible scriptures, chosen prophets and peoples can be demolished. Falsehoods or half-truths in any form, even in their varied religious garbs, cannot be destroyed by battle or resistance; they can be destroyed by simply reducing them to complete irrelevance. This is what dharma does: as it grows in strength, it reduces falsehood or half-truths to irrelevance. One doesn’t need to snatch a stuffed toy out of a child’s hands: one allows the child to discover something more real and the stuffed toy simply becomes irrelevant. Therefore the need to strengthen dharma. There is no other option. Preaching dharma will not get us anywhere. Dharma must be lived for it to become an effective force. Knowledge of dharma must be transformed into dharma embodied and lived. There is no worshipping or following of dharma: there is only the living of dharma. Dharma is not faith: it is lived knowledge, it is Truth in action, ritam. It is to this that India must awaken.Then alone can she aspire to be a rashtra standing firm on the rock of dharma. What would be the immediate action points to bring back Sanatan Dharma to the national centre stage, to make it India’s driving narrative? The first and most indispensable step would be to live the dharma in our minds, hearts and bodies. Without this, nothing else is possible. The great teachers of dharma used to call this sadhana – a concentrated personal discipline transforming knowledge into life. Individual after individual needs to do this. As the numbers grow, the dharma will grow in the subtle atmosphere of the nation; it will grow quietly and surely into a groundswell, sweeping aside all opposition and dissolving all obstacles. To do this, we will need to take three giant strides: Recover the dharma out of the past and bring it alive in the present so that it can actively shape the future; Dedicate the rest of our lives to the living of this dharma that we systematically recover and make powerfully active in our lives again; Create external structures and support systems to live the dharma collectively — i.e. socially, culturally, intellectually and spiritually. Recovering The Dharma In Swami Vivekananda’s words: Children of India, I am here to speak to you today about some practical things, and my object in reminding you about the glories of the past is simply this. Many times have I been told that looking into the past only degenerates and leads to nothing, and that we should look to the future. That is true. But out of the past is built the future. Look back, therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal fountains that are behind, and after that, look forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much higher than she ever was. Our ancestors were great. We must first recall that. We must learn the elements of our being, the blood that courses in our veins; we must have faith in that blood and what it did in the past; and out of that faith and consciousness of past greatness, we must build an India yet greater than what she has been. Juxtaposing this with Sri Aurobindo’s words: …why should not India then be the first power in the world? Who else has the undisputed right to extend spiritual sway over the world? This was Swami Vivekananda’s plan of campaign. India can once more be made conscious of her greatness by an overmastering sense of the greatness of her spirituality. This sense of greatness is the main feeder of all patriotism. This only can put an end to all self-depreciation and generate a burning desire to recover the lost ground. And we have a crystal clear plan of action for each of us who aspires to recover and live the dharma within ourselves — recover the depths and the heights that we have lost over the generations, assimilate more deeply our past, our heritage and our culture, and bring it to life in the present, and make of it a force to mould our future. This will happen when we, as Indians, begin to awaken in our own depths the force and light of the knowledge and tapasya that lives timelessly in the soul of our nation as the Sanatan Dharma. This will demand tremendous and sustained personal commitment and effort. Dissemination The next step of the action plan will be dissemination of the dharma, simplifying, explaining and communicating the Sanatan Dharma to all those who are prepared in mind and spirit for the dharma. The Sanatan Dharma is widely regarded as too esoteric, philosophical or mystical to be understood or followed by the masses. This may well be true as Sanatan Dharma is undoubtedly profound and subtle. For this reason, the dharma has historically remained confined to a cultural and intellectual elite, leading to an unfortunate over-Brahmanization through the ages, which in turn led to the reformative reaction of Buddha-dharma. This we need to correct immediately and vigorously. First of all, we will need to create a think tank, a nucleus of high calibre intellectuals and practitioners (sadhaks) of the dharma who can be its best exemplars and mentors. The selection will have to be done diligently, without any political or cultural prejudice. People with unquestionable judgment and character must be brought together. There will be no easy way to do this. However challenging this might prove to be, no compromise should be allowed. The highest standards and probity will need to be maintained. To this nucleus or think tank will fall the task of explaining and disseminating Sanatan Dharma without diluting or distorting it. This group must understand not only the