There is a scientist’s way of looking at the human body and there is a spiritual way to look at it. The two views, though different due to a difference in the angle of the vision, are nevertheless mutually complimentary if we take the larger interests of the human race in its evolutionary progression. The view of the scientist is of course more narrow, his angle of vision more focused on the details of physical processes, his field of enquiry the outward and the immediate. The scientist brings us to the detailed knowledge of the chemical blocks which build our physical body, the laws and processes that govern our physical existence and the means of physical interventions that can help it to remain fit and healthy and function normally. The yogi casts a wider look, his angle of vision is broader since his consciousness moves in a larger field of experience – the inner and cosmic. He may not necessarily be aware of the detailed chemical constitution or physical processes governing the body yet his intervention can be more direct, powerful and effective. This is so because he knows the play of the cosmic forces and their subtle laws and occult processes that work upon matter and govern it from behind. Yet his aim of intervention is not merely to secure fitness and normalcy for their own sake but for the fulfilment of a higher Purpose, of the cosmic Will in man. Therefore does a yogi seldom intervene under any pressure of personal will of the claimant to health but rather more and more in alignment to a deeper and larger cosmic Will which sees beyond the outward and the immediate. Unless of course the mere intensity of the personal will is enough to move the cosmic Will. There is of course an intermediate terrain between the physical and the spiritual, a domain of mixed possibilities. The physical scientist has begun to recognize this as higher than the physical domain and calls it ‘psychological’. What he means by the term is that our thoughts, will, emotions have their physical counterparts, and through these psychophysical components of our physiology, they can and indeed do influence the physical processes, the organs and their functioning. This is a great discovery and opens doors into deeper territories. As of now however the physical scientist is satisfied with studying only the physical components of our psychophysical parts. But just as there is a physical side of the psychological parts, there is a pure psychological side of our physical existence. It is occult to our physical vision and yet is teeming with rich and varied possibilities. It consists of a direct seizing upon of mind energies and life energies and other forms of an intermediate energy and their deft handling to heal and succour. This field known to the occultists, the alchemists and the tantrics of old had taken a backseat in the last few centuries that saw man preoccupied almost exclusively with the physical world and his material existence. The triumphant march of sciences based upon a study of gross matter and its possibilities almost blotted out this other type and even diminished faith in such deeper hidden possibilities. But now since we have explored and sounded the depths of the physical world we see a resurgence of interest in the hidden forces of life. As we have said, the view of the yogi is deeper and wider than even the psychological and the occult. This is so because to his unsealed vision there are disclosed not only the stray strands of mental and vital and other energies but also the forces and forms and beings and godheads at each of these universal planes of existence. Instead of simply channelling the ‘energies’ through his personal will, which besides may yet be an ignorant limited and egoistic will, he opens himself to the action and play of the Cosmic Divine and even the Will of the Transcendent Supreme by a progressive surrender of his psychological apparatus and the instrumentality of nature; by a progressive dissolution of the ego to that which is Beyond-ego. The sign of such a surrender is that he no more opens a healing shop or promises miracles to each and everyone who approaches since he can no longer be impelled any more by his own limited personal will or the limited and ignorant will of his clients. He begins to act or rather be acted upon, more and more directly in alignment to a higher Will, more and more silently, yet more and more powerfully. He can claim nothing, nor promise anything unless he sees and knows it as coming from the Transcendent Source of all things. What then is this deeper view of the human body, its necessity and its ultimate purpose? How does our health and illness relate with this Purpose? And how can we facilitate this great Purpose through both health and illness? This of course is another point of divergence. For while the scientist (physical and occult) hardly evinces any interest in the body other than its utility for survival and physical (vital existence for its own sake), the yogi, sees further. The yogi sees in the body the capacity to deliver the soul out of its self-willed confinement in matter. According to the yogi, the seemingly unconscious field of matter is pregnant with a conscious soul that has entered into a state of self-oblivion having identified with the unconscious state of matter. It has done this deliberately so that by a slow process of an evolutionary progression it can extract the divine possibilities hidden in matter. This is possible because, in the deepest vision of the seers, it is Spirit that has become matter. And therefore by a process of reversal (what we term as an evolution) matter can reclaim its spiritual status. This evolutionary unfolding takes place by the pressure of the growing soul. As it wakes up, it also wakes up the deeper possibilities of matter – the possibility of sensation, the possibility of impulse to live; of feelings; of thought and ideation. In other words, matter is the field in which seedlings of the Spirit are sown deep, carefully hidden in the folds of darkness of our material existence. These seedlings are watered and looked after by the Divine Gardener who pours down the Light and Breath and Force of a higher sphere of spiritual existence through the mediating agency of the soul. The soul holds the trust deed of this field whose ownership is with the Divine. But till the soul grows and is able to exercise a sufficient degree of influence and control over matter and physical existence, it has to act through the already developed agency of a caretaker mind and life. And herein lies the first knot of the problem of our bodily existence. The body has already developed from within itself the powers of life with its fairly elaborate and perfected processes. The powers of mind and their processes and neurological connections are still developing as some latest research tell us. In other words, unlike the processes of life, the processes of cognition are yet not fully laid down and new patterns are replacing old ones. But the soul-powers and soul faculties are still largely asleep except for occasional glimpses from time to time. The yogi’s efforts are therefore not focused so much on physical survival or health and fitness for vital enjoyment or to enhance comfort and sense-pleasure. In fact, the yogi may prefer the instrument to be broken rather than being used by reckless powers of an excess ambition and blind lust. His efforts are to first of all extract the soul out of its entrapment in matter and secondly, to exercise a spiritual control and mastery over material and bodily existence. Thirdly, and lastly, the aim put forward by Sri Aurobindo, to progressively spiritualise and then divinise matter. The problem of the bodily existence that the yogi had set to resolve are therefore different from those of the medical scientist. Though they work upon the same field, they work towards a different aim and with different principles and methods. The medical scientist’s job is to repair the damaged bodily equipment and enhance its lifespan for survival purposes or even to prolong the ability of sensory enjoyment, physical pleasures and comforts. Therefore the medical scientist multiplies outer methods of prolonging life, repairing defects, handling emergencies, change of organs, etc. To preserve and prolong is his aim. But the yogi’s interest lies elsewhere. Not survival for the sake of survival, not prolongation of life for fear of death, not a fresh lease so that he can indulge a little longer into sense pleasures. So, his first and foremost aim is to keep the body supple and fit, in a reasonable healthy and balanced state relatively free of serious disturbances so that he can concentrate upon his soul. Not that he cannot do so in a sick body. He can, if he has a strong will, but in the usual case, a sick body, and a body full of tamas and inertia drags the consciousness outward and downward. True, with practice it is not difficult to learn detaching the mind from our physical condition yet that makes the effort so much more difficult, especially if there is too much of inertia. Besides inertia and tamas naturally attract forces of disharmony and disruption, of greed and lust. A physical consciousness that is too tamasic preoccupies itself with food, sex and sleep, etc., attraction to things that make the body heavy and dull or damage the nerves such as alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, heavy or stale food, etc.. Some simple medicines as and when necessary to avoid too much discomfort are okay in this stage when one is simply learning to disengage the soul from the body and mind. Life, death, disease are in this stage mere passing incidents that temporarily block our view or pause for a short while our search for the soul. The second level of difficulty arises when having found his soul, the yogi strives to master each and every movement. The law of moderation is to be replaced here by a growing spiritual perfection. It is no more enough to eat in moderation but to eliminate greed completely. It is no more a regulated sex but an effort to completely master the sex impulse. It is no more having a sound refreshing sleep but to become conscious of that very period of rest. Even with regards to illness, the effort is to get rid of it by an inner control and exercise of a spiritual will and by the pressure of a higher consciousness and its forces. One may still need medicines but rarely and in lower dosages for short duration. As the change proceeds, the so-called normal laws of the body no more hold tight. The body itself is seen as a field and a symbol for the play of various forces and energies of different levels of consciousness reflected and represented in the body. This is a long and protracted battle. The vital and the mind do not easily let go off their old misrule. The subconscious caves where these traffickers and robbers hide raise their head again and again. The effort here is to link the physical consciousness to the soul and through it to the higher realms. This is done through aspiration and opening of the physical consciousness to change, a persistent, painstaking, rejection full of perseverance; a constant referral to Grace, its invocation to eliminate the many defects and impulses and a surrender to the Divine Will. As the psychic consciousness grows, as the inner being begins to change under the psychic pressure, as the higher forces accumulate, the task becomes relatively easier though by no means a simple one. A distinction has to be made between the psychic control vis-à-vis a mental and vital control of the body. For people with a strong vital will can impose it upon the body. Usually, this vital will in man being subject to the ego and desire, is used for all the wrong purposes. However, sometimes the vital will and the mind can exercise a strong control over the body. Such a control should not be confused with the control arrived at by a psychic and spiritual consciousness. The vital and mental will impose upon the body certain arbitrary rules based on preferred opinions. These rules may even be drastic ones like raw vegan vegetarianism, or breatharians, or food fads, or an extensive exercise programme without proper and adequate rest and sleep. Such a control may appear drastic and swift to arrive but is usually temporary, achieved by a locking up of mental and vital energy in suppressing something, done at the expense of the body’s health (even though people do not always realise it is as in cases of anorexia nervosa). Besides, such a control usually brings a certain rigidity and harshness in nature. The psychic control takes longer because it keeps the little grain of wheat while removing the chaff, but is more complete, carries a sense of harmony, sweetness, peace and joy. Nevertheless, mental and vital control have their own utilities in our evolutionary journey. The mental and vital control is more external such as not eating certain things even though you like them, while the psychic control is more intrinsic such as eliminating greed. Both may therefore complement each other. The psychic control is usually in the form of an invitation, a subtle indication of the gesture to be made, the thing to be done and the right way to do it. It has neither the harsh insistence of the mind nor the vehemence of the vital but acts more as a subtle but sure compulsion which we (the mind-vital-body ego) may or may not follow. But if persisted and followed, it leads a harmony and grace to the body, a ring of authentic sweetness and peace in the voice and speech, an unerring impulsion to our bodily movements and a spontaneous resetting of the body’s rhythms in accordance with deeper truths. The food becomes more nourishing and in the right quantity without our thinking or calculating of calories, the sleep becomes much more refreshing and the dreams change their quality, one develops a “natural’ (as contrasted with enforced and artificial) distaste for certain crude impulses such as sex and anger. Fear tends to diminish and finally vanish. The very limbs feel a subtle sweetness flowing through them as a rejuvenating sap of some immortal life, and even the taste and other senses may undergo a corresponding change. A new and deeper sense of beauty comes that is no more deceived by charming appearances and can easily see through them. A spontaneous knowledge, a more subtle but effective will, a quality of tranquillity in feeling and impulsion, a natural state of peace and joy, an uplifting of everything towards the Divine, a clarity that the intellect cannot offer, a goodwill, wideness and love that the heart has not known before, a native generosity of the soul that is equal-visioned towards all and therefore at peace and ease with itself and the world are some of the profound physical and psychological changes that arises with the progressive awakening of the psychic. This itself is a great gain and makes us so much more free from many maladies. But since it is difficult for man to remain in constant touch with the soul, there are lapses and recoils, the revolts of the vital, the surfing up of the mind’s anxieties and fears, the hearts hopes and expectations, the body’s maladies. The subconscient throws up the old ills and habits again in such vulnerable moments and the maladies return. Nevertheless, once the passage is seated for the psychic streams to pour upon the body it becomes easier and easier to get back to the psychic poise and heal the body from within. This becomes possible because unlike the mind and the vital, the psychic consciousness can directly link us to the healing forces of a higher consciousness. It can even call down the touch of Grace upon matter and redeem it from its fallen state. And if for some reason it (the soul) decides to leave the body, then one is put in the best and most favourable inner conditions to do so. Then death itself becomes a leap, an opportunity, and crisis an evolutionary lever. If this is combined with a strong faith and will in the mind and the vital then it can make an almost impregnable fortress against almost all illnesses. Such a fortunate combination is however very rare. Often in fact, the story may well be different. A person with a great psychic possibility may be endowed with a great difficulty of nature that is like a shadow which he must conquer to realize his own true strength. And in Nature’s great economy and wisdom the obstacle is so arranged so that it may hasten the inner possibility which would remain dormant if it did not meet the friction and resistance of an opposing force which acts as a stimulant or a challenge to facilitate the psychic emergence. To conquer this rock-like obstacle to facilitate the flow of the soothing streams of the nectar of delight that secretly even now supports and heals our existence is the work of the yogi. This work needs time, patience, faith and courage. It is the work of bringing into the frame of our mortal existence that which exceeds all frames. It is the work of preparing our earthly field called the body to receive and implant seeds of light from another realm whose harvest is not yet known to man. But once it begins to blossom and bloom it will solve all problems of disease, incapacity and death by striking at the very roots of the malady that lie embedded and entangled in the dark concealment of the rock caves of our subconscient nature. Medicines cannot do it, nor can any alternate system of therapy or exercises of techniques of breathing do it for us. These may be and are helpful in their own place and time but only temporarily and perhaps immediately so. But the yogi looks beyond the temporal and the immediate. He looks at concealed parts, parts of light and parts of night and reuniting them becomes a whole. From the Yogic point of view each part of the body is symbolic of a higher movement that is reflected here in a more or less distorted manner. Yet there is a subtle correspondence between the two. Now the effort of evolution translates itself in physical terms to create a perfect body that is truly representative of the higher states of consciousness, a body moved entirely by the higher forces and energies rather than by their lower and lesser counterparts as of now. This would naturally lead not only to a perfect immunity that could practically extend to everything but also to a free and full play of Divine Consciousness and its forces and energies in matter. It would bring, in other terms, a complete freedom from all animality and also death-bound, disease prone, desire driven humanity. How will this come about? The first step is to accumulate the forces and energies of a higher consciousness by a constant aspiration, psychic purification and a spiritual opening of the embodied human consciousness right up to the physical. There must increase simultaneously the receptivity of the body-cells to this higher consciousness. A conscious and methodical physical education is one of the means to achieve that. The pressure of the transformed inner consciousness will begin to mould and remould the physical stuff till it finally admits the transformation of each part into a corresponding physical centre of energy. Secondly, to a deeper spiritual sight, each part contains the whole in itself. There is a whole universe contained or rather crammed within us. In a transformed body it may be possible to effectuate changes in one part of the world by concentrating on a corresponding part of the body and releasing the higher forces locked there. Each body can become then a representative body of the earth. This is the deeper work of the yogi – to awaken and release the spiritual forces locked in the prison house of matter. And by that release turn this prison into a camp or temple-house of God. The scientist’s work is simply to study and repair the prison-bars, make them strong and lasting. The yogi’s work is to change them and in its place erect something new, something far more beautiful and true. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alok Pandey’s book “Veda of the Body” Publications
A growing number of people, millions worldwide, say they believe that life definitively ends at death – that there is no God, no afterlife and no divine plan. And it’s an outlook that could be gaining momentum – despite its lack of cheer. In some countries, openly acknowledged atheism has never been more popular. “There’s absolutely more atheists around today than ever before, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of humanity,” says Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, and author of Living the Secular Life. According to a Gallup International survey of more than 50,000 people in 57 countries, the number of individuals claiming to be religious fell from 77% to 68% between 2005 and 2011, while those who self-identified as atheist rose by 3% – bringing the world’s estimated proportion of adamant non-believers to 13%. While atheists certainly are not the majority, could it be that these figures are a harbinger of things to come? Assuming global trends continue might religion someday disappear entirely? It’s impossible to predict the future, but examining what we know about religion – including why it evolved in the first place, and why some people chose to believe in it and others abandon it – can hint at how our relationship with the divine might play out in decades or centuries to come. Scholars are still trying to tease out the complex factors that drive an individual or a nation toward atheism, but there are a few commonalities. Part of religion’s appeal is that it offers security in an uncertain world. So not surprisingly, nations that report the highest rates of atheism tend to be those that provide their citizens with relatively high economic, political and existential stability. “Security in society seems to diminish religious belief,” Zuckerman says. Capitalism, access to technology and education also seems to correlate with a corrosion of religiosity in some populations, he adds. Crisis of faith Japan, the UK, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, France and Uruguay (where the majority of citizens have European roots) are all places where religion was important just a century or so ago, but that now report some of the lowest belief rates in the world. These countries feature strong educational and social security systems, low inequality and are all relatively wealthy. “Basically, people are less scared about what might befall them,” says Quentin Atkinson, a psychologist at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Yet decline in belief seems to be occurring across the board, including in places that are still strongly religious, such as Brazil, Jamaica and Ireland. “Very few societies are more religious today than they were 40 or 50 years ago,” Zuckerman says. “The only exception might be Iran, but that’s tricky because secular people might be hiding their beliefs.” The US, too, is an outlier in that it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but also has high rates of religiosity. (Still, a recent Pew survey revealed that, between 2007 and 2012, the proportion of Americans who said they are atheist rose from 1.6% to 2.4%.) Decline, however, does not mean disappearance, says Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Big Gods. Existential security is more fallible than it seems. In a moment, everything can change: a drunk driver can kill a loved one; a tornado can destroy a town; a doctor can issue a terminal diagnosis. As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship could fuel religiosity. “People want to escape suffering, but if they can’t get out of it, they want to find meaning,” Norenzayan says. “For some reason, religion seems to give meaning to suffering – much more so than any secular ideal or belief that we know of.” This phenomenon constantly plays out in hospital rooms and disaster zones around the world. In 2011, for example, a massive earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand – a highly secular society. There was a sudden spike of religiosity in the people who experienced that event, but the rest of the country remained as secular as ever. While exceptions to this rule do exist – religion in Japan plummeted following World War II, for instance – for the most part, Zuckerman says, we adhere by the Christchurch model. “If experiencing something terrible caused all people to become atheists, then we’d all be atheists,” he says. The mind of god But even if the world’s troubles were miraculously solved and we all led peaceful lives in equity, religion would probably still be around. This is because a god-shaped hole seems to exist in our species’ neuropsychology, thanks to a quirk of our evolution. Understanding this requires a delve into “dual process theory”. This psychological staple states that we have two very basic forms of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 2 evolved relatively recently. It’s the voice in our head – the narrator who never seems to shut up – that enables us to plan and think logically. System 1, on the other hand, is intuitive, instinctual and automatic. These capabilities regularly develop in humans, regardless of where they are born. They are survival mechanisms. System 1 bestows us with an innate revulsion of rotting meat, allows us to speak our native language without thinking about it and gives babies the ability to recognize parents and distinguish between living and non-living objects. It makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world, and to seek meaning for seemingly random events like natural disasters or the death of loved ones. In addition to helping us navigate the dangers of the world and find a mate, some scholars think that System 1 also enabled religions to evolve and perpetuate. System 1, for example, makes us instinctually primed to see life forces – a phenomenon called hypersensitive agency detection – everywhere we go, regardless of whether they’re there or not. Millennia ago, that tendency probably helped us avoid concealed danger, such as lions crouched in the grass or venomous snakes concealed in the bush. But it also made us vulnerable to inferring the existence of invisible agents – whether they took the form of a benevolent god watching over us, an unappeased ancestor punishing us with a drought or a monster lurking in the shadows. Similarly, System 1 encourages us to see things dualistically, meaning we have trouble thinking of the mind and body as a single unit. This tendency emerges quite early: young children, regardless of their cultural background, are inclined to believe that they have an immortal soul – that their essence or personhood existed somewhere prior to their birth, and will always continue to exist. This disposition easily assimilates into many existing religions, or – with a bit of creativity – lends itself to devising original constructs. “A Scandinavian psychologist colleague of mine who is an atheist told me that his three-year-old daughter recently walked up to him and said, ‘God is everywhere all of the time.’ He and his wife couldn’t figure out where she’d gotten that idea from,” says Justin Barrett, director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and author of Born Believers. “For his daughter, god was an elderly woman, so you know she didn’t get it from the Lutheran church.” For all of these reasons, many scholars believe that religion arose as “a byproduct of our cognitive disposition”, says Robert McCauley, director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Culture at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not. “Religions are cultural arrangements that evolved to engage and exploit these natural capacities in humans.” Hard habits to break Atheists must fight against all of that cultural and evolutionary baggage. Human beings naturally want to believe that they are a part of something bigger, that life isn’t completely futile. Our minds crave purpose and explanation. “With education, exposure to science and critical thinking, people might stop trusting their intuitions,” Norenzayan says. “But the intuitions are there.” On the other hand, science – the system of choice that many atheists and non-believers look to for understanding the natural world – is not an easy cognitive pill to swallow. Science is about correcting System 1 biases, McCauley says. We must accept that the Earth spins, even though we never experience that sensation for ourselves. We must embrace the idea that evolution is utterly indifferent and that there is no ultimate design or purpose to the Universe, even though our intuition tells us differently. We also find it difficult to admit that we are wrong, to resist our own biases and to accept that truth as we understand it is ever changing as new empirical data are gathered and tested – all staples of science. “Science is cognitively unnatural – it’s difficult,” McCauley says. “Religion, on the other hand, is mostly something we don’t even have to learn because we already know it.” “There’s evidence that religious thought is the path of least resistance,” Barrett adds. “You’d have to fundamentally change something about our humanity to get rid of religion.” This biological sticking point probably explains the fact that, although 20% of Americans are not affiliated with a church, 68% of them say that they still believe in God and 37% describe themselves as spiritual. Even without organised religion, they believe that some greater being or life force guides the world. Similarly, many around the world who explicitly say they don’t believe in a god still harbour superstitious tendencies, like belief in ghosts, astrology, karma, telepathy or reincarnation. “In Scandinavia, most people say they don’t believe in God, but paranormal and superstitious beliefs tend to be higher than you’d think,” Norenzayan says. Additionally, non-believers often lean on what could be interpreted as religious proxies – sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature and more – to guide their values in life. As a testament to this, witchcraft is gaining popularity in the US, and paganism seems to be the fastest growing religion in the UK. Religious experiences for non-believers can also manifest in other, more bizarre ways. Anthropologist Ryan Hornbeck, also at the Thrive Center for Human Development, found evidence that the World of Warcraft is assuming spiritual importance for some players in China, for example. “WoW seems to be offering opportunities to develop certain moral traits that regular life in contemporary society doesn’t afford,” Barrett says. “People seem to have this conceptual space for religious thought, which – if it’s not filled by religion – bubbles up in surprising ways.” The in-group What’s more, religion promotes group cohesion and cooperation. The threat of an all-powerful God (or gods) watching for anyone who steps out of line likely helped to keep order in ancient societies. “This is the supernatural punishment hypothesis,” Atkinson says. “If everyone believes that the punishment is real, then that can be functional to groups.” And again, insecurity and suffering in a population may play a role here, by helping to encourage religions with stricter moral codes. In a recent analysis of religious belief systems of nearly 600 traditional societies from around the world, Joseph Bulbulia at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and his colleagues found that those places with harsher weather or that are more prone to natural disasters were more likely to develop moralising gods. Why? Helpful neighbours could mean the difference between life and death. In this context, religion evolved as a valuable public utility. “When we see something so pervasive, something that emerges so quickly developmentally and remains persistent across cultures, then it makes sense that the leading explanation is that it served a cooperative function,” says Bulbulia. Finally, there’s also some simple mathematics behind religion’s knack for prevailing. Across cultures, people who are more religious also tend to have more children than people who are not. “There’s very strong evidence for this,” Norenzayan says. “Even among religious people, the more fundamentalist ones usually have higher fertility rates than the more liberal ones.” Add to that the fact that children typically follow their parents’ lead when it comes to whether or not they become religious adults themselves, and a completely secularised world seems ever more unlikely. Enduring belief For all of these reasons – psychological, neurological, historical, cultural and logistical – experts guess that religion will probably never go away. Religion, whether it’s maintained through fear or love, is highly successful at perpetuating itself. If not, it would no longer be with us. And even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail. More formal religious systems, meanwhile, would likely only be a natural disaster or two away. “Even the best secular government can’t protect you from everything,” says McCauley. As soon as we found ourselves facing an ecological crisis, a global nuclear war or an impending comet collision, the gods would emerge. “Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that there’s something more after this life, that they’re loved by an invisible being,” Zuckerman says. “There will always be people who believe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they remain the majority.” By Rachel Nuwer, first published on 19th December 2014. Original Article
If Gandhi is the Father of Divided India, then Sri Aurobindo is the Father of Akhanda Bharat or Undivided India. Or shall we call him our Rashtrapitamah? For Akhanda Bharat is truly the vision of Sri Aurobindo. He enunciated this clearly in his message broadcast by All India Radio on August 15, 1947. If Swaraj was a call to arms by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Vipin Chandra Pal and Sri Aurobindo, eventually fulfilled on India’s independence, his dream of a united India was the aspiration to ensure that India fulfil her destiny to its utmost. If Swaraj was important because without independence, a nation or a people does not have the honor, self-reliance and self-respect to pursue their own dharma, the breakup of India into several nations yet severely inhibits her completest flowering. It did not matter at all that the demand to be utterly free of the British split the Indian National Congress (INC) into two wings. For, as people often forget nowadays, the highest integrity of the nation was far more important than the integrity of a political party. It also did not matter that this war-cry would turn the British against the political leadership of INC, especially the extremists, and soon their key leaders and activists would be tried, deported, imprisoned or executed. Nor did it matter that after the repressive action of the British government, the revolutionary fervor that was spreading across the nation was quelled and seemingly crushed. For the mantra had been given. Vande Mataram had become our national song. And the word had been planted in the hearts of our people. It is true that it took another 40 years for freedom to become a reality but a decisive action in our national struggle had been taken. The invocation had been inevitable the moment it was uttered. As a seed becoming a tree once implanted and nurtured is only a matter of time, Swaraj too was a realized fact at the moment of conception and enunciation. Gandhi came much later, to be credited for giving us the freedom that was already on its way. In any case, our Swaraj is not complete, Sri Aurobindo says. For this is only a physical freedom, that too precarious and under siege by the gathering negative forces of the world. True freedom will come only when the nation articulates its dharma clearly and starts living it. And it will be facilitated when the partition of India is reversed. And he says, in a modest self-effacing manner, “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.” And then, his first dream that, to me, is the clearest articulation of Akhanda or Undivided Bharat, “The first of these dreams was a revolutionary movement which would create a free and united India. India today is free but she has not achieved unity. At one moment it almost seemed as if in the very act of liberation she would fall back into the chaos of separate States which preceded the British conquest. But fortunately it now seems probable that this danger will be averted and a large and powerful, though not yet a complete union will be established. Also, the wisely drastic policy of the Constituent Assembly has made it probable that the problem of the depressed classes will be solved without schism or fissure. But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it 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. Let us hope that that may come about naturally, by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord but of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way unity may finally come about under whatever form—the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.” But the dream of United India will not be accomplished until the other conditions are not fulfilled, until we who love India do not realize who She is and do not awaken to who we are. For we are not only her children, we are Her body, mind and emerging soul. And Sri Aurobindo predicts accurately, “Another dream, the spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India’s spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.” And then, he describes the movement he sees happening globally which brings all of it together, which, if it happens, will create the conditions for India’s vast unification and establish Her people in truth. “The final dream was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. “This is still a personal hope and an idea, an ideal which has begun to take hold both in India and in the West on forward-looking minds. The difficulties in the way are more formidable than in any other field of endeavour, but difficulties were made to be overcome and if the Supreme Will is there, they will be overcome. Here too, if this evolution is to take place, since it must proceed through a growth of the spirit and the inner consciousness, the initiative can come from India and, although the scope must be universal, the central movement may be hers. “Such is the content which I put into this date of India’s liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India.” It must be said here that lacking this clear vision of the spiritual reality of India, Gandhi erred grievously several times in his political career. His embrace of Khilafat movement, support and appeasement of Jinnah, dismissal of Bose, rejection of Cripps Mission, and, the biggest blunder of them all, making Nehru the Prime Minister of India against the democratic wishes of his own party and leadership. And it is relevant too to note here that Gandhi’s vision is dead. And will soon be smudge on the highway of our bhavishya. His economics were impractical, defense policies immature, unrealistic and enervating, ethics rigid, moralistic and self-righteous, understanding of Sanatan Dharma limited and politics harmful to the nation immediately and in the long run. Much damage was done to the polity by his autocratic policies which were smugly continued by Nehru to our tremendous detriment. It was only the quiet force and tapasya of Sri Aurobindo that kept our nation together through Gandhi’s depredations and stayed focused on the larger picture and the longer duration when India would begin to recover from the hands of true or fake Gandhis. We are here today, free and capable of writing our own fate, due to Sri Aurobindo. And we have it in our hands to give our freedom a greater completion if we heed his message and begin to envision what he had dreamed for all of us.
