Category: Uncategorized

Sanjay Dixit

Sanjay Dixit

About the Author

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

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

Francois Gautier

Francois Gautier

About the Author

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

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

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

Makarand Pranjape

Makarand Pranjape

About the Author

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

Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth

About the Author

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

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

Dr. Omendra Ratnu

Dr. Omendra Ratnu

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Guru Purnima
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Guru Purnima

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

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
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Hinduism And The Universe

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
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Indian History And The Great Lies

Like all things mundane in the modern era, Indian History too has fallen prey to the singularly desiccating influence of the binary Western lens. Add to that the Communist lens and the inescapable conclusion is that what is being taught to us as History for the longest time since independence is nothing but bunkum. Just witness this from the Supreme Court of India, 18th of September, 2019: When the Muslim side advocate wanted the judges to read a piece of excrescence called ‘Historian’s Report to the Nation on Rama Temple’. ‘This is not evidence, this is at the highest an opinion’. This is nothing but a polite way of saying that the history you want to cite is bunkum. This is pretty much the story of all Indian history written by the British, the Western and the Marxist historians between 1830 till today. What is the common thread among these three? One, a firm belief in the binary nature of Logic, and two, an equally firm belief in the linearity of Time. Any history produced from these standpoints is likely to be dismissive of history written from the higher levels of consciousness. For a detailed understanding of this statement, go through my series ‘All Religions Are Not The Same’. My books in the ‘Krishna Trilogy’, ‘Krishna Gopeshvara’ and ‘Krishna Yogeshvara’ also highlight this fundamental difference. India’s ancient historians were more concerned about the processes behind the events, rather than just the event. That is why epics and Puranas, commonly known as ‘Itihasa’ in the Indian tradition are complex narration’s of characters and their interplay with rta or the Cosmic Order, and Dharma, or the Universal Order. That is why the history is written like story-writing. Western and Marxist historians have no deeper understanding of the human nature, and do not even recognise the higher human consciousness or chitta. So the elementary difference in the history writing of the West and that if India is that the former is written at the level of intellect, and the latter is at the higher level of consciousness. This is exactly like how the the Abrahamic God(s) is at the level of intellect, whereas the Indian Brahman is at the level of consciousness or even beyond consciousness. The purported ‘Unified Field Theory’ cannot work in an Abrahamic paradigm. In addition to this fundamental limitation of understanding, there is the deliberate mischief by the West and the Marxists under the influence of he Church and the Communists. Indian thought is the single greatest threat to the narratives woven by these two groups. Hence the Lies. Hence the single minded focus on destruction of the classical Indian chronology. Let us now document some of the Great Lies floated by these groups. These are just a few in a series of articles. Aryan Invasion Theory;Vedas are post-Harappan;Ashoka became a Buddhist due to Kalinga war;Ramayana and Mahabharata are post-Buddhist Texts; and Rama and Krishna are myths;That Sanskrit has only spirituality, having no science or fine arts, Śulbha Sutras, Surya Siddhānta, Vaiśeśika Sutra, Nyaya Sutra, Charak and Suśruta Samhitas, advanced metallurgy (rust free iron pillar), advanced town planning, advanced mathematics including trigonometry and infinite series, Bharata Muni and Kālidasa are all imaginations, not to speak of the highest consciousness studies like Yoga and Samkhya;Arab invasions wiped out Indian kings;Missing accounts of the longest (Chola), the largest (Karakota), and the most prosperous (Vijayanagara) Empires of Bharatavarsha;Muslim rulers were benign lovers of art, massacres of Hindus did not happen, or were sometimes due to a conqueror’s zeal, notwithstanding what was written by Muslim historians themselves (oh, they probably exaggerated – how many have bothered to read Elliot and Dawson);Aurangzeb was a mild mannered Sufi;Mughals faded away because of a problem of revenue, and not because they were terrible Islamic bigots;Sufis promote a syncretic and peaceful culture;Indian Society is all about caste, but there was no social stratification anywhere else in the world;Tipu Sultan was a freedom fighter;British united India;India was born in 1947;India won its freedom due to non-violence;Nobody broke India’s temples. Babar was a tourist in Ayodhya, and Aurangzeb was merely practising new forms of warfare by using cannons to bring them down;J&K’s Instrument of Accession was inviolable;All Religions Are The Same;As of 2017: Hindutva is different from Hinduism, like Islam is different from Islamism. The best part of this type of history writing is that no evidence is required at all. Romila Thapar can write all her conclusions about AIT, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas without knowing Sanskrit; RS Sharma can give testimonies on behalf of Babri mosque petitioners without knowing a word of archaeology. Max Mueller can propound AIT without a shred of evidence, and Bishop Robert Caldwell and GU Pope can build a fantasy called Lemuria based on Max Mueller – all without having to adduce any evidence. Then Ph Ds can be written on this zero-evidence theory. Church can use its resources to build a toxic anti-Hindu Dravidianist movement. Finding that spiritually runs deep in the Tamil psyche, Church can build a fake St Thomas lore who brought Sanskrit with him and Thiruvallavur learnt at his feet. Can you counter this obvious to the naked eye nonsense using standard tools of scientific falsification? Do not be under any illusion! Scientific falsification will not be accepted by the Church or the Marxists. Names will be called, cases will be filed and dharnas and gheraos will be organised against patriarchal Brahmanistic reactionaries in Jadavpur and JNU. REMEMBER, George Orwell called the Ministry of Propaganda as the Ministry of Truth in his classic nineteen-eighty four. This kind of history is not history. It is just propaganda. Real history is obliterated, overwritten and swept under the carpet. Let us now start with the first listed instance. ARYAN INVASION THEORY: This theory has its origin in Church’s reaction to the Western romantics who were thrilled to discover an unbelievably advanced language in Sanskrit, and even more thrilled to find that Sanskrit was part of the same language family as most European languages. They felt honoured to find such distinguished roots and the ‘Out of India Theory’ or OIT was born. This was the leading discourse till the 1820s when Church began its push back. Max Mueller was employed by the East India Company, and AIT was born. AIT assumptions are rooted in the Biblical racist history. AIT was given an arbitrary date around 1500 BCE, first to protect the Biblical date of creation – 22/02/4004 BCE – and to destroy the Indian chronology as it had the effect of completely destroying the Biblical world view. This conspiracy called AIT has four legs, That there is a race called Aryan, a branch of the Biblical Japheth That this race invaded the Indian heartland That the invasion happened around 1500–1800 BCE That they brought Sanskrit with them Even if one leg is falsified, the whole theory crumbles to dust. Nobody ever proved this theory. Using archaeology, river morphology, literature, geology, astronomy and even linguistics and genetics, each of the four legs have been repeatedly falsified, but the Church and its adjuncts, including Islamists and Marxists refuse to accept it. I have announced an Award of ₹1 Cr to anyone who can prove AIT. I do not have a single claim yet. On the other side, there is a veritable flood of evidence to disprove a theory which was nothing but speculation at the best of times, yet the entrenched powers that be in the academia, the Church and the Islamists just ignore it and try and find pathways around it. It helps them to communalise the issue so that the government remains defensive and does not touch the curriculum built by them over decades of being in power. Reprinted with the permission of the author First published on Medium in September 2019
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Reflections On Hinduism (6)

