Author: 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.

Atma Vichar
Uncategorized

The Quest of the Real

Fundamentals of Yoga The Yogic journey to Self-realization begins with seeing clearly the self, or the selves, that we are not. To see the false as the false.  The seeker or the sadhaka (the Sanskrit word for the disciple of Yoga; literally, one who practices sadhana, spiritual discipline) must pass through several layers of not-self before s-he can begin to discern a real self behind it all. There are two words the Yogi often uses — Satyam and Mithya, two fundamental terms of Yogic knowledge. Satyam (from the root sat) means that which is true and abiding, that which does not continually change or cease to be; mithya is that which continually changes from one form to another, is impermanent, does not abide and does not possess an intrinsic reality. However, mithya seems to be real, it has an apparent reality, like a mirage in the desert, or like the horizon. When you look upon a mithya, you are convinced that it is there; but when you get closer to it, you see it is not, or it is something entirely other than what it appeared to be. Such is the nature of the self as we know it — it appears very real and stable, but when we look carefully and deeply at it, it begins to lose its stable shape and becomes increasingly amorphous, till it just disappears, often like the grin of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. As the Buddha often used to say, the self that one usually identifies with is just a bundle of habitual thoughts and tendencies that hang together creating an illusion of continuity and disintegrates upon analysis. When one looks deep into the nature of the self, one finds no real or stable self at all. Deep in the heart of the consciousness, there is no real self but void. And this indeed is the starting point in the Yoga: to look into the nature of the self, to carefully take apart, strand by strand, layer by layer, all that appears to be the self, the roots of our identity, and to peer into those inner depths to see what is and what is not. This very process is one of intense purification. The sadhaka first discovers three distinct layers wrapped around his identity, almost like a cocoon: a very sticky layer of all that his mind has been conditioned to believe since childhood; a second somewhat less sticky layer of all that his mind has learnt and acquired through experiences and education; and a third layer of all that his mind has been persistently projecting to be real because of its deepest desires, fears and prejudices. And all these layers are intricately interwoven and must be separated.  The Aim The separating takes time for this is a process of de-conditioning and deconstruction that the sadhaka must pass through; the old edifice has to be torn down, the ground has to be cleared. Through focused and persistent contemplation and self-enquiry, all that is not true, not real, not abiding must be eliminated, till all that remains is the very faculty that is eliminating and cannot itself be eliminated. It is like having peeled off the layers of a fruit till the fruit is gone and only the peeler remains. The sadhaka has then reached the bottom, the substratum of being. This substratum, known as adhara in Sanskrit, is what the Yoga considers to be the ground upon which all psychological identity rests, ground zero, if you will. In other words, the many selves that we grow up believing ourselves to be are multiple layers of conditioned and acquired beliefs built on ground zero, this adhara, that become, over time, hard crusts of identification enormously difficult to break out of, the almost unbreakable tethers of the ego.  But the first aim of Yoga is to break free of these encrustations, these tethers out of ego, and realize oneself as essentially free of all selves, identities and identifications. This is the indispensable step towards the higher and the deeper realizations of the Yoga. For, finally, when freed of all the conditionings and the layers of ignorance and falsehood, the sadhaka will begin to realize himself as the true Self, the Purusha in the language of Yoga, behind all the false and apparent selves. The realization of oneself as Purusha is the beginning of the higher Yoga, the launching pad, as it were, into the blissful vastnesses of Consciousness, possessed of the Truth of being and things, master of all existence, Ishwara.  This is the high and wondrously uplifting aim of Yoga, more enticing than all the treasures of earth and the promises of heavens; and to strive for this is the highest purpose and dharma of human existence. The journey is long and arduous and needs enormous patience and fortitude. The sadhaka must be prepared in mind and heart for undertaking this journey of journeys, and must be willing to sacrifice all the lower strivings, pleasures and satisfactions of human life. The journey to the Real is spiritual and supramental, and way beyond the intellect and its mental knowledge; a higher faculty of knowledge or a deeper intuition is needed for this journey, and the sadhaka must discover and awaken these in the silent depths of his or her being. Even the mind’s so-called spiritual knowledge falls apart on this journey because all our knowledge is merely aerial mapping of unknown territory and the map, however brilliantly drawn, is not the territory. No matter how many have walked the paths of Yoga before us, and how many have come to the realization of Self, when we walk this path ourselves, we walk alone and we walk for the first time. Non-knowing or the Beginner’s Mind The quest for the Self then begins with the Self: What or who am I? This is atma-vichara, a methodical and sustained investigation into the nature of the Self, and this investigation is as exacting as any scientific one, except that it is directed inward, into one’s own consciousness. And as any intelligent scientific investigation, it is an open-ended attempt, without agenda or goal. The point is not to reach a conclusion. The quest for the Self is subtle and vast, and there can be no conclusions. The point is to arrive at understanding, wisdom, prajna. And understanding is a continuous process; the moment one believes that one has understood, the learning ceases, and whatever one has understood, or believes one has understood, becomes fossilized as knowledge. This is the reason that the masters of Vedanta would reject knowledge as useless and insist on anubhava, which can mean direct understanding as well as living experience.  In Yoga, knowledge (especially of the spiritual kind) has only marginal utility, like a map indicating a certain terrain. The sadhaka must begin with a clear understanding of the difference between knowledge and anubhava: knowledge is all outside, made up of facts and figures, ideas and theories, but anubhava arises from within, and blossoms into prajna or spiritual wisdom. One cannot come to prajna without coming to oneself. The outer knowledge is all available in books, from teachings and teachers, but prajna flowers into being when one sinks deeper into oneself and begins to find those spaces of inner awareness where one is most completely and integrally oneself.  The end of all knowing is knowing the Self: and this knowing of Self is the  paramarthika jnana or transcendental knowledge of the Yogi. It is this knowing that one must come to. Compared to this knowing, all outer knowledge is useless. All the knowledge in the universe will not bring the seeker an inch closer to the Self. When the seeker understands this simple truth, all her distractions fall from her, and she is freed of the constant need to seek truth outside of herself, in the world of people, things and experiences.  To enter the spirit of Yoga, one must first turn inward, become introverts in the true sense of the word, cease to be seekers of the outside world, seekers of experiences, relationships, objects. It is when one turns within that one realizes just how compelling the outside world is, for it is the outside world that shapes the inner and makes us what we are. Yet, when we close our eyes to sleep, drift into those inner spaces made of dreams and void, we lose all of the outside world, there is nothing anymore, no possessions, no relations, no things to occupy ourselves with. But few grasp the significance of this. Sleep is routine for most of us, we must sleep as we must eat. But for the Yogi, sleep is the precursor of dying. As one sleeps, so shall one die. If one carries nothing of the outside world into sleep, one will carry nothing of it into dying. This realization is often the beginning of a gradual detachment from the clamors of the external.  Where does the world go in our sleep? Where do all the relationships go — where is the wife, husband, child or friend once we are asleep? Where is the sky or earth, where the objects of desire? The Yogis say that all these are mental constructs and when mind gets absorbed in deep sleep, all its activities and constructs dissolve into the void of sleep. In the state of deep sleep, which the Yogis know by direct experience, there is neither the self nor the world, neither time nor space, neither waking nor dreaming. When the sadhaka understands this clearly through his own experience, he is freed from the great spell of the outside world — he then sees the thousand and one things of the world outside as futile, like a child’s toys. What then is real?  Do bear in mind, at this point, that an illusory outside world does not mean that everything is unreal, like a dream or a magician’s trick. It isn’t that at all. There is a reality of world and self, but veiled by multiple layers of distractions and non-realities, shadows and untruths, veil upon veil of mithya that must be patiently and painstakingly removed. This is the work, the labor, of finding oneself, finding the truth of being and the truth of things. Truth does not come easy, it cannot be found in books, sacred or otherwise; it cannot be found in words or teachings; for it is hidden in the core of being, a dimensionless point of infinite density, the very heart of creation, and it has to be dug up, pulled out into the light of consciousness. Then, and then alone, shall we know, and come to the understanding of Yoga.  So this is the first lesson of Yoga —that no external knowledge or learning can yield truth; truth has to be recovered from one’s inmost depths of being. And often, what stands in the way of this recovery is knowledge itself. There is nothing more destructive to the spirit of enquiry than the thought or belief that one knows. To be open in non-knowing is to be in the spirit of self-enquiry.  Therefore, Yoga insists on humility. Humility is acknowledgment of the fact that one knows nothing of true spiritual worth. Most of the mind’s *(inverted comma) knowledge is labeling and naming, merely describing in word and labels what we see from the outside. We look up into the night sky and say to ourselves that I know that is the sky, and the moon and stars; if we have more information, then we say that I know that the moon is a satellite of the earth, and that the earth is a planet, and that star up there is Sirius. But think of it, all this that I tell myself is a fiction. There is no Sirius up there; it’s just ‘star’. But there is no star up there either; it is a sphere of fiery incredibly hot gases, or at least that is what my sciences tell me; but what gases? Hydrogen, the mind quickly says, for one. But what is hydrogen? There is no such thing as hydrogen at all; there are just molecules and atoms to which a name is given for convenience; but wait a minute, there are no molecules or atoms either; there are only gravity fields, quantum states, probabilities; and these too we do not really know.  So where does it all end?  When one is ready to renounce all mental knowledge and learning in a spirit of utter humility, one is deemed ready for Yoga. When one has come to the Unknowing, one has come to the threshold of the silence of Yoga, a silence that naturally arises when one has nothing to say anymore, for what can one say once one has seen through the play of names and labels? Having seen that all knowledge only describes the progressive stages of ignorance, the seeker is done with his romance with knowledge and is ready for real exploration, for self-enquiry. He starts then with a clean slate, what the Zen masters call the beginner’s mind. Atma-vichara Atma-vichara is not uncovering of knowledge but seeing through the veils of ignorance and apparent or false knowledge — the seeing of the false as false; it is the process of peeling away, one by one, the many layers of nomenclature and descriptions, mental constructs and approximations, conjectures, hearsay, beliefs and biases, conditionings and superstitions, unexamined ideas and conceptual projections, and so on, till the whole knowledge apparatus of the mind is stripped clean and laid bare.  Atma, in Sanskrit, means self; vichara means enquiry through analytical thought and contemplation. So atma-vichara is the process of looking into one’s own psychological structure and trying to see what lies beneath — Who am I, or who do I believe myself to be?  Is my identity real? Does it consist of my name and biography? Or my physical characteristics? Or my psychological habits? Or my behavior patterns? My character or personality? What is my real identity? Who is the “me” in the first place?  Name is just a tag, a convenience. Being man or woman is just a description of form seen from the outside and means nothing from the inside. So is age. Would you see yourself as man or woman from inside yourself? Would you see yourself as thirty, fifty, or sixty years old from the inside? Do you ever see yourself as so many years old from the inside? In fact, have you ever seen age, or time, from the inside? Ask yourself these questions. They may not be easy to answer, but they will bring you to the heart of the matter.  What does it mean to be Indian or American? Does India or America even exist outside of one’s mind? Beyond the label, does even earth exist? What is it that we really see? Do we see earth at all? Or do we see and experience all that is known to us as Cosmos? Just by calling a part of that cosmos earth, does it really signify anything? Call this portion ‘earth’ or that portion ‘sun’, it is still all cosmos. And ‘cosmos’ too is a word, a label, a description from the outside. What ‘cosmos’ is from the inside is something we do not know. Just as we do not know what a ‘star’ really is; just as I do not know what I really am once I start deconstructing myself in my own consciousness.   From the inside of my own consciousness, I do not see or know myself at all the way I do when I am oriented outwardly: I am no longer a name or an identity, not even a form or a personality from the inside. All I am then is self-awareness: I am aware of being something or someone, but beyond that, nothing is definite.  As I peer deeper inside my own head as it were, I see certain memories, remembered experiences, certain associations, patterns of thoughts, images and sounds floating in a stream of consciousness that I recognize as myself, a distinct personality. But is it really so? Is that who or what I am? As I focus even more carefully on this stream of consciousness that I identify as myself, with all its swirling and bubbling patterns of memories, thoughts, images and sounds, I find the whole swirling and bubbling stream just evaporating into an inner void, a silence. Then, for a while, there seems to be nothing, no one inside.  To go on looking at this void becomes very difficult. The mind is always used to looking at objects—something or the other, but looking at nothing is a totally new experience, if one can still call it an experience. But if one manages to hold the attention in that inner void, that whole swirling and bubbling stream of consciousness falls silent, and one becomes aware of a perception that has no name or form; an intense inner perception that looks at nothing in particular but is aware, simply and totally aware. It is then that the realization dawns that this very perception, this awareness without name and form is what one really is.  This is the threshold of self-awareness: atma-bodh in the language of Yoga. 
Read More
Uncategorized

Towards Dharmic Capitalism

The question of money and wealth is perhaps the most vexing of all issues confronted by those who aspire for a more conscious way of life. Money has a subtle corrupting influence even on the best of minds. It is for this reason that money is amongst the first things to be rejected by the spiritually inclined. Most spiritual disciplines celebrate poverty because of a deeply ingrained fear of money. But wealth is indispensable to life on earth and any spirituality that dismisses wealth will have to, by that very logic, dismiss the action of life itself.  According to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, money is not just a medium of exchange but a powerful force at work on earth. This force can be harnessed and used consciously and creatively for human welfare and wellbeing, to generate physical, material and vital abundance for all humans everywhere; or it can be used for personal and collective aggrandizement. Being a force, money by itself is neither good nor bad: it is what we make of it and how we use it.  Sri Aurobindo said that the wealth force is essentially a divine force, a spiritual force, that must be used for the work of the Divine on earth. In other words, wealth is a force to be used for establishing Dharma. But, in the present scheme of things, this force happens to be under the control of the asuric or adharmic forces, forces ruled by greed and ego and opposed to Truth and Dharma. Those who have the money often do not have the consciousness of Dharma; and those who have the consciousness, often do not have the money! In Indian spirituality, there are two dominant forces in the play of evolution: the daivic and the asuric. The daivic (from the word deva, meaning divine) represents the forces of Truth and harmony, unerringly aligned with the highest dharma; the asuric (from the word asura, meaning demonic) represents the exaggerated and unbalanced ego which typically needs to devour others to grow and thrive. While the asuric concentrates all wealth and power in its own hands for its own selfish use, the daivic distributes, circulates, shares so that all grow together, following wider and deeper laws of universal oneness and harmony. The asuric wealth is typically Kuber’s wealth, hoarded and jealously guarded, while daivic wealth comes from Mahalakshmi and must flow and circulate freely for it to return to her. Note that the very name Kuber, in Sanskrit, means deformed or demonic, whereas Lakshmi (लक्स्ह्मि, She-of-the-hundred-thousands) in Sanskrit represents prosperity, abundance and divine Grace (Lakshmi as shri). The fact that the asuric forces rule the wealth force explains the present state of affairs in our world — the irrational imbalance of wealth, the inequality of distribution of resources, the rampant greed and corruption of spirit that marks most businesses and money making ventures. Because the forces controlling wealth are asuric in origin, the all round consequences are equally asuric — our entire work culture, based on a cultural obsession with making money at all costs, clearly sucks. Hardly anyone in our modern day corporate and business environment loves or enjoys the work she or he does. Most people work like donkeys, in dehumanizing and uncreative environments, for crassly utilitarian objectives. The objective of work should be creative fulfillment, the ananda or delight of creative and productive work that generates global prosperity and wellbeing. But few ever come to such delight of work in their lifetimes. Consider the fact that we are living in a world where the richest 1% own 44% of the world’s wealth and resources [1]. If that’s not bad enough, consider further that adults with less than $10,000 in wealth make up 56.6 percent of the world’s population but hold less than 2 percent of global wealth. If this is what we have achieved over millennia of civilization and economic planning, then we seriously need to check our premises.  But this is precisely the result of asuric influence and control — distortion, exaggeration, imbalance, instability. Human societies are sitting on a powder keg. Such glaring inequality is bound to implode. It is a question of when. The socialist model in economics failed because human consciousness, dominated by the asuric ego, was not ready for it, and those who led the system were themselves unquestioning servitors of the asuric; the capitalist model too is failing because of the same reason: asuric domination. The way we work, earn money and live is a reflection and expression of asuric greed and insecurity: corporate systems and governance are based on mutual distrust, the corporate and social machinery is ruthless, exploitative and transactional.  Self-interest is the defining attribute of the asura, and it is self-interest that has largely defined us as communities, organizations and nations. We act compulsively out of self-interest, and this is what makes us and our systems exploitative. If we act out of self-interest, we will inevitably exploit each other. This is inevitable and we don’t need a Marx to tell us that. In an ideal world, where the wealth force is possessed by the daivic and dharmic forces, those with a higher and wider consciousness would have access to the wealth force; only the enlightened would be given the power over wealth and resources. The most privileged would also be the most responsible, conscious and compassionate, and therefore the most grateful and generous. Generosity is the defining attribute of the deva, just as self-interest is the defining attribute of the asura.  But an ideal world will be created only under certain ideal conditions. The balance of forces will have to be restored, the asuric influences have to be replaced by the daivic, the generation of wealth will have to be aligned to Dharma — the True, the Right and the Just. The first condition for reversing the balance of forces would be to ensure that those who are spiritually conscious are the ones who turn to generation of wealth. There is a cosmic law that governs the wealth force: wealth flows towards its votaries and not towards those who resist or reject it. This has been the great tragedy of our civilization for millennia, that those who should wield control over the wealth force are the ones who have deeply resisted or completely rejected it. This must change. The old idea of poverty as a condition for spiritual life must be rejected for what it is — a life negating belief; wealth is a divine force and must be used for the work of the Divine, and this can best be done by those who seek the higher Light and Truth in their own lives. The Truth of Life is not to be found in forests and monasteries but in the active field of life. Wealth is not a thing to be rejected but to be possessed by the mighty in spirit and used for the welfare of humanity.  The ancient Indians did not reject human desire or wealth in their pursuit of spiritual Truth and liberation, they harmonized and synthesized fulfillment of desire, generation of wealth, pursuit of dharma and spiritual liberation in a wide integral embrace of the whole field and scope of human existence. Kama (desire), artha (wealth and the generation of wealth), dharma (the order and harmony of all existence) and moksha (spiritual realization and liberation) were interwoven in the very fabric of everyday life in the world. This is the principle to which our modern civilization must return, for this is the true resolution of all our conflicts and crises.  The second condition would be to bring back the sage and the Yogi to the centre-stage of our collective life. We need to discover amongst ourselves the votaries of the higher Truth and not the votaries of money and power; we need to find and value those men and women of consciousness, those enlightened masters, who can be our new thought-leaders and role-models. We must collectively realize that possessing wealth, power and fame do not mean anything if one does not possess consciousness, wisdom and compassion. We must collectively understand that the rich, the powerful and the famous are not necessarily the true and the wise; on the contrary. We must insist on the values of consciousness, integrity and responsibility and must collectively and vigorously reject the self-indulgent, the false and the hypocritical; we must, with great vigor and passion, reject pettiness and falsehood and celebrate truth and wideness; we must learn to recognize the most conscious amongst us and honor them, value them, celebrate them.  A lot of us everywhere must now begin to speak up like the little child in the fable who publicly asked why the emperor was not wearing clothes. We must learn to see truly, without filters; we must learn to stand for truth, whatever we may possess of it; we must learn to speak for the true and the right, call a spade a spade, and live with integrity and courage. The poverty of consciousness must end, and we must grow rich in mind, spirit and body. The old division between wealth and spirit must go. The next generation should learn this invaluable lesson: that to possess the true wealth force, one must possess the true consciousness.  These would be the first conditions for establishing the next capitalism on earth — a conscious and enlightened capitalism created and sustained by groups of conscious and enlightened thought-leaders wielding the wealth-force; and this then will open the possibilities of a new and enlightened socio-economic order. Only such a conscious and enlightened capitalism based on Dharma, or a dharmic capitalism, will bring about the crucial changes in the way we collectively work and live on this planet. A dharmic capitalism will naturally encourage the principles of justice, fair play and equal opportunity as much as the values of hard work and excellence. Unfair wealth generation, crony capitalism, unbridled greed and corruption do not make for a healthy and sane society, and the aim of wealth is to create a healthy and sane society. This is a deep spiritual truth. Let us reflect on it. 1 Refer
Read More
Rebuilding the Hindutva Narrative
Uncategorized