Generally speaking, perhaps the greatest obstacle in the way of man’s progress is fear, a fear that is many-sided, multiform, self-contradictory, illogical, unreasoning and often unreasonable. Of all fears the most subtle and the most tenacious is the fear of death. It is deeply rooted in the subconscient and it is not easy to dislodge. It is obviously made up of several interwoven elements: the spirit of conservatism and the concern for self-preservation so as to ensure the continuity of consciousness, the recoil before the unknown, the uneasiness caused by the unexpected and the unforeseeable, and perhaps, behind all that, hidden in the depths of the cells, the instinct that death is not inevitable and that, if certain conditions are fulfilled, it can be conquered; although, as a matter of fact, fear in itself is one of the greatest obstacles to that conquest. For one cannot conquer what one fears, and one who fears death has already been conquered by it. How can one overcome this fear? Several methods can be used for this purpose. But first of all, a few fundamental notions are needed to help us in our endeavour. The first and most important point is to know that life is one and immortal. Only the forms are countless, fleeting and brittle. This knowledge must be securely and permanently established in the mind and one must identify one’s consciousness as far as possible with the eternal life that is independent of every form, but which manifests in all forms. This gives the indispensable psychological basis with which to confront the problem, for the problem remains. Even if the inner being is enlightened enough to be above all fear, the fear still remains hidden in the cells of the body, obscure, spontaneous, beyond the reach of reason, usually almost unconscious. It is in these obscure depths that one must find it out, seize hold of it and cast upon it the light of knowledge and certitude. Thus life does not die, but the form is dissolved, and it is this dissolution that the physical consciousness dreads. And yet the form is constantly changing and in essence there is nothing to prevent this change from being progressive. Only this progressive change could make death no longer inevitable, but it is very difficult to achieve and demands conditions that very few people are able to fulfill. Thus the method to be followed in order to overcome the fear of death will differ according to the nature of the case and the state of the consciousness. These methods can be classified into four principal kinds, although each one includes a large number of varieties; in fact, each individual must develop his own system. The first method appeals to the reason. One can say that in the present state of the world, death is inevitable; a body that has taken birth will necessarily die one day or another, and in almost every case death comes when it must: one can neither hasten nor delay its hour. Someone who craves for it may have to wait very long to obtain it and someone who dreads it may suddenly be struck down in spite of all the precautions he has taken. The hour of death seems therefore to be inexorably fixed, except for a very few individuals who possess powers that the human race in general does not command. Reason teaches us that it is absurd to fear something that one cannot avoid. The only thing to do is to accept the idea of death and quietly do the best one can from day to day, from hour to hour, without worrying about what is going to happen. This process is very effective when it is used by intellectuals who are accustomed to act according to the laws of reason; but it would be less successful for emotional people who live in their feelings and let themselves be ruled by them. No doubt, these people should have recourse to the second method, the method of inner seeking. Beyond all the emotions, in the silent and tranquil depths of our being, there is a light shining constantly, the light of the psychic consciousness. Go in search of this light, concentrate on it; it is within you. With a persevering will you are sure to find it and as soon as you enter into it, you awake to the sense of immortality. You have always lived, you will always live; you become wholly independent of your body; your conscious existence does not depend on it; and this body is only one of the transient forms through which you have manifested. Death is no longer an extinction, it is only a transition. All fear instantly vanishes and you walk through life with the calm certitude of a free man. The third method is for those who have faith in a God, their God, and who have given themselves to him. They belong to him integrally; all the events of their lives are an expression of the divine will and they accept them not merely with calm submission but with gratitude, for they are convinced that whatever happens to them is always for their own good. They have a mystic trust in their God and in their personal relationship with him. They have made an absolute surrender of their will to his and feel his unvarying love and protection, wholly independent of the accidents of life and death. They have the constant experience of lying at the feet of their Beloved in an absolute self-surrender or of being cradled in his arms and enjoying a perfect security. There is no longer any room in their consciousness for fear, anxiety or torment; all that has been replaced by a calm and delightful bliss. But not everyone has the good fortune of being a mystic. Finally there are those who are born warriors. They cannot accept life as it is and they feel pulsating within them their right to immortality, an integral and earthly immortality. They possess a kind of intuitive knowledge that death is nothing but a bad habit; they seem to be born with the resolution to conquer it. But this conquest entails a desperate combat against an army of fierce and subtle assailants, a combat that has to be fought constantly, almost at every minute. Only one who has an indomitable spirit should attempt it. The battle has many fronts; it is waged on several planes that intermingle and complement each other. The first battle to be fought is already formidable: it is the mental battle against a collective suggestion that is massive, overwhelming, compelling, a suggestion based on thousands of years of experience, on a law of Nature that does not yet seem to have had any exception. It translates itself into this stubborn assertion: it has always been so, it cannot be any different; death is inevitable and it is madness to hope that it can be anything else. The concert is unanimous and till now even the most advanced scientist has hardly dared to sound a discordant note, a hope for the future. As for the religions, most of them have based their power of action on the fact of death and they assert that God wanted man to die since he created him mortal. Many of them make death a deliverance, a liberation, sometimes even a reward. Their injunction is: submit to the will of the Highest, accept without revolt the idea of death and you shall have peace and happiness. In spite of all this, the mind must remain unshakable in its conviction and sustain an unbending will. But for one who has resolved to conquer death, all these suggestions have no effect and cannot affect his certitude which is based on a profound revelation. The second battle is the battle of the feelings, the fight against attachment to everything one has created, everything one has loved. By assiduous labour, sometimes at the cost of great efforts, you have built up a home, a career, a social, literary, artistic, scientific or political work, you have formed an environment with yourself at the centre and you depend on it at least as much as it depends on you. You are surrounded by a group of people, relatives, friends, helpers, and when you think of your life, they occupy almost as great a place as yourself in your thought, so much so that if they were to be suddenly taken away from you, you would feel lost, as if a very important part of your being had disappeared. It is not a matter of giving up all these things, since they make up, at least to a great extent, the aim and purpose of your existence. But you must give up all attachment to these things, so that you may feel capable of living without them, or rather so that you may be ready, if they leave you, to rebuild a new life for yourself, in new circumstances, and to do this indefinitely, for such is the consequence of immortality. This state may be defined in this way: to be able to organise and carry out everything with utmost care and attention and yet remain free from all desire and attachment, for if you wish to escape death, you must not be bound by anything that will perish. After the feelings come the sensations. Here the fight is pitiless and the adversaries formidable. They can sense the slightest weakness and strike where you are defenceless. The victories you win are only fleeting and the same battles are repeated indefinitely. The enemy whom you thought you had defeated rises up again and again to strike you. You must have a strongly tempered character, an untiring endurance to be able to withstand every defeat, every rebuff, every denial, every discouragement and the immense weariness of finding yourself always in contradiction with daily experience and earthly events. We come now to the most terrible battle of all, the physical battle which is fought in the body; for it goes on without respite or truce. It begins at birth and can end only with the defeat of one of the two combatants: the force of transformation and the force of disintegration. I say at birth, for in fact the two movements are in conflict from the very moment one comes into the world, although the conflict becomes conscious and deliberate only much later. For every indisposition, every illness, every malformation, even accidents, are the result of the action of the force of disintegration, just as growth, harmonious development, resistance to attack, recovery from illness, every return to the normal functioning, every progressive improvement, are due to the action of the force of transformation. Later on, with the development of the consciousness, when the fight becomes deliberate, it changes into a frantic race between the two opposite and rival movements, a race to see which one will reach its goal first, transformation or death. This means a ceaseless effort, a constant concentration to call down the regenerating force and to increase the receptivity of the cells to this force, to fight step by step, from point to point against the devastating action of the forces of destruction and decline, to tear out of its grasp everything that is capable of responding to the ascending urge, to enlighten, purify and stabilise. It is an obscure and obstinate struggle, most often without any apparent result or any external sign of the partial victories that have been won and are ever uncertain – for the work that has been done always seems to need to be redone; each step forward is most often made at the cost of a setback elsewhere and what has been done one day can be undone the next. Indeed, the victory can be sure and lasting only when it is total. And all that takes time, much time, and the years pass by inexorably, increasing the strength of the adverse forces. All this time the consciousness stands like a sentinel in a trench: you must hold on, hold on at all costs, without a quiver of fear or a slackening of vigilance, keeping an unshakable faith in the mission to be accomplished and in the help from above which inspires and sustains you. For the victory will go to the most enduring. There is yet another way to conquer the fear of death, but it is within the reach of so few that it is mentioned here only as a matter of information. It is to enter into the domain of death deliberately and consciously while one is still alive, and then to return from this region and re-enter the physical body, resuming the course of material existence with full knowledge. But for that one must be an initiate. All writings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Before we go into the question of meditation we ought to discuss, or share together, perhaps that is the right word, the importance of discipline. Most of us in the world are not disciplined, disciplined in the sense that we are not learning. The word `discipline’ comes from the word disciple, the disciple whose mind is learning not from a particular person, a guru, or from a teacher, or preacher, or from books but learning through the observation of his own mind, of his own heart, learning from his own actions. And that learning requires a certain discipline, but not the conformity most disciplines are understood to require. When there is conformity, obedience and imitation, there is never the act of learning, there is merely following. Discipline implies learning, learning from the very complex mind one has, from the life of daily existence, learning about relationship with each other, so that the mind is always pliable, active. To share together what meditation is, one must understand the nature of discipline. Discipline as ordinarily understood implies conflict; conforming to a pattern like a soldier, or conforming to an ideal, conforming to a certain statement in the sacred books and so on. Where there is conformity there must be friction, and therefore wastage of energy. One’s mind and one’s heart, if in conflict, can never possibly meditate. We will go into that; it is not a mere statement which you accept or deny, but something we are enquiring into together. We have lived for millennia upon millennia in conflict, conforming, obeying, imitating, repeating, so that our minds have become extraordinarily dull; we have become secondhand people, always quoting somebody else, what he said or did not say. We have lost the capacity, the energy, to learn from our own actions. It is we who are utterly responsible for our own actions, not society or environment, nor the politicians, we are responsible entirely for our actions and for learning from them. In such learning we discover so much because in every human being throughout the world there is the story of mankind; in us is the anxiety of mankind and the fears, loneliness, despair, sorrow and pain; all this complex history is in us. If you know how to read that book then you do not have to read any other book except, for example, books on technology. But we are negligent, not diligent, in learning from ourselves, from our actions, and so we do not see that we are responsible for our actions and for what is happening throughout the world and for what is happening in this unfortunate country. One must put one’s house in order, because nobody on earth, or in heaven, is going to do it for one, neither one’s gurus, nor one’s vows, nor one’s devotion. The way one lives, the way one thinks, the way one acts, is disorderly. How can a mind that is in disorder perceive that which is total order, as the universe is in total order? What has beauty to do with a religious mind? You might ask why all the religious traditions and the rituals never referred to beauty. But the understanding of beauty is part of meditation, not the beauty of a woman or a man or the beauty of a face, which has its own beauty, but about beauty itself, the actual essence of beauty. Most monks, sannyasis and the so-called religiously inclined minds, totally disregard this and become hardened towards their environment. Once it happened that we were staying in the Himalayas with some friends; there was a group of sannyasis in front of us, going down the path, chanting; they never looked at the trees, never looked at the beauty of the earth, the beauty of the blue sky, the birds, the flowers, the running waters; they were totally concerned with their own salvation, with their own entertainment. And that custom, that tradition, has been going on for a thousand years. A man who is supposed to be religious, must shun, put aside, all beauty, and his life becomes dull, without any aesthetic sense; yet beauty is one of the delights of truth. When you give a toy to a child who has been chattering, naughty, playing around, shouting, when you give that child a complicated toy he becomes totally absorbed in it, he becomes very quiet, enjoying the mechanics of it. The child becomes completely concentrated, completely involved with that toy; all the mischief has been absorbed. And we have toys, the toys of ideals, the toys of belief, which absorb us. If you worship an image of all the images on earth none is sacred, they are all made by man’s mind, by his thought then we are absorbed, just as the child is absorbed in a toy, and we become extraordinarily quiet and gentle. When we see a marvelous mountain, snowcapped against the blue sky and the deep shadowed valleys, that great grandeur and majesty absorb us completely; for a moment we are completely silent because its majesty takes us over, we forget ourselves. Beauty is where “you” are not. The essence of beauty is the absence of the self. The essence of meditation is to enquire into the abnegation of the self. One needs tremendous energy to meditate and friction is a wastage of energy. When in one’s daily life there is a great deal of friction, of conflict between people, and dislike of the work which one does, there is a wastage of energy. And to enquire really most profoundly not superficially, not verbally one must go very deeply into oneself, into one’s own mind and see why we live as we do, always wasting energy, for meditation is the release of creative energy. Religion has played an immense part in man’s history. From the beginning of time he has struggled to find truth. And now the accepted religions of the modern world are not religions at all, they are merely the vain repetition of phrases, gibberish and nonsense, a form of personal entertainment without much meaning. All the rituals, all the gods specially in this country where there are, I do not know how many, thousands of gods are invented by thought. All the rituals are put together by thought. What thought creates is not sacred; but we attribute to the created image the qualities that we like that image to have. And all the time we are worshipping, albeit unconsciously, ourselves. All the rituals in the temples, the pujas, and all that thought has invented in the Christian churches, is invented by thought: and that which thought has created we worship. Just see the irony, the deception, the dishonesty, of this. The religions of the world have completely lost their meaning. All the intellectuals in the world shun them, run away from them, so that when one uses the words the `religious mind’, which the speaker does very often, they ask: `Why do you use that word religious?’ Etymologically the root meaning of that word is not very clear. It originally meant a state of being bound to that which is noble, to that which is great; and for that one had to live a very diligent, scrupulous, honest life. But all that is gone; we have lost our integrity. So, if you discard what all the present religious traditions, with their images and their symbols, have become, then what is religion? To find out what a religious mind is one must find out what truth is; truth has no path to it. There is no path. When one has compassion, with its intelligence, one will come upon that which is eternally true. But there is no direction; there is no captain to direct one in this ocean of life. As a human being, one has to discover this. One cannot belong to any cult, to any group whatever if one is to come upon truth. The religious mind does not belong to any organization, to any group, to any sect; it has the quality of a global mind. A religious mind is a mind that is utterly free from all attachment, from all conclusions and concepts; it is dealing only with what actually is; not with what should be. It is dealing every day of one’s life with what is actually happening both outwardly and inwardly; understanding the whole complex problem of living. The religious mind is free from prejudice, from tradition, from all sense of direction. To come upon truth you need great clarity of mind, not a confused mind. So, having put order in one’s life, let us then examine what meditation is, not how to meditate, that is an absurd question. When one asks how, one wants a system, a method, a design carefully laid out. See what happens when one follows a method, a system. Why does one want a method, a system? One thinks it is the easiest way, does one not, to follow somebody who says, `I will tell you how to meditate’. When somebody tells one how to meditate he does not know what meditation is. He who says, `I know’, does not know. One must, first of all, see how destructive a system of meditation is, whether it is any one of the many forms of meditation that appear to have been invented, stipulating how you should sit, how you should breathe, how you should do this, that and the other. Because if one observes one will see that when one practices something repeatedly, over and over again, one’s mind becomes mechanical; it is already mechanical and one adds further mechanical routine to it; so gradually one’s mind atrophies. It is like a pianist continually practicing the wrong note; no music comes of it. When one sees the truth that no system, no method, no practice, will ever lead to truth, then one abandons them all as fallacious, unnecessary… And one must have that complete freedom to come upon that which is eternally true…. The mind must be free, utterly still, not controlled. When the mind is completely religious it is not only free but capable of enquiring into the nature of truth to which there is no guide, no path. It is only the silent mind, the mind that is free, that can come upon that which is beyond time. Have you not noticed if you have observed yourself that your mind is eternally chattering, eternally occupied with something or other? If you are a Sannyasi your mind is occupied with god, with prayers, with this and that. If you are a housewife, your mind is occupied with what you are going to have for the next meal, how to utilize this and that. The businessman is occupied with commerce; the politician with party politics; and the priest is occupied with his own nonsense. So our minds are all the time occupied and have no space. And space is necessary. Space also implies an emptiness, a silence, which has immense energy. You can make your mind silent through taking a drug; you can make your thought slow down and become quieter and quieter by some chemical intake. But that silence is concerned with suppressing sound. Have you ever enquired what it is to have a mind that is naturally, absolutely, silent without a movement, that is not recording except those things that are necessary, so that your psyche, your inward nature, becomes absolutely still? Have you enquired into that; or are you merely caught in the stream of tradition, in the stream of work and worrying about tomorrow? Where there is silence there is space not from one point to another point as we usually think of it. Where there is silence there is no point but only silence. And that silence has that extraordinary energy of the universe. Our deep gratitude to J. Krishnamurti
The Divine Mother has been described in various cultures other than the Indic civilization though this has happened not with the fullest understanding of her nature or charitra. We see this in depictions by aboriginal and matriarchal communities and tribes, in ancient Egypt, in the Japanese culture where she is Kwannon, the Goddess of Compassion, but most prominently perhaps in the denominations of Catholicism and Maryism. For she is the Blessed Virgin who brings forth the Divine Child, the new Adam, conceived without sin. She who intercedes on our behalf unceasingly, whose love and grace permeate even the most rational Christological explanations, even among the Protestants. But to Sanatana Dharma, she is self-evident, inevitable, obvious, as the Mother of God, who is Perpetually Virgin and is Assumed into heaven at the end of her life on earth. There are no acrobatics needed by the Hindu to explain away the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God the Son, the avatar of our psychic being, the sacred heart, who came here to show us how to live out of a new consciousness and bring it alive into the flesh. Jesus thus transformed the commandments of the Old Testament into something radical, spiritual, transformative. And she too is born as a simple woman, yet unique in delivering an avatar into a culture hostile, harsh and dismissive, and presides over his entire journey on earth and thereafter. Her quiet suffering, nay dharana of Jesus’ passion with deep maternal understanding and empathy, her presence through his infancy, adolescence, explorations, trials, crucifixion and resurrection—show her as an avatar of maternal nurture and protection with immense compassion and fortitude in an embrace vast as earth. And she is his true confidante though he has disciples for they are too immature for his depths and who desert him at the slightest appearance of danger to themselves and deny him, though still somewhere somehow learning to love him. As I watched the movie, ‘The Passion of the Christ’, I was moved to see how she holds him as he falls with the crucifix even as he shares with her his last journey. And she protects the body even as he is given up for dead and is there for his victorious re-emergence in a body of light and spirit. As a universal truth established on earth, we see her slowly becoming less and less understood and appreciated as Christianity developed into a religion even though her significance is never truly eliminated. And though there are denominations that still see her as the key intercessor, refuge, advocate, protector and Mediatrix, the new Eve and Co-Redemptrix, she has slowly been relegated to the background in the most theological constructs of the Holy Trinity and the story of the Christ. But if she were not there with the quiet purity of her heart, we would have no Jesus. And an important link in the unfolding of the human spiritual evolution would have been missed. Yes, it may seem strange that a non-Christian honors and adores her. But perhaps this too is a bridge among the various peoples of her earth, in a spirituality beyond religion. It may be time for the more spiritual minds in the West to accept and understand her true universal reality. The Shakti remains unchanged; it is the receiving mind who sees her in images more suited to its conditioning and culture. Without honoring her fully, we remain incomplete as her children. But if she is seen as who she is, in culture after culture, denomination after denomination, perhaps we can prepare the human instrument for her more direct action in the future.