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

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

The Sanatani is an open system. That does not mean it is a one-way stream, with people leaving the Hindu fold … It means those who left can also return. Whenever they like.  Is Hinduism locked in an existential struggle against Abrahamic faiths, especially Islam and Christianity? Not necessarily. As I have argued in my earlier writings, particularly Altered Destinations: Self, Society, and Nation in India (London, 2010) and Making India: Colonialism, National Culture, and the Afterlife of Indian English Authority (Dordrecht, 2013), the Sanatani and the non-Sanatani can coexist without conflict. That is because the Sanatani, with its inclusive and open-ended belief systems, has the capacity both to absorb and allow radical differences. Also, and this is something we tend to forget, non-Sanatani systems, religious or secular, also have Sanatani elements of pluralism, non-exclusion, and acceptance of difference. The real problem occurs when the non-Sanatani becomes anti-Sanatani. This can be true of theologically justified armed invasion and occupation as applicable to much of the Islamic conquest of India. Or, on a smaller scale, of the Portuguese assault and inquisition in Cochin and Goa, and the early French rule in Puducherry, where religious aggression accompanied imperialistic conquest. The British ruled differently, using a Macaulay-inspired educational, intellectual and cultural rebooting of India that, unfortunately, turned out to be anti-Sanatani in many of its features. Marxism and modernity, too, obviously non-Sanatani, can also be very viciously and virulently anti-Sanatani. Likewise, Dravidianist and Ambedkarite extremism, with their reverse racism, targeted hate campaigns and divisive politics, may also be included in the roster of anti-Sanatani movements. In more recent times, a combination of these forces have resulted in a rather powerful anti-India or, as some go to the extent of arguing, breaking-India narrative. What, then, would be the fitting response from the Sanatani side to such threats? The answer, rather obvious to those who have studied the Sanatana traditions, would be a principled and carefully executed combination of defence and offence. The defence, like a shield, protects us when we are most vulnerable; the sword thrusts, rather than slashes, where the adversary is at its weakest. But in the process, when the Sanatani dons the fierce mask that almost resembles its opposite, it must never lose its Sanatani essence, which remains plural, non-exclusive, open-ended. The Sanatani, after all, is exceptional precisely because it has no one point of origin, no one book or prophet, no one doctrine or ideology, no one church or belief system. Without origin or closure, the Sanatani permits a great variety of both precepts and practices with some fundamental underlying structures. In its fight against the anti-Sanatani, if the Sanatani becomes indistinguishable from its opponent, it would lose its self. Worse, the loss of the Sanatani, bad enough for itself, would also be catastrophic for the world. Whatever the symbol or deity of our battle against our adversaries, the more benign and sober form of it as well as ourselves must remain the normal and default mode. After all, a deity which is angry all the time, even the new and rather popular graphic of “angry Hanuman,” will eventually turn on its own followers, having run out of enemies. Anger directed outward at real or imagined foes will come back to consume us too if we do not know the art of stilling it. Hence, all our rituals and ceremonies end with Shanti Mantras. Energies invoked for specific purposes must also be stilled and quietened for cosmic balance and harmony to be restored. It is in this light that we must view the “ghar wapasi” of nearly 300 so-called Muslims of Haryana to Hinduism in two recent instances. The earlier one occurred on April 18, when six families with some 35 members returned to Hinduism in Danoda Kalan, a village in the district of Jind in Haryana. The more recent incidence was on May 8 in which 40 families consisting of some 250 people returned to Hinduism. In both instances, the trigger was the last rites of a deceased elder. By opting for cremation over burial, the reconverted returned to their Hindu identity. Earlier, I used “so-called Muslim” to describe these families because they lived like Hindus, for most part retaining Hindu customs and names, but were listed as Muslims. According to their own traditions and legends, they were converted to Islam during the times of Aurangzeb. One reason for their return, it was reported, is that they belong to the Dom community, recognised as a scheduled caste, and thus eligible for benefits if they identified as Hindus rather than Muslims. It is very important to underline that what these two cases illustrate is the basic and brutal fact that most Indian Muslims were once Hindus or people of indigenous faith practices. The road to their return to the Hindu fold should not only be wide open but underwritten with security, dignity, acceptance and love. Without the first two, all “ghar wapasi” efforts will be futile. Once it is established that the return to Hinduism is as per the law, that is without fear or inducement, then both government and non-government agencies should ensure that such returnees are not harassed or hounded by the former co-religionists. After all, in several non-Sanatani religions, the price for apostasy is very high, as high, in fact, as death itself. The Sanatani, as I said earlier, is an open system. That does not mean that it is a one-way stream, with people leaving the Hindu fold to become Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Marxist or even secularist. It means that those who left can also return. Whenever they like. It is up to us, as modern Hindus, to make their return both meaningful and sustainable. We must create the felicity conditions for their welcome and integration into Hindu society. In this regard, it is a gross misunderstanding to claim that Hinduism is non-proselytising, though of course the word has a totally different connotation for us. The fact is that most of Vaishnavism, right up to the worldwide success of ISKCON, is based on attracting converts. There is no reason that should change now. If at all, Hinduism today should be made even more appealing to both returning and new converts. <!–Reprinted with permission of the author Original Article –>   Reprinted with permission of the author Original article
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Reflections On Hinduism (5)