Rebuilding the Hindutva Narrative

Hindutva as Dharmic Resistance The future, in many ways, will be a deep and intense battle of all dharmic forces against the forces that threaten to disrupt and destroy dharma, anywhere on earth. Hindutva is a first robust stand against these disruptive forces.   It bears reiterating that Hindutva cannot be aggressive or violent, for all forms of aggression and violence contradict the spirit of Hindutva. Those who would stand and fight for Hindutva must bear this in mind. The true strength of Hindutva lies in its spirit, in its core doctrine of growth of consciousness. The continuous widening and heightening of consciousness is the core idea around which the new Hindutva narrative must be built. There is no doubt that forces stubbornly opposed to Hindutva must be fought, repelled, neutralized in every possible way. But fighting the way most others fight, through radicalization and weaponization, cannot be the Hindutva way. We must always bear in mind the simple fact that we are ultimately fighting to defend a way of being, and this way of being, however we may interpret it, does not justify aggression or violence. But again, this must not lead us to believe that we are to take aggression lying down. Just as physical or military violence is not an option, turning the other cheek too is not an option. What we need to learn is the art of resistance. Not the “passive resistance” of Gandhi but the dharmic resistance of Krishna — to stand in perfect equanimity in the light of our own deepest truth and be prepared to sacrifice our all for the cause; be prepared to die or kill, but without a trace of personal reaction, hatred or vengeance. This will mean internalizing the battle, learning to take an inner stand, based on spiritual conviction and atma Shakti. Most human battles are fought externally, and so there is mayhem and wanton destruction, but the evil lives on. External violence cannot eradicate the evil, for the evil resides in the consciousness of people, and no outer battle can destroy that. To uproot the evil from its bleeding roots, we must learn to fight the battle where it matters most — in consciousness. This is the import of dharmic resistance: to stand in the way of adharma like a mountain, as unshakeable, as imperturbable, as absolute, and let the true consciousness become the force field around us. For such a dharmic resistance, the yoddha or the warrior must find the truth of his soul. The dharma yoddha must bring to himself or herself the strengths and resources of the consciousness, which are inconceivably greater than all the physical, economic and military resources we can garner. In fact, the outer resources, physical, economic or military, will find their true purpose and power when led by the consciousness, by the inner truth, by the force of Dharma itself. All this may sound somewhat abstract and impractical to those moved by great passion for Dharma, those who would rather fight in the trenches, but let us recall that the dharmayuddha of old was fought first of all in the mind and spirit. Sri Krishna first brought Arjun to the great inner realization of Dharma, to the vast truth of the atman, and only then did he send Arjun into the battlefield to kill. The Bhagavad Gita is not mere metaphor, it is real in every word and sentence. Though it seems fashionable for some modern scholars to interpret the Gita in terms of psychological metaphor, we must not let all that distract us; the Gita is as literal as it gets. The dharmayuddha that Arjun was exhorted to fight was as real then as it is now; the forces of adharma rage around us today even more ferociously and formidably than it did then. It is now, more than ever, that we need to use the Gita as our brahmāstra, literally. To abandon the deeper spiritual message of the Gita at this critical time in our own dharmayuddha and rush in with weapons of destruction would be utterly foolhardy. The Gita is our manual for action, the whole strategy for the battle, the assurance of victory. And what indeed is this strategy? This can be summarized in just two points: First of all, root yourself in the truth of your being, become atmasthita. This is crucial. To go into dharmayuddha without being firmly established in one’s own dharma would be worse than soldiers going into combat without basic training in martial arts. Being atmasthita is not abstract spirituality, as Krishna makes perfectly clear to Arjun; it is the very key to victory. The atman is the true source of strength and wisdom, it is that which raises the yoddha to another level altogether, it is the singular game changer. Second, being atmasthita, surrender the outcome of the battle to the Divine, relinquish all personal demand for victory and trust the infinitely vaster Divine Wisdom and Vision that unerringly guides all life in the universe. When we do that, we open ourselves in a very real and practical way to the direct guidance and inspiration of the Divine, we become instruments in its vaster action and are no longer left to our own meagre devices and resources. This is something that can be done effortlessly once we understand the deeper truth that Dharma and the dharmayuddha are finally not in human hands but in the hands of the Divine. If Dharma indeed is eternal, then it is also protected by the eternal consciousness. We are all mere instruments, nimitta matra, whether we like it or not. That which is already determined in the Divine’s cosmic vision is eventually what will happen in this world. Our business as instruments in the action is to keep our minds and hearts, our volition and actions, aligned to the Divine and go forth in battle protected by the armor of an inner knowing that no outer knowledge or force can rival. Thus are we made into true warriors of Dharma. Let us reflect upon this before we rush into battle. Read in Hindi
Read More
The Mystery of Ganesha
Uncategorized

The Mystery of Ganesha

The Symbol & the Essence  This dialogue between a Seer and three of his disciples takes place in an ashram of old. The Seer, or Rishi, guides the young disciples into the mystery of Ganesha. The Seer is addressed as Āchārya, or Revered Teacher, by the disciples. The names of the disciples live on in Upanishadic lore but the Seer, amongst those few illustrious Sages who embodied the highest spiritual Truth, remains unknown, having long passed beyond name and form.   It was the dusk before the day of Ganesha Chaturthi. The sun was an orange glow upon the horizon. Except for a soft breeze rustling through the trees, nothing seemed to move in the ashram. The young disciples of the Rishi were all relaxing under the banyan tree while the Rishi, their illustrious acharya, seemed to be in quiet contemplation. In the distance, they could hear the bells of the cows, perhaps still grazing.  Aruni, one of the youngest disciples of the Master, folded his hands and cleared his throat. He called his acharya softly, not wanting to disturb the quietude of the evening. “Sir?” The acharya opened his eyes and smiled at Aruni — “Yes, Aruni?” “Is Ganesha real or a spiritual fable?”  “Aruni, what is real anyway?” “I mean, is he really God?” “And what is God?” asked the Rishi with a twinkle in his eye. Aruni kept quiet; he knew better than to take that bait. The Rishi waited for some time, the mischievous twinkle still in his eyes. He often loved to tease his young disciples with obvious questions that couldn’t be answered, and his disciples seemed quite used to it.  “God,” continued the Rishi in his soft, mellifluous voice, “is the omnipresence in which this entire universe floats, my child. This omnipresence is all-pervasive, eternal. So what or who is not God?” The disciples nodded in understanding. Somehow, whenever their teacher would say something about God, they would feel a quiet vastness come upon them. They had all noticed this on several occasions.  “Ganesha is the portal, the opening, to this omnipresence, my child,“ continued the Rishi, “he is not a being, earthly or divine, but an opening into which we can all enter, endlessly! There is no end to Ganesha.” “The elephant-god…?”, Upamanyu, Aruni’s friend, a few years older, said a bit hesitatingly, looking at the Rishi.  “Elephant-god, indeed,” the Rishi smiled, “he’s neither elephant nor god!” The young students seemed curious now. The Rishi kept quiet for a while. The sound of the cowbells grew fainter as the sky grew darker. After a few minutes passed in silence, the Rishi spoke again: “Ganesha is known to us as achintya, avyakta and ananta. You know what those words mean?” “Achintya is that which cannot be thought of; beyond thought.” Said Upamanyu. “Avyakta,” said Aruni, “is the unmanifest, the unexpressed. And ananta is endless, eternal.” “Yes, indeed,” said the Rishi, “and thus, he has no form, no attribute, no existence as you and I know it!” “No existence?” asked Varun, the oldest student of the Rishi, and a philosopher already.  “That which is not in form is avyakta, Varun; therefore, non-existent to our  human consciousness. It goes deeper,” said the Rishi, “Ganesha is known as the very form of Parabrahman, the supreme. Parabrahman rupa!” “Parabrahman,” said Aruni, “is, of course, formless. So how can the formless have a form, Sir?” “If you understand that, Aruni,” said the Rishi,” you will understand Ganesha and why he is represented in an elephant form.” “Sir,” said Aruni at once, “I am most eager to know. Pray, tell us!” “The Formless is not really formless. Know that first. The human consciousness can only comprehend the material or the psychological form: the rupa that appears externally to us or the rupa that arises in our minds and imaginations. There is a form beyond these visible forms, beyond the vyakta, which is avyakta to mind and senses but quite vyakta to the inner consciousness. This is what is known as Svarupa.” “Can one ever know the Svarupa, Acharya?” asked Aruni. “Yes, my son, one can know the Svarupa by becoming that. Our ancestors called this knowledge by identity — you become that which you know, just as you know that which you become.” Then the Rishi quietly intoned, more to himself than to his students — “Ajam nirvikalpam nirakaramekam… Ganesha is unborn, unchanging and formless…. and for those who have the spiritual vision, the eye of Yoga, Ganesha is known directly as the consciousness of the omnipresence. He is the divine energy, the shakti, that moves the universe and he is the vortex into which this whole universe will dissolve… thus is he said to be born of Shiva and Parvati, the Lord and His Shakti.” The atmosphere seemed charged with electricity, vidyut, as the Rishi sat still after his mystic intonation; his eyes were closed and he seemed elsewhere, as if immersed in Ganesha in some inaccessible dimension of being. The three young disciples all waited, almost in trance themselves.  After what seemed an eternity, the Master continued, “None can know Ganesha without the Divine Will and Grace, for to know Ganesha, the first born of the Divine Couple, is to know the Divine itself. He who meditates on Ganesha and attains to him verily attains to Shiva and His Shakti.  “I shall now reveal to you how Ganesha, created out of the very substance of the Divine Shakti, symbolized by Parvati, descends into creation. Hear carefully and reflect on these words of mine — for behind these words I speak, there is concealed the pure energy of Truth, and it is that energy that you must take into yourself, for indeed, by that energy, and not by your intellects or previous knowledge, will you come to the truth of Ganesha.” Thus speaking, the Rishi paused and allowed the words to sink into his young disciples. Each of the students felt the vidyut enter their subtle bodies through the words of the Master. Each knew well that their Master sometimes spoke not from the mind but from a plane of consciousness where what was directly seen was directly expressed, without intervention of thought or even speech.   “Ganesha is also known as Ganapati — the Lord of the Ganas,” the Master continued, “Gana means groupings or clusters. This whole universe is made up of groupings, clusters. The atom that makes all matter is itself a cluster of subatomic particles; when you penetrate to the smallest scale of this universe where space and time all but disappear, you will see that there are only invisible vortices of energy which are themselves clusters of subtle energy-fields. As you ascend the scale, you will see the clusters enlarging, from energy-fields to subatomic particles, from subatomic particles to molecules, molecules to gases and gases to stars, and stars to galaxies. Look at the universe and you will see clusters everywhere. All space and time are clusters, some visible and most, invisible. Even your bodies are clusters of cells, tissues, organs. All life forms on earth are clusters, from the humble clusters of microbes and bacteria to the clusters of the higher animals and humans; and then there are clusters of people, tribes, villages, cities and nations.  “Within ourselves, at the psychological plane, our organs of perception and organs of action, the jnanendriyas and karmendriyas, are also clusters or ganas. The mind controls the senses. The buddhi, the discriminative intellect, controls the mind. Thus, the ten senses, the mind and the intellect together add up to twelve and these together are known as the inner ganas.” “At every level of existence,” the Master continued, “there are clusters: this is how creation or cosmic manifestation is differentiated and organized. And Ganapati Ganesha is the Lord of all clusters: do you see the truth of this? Ganesha is the force that keeps all these multiple clusters together, he is the dharma, the binding force, of all clusters, and without him the universe as we know it will simply fall apart, disintegrate.” The Rishi’s words were so lucid that the young disciples almost saw what they were hearing; through a power known only to these masters of consciousness, the spoken word, vak, was converted to direct seeing, drishti. The heard became the seen. Thus indeed the masters of consciousness are knowns as seers, drashtas. “Master, is it possible to attain to the direct knowledge of Ganesha?” asked Upamanyu intensely. The Rishi smiled widely at his disciple, apparently happy with the force behind the question. “Yes, my child,” answered the Rishi, “all things are possible when one concentrates all of one’s force of being in one’s will and aspiration. Tapas [1] is your force of being and sankalpa is your will and aspiration. When Tapas is concentrated in the sankalpa, then whatever is held in the mind is realized in spirit. This is the secret of Yoga, my son!” The purpose of the brief explanation was immediately achieved: the disciples at once felt a slow and concentrated movement of energy ascending their spine, from the lower chakras upward towards the ajna-chakra, the centre between the eyebrows. The minds of all the three disciples at once became still and focused.  “Tomorrow is Ganesha Chaturthi,” the Master continued evenly, looking intently at his disciples, as if gauging each one’s inner readiness, “and you can take the first decisive step towards Ganesha tomorrow itself. My own Guru used to say that the best time to initiate a sadhana is the very moment the aspiration for it arises in one’s buddhi.” Again, the master allowed the words to sink deep into the minds of his disciples, as if carefully preparing the grounds for the sadhana, sowing the seeds with the utmost attention and care. Truly, boundless is the grace of the Guru! “Understand, my children,” said the Rishi, “the meaning of Chaturthi. You are familiar with the jagruti or the waking state of your being, and the svapna or the dream state, and even sushupti or the deep sleep state. These states you all know by daily experience, and I have trained you in becoming deeply aware of these states and their transitions. But there is a fourth state that you have not experienced yet, a state that does not reveal itself so long as one’s inner consciousness is not fully ripened by sadhana.”  As the silence deepened in their minds, the Master continued: “Chaturthi is the state beyond the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, the fourth state. This is the inner significance of Chaturthi, my children. To attain to the Chaturthi is the aspiration of our Yoga, to be always in that fourth state, the state of turiya [2], as our ancestors used to call it.”  The Master paused again. By now it was dark and the whole ashram seemed enveloped in a dense silence. It almost seemed that the three disciples were now aglow with an ethereal wisdom that was streaming from the half-opened eyes of the Rishi. Outwardly, as inwardly, all was still.  “Only when the mind in us becomes thoughtless and the whole consciousness becomes sthira [3] do we enter the state of turiya. This is the sadhana for the Chaturthi — make your mind utterly still, thoughtless, turned only to the Light of the Supreme, the jyotir-parasya. That Light alone will lead you beyond the veils of Maya’s maharatri [4] to the eternal Dawn of Truth. To reach this kind of inner silence, to make the mind free of thought, one needs to fast. This is the symbolic fasting for Chaturthi. Upavasa is not merely abstaining from food for the day but establishing yourself above the play of desire and duality, at least, and symbolically, for a day. Hear the word carefully — upavasa breaks into upa which means near, like in the upa of the Upanishad, and vasa derives from vasati, to live or abide in. Therefore, one doing the upavasa withdraws from the external world and all its distractions, inner and outer, and abides in consciousness near the one who he does the upavasa for. So I say to you, my children, keep the Chaturthi upavasa for Ganesha with the full understanding of upavasa. It matters little whether you eat food or you do not; what matters is the ‘food’ or anna, that you feed into your mind and senses. When you fast, you fast your mind and senses, and that fasting is a purification, a cleansing and a preparing for a divine consciousness. Thus all upavasa is suddhikaran or purification. To do upavasa for Ganesha is to abide in the nearness of Ganesha, to be near Ganesha in mind and heart. This is the true significance of Ganesha Chaturthi, my children!” The Master became silent and still, and the Master’s silence seemed to overflow the boundaries of his physical presence and gently inundate the innermost beings of his disciples. The disciples, fortunate beyond measure to be in the living presence of a Rishi, seemed to drink in the silence and the grace, and become one with their Master in some small but awakened portion of their consciousnesses.  After several minutes of this inner yoga with their Master, Aruni opened his eyes and asked again: “What of Ganesha’s birth, O Master? There seems to be a deep mystery in that which we can only begin to intuit. For how can the formless and the unmanifest be born?” The Master smiled and spoke after a pause — “You have asked wisely, my child. The eternal has neither birth nor death, neither coming nor passing, neither rising nor falling, for the eternal is also the unmoving, the changeless and the causeless. So what of Ganesha’s birth? It is said of old that he was created out of the dirt accumulated on the body of the Supreme Mother, Parvati. And because the Mother, feeling lonely, wanted a child as her companion. Obviously, the Divine Mother would not feel lonely: the loneliness is the poet-seer’s way of conveying the sense of the eternal ekanta, the absolute aloneness of non-duality. Remember that Parvati, being the wife and consort of Shiva, the Supreme, would be living in inner oneness with Shiva, for that is how the Divine’s Shakti resides in the Divine. Therefore, the Great Mother’s loneliness would really be the expression of the Divine Will for self-manifesting, the One becoming the Many. That is how Shiva himself would manifest Cosmos out of Shakti. So Ganesha is literally the first creation, the first born, who becomes this manifestation. It is not that Ganesha manifests Cosmos: the Cosmos is Ganesha in manifestation. This is what needs to be understood, my child. Then you will know how and why Ganesha is Ganapati and Ganesha himself is all-pervasive omnipresence, and why he is the portal to the Great Omnipresence itself. Knowing this, meditate on Ganesha this Chaturthi.”  The disciples received the words of the Master with deep joy, as if the words themselves were opening some deeper source of ananda in them, as if understanding itself was the divine rasa.  “Was he actually beheaded?” Asked Varun, thinking of the old story of Ganesha’s birth where Shiva, because he couldn’t recognize Ganesha as his own son, beheads him with his trishul for obstructing his way to Parvati.  The Master addressed his disciples again: “There is a mystery here to be understood. Let us explore. What does the head represent, Varun?” “The mind, the intellect, Acharya,” Varun replied.  “Yes, indeed, Varun” said the teacher, “the head represents manas, chitta, buddhi, ahankara. This head is the root of all our problems, symbolically speaking. So beheading Ganesha was symbolic of the destruction of the root of all problems, the destruction of the personal manas, chitta, buddhi, ahankara. And remember the trishul with which Shiva beheads Ganesha… Shiva’s trishul that represents the three gunas of nature.” “Yes Master,” said Aruni, “I can see it clearly. This is beautiful poetry, Sire!” “What indeed is poetry but the inspired expression of Truth itself?” Asked the Rishi, “the poet, kavi, is the seer, the drashta. All our knowledge and wisdom have come to us through our seer-poets, those who saw in their divine visions the Supreme Truth and could bring down some of that Truth into their consciousnesses and convert that to shabd and vak, sound and speech. Mark the fact that it is Ganesha who is invoked by the greatest seer-poets of our tradition before they begin any of their great poetic utterances!” “Indeed, Sire!” said Upamanyu, “Why is this so?” “Isn’t that because,” said Aruni to Upamanyu, “Ganesha is the portal, the entry, to the omnipresence and the omniscience of the Divine?”  “And,” added Varun, “why Ganesha is the first to be invoked, before all other divinities?” “Yes, true,” said the Master, “that is so. Ganesha is the opening, the gateway, and without invoking him, one is left to struggle against all the forces and beings that oppose our work and sadhana. But by invoking Ganesha, one cuts through all the opposition and hostility, all the difficulties, outer and inner. It is as if Ganesha’s grace and power opens all the paths of karma and Yoga and removes all the difficulties and obstacles. Thus is Ganesha also known as Avighna and Siddhidata, the remover of obstacles and the bestower of success and attainments.” “So what happens after the beheading, Master? How come the elephant’s head?” Asked Varun again.  “This is particularly enigmatic,” said the Master, “why an elephant’s head? Besides the obvious symbolism, an elephant head being symbolic of strength and power, wisdom and knowledge, it is a deliberate poetic device of the seer to show that the severed head representing manas, chitta, buddhi, ahankara cannot be replaced with another head because it is the pattern that must be broken, the very template that must be shattered. Therefore, an elephant’s head — totally illogical, totally extraordinary and totally provocative. This is the deep and the compelling import: the head must go, and go permanently; no replacement, no substitute. The symbolic significance may be there but that is not to be taken too seriously. Take it as poetic alankar.” “Then,” remarked Varun pensively, “the rest of the elephant-body would be similar alankar, a certain symbolic suggestion but not to be taken too seriously?”  “Indeed,” replied the Sage, “for the symbolism would appeal to certain minds and temperaments to focus the devotion on certain divine attributes of the godhead. The single tusk, for instance, that would signify one-pointed concentration, or the broken tusk that would signify the capacity to eliminate the unnecessary; the large ears that would signify deep and universal listening, the small mouth that would signify austerity of speech, and the huge stomach that would signify the ability to take in and hold everything within oneself; the ankusa or the axe that he carries in his hands signifies spiritual awakening because of its ability to cut off all the knots of bondage and ignorance, and the paasa or the rope signifies control, as any deep spiritual awakening needs deep control as tremendous energies are released during the process of awakening. “But beyond the symbolism is the deeper spiritual truth that the formless just cannot be represented in form; the best poetic or artistic representations may convey the spiritual truth but will, in time, degenerate into mere formalism and ritualism. Those who do not have the subtle understanding will eventually cling to the form and forget the essence, the truth. “Keep then this truth, this essence, in your hearts: Ganesha is within us, the indwelling portal to the Supreme; we just have to invoke his presence within us and enter into it…” There was deep silence now, within and without, as the understanding opened within like a lotus in the consciousness. The darkness outside deepened as the understanding within blossomed.  The Rishi began to intone again, softly and deeply, as if drawing out the sounds from some fathomless depth of consciousness within himself:  Om namaste Ganapataye Tvameva pratyaksam tattvam asi Tvameva kevalam karta asiTvameva kevalam dharta asiTvameva kevalam harta asiTvameva sarvam khalvidam brahma asi Tvam saksad atma asi nityam [5] O Ganapati, You alone are the manifest Truth and Essence of all, You alone are the sole doer, You alone the sole sustainer, In You alone does this universe dissolve in the end,You alone are the infinite omnipresent Brahman,You alone are the eternally manifest Atman.  Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha Read in Hindi 1Tapasteja, literally the teja or force / intensity of tapas, askesis or concentrated spiritual effort. 2Turiya, simply understood as the fourth state, is what Sri Ramana used to call the state of ‘wakeful sleep’. Some Yogins equate the state of samadhi with Turiya. 3Sthira means unmoving, stable, in equilibrium. 4Literally, the great or vast night, symbolic of the darkness cast by the veils of Maya. 5त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं तत्त्वमसि । त्वमेव केवलं कर्ताऽसि । त्वमेव केवलं धर्ताऽसि । त्वमेव केवलं हर्ताऽसि । त्वमेव सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्मासि ।त्वं साक्षादात्माऽसि नित्यम् ॥ — Ganapati Atharvashirsha, V.2
Read More
Uncategorized