Ask nothing; want nothing in return. Give what you have to give; it will come back to you—but do not think of that now, it will come back multiplied a thousand fold—but the attention must not be on that. Yet have the power to give: give, and there it ends. Learn that the whole of life is giving, that Nature will force you to give. So, give willingly. Sooner or later you will have to give up. You come into life to accumulate. With clenched hands you want to take. But Nature puts a hand on your throat and makes your hands open. Whether you will it or not, you have to give. The moment you say, “I will not”, the blow comes; you are hurt. None is there but will be compelled, in the long run, to give up everything. And the more one struggles against this law, the more miserable one feels. It is because we don’t give, because we are not resigned enough to accede to this grand demand of Nature that we are miserable.. the sun is taking up water from the ocean, to return it in showers. You are a machine for taking and giving: you take in order to give. Ask, therefore nothing in return; but the more you give the more will come to you… It is very difficult, but we can overcome the difficulty by constant practice. We must learn that nothing can happen to us, unless we make ourselves susceptible to it. I have said, no disease can come to me until the body is ready; it does not depend alone in the germs but upon a certain predisposition which is already in the body. We get only that for which we are fitted. Let us give up our pride and understand this, that never is misery undeserved. There never has been a blow underserved; there never has been an evil for which I did not pave the way with my own hand. We ought to know that. Analyze yourselves and you will find that every blow you have received came to you because you prepared yourself for it. You did half, and, the external world did the other half. That is how the blow came. That will sober us down. At the same time, from this very analysis, will come a note of hope, and the note of hope is: I have no control of the external world, but that which is in me and nearer unto me, my own world is in my control. If the two together is required to make a failure, if the two together are necessary to give me a blow, I will not contribute the one which is in my keeping; and how then can the blow come? If I get real control of myself the blow will never come. We are all the time from our childhood trying to lay the blame upon something outside ourselves. We are always standing up to set right other people and not ourselves. If we are miserable, we say ‘Oh the world is a Devil’s world.’ We curse others and say, ‘What infatuated fools!’ But why should we be in such a world if we really are so good? If this is a devil’s world, we must be devils too; why else should we be here? ‘Oh, the people of the world are so selfish!’ true enough; but why should we be found in the company if we be better? Just think of that. We only get what we deserve. It is a lie when we say the world is bad and we are good. It can never be so. It is a terrible lie we tell ourselves. This is the first lesson to learn: to be determined not to curse anything outside, not to lay the blame upon anyone outside, but be a man, stand up, lay the blame on yourself. You will find that is always true. Get hold of yourself. We are to take care of ourselves—that much we can do—and give up attending to others for a time. Let us perfect the means, the end will take care of itself. For the world can be good and pure only if our lives are good and pure. It is an effect, and we are the means. Therefore, let us purify ourselves. Let us make ourselves perfect. From Swami Vivekananda’s “Work & its Secret” Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda
A curious Kali surveys me as I write these words. She reached me recently, unbidden, a gift from a friend whose friend was ordered by his guru to divest himself of all his icons. The sticker beneath Her crimson feet proudly proclaims that She was “hand-molded and fired in India from Ganges River clay.” Those transfiguring hands adeptly crowned and braceleted Her with gold, costuming Her chastely in a golden skirt spangled with red devices, bosoms secured behind a modest bodice. But no human hand can housebreak Kali entirely. Out from that tame blouse surge four black arms, two of which grip a sharp cutlass and a severed human head. A garland of heads festoons Her neck, a wide-awake third eye gazes from Her forehead. Her boldly lolling sanguine-hued tongue testifies most eloquently to a wild nature that knows no regulation but its own. Whatever Her unfathomable purpose, it seems now to please Kali to materialize Herself in the West. Yet to be resolved is how well Her hosts here will realize Whom it is that has descended upon them as their guest. It is easy in the modern world to mistake the external image for its internal substance, particularly when that image is exotic and power-laden, for devis (goddesses) do not appear in the average Westerner’s lexicon. A Calcutta woman once told a Canadian visitor, “Devi is the Sanskrit root of your English word divine, and you still use it today for the closest thing to goddesses your culture can bear to recognize – divas.”  Confusing a prima donna with a divinity is a sorry-enough faux pas, but a sorrier mistake is the wide-spread unconscious belief among our people that acquiring divinity, or at least divine energy, is as easy as procuring a new TV. In India images of Kali or Krishna or Shiva or Ganesha are received into homes with the same affectionate consideration that one would accord any other beloved family member. Once welcomed they quickly become family members themselves, to the extent that they sometimes even become embroiled in domestic dramas. In the West, God’s symbols too often become articles of commerce, like the little Kali that has become my companion of late. They are purchased, placed on shelves, and either expected to perform or ignored entirely. If we here wish to accord Kali and the other members of Her godly family the reception they deserve, and to establish with them relationships that will provide mutual benefit, we will do well to study how to perceive and interact with their shakti. Shakti Shakti is power, energy in both dynamic and static forms (we know its static form better as “matter”). Every imaginable thing and action in the universe arises from, exists in, and eventually returns to the primordial shakti pool. Absolute, unchangeable, permanent, all-pervasive consciousness is the rock upon which the universe stands, and our cosmos and all conceivable cosmoses assemble themselves on that rock from the substance and dynamism of shakti. Shakti makes possible both self-awareness and selfhood, for it is her nature to self-identify. The only difference between Adya, the foundation shakti of the universe, and you or me is that Adya identifies Herself with the Universal Totality, and we have become individuals within that totality. A relatively more or less better-developed sense of I-ness will produce relatively more or less sophisticated and complex individuals, but the “I-creating” power is fundamentally the same in every individual, stallion or star. Adya and Her creations remain perpetually in motion, transforming and being transformed ceaselessly so long as the cosmos endures. Adya’s aim is to so contrive reality that consciousness may project into matter in ever-greater degrees of refinement. Bewildering in Her stupendous diversity, perplexing in her incorporation of both consciousness and ignorance into Her being, that Shakti who is the Totality of all shaktis partitions Herself to perform Her work. All Her subordinate shaktis can however be classified into one of two configurations: Chit Shakti or Maya Shakti. Chit Shakti and Maya Shakti My mentor, the Aghori Vimalananda, explained the relationship between these two shaktis thus: Chit Shakti (the power of consciousness or subjectivity) identifies with the Unmanifested Absolute, and Maya Shakti (the power of unconsciousness or objectivity) identifies with the world, the manifestation of the Absolute. These two Shaktis cannot exist without one another. Even in the grossest matter there is a spark of consciousness – this is why I say that even rocks are alive – and even in the highest states of consciousness there is a particle of Maya, as long as there is even the least sense of individuality. Once you learn the truth of the universe, you forget your own individuality, and remember your true nature; only then, when you no longer exist, does Maya no longer exist for you. Unity and duality exist in every human simultaneously, the One pervading the All and the All defining the One. Intelligence and sensation arise wherever Chit Shakti predominates, and ignorance and insensibility lead wherever Maya rules. The more you identify with your individuality, your microcosm, the more your shakti will function as your own personal Maya and the less She will reflect awareness of the macrocosm. As you identify less with your individuality you free your self-identifying power to reflect more of the reality of unalloyed consciousness, to increase her awareness of the One. The human spine and spinal cord extend consciousness from the brain, the pole of greatest awareness that is called Shiva, to the coccyx, the pole of greatest density. Each bodily cell expresses its own sort of consciousness according to its own capacity. So long as your personal shakti busies itself predominantly with creating and reinforcing your limited human personality by self-identifying with your physical and mental attributes we call it ahamkara (ego). At the base of the spinal cord in the subtle body lies the residual shakti of individuation, an energy which remains unavailable to the individual so long as his or her consciousness remains firmly entrenched in the mundane. This energy is our personal fragment of the cosmic power of self-identification. When ahamkara begins to awaken from its ‘sleep’ of self-delusion it takes on a new name: Kundalini. Ahamkara connotes Maya Shakti, and Kundalini, Chit Shakti. Ahamkara and Kundalini are two forms of the same power, manifested in different directions for opposing purposes. Maya Shakti keeps us awake to the world and asleep to the Absolute, while Chit Shakti awakens us to Reality and puts us to sleep with regard to worldly matters. The consciousness of any living being is conditioned by the matter in which it resides, and the Maya of the matter that makes up our bodies is some of the greatest Maya that humans experience. So long as we live the embodied life each one of us participates in the play of Nature, binding ourselves to the world by the ‘things’ we accrete in our personalities. No incarnate being ever quite becomes wholly spiritual, for some Maya will remain with you so long as you remain embodied. Those who shout, “Beware of Maya!” malign Maya, for the universe always gives us what we ask for. When we call on the Goddess to ask Her for mundane boons, which bind us to limited forms, She appears to us as Maya; when we pray to Her power and energy She manifests as Shakti; and to those few who relate to Her maternally she reveals Herself as Ma, God the Mother. Those who remain stuck in Maya do so because they fail to redirect their urge to individuation from Maya to Chit; they are carried along by the current of their karmas, and the karmic currents of those near and dear to them. Those who learn to define themselves eventually begin to define their surroundings. Some of the greatest explorers of Chit develop a self-expression of such accuracy and force that they become true wonder-workers. We who look at Kali commonly look with eyes that blend Chit with Maya. Eyes of pure Chit would see Her purely, but eyes impregnated with Maya see Her in an assortment of imperfect ways. Cultural conditioning tends to promote Maya, and simply because an Indian’s perspective on the Goddess differs from yours does not mean it must be accurate. In fact, the very familiarity that Indians enjoy with the Maya of their culture often precludes them from easily transcending it. For example, the Goddess Kali is always depicted with a lallajjihva, a “lolling tongue”. What this tongue will represent to you will depend greatly on the intentions you have for approaching Kali, for your intentions will strongly influence the way in which you see Her. The Tantras, for example, declare that Kali’s long tongue luxuriates in the licking up of ritual offerings; the Puranas propose that Her lingua is ever vigilant to lap up the blood of demons. Some Yogis assert that Her lallajjihva is a mudra, a method of controlling and channeling prana that She means us to copy. But ask some modern-day Bengalis why Kali’s tongue dangles outside Her mouth and they will tell you that it lolls in shame. The same primness of mind that thinks it necessary to hide Kali’s breasts behind a bustier explains that Kali’s tongue makes visible the embarrassment She feels to be standing atop her husband in the culturally unseemly sexual position known as viparita-rati. Many Indians stick out their tongues and pretend to bite them when admitting to a gaffe, and when the popular Maya noted the visual identity of these two grimaces it mistakenly inferred for them identity of meaning. Deity images must be read like a poem, or (better yet) like a horoscope. There may be many possible ways to interpret what is read, but to be valuable any reading needs to resolve any seeming contradictions (like the apparition of Kali both wearing a necklace of severed heads and displaying the abhayamudra, the gesture that offers protection). To try to turn a blood-drinking goddess into a Bengali housewife is however as impossible as trying to transform a tiger into a cow. At least Indians have cultural contexts for their interpretations, and twist what they see into what they want to see out of motives that are commonly founded in sincere love. Kali’s image will seem wholly alien to most Westerners, many of whom will run for cover when the black thunderbolt that is Kali bursts into their sight. If they are willing to stop, look at and listen to Her, however, they may be able to see Her with fresh, innocent eyes. Lakshmi, Sarasvati and Kali Kali is one personality of the multiform personality that is Adya. Adya, the original shakti, the foundation of everything, projected from the Absolute, and owes Her very existence to that Absolute. No matter how extensive Her manifestation may become, She continually craves reunion with the Absolute, and when She merges again with the Absolute the universe dissolves. Adya, Ma, Great Goddess: call Her what you will, She is Nature itself, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universes. The job of Nature (in Sanskrit, prakriti) is to give form and limits to consciousness, to finitize awareness. In the human context prakriti represents your ‘first action’ (pra+krti), the choice of action which you naturally, instinctively make when you are confronted by a need to act. This innate ‘nature,’ which is inborn in each of us, present in our genetic material, controls how we experience the world. Until you have conquered this innate nature, you will have to experience its many limitations. In Sanskrit we say, svabhavo vijayati iti shauryam: “the true heroism is to conquer your own nature”. Only the ‘nature’ of Adya Herself (which is Nature itself) is unlimited; everyone else’s ‘nature’ (and experience) is limited. Though it is almost unlimited (and is almost infinitely less limited than is any human’s nature) Kali’s ‘nature’ is predominantly restricted to death and transformation. Kali therefore often appears as one of a triumvirate of goddesses who divide among themselves all substance and action in the cosmos. Kali’s companions in this group are Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Sarasvati, goddess of knowledge. Lakshmi, the embodiment of Maya Shakti, represents the projection of shakti into the adhibhautika, the physical, external world. Sarasvati’s shakti, which encourages the progressive transformation of Maya into Chit, manifests in the adhyatmika, the spiritual, which is subtle, ethereal. Kali exists in the astral world, the adhidaivika realm of impressions, perceptions and images that exists where Chit Shakti sports between the physical and spiritual spheres. What you will get out of your life will depend in great measure on what kind of shakti you invite into it. Lakshmi, the most fixed and pre-determined of these shaktis, is ultimately the most limited. Lakshmi can often give you quick results, but those results may also quickly dissipate; “easy come, easy go.” Most humans are already stuck in physical awareness and are accordingly attracted strongly to Lakshmi. Sarasvati is superior to Lakshmi because money can buy you teachers but it cannot make you learn. If you possess knowledge, though, and know how to wield it you can use your knowledge to create wealth. Sarasvati can make you artistic, graceful and cultured in thought, word and deed, while Lakshmi can do no more than make you rich. Today almost everyone is interested in the Maya of money and other forms of obtainable wealth, and they want to gain their prosperity in the quickest, easiest way possible. Relatively few people nowadays are interested in creating knowledge, which is the source of wealth, for the wealth that is knowledge is subtler (and so slipperier) and less easily obtainable than money. Almost no one is interested to trace wealth knowledge to its source, to focus on knowledge’s essence instead of what is produced from that essence. To locate the essence of knowledge you must plumb the adhidaivika, the astral world, a world that is very difficult for most humans to comprehend. The adhidaivika, where the gods and goddesses (the embodiments of cosmic forces that have assumed personalities in order to interact with other beings) reside, is Kali’s playground. It is easy to possess and transfer the crudest forms of shakti, like money. Obtaining or transferring knowledge shakti is harder work, but is still quite doable by most people. Astral shakti, however, resists being possessed, transferred, organized, or even understood. It must instead be imaged. If you can create and bring to life an image of Kali within you and let that image carry you into the astral world you can experience something of what Kali experiences. It is almost impossible for a human being to “know” Kali – but it is possible to become Her. Shava You cannot look at Kali with the same human eyes that you might train on Lakshmi or Sarasvati, for Kali can be seen clearly only with astral eyes. The easiest way to gain astral vision is to die, to disengage your personal shakti from your limited personality and lay it at Kali’s feet for Her to transform. To transmute ahamkara (Maya) into Kundalini (Chit) is to die to your human individuality and be reborn into something new. Kali stands atop the corpse of Her consort Shiva, prodding him into life (and erection) with Her foot at His heart. The human body is itself a cosmos, which suggests that to sit or stand on a corpse is to sit or stand on (= to conquer) that cosmos. Without shakti there is no universe, and no Shiva. When shiva (auspiciousness) is without shakti He becomes shava (corpse). So long as Kundalini remains asleep at the base of the spine an individual remains a shava (corpse); once She begins to awaken, Shiva is reborn. Vimalananda made it a point to look at everyone he met as a skeleton, because as he said “until a person’s Kundalini Shakti awakens and begins to dance on Her Shiva, that person is as good as dead.” As the concentrated Chit Shakti that is Kundalini awakens within, the Maya of the matter that makes up our bodies, a Maya that steadfastly resists spiritual transformation, finally begins to diminish. Kali is often depicted in the posture called pratyalidha, with Her left knee advanced and her right leg drawn back. In this position Her left foot can prod Her Shiva into wakefulness. Pratyalidha and its opposite, the alidha stance (right knee advanced, left drawn back) both come from a Sanskrit root which means “lapped up, licked, tongue applied to, eaten.” What She eats, with Her tongue, Her eyes, and Her very pose, is your Ahamkara Shakti, your energy of self. Since the chief expression of shakti in the physical body is prana, the life force, the power which keeps body, mind and spirit functioning together as a living unit, what Kali eats as you worship Her is your prana. Physical life, health and longevity require that ahamkara self-identify strongly with your organism to permit prana to enliven your body. Spiritual health requires ahamkara to relinquish most of this attachment, and Kali is happy to help you actively relinquish it. The chief carrier of prana in the body is blood, so when you see blood dripping from Kali’s tongue you should see that blood as the prana of Her devotees, offered to Her to transmute. Do not make the mistake that so many Kali worshipers have made, and think to ingratiate yourself with Her by offering Her the blood of innocent animals. What She craves is your blood (your prana) that She may truly bring you to life. Shiva Blood is intoxicating, and thanks to its intoxication Kali is attahasa (loudly laughing). Her frequent draughts of gore send Kali into a frenzy of violent paroxysms of almost unbearably deafening wild laughter as She stands in the smashana (cremation ground). Worshippers of Kali often perform their adoration in smashanas as they contemplate the inferno of a funeral pyre. They fill their senses with the reality of death: its sights (fires, broken bangles, roving dogs snatching stray roasted limbs), smells (barbecuing meat, suffocating smoke), and sounds (the roar of flames, the cries of anguish). In the smashana it is easy to taste the bliss of the thrill of freedom from the Maya of the body, and sincere devotees of Kali interiorize these sensations that they may experience them palpably within even when they are elsewhere. When out of love for Kali devotees make cremation grounds of their hearts they begin to feel the touch of Her divine foot there, and they come to life. Then they, male and female alike, feel the reality of Shiva’s erect penis within them. This is the reality of urdhvaretas, a state in which sexual energy flows back up the spine instead of down and out through the genitals. Then they, too, laugh like Kali laughs, with the bliss of the freedom she has bestowed upon them, and the joy of the heroism of conquering their own natures. But no sincere devotee of Kali, or of one of Her blood-drinking sisters like Tara or Chinnamasta, wants to become lost in sensation. Losing control and getting carried away can lead to intoxication with blood instead of with Kali. This danger chiefly emerges in cultists who do not permit Kali access to the innermost portions of their being. If you surrender to Her wholly, success becomes certain; if your surrender is imperfect, tragedy becomes likely. Vimalananda, like others who offer their all to their Goddesses, always attributed his every success to his beloved Tara: “It is beyond me to do anything. Only Ma can do it; She does it all. This is the foundation of all my confidence in my abilities. Do I have any capabilities? Ha! Everything is from Ma.” Vimalananda, an Aghori, deliberately exposed himself to all that is ghora (terrible, terrifying) in life in order to make it aghora (not terrible, not terrifying) to his awareness. If you are not ready to follow in his steps and meditate atop corpses while eating and drinking from a human skull, you are in good company. Millions of people eschew the fury of the charnel ground for the milder, gentler path of uninterrupted devotion towards Kali, and She rewards each of them according to the degree of their devotion. What you obtain in life will depend in great measure on what kind of shakti you invite into it. Kali takes Her mission to kill and transform seriously, as should everyone who approaches Her. Come to Her with humility, and She will infuse you with new vitality when you need it most. Come to Her flippantly, and if you are very lucky She will ignore your insolence instead of reprimanding you. Scheme to manipulate Her power and She will give you a good long karmic rope with which to hang yourself. But take some time and effort to learn about Her; visit Her in Her home (be it cemetery or smashana), and treat Her as your beloved mother, and She will do anything for you. Once She has taken you on as Her child you will find that wherever you go She will have gone there first to prepare a warm reception for you. Learn to see Her in every transformation – a blood-red sunset (the temporary “death” of the sun), an autumn day (the “dying” of the year) – and you will never be apart from Her. Open your heart to Her, and She will never let you go. Wherever you look there She or one of Her handmaidens will be, taking delight in surprising you with visits just when you least anticipate them. Maybe She will appear to you in a dream or vision, or maybe someone will unexpectedly bring you an image of Her. As I gaze at the little image of Kali still standing demurely at my left hand I think of how kind Ma Kali was to notice that I was planning to write this article, and that I would need some inspiration for it. But then, that is the kind of relationship She & I have, one of mutual support, mutual nourishment, and mutual love. This is the kind of relationship that anyone can have with Kali, anyone who is willing to come to Her as naked of psychology and preconceptions as the day that they will die. The one absolute certainty we have in our lives is the certainty that we will someday die, and the one absolute uncertainty we enjoy is the uncertainty of when that day will arrive. Come to Kali and die while you are still alive, that you may live out the rest of your life in Her lap, ready to go whenever your time may come. Copyright © 1997, Robert Edwin Svoboda With deep gratitude to Robert Svoboda for this beautiful description of Ma Kali. Original Article 1 Tim Ward, Arousing the Goddess, Somerville House Publishing, Toronto, 1996 p. 204 2 Robert Svoboda, Aghora II: Kundalini, Brotherhood of Life, Albuquerque, 1994, p. 53
Deepavali, literally, row of Lights, the annual festival of lights and fireworks in India, and now known the world over, wherever there are Indians. It is an old festival, its roots going far back in time. The story has come down through generations that when Sri Rama returned to Ayodhya after completing fourteen years in exile, everyone in the city celebrated his return by lighting lamps. Light has always been an auspicious symbol in Sanatan Dharma, and indeed for almost all religions. But there is a deeper story here, a more evocative symbolism. Sri Rama is the avatar of the Divine. And as all avatars, he resides as the inmost Light in all of us, deep in our hearts. This is the true meaning of avataran, the descent of the Divine into the Human. Long before the outer form of the avatar is visible to our eyes, he has already descended into the secret caves of our hearts, the hridaye guhayam, and is secretly preparing the grounds for his avataric work, a work that involves every one of us, whether we know it or not. But awareness of the Avatar in our hearts is difficult for our sense-driven minds. We always look outward. The lure of the sense objects and the charms of the outer world are always strong, and the pull of the ego is irresistible. We cannot acknowledge the Lord in our hearts, we cannot revere the godhead in our souls, and so, unwittingly, sadly, we exile the Divine from our beings into the outer forests of our lives. So Sri Rama’s exile is, in a much deeper sense, our own exile. It is we who go wandering into the forests, those thick and dark forests of our desires and fears. And it is in those formidable forests that we lose Sita to Ravana. Sita, who always returns, age after age, lifetime after lifetime, into our hearts and souls, as the crystalline pure love for the Divine Beloved: Sri Rama in one epoch, Sri Krishna in another. How does it matter if the names and forms change? The inner, that which is the true and infallible base of all our existence here on earth, remains the same, ever, through the roll of time and ages. Sita is the Divine Love seated secret in our inmost being. Each time our hearts rise up to the Godhead, in this form or that, it is Sita, and it is Radha, who rises in us, as pure flame of love and aspiration, quietly and blissfully, penetrating through all the outer layers and coverings of our unregenerate and stubborn earthly nature, of our clamorous ego, drunk with the pride and arrogance of the small self. Ravana is not out there, that ten-headed monstrosity that we burn each Dusshera. Ravana is that ego, the ten-headed asura, hidden deep in the folds of our own being, one head in the buddhi, another in the chitta, one in the heart, another in the prana, each head symbolizing a power of our own consciousness, Ravana plunges into our beings, in joyful abandon, and takes Sita captive, and this inner drama is repeated every time we surrender to the ego in us, and exile the Divine. Ravana, mind you, does not look hideous at all. He looks charming, like a prince, which he indeed is, a veritable prince of darkness. His words enchant, his voice mesmerizes. His eyes penetrate deep, as if looking into your inmost secrets. Before you know it, you have lost your balance, you have gone on a wild chase following a scent and a sight which you will never trace to the source. Such are the mysteries of the dark forests. And, in a trice, Sita is abducted. And all you hear is a soft whisper of prayer. Rama’s struggle, then, is against the forces of our own nature. Make no mistake about it, he doesn’t fight the asura. He fights us, within ourselves. Each time. Repeatedly. The epic battle rages within us, in our hearts and souls, in our minds, in our bodies. Each part of our being is one front for the battle. On each front we are fronted by one of the asura’s heads. And we get taken in only because all those heads look so much like our own in that dim light of our hearts. But the Divine cannot be defeated. The victory is assured, now or in another hundred years — what does it matter in cosmic time? When Sri Rama wills the victory, victory it shall be, no matter how many Ravanas stand ranged against him. When Sri Krishna wills victory, victory again it shall be, no matter how many Naraksuras rise against him. For the asuras rise and fall by the will of the Divine, and behind all those numerous risings of the asuras is a deeper mystery and purpose, something still to be unearthed from the pits of the forests that engulf us in our own exiles. But the battle will be won. Eventually. Inevitably. The forests will burn, the blaze will illumine the dark. Sri Rama will return from exile. Sri Krishna will return to his rightful throne in his rightful kingdom. The exile will end. For each exile returns the godhead to itself. And so Sri Rama returns to Ayodhya, that real Ayodhya deep in our beings, that sacred invincible space that lives in each of us — ayodhya, that which cannot be attacked or vanquished. And when Sri Rama walks down the gold paved path of this Ayodhya, deeper into our hearts, we light a lamp to express our gratitude, our prayer, our love. And we seek to become that lamp, that deepa, that we must kindle with our own sacred agni, that same agni lit by our ancestors, our forefathers, our Maharishis, age after age, that same agni brought down by the ancient gods from those high regions that have now receded in time and consciousness. And this lighting of the lamp must be understood for what it is — an act of profound reverence, an act that symbolically connects us in spirit to the primordial agni, that first explosion of Light from the womb of the Unknown. It is thus that we can become the act and the symbol, embody consciously that illumination that cannot be extinguished. And, secure in that knowing, we bow in love and gratitude, as Sri Rama returns with Sita beside him, for Sita too is the eternal. Do not misunderstand that ancient event, that beautiful metaphor, of Sita descending into the earth and disappearing. Sita does not disappear, nor does she despair. Sita’s love for Sri Rama is not subject to time or circumstances, politics or culture. Sita’s love is sanatan, eternal and universal. She loves Him not just for herself but for each one of us, for all embodied life that must live through a thousand agni-parikshas, a thousand trials by fire, where many shall burn to ash, and many shall be redeemed by fire. The fire that consumes is also the fire that purifies and restores. When we burn in the living flames of our inner hells, it is that Love of hers for Sri Rama that can keep us from burning to ash. And when the fire purifies and redeems, transforming a part of us into pure flame, it is that Love of hers for Sri Rama that keeps us from melting into the transmuting furnace. So Sita’s descent into earth is her secret descent into the terrestrial body, into our bodies, for the terrestrial body, this body of earth, is one. She does not disappear, for she who is born of fire and earth returns to fire and earth, resplendent with her love for Sri Rama. And so, deepavali. The spiritual, the inner deepavali. The row of lamps signifying those inner states of being that must be brought to the light of consciousness in each of us — benevolence, humility, gratitude, purity, peace, joy. These inner states are auspicious, divine; and to invoke these is to invoke Sri, the Divine’s sweet grace and splendor. Sri, this grace and splendor of the Divine, is not outside of us, it arises from within, of itself, when we light those symbol lamps in our consciousness. One by one. Carefully, with sincerity that burns all the dross, with love that consumes the ego. One by one. Mindfully. Prayerfully. Then deepavali happens. The real deepavali. The night lights up and dances with joy, the joy of divinity, the joy of utter self-giving. In that dance of joy, the Mother descends as Lakshmi, the godhead of prosperity and wealth. For wealth is always spiritual first, so is prosperity. The material wealth and prosperity are but inevitable expressions of the spiritual wealth, the spiritual grace. We have forgotten this over the ages. We have turned outward, we invoke the Grace in external forms, through external rituals. The true deepavali is a reversal: a turning inward, lighting the lamps of consciousness with the inner agni of our aspiration for the Divine — Thou, thou alone, Mother. The true invocation, not for wealth, not for health, not for mangalam, but for the Mother Herself, for Sri to descend into our lives. Then, no other mantra or worship is needed. Our call, ever so softly whispered in our own hearts, becomes the mantra; our love for Her, however delicate, however frail, becomes the worship, the puja. Then deepavali happens — in us, and in the world outside. The true deepavali then is our conscious offering to the Light, to that Light which is the foremost symbol of the Divine Truth, to that Light which returns us eternally to the very source of all life in the universe: to that undying Light of godhead in us, may our prayers and offerings go forth.