philosophy of the dharma but the practical psychology of implementing it, allowing neither populism nor elitism. The dharma must be seen as a comprehensively pragmatic and practical way of living. Instruments of Dissemination Literature in various formats for popularizing the basics of the Sanatan Dharma. Workshops based on Sanatan themes and ideas for the young, from high school to university; seminars and workshops for young professionals and teachers. Specific workshops for teachers on how to convey Sanatan Dharma to students in various contexts. Teachers will be critical in this task. An intensive course may easily be devised for teachers who are willing to undertake this work. Multimedia formats like cinema, television, online platforms and YouTube channels to be extensively used for dissemination and communication of the dharma. There are several very creative people already working on this, and they must be brought together on one platform. Social media will have to be used extensively and intensively; focused and disciplined dissemination through social media will be critical to delivery. If we must target the young, we must master the idiom of the social media. However, those who will manage the social media must be diligently selected, trained and supported. Webinars, quick chats, focused interviews and Ted-X kind of focused talks must be continuously streamed across the nation. Information Technology will have to be used extensively; the world is right now in the process of moving even more decisively into IT. We will need to innovate and devise new and stimulating ways of “getting the message across”. We must bear in mind these very important points while we prepare our strategy for action: The youth will be critical to our work. India is a young country, with 50% of its population under the age of 35. Youth need direction, orientation, guidance. They are particularly vulnerable and impressionable and can be influenced by any narrative convincing enough. The Sanatan narrative must get through to them. We don’t have all the time in the world. We have to get through to the young, but we have to do this within a definite timeframe which will have to be rigorously adhered to. When it comes to the youth, we will need the “right packaging”. It is important to get the idiom right. The youth respond to “young” language, they will not respond to philosophical or academic language; they will not respond to the preacher or the professor. They will respond to smart young people who talk their language and address their issues. Can we “package” the truths and concepts of Sanatan Dharma in contemporary post-modern language shorn of heavy ideology and entirely free of ritualism? The term “Sanatan Dharma” itself may need to be replaced by something more contemporary and relevant. This will need careful thinking before the movement is carried into the public domain. The word “Dharma”, however effective for us, carries old cultural and religious connotations for the youth and we have to be ready to acknowledge that. Several of our own intellectual and cultural identities and attachments may need to be sacrificed. The terminology is not important here, communication is. Can the basic terminology of the Dharma be made more scientific and contemporary so that we can evoke a vital response from the young? Consider how Buddhism has become so popular in the West, and among the young — some of the Buddhist teachers have been able to effectively package their dharma in crisp, sharply defined and evocative language that appeals as much to the modern intellect as to the emotions. What we will need to evoke is the higher intelligence, the buddhi, as well as the vital (pranamaya, the energetic-emotional being). The vital without the buddhi can very easily lead to aggressiveness and lumpenization; the buddhi without the vital can as easily lead to intellectualization and ineffectual ivory-towerism. We have experienced both these extremes in contemporary India and must be careful to avoid both. A University for Sanatan Dharma, A Prototype For the most effective strengthening and spread of Sanatan Dharma, the most important instrument will need to be education – ongoing research and study in Sanatan Dharma and human consciousness, and continuous development of thought and knowledge. Establishing a University should be the first priority once the process of dissemination is underway. This University, a prototype of dharmic , education, will be a modern-day equivalent of the Upanishadic gurukula, and must be world class, second to none in terms of faculty, students, and content. Establishing a full-scale brick and mortar university obviously takes time; but we must bear in mind that education is shifting rapidly towards digitization. The gurukula-Univeristy of the future, even when situated in physical space, will offer mostly online courses. This will be even more of a trend post-Covid-19. Only some intensive courses that would need the presence of the Masters will need to be given in physical spaces. Sri Aurobindo, while describing the work that must be done for a renewal of India’s civilizational spirit, stated : The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendor, depth and fullness is India’s first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavor to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualized society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity. There are three components that he emphasizes here : The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendor, depth and fullness; The flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge; An original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavor to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualized society. These components must also be the curricular framework for the University – the recovery of India’s spiritual knowledge and experience and their flowing out in various forms, and their application in the modern world. There is no university in the world today that comes anywhere close to this ideal. In terms of building an India of the future, there can be no better framework. Based on this framework, the University will have a clearly defined agenda: To promote world class research in Sanatan Dharma, human consciousness and evolutionary spirituality and Yoga in contemporary contexts, national and international; To provide an environment and platform for the study and dissemination of Sanatan Dharma worldwide, which must include websites, social media, multimedia and cinema, online and print publications; To become a national and global hub for Sanatan Dharma and evolutionary spirituality and Yoga; To create a research and study centre for integral healthcare based on Yoga and Ayurveda, besides being a centre for providing such healthcare to the public; To establish schools for study and research in various disciplines like management and leadership, economics, science, integral and Indic psychology, environment and ecology, history and politics based on a dharmic and consciousness worldview. Besides courses, most of which would be running online, there will have to be allied activities that will reinforce the basic agenda of the University: Wide scale organization of off-site camps, boot camps, seminars and workshops for the youth, across schools and universities, wherever people are open and willing. Creating a stimulating, challenging and robust program for direct intervention amongst the youth. This program needs to be evolved and implemented by enlightened thinkers and very effective communicators. Scholars, philosophers, social and religious thinkers, scientists, business and corporate representatives need to be included in this endeavor so that the program that evolves is rich, varied, multi-disciplinary and versatile. The University will need to maintain close and sustained coordination with schools and other universities to ensure buy-in for this program. Such a program cannot be competitive, it needs must be collaborative. In parallel with the program for the youth, there will need to be an equally challenging and robust program to disseminate the dharma amongst professionals, scientists, corporate executives, business leaders and media across the nation. This will need to be super reach-out program, involving various facilitators and learners across the national spectrum. The University will need to reach out to several possible stakeholders: writers, philosophers, thinkers and social influencers, religious teachers and mentors, political activists and leaders and media personnel who can influence large sections of society. We will need to gather on one platform all possible influencers and champions of the dharmic cause. In reaching out to a wider population, we will inevitably meet several people already entrenched in their beliefs and ideologies, often even opposed or hostile to Sanatan thought. We must not turn away from them for none can be left out. There must always be space for debate and dialogue. A truly secular and democratic society must be tolerant of dissent and debate, must be respectful of all world views, all thoughts and beliefs, and must allow disagreement. Rigidity of belief and thought, intolerance and supremacist attitudes can have no place or relevance in a dharmic society. Dharmic discourse and narrative must be free of political and cultural prejudice. Dharma may inspire and lead politics but can never serve politics or political ends. Generating Wealth Force Dharma and artha are the two of the four purusharthas enjoined by Sanatan Dharma. To support dharma, we will need artha, wealth. We will need to gather all like-minded and like-spirited individuals and create a wealth force to sustain dharma. This can and must be done. The Instruments of the Wealth Force Dharmansha can be a powerful instrument for creating the wealth force. Dharmansh implies a regular contribution of a percentage of one’s income and wealth for the work of dharma. Even if each of us were to contribute one to five percent of our income to the dharmic work, we would gather sufficient funds to move ahead with the work. Such a thing is regularly done by the Muslims and the Christians. The Christians call this tithe, the contribution of a tenth of one’s income for religious works. Business and corporate leaders aligned to the dharma can create a powerful network of financial resources and talents and create a corpus for funding the work of dharma. They can also create multiple business opportunities through such a networking and generate wealth for all businesses involved in this network. This network can then contribute directly to the work of dharma. This would be similar to the Islamic halal economy that generates trillions of dollars for Islam. Crowd sourcing could be yet another instrument to generate wealth. There would be enough individuals and groups to contribute to a movement for dharma. All that would be needed is a clear direction and a transparent plan of action. The