Sri Aurobindo And India’s Destiny

Pencil drawing of Sri Aurobindo by The Mother, 1935 A day will dawn when people of all classes in my country will band together as one living mass at the sacred altar of the World-Mother, represented here by our Motherland and face the rest of [the] world with heads held high. ( Sri Aurobindo )   Rarely in the history of nations has a single person’s spiritual influence shaped so profoundly a nation’s destiny as Sri Aurobindo’s has shaped India’s. Yet, this is not a widely known or understood fact as the modern Indian mind has lost its connection with the spiritual dimension of life. This is somewhat ironical because the Indian civilization has been influenced and shaped through millennia by some of the greatest spiritual seers ever to have walked the earth. Before Sri Aurobindo, and in recent history, the redoubtable Swami Vivekananda caused seismic shifts in Indian civilization by his enormous spiritual force. Indians are no strangers to spiritual and Yogic phenomena. Some of the greatest influencers and architects of Indian civilization and culture have been the Rishis and the Yogis, the great preceptors of the Sanatan Dharma. It is because of this that the Indian civilization has always been nurtured by the perennial streams of living Dharma. Dharma has thrived in India and grown in power because of these legendary seers and prophets. Most of these seers lived and worked in complete seclusion and anonymity, influencing a million lives and events from their mountain caves or forest ashrams.  Sri Aurobindo was amongst the last great Maharishis of the Sanatan Dharma who occultly influenced and shaped India’s destiny from his seclusion in Pondicherry. His life and his Yoga were not for all to see or know. What he himself revealed to disciples of his Yoga was only the tip of a massive iceberg. What he did for humanity, and what he did for India, will take several centuries to unfold, for the results of a Yogic mission such as his become embedded in the very fabric of universal time and evolution.  Yet, Sri Aurobindo remains a peripheral, somewhat mythical, figure of Indian history for most educated Indians. This has been the unutterable tragedy of modern India — the educated Indian has been alienated from his own dharma through several generations, first by our erstwhile British rulers and then by our own thought leaders, since 1947, hell-bent on transforming Indian polity and society to western secularism, liberalism and socialism. As a consequence, generations of Indians have grown up floundering, rootless and groundless, with little or no knowledge of their own heritage or destiny.  Most young Indians do not learn much of Sri Aurobindo from their history books. The most that they are taught is that he was a political revolutionary who quit politics and retired to Pondicherry to do Yoga. But then, they are not given any further knowledge of India’s vast Yogic tradition or of the rich national politics of those times either. They have no idea of why Sri Aurobindo left politics and what he did after leaving politics. The history of Indian nationalism, within years of Sri Aurobindo’s retirement, became overshadowed by Gandhi, and most other luminaries of the freedom struggle were reduced to footnotes.  Few amongst us would know that Sri Aurobindo was the first political leader to proclaim that India was not merely a landmass but a living consciousness, a Divine Shakti, that needs to be awakened. Sri Aurobindo was indeed the great purohit, the High Priest, who lit the sacrificial fires of the great Yajna for India’s freedom; he was the first to invoke India as Shakti, as the divine Bhawani Bharati —  What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity. The Shakti we call India, Bhawani Bharati, is the living unity of the Shaktis of three hundred million people….  Sri Aurobindo’s own deeper Yoga began with his quest for spiritual power that he could place at the service of his motherland. For Sri Aurobindo, the fight for India’s freedom was spiritual first and then political, for political freedom would mean little without spiritual freedom. Only as a spiritually free nation would India be able to fulfill her destined role as jagat-guru amongst the nations of the world. This was Sri Aurobindo’s dream for India, and this was the seed of future greatness that was planted in the very bosom of India, the truth that India had borne in her soul since the beginning of her ancient civilization. India’s freedom as a nation and a civilization was thus inevitable in the divine scheme of things, but what still had to be worked out was the way, the process, the details of the Mahayajna. Sri Aurobindo, as the great devas and maharishis of old, spoke of India’s future from the highest planes of truth-consciousness: India cannot perish, our race cannot become extinct, because among all the divisions of mankind it is to India that is reserved the highest and the most splendid destiny, the most essential to the future of the human race. It is she who must send forth from herself the future religion of the entire world, the Eternal Religion which is to harmonize all religion, science and philosophies and make mankind one soul. This future religion of the entire world that Sri Aurobindo reveals is the religion born of Man’s timeless spiritual quest for Truth, Unity and Perfection, the religion of the soul, that which will unify and harmonize all humanity, synthesize all civilizations and cultures and lead the human species to a higher consciousness. In other words, the eternal religion India has to bring to the world will be the religion of an integral Yoga, a religion that will finally bridge the chasm between life and spirituality, matter and spirit, body and soul.  It is for this ultimate purpose of world transformation that India has birthed, and nurtured through millennia, the Sanatan Dharma; and it is for this that Sri Aurobindo himself embodied the Sanatan Dharma and brought it into the collective consciousness of Indians in those formative years of India’s nationhood and established the Sanatan Dharma as the true basis and framework for a pan-Indian spiritual nationalism. Or dharmic nationalism, if you will. Let us recall those profound and mighty words from his Uttarpara speech: 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. Sri Aurobindo, thus, was the first prophet of spiritual or dharmic nationalism. He, by his work, his speeches and writings, and his own active leadership spiritualized Indian nationalism and politics; and in doing so, he also paved the way for dharmic politics and economics in India, the old concept of Ram Rajya, the kingdom of God on earth. The culmination of political governance will have to be in a Ram Rajya of the future, and the culmination of economics and business will have to be a dharmic or spiritual blend of capitalism and communism, purified of the distortions of the unregenerate human nature driven by egoistic fear and greed. This is yet another aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s creative vision for India and the world. It must be remembered that spiritual nationalism is not the same as the self-limiting, self-aggrandizing exclusivist nationalism the world is used to; being spiritual, this form of nationalism will be an expression of a nation’s soul, its spiritual and civilizational essence, and will necessarily be in harmony with all other nationalistic expressions and aspirations, even as various notes of music blend to create symphony. As Sri Aurobindo would say, harmony is the law of spiritual life. Sri Aurobindo saw clearly that India, of all nations in the world, with her enormous cultural heritage and spiritual and Yogic knowledge, would be the best equipped to lead this change to a new and more conscious world order. But spiritual nationalism must be founded on spiritual consciousness, for it cannot be an intellectual ideal or a mere philosophical system. The individual, therefore, must first find in himself or herself the spiritual consciousness and truth, and then make that the basis for a wider social and national life. In other words, the framework and basis for the individual, the society and the nation will have to become increasingly dharmic, spiritual. And therefore, Sri Aurobindo’s insistence on spiritual freedom and truth consciousness as the foundation for social and national existence. How many amongst us today realize the enormous significance of spirituality and dharma in our daily lives and action? Spirituality, once the vital life-force of Indian civilization, has now shrunk to facile new age practices and the psychobabble of self-proclaimed and self-marketed gurus, or worse, has been reduced to practices and mindless rituals of the pandit. In our social and national life, spirituality has all but disappeared. From the high ideals of dharmic politics and governance that Sri Aurobindo held in his vision for a future India, we have been reduced to intractable systemic corruption that has sapped the lifeblood of our nation. A return to some semblance of Dharma in the nation’s political life has just started, but there is still a long way to go. It is now, in these circumstances raging around us, that we need to return to Sri Aurobindo’s Truth and Light. Each of us needs to do this, for each of us individually will add to the gathering force of the Truth. Small waves make a tsunami. Again, in Sri Aurobindo’s words: India of the ages is not dead nor has she spoken her last creative word; she lives and has still something to do for herself and the human peoples… [T]hat which must seek now to awake is…still the ancient immemorable Shakti recovering her deepest self, lifting her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength and turning to discover the complete meaning and a vaster form of her Dharma. In a very real sense, Sri Aurobindo is the custodian of India’s eternal Dharma; he, more than anyone else, saw how absolutely indispensable was India’s Dharma to India’s future and proclaimed the urgent necessity to recover and rejuvenate India’s Dharma. But, in an ironical twist of fate, even as Sri Aurobindo labored to awaken the nation’s Shakti, the then political leaders of our nation and the arbiters of her destiny were turning away from the Dharma and vigorously replacing it with newfangled notions of social justice, economic equality and political sophistication, overlooking the simple fact that without a Dharmic base and framework, no political, economic or social edifice would stand for too long. Unbeknownst to most Indians of that time, our national leaders were steering India away from her essential Indianness towards westernized universalism.  Far from awakening the Shakti within, the common Indian, the aam aadmi, has slipped into an enervating materialism while the intelligentsia, the buddhijeevi, has turned to half-baked ideals of secular socialism. Instead of turning to Dharma, India has turned to dharma-nirapekhsata. Dharma-nirapekhsata is the Hindi word commonly used for secularism. The word ‘nirapeksha’ in its truest sense implies disregard, indifference, independence. It is a beautiful word when used in its Yogic or spiritual sense, but when used with Dharma (to denote the western concept of secularism), it turns on its head. Once again, as we enter the 74th year of our life as a free nation, there are visible the first definitive signs of a return to the true dharma of India and a definite rejection of the western idea of secularism. But here too, we have a long way to go and must turn more consciously and resolutely to Sri Aurobindo’s Truth, for in his Truth alone we will recover the key to balance and harmony. But turning to Sri Aurobindo’s Truth is not always easy or even possible. The old falsehoods will inevitably stand in the way. As it has happened before, in more critical times. In 1942, five years before Independence, the British government had sent the famous Cripps Proposal to the then Indian leadership under Gandhi. Had this proposal been accepted, it would have paved the way for Indian independence without partition. Sri Aurobindo, still very much in inner touch with all political developments in India and the world, had seen that possibility immediately and had publicly expressed his support for the Cripps proposal. He had sent his emissaries to Gandhi and other leaders to persuade them to accept the proposal. But Gandhi refused, purportedly with the comment that Yogis should have nothing to do with politics. This, from a leader who claimed to be a follower of the Sanatan Dharma; and this, in a country that traditionally honors and respects the counsel of its seers and prophets! However, India missed a historical chance when her leaders did not pay heed to the words of the Jagat Guru, and hurtled headlong towards disaster, a blunder for which each successive generation of Indians has paid an exacting price. It is worth recalling Sri Aurobindo’s words from the message he broadcast to the nation on 15th August 1947 — For if it [the partition] lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India’s internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Contemporary India continues to live through the malaise of economic reservations, minority appeasement, communalism and corruption, all of which could have been avoided had India’s leadership aligned itself to the true Dharma when it mattered most. However, all nations, like individuals, have a certain karma that even the Divine cannot alter. But we can learn and grow more conscious. As Sri Aurobindo says, by our stumbling the world is perfected. So we need to grow conscious not only of our strengths but also of our frailties, not only of our high destiny but also of all the forces ranged against us, determined to thwart that destiny. The resistance to a dharmic India is still strong and adamant. Much more needs to be done if India has to awaken to her truth. Indians, or at least those who carry India in their hearts and minds, must turn to the highest truth, the highest dharma, that they can access. And that which they can access, with only a little labor of love, is the Truth that Sri Aurobindo embodies and represents. Sri Aurobindo needs to be read, researched, discussed, debated, understood and applied widely, across the country. Sri Aurobindo’s vast vision and work has still not found place in Indian public or academic discourse, even decades after independence. Our schools and universities hardly touch Sri Aurobindo at any depth. Only a superficial and cursory mention is made of him as the freedom fighter who renounced political life. Hardly anything beyond that. Few students of Indian history today know of Sri Aurobindo as the prophet of Indian nationalism, as the first radical revolutionary in India’s struggle for freedom, as a poet and writer of rare eminence, as a Mahayogi and Maharishi of Indian spirituality. This is a historical anomaly that needs to be vigorously corrected.  We need to learn and understand deeply how Sri Aurobindo, from the 1870s to 1950, right through the critical formative years of India, shaped India’s destiny by his Yogic force and will. This may be difficult to grasp for most, but we owe ourselves this knowledge and understanding. Sri Aurobindo is India’s inestimable heritage and he must be presented to the educated Indian and to the Indian youth objectively, rationally, cogently.  Let us recall Sri Aurobindo’s message to the Indian youth — Our first necessity, if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, is that the youth of India should learn to think, – to think on all subjects, to think independently, fruitfully, going to the heart of things, not stopped by their surface, free of prejudgments, shearing sophism and prejudice asunder as with a sharp sword, smiting down obscurantism of all kinds as with the mace of Bhima… These are not mere words, this is an invocation of yuvashakti, the power of the young, and not just the young in age but the young in mind and spirit. To understand and live Sri Aurobindo’s Truth, we need to be clear as crystal in the mind and strong as lion in the heart, and ageless in spirit; we need to make of ourselves the true hero-warriors of the Divine Shakti.  In the words of the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s divine collaborator in his Work and Yoga — Sri Aurobindo always loved deeply his Motherland. But he wished her to be great, noble, pure and worthy of her big mission in the world. He refused to let her sink to the sordid and vulgar level of blind self-interests and ignorant prejudices. This is why, in full conformity to his will, we lift high the standard of truth, progress and transformation of mankind, without caring for those who, through ignorance, stupidity, envy or bad will, seek to soil it and drag it down into the mud. We carry it very high so that all who have a soul may see it and gather round it. It was obviously no coincidence that India’s independence day fell on Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, the 15th of August. In his message to the nation on 15th August, Sri Aurobindo had said:  August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity. August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition. Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position. Let us remember that though Sri Aurobindo struggled all his life for India and India’s highest and widest freedom, he was not limited in his vision and will to India alone. For him India was the starting point of a human transformation, the hub of a universal evolution of consciousness. I have always held and said that India was rising, not to serve her own material interest only, to achieve expansion, greatness, power and prosperity,.. though these too she must not neglect.., and certainly not like others to acquire domination of other peoples, but to live also for God and the world as a helper and a leader of the whole human race, he had said in his message to the nation.  To limit Sri Aurobindo to India alone would be a disservice to his work and his legacy. Sri Aurobindo labored for all humanity; all that he attempted and attained was for all humanity and for the Divine in humanity. If there is one who can be said to belong to the world, it is Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s Truth is the future of the human species, it is the path to the true Kingdom of God on earth, it is the Truth of the Divine still to be realized in the mind, life and body of earth. Sri Aurobindo opened for us life’s highest possibility and hope. Even the briefest glimpse of his Truth can uplift the spirit and mind in a trice to the highest.  The world needs such a vision and an inspiration, and desperately so; and India, most of all.   सत्यं श्री अरविन्दस्य आविर्भवतु पृथिव्याम् ॥May Sri Aurobindo’s Truth manifest upon earth   1 Sri Aurobindo’s full message
Read More
Uncategorized

The Restoration of Sri Ram And Beyond

The establishment of the foundation for the Ram Janmabhumi Temple at Ayodhya yesterday was a profound symbolic victory for Dharma: it was the culmination of a 490-odd years struggle for restoring Sri Ram, the seventh avatar in the line of Vishnu in Sanatan Dharma, to his rightful birthplace in the fabled city of his birth. (He was, in fact, installed for years in a tent!). Whether or not he was actually born in this exact location matters little, for Sri Ram is not just a historical being for Hindus but a Divine incarnation, and Divine Incarnations transcend time and space, birth and death of mortal bodies. The struggle through several generations for rebuilding the temple at Ayodhya and restoring Sri Ram to his birthplace was never a religious or political issue for the Hindu — it was always a question of Dharma: for Sri Ram, for the common Hindu, is at once a complete embodiment and a shining representation of the Dharma itself: to displace Sri Ram and destroy his temple was a direct attack on the very fabric of Hindu Dharma. Sri Ram had to be restored and the temple had to be rebuilt — this was inevitable, a historical necessity. But it took a long time — 73 years even after India’s political independence. What totally bewilders the mind is the fact that it took so long, and that it would have taken much longer had Hindutva not become as assertive as it did. If the Congress, the Islamists and the Communists had their way, all traces of Dharma would have been wiped off by now and the deracination of India would have been complete and irreversible. And to imagine that there are people who still utter such inanities as Hindutva is not Hinduism and Hinduism is not Hindutva, or that Hindutva is an aberration and Hinduism is the real thing. Let’s be very clear about this one fact: had it not been for an assertive and robust Hindutva, Hinduism, as we know it, would have been wiped out. This fact needs to sink deep into our minds and hearts. The Prime Minister of India presiding over the bhumi-poojan of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya was the resounding bugle call of Hindutva’s call to action and its first decisive victory. The victory, symbolic of something much wider, is deeply significant; but even more significant is the call to action: for this is only the first step. This victory, however fulfilling in the moment, must not lull us into any kind of complacency. The battle is far from over. There are other battles to be taken up and won. Sri Ram has just been restored — but let us not forget that Sri Ram stands for Dharma, Satya and Ram Rajya. Satya is the heart of Dharma, and Dharma is the soul of Ram Rajya. Ram Rajya is neither a metaphor nor a utopian ideal: it is the natural culmination of dharmic politics and the dharmic way of life. When the life of the individual and the life of the collective become natural expressions of Dharma and Satya, when Dharma and Satya are used as the cohesive forces for nation-building, then Ram Rajya is established. Ram Rajya is not just a political theory but a growing spiritual need in the lives of men and nations. Ram Rajya is the kingdom of God on earth. To establish Ram Rajya (call it by whatever name) in India must be Hindutva’s high aim and objective. Anything short of this, and our dharma yuddha is not complete. Let us not underestimate the challenges: A large number of educated Hindu youth, over generations, has been culturally deracinated and spiritually alienated; they have been made to believe that western values and culture are superior to their own Dharma, and that their Dharma is regressive, superstitious, and in need of systemic reform. That a large number of English-educated youth believes all this unquestioningly is not their fault — it is the education system in India, the worst case of imperialist hangover in independent India, that is to be squarely blamed. The Indian psyche has been systematically infected with the worst western ills of exploitative capitalism, aggressive competition, greed and consumerism; half-baked values of intellectualism and liberalism have been made the staple diet of the Indian intellectual. The educated Indian mind, artificially deprived of the nourishing influences of Dharma, has, over the decades, fallen into mediocrity. The youth has been taught fanciful languages but has forgotten how to speak its own idiom.  So too with the adult. The so-called modern and progressive adult Hindu has equally lost touch with his Dharma and wanders lost and confused amongst alien values and constructs. And do bear in mind that ‘alien’ has nothing to do with nationality — alien is that which is void of Dharma. The average educated Indian, thanks to the skewed education s-he has received, is still spiritually colonized and passionately believes that aping an alien culture is superior to understanding and deepening one’s own.  Wherever you look, you find the same malaise of superficiality and mediocrity in Indian intellectual and public life. Anglicized education has made us a society of well read imitators and petty-minded cynics. We have lost the depths and widenesses of Sanatan Dharma; and if that is not bad enough, we have learnt to condemn our Dharma in the language of our colonial masters. 73 years of political independence, and we are still colonized in our minds and enslaved to crass materialism in our hearts. As Indians, by and large, we have forgotten the rich integrality of our Sanatan Dharma and have become hopelessly fractured and fragmented, as individuals and as a nation. We have lost the courage to stand for our Dharma and to fight for Satya — we have become weak and selfish over the generations, our very life force has been sapped by the forces of adharma. And adharma rages everywhere, in all directions: the monotheistic and shamelessly proselytizing Abrahamic religions are the most visible of these forces; but the hidden forces of selfishness, fear, dishonesty, falsehood and deception are the deeper and more dangerous forces of adharma. Let’s make no mistake about this: if we do not or cannot overcome the hidden forces of adharma, overcoming the visible forces will be of little value. But, on the other hand, if we vanquish the inner foes, we become towering forces of pure Dharma that no outer force or foe can shake or weaken. All our resources and minds must combine to fight adharma, within and outside. Education is our first front. We must re-educate, revise the old narratives, keep the truths, throw out the falsehoods. We must kindle discussion and debate in the highest intellectual traditions of our Dharma. We must rebuild the minds and hearts of young India. The new national education policy, released just a few days ago, is the first step in the right direction. But we need to go farther, much farther. We have to confront multiple falsehoods and deliberate attacks on our Dharma. We need to rebuild narratives, reconnect our heritage and our destiny, our past and our future, which have been ruptured, first by the Islamic invasions and then by the British Raj. We have to boldly reclaim the truths of our Dharma, without apology or hesitation. Dharma is our birthright and we must learn, once again, to demand our birthright. In one of the inspired modern day mahavakyas of the Indologist Koenraad Elst, What Hindus… will have to learn, is that the essence of Hindu Dharma is not ‘tolerance’ or ‘equal respect for all religions’ but Satya, Truth. It is to this Truth that the Hindu raises temples and installs deities; the outer names and forms are mere contexts.   For those interested in this subject: please read this and this      
Read More
Uncategorized

Rebuilding The Hindutva Narrative

There are a few fundamental characteristics that define Hinduness or Hindutva. We would do well to begin with these. Let me call these the mool-siddhantas or fundamental principles of Hindutva. Any debate or discussion on Hindutva would be rendered useless if these fundamental principles were to be ignored. The anti-Hindutva narrative that has been built over decades in India by most leftist-liberal thinkers and commentators is primarily premised on two fallacies: One, that Hindutva is only a political ideology aimed at Hindu hegemony; and two, Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism, its culture and spiritual values. Both these fallacies have resulted in a skewed and bigoted understanding of Hindutva. Over the years, this has also tragically resulted in a distortion of the narrative even amongst rational and moderate Hindus, Hindus who would have otherwise happily embraced Hindutva as a legitimate force in Indian national life. Therefore, the immediate and urgent need to correct the narrative, to bring things into the right perspective, to restore Hindutva to its rightful place in Indian thinking and national life.  The new or revised narrative must begin with a broader and more sympathetic understanding of Hindutva as a natural expression of Hinduism and Hindu civilizational values in the cultural, social and political existence of the nation. This indeed is the idea of Hindu nationalism and nationhood in the Hindutva perspective. To deny this would be an act of deliberate mischief.  Hindutva, being a natural outward expression of Hindu dharma, is necessarily catholic and all-embracing. Hindutva, by its very nature, cannot exclude. Nor, by its very nature, can it push itself to proselytize and expand. Hindu hegemony is oxymoronic. Hinduism has always been inward-looking, contemplative and largely uninterested in mundane or worldly affairs. The Hindu has been historically content in being left to his or her own dharma and hardly bothered with the mundane details of political ideology or sovereignty. Dharma has always been the foremost concern of the Hindu, and remains so to this day. It is this characteristic of the Hindu that defines Hindutva. Even as a political ideology, Hindutva never seeks to exclude other faiths and thought systems. In Veer Savarkar’s concept of Hindutva, there is, in fact, no primacy of religion, it is nationalism built around the principles of Hindu dharma.  Hindutva, in its present form and force, began as a movement to consolidate the Hindu dharma and way of life against the increasingly aggressive advance of nation-states and the monopolistic and proselytizing Abrahamic religions. It is fine to be inclusive and regard all religions and nations as the varied expressions and manifestations of the same Divine and therefore consider this whole world as one spiritual family, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. But the scenario changes entirely when one is confronted with uncompromising aggressive faiths premised on the theory that the whole world must belong to one God only and must follow one religion only. How should the catholic, all-embracing Hindu with his belief in vasudhaiva kutumbakam deal with the fact that his or her dharma is dismissed as primitive and false, and he or she is a kafir or a heathen who will burn in eternal hellfire for his or her faith and his or her only redemption is either to be converted or killed?  This was the historical situation that gave rise to the necessity of Hindutva as a force to consolidate Hindu dharma and protect it for future generations, so that at no point in time is the Dharma itself endangered and its civilizational values irretrievably lost. Our leftist-liberal critics still condemn Hindutva of being confrontational and not inclusive enough. But the truth that needs to be understood is that Hindutva simply confronts attacks on Hindu dharma and resists with all its light and might. If it were not for such resistance, the dharma would be left wide open to attack and serious disruption. It is an unfortunate fact that the ordinary Hindu is not much interested in standing up for his or her dharma. There is a deep tamasic cloud that hangs over the Hindu consciousness. Swami Vivekananda observed this long ago and spoke strongly against it — he clearly felt that the Hindus needed more rajas, more strength and force. Hindutva is that force that has arisen to remove this pall of tamas. Hindutva has one single and focused objective: to protect and strengthen dharma.  None who has studied history impartially will deny that Hinduism has had to contend continually, over centuries, with the combined forces of Islam and Christianity, intent on proselytizing and expanding throughout the world; and equally, no one who objectively follows current global developments and trends will deny the continued existence of these same threats. The Islamic clergy has certainly not softened its kafir stand and continues to hold the belief that all humans must be finally converted to Islam for their own good. The Christian missionary too continues to hold the belief that his religion is the only true religion and all those who follow the Hindu faith are primitive and superstitious and need desperately to be converted and brought to the redeeming Christian faith.  Add to this the rapidly growing threat of the Chinese Communist Party intent on eliminating all faiths and religions from earth and converting all humanity to an atheist Communist global society. They have, in fact, even banned the native Chinese Falun Gong movement because it is spiritual.  Just as the Islamist fundamentalist destroys all forms of art and aesthetics indiscriminately because art, music and aesthetics are not acceptable in Islam, the Chinese Communist Party destroys all religious forms and practices indiscriminately because it contradicts the Communist manifesto. Tibet bears living testimony to this kind of wanton destruction.  So what does the hapless Hindu, confronted by continual Islamist and Christian fundamentalism and Communist aggression, do to protect his dharma, his way of life? And not just the Hindu, this applies equally to the Buddhist, the Sikh, the Jain and the Zoroastrian, and indeed the hundreds of smaller religious denominations and movements spread over the earth.  The future, in many ways, will be a deep and intense battle of all dharmic forces against the forces that threaten to disrupt and destroy dharma, anywhere on earth. Hindutva is a first robust stand against these disruptive forces. Hindutva is needed and must grow in strength. It is as necessary to establish Hindutva as a cultural and spiritual force as it is to establish it as a political one. Politics, like wealth, is a force and must be used for the higher purposes of dharma. We cannot deny Hindutva a strong and wide political platform, but it must not be limited to just a political platform. Hindutva, to be fully effective, must be made into an integrated multi-pronged platform to take on all opposing and hostile forces, whether from outside of the Hindu community or from within it.  Hindutva needs intellectual heft and it needs wealth force. In the coming weeks, we will consider these aspects in greater detail. 
Read More
Om
Uncategorized