Philosophy is a game for people who are not thirsty. Religion is the journey of those who are thirsty. Therefore philosophy plays with words; not so religion. Religion takes cognizance of the hints the words give and follows them. When the quest is for the lake, what can the word lake do? When the search is for life, the word life alone sounds hollow. Let us understand a little about a profound question facing the philosopher. A tourist comes to India and he is given a map of India. What is the relationship between India and the map? If the map is the same as India then it must be as vast. If it is exactly like India, it would be useless, because you couldn’t carry it in your car, much less put it in your pocket. If it is not like India, how can it still be useful? The map is a symbol. It is not like India and yet by means of its lines, it conveys useful information about India. You may roam the whole of India without ever seeing a map of India. Wherever you go you will find India; the map is nowhere to be seen. But if you have the map with you and understand it and use it, the journey will be made easier. By either keeping the map in your pocket, or by looking at the map and never leaving your room, you will not learn a great deal. Both together make for the fullest understanding of the experience. Religious people the world over hold the maps to their chests as if the maps were the actuality, the totality. Scriptures, holy books, images, temples — all contain hidden pointers that keep the maps from being just a burden. The Hindu is carrying his load of maps, the Mohammedan his, the Christian his. The maps have become so numerous that the journey is now almost impossible, so weighted down are you by maps. The maps should be short, abridged, and they are not to be worshipped in themselves, but to be utilized on the journey. Nanak drew his essentials from both the Hindu and the Mohammedan religions. He cannot be called Hindu nor Mohammedan; he is both or neither. It was very difficult for people to understand Nanak. There was a saying: “Baba Nanak is the king of the fakirs. He is the guru of the Hindus and the saint of the Mohammedans.” He is both. Of his two special disciples, Mardana and Bala, one was Hindu and the other a Mohammedan. Yet Nanak has no place in the Hindu temple or in the Mohammedan mosque. Both doubt his position and do not know where to place him. Nanak is the confluence of the two rivers, of Hinduism and Islam. He harvested the essence from both. Therefore the Sikh is neither Hindu nor Mohammedan; they must be both or none since their religion arises out of their junction. Now it is difficult to understand this confluence; when there is a river on the map it is clear-cut, but here two rivers have become one. Some words relate to Islam while others reflect Hinduism, and together they became hazy, but gradually the fog clears when you enter into the experience. If you keep Nanak’s words on your chest as you do other scriptures, it becomes like any other holy book — and we do find the Sikh worshipping his words as if they were the guru. Is it not astonishing how we repeat our mistakes? Nanak went to Mecca. The priests there told him to be careful not to point his feet toward Kaaba while he slept. As the story goes, Nanak’s reply was that they should turn his feet where God was not, and, it is said, the holy stone of Mecca turned wherever they turned his feet. The symbolism means only this: wherever you turn your feet, there God is. Where will you put your feet if He is omnipresent? I was invited to the Golden Temple at Amritsar. When I went they stopped me at the entrance saying I must cover my head before entering the place of God. I reminded them of the incident with Nanak at Kaaba and asked them, “Does it mean that right here where I stand with my head uncovered, there is no God, no temple?” We keep on repeating our mistakes. I further asked, “Then please show me a place where I can be without a head-covering. And don’t you remove your turbans while bathing, and while sleeping? Then isn’t that also an affront to the Lord?” Man’s foolishness is the same everywhere. Whatever Buddha says, his followers paint with their own brush to suit them. And so also with Nanak. The same web is woven once a master has pronounced his words, because man’s foolishness has not changed, nor has his deafness improved. He hears, but he draws his own individual conclusions which he then follows accordingly, never putting into practice what he actually hears. Nanak says, no matter how many songs are sung about the Lord, nobody has covered it completely. Different people sing different songs because there are many paths to reach Him. However antithetical their songs may seem there is no contradiction anywhere because they all contain the same message. The Vedas say exactly what the Koran says, but the method by which Mohammed reached is different from Patanjali’s approach. Buddha also says the same thing but his method is entirely different. Infinite are the gates to His abode. Whichever way you go leads to His gate. Once arrived you can begin to define the gate through which you entered, and describe the path you have trodden. Another person will likewise describe his own door and his road. Besides, it is not only the path that differs, but your understanding, your perception, your emotional attitude all play a significant part. When a poet enters a garden, he sings in ecstasy; an artist would paint a picture; if a flower-merchant comes along, he will think in terms of sale and profit; a scientist will analyze the flowers or soil to find out their chemical composition and why they grow; a drunk will be oblivious to the beauty around him, he will not even know that he went through a garden. Whatever you see passes through the windows of your own eyes which impose their own color on everything. Says Nanak: Some sing the praise of His power — He is all powerful, omnipotent. Some sing of His benefaction and munificence — He is the supreme giver. Some sing of the glory of His attributes, His beauty — He is the most beautiful. Some call Him Truth, some call Him Shiva, some call Him the beautiful.” Rabindranath has written: “I found Him in beauty.” This says nothing of God; rather, it tells of Rabindranath. Gandhi says: “For me, He is truth — truth is God.” This speaks of Gandhi rather than of God. Rabindranath is a poet; for a poet God resides in beauty, supreme beauty. Gandhi was no poet, he is practical, and it is natural that such a mind sees God as truth. From the point of a lover — He is the beloved. How we see Him reflects our insight. He is everything simultaneously and also — none of these. In this context Mahavira’s reflection is wonderful. He says, “Unless and until your sense of vision drops, you cannot know Him.” For whatever you will know, you will know through your own seeing; it will be your view of knowing. Mahavira calls his method no-view. Seeing only occurs when all vision drops. But then you will lapse into silence, because how will you speak without a viewpoint? When you are freed of your vision, you will become like Him; because you will be so extensive, so comprehensive, you will be one with the open skies. How will you speak? You will no longer be separate unto yourself, but one with the absolute. A viewpoint means that you stand apart from what you see; to have a viewpoint means that you are separate from Him. Therefore Nanak says that all the viewpoints are correct but none is complete; when the partial is proclaimed as complete and perfect, the illusions begin. Any sect or organization claims one particular incomplete vision as perfect. One sect stands against another, whereas all sects are different aspects of religion, and no one sect is a religion. If we were to amalgamate all possible sects that have been, that are and that will be, then religion would be born. No sect on its own can be called religion. The word for sect in Hindi, sampradaya, also means the path, that which takes you to the goal; whereas religion, dharma, means the destination. The destination is one, the paths, many. Our deepest gratitude to Osho
This year, while I was leading a retreat in the Netherlands and a Day of Mindfulness in Belgium, I learned that our Dharma Teacher Karl Schmied died in Germany. He was a good Dharma Teacher… Karl’s dharma name was True Dharma Eyes. Thay transmitted the lamp to him to be a lay Dharma Teacher of Plum Village. After that, Karl led many retreats in Austria, Germany, Italy, and so on. I remember one time after Karl’s first retreat, he said goodbye to us in order to go to a business meeting in the South of Germany. I asked him whether it was possible not to go to the meeting and attend the second retreat. He said, “No, it is not possible.” But when I finished the orientation talk at the second retreat, I saw that he was sitting in the crowd. It turned out that while driving, he was reflecting on what Thay had said during the first retreat, that you have to learn how to release your cows. If you have too many cows to take care of, then you have no time. Many of you may not have heard about cow releasing. The story is like this: One day the Buddha was sitting with his monks in the woods. They had just finished their mindful lunch and were about to start a question and answer session. A peasant passed by and asked the Buddha, “Dear monk, have you seen my cows passing by here?” The Buddha said, “What cows?” “My cows, six of them, I don’t know why but this morning they all ran away. I had also cultivated three acres of sesame seeds, but this year the insects ate them all. I think I am going to kill myself. I have lost everything!” The Buddha said, “Dear friend, we have not seen your cows passing by here. You better look for them in the other direction.” After the farmer had gone, the Buddha looked at his monks and smiled and said, “My dear friends, do you know that you are lucky, you do not have any cows to lose.” Sometimes, we possess a number of things, and we think that these possessions are very crucial to our happiness, our safety. But if you look deeply, you’ll see that maybe what you possess are obstacles for your happiness. If you know how to let them go, to release your cow, happiness becomes possible. During the Dharma talk, I advised people to write down the names of their cows on a sheet of paper and to look deeply to see whether they are truly essential for their happiness. Otherwise, they should learn to release their cows. You have an idea as to how you can be happy, and you are stuck in that idea. That idea is a cow, a big cow. If you cannot get that position, you cannot be happy, that is a cow, a big cow. If you cannot get that diploma, you suffer all your life, and this is a cow. Sometimes, our cow is our belief in a kind of doctrine, a kind of ideology. You think that happiness will not be possible without that doctrine, that ideology. There are countries that hold onto their ideology for fifty years, seventy years. They suffer a lot before they can release their cow. So the most difficult cow to release is your idea about your happiness. And there are other cows around you, you think that you cannot survive without these cows. But in fact you suffer because of them. So halfway to the meeting, Karl decided to release his cow, he made a U-turn and came back to the retreat. We all suffered when we learned that he died. But looking deeply, we see that he continues to be there in other form, because what he had done, had said, are still there – those are his continuation. He continues to build the Sangha. He continues to serve as the ground of the practice. So it is not true that after death he does not continue. We continue with our karma. When you produce a thought, that thought bears your signature – that is your continuation. When you say something, that statement carries your signature – that is your continuation. When you do something, the action also carries your signature – that is your continuation. Whether we continue beautifully or not is up to us. If you produce beautiful thoughts, speech and actions, then your continuation will be beautiful. Every one of us cares about a beautiful continuation. I myself also care about a beautiful continuation. The disintegration of this body does not mean the end of me, no. It is like my pot of tea. There are tea leaves inside. When I pour hot water in it, the essence, the most essential of the tea comes out into the water, and I drink the tea. When I pour hot water for the second time, the tea becomes weaker and I still enjoy it. But if you keep pouring new hot water, then the tea leaves that remain have lost most of the essence. The tea I drink may continue in the form of a poem, in the form of a thought, in the form of a Dharma Talk. If you look deeply, you’ll see the continuation of the tea. What is left in the teapot is not truly the tea anymore. It is just a little bit of residue that you can put in the ground to nourish plants. So when we die, the disintegration of this body is only the residue, not much. The best things in us have gone in terms of karma – in terms of thought, speech and action – and that is our true continuation. So we should care about our continuation by taking care of our thought, our speech, and our action. Because nothing is lost, rien ne se perdre. This is true. That kind of energy will come together and that will allow us to manifest again as a continuation. So, to die does not mean that from something you become nothing, from someone you become no one. That is not true. We should have time to reflect on that. To die, in our minds, means that from someone, you suddenly become no one. That is not the truth. It is not true that from something you become nothing. When you look deeply into something like a cloud, you see that the nature of the cloud is the nature of no birth and no death. What does it mean to be born? In our mind, to be born means that from nothing, we suddenly become something. From no one, we suddenly become someone. That is our definition of birth. But looking deeply, practicing meditation, you see that there is nothing like that in the world. A cloud does not come from nothing. A cloud is a continuation of the water in the lake, in the ocean; a continuation of heat and so on. So the birth of a cloud means manifestation, a new manifestation. When a cloud dies, what does it mean? A cloud cannot die, a cloud can only become something else, like rain, hale, snow, ice, or tea. A cloud cannot just become nothing. Imagine a cloud floating in the sky and half of it begins to be transformed into rain. Visualize the half cloud looking down and see half of herself becoming a stream of water and the cloud is smiling to herself in her new manifestation. Nothing is lost. To be a cloud floating in the sky is beautiful. To become the rain falling on the hills, on the grass, becoming one with the river is also wonderful. Why are we afraid of dying? There is no death. There is only transformation, new manifestation. You should have the time to look deeply. There is a fear that one day we will get old, we will die, and that is why the practice of meditation, the practice of deep looking can help us transcend birth and death. When I was a novice monk, I thought it was a difficult practice. But as I grew up, I see that it is not so difficult. You might touch your immortality, your nature of no birth and no death, just by looking deeply. Scientists, if they do well, can also find that truth. The French scientist Lavoisier said that nothing is born, nothing dies. He practiced looking deeply into matter, and realized that “Rien ne se créer, rien ne se perdre.” If it is so, why should we be afraid of being born or dying? Looking at anything, like a flower, a cloud, or a bird, you can touch the nature of no birth and no death, and that is the ultimate aim of Buddhist meditation – to touch your own nature of no birth and no death. With that kind of realization, fear is no longer in us. True happiness can only be there when there is no fear. With fear inside, true happiness will not be possible. So apparently, there is birth and death, but touching things deeply, we see they are only appearances, only manifestations. A cloud does not really die. A cloud, although having disappeared from the sky, is still there in its new form, be it rain or snow. That is why when you drink your tea or when you drink your water, if you can see the cloud in the tea and in the water, you begin to see the truth. That is why it is good to have the time to sit down and practice looking deeply at the nature of ourselves, the nature of reality, the true nature of no birth and no death. Siddhartha sat at the foot of a Banyan tree, and practiced deep looking. He found out that transcending birth and death is possible. With that non-fear in him, he was able to share his wisdom to help people transform their suffering. So to die means you stop one form of manifestation in order to begin another form of manifestation, and you can do it joyfully. When the cloud is about to be transformed into rain, if it is aware that being a cloud is wonderful, and being the rain is also wonderful, the cloud can fall down as rain, singing. To be a leaf on the branch is wonderful, and to fall down to become the earth and nourish the tree is also wonderful. No sorrow is needed. If during our lifetime we do not have time to contemplate these basic issues, it would be a pity. It would be a pity that we are so preoccupied with small issues like paying the telephone bills, the taxes, and so on. So we should arrange our lives so that we have the time to enjoy the practice of looking deeply. We know that when our mind is free from anger, fear, jealously, it is more serene, calm, and concentrated. With that, we can have a breakthrough into the heart of reality, because our afflictions prevent us from seeing things clearly. When you are angry, when you are fearful, you are not calm, you are not lucid. That is why practicing calming, practicing transforming the afflictions help you to have the kind of mind that is capable of discovering the truth. We should also tell our friends who are researching in science that they should know that transforming their afflictions is a very important aspect of research. If their mind is clouded with anger and fear, they cannot see things clearly because the mind is the most basic instrument for research. You might create a lot of instruments, like the microscopic lens, or atom accelerators, but these are only secondary instruments. The basic instrument is your mind. If your mind is clouded, you cannot see reality. It is a source of strength that we have to tap into in order to receive nourishment and healing. When you produce a thought of compassion, of understanding, of forgiveness, you are on the same frequency as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. You can tune into the energy. When you are capable of pronouncing something in terms of forgiveness, in terms of compassion and understanding, you are in tune with the world of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are described in Buddhism as Great Beings – Mahasattvas. Great beings are like us, free from birth and death. They are always there with their energy. There is a huge ocean of good energy and if you know how to get in touch with it, you will receive the healing and nourishment you need. If you can put yourself on the same frequencies, there will be synergy between your mind wave and the mind wave of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. That is why in the Buddhist tradition, we practice the recollection of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, because the three jewels have a lot of energy. The Buddha is always there, not only around you but inside of you. If you produce a thought of compassion, of forgiveness, of understanding, you’ll be in tune, you will be on the same frequency with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and you can get in touch with a tremendous source of energy. This is understandable because of the law of affinity. We are here in Plum Village, sitting together like this because we have something in common; we are searching for the same thing. There is a collective karma that helps unite us today. It is not by chance that you have come here. There is a link. We have affinity with each other. When we come together, we do not discuss about politics, consumption, sex, fame and so on. We are tuned to the same kind of the energy. We get in touch with the teachings of the Buddha, with the Buddha’s compassion, his understanding, and we receive the nourishment from the three jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. So it is very important to tune ourselves in such a way that we will be on the same frequencies with three jewels and the Great Beings. The Great beings are not necessarily Buddhists. They can be Christians, Jews and so on. They are always there for us, and if we know how to get in touch, we will tap into their strength, their tremendous energy. It is like the Internet. You can get in touch with very dark areas that will pull you into an abyss. But with the same Internet, you can get in touch with wonderful areas that will bring you knowledge, understanding and compassion. You don’t need to go anywhere. You just sit in front of your computer, and you get in touch with anything that you want to be in touch with. The same thing is true. You are sitting here, and you don’t have to go to India, to go to the Pure Land, to go to the Kingdom of God. If you know how to tune into the right frequencies, the Kingdom of God will manifest inside of you, the Pure Land of the Buddha will also manifest inside of you, and you can tap into that ocean of wholesome energy, to be nourished, to be healed, right here and right now. While you are sitting mindfully, while you are walking mindfully, while you are washing mindfully, you are on the same frequencies with the Great beings, and this is the practice. With deep gratitude to Thich Nhat Hanh This article is from a transcript of Dharma Talk given by Thay in Plum Village on 28 July 2006. The article is slightly edited for direct relevance and brevity. Please visit here for more talks and writings of Thich Nhat Hanh
An aimless life is always a miserable life. Every one of you should have an aim. But do not forget that on the quality of your aim will depend the quality of your life. Your aim should be high and wide, generous and disinterested; this will make your life precious to yourself and to others. But whatever your ideal, it cannot be perfectly realised unless you have realised perfection in yourself. To work for your perfection, the first step is to become conscious of yourself, of the different parts of your being and their respective activities. You must learn to distinguish these different parts one from another, so that you may become clearly aware of the origin of the movements that occur in you, the many impulses, reactions and conflicting wills that drive you to action. It is an assiduous study which demands much perseverance and sincerity. For man’s nature, especially his mental nature, has a spontaneous tendency to give a favourable explanation for everything he thinks, feels, says and does. It is only by observing these movements with great care, by bringing them, as it were, before the tribunal of our highest ideal, with a sincere will to submit to its judgment, that we can hope to form in ourselves a discernment that never errs. For if we truly want to progress and acquire the capacity of knowing the truth of our being, that is to say, what we are truly created for, what we can call our mission upon earth, then we must, in a very regular and constant manner, reject from us or eliminate in us whatever contradicts the truth of our existence, whatever is opposed to it. In this way, little by little, all the parts, all the elements of our being can be organised into a homogeneous whole around our psychic centre. This work of unification requires much time to be brought to some degree of perfection. Therefore, in order to accomplish it, we must arm ourselves with patience and endurance, with a determination to prolong our life as long as necessary for the success of our endeavour. As you pursue this labour of purification and unification, you must at the same time take great care to perfect the external and instrumental part of your being. When the higher truth manifests, it must find in you a mind that is supple and rich enough to be able to give the idea that seeks to express itself a form of thought which preserves its force and clarity. This thought, again, when it seeks to clothe itself in words, must find in you a sufficient power of expression so that the words reveal the thought and do not deform it. And the formula in which you embody the truth should be manifested in all your feelings, all your acts of will, all your actions, in all the movements of your being. Finally, these movements themselves should, by constant effort, attain their highest perfection. All this can be realised by means of a fourfold discipline, the general outline of which is given here. The four aspects of the discipline do not exclude each other, and can be followed at the same time; indeed, this is preferable. The starting-point is what can be called the psychic discipline. We give the name “psychic” to the psychological centre of our being, the seat within us of the highest truth of our existence, that which can know this truth and set it in movement. It is therefore of capital importance to become conscious of its presence in us, to concentrate on this presence until it becomes a living fact for us and we can identify ourselves with it. In various times and places many methods have been prescribed for attaining this perception and ultimately achieving this identification. Some methods are psychological, some religious, some even mechanical. In reality, everyone has to find the one which suits him best, and if one has an ardent and steadfast aspiration, a persistent and dynamic will, one is sure to meet, in one way or another – outwardly through reading and study, inwardly through concentration, meditation, revelation and experience – the help one needs to reach the goal. Only one thing is absolutely indispensable: the will to discover and to realise. This discovery and realisation should be the primary preoccupation of our being, the pearl of great price which we must acquire at any cost. Whatever you do, whatever your occupations and activities, the will to find the truth of your being and to unite with it must be always living and present behind all that you do, all that you feel, all that you think. To complement this movement of inner discovery, it would be good not to neglect the development of the mind. For the mental instrument can equally be a great help or a great hindrance. In its natural state the human mind is always limited in its vision, narrow in its understanding, rigid in its conceptions, and a constant effort is therefore needed to widen it, to make it more supple and profound. So it is very necessary to consider everything from as many points of view as possible. Towards this end, there is an exercise which gives great suppleness and elevation to the thought. It is as follows: a clearly formulated thesis is set; against it is opposed its antithesis, formulated with the same precision. Then by careful reflection the problem must be widened or transcended until a synthesis is found which unites the two contraries in a larger, higher and more comprehensive idea. Many other exercises of the same kind can be undertaken; some have a beneficial effect on the character and so possess a double advantage: that of educating the mind and that of establishing control over the feelings and their consequences. For example, you must never allow your mind to judge things and people, for the mind is not an instrument of knowledge; it is incapable of finding knowledge, but it must be moved by knowledge. Knowledge belongs to a much higher domain than that of the human mind, far above the region of pure ideas. The mind has to be silent and attentive to receive knowledge from above and manifest it. For it is an instrument of formation, of organisation and action, and it is in these functions that it attains its full value and real usefulness. There is another practice which can be very helpful to the progress of the consciousness. Whenever there is a disagreement on any matter, such as a decision to be taken, or an action to be carried out, one must never remain closed up in one’s own conception or point of view. On the contrary, one must make an effort to understand the other’s point of view, to put oneself in his place and, instead of quarrelling or even fighting, find the solution which can reasonably satisfy both parties; there always is one for men of goodwill. Here we must mention the discipline of the vital. The vital being in us is the seat of impulses and desires, of enthusiasm and violence, of dynamic energy and desperate depressions, of passions and revolts. It can set everything in motion, build and realise; but it can also destroy and mar everything. Thus it may be the most difficult part to discipline in the human being. It is a long and exacting labour requiring great patience and perfect sincerity, for without sincerity you will deceive yourself from the very outset, and all endeavour for progress will be in vain. With the collaboration of the vital no realisation seems impossible, no transformation impracticable. But the difficulty lies in securing this constant collaboration. The vital is a good worker, but most often it seeks its own satisfaction. If that is refused, totally or even partially, the vital gets vexed, sulks and goes on strike. Its energy disappears more or less completely and in its place leaves disgust for people and things, discouragement or revolt, depression and dissatisfaction. At such moments it is good to remain quiet and refuse to act; for these are the times when one does stupid things and in a few moments one can destroy or spoil the progress that has been made during months of regular effort. These crises are shorter and less dangerous for those who have established a contact with their psychic being which is sufficient to keep alive in them the flame of aspiration and the consciousness of the ideal to be realised. They can, with the help of this consciousness, deal with their vital as one deals with a rebellious child, with patience and perseverance, showing it the truth and light, endeavouring to convince it and awaken in it the goodwill which has been veiled for a time. By means of such patient intervention each crisis can be turned into a new progress, into one more step towards the goal. Progress may be slow, relapses may be frequent, but if a courageous will is maintained, one is sure to triumph one day and see all difficulties melt and vanish before the radiance of the truth-consciousness. Lastly, by means of a rational and discerning physical education, we must make our body strong and supple enough to become a fit instrument in the material world for the truth-force which wants to manifest through us. In fact, the body must not rule, it must obey. By its very nature it is a docile and faithful servant. Unfortunately, it rarely has the capacity of discernment it ought to have with regard to its masters, the mind and the vital. It obeys them blindly, at the cost of its own well-being. The mind with its dogmas, its rigid and arbitrary principles, the vital with its passions, its excesses and dissipations soon destroy the natural balance of the body and create in it fatigue, exhaustion and disease. It must be freed from this tyranny and this can be done only through a constant union with the psychic centre of the being. The body has a wonderful capacity of adaptation and endurance. It is able to do so many more things than one usually imagines. If, instead of the ignorant and despotic masters that now govern it, it is ruled by the central truth of the being, you will be amazed at what it is capable of doing. Calm and quiet, strong and poised, at every minute it will be able to put forth the effort that is demanded of it, for it will have learnt to find rest in action and to recuperate, through contact with the universal forces, the energies it expends consciously and usefully. In this sound and balanced life a new harmony will manifest in the body, reflecting the harmony of the higher regions, which will give it perfect proportions and ideal beauty of form. And this harmony will be progressive, for the truth of the being is never static; it is a perpetual unfolding of a growing perfection that is more and more total and comprehensive. As soon as the body has learnt to follow this movement of progressive harmony, it will be possible for it to escape, through a continuous process of transformation, from the necessity of disintegration and destruction. Thus the irrevocable law of death will no longer have any reason to exist. When we reach this degree of perfection which is our goal, we shall perceive that the truth we seek is made up of four major aspects: Love, Knowledge, Power and Beauty. These four attributes of the Truth will express themselves spontaneously in our being. The psychic will be the vehicle of true and pure love, the mind will be the vehicle of infallible knowledge, the vital will manifest an invincible power and strength and the body will be the expression of a perfect beauty and harmony. With deep gratitude to The Mother
Translated from the Bengali by Nalini Kanta Gupta Mother Durga! Rider on the lion, giver of all strength, Mother, beloved of Shiva! We, born from thy parts of Power, we the youth of India, are seated here in thy temple. Listen, O Mother, descend upon earth, make thyself manifest in this land of India. Mother Durga! From age to age, in life after life, we come down into the human body, do thy work and return to the Home of Delight. Now too we are born, dedicated to thy work. Listen, O Mother, descend upon earth, come to our help. Mother Durga! Rider on the lion, trident in hand, thy body of beauty armour-clad, Mother, giver of victory. India awaits thee, eager to see the gracious form of thine. Listen, O Mother, descend upon earth, make thyself manifest in this land of India. Mother Durga! Giver of force and love and knowledge, terrible art thou in thy own self of might, Mother beautiful and fierce. In the battle of life, in India’s battle, we are warriors commissioned by thee; Mother, give to our heart and mind a titan’s strength, a titan’s energy, to our soul and intelligence a god’s character and knowledge. Mother Durga! India, world’s noblest race, lay whelmed in darkness. Mother, thou risest on the eastern horizon, the dawn comes with the glow of thy divine limbs scattering the darkness. Spread thy light, Mother, destroy the darkness. Mother Durga! We are thy children, through thy grace, by thy influence may we become fit for the great work, for the great Ideal. Mother, destroy our smallness, our selfishness, our fear. Mother Durga! Thou art Kali, naked, garlanded with human heads, sword in hand, thou slayest the Asura. Goddess, do thou slay with thy pitiless cry the enemies who dwell within us, may none remain alive there, not one. May we become pure and spotless, this is our prayer. O Mother, make thyself manifest. Mother Durga! India lies now in selfishness and fearfulness and littleness. Make us great, make our efforts great, our hearts vast, make us true to our resolve. May we no longer desire the small, void of energy, given to laziness, stricken with fear. Mother Durga! Extend wide the power of Yoga. We are thy Aryan children, develop in us again the lost teaching, character, strength of intelligence, faith and devotion, force of austerity, power of chastity and true knowledge, bestow all that upon the world. To help mankind, appear, O Mother of the world, dispel all ills. Mother Durga! Slay the enemy within, then root out all obstacles outside. May the noble heroic mighty Indian race, supreme in love and unity, truth and strength, arts and letters, force and knowledge ever dwell in its holy woodlands, its fertile fields under its sky-scraping hills, along the banks of its pure-streaming rivers. This is our prayer at the feet of the Mother. Make thyself manifest. Mother Durga! Enter our bodies in thy Yogic strength. We shall become thy instruments, thy sword slaying all evil, thy lamp dispelling all ignorance. Fulfil this yearning of thy young children, O Mother. Be the master and drive the instrument, wield thy sword and slay the evil, hold up the lamp and spread the light of knowledge. Make thyself manifest. Mother Durga! When we possess thee, we shall no longer cast thee away; we shall bind thee to us with the tie of love and devotion. Come, Mother, manifest in our mind and life and body. Come, Revealer of the hero-path. We shall no longer cast thee away. May our entire life become a ceaseless worship of the Mother, all our acts a continuous service to the Mother, full of love, full of energy. This is our prayer, O Mother, descend upon earth, make thyself manifest in this land of India. Durga Stotram in Sanskrit Hear it in the original Bengali here and here
The four Powers of the Mother are four of her outstanding Personalities, portions and embodiments of her divinity through whom she acts on her creatures, orders and harmonises her creations in the worlds and directs the working out of her thousand forces. For the Mother is one but she comes before us with differing aspects; many are her powers and personalities, many her emanations and Vibhutis that do her work in the universe. The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence. The Mother is the consciousness and force of the Supreme and far above all she creates. But something of her ways can be seen and felt through her embodiments and the “more seizable because more defined and limited temperament and action of the goddess forms in whom she consents to be manifest to her creatures. There are three ways of being of the Mother of which you can become aware when you enter into touch of oneness with the Conscious Force that upholds us and the universe. Transcendent, the original supreme Shakti, she stands above the worlds and links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme. Universal, the cosmic Mahashakti, she creates all these beings and contains and enters, supports and conducts all these million processes and forces. Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of her existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature. The one original transcendent Shakti, the Mother stands above all the worlds and bears in her eternal consciousness the Supreme Divine. Alone, she harbours the absolute Power and the ineffable Presence; containing or calling the Truths that have to be manifested, she brings them down from the Mystery in which they were hidden into the light of her infinite consciousness and gives them a form of force in her omnipotent power and her boundless life and a body in the universe. The Supreme is manifest in her for ever as the everlasting Sachchidananda, manifested through her in the worlds as the one and dual consciousness of Ishwara-Shakti and the dual principle of Purusha-Prakriti, embodied by her in the Worlds and the Planes and the Gods and their Energies and figured because of her as all that is in the known worlds and in unknown others. All is her play with the Supreme; all is her manifestation of the mysteries of the Eternal, the miracles of the Infinite. All is she, for all are parcel and portion of the divine Conscious-Force. Nothing can be here or elsewhere but what she decides and the Supreme sanctions; nothing can take shape except what she moved by the Supreme perceives and forms after casting it into seed in her creating Ananda. The Mahashakti, the universal Mother, works out whatever is transmitted by her transcendent consciousness from the Supreme and enters into the worlds that she has made; her presence fills and supports them with the divine spirit and the divine all-sustaining force and delight without which they could not exist. That which we call Nature or Prakriti is only her most outward executive aspect; she marshals and arranges the harmony of her forces and processes, impels the operations of Nature and moves among them secret or manifest in all that can be seen or experienced or put into motion of life. Each of the worlds is nothing but one play of the Mahashakti of that system of worlds or universe, who is there as the cosmic Soul and Personality of the transcendent Mother. Each is something that she has seen in her vision, gathered into her heart of beauty and power and created in her Ananda. Extracted from Sri Aurobindo’s book, The Mother, in which he describes the nature, character and role of the Divine Mother. This book was written in the 1930s to his direct disciples living with him in his ashram. The paragraph format has been slightly altered by the editors for convenience of reading. — Ed.
The dearest, the closest, because of earth, because human as us, Sri Radha makes the divine possible, real and achievable to all bhaktas. She is not vast and transcendent, distant or formidable, but frail and vulnerable. For she is the salt of earth. Nor is she a pundit, or an intellectual, or a philosopher, or even a poetess, but simple, surrendered, giving. And we can emulate her. We can live like her and as her. For she is the incarnation of the psychic being, the nature and essence of our soul outwardly and inwardly. She teaches us how to love the Divine, and to adore so much in an unaffected and straightforward manner, that one is transformed into the Divine itself. She holds Sri Krishna in her heart and because she holds him in her heart, she holds the Universe within. And she ascends to the highest and greatest of yogic realizations with this undemanding love, in the most natural manner, sahaja. The two crowning siddhis are hers, that of living in the atman eternally, and that of becoming the utmost flowering of the human heart. And her heart is not turbulent or troubled by vicissitudes as ordinary human love that is often vital and sentimental. But she is still, her flame is white, no less intense and far purer than the dense clouds of smoke we see in our transactional relationships in the world. And there may be many others who maintain that she is a myth of dreamers and poets who came centuries after the great Mahabharata. For if so, she is our own subliminal longing and archetype, our aspiration to experience love and unity in life and relationships. And there may be many who maintain that the entire description of the gopis and raas-leela in vrindavanam is a legend out of fertile minds, fed on poppies and ganja. For if so, she is yet real and tangible to anyone who has loved the Divine with all his soul and her experience, if not in person yet in principle, is available to all, to each, if we were only to understand the beauty and glory of her being. For the divine dance of nara and Narayana does not happen in a local place in certain parts of North India, but it is eternal and happens in worlds far too subtle for our senses. But those who have eyes can see and those who have hearts can feel the realization that Radha Ji and Sri Krishna made possible on earth with their play of absolute joy and purity in self-abandonment. For she is no puritan, nor is she perverse. She is unstained and nirmala, and her love only makes her purer in mind, body and heart. And so it does for those who invoke her love in their hearts, seeking to love with their souls the Divine intensely, selflessly, unconditionally. She is an incarnation, not yet sufficiently understood, or realized. She is a trail-blazer, in her grace and feminine allure, stronger and swifter than all of us. And yet, somewhere in our collective mind, we realized who she is and worshipped her. We need now more than worship. We need her direct presence in us. If she is an avatar of the soul, come here to show us how to love, to dedicate, to surrender to the Divine and only to the Divine, then she is indeed the most practicable and the most emulatable. But most, it is her bliss of union, ‘abandoning all dharmas unto Him alone’, giving up everything, in intense oneness that transforms one’s yoga. Nothing is impossible to the one who touches that intimacy with the Divine if even for a moment, for then the seed of light has been planted within oneself eternally, and the final victory of constant and unbroken unity certain. To her we turn in collective prayer and aspiration to teach us, inform us, mould us and guide us in the journey that was hers. That she clears up in us.