power of a committed crowd can be extraordinary. We only need to reach out and communicate. Reiteration of Salient Points: The message of Sanatan Dharma must get across to the young if we wish to win this battle of civilization. But we must ensure that our agenda is not hijacked by aggressive and reductionist “preachers” who are only too happy reducing Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism to rituals and rules. Sanatan Dharma represents a highly integrated and integral way of being which is at once subtle and complex: it cannot be allowed to be reduced to a set of simplistic rules and rituals and made into another orthodox religion. The moment Sanatan Dharma is reduced to orthodox practiced religion or rituals, it will be brought into the same space as other world religions. This we must not allow. Sanatan dharma is life itself, it is integral and evolutionary, and must be seen and known as such. Hinduism and Sanatan Dharma involve very profound symbolism. We must be able to explain the symbolism without oversimplifying or demystifying it. This will require careful intellectual navigation. One important reason why the intellectual elite has been wary of Sanatan Dharma and Hinduism is the sheer difficulty in explaining complex and profound spiritual and mystical symbolism to the masses. Simplification should not mean dumbing down. This work for Sanatan Dharma is vast and profound, and cannot be done by any one individual or group; everyone must come together in a vast Yajna, a Sacrifice to the Dharma. Everyone is necessary, and all must put forth their highest and best. This work must be collaborative and unitive — the stakes are high and time is running out. What Sanatan Dharma Is Not Sanatan Dharma is not a religion; it has no established clergy, no central authority, no final arbiter in interpretation or application of the Dharma; no single scripture, no theology. “Dharma” does not mean religion; the word is derived from the Sanskrit root, dhri, which means to hold or bind (to stabilize, sustain)(3). Dharma therefore refers to anything that holds or binds together (cohere), stabilizes and sustains; it is widely accepted as a principle of coherence without which a thing or being would collapse into chaos. This makes it subtle and quite beyond the range of the religious mind. It has nothing to do with rites and rituals. Whatever rituals do exist in the day to day living of Sanatan Dharma is highly symbolic in nature. For instance, in the practice of Yajna (ritual sacrifice), the yajna or the sacrifice itself is symbolic and metaphorical, so is the Agni or fire, so are the oblations and the ingredients, so indeed is the priest. It is not a set of mandatory or prescribed rules for ethical and religious behavior. Dharma posits no absolute right or wrong, everything is relative and contextual. The sense of right and wrong must arise only from one’s inmost being or must be guided by one’s higher intelligence, the buddhi. Therefore, in the Sanatan tradition, the most important practice is to awaken and rigorously cultivate one’s inmost being (atma) and one’s highest intelligence (buddhi) of which spiritual discrimination (viveka) is an essential part. Sanatan Dharma does not tell you what to eat or not to eat, what to wear or not to wear, how to live and how to behave. It is not a set of do’s and don’ts. For the Sanatan Dharma, the only thing of spiritual, social and moral significance is the development of one’s consciousness. Height and depth of consciousness is incomparably more significant than a set of moral and social rules and laws. Sanatan Dharma is not the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads, nor the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, nor even the Puranas; these texts do not define or limit the dharma. However, these texts align the buddhi to the dharma, make the dharma more accessible to the mind and vital behaviour of humanity. A deep understanding of the Vedas, the Gita and the Upanishads, for example, can be of immense importance to one who wishes to live the dharmic life, but they are not the only sources or guides. The ultimate source of the dharma, and the only infallible guide, is the eternal Wisdom within one’s inmost being, the secret Veda indwelling in every conscious being (4). This is the only grand scripture and temple of the Sanatan Dharma. Therefore the finding of the atma is the only fundamental and indispensable practice of Sanatan Dharma — all else is of secondary or peripheral interest. 1The “Modi years” (2014—to date) is not just a political marker but a socio-cultural one. In a historic context, India’s political and social course correction from pseudo-secularism and liberalism to pro-rightist nationalism will be attributed to Prime Minister Modi’s personal initiative in driving the BJP agenda to its rapid and decisive conclusion. The process, as I write this, is still on. 2The essence of being Hindu 3Dharan (धारण), dharti (धरति), dhairya (धैर्य) are all words derived from the same root ‘dhri’ ध्रि 4Sri Aurobindo: “As the supreme Shastra of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every man, so its supreme Guide and Teacher is the inner Guide, the World Teacher, jagad-guru, secret within us. (The Synthesis of Yoga) The author believes that Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga is arguably the most definitive and systematic expression of the Sanatan Dharma known to human beings.
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