Om, The Imperishable Word

ओमित्येतदक्षरमिद्ँ सर्वं तस्योपव्याख्यानं भूतं भवद्भविष्यदिति सर्वमोङ्कार एव। यच्चान्यत्त्रिकालातीतं तदप्योङ्कार एव ।।[1] OM is this imperishable Word, OM is the Universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM. (From the Mandukya Upanishad) Om is the quintessential signature of the Hindu dharma. No sacred task, no holy sacrifice or yajna, no worship, prayer or invocation can begin without Om. Om is the first invocation and the last benediction. All mantras and hymns, all prayers and salutations to the Divine end on the note of Om. The Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, called Om the signature of the Lord, and the supreme invocation.  Whether one recites Om quietly within oneself or sings it in a group, it has the same beneficial effect of spreading the vibrations of peace and calm, of concentrating the mind and heart in the deepest or highest consciousness. Om is the sound that rises ever upward, from the lower chakras to the higher, from the lower prakriti to the higher, from our earth plane, the so-called mrityuloka or the plane of death, to the highest Anandaloka or the plane of Divine bliss. Om is the ascending path of Light from death to immortality, from unconsciousness to Truth Consciousness. It is believed in the Sanatan Dharma that the right understanding of Om can open the passage to the highest Yoga.  In Sri Aurobindo’s words, OM is the symbol and the thing symbolized. It is the symbol, aksharam, the syllable in which all sound of speech is brought back to its wide, pure indeterminate state; it is the symbolised, aksharam, the changeless, undiminishing, unincreasing, unappearing, undying Reality which shows itself to experience in all the change, increase, diminution, appearance, departure which in a particular sum and harmony of them we call the world.[2] Describing Om intellectually is a daunting task, for Om is not a subject for academic study but a theme for meditative contemplation and inner concentration. Analyzing Om intellectually is like dissecting a poem into structure and semantics to find out how it is composed instead of plunging mind and heart into it and letting it express itself through you. Analogies apart, that is what Om does: if you give yourself wholly to it, immerse your mind and heart in it, it comes alive in you, it reveals and expresses itself through your consciousness, making your consciousness its own manifest field.  This is the transcendental power of Om: it is not just a particular sound, syllable or mantra with a certain mystical significance but it is the very root and basis of all sound, it is literally the mother of all mantras, the consciousness matrix out of which the whole universe arises as seed vibration, or beej-spanda, of the Divine.  When the Supreme Inconceivable Brahman, in its absolute singularity, wished to become the Many, that inconceivable divine Wish, which was also simultaneously the divine Will, became the seed of this entire universe, and that seed was Sound. Not a sound but Sound itself, nada. Nada was the first sound to arise out of the infinite potentiality that was before the beginning of Cosmos. That infinite potentiality, without beginning or end, out of which all universes arise like so many waves out of an infinite sea, is known as bindu. Bindu, in Sanskrit, means a point or a dot. Bindu, in mystical Hindu Dharma, represents the dimensionless point of infinitely massed consciousness as pure potentiality. It is this that is the origin of all manifestation and creation.  Think of this bindu as a mathematician would think of a point, a position without dimensions. As infinitely massed consciousness and infinite potentiality of existence, bindu is therefore absolute (non-relative) position, sthiti, and as infinite, it is without dimension, ananta aparimanit.  Whatever exists in dimensions is finite, and constitutes srishti or manifestation, and whatever is without dimension necessarily transcends srishti or manifestation. Bindu, therefore, transcends manifestation while containing it all within itself, not in any space or time but in its own sthiti and is known by the sages as the symbol of the adishakti, the Divine Mother or the Divine Womb.  Om is the primal cosmic vibration through which the nada, eternally absorbed in bindu, arises out of it and becomes Chit-shakti or the consciousness-force pervading the Cosmos. Om is nada and bindu in conjunction or Yoga out of which all consciousness and Cosmos manifest. In the Shiva Purana, nada is identified as Shiva himself, incarnate as sound that becomes Cosmos, and bindu is identified as Shakti, incarnate as the infinite creative potentiality out of which arises Cosmos. This whole universe then is Shiva, as nada, manifesting out of Shakti, as bindu; and Shakti, as bindu, sustaining Shiva, as nada, through all this visible and tangible universe. While the Shivalinga symbolizes this mystery in the visible universe, the Omkar, or the mystic form of Om, symbolizes this mystery in the invisible and subtle universe.  As the Omkar devolves from its supreme transcendental heights into our material world and consciousness, so it can evolve from our material world and consciousness back into its transcendental heights. Thus, the Omkar is known as the supreme path of ascension to the highest of realizations. By following the upward pathway led by the Omkar, the seeker can attain to the truths of all the worlds and planes of being.  The syllable Om itself is composed of three seed syllables (or letters as phonemes) A, U and M. A (अ), U (उ) and M (म), pronounced together gives rise to the sound of OM or AUM, and it is this three-syllabled sound that the Yogi intones and meditates upon. There are layers of occult and mystical meanings involved with each of these three syllables, as with the integrated sound of Aum.  In Sri Aurobindo’s words: the syllable A (अ) represents the external manifestation or consciousness realized in the actual and the concrete,  seen by the human consciousness as the waking state.  The syllable U (उ) represents the internal manifestation, the intermediate consciousness realised in the inner potentialities and intermediate states between the inmost supramental and the external, seen by the human consciousness as the subliminal and associated with the dream state. The syllable M (म) represents the inmost seed or condensed consciousness, (the inmost supramental, glimpsed by the human consciousness as something superconscient, omniscient and omnipotent, and associated with the state of dreamless Sleep or full Trance.) The integrated sound of AUM (ओम or आऊम) represents Turīya, the Fourth; the pure Spirit beyond these three, the Atman consciousness.. This AUM is the transcendent sound of infinite wavelength. The idea of infinite wavelength is difficult to grasp;  but if one can imagine infinite wavelength, one will intuit how an entire universe, which is ultimately energy combinations, can be contained in a single sound or vibration. AUM, as this single infinite vibration, is the portal to the superconscious, non-dual state. It is at this point, at this mystic threshold, that AUM merges into the anahata, the sound of Silence, and the known universe is reabsorbed into the transcendental Silence of the Divine. To continue with Sri Aurobindo’s description of Om: OM is the symbol of the triple Brahman, the outward-looking, the inward or subtle and the superconscient causal Purusha. Each letter A, U, M indicates one of these three in ascending order and the syllable as a whole brings out the fourth state, Turiya, which rises to the Absolute. OM is the initiating syllable pronounced at the outset as a benedictory prelude and sanction to all act of sacrifice, all act of giving and all act of askesis; it is a reminder that our work should be made an expression of the triple Divine in our inner being and turned towards him in the idea and motive. Om is thus the vehicle of the highest meditations. By meditating on each of the letters of AUM, the Yogi can access and master the planes associated with each of the letters — the waking, the subtle, the atmic or the inmost; and by meditating on the integrated sound of AUM, the Yogi can enter the integral Turiya state that not only transcends but subsumes the other three.  The Mandukya Upanishad opens with the declaration that Om is the eternal, imperishable word. All other words, being descriptors of transient subjects and objects of the universe, perish; but Om being the descriptor of the Eternal, is itself eternal and imperishable. The Hindus regard Om as the very name of God.  Let’s reflect briefly on Om as the name of the Divine.  In Hindu philosophy, manifestation consists of two aspects: nama (name) and rupa (form). Nama, or name, represents the psychological nature and qualities of a being and rupa, form, represents the visible, physical attributes. Namarupa, therefore, is the mind-body of all beings in existence. The process of naming is essential for a complete mental cognition of reality, as the senses, cognizing only form, are unable by themselves to form a complete picture of reality. The mind grasps or realizes (makes real to itself) a thing or being only by perceiving the form in conjunction with the name, thus associating form with identifiable attributes. Naming, therefore, gives the consciousness the power to recall and invoke the entity that is named and perceived.  Thus, the name has enormous power. One can perceive form but not be able to relate to the form without recalling and invoking the name associated with the form. A relationship is established and maintained only through namarupa — name and form. But in terms of consciousness, relationship doesn’t need the form, name alone is sufficient; the name can recall the form perfectly to mind even without the form being present. Form is impermanent and perishable since it depends on physical presence in space and time; but name, as a construct or reality of consciousness, is imperishable and timeless. Thus, there are traditions in Hinduism that are based solely on the nama of the Divine and dispense with rupa. This is particularly true for non-dualists who accept only the formless aspect of God, for the formless Divine can only be invoked and recalled through the nama or the power of the nama. Anyone in love can readily testify to this power of the nama: you only need to recall the name of your beloved to be immediately in touch with him or her in your consciousness, even to the exclusion of the entire world.  Om, then, is the name of the Divine: Brahman or Ishvara are only descriptions of the attributes of the Divine — Brahman is that which infinitely expands, the ever-perfect and the auspicious; Ishvara is one’s highest or inmost status of being, one’s own divinity or godhead. But Om is the name itself, the name that has the power to immediately recall and invoke the Divine. Meditating, therefore, on Om as the name of the Divine is held to be the most direct way to the realization of the Divine. The name leads to that which is named: the symbol leads to the symbolized. If Om is the living and direct symbol of the Divine, then the Divine, as the symbolized, is present in the name as its inmost vibrations. The Yoga is to bring the inmost vibrations to the surface consciousness and make those vibrations the natural vibrations of one’s mind, life and body. Om is thus not only the way but also the destination concealed in the way. To chant Om is to immediately connect in consciousness with all that Om represents, symbolizes, conceals. Meditating on Om is immersing one’s outer and inner consciousness in the inmost, the soul-consciousness. Om is the surest and perhaps the quickest way to penetrate the multiple layers of the outer being and the outer universe and drill ever deeper into the inner and inmost layers of self and cosmic existence, it is indeed to return to one’s existential and spiritual source in Brahman, in the Supreme Truth.  As mantra, Om is supreme, it is the beej-mantra, the seed-mantra of all other mantras. Indeed, all mantras known to Yogis through the ages arise out of this one beej-mantra. Sri Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita, om ity ekaksharam brahma, the single syllable Om is the supreme God, and then goes on to establish his own identity with it: pranavah sarva vedeshu, within all the Vedas, I am the AUM; giram asmi ekam aksaram, of vibrations I am the transcendental AUM. For those who know who Sri Krishna is, and what he represents, these three statements read together are the signature and seal of the Divine on Om.  Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth century, and the avatar of the Supramental Divine, said of Om: OM is the mantra, the expressive sound-symbol of the Brahman Consciousness in its four domains from the Turiya to the external or material plane. The function of a mantra is to create vibrations in the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the realisation of what the mantra symbolizes and is supposed indeed to carry within itself. The mantra OM should therefore lead towards the opening of the consciousness to the sight and feeling of the One Consciousness in all material things, in the inner being and in the supraphysical worlds, in the causal plane above now superconscient to us and, finally, the supreme liberated transcendence above all cosmic existence. In the words of that other saint and avatar of the last century, Sri Ramakrishna: Some sages ask what will you gain by merely hearing this sound of Om? You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal. Om is also known as pranav. As Rishi Patanjali stated: Pranav is the designator, vachak, of Ishvara, the Supreme Self. By the japa or constant repetition of pranav with profound bhava or devotion, all obstacles in life and sadhana will disappear and the consciousness will turn inward.  The Shivapurana describes Om as an excellent boat to cross the ocean of samsara or worldly existence, playing on an interesting etymology of the word pranav — the root pra from prakriti or manifestation, and navam varam, meaning, excellent boat. In the words of the Mother of Pondicherry Ashram: With the help of OM one can realize the Divine. OM has a transforming power. OM represents the Divine. You will recall this O……..M, O…..M, that’s all. O…..M. It must be manifested. If anything goes wrong, repeat OM, all will go well.   1Ōmityeta dakṣharamidam sarvam, tasyo pavyākhyanam, bhūtam bhavatbhaviṣhy aditi sarvam omkāra eva; yaccānyat trikālātītam tadapy omkāra eva. 2Excerpted from Sri Aurobindo’s notes on the Chhandogya Upanishads
Read More
Hindutva and the Hindu Rashtra
Uncategorized

Hindutva and the Hindu Rashtra

Bharat Mata, Painting by Abanindranath Tagore “Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. It is not to be understood or construed narrowly. It is not Hindu fundamentalism nor is it to be confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices or as unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning.” – The Supreme Court of India   Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra, both are controversial issues in the present political landscape of India, and both need to be correctly understood in their true historical and cultural contexts, and restored to mainstream cultural and political discourse and debate. This, going forward, will be a crucial necessity for 21st Century India. The idea of Hindutva is almost wholly associated with the political ideology of the BJP today because the BJP, more than any other political party in post-Independence India, has openly (though not too intelligently) espoused the Hindutva cause. We need to rethink Hindutva as an idea more than an ideology, and as a cultural more than a political platform. It surely has its usefulness in contemporary politics, now especially that the Hindu majority is getting increasingly Hinduised, but as a socio-cultural platform unifying all the presently disparate pro-Hindu forces, it will be vastly more useful and potent. But first, we will need to reestablish the original idea of Hindutva as a way of life, a culture and a civilization. What is immediately needed is an intellectually sophisticated reassessment and rearticulation of the idea of Hindutva as a cultural identity and force. We need serious thinkers and scholars to take up this task, not political ideologues. We do not need any more noise and optics, what we need is in-depth rational analysis and a coherent discourse built around it. Hindutva is not a proprietary term and no individual or organization owns this term, though many freely use or abuse it. Very briefly, the word Hindutva means Hindu-ness, the quality of being Hindu. The etymology is simple: hindu+tattva = hindutva. Tattva in Sanskrit means principle or essence (literally, that-ness). So Hindutva implies Hinduness or the quality of being Hindu. While Hinduism implies a generic philosophical and cultural system, an “ism”, Hindutva implies a much wider and immediately lived reality, an individual and collective consciousness that sets a person and a civilization apart from all other civilizational and ideological systems and practices. As the Supreme Court of India judgment (quoted above) states, Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. This is the crux. It is upon this that the Hindutva narrative needs to be systematically built. Openly, unapologetically, honestly. Without Hindutva as the core idea of India, India will shrink as a civilization and end up as a mere nation-state without any deeper or truer identity. This has already been happening and can be studied by any objective and unbiased mind. The idea of India has shrunk because the idea of Hindutva has been deliberately and arrogantly pushed back by the successive governments post 1947. What happened pre-Independence is ancient history and there is no point in going back to it. But whatever has been happening post Independence needs to be brought out into the open, openly debated and discussed, and addressed as an immediate issue of national importance. Hindutva, once restored to its rightful place in the scheme of future India, will lead to the inevitable rejuvenation of the other fundamental idea of the Hindu Rashtra. Here too, it is to be clearly understood that the word Rashtra does not imply a nation-state. To judge Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra through the lens of western political philosophy is both incorrect and futile. The western idea of a nation-state or nationalism is vastly and profoundly different from the Indian idea of nationality. The Rashtra in Indian thinking is predominantly cultural and civilizational. The Rashtra represents a common culture or civilization spread across a certain geography but independent of that geography[1]. The nation-state, in fact, has always been an alien concept in Indian thought. Even the historical ideas of Bharatvarsha or Aryavarta have been much more of civilizational concepts than political constructs. My contention here is that India has always been a Hindu rashtra in terms of its continuous and unbroken civilization, and this needs to be acknowledged widely and brought back into popular national discourse. Indian history in its truest sense, as itihasa and purana, has been the narrative of an evolving civilization and not a static geographically defined political nation-state. The world, in fact, seems to be moving decisively towards a global cultural synthesis and human unity based on civilizational identities and forces and not on geopolitical and sectarian or hegemonist nationalistic ideas of the old world, notwithstanding the present Chinese anomaly. Most of the controversy surrounding the term Hindu rashtra arises from the limited understanding of the term rashtra. In the English language, one can use civilization instead of nation but in Sanskrit, the equivalent term, sabhyata, simply does not convey the full sense of rashtra. Using Sanskrit terms, I would say — a rashtra (civilization) is its sabhyata (culture), itihasa (history), dharma (law of being) and tadrupya or vyaktitva[2] (distinct identity and character). Any informed student of Indian history and culture will easily identify the Hindu cultural values and practices in Indian sabhyata, the continuous Hindu narrative in Indian itihasa, the Hindu spiritual philosophy and ethics in the concept of Indian dharma, and the predominant Hindu worldview in the Indian tadrupya or pan-national Indian identity. One may argue the diverse interpretations possible within these frameworks of itihasa or sabhyata, but one cannot question their fundamental unity or inherent interrelatedness. It would be impossible, for instance, to separate the strands of Indian history and mythology from Hindu religious or social culture, or Hindu dharma from Indian philosophy, metaphysics, ethics or jurisprudence. There is a compelling and coherent unity underlying the complex and sometimes bewildering variety of interpretations and practices of what many imprudently term “Hindu” or Hindu civilization. In order to come to a meaningful understanding and appreciation of Hindu civilization, we will first need to touch upon certain basic ideas and concepts of Hindutva itself, especially keeping in mind the misunderstandings (sometimes deliberate) propagated by other religious preachers, media critics and so-called contemporary leftist scholars. Without a clear understanding of what Hindutva encompasses, it will be difficult and somewhat foolhardy to pass any kind of judgment on the concept of the Hindu rashtra. [To be continued] 1A rashtra may be described as a group of people having a common or shared cultural identity. A Hindu Rashtra would therefore describe a collectivity consisting of people sharing the same Bhartiyata or Hindutva. Bharatiyata is Indianness; Hindutva is Hinduness, or the essence or quality of being Hindu. This is not to be naturally conflated with the Hindutva of Savarkar. 2ताद्रूप्य — (from tat, meaning that, and rupa, meaning form or character), used here in the sense of identity; vyaktitva too implies distinct personality or identity.
Read More
Uncategorized