October 17th marks the commencement of perhaps the most spiritual period of the Santana calendar: the Navaratri, or the nine nights of the Divine Mother, culminating in Deepavali and the Night of Mother Kali. This is a period that is most auspicious for the spiritual aspirant and most conducive to spiritual sadhana. Pratipada Day one of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Shailputri. This avatar of goddess Durga is the embodiment of the collective power of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. O Thou, Divine Consort of the Supreme One,Who makes manifest the Unmanifest,Who creates the play of Time in the Timeless,To Thee, this night of our adoration, O Sublime DaughterOf the Mountain, blessed Might of the Three who are One! Glory to Thee, Divine Mother, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी शैलपुत्र्यै नमः॥ Dwitiya Day two of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Brahmcharini, the second avatar of Ma Durga. She is blissful and endows happiness, peace, prosperity and grace. Filled with bliss and happiness, she is the way to liberation or moksha. O Thou, Divine Goddess, O Thou, Force of Askesis,Thou dispenser of Divine Calm and Bliss, By a single touch of Thy Feet all bondages break, By Thy Grace, the soul soars above in sovereign release – O Thou Mother of Supernal Peace, Glory to Thee!May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी ब्रह्मचारिण्यै नमः॥ Tritiya Day three of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Chandraghanta. She represents beauty and grace and is worshipped on the third day for peace, tranquility and prosperity in life. O Thou Resplendent Mother, Goddess of Divine Beauty and Calm,Fount of Wisdom, fount of Bliss, Golden-hued, crescent moon between Thy eyes, Thou who dost hold the Great God in Thy vast embrace,Come and smite this heart with Thy Grace! Glory to Thee, Divine Mother, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी चन्द्रघण्टायै नमः॥ Chaturthi Day four of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Kushmunda. This avatar of the goddess is considered the creator of the universe. It is believed that she created the universe through laughter. O Thou Mother of Divine Bliss, Thou who art the fount of all creation, Thy Laughter ripples across all space and time,Bearing this vast Universe in a vaster AnandaTowards Thy Supreme Light – Glory to Thee, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी कूष्माण्डायै नमः॥ Panchami Day five of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Skandamata. She is the mother of Skanda, or Karthikeya, who was chosen by the gods as their commander in the battle against the demons. O Thou Supreme Protection, Supreme Grace,Thou who standst upon the battle fields of existence,Devouring a thousand demons in a single breath,Shielding those who are Thine with the all-consuming LoveOf a Divine Mother – Glory to Thee,May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी स्कन्दमातायै नमः॥ Shasthi Day six of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Katyayani. The goddess was born to the great sage, Kata, as an avatar of Durga. Dressed in orange, she exhibits immense courage. O Thou orange-hued Force of Truth, O Thou Divine Warrior of Light,Thou who bringst to our human heart the gold-flame of CourageAnd indomitable Will – Glory to Thee,May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी कात्यायन्यै नमः॥ Saptami Day seven of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Kalratri. This avatar of the goddess has dark complexion, disheveled hair and a fearless posture. She is the most fierce form of goddess Durga, and she is dressed in white, a color that represents peace and prayer. O Thou White Flame of Divine Truth, Dark-robed, fierce, Thou doth descend into our NightTo kindle the fire of the Symbol SunIn the deepest caves of our obscure Sleep – Glory to Thee, Divine Mother, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी कालरात्र्यै नमः॥ Ashtami Day eight of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Maha Gauri. This eighth avatar of Maa Durga represents intelligence, peace, prosperity and calm. O Thou Divine Mother, Glorious Grace of Supreme Truth,Felicity of resplendent dawns, Thou dost pour Thy gold LightInto the voids of our minds and hearts – Glory to Thee, O Mother,May we grow worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी महागौर्यै नमः॥ Navami Day nine of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Siddhidatri, commonly known as Saraswati. The name Siddhidatri literally means the giver of siddhi or enlightenment. The goddess is known for having supernatural healing powers. The goddess represents the blissful state of mind, just like the sky on a clear day. O Thou Divine Grace, bestower of all boons, giver of ForceAnd Light, Thou who art Ishvar and Ishvari, Thou SphereOf Divine Effulgence, grant us Thy boon of Supreme Light, Of Truth and Perfect Being; Glory to Thee, Divine Mother,May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी सिद्धिदात्र्यै नमः॥
The world appears alien. At least on first look. It is the other, that stares in our face, inanimate, unfriendly, harsh. It is outside ourself, moves to its own laws like a vast ‘machine’. And we feel separated right from birth from this unknown entity, our adversary, whom we need to control and conquer. And yet, all our attempts to master this absurd antagonist are vain and doomed to failure. For even our own mind and body belong to this perennial ‘alienness’. Our mastery over it is impermanent, fleeting. And eventually, each of us gives in, dissolving and disintegrating in its impersonal flow, death its final seal of victory. And yet, there might be another way of looking at this vast enterprise. If we observe closely, we see a vast intelligence, working out with intricate detail and perfection all its operations and processes. From the most microscopic to the grandest scales, it shows a coordination and coherence that puzzles our limited mental probings. The vast impersonal suddenly becomes alive as we approach it with silence and appreciate its mystery. Down to the cell, with its membranes, mitochondria, Golgi bodies, nuclei, and extremely fine and systematic coordination of the various organelle. Down further, to the atom and then to the quantum world, where our laws collapse, there is yet a secret consistency. And as we study the galaxies and solar systems and the pulsars and black holes and quasars and dark matter and dark space, we are further intrigued at their immaculate synchrony. And yet, this tremendous perfection and intelligent will, is not antagonistic to us but sustains us at every moment. If even one thing went wrong, we would immediately cease to exist. If the Sun were just a little closer (in terms of proportions in distance) or a little further, there would be no life on earth. If there were not the right mix of oxygen in our atmosphere, or the right percentage of water on our planet, if it were not comprised of the ‘right’ materials, we would not be. Each moment, it seems, there is something intimate, personal, protecting us, nurturing us, holding us, as a mother carrying her infant all the time in her arms, showering with all her attention and care, and nourishing with exactly what is needed for it to grow. The ancient Hindus called this Presence and Force with various names, Adya Shakti or Ishwari or Para Prakriti. But the best name, to my mind, is simply Ma, or the Mother. What was seen as the other is actually the Divine Mother in their darshana. And this touch is not an abstraction or a concept, it is felt as an intimate sensation by the yogi, the spiritual seeker. This Motherly succor that is mind-boggling to our understanding is the protector and guide who responds to the simple prayers of the heart. This power that is so infinite and minuscule is more personal than one’s own physical mother. And if one learns and begins to see with the eyes of our ancients, one suddenly notices a diffracted and fractured world suddenly coalesce into a wholeness. It is almost as if one had never left the security and oneness of the womb. And this realization of the power of the Sacred Feminine came way before our modern exertions in ecology and the Gaia hypotheses, and integral medicine and feminism. And it balances the Father-like God who sits aloof in the heavens like a schoolmaster or a policeman meting out assignments and handing out tickets in certain ways of looking at the world. And it is not as unique to the Hindus as it might seem to the Western mind. For the maternal principle has existed since the earliest preoccupations of mankind with divinity. Even in Christianity (at least some denominations), the Virgin Mother, who gave birth to the divine child is honored and worshipped. This principle is expressed in various depictions in our archetypes such as the Earth Mother, our nation as Motherland, our own language or alma mater, or the entire Universe as a nurturing and pervading Might. This is the Being we adore and devote ourselves to, whom we see as Mahakali or Mahalakshmi, or Saraswati or Maheshvari. And this is the Force we invoke in our lives as the secret of self-transformation and discovery. To translate poetically an ancient Sanskrit mantra that describes the Shakti in her various emanations : “She who is all, who is the Power in each action. She who is all, embodying Peace. She who is all, as our own Mother. To whom we bow, in perfect surrender. And offer all we are and all we have. For all is She. There is none other.” This is the Yin we might need to balance the overpowering of Yang in our world today, a realization that our God too is incomplete without a true understanding of this ancient Indian revelation. October 17th marks the commencement of perhaps the most spiritual period of the Santana calendar: the Navaratri, or the nine nights of the Divine Mother, culminating in Deepavali and the Night of Mother Kali. This is a period that is most auspicious for the spiritual aspirant and most conducive to spiritual sadhana. — Editors.
Emptiness is not something to be afraid of, says Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart Sutra teaches us that form may be empty of self but it’s full of everything else. If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. We can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, “inter-be.” If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. So we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist. Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also, so we can say that everything is in here in this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here—time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything coexists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. To be is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is. Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. The word “emptiness” should not scare us. It is a wonderful word. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper would be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without non-paper elements, like mind, logger, sunshine, and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it. But the Heart Sutra seems to say the opposite. Avalokiteshvara tells us that things are empty. Let us look more closely. Empty of What? The Bodhisattva Avalokita, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty. Bodhi means being awake, and sattva means a living being, so bodhisattva means an awakened being. All of us are sometimes bodhisattvas, and sometimes not. Avalokita is the shorter name of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Avalokita is neither male nor female and sometimes appears as a man and sometimes as a woman. In Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese, this bodhisattva’s name is sometimes translated as Guanyin, Quan Am, Gwaneum, and Kannon, which means “the one who listens and hears the cries of the world in order to come and help.” Avalokiteshvara also embodies the spirit of non-fear, as he himself has transcended fear. The Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra is his wonderful gift to us. According to Avalokiteshvara, this sheet of paper is empty; but according to our analysis, it is full of everything. There seems to be a contradiction between our observation and his. Avalokita found the five skandhas empty. But empty of what? The key word is empty. To be empty is to be empty of something. If I am holding a cup of water and I ask you, “Is this cup empty?” you will say, “No, it is full of water.” But if I pour out the water and ask you again, you may say, “Yes, it is empty.” But empty of what? Empty means empty of something. The cup cannot be empty of nothing. “Empty” doesn’t mean anything unless you know “empty of what?” My cup is empty of water, but it is not empty of air. To be empty is to be empty of something. This is quite a discovery. When Avalokita says that the five skandhas are equally empty, to help him be precise we must ask, “Mr. Avalokita, empty of what?” The five skandhas, which may be translated into English as five heaps, or five aggregates, are the five elements that comprise a human being. These five elements flow like a river in every one of us. In fact, these are really five rivers flowing together in us: the river of form, which means our bodies; the river of feelings; the river of perceptions; the river of mental formations; and the river of consciousness. They are always flowing in us. So according to Avalokita, when he looked deeply into the nature of these five rivers, he suddenly saw that all five are empty. If we ask, “Empty of what?” he has to answer. And this is what he said: “They are empty of a separate self.” That means none of these five rivers can exist by itself alone. Each of the five rivers has to be made by the other four. It has to coexist; it has to inter-be with all the others. “Emptiness” means empty of a separate self. It is full of everything. In our bodies we have lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach, and blood. None of these can exist independently. They can only coexist with the others. Your lungs and your blood are two things, but neither can exist separately. The lungs take in air and enrich the blood, and, in turn, the blood nourishes the lungs. Without the blood, the lungs cannot be alive, and without the lungs, the blood cannot be cleansed. Lungs and blood inter-are. The same is true with kidneys and blood, kidneys and stomach, lungs and heart, blood and heart, and so on. When Avalokita says that our sheet of paper is empty, he means it is empty of a separate, independent existence. It cannot just be by itself. It has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud, the forest, the logger, the mind, and everything else. It is empty of a separate self. But, empty of a separate self means full of everything. So it seems that our observation and that of Avalokita do not contradict each other after all. Avalokita looked deeply into the five skandhas of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, and he discovered that none of them can be by itself alone. Each can only inter-be with all the others. So he tells us that form is empty. Form is empty of a separate self, but it is full of everything in the cosmos. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Long Live Emptiness Listen, Shariputra, form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.Form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form.The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Form is the wave and emptiness is the water. To understand this, we have to think differently than many of us who were raised in the West were trained to think. In the West, when we draw a circle, we consider it to be zero, nothingness. But in India and many other Asian countries, a circle means totality, wholeness. The meaning is the opposite. So “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” is like wave is water, water is wave. “Form is not other than emptiness, emptiness is not other than form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness,” because these contain each other. Because one exists, everything exists. In the Vietnamese literary canon, there are two lines of poetry by a twelfth-century Zen master of the Ly dynasty that say: If the cosmos exists, then the smallest speck of dust exists.If the smallest speck of dust doesn’t exist,then the whole cosmos doesn’t exist. The poet means that the notions of existence and nonexistence are just created by our minds. He also said that “the entire cosmos can be put on the tip of a hair,” and “the sun and the moon can be seen in a mustard seed.” These images show us that one contains everything, and everything is just one. Because form is emptiness, form is possible. In form we find everything else—feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. “Emptiness” means empty of a separate self. It is full of everything, full of life. The word “emptiness” should not scare us. It is a wonderful word. To be empty does not mean to be nonexistent. If the sheet of paper is not empty, how could the sunshine, the logger, and the forest come into it? How could it be a sheet of paper? The cup, in order to be empty, has to be there. Form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, in order to be empty of a separate self, have to be there. Emptiness is the ground of everything. “Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible.” That is a declaration made by Nagarjuna, a Buddhist philosopher of the second century. Emptiness is quite an optimistic concept. If I am not empty, I cannot be here. And if you are not empty, you cannot be there. Because you are there, I can be here. This is the true meaning of emptiness. Form does not have a separate existence. Avalokita wants us to understand this point. Happy Continuation Listen, Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness.They are neither produced nor destroyed. Dharmas in this line means “things.” A human being is a dharma. A tree is a dharma. A cloud is a dharma. The sunshine is a dharma. Everything that can be conceived of is a dharma. So when we say, “All dharmas are marked with emptiness,” we are saying, “Everything has emptiness as its own nature.” And that is why everything can be. There is a lot of joy in this statement. It means nothing can be born, nothing can die. Avalokita has said something extremely important. Every day in our lives, we see birth and we see death. When a person is born, a birth certificate is printed for them. After they die, a death certificate is made. These certificates confirm the existence of birth and death. But Avalokita said, “No, there is no birth and death.” We have to look more deeply to see whether his statement is true. What is the date on which you were born, your birth date? Before that date, did you already exist? Were you already there before you were born? Let me help you. To be born means from nothing you become something. My question is, before you were born, were you already there? Suppose a hen is about to lay an egg. Before she gives birth, do you think the egg is already there? Yes, of course. It is inside. You also were inside before you were outside. That means that before you were born, you already existed—inside your mother. The fact is that if something is already there, it does not need to be born. To be born means from nothing you become something. If you are already something, what is the use of being born? So, your so-called birthday is really your continuation day. The next time you celebrate, you can say, “Happy Continuation Day.” I think that we may have a better concept of when we were born. If we go back nine months to the time of our conception, we have a better date to put on our birth certificates. In China, and also in Vietnam, when you are born, you are already considered one year old. So we say we begin to be at the time of our conception in our mother’s womb, and we write down that date on our birth certificate. But the question remains: Even before that date, did you exist or not? If you say “yes,” I think you are correct. Before your conception, you were there already, maybe half in your father, half in your mother. Because from nothing, we can never become something. Can you name one thing that was once a nothing? A cloud? Do you think that a cloud can be born out of nothing? Before becoming a cloud, it was water, maybe flowing as a river. It was not nothing. Do you agree? We cannot conceive of the birth of anything. There is only continuation. Please look back even further and you will see that you not only exist in your father and mother, but you also exist in your grandparents and your great-grandparents. As I look more deeply, I can see that in a former life I was a cloud. This is not poetry; it is science. Why do I say that in a former life I was a cloud? Because I am still a cloud. Without the cloud, I cannot be here. I am the cloud, the river, and the air at this very moment, so I know that in the past I have been a cloud, a river, and the air. And I was a rock. I was the minerals in the water. This is not a question of belief in reincarnation. This is the history of life on Earth. We have been gas, sunshine, water, fungi, and plants. We have been single-celled beings. The Buddha said that in one of his former lives, he was a tree. He was a fish; he was a deer. These are not superstitious things. Every one of us has been a cloud, a deer, a bird, a fish, and we continue to be these things, not just in former lives. This is not just the case with birth. Nothing can be born, and also nothing can die. That is what Avalokita said. Do you think that a cloud can die? To die means that from something you become nothing. Do you think that we can make something a nothing? Let us go back to our sheet of paper. We may have the illusion that to destroy it, all we have to do is light a match and burn it up. But if we burn a sheet of paper, some of it will become smoke, and the smoke will rise and continue to be. The heat that is caused by the burning paper will enter into the cosmos and penetrate other things. The heat is the next life of the paper. The ash that is formed will become part of the soil, and the sheet of paper, in his or her next life, might be a cloud and a rose at the same time. We have to be very careful and attentive in order to realize that this sheet of paper has never been born and it will never die. It can take on other forms of being, but we are not capable of transforming a sheet of paper into nothingness. Everything is like that, even you and I. We are not subject to birth and death. One autumn day I was in a park, absorbed in the contemplation of a very small but beautiful leaf in the shape of a heart. Its color was almost red, and it was barely hanging on the branch, nearly ready to fall down. I spent a long time with it, and I asked the leaf a lot of questions. I found out the leaf had been a mother to the tree. Usually we think that the tree is the mother and the leaves are just children, but as I looked at the leaf I saw that the leaf is also a mother to the tree. The sap that the roots take up is only water and minerals, not good enough to nourish the tree, so the tree distributes that sap to the leaves. The leaves take the responsibility of transforming that rough sap into refined sap and, with the help of the sun and gas, sending it back in order to nourish the tree. Therefore, the leaves are also the mother to the tree. And since the leaf is linked to the tree by a stem, the communication between them is easy to see. We do not have a stem linking us to our mother anymore, but when we were in her womb we had a very long stem, an umbilical cord. The oxygen and the nourishment we needed came to us through that stem. Unfortunately, on the day we call our birthday, it was cut and we received the illusion that we are independent. That is a mistake. We continue to rely on our mother for a very long time, and we have several other mothers as well. The Earth is our mother. We have a great many stems linking us to our mother Earth. There is a stem linking us with the cloud. If there is no cloud, there is no water for us to drink. We are made of at least seventy percent water; the stem between the cloud and us is really there. This is also the case with the river, the forest, the logger, and the farmer. There are hundreds of thousands of stems linking us to everything in the cosmos, and therefore we can be. Do you see the link between you and me? If you are not there, I am not here; that is certain. If you do not see it yet, look more deeply and I am sure you will see. This is not philosophy. You really have to see. I asked the leaf whether it was scared because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was very alive. I worked hard and helped nourish the tree, and much of me is in the tree. Please do not say that I am just this form, because this leaf form is only a tiny part of me. I am the whole tree. I know that I am already inside the tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. That’s why I do not worry. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’” If a wave only sees its form, with its beginning and end, it will be afraid of birth and death. But if the wave sees that it is water and identifies itself with the water, then it will be emancipated from birth and death. Each wave is born and is going to die, but the water is free from birth and death. Suddenly I saw a kind of wisdom very much like the wisdom contained in the Heart Sutra. You have to see life. You shouldn’t say, life of the leaf, but life in the leaf, and life in the tree. My life is just Life, and you can see it in me and in the tree. That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, and I knew that we have a lot to learn from the leaf because it was not afraid—it knew that nothing can be born and nothing can die. The cloud in the sky will also not be scared. When the time comes, the cloud will become rain. It is fun becoming rain, falling down, chanting, and becoming part of the Mississippi River, or the Amazon River, or the Mekong River, or falling onto vegetables and later becoming part of a human being. It is a very exciting adventure. The cloud knows that if it falls to the earth it might become part of the ocean. So the cloud isn’t afraid. Only humans are afraid. A wave on the ocean has a beginning and an end, a birth and a death. But Avalokiteshvara tells us that the wave is empty. The wave is full of water, but it is empty of a separate self. A wave is a form that has been made possible, thanks to the existence of wind and water. If a wave only sees its form, with its beginning and end, it will be afraid of birth and death. But if the wave sees that it is water and identifies itself with the water, then it will be emancipated from birth and death. Each wave is born and is going to die, but the water is free from birth and death. So you see there are many lessons we can learn from the cloud, the water, the wave, the leaf—and from everything else in the cosmos, too. If you look at anything carefully and deeply enough, you discover the mystery of inter-being, and once you have seen it you will no longer be subject to fear—fear of birth, or fear of death. Birth and death are only ideas we have in our minds, and these ideas cannot be applied to reality. It is just like the idea of above and below. We are very sure that when we point up, it is above, and when we point in the opposite direction, it is below. Heaven is above, and hell is below. But the people who are sitting right now on the other side of the planet must disagree, because the idea of above and below does not apply to the cosmos, nor does the idea of birth and death. So please continue to look back and you will see that you have always been here. Let us look together and penetrate into the life of a leaf, so we may be one with the leaf. Let us penetrate and be one with the cloud or with the wave, to realize our own nature as water and be free from our fear. If we look very deeply, we will transcend birth and death. Tomorrow, I will continue to be. But you will have to be very attentive to see me. I will be a flower, or a leaf. I will be in these forms and I will say hello to you. If you are attentive enough, you will recognize me, and you may greet me. I will be very happy. With deep gratitude to Thich Nhat Hanh
Radha prem has two senses. In the first place it signifies the love of Krishna for Radha, and in the second place that of Radha for Krishna. Let us take them in order. What is the meaning of Krishna’s love for Radha? Radha, as is well known, signifies the haladini Shakti, the Ananda Shakti of Sri Krishna. The object of Sri Krishna’s Vrindaban Lila is to achieve meetings with Radha and enjoy the bliss of her company. In plain words, what Krishna desires is that His bliss should be manifest in the world. Everywhere and in everything He wishes to see the shining forth of Bliss. The selfishness of the world, as represented by Radha’s husband and relations, places all sorts of obstacles in the path of Their meeting but Krishna triumphs over all, so that time and again meetings take place and here, in this world, is seen the bliss of the eternal. On the other hand, we have the fact of Sri Radha’s love for Krishna. Everything She does is for Him and without Him She would die. There are those that seek bliss for themselves, but never find it, for all bliss belongs to Krishna and can only be found in utter self giving to Him. It is thus seen that the two meanings of Radhaprem are the two sides of the cosmic process. On the one side there is the Divine will that Bliss should be manifested and on the other side there is the self giving, the making of everything to centre in Sri Krishna so that the world may be the vessel of that Bliss. Wherever men’s hearts are filled with the hard rock of selfishness, the Divine union cannot take place and in consequence the world is grey, loveless and sorrowful. But wherever the Love of Krishna drives out all self and man is able to give himself utterly, there the desire of Krishna is fulfilled. Radha is His and the eternal Bliss of Parabrahman is manifested here on Earth. For, as the Upanishads say, “All this is verily Brahman” It is ignorance which makes us think there are two worlds, this world and the world of Brahman. Seen rightly, this is Vrindaban, this is Goloka, this is Satchitananda. It is the delusion that our separate selves exist that makes this world hell for most. Krishna is everything and everywhere and He is manifest wherever Radha is and self is not. We are like men suffering from cataract of the eye. Because of our blindness the world seems dark and gloomy. If we remove the selfishness that covers the inner eye of wisdom we see that it is not the world that was dark but ourselves. Now that our eyes have been cleaned, we see that all is light, light on the way, light dancing on the waves of the great ocean, light in the cloudless sky where the eternal Sun shines in his stainless splendor. This is the Mahabhava which none other than Radha ever knows. No one else can know it for only where all self has vanished like the flame of an extinguished lamp can it be manifest. What is the path that leads us to this goal? The path is that of love for Krishna. But where is Krishna? Like fire in the fire sticks, like oil in til, like butter in milk, Krishna dwells in secret in the hearts of all. To seek Him elsewhere is like trying to milk a cow from its horn or trying to produce fire by worshipping the fire- sticks instead of using them. Krishna is in all and must be served in all. Then, when constant service has kindled the flame of love, that flame will consume all, even the sticks which gave it birth and there will be only Krishna shining gloriously with Radha on His breast. Then the Blue color of Radha’s cloth mingles with the blue of Krishna’s body and the sunlike brilliance of Krishna’s clothes blends with the golden radiance of Her limbs — Is it one figure or two? we cannot say — all that we know is that is the only Reality in the triple world. With deep gratitude to Sri Krishna Prem
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 . 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
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
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
Between 1-1700 AD, India was consistently one of the largest contributors to the world economy, her contribution ranging between 32% and 25%. It is during this period that India was known widely as “Sone ki Chidiya”, the Golden Bird. China was almost similar to India in her contribution. These were pre-industrial revolution days. Both regions had advanced ancient civilizations, highly developed in all aspects. Life was lived in harmony with nature in those times. Share of world GDP – 1700 AD  For many centuries India was like a Jagat Guru or a World Teacher. We had great philosophers, seers and spiritual scientists (Rishis and Yogins). We possessed great sciences of the mind and soul, some of the oldest and most advanced philosophies (notably the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita), a highly evolved science of health, longevity and well being (Ayurveda, Siddha, Hatha Yoga, Pranayama and meditation), and a highly sophisticated ecosystem of languages, based on Sanskrit, a language that has been called the mother of all languages. We had a vast body of literature and poetry in Sanskrit and local languages. There exist a large number of texts in Sanskrit and local languages that document the extent and scope of Indian knowledge. Apart from all these, there are several other domains of knowledge that were present in India which included architecture and town planning, physical and social sciences, astronomy and mathematics. Most of these domains and branches of knowledge continue to be practiced and taught in some form even today. In the words of Sri Aurobindo: When we look at the past of India, what strikes us is her stupendous vitality, her inexhaustible power of life and joy of life, her almost unimaginably prolific creativeness. For three thousand years at least,—it is indeed much longer,—she has been creating abundantly and incessantly, lavishly, with an inexhaustible many-sidedness, republics and kingdoms and empires, philosophies and cosmogonies and sciences and creeds and arts and poems and all kinds of monuments, palaces and temples and public works, communities and societies and religious orders, laws and codes and rituals, physical sciences, psychic sciences, systems of Yoga, systems of politics and administration, arts spiritual, arts worldly, trades, industries, fine crafts,—the list is endless and in each item there is almost a plethora of activity. There is no historical parallel for such an intellectual labour and activity before the invention of printing and the facilities of modern science; yet all that mass of research and production and curiosity of detail was accomplished without these facilities and with no better record than the memory and for an aid the perishable palm-leaf. Nor was all this colossal literature confined to philosophy and theology, religion and Yoga, logic and rhetoric and grammar and linguistics, poetry and drama, medicine and astronomy and the sciences; it embraced all life, politics and society, all the arts from painting to dancing, all the sixty-four accomplishments, everything then known that could be useful to life or interesting to the mind, even, for instance, to such practical side minutiae as the breeding and training of horses and elephants, each of which had its Shastra and its art, its apparatus of technical terms, its copious literature. In each subject from the largest and most momentous to the smallest and most trivial there was expended the same all-embracing, opulent, minute and thorough intellectuality. (The Renaissance in India – I, Foundations of Indian Culture) Most of this knowledge was given and gained through a highly evolved education system known as the Gurukul. Gurukuls were the traditional custodians of secular and spiritual knowledge. In the traditional Gurukul, new knowledge was developed by constant inquiry and experimentation and the knowledge was shared with students (shishyas) who would take it to society and look after its development for the future. All existing knowledge was organized, documented and preserved for anyone to access, anytime in the present or the future. Outdated knowledge was updated or discarded. This tradition and system of generating and applying knowledge across various aspects of human and social life was already in decline when the Mughals arrived, followed by the British. Even up to the end of the Mughal period, India continued to be a country of immense prosperity with the highest advanced knowledge traditions and a largely stable society. However, as always happens with civilizations everywhere, a great period of prosperity and efflorescence is always followed by decline and degeneration. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries indeed marked the beginning of such a decline. …Undoubtedly there was a period, a brief but very disastrous period of the dwindling of that great fire of life, even a moment of incipient disintegration, marked politically by the anarchy which gave European adventure its chance, inwardly by an increasing torpor of the creative spirit in religion and art,—science and philosophy and intellectual knowledge had long been dead or petrified into a mere scholastic Punditism,—all pointing to a nadir of setting energy, the evening-time from which according to the Indian idea of the cycles a new age has to start. It was that moment and the pressure of a superimposed European culture which followed it that made the reawakening necessary. (The Renaissance in India – I, Foundations of Indian Culture) Soon after the Industrial revolution, India passed under British rule. The British, as the rulers, brought in with them their own culture and civilization which they imposed on the peoples of India. This led to a rapid and continuous decline of the original Indian culture and civilization. The same trend, unfortunately, continued even after Independence as a large majority of Indians unquestioningly accepted the ways of the western world as their new values and ideals. The western industrial civilization, which has exclusively dominated the world during the last two centuries, has led to imbalance in the world which has not been good for anyone. With an excess of industrialization, we have had excessive use of synthetic chemicals, a serious depletion of nature and natural resources, widespread competitiveness amongst all strata of people, and a consequent loss of compassion, peace and wellbeing. The Indian opportunity These very challenges and problems that have come in the wake of westernization and globalization can also become a great opportunity for us. These critical issues of modern global society can be looked at anew from an original Indian point of view and creative solutions found. For this, we will need to go back into the depths of relevant traditional practices and knowledge systems of ancient India, understand them deeply, and out of that knowledge, create products and services for our contemporary needs and make them available to a global society. The process of creating these solutions and products should not proceed by rejecting modern knowledge and practices but incorporating the best of those practices and knowledge systems. The natural tendency of the Indian mind is to synthesize, not to divide. Hence, we should openly embrace the advancements of modern society, science and technology. What we need to avoid are the vital-egoistic tendencies of division, competition, exclusive self-interest, destruction of nature, excess of consumerism and other similar extremes. That was in fact what our own ancestors did, never losing their originality, never effacing their uniqueness, because always vigorously creating from within, with whatever knowledge or artistic suggestion from outside they thought worthy of acceptance or capable of an Indian treatment. (Indian Culture and External Influence, Foundations of Indian Culture) With an open mind and heart we should synthesize and harmonize the original Indian knowledge with advances in the modern world, across domains of knowledge, science and technology, and especially the information and computing technologies. With this as a basis, we should create solutions that are rooted in the essential Indian principles and worldview. Which means that all our products and methods will truly be sustainable and in harmony with nature as well as human society, a conscious adoption of these will automatically lead to a much more balanced world. This is a great economic opportunity and will lead to the creation of “good” wealth and long-term prosperity for India and her people — this can become a big part of our Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission. A large global population is waiting to adopt our products and services. There are two main stakeholders needed for this movement to happen. First would be the entrepreneurs —those who will start projects that would identify the important problems, do the R&D on finding and building solutions and finally bring them to the market in the form of products and services. The second important stakeholder would be the government, both at the center and state — the government can play the role of a constructive partner by creating policies, supporting frameworks and a generally facilitative environment. An ecosystem of entrepreneurs: A core team should be formed with some experienced and senior experts and enablers, with appropriate knowledge and capabilities, and with a strong and clear intention towards this end. This core team should initiate the creation of a vibrant ecosystem with an intention to discover and support individuals and teams who are already working with this approach or are interested in doing so. This team should reach out to enterprising youngsters, who are brimming with the confidence of the success of the Indian startup ecosystem and are raring to make their mark in the world by creating new projects and ventures. They should be educated and given clear and compelling insights into the original Indian mind and its tendencies of problem solving and why this path presents a unique opportunity for the Indian entrepreneur. This can be done via blogs, articles, videos, workshops, seminars and forums. A few specialized startup accelerators and funds should be created to exclusively help these entrepreneurs during the idea and early stage, and then during the growth stage of the companies. The core team should also setup a community platform using online and mobile solutions where all the eco-system players can collaborate, connect and provide support to each other. Many individuals and teams are already working on these lines, and they should be invited to participate in the community eco-system. A National Policy The central government should come up with a national policy which makes a sincere attempt to contribute towards these initiatives. Such businesses will create wealth of the best kind, which is generated by bringing balance to earth and goodness to humanity. The policy initiatives can be along the following lines: Create a committee of well qualified members to do an in-depth study to identify the first set of products / services / knowledge streams to kickstart the initiative. Create a simple but strict regulatory framework implemented via people well qualified in the relevant domains. (This will ensure that products and services are of high quality and effective and to filter out opportunist people who might supply low quality products and services in the name of original Indian products. We need to re-establish, protect and enhance the reputation of the Indian way of doing things.) Provide long-term tax breaks for the qualified initiatives. Ensure availability of long-term debt and equity capital. Set up or support setting up of autonomous national level Institutes in different parts of the country on the lines of Gurukuls to research and study this domain. Setup / support setting up of various skill development centers at grass root levels in villages / towns / cities. The civilizational consciousness of India has been growing quite vigorously in recent years and as a result, an economic renaissance based on the Indianness is almost inevitable. What exact shape and structure will that take remains to be seen. Share of world GDP throughout history
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.
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
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. 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, 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
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.
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
The religious culture which now goes by the name of 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 endeavour 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, Sanatan Dharma…. (Sri Aurobindo, 1919) In recent years there has been an academic controversy amongst the more scholarly followers of Sri Aurobindo on the subject of whether he should be considered a Hindu and whether his teachings could be classed as Hinduism. Unfortunately there are many western or westernised Indian followers of Hindu gurus who will do their utmost to dissociate themselves from the word “Hindu”, a phenomenon which the Hindu author and writer Rajiv Malhotra refers to as the U- Turn. Such individuals who try their best to escape any association with the word Hindu typically feel that their sage/guru is of universal importance, belonged to the whole world, and cared about everyone – Hindu or non-Hindu alike. Therefore it is a travesty for such a great universal teacher to be called a Hindu. What they fail to realise is that the basic teachings of Hinduism (the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita and other sacred literature) are every bit as universal as their own cherished guru. Hinduism and Universal are synonymous All the thousands of true Hindu sages through the passage of time have always said that their teachings are universal, and have had a concern for all humanity. This does not make them non-Hindu. This just means that at its core – Hinduism itself is universal and embraces the whole of humanity, allowing all to drink the nectar of its wisdom without giving up their identity. But they don’t want to attribute the quality of universalism to Hinduism, because it is unfashionable; Hinduism being associated in the media with backwardness and social ills. “But to limit Sri Aurobindo to Hinduism is like characterising modern science and technology as purely Christian, since by and large they originated in the Christian countries.” (Mangesh Nadkarni) This is quite wrong. Sri Aurobindo acknowledges (and nobody would dare argue otherwise) that he first achieved direct spiritual experience reflecting upon and practicing the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, with intense devotion to Krishna. Without these he would not have been able to achieve his spiritual realisations, and develop his philosophical teachings. On the other hand, modern science was not developed by persons who were following a Christian line of thought or enquiry. It was developed by enquiry and study into material reality, independently of religion. Hence, the relationship between Sri Aurobindo and Hinduism is quite different to the relationship between modern science and Christianity. Sri Aurobindo’s teachings can be said to be unique and universal – but these teachings would not have developed without the creative field of experimentation that Hinduism provides. Sri Aurobindo was a heroic spiritual experimenter, like the ancient Vedic sages, who wanted to use his experiences and knowledge to transform and save the world. It is accurate to say that the teachings of Sri Aurobindo flowed out of traditional Hinduism. Reprinted from the Internet without permission Please go to the original article to read more
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. 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 (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.
H.H. the Dalai Lama said during the last Kumbh Mela in Haridwar that “India has great potential to help the world.” He added that already as a youth in Lhasa he was greatly impressed with the richness of Indian thought, and went as far as to say “Everything in my head is from India. I am a son of India.” In India, however, there are two camps. One agrees with the Dalai Lama. The other does not and even ridicules anyone who claims that India’s heritage has great value. I belong to those who agree with the Dalai Lama. The reason is simple: It is true. India does have great potential to help the world. There is plenty of evidence. Just read some of the ancient texts, for example the Upanishads. The insights contained therein are mind boggling. For me, who grew up as a Christian and felt dissatisfied with what I was taught to believe, it was all the more obvious. Christianity is no equal to the Indian tradition. Here I refer only to the philosophical and religious angle. Yet India’s heritage contains amazing knowledge in all possible fields – from science to music, from architecture to astronomy to medicine and so on. It is a huge treasure, in spite of the fact that a lot of this treasure has been lost or destroyed. Not without reason India is called the cradle of civilization and “Indian wisdom” is proverbial in the west. Now, since it is clear that the Dalai Lama is right, how can there be people who disagree? This is a long story that started in 1835 when a politician called Thomas Macauley pleaded in the British Parliament to replace the Sanskrit gurukuls in India with English education. He argued that if Britain wants to successfully subdue Indians, they need to be cut off from their culture. Macauley got his way. From then on, the Indian elite had to send their children to English medium schools, if they wanted them to make it in life. Naturally, the kids didn’t hear much about their own great culture and whatever little they heard, was negative. And since they didn’t learn Sanskrit, they could not check it out for themselves. Ironically, this happened at a time, when the European elite had discovered Sanskrit and India’s wisdom and were stunned by its depth. This discovery contributed to the so called era of enlightenment in Europe which resulted in a separation between state and Church. Yet Indian children were taught from mid-19th century onwards, how great and accomplished Britain was. It suited the colonial masters to have “educated natives” who held them and their lifestyle, including their religion, in high esteem. In return, they, especially those who had converted to the western religions, were allowed to feel superior to the ‘superstitious Indian masses’. Brainwashing works. And Indians proved that it lasts even over several generations. Those who claim that the Dalai Lama is wrong are generally “Macauley’s children” who feel proud that they are fluent in English and don’t realize that they have been uprooted in the interest of their former masters. These people never delved into the rich Indian heritage that had impressed the Dalai Lama. Yet in spite of their ignorance, they claim that India has nothing to offer. They don’t really claim it: they shout it, so that any opposition to their view cannot be heard. Of course this is not a healthy state of affairs, but it plays out often on Indian news channels: Macauley’s children (or should I call them ‘anti-Hindu brigade’?) accuse and insinuate about Hinduism what the British convent schools had taught them. Missionaries have always maligned Hinduism, but in the recent decades, a new, dangerous insinuation is noisily propagated. Christian leaders support it and the international media eagerly picks it up. It is this: “Hindus are intolerant of other religions. They hate members of other religions, and now, since there is a BJP government, they show their agenda openly. They want a Hindu India and obliterate other religions. The rising incidents of attacks on churches prove it.” “Who will stop this hate” kept flashing on the screen of a news channel, after a stone had damaged a church window. Such insinuations are unbearably unfair. Hindus (other Indian traditions included) are by far the most tolerant people on earth. There is no other country, where minority Christians, Jews and Muslims are as safe as in India. And yet there seems to be a coordinated effort by Indians and westerners, which is gleefully supported by the media, to paint Hindus as hateful of other religions. “Attacks on churches have a pattern” they shout, when there is no pattern. After a burglary of 8000 Rupees in a Christian school, Macauley’s children demanded a statement from the Prime Minister in spite of the fact that the principal of the school (a nun) and the police had stated that it was theft without any communal angle. When children threw a stone at a church, it made national news for hours, and will probably be eagerly included in international news reports that “incidents of attacks on churches are rising in India”. In contrast, attacks on temples are not considered newsworthy. In 2014, 206 temples and 3 churches were vandalized. If vandalism of a place of worship is expected to have been committed by culprits from another religion, then the number of attacks on churches should be a multiple of the attacks on temples, because Hindus are the great majority. How come that far more temples were vandalized? The point is that the anti-Hindu brigade is not interested in the truth. They want that attacks on churches are rising, at least in the perception of people the world over. They want that ‘Hinduism’ evokes disgust. What could be the reason? President Obama’s recent remarks may give a hint. At a prayer breakfast in the White House a few days after the Jordanian Air Force pilot was brutally burned alive by ISIS, he tried to give the impression that Islam, Christianity and Hinduism are all in the same boat. They all have committed unspeakable atrocities. “Even Gandhi would be shocked”, he said referring to India. Now this attempt to draw Hinduism in was blatantly dishonest. While Christianity and Islam indeed have a terrible historical record, Indian traditions do not. There were many different ways of worship in India yet all lived peacefully together – till the dogmatic religions, Islam and Christianity, arrived on the scene, and Hindus became their victims. Instead of trying to pull Hinduism down to the level of the dogmatic religions in the perception of others, it would be better to find out what makes dogmatic religions prone to violence and eliminate those aspects. One major aspect is the fact that the dogmatic religions mix up the path with the truth. They claim that only one path is true – their own – and all have to follow this one path, when in reality only one truth is true and paths are many. The Rishis declared “Truth is one; the sages call it by many names”. The problem with the dogmatic religions is, however, that they don’t enquire into what is really true. They think that truth is the opposite of a lie, and insist that the story they tell about God is true and not a lie. They never deeply reflected on what is really and absolutely true about us and the universe. Indian rishis did reflect and came up with deep insights Truth is the eternal, unchanging, infinite, conscious basis that upholds this ever changing universe. Names and forms are only fleeting and impermanent appearances on this basis which is among others described as Sat-Chit-Ananda. The Rishis claim that the goal of life is to discover this truth in us and they show many ways, depending on the tendencies of different persons – bhakti, jnana, karma, yoga, etc. The Hindu tradition is open-minded: If devotion to Krishna helps you, it is fine. If devotion to Jesus helps you, it is also fine. Will the dogmatic religions correct themselves? Will they agree that truth is one and different paths are possible? It seems so natural and would make such big positive change in the world. Yet it is not likely that those religions will give up the power that comes with “we alone have the truth” without being pressurized. They keep defending their flawed religion, and one major aspect of this defense is to malign Hindu Dharma. The reason may be that they are aware that if people knew the truth about Hindu Dharma, they would appreciate it as it makes far more sense than the dogmatic religions. Indians needs to ponder how to translate the potential of their tradition to help the world into reality. Mainstream media clearly sides with dogmatic religions and its influence is close to almighty. Yet those religions have serious drawbacks. Their followers are left stranded regarding the meaning of life. Depression is rampant in the Christian west and Muslim youth is horribly misguided to believe that killing unbelievers makes their lives meaningful and will fetch them a reward in afterlife. If Hindus and Buddhists join together and propagate India’s wisdom, their voice is more likely to be heard. At the same time, they need to expose absurd dogmas and forcefully demand at international forums that nobody can claim without any evidence that non–Christians (and non-Muslims respectively) will burn in hell for all eternity. If this is not hate speech, what is? If this is not against human rights, what is? Voltaire said: “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” The belief in absurdities needs to be stopped. Then atrocities in the name of religion will stop automatically. Maria Wirth’s blog
Did we ever notice that only Hinduism mentions the universe? The reason is that only Hinduism knows about the vast dimensions and the huge timeframes of the universe of which our earth is just a speck. Ancient cultures like Maya, Inka, Sumeria, and others may also have reached out to the stars, but they were all destroyed either by Christianity or by Islam, and Bible or Quran were enforced as “the truth”. Only Hindus have still preserved this knowledge which in all likelihood originated in India itself. There are still millions of valuable ancient texts in India, even though millions of others were burnt by invaders on the premise that only one book is needed. In Greece in contrast, there are estimated to be only some 20,000 texts. Surya Sidhanta is a major text with incredible knowledge about the universe dated – hold your breath – at least 10,000 years ago. The ancient Indians knew that the earth is round or rather elliptical, that it goes around the sun, they knew the distance to the sun and moon; they knew that the distance is 108 times the respective diameter – the reason why sun and moon appear of the same size from the earth. Their knowledge was truly inspired or ‘God-given’. The Puranas (purana means old and according to tradition were composed by Veda Vyasa around 5000 years ago), which are often dismissed as mere myths, are also a treasure trove of knowledge. They talk among other things about the creation of the universe (the ‘Big Bang’ and ‘expanding universe’ theory were in all likelihood inspired by them) and about the periodic withdrawal after billions of years, about the original, unmanifested One Source and the gods in charge of creation, sustenance and dissolution, who evolved from the One Source. Clearly, the ancient Indians were at home in the universe. The Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana even claims that there are ‘myriads of universes’, a view which may now be taken more seriously by science after certain experiments in Antarctica had strange results. The timescales which the ancient Indians proposed are incredibly huge. Now compare this with the Abrahamic religions. Judaism, the parent religion, as it were, of Christianity and Islam claims that the earth is some 6000 years old. Christianity and Islam didn’t challenge this view. Both did not look beyond this earth and actually hold very primitive ideas about it. Christianity taught that the earth is flat and static and that the sun moves over it until 400 years ago. Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, was burnt to death in 1600 CE because he refused to disown the theory that the earth goes around the sun. Imagine – he was brutally killed for stating the truth and only 400 years ago… Islam too considers the earth as flat and mountains were placed to stabilize it (Q19.15). Like Christianity, Islam also says that not the earth, but the sun moves, and runs to its resting place at night. There was clearly no idea about the vastness of the universe, as Q 67.5. says “We have decorated the heaven of this world with lamps and we made them as missiles for pelting the shaitans and thus prepared for them the scourge of flames.” So naturally, these religions don’t mention the universe, because they had no clue about it. It is truly unfortunate that they dumbed down the intelligence of the human race. They destroyed the natural urge to discover the truth about us and the universe. Only since Christianity lost its power to punish views which are not in tune with the teaching of the Church, science took off in the West. There is no doubt that the sudden tremendous progress of science in the recent few centuries was greatly inspired by Indian knowledge. Some western scientists themselves acknowledged this. Einstein said “We owe a lot to the Indians.” Famous scientists like Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Oppenheimer or Tesla studied India’s ancient wisdom. And Mark Twain opined: “Our most valuable and most constructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” Even in the 1970s and 80s, India’s wisdom had a rather good image, after the Beatles were inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation. The contribution of India for example to Transpersonal Psychology was also acknowledged at that time, yet was meanwhile erased at least from Wikipedia. However, in our modern times, this has changed. Hindu Dharma and Hindus, especially Brahmins, who preserved the knowledge system over many millennia, are unfairly vilified and ridiculed by the mainstream religions. They are accused of ‘oppressing minorities’, of ‘rape culture’ and even of terrorism. It happens rarely that anything positive is said about the Hindu tradition, when it actually produces the most humane mind-set, as it is based on Dharma, which means to do what is right under the given circumstances. Are the institutionalized religions afraid that they lose their followers, if they come to know about the knowledge still stored up in India? Reprinted with permission from the author Maria Wirth Blog
Hindu Dharma Has a Scientific Temper There have been many attempts to define the Hindu Dharma, or more appropriately, Sanātana Dharma throughout the modern era. Most notably, the Supreme Court defined it as a way of life, and not as a set of beliefs. The attitude of Hindus towards the spiritual has always been one of seeking and inquiry, rather than any certainty of dogma. Yet, there are certain science beliefs that are unique to Hinduism. Let us call these beliefs as ‘Scientific Beliefs of Hinduism’, because these are open to inquiry and change. These can be broadly classified into six categories, and Hinduism can be compared with the other religions on these parameters: Attitude to ScienceTime conceptsLogic concepts EpistemologyCosmology Eschatology Let us first look at each of these separately, and then take a holistic look. 1. Attitude to Science: Science is a methodology. In modern era, Science for the lay people has also become a subject being taught and learnt on the basis of authority. Students do not really know whether the earth revolves on its axis, except on the authority of scientists who really have the means to conduct experiments and prove them. Science as a methodology can be defined as an empirical method which accepts a physical phenomenon as True on the basis of it being universal — true across time and space; verifiable — demonstrable to all; and repeatable — that which will repeat in similar circumstances. To that we add refutability or falsifiability, i.e. one is free to try and refute that physical phenomenon. Sanātana Dharma’s scientific attitude to the Universe is not just applicable to the physical world, but also to the spiritual world. It is best exemplified by the famous Nāsadiya Sukta of Ṛgveda (10.129) (Translation of AL Basham): Then even nothingness was not, nor existence, There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it. What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping? Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed? (1) Then there was neither death nor immortality nor was there then the torch of night and day. The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining. There was that One then, and there was no other. (2) At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness. All this was only unillumined cosmic water. That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing, arose at last, born of the power of heat. (3) In the beginning desire descended on it – that was the primal seed, born of the mind. The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom know that which is kin to that which is not. (4) And they have stretched their cord across the void, and know what was above, and what below. Seminal powers made fertile mighty forces. Below was strength, and over it was impulse. (5) But, after all, who knows, and who can say Whence it all came, and how creation happened? the gods themselves are later than creation, so who knows truly whence it has arisen? (6) Whence all creation had its origin, the creator, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not, the creator, who surveys it all from highest heaven, he knows — or maybe even he does not know. (7) This kind of open inquiry about the origin of Cosmos is unknown in the Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Abrahamic religions do not allow any questioning and inquiry, and treat the Word of their scriptures beyond refutation. Sanātana Hinduism, on the other hand, allows not only open inquiry, but as the subsequent developments of Hinduism show, even open debate and refutation. Every branch of orthodox Hinduism allowed this open inquiry, and allowed debate within various sects. Buddha’s debates with the orthodox Sanātana Brahmins are the best example of this approach. Buddha was every inch a Hindu, but he differed from the orthodox view on the question of existence of the Ātman (loosely translated as the eternal soul). Hindus and the followers of Buddha debated the question for over a millennia till Hinduism won a final victory led by the Ādi Shankar. To refute the concept of the Ātman, people even carried out physical experiments, without any consequences to their physical well being. Payāsi Sutta has a description of a person about to die being enclosed in a vessel, being weighed, observations of ātman escaping the vessel being taken; weight being taken immediately after death; and a final pronouncement of the absence of the ātman on weight being found the same. All across the Upanishads, this spirit of inquiry, debate and refutation is present in full measure. Vedanta philosophy speculates on duality, Oneness, qualified Oneness, and the sages have derived advaita, dvaita, vishishtadvaita, and bhakti from the same material. People like Charvāka refuted the existence of Ātman on the basis of direct observation epistemology, yet he was honoured with the title of a Rishi. Patanjali’s Yōga Sutra provides a basis for physical verification of the existence of the Supreme. Kapila Muni’s Saṃkhya philosophy provides a cosmological basis, whereas Vaisheshika of Kaṇāda dwells on the physical cause and effect. Bhagvadgita encapsulates all the philosophies into one whole, and even that great book provides Arjuna with a glimpse of many paths. Krishṇa exhorts Arjuna in the end to choose any of the paths that he had described –yathechchhasi tathā kuru. Thus it is clear from this evidence that the concept of Creation, as well as that of the Ātman in the Hindu pantheon is physical, subject to personal verification, and refutable. This is a purely scientific approach to the mysteries of Universe. While Ātman in Hinduism is a refutable physical concept, and is, therefore, scientific; on the other hand, the ‘soul’ of the Abrahamic religions is an irrefutable metaphysical concept, hence unscientific. To illustrate this point further — Creation, soul, and God are all based on the revealed Book, not subject to verification or debate (any such act is termed as heresy), and an irrefutable Truth on the authority of God, Yahveh, or Allah. This is a purely unscientific approach. So this is the first major fundamental difference between Hinduism and Western religions. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) To Part 2
2. Time Concepts “Time is the interface between Science and Religion” — Dr. CK Raju The biggest difference and that which makes it impossible for the Eastern and Western cultures to meet at a midpoint is their concepts of Time. This is also the fundamental problem of the West which makes it difficult for them to understand the Eastern cultures. The Biblical dogmas of Noah’s sons Japheth, Shem and Ham have been used by the Christian West to describe, a. themselves; b. Jews and Muslims (Semites), and c. Non-Abrahamic world (Hamites). No wonder that when so much ignorance is passed off as scholarship based on the unscientific stories in the Old Testament, it results in hate theories of anti-Semitism and racism. The Holocaust and the Aryan Invasion Theories are direct results of this dogma inspired hate and supremacism. The biggest defining difference between East and West is their concept of Time, not just because of the nature of concepts, but also because it demarcates their proximity or distance from Science. Hinduism, which is the philosophical origin point of almost all Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and many smaller religions, treats Time as cyclical. Kāla Chakra is a frequently occurring term in everyday conversation of Hindus, meaning the cycle of Time. The Sanskrit term for the Universe, Brahmānda, conceives of the Cosmos as an egg. The Sanskrit term for the material world, Saṃsāra, itself means ‘the cycle of birth and death’, as opposed to Nirvāṇa, which means liberation from this cycle. There are variations to this concept of Time. Dr. CK Raju has proposed the concept of quasi-cyclical Time, without which the entire cycle of the expansion and contraction of the Cosmos would repeat endlessly and exactly (eternal recurrence). The Cosmos is presently in the expansion mode, with some scientists positing a concept of ever-expanding Universe, but the Big Bang theory being ever expanding is now seriously doubted, and scientists are seriously considering the cyclical concept of Time. The cyclical model of the universe is the most probable: an expanding singularity (the big bang), an expanding universe (what we currently observe), equilibrium, a contracting universe, and a singularity again. And then, the next cycle. Needless to say, this is what Hindu cosmology talks about. Hindu cosmology is the only system of cosmology whose vast time scales are comparable to those of physical cosmology. The Christian West also started out by internalizing the Greek notion of migrating soul, and cyclical Time. However, when the Church managed to convert the Roman Emperor, and became the State Religion of the Roman Empire through the backdoor, a recurrence of time became a problem. In any cyclically recurring Universe, or quasi-Universe, the freely willed actions of individuals would be the rational determinants of how they would shape up in the next cycle. That would establish a direct relationship between God and Man, which would finish the role of the Church. This led to the Church denouncing the concept of cyclical Time. The Fifth Ecumenical conference of the Church in Constantinople in 553 AD pronounced a Curse on Cyclical Time. Surprising, but true. Dr. CK Raju explains the rationale: ‘Inequity as the basis of “linear” time’. However, after Constantine, this belief in the equity of all souls stood in the way of the political goals of the Church, which now viewed the world from the imperial perspective of the Roman state: if all souls would anyway be saved, what was the advantage to be gained by turning Christian? If God was within man, where was the need to fear God, and be obedient to the priest? Hence, theologians like Augustine proposed to erase equity and erect a transcendent God who would judge people and establish a simplistic moral division between good (Christians) and bad (non-Christians). In the revised picture proposed by state Christianity, all souls were NOT equal, so not all souls were eventually saved; instead God established a permanent inequity in the world, sending some souls (those of good Christians) to heaven (for ever), and other souls (non-Christians) to hell, as described in gory detail by Dante, for example. Reincarnation was accordingly changed to resurrection — life after death, just once. Because the earlier notion of soul depended upon a view of life after death deriving from the belief in quasi-cyclic time, time beliefs were also compelled to change with this changed notion of the soul and of life after death. Time beliefs changed from quasi-cyclic time to “linear” apocalyptic time: the world, as conceived by Augustine, began a few thousand years ago, and would soon come to an end. The notion of the soul became metaphysical. Thus, the question of “linear” versus “cyclic” time is an issue.’ This very concept of ‘Linear Time’ found its way into Islam, even though there was a significant section among the early Muslims, known as Mutazalites, who believed in ‘cyclical time’ and rational thinking. It was the Sufi Al-Ghazali who teamed up with the conservatives and completely demolished the rational spirituality in Islam around the 11th century. Even though Al-Ghazali propounded a concept of metaphysically broken Time, renewing itself every instant, but essentially killing off the spiritual strand of Islam that was close to Hindu thinking in Time beliefs. People like Mansoor Hallaj were persecuted and killed for believing in concepts close to the Sanatana Advaita (Ana-‘l-haq or I am the Truth is considered a variation of Aham Brahmasmi). It is because of this notion of quasi-cyclical Time that the Indian notion of Karma-Saṃskāra inheres as an exercise of autonomy in temporal affairs of mankind. It is because of this that Hinduism carries unique sense of gratitude to the environment around them (the concept of Ṛna or debt) and treats life as a celebration. This is in contrast to Christianity that treats Life as a sin, and Islam that treats Life as a test for a good time in an eternal afterlife. The unique culture of treating the entire nature and living beings as manifestation of the Supreme comes from this belief in cyclical Time. Beliefs in Creationism and Linear Time are a direct negation of gratitude towards anyone else except the One creator, such as Yahveh, God, or Allah. In essence, culture and values are a byproduct of not just the geography, but also of Time belief. The concept of Linear Time had its greatest validation in Newton’s theories, but General Relativity and the concept of spacetime has dealt it a body blow. The problem of time is sought to be resolved through integration of the Relative (very large) and Quantum (very small) phenomena through a Unified Field theory such as Quantum Gravity. This has not yet succeeded but Linear Time is under serious questions. This is a challenge to the religions that cast their lot with Linear Time. Do not, however, underestimate the flexibility and manoeuvrability of the Church, which recognized Galileo in 1992 (imagine), and supported Stephen Hawking’s model of singularity that mimics God. Hinduism, on the other hand, has had no such problems at the doctrinal level. Problems of Hinduism lie more on its behavioral side with sectarian schisms, and exploitation of fault lines by its adversaries. According to Dr. CK Raju, “Hinduism is scientific, because (a) its core notions of ātman and moksha depend upon the concept of quasi-cyclic time (b) which can be experimentally TESTED “here and now” by using the connection to a local “tilt in the arrow of time”, and testing for a tilt in the arrow of time, as explained in my books. The mark of a scientific theory is that it can be tested or refuted according to Karl Popper.” To sum up, the belief in ātman and moksha is NOT a superstition but part of a viable scientific theory which needs to be tested experimentally (“physics”). But the belief in linear time or superlinear time is a superstition. That is, “reincarnation” is possible, but the post-Nicene Church notion of “resurrection” is a superstition (“metaphysics”). Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) Part 1 Part 3