The Divine Mother

या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मातृरुपेण संस्थिता।नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥[1] To that Divine Goddess Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of the Mother,Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations again and again.   The Divine as the Eternal Feminine, as the Mother, is perhaps the profoundest and the most powerful of the mysteries concealed at the heart of Sanatan Dharma. The Hindu reveres and invokes the Divine as the Transcendent Brahman, as the Indescribable Supreme Being, Purushottam, as the beloved Sri Krishna, or the inscrutable Shiva, the eternal Self of all that lives and moves in this universe; but he also adores and invokes the Divine as the Mother, as the primordial Consciousness-Force, Chit-Shakti, and the supreme creative principle that manifests all being, and sustains and nurtures it even as a human mother sustains and nourishes the life of her child. And even as a mother bears her child in herself, so does the Divine as the Mother bear us all in Her cosmic womb, the sacred matrix, till we are spiritually ready for our full manifestation. Indeed, our whole life in the cosmos is an occult evolutionary preparation in the cosmic womb of the Divine Mother. Few indeed can entirely grasp the supreme mystery of the sacred Feminine.  Sri Aurobindo describes this sacred Feminine in his mantric epic, Savitri:  The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,A power of silence in the depths of God.She is the Force, the inevitable Word,The magnet of our difficult ascent.[2] The sacred and eternal Feminine, the Divine Mother, is the root of this entire universe, the very force that weaves it into the fabric of spacetime; the One who dwells equally in the heart of the atom and in the inmost self of man, the One who spins the Cosmos around the invisible axis of Her divine being, and the One who lies coiled and involved in the heart of matter as the Supreme Light of Truth, jyoti-parasya.  Often the first contact of the devotee with the Divine Mother is through Love and Light, for She is the foremost and perfect embodiment of both: as Love, She is the source and the consummation, the fount of all that manifests as Existence, Consciousness and Delight of the Divine; it is out of Her Love that all this exists, that all this has its being in space, time and consciousness. She is the eternal Love that manifests as the Self of the Vedantin, as the God or Ishvara of the Yogin, and as Shiva or Narayan of the meditator and the devotee.   As Self, She is the inmost psychic being[3], the living portion of the Supreme indwelling in all living beings, the sacred Agni in our inmost hearts; as Agni, the evolutionary Flame, She consumes all our darkness, our ignorance and obscurities, and leads us with a supreme compassion towards our own highest Truth. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, She is the magnet of our difficult ascent. All forms in this universe are variations of Her infinite becoming, She alone is the whole of this creation, and, indeed, of creations without end. At the head of all manifestation, on the mystic edge of that primordial event-horizon out of which arises all being, She is the Adi-Parashakti: the originating Supreme Consciousness-Force of the Divine. Without the Mother as Adi-Parashakti, Brahman Itself would be incapable of manifestation and Its first movement of Will to become would simply fall back, impotent, into the silence of the Unmanifest.  All this that we regard and experience as World and Cosmos, Vishwa-Brahmanda, albeit in minuscule measure, are planes and parts of Her infinite being and becoming. She becomes all; all that we are and ever shall be, all that we know and ever shall know, are only forms and formulations of Her infinite creative capacity — She alone is the Divine Creatrix, the Power or Shakti of Divine Creation. Thus is She known as Mahashakti — the supreme Force of Creation. But do not regard Her as only Force, for She is Force of the Divine Consciousness, She is the animating consciousness-force that manifests Shiva, and without Her, Shiva would remain inert and unmanifest, lifeless as shava, a corpse. Shiva, the transcendent Divine, offers his cosmic heart to Her as Her sacred base for manifestation, and She assumes the cosmic form of Mahakali preparing and moulding the universe for Shiva’s Truth; without the Mother’s benign presence, Shiva’s Truth would instantly vaporize the universe. She is then the Shakti upholding even Shiva, the consciousness-force bearing Shiva’s pillar of infinite Light.  As Narayani, She is the creative consciousness-force emanating from Narayan through all the planes of cosmic existence, weaving spacetime consciousness for Narayan to make Himself manifest in all His infinite becoming. Narayan’s vishwarupa, or cosmic Form, is but the Mother’s supramental vision made manifest in the eternal spirals of evolutionary Time. As Narayani, She sustains universes in Her consciousness as portion of Her own infinite being.  Without Her as the embodiment of Love, this universe as we know it would fall apart, cease to exist. It is out of Her Love that She keeps the universe cohesive and coherent from the quantum to the cosmic levels; from the tiniest spark of life in the single cell to the vast consciousness of the mighty Gods — She alone is the Force that binds and wields. When the physicists contend with the powerful forces within the atomic nucleus and stand back amazed at the sheer potency of the very small, they are but countering just a minuscule fraction of the Mother’s immense Power and mystic Love.  When the astronomers look upon the incredible cosmic vastnesses, into the farthest reaches of space and time, and stand bewildered by those appalling immensities, they are but catching just the faintest tantalizing glimpses of the Mother’s inscrutable power of creative formation, or Maya. As the possessor and wielder of Maya, the divine creative power of infinite formation, She is known as Mahamaya. As Mahamaya, She sustains, at multiple levels, from the invisible to the supracosmic, the grand appearance of the Universe. For the Universe is not really a thing out there but a manifestation of one of Her formations that She holds in Her consciousness. Mark the fact that it is one of Her formations. There are numberless formations and universes that the Divine Mahamaya weaves out of Her infinite creativity, and these are not all out there but truly deep within, as one discovers on entering the inner layers of Her manifestation: layers subtler than subtlest thought, so subtle that these appear almost void to our ordinary gross consciousness.  Thus, it is said that the Mother as Mahamaya holds all conscious life in Her inscrutable spell of Maya, and none — not even the great gods and sages — can escape Her field of Maya without Her grace, will and consent. She is known to Her ardent devotees as the One who grants all capacities and powers of consciousness, sarvasiddhidayini. It is by Her divine Love that She liberates the soul from the illusion of the false ego; it is by Her Love that She liberates the mind from the illusions of the false existence, mithya and avidya. She is, therefore, also the One who grants all liberation and freedom, sarvamuktidayini. For all souls caught in the snares of cosmic and egoic illusion, her Love is the Light of hope. For not only is She Love, She is also the source of divine Light, She Herself is the Light of the Supreme, jyoti-parasya, that Yogins through the ages have invoked and revered, the Light without which there would indeed be no Yoga or Sanatan Dharma.  The Divine Mother is indeed the heart of the Dharma. Whoever, wherever, gives himself to Dharma, gives himself to the Divine Mother. When one stands for Dharma in this universe of perplexing duality and confusion (for all evil is but confusion and duality) and protects Dharma, he is protected directly by the power of the Divine Mother. Dharmo rakshati, rakshitaha is equally a mantra for invoking the protection of the Divine Mother.  There are those who feel, perhaps rightly so in the confusions of everyday life, that the Sanatan Dharma is in grave danger, under threat by hostile forces; but they forget too easily perhaps the deeper truth that the Sanatan Dharma is the manifest field of the Divine Mother’s Yogic work upon earth, and earth herself may be destroyed but the luminous seeds of Sanatan Dharma will survive, concealed eternally in the Mother’s bosom, awaiting its time of revival and rejuvenation in the endless spirals of evolutionary Time. The ones who have known even an infinitesimal portion of the Divine Mother’s consciousness also know that the Mother is vaster than this earth of ours, and a million earths, nay — a million universes, can arise and dissolve in the infinite consciousness that She is.  Who indeed can know the Mother in his or her small, time-bound consciousness? For the Mother exceeds space and time, exceeds consciousness too, exceeds all manifestation. In the wink of an eye, She can create a universe, and in the space of that same infinitesimal fraction of time, She can dissolve it all. The Mother is the creative Word of the Divine. When the sage says “in the beginning was the Word…”, he is pointing to the mystical truth of the Divine Feminine as the Word of creation. The Word, the Divine Logos, is also the mystic-syllabled Om out of which arises all manifestation. The ancient sages realized this Om as the Divine Mother’s first seed of Light sprouting as the universe. This was the mystic beginning, pure unmanifest and undifferentiated consciousness manifesting as the Mystic Sound or vibration of the three-syllabled A-U-M. AUM is also the gateway to the understanding of the Divine Mother, for each of the syllables represents a plane of the Divine Mother’s manifestation and can lead the Yogin to not only knowledge of these planes but direct experience, anubhava, of these planes. In a deeper mystical sense then, the Mother is Brahman’s power of Creation, the Supreme Creative Word. Thus it is declared by the sages of old that following the mystical revelatory pathway of Om, one can penetrate the Mother’s Maya and enter into the higher regions of Her Lila and Ananda. It is only by that that the soul comes to the Truth of ananda or divine Delight behind Mother’s formidable Maya. But Maya is not just illusion, it is also the creative power that makes cosmic manifestation possible. Without Maya’s luminous veils between the mind of man and the utter Truth of the Divine, personal existence in the Cosmos would become impossible, for the mind would then be entirely and utterly consumed by the Inconceivable as a spaceship approaching too close to the Sun might be consumed by the heat of the Sun.  The Divine Mother, as the Light of the Supreme, holds the Sun in Her consciousness and regulates its Light and heat, tapas, so that life in the Ignorance may not dissolve too early in the evolution of the Spirit: for the whole purpose of our human manifestation is to evolve to the Mother’s Supreme Light, and it is only by Her force of Maya that She regulates the pace of our evolutionary journey — neither too rapidly out of rajasic impatience, nor too tardily out of tamasic inertia. To do this effectively, the Mother divides Herself infinitely, becomes a portion of Herself in each of us, and guides us intimately, through our own struggles and tribulations, surely and steadily towards the Truth consciousness. That portion of Herself in each of us is the psychic being, the chaitya-purusha of the Vedas. Sanatan Hindu Dharma will soon discover the reality of the psychic being; it is the discovery of the psychic being that will give to Sanatan Dharma its much needed rejuvenating life-force. And beyond Sanatan Dharma itself, the discovery of the psychic being as the pivot of future spiritual life, will be the next necessary evolutionary step for all humanity. It is the Mother as the psychic being that will save humanity from its self-destructive habits and tendencies.  Assuredly, the next age will be the age of the Sacred Feminine.  The Sacred Feminine will balance the forces of nature and restore evolutionary equilibrium. Our earth life is out of balance: too much of the masculine, too little of the feminine. This is the root of all our present day civilizational challenges and crises. The aggression of monopolistic and monotheistic religions based on the pernicious idea of one God and one religion for all humanity, for instance, is the defining feature of masculinity out of sync with its femininity; the aggressive nationalist politics of most nations, the hegemonic tendencies of authoritarian ideological governments are also characteristics of the masculine out of sync with the feminine. The exploitative and opportunistic economics of the modern world is also a characteristic feature of an overtly masculine thinking out of sync with the feminine. The continued destruction of natural environments and the almost irreversible climate change are also indications of that same masculinity out of sync with femininity.  Our civilization needs desperately the healing touch of the Divine Mother. No religion that admits the Sacred Feminine can remain aggressive and violent. The Sacred Feminine is characterized by openness, humility, compassion and gentleness, and the spirit of universal nurture and universal acceptance — for these are the attributes of the Divine Mother, these are the virtues of the Feminine, sacred or mundane. The discovery of the psychic being as the Mother’s portion in all human beings will be that necessary personal shift, and one would hope and pray, eventually a terrestrial shift, towards the Feminine. It is the Divine Mother as the Sacred Feminine that will bear earth life towards its next evolutionary status. This is a crucial point: that each of us who understands the truth of this evolutionary shift from the masculine to the feminine must actively embody and live that truth. We must ourselves progressively become psychic beings bearing the force and light of the Feminine in ourselves. We must ourselves turn to the Sacred Feminine, or else we will be out of sync with the spirit of the new age.  To understand this better, let us not confuse the Sacred Feminine with being a man or woman. Each of us, man or woman, possesses the Masculine as well as the Feminine equally in our depths of being. Neither is superior, both are equal and equally needed for the manifestation and the evolution of the manifestation. The perfect equilibrium between the Masculine and the Feminine, between Purusha and Prakriti, between Ishvara and Shakti, is the creative basis of the Sanatan Dharma and of human evolution. Eventually, as the excess of the Masculine in our civilization is corrected and balance is restored, a dynamic equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine will be the higher evolutionary norm. But the way to that will be through a present and immediate shift of our energies and consciousnesses towards the Feminine.  In other words, we have come collectively, as a species, to the threshold of the Feminine: the Divine Mother needs to be restored to the centre of human life and spirituality; our spiritual life and religions must become a terrestrial invocation of the Sacred Feminine. We must now turn to the Mother, consciously and joyfully. The Mother is not only the Divine’s Truth and Consciousness but also its Love and Delight — She is the anandamayee, the embodiment of Ananda, as much as She is the chaitanyamayee, the embodiment of Consciousness, and satyamayee, the embodiment of Truth.  1yādevī sarvabhūteṣū mātṛrūpeṇa saṃsthitānamastasyai, namastasyai,namastasyai namonamaḥ 2Book 3, Canto 2 of Savitri by Sri Aurobindo 3As used for the soul by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the context of Integral Yoga.
Read More
Reflections on Hinduism (7)
Uncategorized

Sri Krishna and Shiva

Deeper into the Mystery One is there, Self of self, Soul of Space, Fount of Time,Heart of hearts, Mind of minds, He alone sits, sublime. Oh, no void Absolute self-absorbed, splendid, mute, Hands that clasp hold and red lips that kiss blow the flute. All He loves, all He moves, all are His, all are He! (From Sri Aurobindo’s poem Krishna)   If Shiva is the austere, inconceivable presence of the Supreme, the vast impersonality of the Divine, Sri Krishna is the Divine Personality supporting the eternal play of existence as Vishnu, the archetypal sustainer and nurturer, and himself entering into it as friend, lover, intimate guide and Guru. To invoke Shiva to descend to the earth plane to support or aid evolution is a near impossibility, but Sri Krishna is a constant presence amidst the world-play as the incarnate Divine and the World Teacher, the avatar and the jagat guru, leading humanity towards its highest consciousness. It is his assurance to the human soul that he would be born upon earth, age after age, whenever the burden of unconsciousness would threaten to disrupt the evolutionary balance of the universe. If Shiva is the archetypal ascetic, the ash-smeared adiyogi with matted locks and serpents, Sri Krishna is the cowherd with the alluring flute, playmate of the gopis, king, statesman and warrior who understands the intricacies of the world as much as he understands the profoundest mysteries of the universe, is as much at home with politics as he is with metaphysics, can fight and destroy as skillfully as he can play the flute and dance. If Shiva is the Silence of the Infinite, the shunya in which floats all existence, Sri Krishna is the music of the spheres, he is the manifest Cosmos brimming with life and energy, the radiant godhead of ananda, the supreme bliss of existence and consciousness. If Shiva is non-duality, the absolute Alone, Sri Krishna is the delight of the One playing amidst the infinite Many, the Lord of Love and the rasa of the Divine’s all-becoming. The sages declare that this whole existence is Sri Krishna’s blissful play, Krishnalila. Of him indeed the Upanishads say, raso vai sa — verily, he Himself is Delight [1]. Hindu dharma has two faces: one, Shiva, the ascetic, the tapasvi, seated on Kailash, symbolic of the supreme peaks of Yogic consciousness; and the other Krishna, the delightful, the anandmaya, the one sporting with the gopis in a Raaslila symbolic of the eternal play of the Divine and the human, the play of the spirit in matter, the play of love drawing the soul ever closer to the incomparable delight of union with the Divine. Shiva is the consciousness-source of existence and Krishna is the delight-source: we arise out of consciousness and delight and we return unto consciousness and delight. This is the mystery at the heart of Sanatan dharma. Whichever route we take, through consciousness or delight, it is the same consummation we reach: for consciousness is delight, delight is consciousness. Religions that regard human life as sinful or deluded cannot comprehend this mystery. The God of such religions is outside of the universe, a benign or an authoritative being presiding over human destiny. The God of Sanatan dharma is neither within nor without; in a deeper sense, neither transcendent nor immanent: God is the universe, it is the whole of existence. Transcendence and immanence are mere statuses relative to human consciousness, not absolute truths. The Truth is manifestation. God or the Supreme Reality is this very universe. This Supreme Reality does not create this universe — it becomes this universe out of its all-consciousness and all-delight. We say Shiva is that all-consciousness and Krishna is that all-delight out of which arises this universe — all beings and things are manifestations of Shiva, of Krishna. But these too are human expressions limited by human consciousness. The truth, as our sages and seers declared trenchantly, is absolute oneness — Shiva is Krishna and Krishna is Shiva: separating the two is like separating fire from its heat. As the Yajur Veda declares categorically: शिवाय विष्णु रूपाय शिव रूपाय विष्णवे | शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुं विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः | यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः | [2] Shiva is the manifest form of Vishnu, another name for Sri Krishna; Vishnu is the manifest form of Shiva. Vishnu dwells in Shiva’s heart as Shiva dwells in Vishnu’s. Wherever one finds Vishnu, one will find Shiva; and wherever one finds Shiva, one will find Vishnu. Realizing the one is realizing the other. Thus all existence is consciousness and all consciousness is delight — this must be understood. Consciousness and delight are not attributes of existence but the very substance of existence: existence is consciousness, and existence is delight. This triune reality of the Sanatan dharma is known as satchitananda: Sat is existence itself, Chit is consciousness and ananda is delight, bliss. To be, therefore, is to be conscious, and to be conscious is to be in delight, in the bliss of being. The moment one understands this triune reality, one understands too the purpose and meaning of existence and consciousness — to grow in consciousness towards the perfect bliss and delight of existence. In fact, it is not even so much a question of one’s growing in consciousness; it is more a matter of understanding that consciousness grows by its very nature towards more being and more delight. This is what is known as brahmagati — the movement of Brahman into its own vastness. Brahman is the vastness, brihat, and ever-expands into itself. Thus the supreme consummation of the Sanatan dharma is to become one with the Truth, satyam, which is also the Vast, brihat. Shiva then is the expansion of consciousness into its own vastness; Krishna is the deepening of consciousness into its own infinite depths. Together, for one who can fathom this mystery of mysteries, they lead the human soul to its perfect fulfillment in ananda — the bliss of the Divine. But this is not the whole of the rasamaya anubhava: there is a still intenser bliss, or rasa, of knowing that Shiva, seated in the mind’s pinnacle, opens the consciousness to the eternal light of Truth; and Krishna, seated in the inmost heart, opens the consciousness to the eternal delight of the Divine. The true devotee of the Sanatan dharma is therefore neither a Shaivite following Shiva as the one godhead, nor a Vaishnavite following Sri Krishna as the one godhead; she is a Yogi in whose consciousness the two become integrally one. It may be enough for some seekers to aspire for Shiva’s perfect non-duality and purity within themselves, and some seekers may be content aspiring for Krishna’s perfect delight and bliss; but for the complete Yogi who aspires to realize the very heart of the Sanatan dharma, neither is sufficient: she aspires for purnata, completeness, which is realizing Shiva’s fierce purity in Krishna’s delight, and Krishna’s bliss and delight in Shiva’s fierce purity. Can one even begin to conceive of such a realization? For this is a Yoga of a different dimension: austerity, asceticism and vast impersonality merge blissfully into love and delight of the Divine; non-duality revels in the variegated opulence of multiplicity and multiplicity resolves back, moment to moment, into an indescribably profound unity. Everything comes together, all diverse streams converge, and the Yogi dissolves into the perfect ananda, only a thumb-sized portion of her inmost consciousness and being remains to partake of the timeless anandmaya Purusha, the Being of Bliss. This is the experience of the supreme, the most excellent, rasa of all existence — paramam rasanubhuti. It is this paramam rasanubhuti that is at heart of the Sanatan dharma. All other experiences and realizations, all other processes and attainments, are only preparations for this supreme rasa, for it is in this rasanubhuti that existence is finally justified and validated in the profoundest possible way. All existence arises out of ananda and into ananda subsides. Sorrow, pain and suffering, birth and death, delusion and ignorance, falsehood and evil, are all steps along the way, processes of an infinite evolution of consciousness that even the vastest human mind would fail to grasp. This consummation of the Sanatan dharma is a state of perfect and permanent absence of sorrow and disturbance; our ancient sages called this the anamayam padam — the sorrowless state. This is the brahmanirvana that Sri Krishna holds as the highest good in the Bhagavad Gita. This nirvana is not an extinguishing or extinction — it is the consummation and fulfillment of the jiva, the human soul, in perfect union with the Divine. The one who understands this, understands too that this universe and our human existence in it is not just Maya and mithya, it’s not just delusion and ignorance, it’s not just pain and suffering, it’s not the meaningless extinction in death, nor an eternity of heavenly reward or hellish retribution, nor even an ever-circling round of karmic processes from lifetime to lifetime. It is none of all this. Existence is a vast field of lila, of divine delight and play; human life is a journey of consciousness from one peak of light and delight to another, ever higher, ever more fulfilling. It is not evil or falsehood that stands opposed to the godhead: it is our own spiritual ignorance and unconsciousness. It is an obvious thing: the antithesis of consciousness is unconsciousness, not evil. If anything, evil and falsehood, that so bewilder the human mind and heart, exist only to serve the spiritual purpose of awakening the human soul to its higher light and truth. This is the truth of Sri Krishna: that all is His play, do not be bewildered, do not be dismayed by appearances; look deeper, look with more love and understanding, and you will see Sri Krishna and you will see Shiva, and you will see your own highest and deepest self, your atman, and you will know that there are no divisions or differences. To realize one’s own existence as the Divine’s play of consciousness and delight is the crowning glory of the devotee and yogi. As Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, comparing the Divine with honey, I do not wish to become the honey; I want to taste and savor the honey. This savoring of the divine honey is the soul of the Sanatan dharma. Why else would one consent to be born as mortal on earth? 1रसो वै सः — From the Taittiriya Upanishad; Sri Aurobindo’s rendering. 2Shivaaya Vishnu Roopaaya, Shiva Roopaaya Vishanave; Shivasya Hrudayam Vishnur, Vishnuscha Hrudayam Shivaha; Yatha Shivamayo Vishnuhu, Yevam Vishnu Mayaha Shivaha
Read More
Guru Purnima
Uncategorized

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.
Read More
विचारशृंखला : सनातन हिंदू धर्म (भाग 6)
Uncategorized

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 Read in Hindi 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.
Read More
Uncategorized

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
Read More
Uncategorized

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. 
Read More
Uncategorized

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. 
Read More
Reflections on Hinduism (4)
Uncategorized

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]
Read More
Uncategorized

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
Read More
Reflections On Hinduism (2)
Uncategorized

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. 
Read More
Dharma
Uncategorized

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. Read in Hindi
Read More
श्रद्धाशक्ति तथा भविष्य निर्माण
Uncategorized

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
Read More
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
Read More
Uncategorized