3. Logic Concepts The assertion that Hinduism is different from the Middle Eastern Religions of the Book is further fortified by the different ways in which they approach logic. All Middle Eastern Religions follow the Greek system of logic, where any physical phenomenon is viewed only in shades of black and white. Called two-valued logic, the logic recognizes only two states of any phenomenon — true or false. When aligned to the superlinear Time adopted by the post-Augustinian Church, it creates a strong dialectical system of binaries, where Truth is what is ordained from the above, and everything else is False. So the culture of violence that condemns the sinner, or curses a concept (like the concept of cyclical Time by the Church, or the concept of Trinity, or multiple manifestations by Islam), the consequences of heresy or haram visited upon the dissenters are easily justified. The two-valued logic has had other consequences too. The Indian gaṇita (system of calculation) was adopted by the West in the Middle Ages as Mathematics, and devised a system of formal mathematics based on proofs. These proofs were products of the two-valued logic, recognizing only deductive proof, resulting in such farcical proofs as Russell proving 2+2=4 in 378 pages. The Newtonian Science also adopted this two-valued logic along with superlinear Time, producing a mechanistic view of Science, which is still being undone. (Please refer to ‘Cultural Foundation of Mathematics’ by Dr. CK Raju). The Indian Systems have always followed a multi-valued logic, beginning with the Vedas, which prescribed Chatushkoṭi, or the ‘four-valued logic’. (The Nāsadiya Sūkta cited in Part 1 is a good example, and Patanjali and Pāṇini use it extensively). The four values of this system of logic are ‘True’, ‘False’, ‘Both True and False’, and ‘Neither True Nor False’. Combine this with cyclical Time, and it should be very clear to all that we can then have a very open architecture for debate. It is exactly this kind of debate that we find in the Upanishads. This extends to all other systems of Indian thought, culminating in the orthodox Nyāya system, and going to the extremes of seven-valued (saptabhaṅga) and eight-valued logic of some Buddhist and Jain philosophers. The scholar of Mahabharata and Ramayana chronology, Nilesh Neelakantha Oak summarises it in this quadrant: In the words of Dr. Subhash Kak, ‘Logic is one of the six darśanas, which are the classical schools of Indian philosophy. These six schools are the different complementary perspectives on reality, which may be visualised as the views from the six walls of a cube within which the subject is enclosed. The base is the broad system of the tradition (Purva Mimāṃsa), and the ceiling represents the large questions of meaning related to the objective world and the subject (Uttara Mimāṃsa or Vedānta); one side is analysis of linguistic particles (Nyāya), with the opposite side being the analysis of material particles (Vaiśeśika); another side is enumerative categories in evolution at the cosmic and individual levels (Sāṃkhya), with the opposite side representing the synthesis of the material and cognitive systems in the experiencing individual (Yōga).’ The core philosophies of Hinduism like Ātman and Moksha depend upon inner seeking, and concepts of immanence and transcendence of the Self. Sat, Chit and Ananda are the three facets of the Cosmic Truth, with many more variations appearing within the different systems. ‘Ekam sadviprā bahudhā vadanti’, or many paths lead to the same Truth is possible only with a many-valued logic. There is no room for binaries in Hinduism as it is fundamentally a spiritual path through consciousness — described as Chitta (Self-Consciousness or Awareness), and Chita (Universal Consciousness) — which necessarily requires exploration in different spaces of logic. It is, therefore, a necessary concomitant to the concept of cyclical Time. Even though Christianity also began with a challenge to Judaism, and tall philosophers like Origen subscribed to not only cyclical Time, but also to the non-binary logic, this underwent a change with the wedding of the Church with State power, and the Augustinian notion of superlinear Time meant that logic too had to be reduced to a binary, or two-valued logic in order to deify the concepts of true God vs. false gods, piety vs. sin, believer vs. unbeliever, or simply heaven vs. hell. There is no room for a grey area in this concept of what was also sought to be entrenched as Pure Reason. So the post-Nicene (after the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea) Christianity beginning from Constantine, and more particularly from Justinian to Newton, and right up to Bertrand Russell simply promoted two-valued logic. It is, therefore, no surprise at all that Marxism became the apotheosis of this two-valued logic, pitting capital and labour against each other. Islam simply got stuck to this two-valued logic of belief vs. unbelief from the time of Ibn Taymaiah — the beginning of the dark age of Islam. The Vedanta logic is a clear three-valued concept: satya, asatya and mithyā, i.e. true, false, and unreal (having shades of both). One of the clearest expressions of this is found in this Bhagvadgita shloka: “nāsato vidyate bhāvo, nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ// ubhayorapi drishṭo antas tv anayos tatvadarshabhiḥ” [2:16]. This means ‘Those who have seen the Truth have concluded that of the non-existent (the material body), there is no endurance; and of the eternal (the Ātman), there is no change. They have reached this conclusion by studying the nature of both.’ The advent of quantum mechanics, and quantum logic is the final tribute of Science to the three-valued logic system of the Hindus. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and Schrodinger’s simultaneously dead and alive cat are examples of three-valued logic — clear, not clear and indeterminate. Another form of multi-valued logic is also seen in the field of computing. To quote Dr. CK Raju, ‘one can construct a more realistic desktop model involving parallel computing, although understanding this requires a little more technical knowledge. In parallel computing, a single process executing on parallel processors may be in multiple states at a “single instant” of time. Needless to say, “parallel” is a bit of a misnomer, since it is an essential feature of parallel computing that the processors (logical worlds, in the Wittgensteinian sense) and processes communicate with each other, and that they branch and collapse. Time, so to say acquires a structure, and it is necessary to take into account this structure to understand the semantics of formal parallel computing languages. Microphysical closed time loops enable us to understand how an atom of time can nevertheless have a structure, in the sense that multiple logical worlds are attached to a single instant of time.’ One can simply contrast the Boolean Logic and Fuzzy Logic of the computation systems as a rough guide to the value of Logic in computers. Everyone would remember the famous Indian story of the elephant being described by ten blind men. The multi-valued logic of Hinduism and other Oṃkāra religions, which may be more appropriately called as spiritual systems, is the defining feature of Hinduism. To summarize, logic varies with culture: the two-valued logic, assumed a priori in the West and integral to Ahl-e-Kitab (of the Book) Religions, is not universal. The Indian culture, of which Hinduism is the defining example has never subscribed to two-valued logic, and this is also reflected in the way Indians did their Science and Mathematics. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) Part 2 Part 4
Reliable Means of Gaining Knowledge 4. Epistemology or Means of Knowledge प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि pratyakshānumanāgamāh pramaṇāni Direct perception, inference, and evidence of background knowledge, are proofs. (Patanjali Sutra 1.7) The above aphorism from the Yoga Sutra epitomizes the Sanātana approach to gaining true knowledge. Of the nine darshanas in the Indian philosophy (six orthodox darshanas — Veda, Vedānta, Yoga, Sāṃkhya, Nyāya, Vaiśeśika; and three heterodox darshanas — Buddhism, Jainism and Ćārvāka), each one of them relies on a certain number of valid means of gaining knowledge. These are: Pratyaksha – Empirical Evidence Anumāna – InferenceUpamāna – AnalogyArthāprapti – Deduction Anupalabdhi – Non-existence The nine systems of Indian philosophies have their own ways of treating these evidences as valid means to knowledge: Veda — all six Vedānta — all sixYoga — 1, 2 and 6Sāṃkhya — 1, 2 and 6Nyāya — 1, 2, 3, and 6 Vaiśeśika — 1 and 2 Buddhism — 1 and 2 by the Buddha, 6 added later Jainism — 1, 2, 3, and 6 Jainism — 1, 2, 3, and 6 In every Indian system, which obviously includes Hinduism, empirical evidence, or knowledge gained through direct sensory perception is common to every darshan, or philosophical system. The empirical is also placed at the highest pedestal in every system. What is most striking in this elaborate methodology of gaining knowledge is the fact that the Shabda Pramāṇa, or the Scriptural Evidence in our context is worthless in the absence of empirical evidence, or the Pratyaksha Pramāṇa. Isn’t this also the way of Science? The way of Science depends upon hypotheses tested through empirical evidence against a background of existing knowledge. As explained in part 1, verification, universality, repeatability and refutability are the essential components of the scientific method. The tools of Logic and Evidence are the means to achieve this objective. Though the empirical evidence in the Scientific method concerns only the external sensory perception, the pratyaksha pramāṇa in Hinduism encompasses the internal direct perception as well. This is where the Rishis and Gurus are important in the Hindu system. The story of Swami Vivekananda accepting the discipleship of Ramakrishna Paramahansa is instructive in the context of internal sensory perception. Narendranath Dutt (as he was known in his early life) was an extremely brilliant student, a rationalist, and deeply troubled by questions around the meaning of life. His quest took him to many great spiritual masters, including Maharshi Dwarkanath Tagore. Even as all of them claimed that they had realised the Supreme, not one of them could satisfy his query whether they were in a position to bring him face to face with the Supreme. When he posed the same question to the Paramahansa, he smiled and said, ‘Yes, I can do that, but are you prepared to come face to face with Him?’ This paused the young Narendra. After an intense period of inner struggle, he finally found himself up to the challenge and approached the Paramahansa in a fully prepared frame of mind. Paramahansa then showed him the Way that led Vivekananda to the ultimate realization. I have narrated this story to highlight the point that meaning of pratyaksha pramāṇa in the spiritual field is much wider than the empirical evidence countenanced by Science. Yet, this spiritual approach remains fully scientific. Evidence is required for validation, as Swami Vivekananda had demanded from Paramahansa Rāmakrishṇa. Now we must contrast this with the way of the Semitic and Japhetic Religions. The Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an rely on the strength of Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1.1) “A Messenger (Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) from Allah, reciting (the Quran) purified pages (purified from Al-Batil (falsehood, etc.)) Containing correct and straight laws from Allah” [Qur’an, al-Bayyinah, 98:2–3]. In the Abrahamic Religions, Word of God is the only Truth. It cannot be questioned. It is the only Proof. It cannot be refuted, it cannot be falsified. To utter anything against it is heresy. Some elements of this creed have probably been inspired by the apostasy and heresy doctrines that found their way into Zoroastrianism, but the contrast cannot be more stark. While in Hinduism, Word without empirical evidence and other admissible evidence is worthless, in the Noah Religions, Word is the only Truth. From this totalitarian precept emerge the exclusionary principles of belief/unbelief (fortified by Linear time and two-value Logic), heresy, apostasy, hypocrisy, and their dire punishments in this world and the hereafter. While it is possible to apply scientific principles of evidence to concepts of cyclical time, and multi-valued logic, and come up with a very inclusive, open architecture religion, culture and society; it becomes impossible when the only available evidence is to be found in a revealed Book. It is possible in Hinduism to have different attitudes, based on acceptance of different set of evidences. One can be a seeker, a believer, and an unbeliever, and yet be a Hindu. It is simply not possible for an unbeliever to be a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian. The consequences are writ large over the history of mankind. Hindus and Buddhists had fundamental doctrinal differences. A lively system of debate continued for over one millennium without any bloodshed. Debates were well structured with five well-ordered elements — vishaya (subject of debate), vismaya (doubts), purvapaksha (statement of others’ position), siddhānta (statement of one’s own position), and saṅgati (reconciliation) forming the framework of these debates. There was no such respite to competing philosophies by the Noah Religions. From the time the Church managed to convert Constantine to Christianity in 312 CE, and similarly with the march of Islam, the route of debate was firmly closed. This led to bloodshed becoming a norm to establish supremacy. To compound the problem, the unique Cosmology and Eschatology associated with the irrefutable Word of God went well with the superlinear concept of Time, as also with the two-valued Logic. It is, therefore, not at all difficult to see from this that Hinduism is totally different from the other Religions. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) Part 3 Part 5
5. Cosmology in Hinduism Cosmology is that part of a Religion, or of a Spiritual system like the Eastern Oṃkāra Dharmas, which defines its view of the Universe and the way human beings interact with it. Hindu Cosmology derives its view from its concepts of Kāla, or Time, and the way it rationalizes it through use of Logic. Logic as a function of culture is an important determinant of the way a culture, and a Religion as a product of that culture, uses its collective intellect to rationalise the transcendent and immanent through use of perceptions and reasoning. Abhijit Chavda, a scientist friend, who has been researching theoretical physics for over 20 years, had this to say on Hindu Cosmology: ‘From my ~20 years of study and research and calculations in theoretical physics and cosmology (based on several factors, primarily the inter-relationship between dark matter and dark energy and how the latter drives the universe’s expansion), I firmly believe that the cyclical model of the universe is the most probable: an expanding singularity (the big bang), an expanding universe (what we currently observe), equilibrium, a contracting universe, and a singularity again. And then, the next cycle. Needless to say, this is what Hindu cosmology talks about. Hindu cosmology is the only system of cosmology whose vast time scales are comparable to those of physical cosmology.’ Dr. CK Raju makes a modification to the singularity-expansion-contraction-singularity cycle. He considers the Friedmann cyclical model inappropriate for the Hindu Cosmology. Instead he uses the quasi-cyclical Time, like the lines on a record, so that Time does not flow in a straight line, nor does it loop on itself, but instead tilts — the ‘tilt in the arrow of Time’. However, this is too much of Pure Science for a lay reader. So, the Hindu Cosmology is an eternal cycle/quasi-cycle with a scheme of accountability for all living beings — humans, animals and plants, with a reflection of Universal Consciousness in every being — living and non-living. Divine is immanent in all, and it is possible for the highest in evolution cycle — the human being — to transcend the cycle of karma-saṃskāra and achieve liberation. One of the best concepts is provided in the Saṃkhya system, where the Purusha is the Cosmic Consciousnes — the Chit. Modifications in Chit produce the Individual Consciousness — the Chitta — called Prakriti. Prakriti is transcended by the Chitta with the help of ordinary pramāṇas available to the intellect. Samādhi is the ultimate experience and is also the ultimate pramāṇa at the level of Purusha. Samadhi is the Union of Yōga Sutras, and Ānanda or Chidānanda of Vedānta. Theory of Creationism does not apply at all. Divine and Man are interchangeable at one level. This is applicable across Multiverse, and just not the one Universe that we can perceive through our ordinary senses. The Vedānta verse of Nirvāna Shatakam by Ādi Shankara is a perfect illustration: ‘mano buddhihankāra chittāni nāham/na cha shrotra jihve na cha ghrāṇa netre//na cha vyoma bhumirnatejonavāyuh/chidānandarupah shivoham shivoham (I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the identity of self, not even the consciousness/I am also not the sense of hearing, nor taste, nor smell, and nor even the sight//I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor fire, and not even the air/I am the form of that Pure Cosmic Consciousness, I am the Shiva, I am the Shiva). Please note the different use of ‘chitta’ and ‘chit’ — similar to the use of Purusha and Prakriti in Sāṃkhya. The Cosmos finds a reflection in the human brain. That is why the different cognition points in the brain are revered as devatās. This view of the Universe and Multiverse is totally different in other Religions, including in Zoroastrianism. In the Abrahamic Religions, the common factor is the concept of Creationism, and an all powerful God/Yahveh/Allah who sits outside the Universe and creates it for the enjoyment of the human beings alone. They have their different reasons for creating this Universe, and they command their followers to regard their version as the only and Exclusive Truth. All of them are based on a revealed Book, which must be followed implicitly, on the pain of punishment. Quite logically, they have to follow the two-value Logic of true/false variety. Whatever the Book certifies as true is true, and whatever the Book says is false, is false. Time must necessarily flow in a straight line, and lead to the eschatology of another binary called heaven and hell. As for the scheme of Evidence in an epistemological sense, there is no proof required against the Word of the Book. The Word is the only Truth. The Word is the only Proof. This has resulted in quite absurd scenarios in the past. It also explains the orgies of library burnings witnessed in Alexandria, Takshashilā and Nālandā. Bakhtiar Khilji, on being confronted by the huge wealth of books in Nālandā appears to have remarked, ‘If there is anything useful in this world, it is contained in the Qur’an. If it is not there in the Qur’an, it is not useful. So either way, these books are not required.’ The burning of the library of Alexandria also had similar, if not exactly the same, sentiments behind it. The Church had acquired political power, and established a dogma which was required to consolidate its newly acquired political power with the religious power which it already possessed. The pagan world was an open world with many belief-systems coexisting. The pagans believed in cyclical Time, and migration of the soul. This did not suit the Church, as Christ could not be born again and again across what it termed as ‘Eternal Recurrence’, and be made to suffer the Cross again and again. It would be totally against the character of ‘Son of God’ bestowed upon him by the Church after the First Nicaean Ecumenical Council in 323 CE. The Church had to have the power over humans in order to save them on behalf of Christ. So the concept of eternal heaven and hell in an eternally flowing straight line of superlinear time became necessary. It necessitated burning down of all pagan knowledge, and destruction of all pagan symbols. One would see the same puritanical zeal among the Evangelicals even today. I remember a very recent example. An Islamic scholar produced evidence from the Shari’a that the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar was carried out by India. It was a gathering of well-informed people, who possessed the empirical evidence on the attack. Yet, not one of them could get up and point out the absurdity, as empirical evidence has no value in front of the scriptural evidence in Islam. The foregoing analysis and cited examples would show that Abrahamic Religions subscribe to a World View, whereas Hinduism espouses a Cosmic View. Hindu Cosmology permits an open architecture of spiritual seeking and spiritual belief, whereas the Abrahamic Religions do not permit any such liberty. From this exclusivism to the exclusivist hate for the non-believer, and violence in the name of blasphemy, apostasy, idolatry, and non-conformity is but a logical flow of the doctrine. Please note that we are discussing only the doctrinal aspects of the religions, and not their behavioural distortions. Om. Purṇamadah, Purṇamidam, Purṇātpurṇamudachyate/Purṇasya Purṇamādāya, Purṇamevavashishyate. (That is whole. This is whole. The whole comes out of the whole. Still the whole remains) — Ishopanishada. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) Part 4 Part 6
Shiva the Destroyer doing the Dance of Death, Tandava 6. Eschatology (Theory of Death) This story from Kaṭha Upanishad is a broad explanation of how Hinduism views death. This gives a complete exposition of how a man decides his own course, as beautifully explained in the Bhagwadgita: ‘uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet ātmaiva hyātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ’ (Bhagwadgita 6:5) Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and not degrade yourself, for the mind can be the friend and also the enemy of the self. Vājashravasa, desiring a gift from the gods, started an offering to donate all his possession that is called as ‘ SARVA DAKSHINA’. But Nachiketā, his son, noticed that Vājashravasa was donating only the cows that were old, barren, blind, or lame; not such as might buy the worshiper a place in heaven. Nachiketā wanting the best for his father’s rite, asked: “I too am yours, to which god will you offer me?”. After being pestered thus, Vājashravasa answered in a fit of anger, “I give you to Death (Yama)”. So Nachiketā went to Death’s home, but the god was out, and he waited three days without any food or water. When Yama returned, he was sorry to see that a Brahmin guest had been waiting so long without food and water. In Indian culture guests are believed to be equal to god and causing trouble to god is a great sin. To compensate his mistake, Yama told Nachiketā, “You have waited in my house for three days without hospitality, therefore ask three boons from me”. Nachiketā first asked for peace for his father and himself. Yama agreed. Next, Nachiketā wished to learn the sacred fire sacrifice, which also Yama elaborated. For his third boon, Nachiketā wanted to learn the mystery of what comes after death. Yama was reluctant on this question. He said that this had been a mystery even to the gods. He asked Nachiketā to ask for some other boon, and offered many material gains. But Nachiketā replied that material things will last only till tomorrow. He who has encountered Death personally, how can he desire wealth? No other boon would do. Yama was secretly pleased with this disciple, and elaborated on the nature of the true Self, which persists beyond death. The key of the realization is that this Self is inseparable from Brahman, the supreme spirit, the vital force in the universe. Yama’s explanation is a succinct explication of Hindu darshana, and focuses on the following points: The sound Om is the syllable of the supreme Brahman The Atma, whose symbol is Om is the same as the omnipresent Brahman. Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest, the Soul is formless and all pervading. The goal of the wise is to know this Ātmā. The Ātmā is like a rider; the horses are the senses, which he guides through the maze of desires. After death, it is the Ātmā that remains; the Atman is immortal. Mere reading of the scriptures or intellectual learning cannot realize Ātmā. One must discriminate the Ātmā from the body, which is the seat of desire. Inability to realize Brahman results in one being enmeshed in the cycle of rebirths. Understanding the Self leads to moksha, or liberation. Thus having learned the wisdom of the Brahman from Yama, Nachiketā was freed from the cycle of births. This story contains within itself all that we have discussed till now. Quasi-Cyclical Time, Multi-valued Logic, Direct Experience as Pramāṇa, and the vastness of Cosmology are all there for us to experience in the story. It is for good reason that this story is often considered to be the essence of Upanishadic wisdom. Death ought to liberate a human being and make him become One with the Truth. Parā Vidyā, or knowledge of the transcendent, obliterates the line between Purusha and Prakriti and death facilitates this obliteration of identities, as in Sāṃkhya; or as Samādhi in Yoga. Death in the Abrahamic Religions is the route to an eternal bondage, as opposed to liberation. In keeping with the concept of linear/superlinear Time, and two-valued binary Logic, concept of reincarnation is replaced by resurrection. All human beings (and no other living beings) shall die and be resurrected on the date of Last Judgment, and the Creator who is outside the Cosmos shall visit these resurrected souls and give them into the eternal bondage of either heaven or hell. This is also a state of inequity, as a person hardly has the opportunity to correct his mistakes. The Book rewards or punishes a man not necessarily for his freely willed actions, but for his beliefs. Creationism and Determinism are close allies. In some extreme cases like Al-Ghazali, the Time is metaphysically broken from instant to instant so that Allah is busy producing events every instant, and destroying them the next instant. This is the ultimate in Determinism. The binary of consciousness vs. reason; and necessity vs. free will dictate everything. God/Allah/Yahveh does not care for your freely willed action, or reasoned choices. If you have followed the Word, and done right by the Diktat, you get an eternal reward — which is in the form of an eternal bondage to pleasure or pain. So the death in the Abrahamic Religions happens because: There is only one life; Death is the route to eternal heaven and hell; Heaven and hell is a reward of loyalty; A believer alone has the right to heaven; A non-believer is mandated to go to hell; Upon death, the body and soul rests in peace (RIP) till the Last Judgment Day; Everyone is resurrected on the Last Judgment Day; Their accounts of piety and sin are read out and they are sent to heaven and hell; The world ends and God remains in his abode; while everyone else remains bound to his heaven and hell eternally. One need not be too well versed in science to realise that this is the natural outcome of Time in a straight line, a two-valued binary Logic, and the finality of the Word of the Book. This brings us to the end of this series. The object of the series is not to belittle any religion, but to provide objective parameters to show that the adage ‘All religions are the same’ is totally wrong. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020) Part 5
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  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 , 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). 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 . 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.