Sri Aurobindo And India’s Destiny

Pencil drawing of Sri Aurobindo by The Mother, 1935 A day will dawn when people of all classes in my country will band together as one living mass at the sacred altar of the World-Mother, represented here by our Motherland and face the rest of [the] world with heads held high. ( Sri Aurobindo )   Rarely in the history of nations has a single person’s spiritual influence shaped so profoundly a nation’s destiny as Sri Aurobindo’s has shaped India’s. Yet, this is not a widely known or understood fact as the modern Indian mind has lost its connection with the spiritual dimension of life. This is somewhat ironical because the Indian civilization has been influenced and shaped through millennia by some of the greatest spiritual seers ever to have walked the earth. Before Sri Aurobindo, and in recent history, the redoubtable Swami Vivekananda caused seismic shifts in Indian civilization by his enormous spiritual force. Indians are no strangers to spiritual and Yogic phenomena. Some of the greatest influencers and architects of Indian civilization and culture have been the Rishis and the Yogis, the great preceptors of the Sanatan Dharma. It is because of this that the Indian civilization has always been nurtured by the perennial streams of living Dharma. Dharma has thrived in India and grown in power because of these legendary seers and prophets. Most of these seers lived and worked in complete seclusion and anonymity, influencing a million lives and events from their mountain caves or forest ashrams.  Sri Aurobindo was amongst the last great Maharishis of the Sanatan Dharma who occultly influenced and shaped India’s destiny from his seclusion in Pondicherry. His life and his Yoga were not for all to see or know. What he himself revealed to disciples of his Yoga was only the tip of a massive iceberg. What he did for humanity, and what he did for India, will take several centuries to unfold, for the results of a Yogic mission such as his become embedded in the very fabric of universal time and evolution.  Yet, Sri Aurobindo remains a peripheral, somewhat mythical, figure of Indian history for most educated Indians. This has been the unutterable tragedy of modern India — the educated Indian has been alienated from his own dharma through several generations, first by our erstwhile British rulers and then by our own thought leaders, since 1947, hell-bent on transforming Indian polity and society to western secularism, liberalism and socialism. As a consequence, generations of Indians have grown up floundering, rootless and groundless, with little or no knowledge of their own heritage or destiny.  Most young Indians do not learn much of Sri Aurobindo from their history books. The most that they are taught is that he was a political revolutionary who quit politics and retired to Pondicherry to do Yoga. But then, they are not given any further knowledge of India’s vast Yogic tradition or of the rich national politics of those times either. They have no idea of why Sri Aurobindo left politics and what he did after leaving politics. The history of Indian nationalism, within years of Sri Aurobindo’s retirement, became overshadowed by Gandhi, and most other luminaries of the freedom struggle were reduced to footnotes.  Few amongst us would know that Sri Aurobindo was the first political leader to proclaim that India was not merely a landmass but a living consciousness, a Divine Shakti, that needs to be awakened. Sri Aurobindo was indeed the great purohit, the High Priest, who lit the sacrificial fires of the great Yajna for India’s freedom; he was the first to invoke India as Shakti, as the divine Bhawani Bharati —  What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhawani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity. The Shakti we call India, Bhawani Bharati, is the living unity of the Shaktis of three hundred million people….  Sri Aurobindo’s own deeper Yoga began with his quest for spiritual power that he could place at the service of his motherland. For Sri Aurobindo, the fight for India’s freedom was spiritual first and then political, for political freedom would mean little without spiritual freedom. Only as a spiritually free nation would India be able to fulfill her destined role as jagat-guru amongst the nations of the world. This was Sri Aurobindo’s dream for India, and this was the seed of future greatness that was planted in the very bosom of India, the truth that India had borne in her soul since the beginning of her ancient civilization. India’s freedom as a nation and a civilization was thus inevitable in the divine scheme of things, but what still had to be worked out was the way, the process, the details of the Mahayajna. Sri Aurobindo, as the great devas and maharishis of old, spoke of India’s future from the highest planes of truth-consciousness: India cannot perish, our race cannot become extinct, because among all the divisions of mankind it is to India that is reserved the highest and the most splendid destiny, the most essential to the future of the human race. It is she who must send forth from herself the future religion of the entire world, the Eternal Religion which is to harmonize all religion, science and philosophies and make mankind one soul. This future religion of the entire world that Sri Aurobindo reveals is the religion born of Man’s timeless spiritual quest for Truth, Unity and Perfection, the religion of the soul, that which will unify and harmonize all humanity, synthesize all civilizations and cultures and lead the human species to a higher consciousness. In other words, the eternal religion India has to bring to the world will be the religion of an integral Yoga, a religion that will finally bridge the chasm between life and spirituality, matter and spirit, body and soul.  It is for this ultimate purpose of world transformation that India has birthed, and nurtured through millennia, the Sanatan Dharma; and it is for this that Sri Aurobindo himself embodied the Sanatan Dharma and brought it into the collective consciousness of Indians in those formative years of India’s nationhood and established the Sanatan Dharma as the true basis and framework for a pan-Indian spiritual nationalism. Or dharmic nationalism, if you will. Let us recall those profound and mighty words from his Uttarpara speech: 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. Sri Aurobindo, thus, was the first prophet of spiritual or dharmic nationalism. He, by his work, his speeches and writings, and his own active leadership spiritualized Indian nationalism and politics; and in doing so, he also paved the way for dharmic politics and economics in India, the old concept of Ram Rajya, the kingdom of God on earth. The culmination of political governance will have to be in a Ram Rajya of the future, and the culmination of economics and business will have to be a dharmic or spiritual blend of capitalism and communism, purified of the distortions of the unregenerate human nature driven by egoistic fear and greed. This is yet another aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s creative vision for India and the world. It must be remembered that spiritual nationalism is not the same as the self-limiting, self-aggrandizing exclusivist nationalism the world is used to; being spiritual, this form of nationalism will be an expression of a nation’s soul, its spiritual and civilizational essence, and will necessarily be in harmony with all other nationalistic expressions and aspirations, even as various notes of music blend to create symphony. As Sri Aurobindo would say, harmony is the law of spiritual life. Sri Aurobindo saw clearly that India, of all nations in the world, with her enormous cultural heritage and spiritual and Yogic knowledge, would be the best equipped to lead this change to a new and more conscious world order. But spiritual nationalism must be founded on spiritual consciousness, for it cannot be an intellectual ideal or a mere philosophical system. The individual, therefore, must first find in himself or herself the spiritual consciousness and truth, and then make that the basis for a wider social and national life. In other words, the framework and basis for the individual, the society and the nation will have to become increasingly dharmic, spiritual. And therefore, Sri Aurobindo’s insistence on spiritual freedom and truth consciousness as the foundation for social and national existence. How many amongst us today realize the enormous significance of spirituality and dharma in our daily lives and action? Spirituality, once the vital life-force of Indian civilization, has now shrunk to facile new age practices and the psychobabble of self-proclaimed and self-marketed gurus, or worse, has been reduced to practices and mindless rituals of the pandit. In our social and national life, spirituality has all but disappeared. From the high ideals of dharmic politics and governance that Sri Aurobindo held in his vision for a future India, we have been reduced to intractable systemic corruption that has sapped the lifeblood of our nation. A return to some semblance of Dharma in the nation’s political life has just started, but there is still a long way to go. It is now, in these circumstances raging around us, that we need to return to Sri Aurobindo’s Truth and Light. Each of us needs to do this, for each of us individually will add to the gathering force of the Truth. Small waves make a tsunami. Again, in Sri Aurobindo’s words: India of the ages is not dead nor has she spoken her last creative word; she lives and has still something to do for herself and the human peoples… [T]hat which must seek now to awake is…still the ancient immemorable Shakti recovering her deepest self, lifting her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength and turning to discover the complete meaning and a vaster form of her Dharma. In a very real sense, Sri Aurobindo is the custodian of India’s eternal Dharma; he, more than anyone else, saw how absolutely indispensable was India’s Dharma to India’s future and proclaimed the urgent necessity to recover and rejuvenate India’s Dharma. But, in an ironical twist of fate, even as Sri Aurobindo labored to awaken the nation’s Shakti, the then political leaders of our nation and the arbiters of her destiny were turning away from the Dharma and vigorously replacing it with newfangled notions of social justice, economic equality and political sophistication, overlooking the simple fact that without a Dharmic base and framework, no political, economic or social edifice would stand for too long. Unbeknownst to most Indians of that time, our national leaders were steering India away from her essential Indianness towards westernized universalism.  Far from awakening the Shakti within, the common Indian, the aam aadmi, has slipped into an enervating materialism while the intelligentsia, the buddhijeevi, has turned to half-baked ideals of secular socialism. Instead of turning to Dharma, India has turned to dharma-nirapekhsata. Dharma-nirapekhsata is the Hindi word commonly used for secularism. The word ‘nirapeksha’ in its truest sense implies disregard, indifference, independence. It is a beautiful word when used in its Yogic or spiritual sense, but when used with Dharma (to denote the western concept of secularism), it turns on its head. Once again, as we enter the 74th year of our life as a free nation, there are visible the first definitive signs of a return to the true dharma of India and a definite rejection of the western idea of secularism. But here too, we have a long way to go and must turn more consciously and resolutely to Sri Aurobindo’s Truth, for in his Truth alone we will recover the key to balance and harmony. But turning to Sri Aurobindo’s Truth is not always easy or even possible. The old falsehoods will inevitably stand in the way. As it has happened before, in more critical times. In 1942, five years before Independence, the British government had sent the famous Cripps Proposal to the then Indian leadership under Gandhi. Had this proposal been accepted, it would have paved the way for Indian independence without partition. Sri Aurobindo, still very much in inner touch with all political developments in India and the world, had seen that possibility immediately and had publicly expressed his support for the Cripps proposal. He had sent his emissaries to Gandhi and other leaders to persuade them to accept the proposal. But Gandhi refused, purportedly with the comment that Yogis should have nothing to do with politics. This, from a leader who claimed to be a follower of the Sanatan Dharma; and this, in a country that traditionally honors and respects the counsel of its seers and prophets! However, India missed a historical chance when her leaders did not pay heed to the words of the Jagat Guru, and hurtled headlong towards disaster, a blunder for which each successive generation of Indians has paid an exacting price. It is worth recalling Sri Aurobindo’s words from the message he broadcast to the nation on 15th August 1947 — For if it [the partition] lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India’s internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be; the partition must go. Contemporary India continues to live through the malaise of economic reservations, minority appeasement, communalism and corruption, all of which could have been avoided had India’s leadership aligned itself to the true Dharma when it mattered most. However, all nations, like individuals, have a certain karma that even the Divine cannot alter. But we can learn and grow more conscious. As Sri Aurobindo says, by our stumbling the world is perfected. So we need to grow conscious not only of our strengths but also of our frailties, not only of our high destiny but also of all the forces ranged against us, determined to thwart that destiny. The resistance to a dharmic India is still strong and adamant. Much more needs to be done if India has to awaken to her truth. Indians, or at least those who carry India in their hearts and minds, must turn to the highest truth, the highest dharma, that they can access. And that which they can access, with only a little labor of love, is the Truth that Sri Aurobindo embodies and represents. Sri Aurobindo needs to be read, researched, discussed, debated, understood and applied widely, across the country. Sri Aurobindo’s vast vision and work has still not found place in Indian public or academic discourse, even decades after independence. Our schools and universities hardly touch Sri Aurobindo at any depth. Only a superficial and cursory mention is made of him as the freedom fighter who renounced political life. Hardly anything beyond that. Few students of Indian history today know of Sri Aurobindo as the prophet of Indian nationalism, as the first radical revolutionary in India’s struggle for freedom, as a poet and writer of rare eminence, as a Mahayogi and Maharishi of Indian spirituality. This is a historical anomaly that needs to be vigorously corrected.  We need to learn and understand deeply how Sri Aurobindo, from the 1870s to 1950, right through the critical formative years of India, shaped India’s destiny by his Yogic force and will. This may be difficult to grasp for most, but we owe ourselves this knowledge and understanding. Sri Aurobindo is India’s inestimable heritage and he must be presented to the educated Indian and to the Indian youth objectively, rationally, cogently.  Let us recall Sri Aurobindo’s message to the Indian youth — Our first necessity, if India is to survive and do her appointed work in the world, is that the youth of India should learn to think, – to think on all subjects, to think independently, fruitfully, going to the heart of things, not stopped by their surface, free of prejudgments, shearing sophism and prejudice asunder as with a sharp sword, smiting down obscurantism of all kinds as with the mace of Bhima… These are not mere words, this is an invocation of yuvashakti, the power of the young, and not just the young in age but the young in mind and spirit. To understand and live Sri Aurobindo’s Truth, we need to be clear as crystal in the mind and strong as lion in the heart, and ageless in spirit; we need to make of ourselves the true hero-warriors of the Divine Shakti.  In the words of the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s divine collaborator in his Work and Yoga — Sri Aurobindo always loved deeply his Motherland. But he wished her to be great, noble, pure and worthy of her big mission in the world. He refused to let her sink to the sordid and vulgar level of blind self-interests and ignorant prejudices. This is why, in full conformity to his will, we lift high the standard of truth, progress and transformation of mankind, without caring for those who, through ignorance, stupidity, envy or bad will, seek to soil it and drag it down into the mud. We carry it very high so that all who have a soul may see it and gather round it. It was obviously no coincidence that India’s independence day fell on Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, the 15th of August. In his message to the nation on 15th August, Sri Aurobindo had said:  August 15th, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age. But we can also make it by our life and acts as a free nation an important date in a new age opening for the whole world, for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity. August 15th is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast significance. I take this coincidence, not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the Divine Force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition. Indeed, on this day I can watch almost all the world-movements which I hoped to see fulfilled in my lifetime, though then they looked like impracticable dreams, arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements free India may well play a large part and take a leading position. Let us remember that though Sri Aurobindo struggled all his life for India and India’s highest and widest freedom, he was not limited in his vision and will to India alone. For him India was the starting point of a human transformation, the hub of a universal evolution of consciousness. I have always held and said that India was rising, not to serve her own material interest only, to achieve expansion, greatness, power and prosperity,.. though these too she must not neglect.., and certainly not like others to acquire domination of other peoples, but to live also for God and the world as a helper and a leader of the whole human race, he had said in his message to the nation.  To limit Sri Aurobindo to India alone would be a disservice to his work and his legacy. Sri Aurobindo labored for all humanity; all that he attempted and attained was for all humanity and for the Divine in humanity. If there is one who can be said to belong to the world, it is Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s Truth is the future of the human species, it is the path to the true Kingdom of God on earth, it is the Truth of the Divine still to be realized in the mind, life and body of earth. Sri Aurobindo opened for us life’s highest possibility and hope. Even the briefest glimpse of his Truth can uplift the spirit and mind in a trice to the highest.  The world needs such a vision and an inspiration, and desperately so; and India, most of all.   सत्यं श्री अरविन्दस्य आविर्भवतु पृथिव्याम् ॥May Sri Aurobindo’s Truth manifest upon earth   1 Sri Aurobindo’s full message
Read More
Uncategorized

The Restoration of Sri Ram And Beyond

The establishment of the foundation for the Ram Janmabhumi Temple at Ayodhya yesterday was a profound symbolic victory for Dharma: it was the culmination of a 490-odd years struggle for restoring Sri Ram, the seventh avatar in the line of Vishnu in Sanatan Dharma, to his rightful birthplace in the fabled city of his birth. (He was, in fact, installed for years in a tent!). Whether or not he was actually born in this exact location matters little, for Sri Ram is not just a historical being for Hindus but a Divine incarnation, and Divine Incarnations transcend time and space, birth and death of mortal bodies. The struggle through several generations for rebuilding the temple at Ayodhya and restoring Sri Ram to his birthplace was never a religious or political issue for the Hindu — it was always a question of Dharma: for Sri Ram, for the common Hindu, is at once a complete embodiment and a shining representation of the Dharma itself: to displace Sri Ram and destroy his temple was a direct attack on the very fabric of Hindu Dharma. Sri Ram had to be restored and the temple had to be rebuilt — this was inevitable, a historical necessity. But it took a long time — 73 years even after India’s political independence. What totally bewilders the mind is the fact that it took so long, and that it would have taken much longer had Hindutva not become as assertive as it did. If the Congress, the Islamists and the Communists had their way, all traces of Dharma would have been wiped off by now and the deracination of India would have been complete and irreversible. And to imagine that there are people who still utter such inanities as Hindutva is not Hinduism and Hinduism is not Hindutva, or that Hindutva is an aberration and Hinduism is the real thing. Let’s be very clear about this one fact: had it not been for an assertive and robust Hindutva, Hinduism, as we know it, would have been wiped out. This fact needs to sink deep into our minds and hearts. The Prime Minister of India presiding over the bhumi-poojan of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya was the resounding bugle call of Hindutva’s call to action and its first decisive victory. The victory, symbolic of something much wider, is deeply significant; but even more significant is the call to action: for this is only the first step. This victory, however fulfilling in the moment, must not lull us into any kind of complacency. The battle is far from over. There are other battles to be taken up and won. Sri Ram has just been restored — but let us not forget that Sri Ram stands for Dharma, Satya and Ram Rajya. Satya is the heart of Dharma, and Dharma is the soul of Ram Rajya. Ram Rajya is neither a metaphor nor a utopian ideal: it is the natural culmination of dharmic politics and the dharmic way of life. When the life of the individual and the life of the collective become natural expressions of Dharma and Satya, when Dharma and Satya are used as the cohesive forces for nation-building, then Ram Rajya is established. Ram Rajya is not just a political theory but a growing spiritual need in the lives of men and nations. Ram Rajya is the kingdom of God on earth. To establish Ram Rajya (call it by whatever name) in India must be Hindutva’s high aim and objective. Anything short of this, and our dharma yuddha is not complete. Let us not underestimate the challenges: A large number of educated Hindu youth, over generations, has been culturally deracinated and spiritually alienated; they have been made to believe that western values and culture are superior to their own Dharma, and that their Dharma is regressive, superstitious, and in need of systemic reform. That a large number of English-educated youth believes all this unquestioningly is not their fault — it is the education system in India, the worst case of imperialist hangover in independent India, that is to be squarely blamed. The Indian psyche has been systematically infected with the worst western ills of exploitative capitalism, aggressive competition, greed and consumerism; half-baked values of intellectualism and liberalism have been made the staple diet of the Indian intellectual. The educated Indian mind, artificially deprived of the nourishing influences of Dharma, has, over the decades, fallen into mediocrity. The youth has been taught fanciful languages but has forgotten how to speak its own idiom.  So too with the adult. The so-called modern and progressive adult Hindu has equally lost touch with his Dharma and wanders lost and confused amongst alien values and constructs. And do bear in mind that ‘alien’ has nothing to do with nationality — alien is that which is void of Dharma. The average educated Indian, thanks to the skewed education s-he has received, is still spiritually colonized and passionately believes that aping an alien culture is superior to understanding and deepening one’s own.  Wherever you look, you find the same malaise of superficiality and mediocrity in Indian intellectual and public life. Anglicized education has made us a society of well read imitators and petty-minded cynics. We have lost the depths and widenesses of Sanatan Dharma; and if that is not bad enough, we have learnt to condemn our Dharma in the language of our colonial masters. 73 years of political independence, and we are still colonized in our minds and enslaved to crass materialism in our hearts. As Indians, by and large, we have forgotten the rich integrality of our Sanatan Dharma and have become hopelessly fractured and fragmented, as individuals and as a nation. We have lost the courage to stand for our Dharma and to fight for Satya — we have become weak and selfish over the generations, our very life force has been sapped by the forces of adharma. And adharma rages everywhere, in all directions: the monotheistic and shamelessly proselytizing Abrahamic religions are the most visible of these forces; but the hidden forces of selfishness, fear, dishonesty, falsehood and deception are the deeper and more dangerous forces of adharma. Let’s make no mistake about this: if we do not or cannot overcome the hidden forces of adharma, overcoming the visible forces will be of little value. But, on the other hand, if we vanquish the inner foes, we become towering forces of pure Dharma that no outer force or foe can shake or weaken. All our resources and minds must combine to fight adharma, within and outside. Education is our first front. We must re-educate, revise the old narratives, keep the truths, throw out the falsehoods. We must kindle discussion and debate in the highest intellectual traditions of our Dharma. We must rebuild the minds and hearts of young India. The new national education policy, released just a few days ago, is the first step in the right direction. But we need to go farther, much farther. We have to confront multiple falsehoods and deliberate attacks on our Dharma. We need to rebuild narratives, reconnect our heritage and our destiny, our past and our future, which have been ruptured, first by the Islamic invasions and then by the British Raj. We have to boldly reclaim the truths of our Dharma, without apology or hesitation. Dharma is our birthright and we must learn, once again, to demand our birthright. In one of the inspired modern day mahavakyas of the Indologist Koenraad Elst, What Hindus… will have to learn, is that the essence of Hindu Dharma is not ‘tolerance’ or ‘equal respect for all religions’ but Satya, Truth. It is to this Truth that the Hindu raises temples and installs deities; the outer names and forms are mere contexts.   For those interested in this subject: please read this and this
Read More
Uncategorized

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. 
Read More
Om
Uncategorized

On Hinduism (9)

Om, The Imperishable Word ओमित्येतदक्षरमिद्ँ सर्वं तस्योपव्याख्यानं भूतं भवद्भविष्यदिति सर्वमोङ्कार एव। यच्चान्यत्त्रिकालातीतं तदप्योङ्कार एव ।।[1] OM is this imperishable Word, OM is the Universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be, is OM. Likewise all else that may exist beyond the bounds of Time, that too is OM. (From the Mandukya Upanishad) Om is the quintessential signature of the Hindu dharma. No sacred task, no holy sacrifice or yajna, no worship, prayer or invocation can begin without Om. Om is the first invocation and the last benediction. All mantras and hymns, all prayers and salutations to the Divine end on the note of Om. The Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, called Om the signature of the Lord, and the supreme invocation.  Whether one recites Om quietly within oneself or sings it in a group, it has the same beneficial effect of spreading the vibrations of peace and calm, of concentrating the mind and heart in the deepest or highest consciousness. Om is the sound that rises ever upward, from the lower chakras to the higher, from the lower prakriti to the higher, from our earth plane, the so-called mrityuloka or the plane of death, to the highest Anandaloka or the plane of Divine bliss. Om is the ascending path of Light from death to immortality, from unconsciousness to Truth Consciousness. It is believed in the Sanatan Dharma that the right understanding of Om can open the passage to the highest Yoga.  In Sri Aurobindo’s words, OM is the symbol and the thing symbolized. It is the symbol, aksharam, the syllable in which all sound of speech is brought back to its wide, pure indeterminate state; it is the symbolised, aksharam, the changeless, undiminishing, unincreasing, unappearing, undying Reality which shows itself to experience in all the change, increase, diminution, appearance, departure which in a particular sum and harmony of them we call the world.[2] Describing Om intellectually is a daunting task, for Om is not a subject for academic study but a theme for meditative contemplation and inner concentration. Analyzing Om intellectually is like dissecting a poem into structure and semantics to find out how it is composed instead of plunging mind and heart into it and letting it express itself through you. Analogies apart, that is what Om does: if you give yourself wholly to it, immerse your mind and heart in it, it comes alive in you, it reveals and expresses itself through your consciousness, making your consciousness its own manifest field.  This is the transcendental power of Om: it is not just a particular sound, syllable or mantra with a certain mystical significance but it is the very root and basis of all sound, it is literally the mother of all mantras, the consciousness matrix out of which the whole universe arises as seed vibration, or beej-spanda, of the Divine.  When the Supreme Inconceivable Brahman, in its absolute singularity, wished to become the Many, that inconceivable divine Wish, which was also simultaneously the divine Will, became the seed of this entire universe, and that seed was Sound. Not a sound but Sound itself, nada. Nada was the first sound to arise out of the infinite potentiality that was before the beginning of Cosmos. That infinite potentiality, without beginning or end, out of which all universes arise like so many waves out of an infinite sea, is known as bindu. Bindu, in Sanskrit, means a point or a dot. Bindu, in mystical Hindu Dharma, represents the dimensionless point of infinitely massed consciousness as pure potentiality. It is this that is the origin of all manifestation and creation.  Think of this bindu as a mathematician would think of a point, a position without dimensions. As infinitely massed consciousness and infinite potentiality of existence, bindu is therefore absolute (non-relative) position, sthiti, and as infinite, it is without dimension, ananta aparimanit.  Whatever exists in dimensions is finite, and constitutes srishti or manifestation, and whatever is without dimension necessarily transcends srishti or manifestation. Bindu, therefore, transcends manifestation while containing it all within itself, not in any space or time but in its own sthiti and is known by the sages as the symbol of the adishakti, the Divine Mother or the Divine Womb.  Om is the primal cosmic vibration through which the nada, eternally absorbed in bindu, arises out of it and becomes Chit-shakti or the consciousness-force pervading the Cosmos. Om is nada and bindu in conjunction or Yoga out of which all consciousness and Cosmos manifest. In the Shiva Purana, nada is identified as Shiva himself, incarnate as sound that becomes Cosmos, and bindu is identified as Shakti, incarnate as the infinite creative potentiality out of which arises Cosmos. This whole universe then is Shiva, as nada, manifesting out of Shakti, as bindu; and Shakti, as bindu, sustaining Shiva, as nada, through all this visible and tangible universe. While the Shivalinga symbolizes this mystery in the visible universe, the Omkar, or the mystic form of Om, symbolizes this mystery in the invisible and subtle universe.  As the Omkar devolves from its supreme transcendental heights into our material world and consciousness, so it can evolve from our material world and consciousness back into its transcendental heights. Thus, the Omkar is known as the supreme path of ascension to the highest of realizations. By following the upward pathway led by the Omkar, the seeker can attain to the truths of all the worlds and planes of being.  The syllable Om itself is composed of three seed syllables (or letters as phonemes) A, U and M. A (अ), U (उ) and M (म), pronounced together gives rise to the sound of OM or AUM, and it is this three-syllabled sound that the Yogi intones and meditates upon. There are layers of occult and mystical meanings involved with each of these three syllables, as with the integrated sound of Aum.  In Sri Aurobindo’s words: the syllable A (अ) represents the external manifestation or consciousness realized in the actual and the concrete,  seen by the human consciousness as the waking state.  The syllable U (उ) represents the internal manifestation, the intermediate consciousness realised in the inner potentialities and intermediate states between the inmost supramental and the external, seen by the human consciousness as the subliminal and associated with the dream state. The syllable M (म) represents the inmost seed or condensed consciousness (the inmost supramental, glimpsed by the human consciousness as something superconscient, omniscient and omnipotent, and associated with the state of dreamless Sleep or full Trance.) The integrated sound of AUM (ओम or आऊम) represents Turīya, the Fourth; the pure Spirit beyond these three, the Atman consciousness.. This AUM is the transcendent sound of infinite wavelength. The idea of infinite wavelength is difficult to grasp;  but if one can imagine infinite wavelength, one will intuit how an entire universe, which is ultimately energy combinations, can be contained in a single sound or vibration. AUM, as this single infinite vibration, is the portal to the superconscious, non-dual state. It is at this point, at this mystic threshold, that AUM merges into the anahata, the sound of Silence, and the known universe is reabsorbed into the transcendental Silence of the Divine. To continue with Sri Aurobindo’s description of Om: OM is the symbol of the triple Brahman, the outward-looking, the inward or subtle and the superconscient causal Purusha. Each letter A, U, M indicates one of these three in ascending order and the syllable as a whole brings out the fourth state, Turiya, which rises to the Absolute. OM is the initiating syllable pronounced at the outset as a benedictory prelude and sanction to all act of sacrifice, all act of giving and all act of askesis; it is a reminder that our work should be made an expression of the triple Divine in our inner being and turned towards him in the idea and motive. Om is thus the vehicle of the highest meditations. By meditating on each of the letters of AUM, the Yogi can access and master the planes associated with each of the letters — the waking, the subtle, the atmic or the inmost; and by meditating on the integrated sound of AUM, the Yogi can enter the integral Turiya state that not only transcends but subsumes the other three.  The Mandukya Upanishad opens with the declaration that Om is the eternal, imperishable word. All other words, being descriptors of transient subjects and objects of the universe, perish; but Om being the descriptor of the Eternal, is itself eternal and imperishable. The Hindus regard Om as the very name of God.  Let’s reflect briefly on Om as the name of the Divine.  In Hindu philosophy, manifestation consists of two aspects: nama (name) and rupa (form). Nama, or name, represents the psychological nature and qualities of a being and rupa, form, represents the visible, physical attributes. Namarupa, therefore, is the mind-body of all beings in existence. The process of naming is essential for a complete mental cognition of reality, as the senses, cognizing only form, are unable by themselves to form a complete picture of reality. The mind grasps or realizes (makes real to itself) a thing or being only by perceiving the form in conjunction with the name, thus associating form with identifiable attributes. Naming, therefore, gives the consciousness the power to recall and invoke the entity that is named and perceived.  Thus, the name has enormous power. One can perceive form but not be able to relate to the form without recalling and invoking the name associated with the form. A relationship is established and maintained only through namarupa — name and form. But in terms of consciousness, relationship doesn’t need the form, name alone is sufficient; the name can recall the form perfectly to mind even without the form being present. Form is impermanent and perishable since it depends on physical presence in space and time; but name, as a construct or reality of consciousness, is imperishable and timeless. Thus, there are traditions in Hinduism that are based solely on the nama of the Divine and dispense with rupa. This is particularly true for non-dualists who accept only the formless aspect of God, for the formless Divine can only be invoked and recalled through the nama or the power of the nama. Anyone in love can readily testify to this power of the nama: you only need to recall the name of your beloved to be immediately in touch with him or her in your consciousness, even to the exclusion of the entire world.  Om, then, is the name of the Divine: Brahman or Ishvara are only descriptions of the attributes of the Divine — Brahman is that which infinitely expands, the ever-perfect and the auspicious; Ishvara is one’s highest or inmost status of being, one’s own divinity or godhead. But Om is the name itself, the name that has the power to immediately recall and invoke the Divine. Meditating, therefore, on Om as the name of the Divine is held to be the most direct way to the realization of the Divine. The name leads to that which is named: the symbol leads to the symbolized. If Om is the living and direct symbol of the Divine, then the Divine, as the symbolized, is present in the name as its inmost vibrations. The Yoga is to bring the inmost vibrations to the surface consciousness and make those vibrations the natural vibrations of one’s mind, life and body. Om is thus not only the way but also the destination concealed in the way. To chant Om is to immediately connect in consciousness with all that Om represents, symbolizes, conceals. Meditating on Om is immersing one’s outer and inner consciousness in the inmost, the soul-consciousness. Om is the surest and perhaps the quickest way to penetrate the multiple layers of the outer being and the outer universe and drill ever deeper into the inner and inmost layers of self and cosmic existence, it is indeed to return to one’s existential and spiritual source in Brahman, in the Supreme Truth.  As mantra, Om is supreme, it is the beej-mantra, the seed-mantra of all other mantras. Indeed, all mantras known to Yogis through the ages arise out of this one beej-mantra. Sri Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita, om ity ekaksharam brahma, the single syllable Om is the supreme God, and then goes on to establish his own identity with it: pranavah sarva vedeshu, within all the Vedas, I am the AUM; giram asmi ekam aksaram, of vibrations I am the transcendental AUM. For those who know who Sri Krishna is, and what he represents, these three statements read together are the signature and seal of the Divine on Om.  Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of the twentieth century, and the avatar of the Supramental Divine, said of Om: OM is the mantra, the expressive sound-symbol of the Brahman Consciousness in its four domains from the Turiya to the external or material plane. The function of a mantra is to create vibrations in the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the realisation of what the mantra symbolizes and is supposed indeed to carry within itself. The mantra OM should therefore lead towards the opening of the consciousness to the sight and feeling of the One Consciousness in all material things, in the inner being and in the supraphysical worlds, in the causal plane above now superconscient to us and, finally, the supreme liberated transcendence above all cosmic existence. In the words of that other saint and avatar of the last century, Sri Ramakrishna: Some sages ask what will you gain by merely hearing this sound of Om? You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal. Om is also known as pranav. As Rishi Patanjali stated: Pranav is the designator, vachak, of Ishvara, the Supreme Self. By the japa or constant repetition of pranav with profound bhava or devotion, all obstacles in life and sadhana will disappear and the consciousness will turn inward.  The Shivapurana describes Om as an excellent boat to cross the ocean of samsara or worldly existence, playing on an interesting etymology of the word pranav — the root pra from prakriti or manifestation, and navam varam, meaning, excellent boat. In the words of the Mother of Pondicherry Ashram: With the help of OM one can realize the Divine. OM has a transforming power. OM represents the Divine. You will recall this O……..M, O…..M, that’s all. O…..M. It must be manifested. If anything goes wrong, repeat OM, all will go well.   1Ōmityeta dakṣharamidam sarvam, tasyo pavyākhyanam, bhūtam bhavatbhaviṣhy aditi sarvam omkāra eva; yaccānyat trikālātītam tadapy omkāra eva. 2Excerpted from Sri Aurobindo’s notes on the Chhandogya Upanishads  
Read More
Uncategorized

On Hinduism (8)

The Divine Mother या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मातृरुपेण संस्थिता।नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥[1] To that Divine Goddess Who in All Beings is Abiding in the Form of the Mother,Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations to Her, Salutations again and again.   The Divine as the Eternal Feminine, as the Mother, is perhaps the profoundest and the most powerful of the mysteries concealed at the heart of Sanatan Dharma. The Hindu reveres and invokes the Divine as the Transcendent Brahman, as the Indescribable Supreme Being, Purushottam, as the beloved Sri Krishna, or the inscrutable Shiva, the eternal Self of all that lives and moves in this universe; but he also adores and invokes the Divine as the Mother, as the primordial Consciousness-Force, Chit-Shakti, and the supreme creative principle that manifests all being, and sustains and nurtures it even as a human mother sustains and nourishes the life of her child. And even as a mother bears her child in herself, so does the Divine as the Mother bear us all in Her cosmic womb, the sacred matrix, till we are spiritually ready for our full manifestation. Indeed, our whole life in the cosmos is an occult evolutionary preparation in the cosmic womb of the Divine Mother. Few indeed can entirely grasp the supreme mystery of the sacred Feminine.  Sri Aurobindo describes this sacred Feminine in his mantric epic, Savitri:  The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,A power of silence in the depths of God.She is the Force, the inevitable Word,The magnet of our difficult ascent.[2] The sacred and eternal Feminine, the Divine Mother, is the root of this entire universe, the very force that weaves it into the fabric of spacetime; the One who dwells equally in the heart of the atom and in the inmost self of man, the One who spins the Cosmos around the invisible axis of Her divine being, and the One who lies coiled and involved in the heart of matter as the Supreme Light of Truth, jyoti-parasya.  Often the first contact of the devotee with the Divine Mother is through Love and Light, for She is the foremost and perfect embodiment of both: as Love, She is the source and the consummation, the fount of all that manifests as Existence, Consciousness and Delight of the Divine; it is out of Her Love that all this exists, that all this has its being in space, time and consciousness. She is the eternal Love that manifests as the Self of the Vedantin, as the God or Ishvara of the Yogin, and as Shiva or Narayan of the meditator and the devotee.   As Self, She is the inmost psychic being[3], the living portion of the Supreme indwelling in all living beings, the sacred Agni in our inmost hearts; as Agni, the evolutionary Flame, She consumes all our darkness, our ignorance and obscurities, and leads us with a supreme compassion towards our own highest Truth. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, She is the magnet of our difficult ascent. All forms in this universe are variations of Her infinite becoming, She alone is the whole of this creation, and, indeed, of creations without end. At the head of all manifestation, on the mystic edge of that primordial event-horizon out of which arises all being, She is the Adi-Parashakti: the originating Supreme Consciousness-Force of the Divine. Without the Mother as Adi-Parashakti, Brahman Itself would be incapable of manifestation and Its first movement of Will to become would simply fall back, impotent, into the silence of the Unmanifest.  All this that we regard and experience as World and Cosmos, Vishwa-Brahmanda, albeit in minuscule measure, are planes and parts of Her infinite being and becoming. She becomes all; all that we are and ever shall be, all that we know and ever shall know, are only forms and formulations of Her infinite creative capacity — She alone is the Divine Creatrix, the Power or Shakti of Divine Creation. Thus is She known as Mahashakti — the supreme Force of Creation. But do not regard Her as only Force, for She is Force of the Divine Consciousness, She is the animating consciousness-force that manifests Shiva, and without Her, Shiva would remain inert and unmanifest, lifeless as shava, a corpse. Shiva, the transcendent Divine, offers his cosmic heart to Her as Her sacred base for manifestation, and She assumes the cosmic form of Mahakali preparing and moulding the universe for Shiva’s Truth; without the Mother’s benign presence, Shiva’s Truth would instantly vaporize the universe. She is then the Shakti upholding even Shiva, the consciousness-force bearing Shiva’s pillar of infinite Light.  As Narayani, She is the creative consciousness-force emanating from Narayan through all the planes of cosmic existence, weaving spacetime consciousness for Narayan to make Himself manifest in all His infinite becoming. Narayan’s vishwarupa, or cosmic Form, is but the Mother’s supramental vision made manifest in the eternal spirals of evolutionary Time. As Narayani, She sustains universes in Her consciousness as portion of Her own infinite being.  Without Her as the embodiment of Love, this universe as we know it would fall apart, cease to exist. It is out of Her Love that She keeps the universe cohesive and coherent from the quantum to the cosmic levels; from the tiniest spark of life in the single cell to the vast consciousness of the mighty Gods — She alone is the Force that binds and wields. When the physicists contend with the powerful forces within the atomic nucleus and stand back amazed at the sheer potency of the very small, they are but countering just a minuscule fraction of the Mother’s immense Power and mystic Love.  When the astronomers look upon the incredible cosmic vastnesses, into the farthest reaches of space and time, and stand bewildered by those appalling immensities, they are but catching just the faintest tantalizing glimpses of the Mother’s inscrutable power of creative formation, or Maya. As the possessor and wielder of Maya, the divine creative power of infinite formation, She is known as Mahamaya. As Mahamaya, She sustains, at multiple levels, from the invisible to the supracosmic, the grand appearance of the Universe. For the Universe is not really a thing out there but a manifestation of one of Her formations that She holds in Her consciousness. Mark the fact that it is one of Her formations. There are numberless formations and universes that the Divine Mahamaya weaves out of Her infinite creativity, and these are not all out there but truly deep within, as one discovers on entering the inner layers of Her manifestation: layers subtler than subtlest thought, so subtle that these appear almost void to our ordinary gross consciousness.  Thus, it is said that the Mother as Mahamaya holds all conscious life in Her inscrutable spell of Maya, and none — not even the great gods and sages — can escape Her field of Maya without Her grace, will and consent. She is known to Her ardent devotees as the One who grants all capacities and powers of consciousness, sarvasiddhidayini. It is by Her divine Love that She liberates the soul from the illusion of the false ego; it is by Her Love that She liberates the mind from the illusions of the false existence, mithya and avidya. She is, therefore, also the One who grants all liberation and freedom, sarvamuktidayini. For all souls caught in the snares of cosmic and egoic illusion, her Love is the Light of hope. For not only is She Love, She is also the source of divine Light, She Herself is the Light of the Supreme, jyoti-parasya, that Yogins through the ages have invoked and revered, the Light without which there would indeed be no Yoga or Sanatan Dharma.  The Divine Mother is indeed the heart of the Dharma. Whoever, wherever, gives himself to Dharma, gives himself to the Divine Mother. When one stands for Dharma in this universe of perplexing duality and confusion (for all evil is but confusion and duality) and protects Dharma, he is protected directly by the power of the Divine Mother. Dharmo rakshati, rakshitaha is equally a mantra for invoking the protection of the Divine Mother.  There are those who feel, perhaps rightly so in the confusions of everyday life, that the Sanatan Dharma is in grave danger, under threat by hostile forces; but they forget too easily perhaps the deeper truth that the Sanatan Dharma is the manifest field of the Divine Mother’s Yogic work upon earth, and earth herself may be destroyed but the luminous seeds of Sanatan Dharma will survive, concealed eternally in the Mother’s bosom, awaiting its time of revival and rejuvenation in the endless spirals of evolutionary Time. The ones who have known even an infinitesimal portion of the Divine Mother’s consciousness also know that the Mother is vaster than this earth of ours, and a million earths, nay — a million universes, can arise and dissolve in the infinite consciousness that She is.  Who indeed can know the Mother in his or her small, time-bound consciousness? For the Mother exceeds space and time, exceeds consciousness too, exceeds all manifestation. In the wink of an eye, She can create a universe, and in the space of that same infinitesimal fraction of time, She can dissolve it all. The Mother is the creative Word of the Divine. When the sage says “in the beginning was the Word…”, he is pointing to the mystical truth of the Divine Feminine as the Word of creation. The Word, the Divine Logos, is also the mystic-syllabled Om out of which arises all manifestation. The ancient sages realized this Om as the Divine Mother’s first seed of Light sprouting as the universe. This was the mystic beginning, pure unmanifest and undifferentiated consciousness manifesting as the Mystic Sound or vibration of the three-syllabled A-U-M. AUM is also the gateway to the understanding of the Divine Mother, for each of the syllables represents a plane of the Divine Mother’s manifestation and can lead the Yogin to not only knowledge of these planes but direct experience, anubhava, of these planes. In a deeper mystical sense then, the Mother is Brahman’s power of Creation, the Supreme Creative Word. Thus it is declared by the sages of old that following the mystical revelatory pathway of Om, one can penetrate the Mother’s Maya and enter into the higher regions of Her Lila and Ananda. It is only by that that the soul comes to the Truth of ananda or divine Delight behind Mother’s formidable Maya. But Maya is not just illusion, it is also the creative power that makes cosmic manifestation possible. Without Maya’s luminous veils between the mind of man and the utter Truth of the Divine, personal existence in the Cosmos would become impossible, for the mind would then be entirely and utterly consumed by the Inconceivable as a spaceship approaching too close to the Sun might be consumed by the heat of the Sun.  The Divine Mother, as the Light of the Supreme, holds the Sun in Her consciousness and regulates its Light and heat, tapas, so that life in the Ignorance may not dissolve too early in the evolution of the Spirit: for the whole purpose of our human manifestation is to evolve to the Mother’s Supreme Light, and it is only by Her force of Maya that She regulates the pace of our evolutionary journey — neither too rapidly out of rajasic impatience, nor too tardily out of tamasic inertia. To do this effectively, the Mother divides Herself infinitely, becomes a portion of Herself in each of us, and guides us intimately, through our own struggles and tribulations, surely and steadily towards the Truth consciousness. That portion of Herself in each of us is the psychic being, the chaitya-purusha of the Vedas. Sanatan Hindu Dharma will soon discover the reality of the psychic being; it is the discovery of the psychic being that will give to Sanatan Dharma its much needed rejuvenating life-force. And beyond Sanatan Dharma itself, the discovery of the psychic being as the pivot of future spiritual life, will be the next necessary evolutionary step for all humanity. It is the Mother as the psychic being that will save humanity from its self-destructive habits and tendencies.  Assuredly, the next age will be the age of the Sacred Feminine.  The Sacred Feminine will balance the forces of nature and restore evolutionary equilibrium. Our earth life is out of balance: too much of the masculine, too little of the feminine. This is the root of all our present day civilizational challenges and crises. The aggression of monopolistic and monotheistic religions based on the pernicious idea of one God and one religion for all humanity, for instance, is the defining feature of masculinity out of sync with its femininity; the aggressive nationalist politics of most nations, the hegemonic tendencies of authoritarian ideological governments are also characteristics of the masculine out of sync with the feminine. The exploitative and opportunistic economics of the modern world is also a characteristic feature of an overtly masculine thinking out of sync with the feminine. The continued destruction of natural environments and the almost irreversible climate change are also indications of that same masculinity out of sync with femininity.  Our civilization needs desperately the healing touch of the Divine Mother. No religion that admits the Sacred Feminine can remain aggressive and violent. The Sacred Feminine is characterized by openness, humility, compassion and gentleness, and the spirit of universal nurture and universal acceptance — for these are the attributes of the Divine Mother, these are the virtues of the Feminine, sacred or mundane. The discovery of the psychic being as the Mother’s portion in all human beings will be that necessary personal shift, and one would hope and pray, eventually a terrestrial shift, towards the Feminine. It is the Divine Mother as the Sacred Feminine that will bear earth life towards its next evolutionary status. This is a crucial point: that each of us who understands the truth of this evolutionary shift from the masculine to the feminine must actively embody and live that truth. We must ourselves progressively become psychic beings bearing the force and light of the Feminine in ourselves. We must ourselves turn to the Sacred Feminine, or else we will be out of sync with the spirit of the new age.  To understand this better, let us not confuse the Sacred Feminine with being a man or woman. Each of us, man or woman, possesses the Masculine as well as the Feminine equally in our depths of being. Neither is superior, both are equal and equally needed for the manifestation and the evolution of the manifestation. The perfect equilibrium between the Masculine and the Feminine, between Purusha and Prakriti, between Ishvara and Shakti, is the creative basis of the Sanatan Dharma and of human evolution. Eventually, as the excess of the Masculine in our civilization is corrected and balance is restored, a dynamic equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine will be the higher evolutionary norm. But the way to that will be through a present and immediate shift of our energies and consciousnesses towards the Feminine.  In other words, we have come collectively, as a species, to the threshold of the Feminine: the Divine Mother needs to be restored to the centre of human life and spirituality; our spiritual life and religions must become a terrestrial invocation of the Sacred Feminine. We must now turn to the Mother, consciously and joyfully. The Mother is not only the Divine’s Truth and Consciousness but also its Love and Delight — She is the anandamayee, the embodiment of Ananda, as much as She is the chaitanyamayee, the embodiment of Consciousness, and satyamayee, the embodiment of Truth.  1yādevī sarvabhūteṣū mātṛrūpeṇa saṃsthitānamastasyai, namastasyai,namastasyai namonamaḥ 2Book 3, Canto 2 of Savitri by Sri Aurobindo 3As used by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the context of Integral Yoga.
Read More
Reflections on Hinduism (7)
Uncategorized

On Hinduism (7)