Excerpts from the Uttarpara Speech by Sri Aurobindo (30 May 1909) When you go forth, speak to your nation always this word, that it is for the Sanatan Dharma that they arise, it is for the world and not for themselves that they arise. I am giving them freedom for the service of the world. When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists. But what is the Hindu religion? What is this religion which we call Sanatan, eternal? It is the Hindu religion only because the Hindu nation has kept it, because in this Peninsula it grew up in the seclusion of the sea and the Himalayas, because in this sacred and ancient land it was given as a charge to the Aryan race to preserve through the ages. But it is not circumscribed by the confines of a single country, it does not belong peculiarly and for ever to a bounded part of the world. That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others. If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose. This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations of philosophy. It is the one religion which impresses on mankind the closeness of God to us and embraces in its compass all the possible means by which man can approach God. It is the one religion which insists every moment on the truth which all religions acknowledge that He is in all men and all things and that in Him we move and have our being. It is the one religion which enables us not only to understand and believe this truth but to realise it with every part of our being. It is the one religion which shows the world what the world is, that it is the Lila of Vasudeva. It is the one religion which shows us how we can best play our part in that Lila, its subtlest laws and its noblest rules. It is the one religion which does not separate life in any smallest detail from religion, which knows what immortality is and has utterly removed from us the reality of death. It is only the Indian who can believe everything, dare everything, sacrifice everything. First, therefore, become Indians. Recover the patrimony of your forefathers. Recover the Aryan thought, the Aryan discipline, the Aryan character, the Aryan life. Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives. Live them and you will be great and strong, mighty, invincible and fearless. Neither life nor death will have any terror for you. Difficulty and impossibility will vanish from your vocabularies. Sri Aurobindo’s India
Part One There is undoubtedly a Hindu upsurge in the country today. But whether we seize the tide at its flood and use it to bring about a spiritual renaissance or let it peter out into a mere religious revival – this will decide the future of this country. There are many who see this upsurge as a strong mandate for a religious revival which, they hope, will lift the country from its present languid and self-destructive ways and put it on the path to fulfillment and glory. Ranged against them are those who decry the whole phenomenon as a regressive and unhealthy development. Many in this latter group are also convinced that all spirituality is obscurantism and they are therefore hostile to any attempt to see this as a call for the spiritual renaissance of the country. My aim here is not so much to take sides with the critics of this upsurge or with its champions as to see the whole phenomenon in a different light — the light of Sri Aurobindo. A spiritual civilization like India’s does not endure and progress by sticking to or reviving its old forms whether in religion, arts or socio-economic institutions but by breaking their mould and creating new ones which are appropriate to the changing times and true to its innate trend and genius. What is popularly known as Hinduism today is the religious manifestation of a spiritual civilization during the last 1100 years or so, generally recognized as the period of decline of this spiritual culture. Whether as a religion this manifestation is better or worse than other religions is a matter in which I am not interested at the moment. But why anybody who understands the genius of this culture would want to revive such an obsolete manifestation is beyond my comprehension. Therefore a Hindu religious revival is to my thinking an absurdity, and the sad thing is that many of us believe that we are fighting for this absurdity. Those who want to resurrect a particular manifestation of Hinduism, in this case a Medieval one, lose sight entirely of the predominantly spiritual nature of this culture. Some of their critics who cry foul at the phenomenon of this upsurge are those who mistrust spirituality and are convinced that India’s destiny is to be a faithful camp-follower of the grossly commercial, materialistic and insufficient Western civilization either of the currently buoyant American variety or of the obsolete and moribund communist variety. There were two important spiritual figures in the Indian renaissance movement – Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. They recognized the spirit as the truth of the Indian civilization and hoped for a renaissance of Indian spirituality. They worked for it not only because it is the soul of Indian culture and no true development in India can be based on any other foundation but also because they were convinced that it is the supreme gift India can make to the world to save it from chaos and destruction. One of the famous utterances of Sri Aurobindo, most relevant for our times, is: When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall rise, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists. But there seems to be among some of us a strange reluctance, if not a feeling of embarrassment, in drawing attention to this statement. This is harmful because if those who understand what Sri Aurobindo meant by it do not speak up, those who do not fully understand it will exploit it to strengthen their agenda. In fact, Sri Aurobindo himself has explained what he meant by the terms “Hindu”, “Sanatana” and “Dharma”. About Mangesh Nadkarni Sri Nadkarni (1933-2007) was a professor of Linguistics, a thinker and scholar par excellence, a student and disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and a great exponent of Sri Aurobindo’s writings, especially Savitri. It is our great privilege to publish Sri Nadkarni in our inaugural issue. Part 2
Part Two That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, it is the universal religion which embraces all religions. … This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations in philosophy. It is easy to twist a statement like this and jump to the conclusion that since Sri Aurobindo wanted Sanatana Dharma to be the one religion for the whole of mankind, he was a champion of the Hindu religion, even a Hindu revivalist. This is absolute nonsense since Sri Aurobindo condemned the very idea of one institutional religion for the whole world as “a grotesque creation of human unreason, the parent of so much intolerance, cruelty, obscurantism and aggressive fanaticism” and said that such an obsession had never been able to take hold of the free and supple mind of India. Sri Aurobindo regarded Hinduism primarily as the name of a civilization, of a set of values and not as a credal religion. As he once put it, “How can Hinduism be called a religion when it admits all beliefs, allowing even a kind of high-reaching atheism and agnosticism and permits all possible spiritual experiences, all kinds of religious adventures?” In his Foundations of Indian Culture, and also in The Human Cycle, he makes a clear distinction between two aspects of religion – religion as spirituality, the seeking for oneness with the Supreme Reality and with all one’s fellowmen, and religion as creed, dogmas and moral codes, which is formal religion. He never states that things which constitute formal religion are unnecessary. According to him they too are needed by man because the lower members of his being have to be exalted before they can be spiritualized. Thus an intellectual formula is needed by the thinking and reasoning mind, a ceremony is needed by the aesthetic part of our being, a set of moral codes is needed by man’s vital nature to purify and chasten it. But these things are aids and supports of religion, not its essence. Hinduism knew the purpose of these aids and never mistook them for the essence of religion. Thus it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavour of the human spirit. It is this spiritual aspect of this religious culture that Sri Aurobindo refers to as the Sanatana Dharma. But at the same time Sri Aurobindo never assumed, even for a moment, as some of us tend to do, that true spirituality is the exclusive turf of the Hindus. As the Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s collaborator, once pointed out “Genuine spirituality is found in all religions. In every religion there are some who have evolved a high spiritual life.” It is ironical that the Hindu religionist and most of his critics both share in part the same misconception about the Hindu religious culture and fight over it. The Hindu religionist respects the great Rishis and founders of the spiritual culture of India out of deference for his ancestors and not because he understands and appreciates this heritage; he looks upon himself not so much as the inheritor of his great spiritual legacy but as the defender of credal Hinduism, its forms, ceremonies and temples, and of the socio-political institutions connected with this identity. This is the same part of the Hindu culture which his critics also see as the essential Hindu religion. In fact, this is the only aspect of Hinduism these critics understand because they are of the progressive rationalist persuasion. For them Hindu spirituality is some kind of folk belief, an irrational fantasy about soul-states and visions – in brief, gobbledygook of some kind. They are convinced that Hindu spirituality has been the bane of this country. Some of these progressive critics have no high opinion of the ancient culture of this country which has been nothing, as they see it, but a product of a series of invasions beginning with the Aryan and ending with the British and between these two the series of Islamic invasions about which they feel rather embarrassed. The secularist credo is that India had no civilization of its own; what she has is a gift of the Aryans who came from southern Europe, and then of the Mongol, Turkish and Afghan invaders and the final finishing touches were given, of course, by the British. Part 1Part 3
Part Three Indian nationalism, since the early years of the Indian renaissance, has undergone various mutations. K. D. Sethna, one of the finest scholars and thinkers this country has produced in our life time, has pointed out how the shock of sheer spirituality in the figure of Sri Ramakrishna, who summed up in his life the whole spiritual history of India, gave birth to Indian nationalism by kindling in the nation a consciousness of its own typical genius. The second phase of our nationalism was not directly spiritual but charged with indigenous history. The stress now was more on the collective soul of the country as felt in the traditional ideals and institutions, the characteristic customs and festivals. This nationalism was fostered by the great Bal Gangadhar Tilak. In the third phase, our nationalism became ethical as Mahatma Gandhi set up certain moral doctrines for the patriot’s guidance, chiefly the doctrines of non-violence and what he called Truth. Out of this came a fourth kind of nationalism. This brought the rationalism of the West and cut the ethical completely off from the mystical. This was the phase of our nationalism fostered by Jawaharlal Nehru. It was non-religious, wholly secular. During the early years of independence under Nehru’s patronage, India became a socialist, secular democracy and an intelligentsia favoring Dialectical Materialism and the Economic View of History entrenched themselves in our universities. Thus what started as a spiritual renaissance ended up as an anti-spiritual establishment controlling the press and the academic institutions. All these developments have brought us to a point when the traditional defenses of Indian culture have almost lost their hold over people. Multinationals and modern technology have encouraged the glut of Western cultural influences in the country. The ubiquitous TV has invaded the privacy of our bedroom, kitchen and the drawing room. The mass media is glamorizing and glorifying the western lifestyle which has, in the long run, such deleterious effects as the homogenization of human wants and giving rise to unachievable expectations. What we call globalization results in the spread of a single culture – the same wants, the same institutions, the same sets of values everywhere. Part 2Part 4
Part Four The culture of money is obliterating all other cultures; even spirituality itself has become a commodity that can be sold and bought and even mass-produced during weekend retreats in 5-star hotels. This spread of the mono-culture of brand names, blue jeans and stereos is taken as raising ‘living standards’ but this threatens to devastate the inner landscape of art, culture and spirituality. This threatens to be a disaster of an even greater magnitude than the destruction of our ecology. Global business presents a challenge to spirituality everywhere because the mono-culture it promotes is a materialistic culture. With its sponsoring of junk food, movies saturated with sex and violence and a naïve adulation of athletes and movie stars as the most adorable and desirable human types, it impresses on the minds of people only two of the four purusharthas, namely, kama and artha, enjoyment and the making of money to the total neglect of dharma (righteous living) and moksha (spiritual liberation). Sri Aurobindo was never dazzled by this Western culture. Granted that he lived in the West at a time when the external life had not yet been transformed by technology to the extent it has been since, but he knew the spell of this culture and the direction in which it was moving. His critique of this culture is worth reading even today, more than nearly 90 years or so after it was written in the Bande Mataram days. He said: Was life always so trivial, always so vulgar, always so loveless, pale and awkward as the Europeans have made it? This well-appointed comfort oppresses me. The perfection of machinery will not allow the soul to remember that it is not itself a machine. Is this then the end of the long march of human civilization, this spiritual suicide, this quiet petrifaction of soul into matter? Was the successful businessman that grand culmination of manhood toward which evolution was striving? After all, if the scientific view is correct, why not? An evolution which started with the protoplasm and flowered in the orangutan and the chimpanzee, may well rest satisfied with having created hat, coat and trousers, the British Aristocrat, the American Capitalist and the Parisian Apache. For these I believe are the chief triumphs of the European enlightenment to which we bow our heads. For these Augustus created Europe, Charlemagne re-founded civilization, Louis XIV regulated society, Napoleon systematized the French Revolution. For these Goethe thought, Shakespeare imagined and created, St. Francis loved, Christ was crucified. What bankruptcy! What a beggary of things that were rich and noble! It is a very pleasant inferno they have created in Europe, a hell not of torments but of pleasures, of lights and carriages, of balls and dances and suppers, of theatres and cafes and music halls, of libraries and clubs and Academies, of National Galleries and Exhibitions, of factories, shops, banks and Stock Exchanges. But it is hell all the same, not the heaven of which the saints and the poets dreamed, the new Jerusalem, the golden city. London and New York are the holy cities of the new religion, Paris its golden Paradise of Pleasure.” The onslaught of the aggressive Western pop culture that is sweeping all over the world, has already caused an upsurge in religions, particularly in Islamic and Christian countries. “Christian fundamentalism in America itself,” as David Frawley reports, “is a pop religion of TV preachers accompanied by Country and Western singers, with instantaneous conversion at football stadiums or even in front of the television, with wild prophecies, and make believe miracles. Its preachers are often found to be involved in financial and sexual improprieties of various types. Such religion is hardly the piety of the Middle Ages and is accompanied by little soul searching. And no real spiritual practices, much less any asceticism.” Frawley also mentions in this context Islamic fundamentalism which he describes as “more militant and traditional, and perhaps more dangerous as it does not hesitate to resort to violence, not only in Islamic countries but all over the world.” The fundamentalist reaction may have a justifiable cause – the fear that with its lack of spiritual values Western pop culture can change life into a spiritual and moral wasteland. But religious fundamentalism is not a proper answer to the aggressive Western pop culture. Religious fundamentalism is an anti-evolutionary force because it makes the religious cultures regressive and sterile. In fact, as David Frawley points out, it makes materialism look more human and progressive by countering it with a force of superstition. The Hindu revivalist movement so far has not become fundamentalist in its mainstream. This in itself is a miracle when we consider that very grave provocations abound. Take, for instance, the peculiar role the English language press in India has been playing in this regard. Time and again, it has raised certain issues in a way that provokes and incites the Hindu revivalist; it has at the same time tended to marginalize the influence of the spiritual leaders of the Indian renaissance such as Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. It has thus the peculiar distinction of turning Hindus into fundamentalists in their own country. Some credit for this should also go to our electoral politics. The magic wand that is used to belabor the majority community in India is called secularism. Part 3Part 5
Part Five The one country in the world that has been traditionally hospitable to the followers of all religions has now to learn lessons in secularism in its new form. Secularism that is cherished by our press is the noble concept that denies the majority community even the normal democratic rights of protest. If Hindus protest against a film like “WATER” and agitate to get it banned for the reason that it offends the Hindu psyche by citing certain quotes from the Shastras and giving them denigrating meaning not supported by the Shastras, this protest is seen to be non-secular because it goes against somebody’s freedom to denigrate Hinduism, goes against the freedom of the press. But the same press doesn’t object to the banning of a book by Salman Rushdie because it offends the sentiments of the minority community. Ideally, no book or film should be banned for such reasons but there should be avenues for protest for the minority community as well as for the majority community. The legitimate interests of no community should be trampled upon. Any talk of an Indian cultural nationalism or of working towards a Uniform Civil Code is branded as communal while openly religious and caste-based parties that create religious and social divisions are certified as secular. The Government is applauded for its secularism when it diverts Hindu temple funds for its own uses, but any questioning of the accountability of overseas funding to the mosques and churches is fiercely attacked as communal and non-secular. When the supreme court passes a verdict not palatable to a minority community, the secularist Government overturns it by a legislative fiat as seen in the Shah Bano case. The plight of 400,000 Kashmir Hindus rendered refugees in their own country does not disturb our national conscience but any call for a review of the temporary Article 370 is not tolerated. Pope Paul II chooses India to announce that a “great harvest of faith will be reaped” in Asia in the Third Millennium. Conversions on a large scale go on even today because India is still comparatively a poor country, and there is a liberal flow of funds into the country to support this proselytising activity. One could just go on listing these provocations. But if you are a Hindu, pluralism comes naturally to you, and you cannot hate enough to be a fundamentalist, except when you are caught up in a mass frenzy. Otherwise in a country where dozens of innocent people are killed through bomb explosions every other day by Islamic fundamentalists, the reaction from the Hindu majority community has been so far very mild — a bandh at the most on most occasions. I would be the last person to suggest we emulate Israel in this respect. I am only trying to show how the majority community in our country feels attacked from all sides and is yet doing its best not to get provoked into taking retaliatory action. There are of course fringe groups among Hindus who have been clamoring for strong measures of retaliation. In this connection the upheaval in Gujarat comes to mind. No Hindu in his right mind would approve of what happened after the Godhra carnage but I would like to leave with you some words of K.D. Sethna. He was a political analyst with Sri Aurobindo as his mentor, and often commented on national and international events in the years immediately after February 1949. These words have a relevance even today, more than fifty years after they were written: People who call themselves progressive look upon all revivalist tendencies as if they were the plague; they understand these tendencies to be pure and unadulterated communalism. Intolerant Hindu sectarianism on the rampage is their notion of whoever seems to be a revivalist. It must be admitted that there is a good number of Hindu bigots and we cannot sufficiently emphasize their harmfulness. But two things must be kept in mind when we condemn them. Most of these bigots are a reaction to the fanaticism that was the father of the Muslim League and therefore the progenitor of Pakistan. They are the unnatural consequences of a most unnatural phenomenon and to a large extent a sort of defense mechanism against a menace that has kept on growing. To discourage them is indeed our duty but if our stand is not equally strong against the root cause of their upsurgence we fail to be realists. To expect that no section of the Hindu community would indulge in reprisals for acts of injustice and brutality committed against the Hindus in Pakistan (and in Godhra in recent times even in our own country) is simply to be ignorant of human nature: the way to avoid retaliations is not merely to preach Gandhism to the masses or to punish those who take the law in their own hands but to add to all genuinely preventive or deterrent measures an attempt to stop the occasions for the provocation. It can’t be denied that among people in general in the majority Hindu community, a certain religiosity is on the rise. People are becoming more “traditional”, they have become more pilgrimage-minded and perform ritualistic worship with greater fervor and at a greater cost than did people of my generation. The pomp and show with which certain festivals are observed, such as Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali, is another instance of this. Jagarans are held in which playback singers and prominent people from the world of entertainment are invited to participate. Consider how many TV channels are now dedicated to this religionism. The music market is flooded with renderings of popular devotional songs, chantings of the Gayatri, Mrityunjaya jaap and other mantras. Luxury liners are chartered for holding the recitation of the Ramayan Katha and the Bhagavat Puran on the high seas. The protests launched against beauty contests, fashion shows, against the observance of Valentine’s Day etc. by certain Hindu groups show the fundamentalist facet of this revival. These are revivalists who seek to revive old forms of Hinduism that we should really be getting rid of in haste. Very often there is a tendency to lose sight of the spiritual significance of things and take things literally. Take cow protection, for example. The Vedas give a most honorable place to the cow but then the popular cow-protection movement has very little to do with the Vedas. The Vedic cow is not the four-legged animal which we keep ill-treating all the time. If there are sound arguments in favor of sparing every cow, let us begin with bullocks and spare them the cruelty of yoking them to carts. Why be partial to cows? Why not extend the same protection to dogs and other domestic animals? The Vedas revere and worship cows, but then in the Vedas the cow “gou” is the symbol of illumination in the human mind. The two fruits of the Vedic sacrifice are the wealth of cows and the wealth of horses, symbolizing mental illumination and vital energy respectively. It is not enough to be passionate about reviving Hinduism, we must know what part of Hinduism is worth reviving. Consider how a genuine impulse to go back to the foundations of our traditions peters out as a revivalist gesture. A revealing instance of this is the University Grant Commission’s move to introduce Vedic Astrology as a subject of study in Indian universities and the loud protests raised against this move by the country’s guardians of rationality. Whether Astrology is an academic discipline or not is a question I do not wish to discuss now. I merely wish to point out that the UGC should have recommended and strongly supported the study of what may be called the Traditional Systems of Knowledge which includes astrology because there is so much in diverse fields of traditional knowledge that we need to understand. In civil engineering, metal technologies, textiles, shipping and ship building, water harvesting systems, forest management, farming techniques, traditional medicinal systems — in each one of these subjects India has a fund of traditional knowledge which for long has been dismissed as mere folklore and superstition. We can see from the planning of complex towns of the Saraswati-Sindhu civilisation to Delhi’s Qutab Minar that India’s indigenous technologies were very sophisticated in design, planning, water supply, traffic flow, natural air-conditioning, complex stone work, and construction engineering. Indian textile exports were legendary. Roman archives contain official complaints about massive cash drainage because of imports of fine Indian muslin. Our navigation system was famous throughout the world because India had a thriving ocean trade system for centuries before the Europeans arrived on the scene. You will be surprised to know that Vasco da Gama’s ships, which discovered the trade route to India, were captained by a Gujarati sailor. The argument in favour of taking up seriously the study of our Traditional Knowledge Systems is not patriotism or false pride in being Indian. It is that these systems are eco-friendly, and allow sustainable growth. The Western life style, as is well-known by now, not only destroys local cultures but gives rise to unachievable expectations. People everywhere want to live like Americans. But it is not realized that the capital required to enable billions of poor humans to live like Americans does not simply exist in the world. Americans can live the way they do because to them ‘cheap labour’ is available somewhere else, and they can buy natural resources cheap from somewhere else. When Gandhi was asked whether he would like India to develop a lifestyle similar to that of England, he said in reply something to this effect: The British had to plunder the Earth to achieve their lifestyle. Given India’s much larger population, it would require the plunder of many planets to achieve the same. To return to our main point, the argument for returning to the traditional Indic systems of knowledge is not any emotional attachment to our past or any kind of chauvinism but a study of these systems is what we need, what the world needs for the economic betterment of the world in a holistic manner. Thus it is unfortunate that on the whole the current Hindu resurgence has not brought about any revival of interest in the great achievements of the Hindu civilization. The sophisticated and sublime philosophy of the Upanishads, the mathematics of Pingala or of Brahmagupta, the sophisticated pluralism of Vedanta, the literary achievements of Kalidasa or Sudraka — all these like our traditional knowledge systems have failed to excite us. It has been recognized that ours is a civilization that invented games like the chess and produced classics not only on Moksha and Dharma but also on Artha and Kama – political economy and sex-education. The adoration of Rama and of Hanuman and the exploitation of the spell of these legends on the mass mind for grass-root political work may have something to be said for it. But the entire thrust of the Hindu resurgence must not end with ‘temple-politics’; it should not end up with it being identified with groups of unquestioning idolaters and delirious devotees. Part 4Part 6
Part Six There 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. The latter is also Hinduism and it is a good deal older and more enduring than the other; it is the Hinduism of Bhishma and Sri Krishna, of Shankara and Chaitanya, the Hinduism which exceeds Hindustan, was from old and will be forever, because it grows eternally through the aeons — Sri Aurobindo It was in a time of calamity, of contraction, under external pressure that Hinduism fled from the inner temple and hid itself in the kitchen. Do we want to revive the Hinduism of the kitchen or the Hinduism of the soul? That is the question we have to answer today. But at the same time, I have a word for those in the majority community in the country who hesitate even to describe themselves as Hindu for whatever reason. We have seen that Hinduism is not a religion in the Semitic sense but a term descriptive of a spiritual civilization. Those who were Hindu in their spirit and traditions made this land, built this civilization which has been wide enough to welcome in terms of equality the Muslim and the Christian, the persecuted Zoroastrian and, in more recent times, the persecuted Bahai’s and the Dalai Lama and his followers. As Sethna once pointed out, a great truth is enshrined in the statement that India is the land of Hinduism. If we forget this truth and seek to create a country with all psychological and metaphysical color of Hinduism wiped off, we shall seriously thwart India’s growth and make the nation either a mediocrity or a monstrosity instead of a light to the whole world. Sri Aurobindo not only made this distinction between Hinduism of the kitchen and of the soul, he went even one step beyond this. He said that what we call the truer and higher Hinduism is also of two kinds, sectarian and non-sectarian, disruptive and synthetic, that which seeks one aspect and that which seeks the All. The first is born out of a rajasic or tamasic attachment to an idea, an experience, an opinion, or a set of opinions, a temperament, an attitude, a particular Guru, a chosen Avatar. This attachment is intolerant, arrogant, proud of little knowledge, scornful of knowledge that is not its own. The higher Hinduism is the spiritual core of Hinduism which rises beyond theology and scriptures, metaphysical certainties, and cultural determinisms. The Truth that India has sought to serve through Hinduism is the truth of the presence of the Divine in the human. This it regards as the master-key to human progress and fulfillment. It is unfortunately true, as I have already mentioned above, that there are grave provocations that surround us which are manifestations of religious fundamentalism in our own country and in some of the neighboring countries. Many may feel that the path indicated by Sri Aurobindo, the path of higher Hinduism which rises beyond theology, scriptures and temples, is too idealistic, too steep a climb for most of us to manage it. The ruthless persecution of the Hindus for several centuries during the Islamic rule has traumatized the Hindu psyche. This hurt cannot be healed by suppressing facts. The English language press and certain political parties have not only suppressed Islamic history, but they have also exploited Islamic religious identity and this has had well-known social and political reverberations. The Hindu community feels that on the one hand it is being asked to forget completely the atrocities committed against it by the Islamic regime for nearly a thousand years, which the historian Will Durant has described as the “bloodiest story in human history”, and that on the other, events like the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai are sought to be explained away as acts of revenge for what happened in Gujarat in the aftermath of the Godhra train-burning. The trauma that the Hindu civilization suffered for nearly a thousand years cannot be easily wished away. It is simply unimaginable what would happen if the majority community too sought its own share of revenge for almost a millennium of persecution. It must be realized that ‘revenge’ is a dangerously ugly motive and journalists must be careful in using it to bail out acts of certain communities only. To say the least, this is not the way to heal old civilizational wounds. In the name of preserving the identity of the Muslim community, our secular leaders have ghettoised the community and given them a mindset suspicious of the majority community. This has prevented them from joining the mainstream and therefore deprived them of the economic and political benefits of social integration. The Hindus and the Muslims both have to face together the depth of degradation and intolerance of the Islamic times in Indian history. Neither Hindus not Muslims benefit from a censorship of any critique of Islam and Islamic rule in India. Muslims should see how most of their ancestors were forcibly converted from Hinduism. If they understand their history and ancestry, it may be easier for them to assimilate into the mainstream of Indian society. They will then realize that their lot is cast in India, and Mother India has taken them to her bosom as much as it has taken the Hindu and the Christian. They might then find it less glamorous to identify themselves with the barbaric Muslim invaders from outside than with their own countrymen with whom their lot is cast. The Hindus too at the same time should not lose track of their civilizational goals by giving in to the feelings of vindictiveness and tit for tat. They should face the reality of today. It is true that putting a veil on one’s wounds does not help in healing them. But there is a balm for this hurt and that is to allow themselves to be washed by the purifying waters of their spiritual culture. Hatred is an altogether alien concept for this ancient civilization. Political adjustments and horse-trading will not eradicate the ill-will among the Hindus and Muslims in our country. An attitude of weakness and cowardice will not conciliate our Muslim brethren. Nor is the nationalism appropriate for the times of Shivaji appropriate for today. We should remember, as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out, that Mother India has given a permanent place to our Muslim brother too, in her bosom. Hinduism must cultivate strength, the strength needed to stop the religious bully and the religious hooligan in his tracks. But it must also acquire the strength needed to reject the temptations of the religious and cultural ego which seeks retaliation as justification for wounds inflicted on us in our history. This is a challenge no other religion or culture so far has met successfully but it is my hope and belief that the Hindu has the inner resources to meet this challenge successfully. Only we the descendants of Vasishtha and Yajnavalkya can attempt this almost impossible feat and may even succeed in it. Vishwamitra, as the Puranic legend goes, was responsible for the death of one hundred sons of Vasishtha, and yet Vasishtha showed the strength not only to forgive him but also to lift him to the rare heights of a Brahmarshi. Religion is one of the most attractive masks of the collective ego and it may be the last hurdle the human mind has to transcend to rise to the new age of planetary or supramental consciousness promised by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It is easy to dump religion and with it all its spiritual commitment, and many in the West have done this successfully. But to remain committed to the spiritual goals while discarding the religious packaging in which it has come to us is very difficult. For our own sake, and for the sake of the world, we will have to take up this challenge. We don’t have to wait until others are ready for this great leap forward and upward. This is the only way to save the world from nuclear jihads or crusades. India will have to hearken to this call of her destiny. Do we have the faith in ourselves and in our destiny that Sri Aurobindo tried to instill into his fellowmen? Let me conclude with these inspiring words of his: This great and ancient nation was once the fountain of human light, the apex of human civilization., the exemplar of courage and humanity, the perfection of good Government and settled society, the mother of all religions, the teacher of all wisdom and philosophy. It has suffered much at the hands of inferior civilizations and more savage peoples; it has gone down into the shadow of night and tasted often of the bitterness of death. Its pride has been trampled into the dust and its glory has departed. Hunger and misery and despair have become the masters of this fair soil, these noble hills, these ancient rivers, these cities whose life story goes back into prehistoric night. But do you think that therefore God has utterly abandoned us and given us up for ever to be a mere convenience for the West, the helots of its commerce, and the feeders of its luxury and pride? We are still God’s chosen people and all our calamities have been but a discipline of suffering, because for the great mission before us prosperity was not sufficient, adversity had also its training; to taste the glory of power and beneficence and joy was not sufficient, the knowledge of weakness and torture and humiliation was also needed; it was not enough that we should be able to fill the role of the merciful sage and the beneficent king, we had also to experience in our own persons the feelings of the outcaste and the slave. But now that lesson is learnt and the time for our resurgence is come. And no power shall stay that uprising and no opposing interest shall deny us the right to live, to be ourselves, to set our seal once more upon the world. Part 5