Sri Krishna and Shiva: Deeper into the Mystery One is there, Self of self, Soul of Space, Fount of Time,Heart of hearts, Mind of minds, He alone sits, sublime. Oh, no void Absolute self-absorbed, splendid, mute, Hands that clasp hold and red lips that kiss blow the flute. All He loves, all He moves, all are His, all are He! (From Sri Aurobindo’s poem Krishna)   If Shiva is the austere, inconceivable presence of the Supreme, the vast impersonality of the Divine, Sri Krishna is the Divine Personality supporting the eternal play of existence as Vishnu, the archetypal sustainer and nurturer, and himself entering into it as friend, lover, intimate guide and Guru. To invoke Shiva to descend to the earth plane to support or aid evolution is a near impossibility, but Sri Krishna is a constant presence amidst the world-play as the incarnate Divine and the World Teacher, the avatar and the jagat guru, leading humanity towards its highest consciousness. It is his assurance to the human soul that he would be born upon earth, age after age, whenever the burden of unconsciousness would threaten to disrupt the evolutionary balance of the universe. If Shiva is the archetypal ascetic, the ash-smeared adiyogi with matted locks and serpents, Sri Krishna is the cowherd with the alluring flute, playmate of the gopis, king, statesman and warrior who understands the intricacies of the world as much as he understands the profoundest mysteries of the universe, is as much at home with politics as he is with metaphysics, can fight and destroy as skillfully as he can play the flute and dance. If Shiva is the Silence of the Infinite, the shunya in which floats all existence, Sri Krishna is the music of the spheres, he is the manifest Cosmos brimming with life and energy, the radiant godhead of ananda, the supreme bliss of existence and consciousness. If Shiva is non-duality, the absolute Alone, Sri Krishna is the delight of the One playing amidst the infinite Many, the Lord of Love and the rasa of the Divine’s all-becoming. The sages declare that this whole existence is Sri Krishna’s blissful play, Krishnalila. Of him indeed the Upanishads say — raso vai sa, verily, he Himself is Delight [1]. Hindu dharma has two faces: one, Shiva, the ascetic, the tapasvi, seated on Kailash, symbolic of the supreme peaks of Yogic consciousness; and the other Krishna, the delightful,the anandmaya, the one sporting with the gopis in a Raaslila symbolic of the eternal play of the Divine and the human, the play of the spirit in matter, the play of love drawing the soul ever closer to the incomparable delight of union with the Divine. Shiva is the consciousness-source of existence and Krishna is the delight-source: we arise out of consciousness and delight and we return unto consciousness and delight. This is the mystery at the heart of Sanatan dharma. Whichever route we take, through consciousness or delight, it is the same consummation we reach: for consciousness is delight, delight is consciousness. Religions that regard human life as sinful or deluded cannot comprehend this mystery. The God of such religions is outside of the universe, a benign or an authoritative being presiding over human destiny. The God of Sanatan dharma is neither within nor without; in a deeper sense, neither transcendent nor immanent: God is the universe, it is the whole of existence. Transcendence and immanence are mere statuses relative to human consciousness, not absolute truths. The Truth is manifestation.  God or the Supreme Reality is this very universe. God or that Supreme Reality does not create this universe — it becomes this universe out of its all-consciousness and all-delight. We say Shiva is that all-consciousness and Krishna is that all-delight out of which arises this universe — all beings and things are manifestations of  Shiva, of Krishna. But these too are human expressions limited by human consciousness. The truth, as our sages and seers declared trenchantly, is absolute oneness — Shiva is Krishna and Krishna is Shiva: separating the two is like separating fire from its heat. As the Yajur Veda declares categorically: शिवाय विष्णु रूपाय शिव रूपाय विष्णवे | शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुं विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः | यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः | [2] Shiva is the manifest form of Vishnu, another name for Sri Krishna; Vishnu is the manifest form of Shiva. Vishnu dwells in Shiva’s heart as Shiva dwells in Vishnu’s. Wherever one finds Vishnu, one will find Shiva; and wherever one finds Shiva, one will find Vishnu. Realizing the one is realizing the other. Thus all existence is consciousness and all consciousness is delight — this must be understood. Consciousness and delight are not attributes of existence but the very substance of existence: existence is consciousness, and existence is delight. This triune reality of the Sanatan dharma is known as satchitananda: Sat is existence itself, Chit is consciousness and ananda is delight, bliss. To be, therefore, is to be conscious, and to be conscious is to be in delight, in the bliss of being. The moment one understands this triune reality, one understands too the purpose and meaning of existence and consciousness — to grow in consciousness towards the perfect bliss and delight of existence. In fact, it is not even so much a question of one’s growing in consciousness; it is more a matter of understanding that consciousness grows by its very nature towards more being and more delight. This is what is known as brahmagati — the movement of Brahman into its own vastness. Brahman is the vastness, brihat, and ever-expands into itself. Thus the supreme consummation of the Sanatan dharma is to become one with the Truth, satyam, which is also the Vast, brihat. Shiva then is the expansion of consciousness into its own vastness; Krishna is the deepening of consciousness into its own infinite depths. Together, for one who can fathom this mystery of mysteries, they lead the human soul to its perfect fulfillment in ananda — the bliss of the Divine. But this is not the whole of the rasamaya anubhava: there is a still intenser bliss, or rasa, of knowing that Shiva, seated in the mind’s pinnacle, opens the consciousness to the eternal light of Truth; and Krishna, seated in the inmost heart, opens the consciousness to the eternal delight of the Divine. The true devotee of the Sanatan dharma is therefore neither a Shaivite following Shiva as the one godhead, nor a Vaishnavite following Sri Krishna as the one godhead; she is a Yogi in whose consciousness the two become integrally one. It may be enough for some seekers to aspire for Shiva’s perfect non-duality and purity within themselves, and some seekers may be content aspiring for Krishna’s perfect delight and bliss; but for the complete Yogi who aspires to realize the very heart of the Sanatan dharma, neither is sufficient: she aspires for purnata, completeness, which is realizing Shiva’s fierce purity in Krishna’s delight, and Krishna’s bliss and delight in Shiva’s fierce purity. Can one even begin to conceive of such a realization? For this is a Yoga of a different dimension: austerity, asceticism and vast impersonality merge blissfully into love and delight of the Divine; non-duality revels in the variegated opulence of multiplicity and multiplicity resolves back, moment to moment, into an indescribably profound unity. Everything comes together, all diverse streams converge, and the Yogi dissolves into the perfect ananda, only a thumb-sized portion of her inmost consciousness and being remains to partake of the timeless anandmaya Purusha, the Being of Bliss. This is the experience of the supreme, the most excellent, rasa of all existence — paramam rasanubhuti. It is this paramam rasanubhuti that is at heart of the Sanatan dharma. All other experiences and realizations, all other processes and attainments, are only preparations for this supreme rasa, for it is in this rasanubhuti that existence is finally justified and validated in the profoundest possible way. All existence arises out of ananda and into ananda subsides. Sorrow, pain and suffering, birth and death, delusion and ignorance, falsehood and evil, are all steps along the way, processes of an infinite evolution of consciousness that even the vastest human mind would fail to grasp. This consummation of the Sanatan dharma is a state of perfect and permanent absence of sorrow and disturbance; our ancient sages called this the anamayam padam — the sorrowless state. This is the brahmanirvana that Sri Krishna holds as the highest good in the Bhagavad Gita. This nirvana is not an extinguishing or extinction — it is the consummation and fulfillment of the jiva, the human soul, in perfect union with the Divine. The one who understands this, understands too that this universe and our human existence in it is not just Maya and mithya, it’s not just delusion and ignorance, it’s not just pain and suffering, it’s not the meaningless extinction in death, nor an eternity of heavenly reward or hellish retribution, nor even an ever-circling round of karmic processes from lifetime to lifetime. It is none of all this. Existence is a vast field of lila, of divine delight and play; human life is a journey of consciousness from one peak of light and delight to another, ever higher, ever more fulfilling. It is not evil or falsehood that stands opposed to the godhead: it is our own spiritual ignorance and unconsciousness. It is an obvious thing: the antithesis of consciousness is unconsciousness, not evil. If anything, evil and falsehood, that so bewilder the human mind and heart, exist only to serve the spiritual purpose of awakening the human soul to its higher light and truth. This is the truth of Sri Krishna: that all is His play, do not be bewildered, do not be dismayed by appearances; look deeper, look with more love and understanding, and you will see Sri Krishna and you will see Shiva, and you will see your own highest and deepest self, your atman, and you will know that there are no divisions or differences. To realize one’s own existence as the Divine’s play of consciousness and delight is the crowning glory of the devotee and yogi. As Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, comparing the Divine with honey, I do not wish to become the honey; I want to taste and savor the honey. This savoring of the divine honey is the soul of the Sanatan dharma. Why else would one consent to be born as mortal on earth? 1 रसो वै सः — From the Taittiriya Upanishad; Sri Aurobindo’s rendering. 2 Shivaaya Vishnu Roopaaya, Shiva Roopaaya Vishanave; Shivasya Hrudayam Vishnur, Vishnuscha Hrudayam Shivaha; Yatha Shivamayo Vishnuhu, Yevam Vishnu Mayaha Shivaha
Read More
विचारशृंखला : सनातन हिंदू धर्म (भाग 6)
Uncategorized

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.
Read More
Uncategorized

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. 
Read More
Reflections on Hinduism (4)
Uncategorized

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.
Read More
Uncategorized

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
Read More
Reflections On Hinduism (2)
Uncategorized

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. 
Read More
Dharma
Uncategorized

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. Read in Hindi
Read More
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. Read in Hindi 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.
Read More
towards higher knowledge
Uncategorized

Towards Higher Knowledge

The Fundamentals of Yoga  All existence is a single fabric of being. You touch one strand of this fabric and the whole fabric moves. This fabric of existence is not you or me, not a person, nor even a world. This fabric is all of us, everything, everywhere, all that is or was. This fabric is all-Consciousness, sarvam chaitanyam. Everything and everyone is at once this. The ten year old that you used to be, in some imaginary time in your mind, and the fifty years old that you now are, again in an imaginary time in your mind, both are happening at once, if you look carefully, in a bottomless now of consciousness. When you enter this now of consciousness, everything and everyone is seamlessly one.  You and I, the passers-by on the street, the birds flying across the evening sky, the animals, the insects, the fish and the plants, the sand and the waters, the sky and all the limitless space, far out into the distant galaxies and right down to the quarks in the heart of matter — everything of which we are directly or indirectly aware, vaster and profounder than mind can fathom, a shoreless sea of existence in all directions and dimensions, without any discernible beginning or end, is this oneness, this now, this here. There is nothing outside this oneness, the sublimest loves as much as the murders, wars and genocides, the noblest saints as well as the most despicable sinners, the asuras as well as the devas, the living, the dead and the unborn, everything and everyone is within. Going into this shoreless sea is going into a dimensionless within. It is this dimensionless within that the mystics and seers of old have called God. Or Brahman.  And relative to this dimensionless within, there is no outside. Another way of expressing this is that there is none or nothing outside God, or Brahman. Brahman is the all-enveloping and all-permeating reality, infinite because there is no objective measurement possible of this reality. What seems to our minds to be finite is but a portioning of the infinite. To understand this point, think of the sea and its waves: a particular wave seems finite in space and time, it can be measured in terms of wavelength, height, velocity, volume and length of duration; but the moment it falls back into the sea, it becomes the relatively immeasurable sea. Relatively immeasurable because relative to the particular wave, the sea is immeasurable but relative to the much vaster cosmos, it too can be measured; the universe, compared to the sea, would be immeasurable but compared to that within in which the universe itself occurs, the universe too would be measurable. That within which the universe (and perhaps universes) occur is known to the seers simply as the Vast, brihat. This Vast is truly beyond measure, for who or what can be there outside of this Vast to measure it? Thus, this Vast is known as the infinite, the unknowable and immeasurable Brahman.  It may be natural for our minds to think that this Brahman is outside of our existence, somewhere out there in the vast immeasurable. But in doing so, we miss the whole point — that this universe, this vastness, including ourselves, is within Brahman, there is no outside at all. We are all living in a vast and infinite within, antaram antarasya, as our seers cryptically declare — inside of an infinite within. This infinite within, ananta antaram, is Brahman. You and I are waves that rise within the sea of Brahman’s consciousness and fall back into it. As a particular wave, I may look upon the sea as “outside” of myself but that would be illusion of the senses: the wave of the sea is completely the sea, and at no point can it be different from the sea. Does the wave have an existence of its own, an innate reality? Yes, as long as the wave identifies itself as a wave, it has an existence of its own, but it is an existence arising out of the sea and returning to it, it is not an independent existence. This is of great significance in Yoga — we are self-existent within the vast sea of existence but there is no independent existence. In the language of Yoga, innate self-existence or self-nature is known as swabhava (literally, state of being oneself). So there is swabhava as long as there is identification with the particular form and name — namarupa sayūjya in the language of Yoga. But once the namarupa identification (as particular wave amongst other waves) is replaced with the identification with the sea (as the all-consciousness), swabhava dissolves and one becomes niswabhava, free of all self-identification, or identified only with Brahman — brahmasāyujya. This is the profound objective of all Yogic effort, to become free of self-identification and self-nature, swabhava, and rest in union, Yoga, with the All-consciousness. This freedom from essential selfhood, swabhava, is the indispensable condition for the higher knowledge, vijnana, of  Yoga.  The journey of Yoga, in many ways, is the ascent from the lower and relative knowledge of self and cosmos to the higher knowledge of Brahman or the Divine. The lower relative knowledge, vyavharika [1] jnana, works through the buddhi, the practical intelligence of the sense-based intellect; vijnana, the higher knowledge, works through intuition and the ranges of mind and intelligence above the sense-based practical and the mundane. The vyavharika or relative knowledge may serve, for some time and for some aspirants as an intellectual approach to vijnana but, by itself, is not of much use in the quest for Self-realization, and must, sooner or later, be renounced or replaced by the higher.  The transition to the higher knowledge or vijnana begins with an initial detachment and separation of the inner consciousness, which we have earlier called Purusha, from the outer play of the world which we have called prakriti [2]. The separation of Purusha and prakriti is an important marker in the progress of Yoga towards the Self. A separation or dissociation of Purusha and prakriti does not imply a physical or even psychological abandonment of prakriti but a temporary withdrawal from it, a steadfast refusal to identify with the namarupa [3] of prakriti in order to turn to something deeper and truer than the incessant play of prakriti.  Stepping Back & Witnessing In the ordinary life, we are wholly immersed in prakriti and oblivious of any inner or truer self. Most of our life in prakriti we spend reacting to external events, situations and people. Rarely, if ever, do we get to turn inward and become conscious of an inner being or an inner life. We live, in other words, in a strong and persistent identification with prakriti. Yoga begins in all earnest with the breaking or the dissolving of this identification; and it is not easy to do this as prakriti sticks stubbornly to the inmost membranes of our being. To break the identification, we need to step back from the incessant play of prakriti in ourselves and in the world around us, and from deep personal involvement become detached witnesses, disinterested observers. This stepping back is essentially a dissociation from our own internal processes and a wide disinterestedness in what is happening, or not happening, to us and around us. In the language of Yoga, this is called vairagya. Vairagya is not an aversion for the world or an escape from it, as many believe, but, at its deepest, it is a turning away from the superficial dualities of nature and impermanences of the world to the infinitely profounder and immutable ananda of the true Self. Vairagya, in its true sense, comes only to the discriminating, to those who have developed the subtle perception of reality and can see things for what they are and not get caught up in the play of mithya.  Stepping back and dissociating from prakriti creates a progressive psychological distance between the event or the action in prakriti and the inner consciousness — instead of reacting to what is happening, or getting involved with the forces and movements of the play of nature, one becomes an observer of the play of forces and events and learns, more and more, to allow all things and events to pass, unquestioned and unobstructed, increasingly passive to the play of universal nature but active in all that is behind the play of forces and events.   As one continues to observe the play of prakriti from the position of the inner witness, one begins to discern with growing clarity that there is a wide field of general, universal nature, prakriti, and an inner witnessing self, Purusha, that constitute the entire human experience. In fact, what one refers to as “experience” is the interplay between universal nature and the inner witnessing self. What one identifies as the personal self is only a dynamic interface between universal nature and the inner witnessing, a device for ordering and organizing the experiences of universal nature.    Once this is seen inwardly, the “personal self” becomes relegated in significance and is used as a device, an instrument, and not a real and permanent entity in itself. This psychological relegation of the so-called personal self leads to an essential liberation from compulsive personality to a calmer and wider impersonality that sees and is aware of personality but is no longer compelled or led by it.  As observation further deepens, and personality dissolves in that deepening observation, one becomes more and more clearly aware that one is neither the formations, movements and actions of Prakriti, nor the personal self reflecting Prakriti and interacting with it. The true self, Purusha, is neither this nor that but a consciousness transcending both but capable of acting through both.   It is when one realizes through this growing inner awareness that one is the transcendent higher self, Purusha, that one passes irreversibly beyond prakriti and its effects. This is the threshold experience of the higher knowledge, the opening to vijnana.  1Vyavharika refers to the practical, mundane, relative 2Refer to this 3Refer to this
Read More
The Ascent into Yoga
Uncategorized

The Ascent of Consciousness

The realization of the Yoga of Knowledge is when one feels that one lives in the wideness of something silent, featureless and universal (called the Self) and all else is seen as only forms and names; the Self is real, nothing else. — Sri Aurobindo    Fundamentals of Yoga Namarupa is often used in explaining Yogic philosophy and practice.  The phrase all else is seen as only forms and names in Sri Aurobindo’s quote above refers to this concept of namarupa. Namarupa is the Sanskrit phrase for name or description (nama) and form or shape (rupa). This whole perceived universe is name and form, namarupa. All that we see, feel, are conscious of, and experience, is namarupa. Namarupa is not merely the name and form cognized by the physical senses but the whole complex of nomenclature, quality, shape, movement, force, character and personality: these are the elements or aspects of description. That which is described in any or all of these terms is namarupa. In some contexts, you will also find namarupa combined with guna, which means qualities or attributes. But for all practical purposes, namarupa includes guna.  This namarupa is neither real nor unreal: it merely appears out of the vast potentiality of Prakriti, the cosmic matrix, and subsides into it, even as waves rise out of the sea and subside in it. The psychological consciousness in which we live is wholly absorbed in this matrix or prakriti and is identified with it.   The true understanding comes when we are able to perceive the universe as an object (or myriad objects) reflected in our consciousness. The universe as an object (or objects) is real only as long as it is reflected in consciousness: once the consciousness is withdrawn, it ceases to be real. Thus this manifest universe is known to be unreal in the sense that it has no intrinsic existence — it does not exist on its own but has only a reflected or inferred existence. This is one of the fundamental concepts of Yoga.  The namarupa or the external construct that we know to be our ‘real’ world is like a complex composite of a million simultaneously moving and living pictures: a fantastic cosmic cinema in four dimensions of space and time, and it is this “cinema” that so wholly absorbs the consciousness in us, even as a motion picture can wholly absorb a viewer’s attention for hours.  Behind this whole complex play, the only reality, according to Yoga, is Consciousness, for consciousness alone exists independent of all objects reflected in it, including the universe itself. In other words, if we are to follow Yogic reasoning, consciousness can and does exist independent of the universe while the universe cannot and does not exist independent of consciousness. Thus, the content of consciousness does not determine the existence of consciousness, consciousness abides in itself, and this self-abiding consciousness is the substratum on which the whole manifest universe, this cosmic prakriti, rests. It is the background or the screen on which the whole play of prakriti is projected and reflected.  But how does all this come about? How does consciousness become so absorbed in the cinema that it forgets itself so totally?  The key to this mystery is the stupendous power of identification. Every one of us knows this power intimately; and we also know how utterly helpless we are in the grip of this power. This power of identification is what convinces us that we are the body and mind when the intelligence or buddhi in us knows well that we are neither the body nor the mind. In the Vedanta, this power is known as Maya. Maya is inscrutable, unfathomable, formidable and utterly unknowable. And this is so because this force of Maya is not externally imposed upon the consciousness but arises from the consciousness itself; Maya is Divine in its origin. Yet, however powerful and wonderful be this Maya, it is finally a veil in our own self-consciousness and can be dissolved as one progresses in self-enquiry, contemplation and meditation. Through ever deepening self-enquiry, atma vichara, and silencing of the mind through meditation, one begins to discern the truth behind the play of prakriti and its myriad namarupa.  As self-enquiry and inner silence grow, one begins to see with growing clarity that our consciousness is really unmoving and unchanging and it is prakriti that is ever in motion; in the language of Yoga, consciousness is sthiti and prakriti is gati [1].  Because consciousness is sthiti, unchanging and unmoving, we are aware of the perpetual changes and transformations of prakriti. If consciousness too were to be moving, we would never know movement and change.  Therefore it is said in the Yoga that we possess two statuses of being, two aspects of ourselves (there is also a third, but that does not yet concern us): One is the self identified with prakriti, with namarupa; and the other is the self identified with consciousness, independent of prakriti and its namarupa projections. The former is known as apara or the “lower” self absorbed in the Maya of namarupa; and the latter is known as the para or the “higher” self; this is the Purusha consciousness of Yoga, the calm and detached witness of the play of prakriti. Purusha, this witnessing consciousness, and prakriti, the cosmic play, are the two initial categorizations of all Yogic experience. To know and identify oneself as Purusha and not prakriti is regarded as the first fundamental liberation of Yoga. There is no exact English translation of ‘Purusha’ as used in the Yoga: the closest English word would be Self. Purusha, in Yoga, denotes the witnessing self, the pure consciousness behind all phenomena, the noumenal self of Kantian philosophy. There is a compelling story in the Upanishads of a pair of birds perched on two different branches of a tree: the bird on the lower branch represents the self absorbed in prakriti, riding its waves and playing with its dualities, knowing itself only in the passing; and the bird on the higher branch represents the self settled in the Purusha consciousness, calm and conscious, wise and free, gently beckoning the bird of the lower branch to come up to its heights. And when the bird of the lower branch does come up to the higher bough, it sees only itself, but transformed into the likeness of the other bird. This is indeed the purport of the Gita’s statement, Raise thyself by thyself. The two selves that we are, are only statuses or aspects, and not real entities. In reality, there are no two or three selves at all: there is only the Self, known to Yogis as the One without a second, ekam evadvitiyam.  So, what is to be done, asks the aspirant playing in the lower branches of life, to climb to that higher bough and become one with Purusha — how do I climb? And this is the deep mystery of our self-finding: that, really, there is nothing to be done; one simply has to quieten the surface mental consciousness and deepen into what may be called the silence of Yoga — an inner state free of thought, free of the last ripples of mental activity. As one deepens into this silence of Yoga, one begins to intuit and understand the deeper nature of reality. This is the beginning of the ascent of consciousness.  1Sthiti is position, stability, firmness; gati is movement.
Read More
Previous Next
Close
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this