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

The mahavakya of the Shikshavalli says, Dharmam Char: ‘Follow Dharma’ or ‘Keep moving on the path of Dharma’.  Since the verb determines the movement and quality of the subject, so the word ‘char’ needs our attention first. ‘Char’ means ‘keep moving on’ or ‘move along’.  Let me contextualize this a bit.  India speaks through subtle symbols. One of the significant Indic symbols is the chakra. Chakra is a ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’. The character of the wheel is movement. Life is nothing but a series of movements, continuous, in different forms. It is the opposite of stasis. The wheel symbolizes the perpetuity of movement, the character of life. It came to be associated with time and life as the kala chakra, time-cycle and jivan chakra, life cycle. This wheel found its way into the Indian intellectual and cultural psyche through various schools of Indian thought and manifested in multiple tangible emblematic forms as in the chakra in the Sun temple of Konarka which, after Independence, found its way into the Indian flag and the Ashok Chakra.  The mahavakya celebrates the primacy of movement in the cosmos that Aitareya Brahmana elaborates through the narrative of Harishchandra and his son Rohit. In the narrative, Indra explains to the wandering Rohit the importance of motion with the metaphors of the bees, birds and the Sun —                          Charanbai madhu vindati charantsvadu mudambaram Suryasya pasya sreemanam yo na tandrayate charan (Charaiveti, Aitareya Brahmana, 7.15) Loosely translated, this means that the honey bee, by its motion, collects honey, and birds enjoy tasty fruits by constant movement. The sun is revered, by virtue of its constant shining movement; therefore, one should be constantly in motion. ‘Keep moving, keep moving on!’  Every being in the cosmos follows the principle of moving on. So should human beings. By moving on, one gathers new experiences and every new experience adds to consciousness and one moves on from finite to infinite, and becomes a little less incomplete.  Now the question is — if one has to keep moving on, what should one be doing while on the move? Moving on aimlessly without knowing what is to be done would be futile. So the sage qualifies that movement should be oriented to Dharma.  Of the four purusharthas — inherent values of the universe or goals and obligations of human life — Dharma is the first. Artha, Kama and Moksha are the other three. Dharma, however, does not mean religion. There is a deeper meaning — dharayate iti ya sa dharmah: Whatever is worth ‘upholding’ or ‘worth doing’ in any given situation for an individual or a community, is dharma.  Can Dharma be practiced in isolation? The answer is no. Just knowledge of dharma is not enough; dharma must be lived, practiced. While acquiring material well-being, artha, and fulfilling one’s desires, kama, one must remain oriented to dharma, mindful of dharma and practicing dharma.  The pursuit of dharma does not entail renunciation of the world, nor does it mean that one cannot follow it while leading the life of the householder (grahastha) and engaging in worldly work. Janaka followed dharma while being a king, and the Vyadha in the Mahabharata was a humble hunter. In simple terms, it means that artha and kama, unattended by dharma, become anartha  and dushkama — the antithesis of artha and kama. However, if artha and kama are pursued in alignment with dharma, the fourth purushartha, Moksha, is inevitable.  Moksha, freedom from the cause of suffering (of one’s own and of others), is the natural consequence of adherence to dharma while pursuing the other two goals of human life. Moksha is not a faraway metaphysical goal but a state of being that is attained here, and here alone, in this life and in this world.      If one wishes to follow the path of dharma, one needs to know and understand dharma. But would it not be a very complicated process to know dharma before practicing it? Yes, if one takes the philosophical or intellectual route; and no, if one takes the route of loka or wisdom.    Taking recourse to the shastra mode, the academic or intellectual mode, could be abstract, unpleasant and even cumbersome. Knowledge without understanding and experience is never a source of happiness. Wisdom helps in discovering the path of life to be chosen, as stated in the answer that Yudhishthara gave to Yaksha:  Shruti vibhinna smratyopi bhinnah  Neko muniyasya vachah parmanam   Dharmasya tatvam nihitim guhayam,  Mahajano yen gatah sah panthah. (The Mahabharata, ‘Vana Parva’, 3.13.315)  The essence of dharma is hidden. So what is to be done? There are two ways: either one can find the path of dharma with one’s experience and observation or just follow the path of the great souls or wise men. The former is a longwinded, time consuming and cumbersome process while the latter is simple and straight. Just knowledge of dharma is not enough; it needs to be practiced and lived. Every individual and every particle in the cosmos has its own dharma. But some, or many, would deviate from dharma. Then what would correct and balance out the deviation? Right dharmic action by those who adhere to their own dharma, swadharma,  even when others do not. That is why the Gita asks us to follow our own swadharma — Swadharme nidhanam shreyah pardharmo bhayavaha. (Geeta, Chapter 3, Sloka 32)      Major philosophical schools and cultural texts like the epics, the puranas and the folk narratives of India explained various aspects of dharma by using drishtanta as a mode of construction and dissemination of knowledge. The Ramayana was enunciation of dharma as an ideal that was practiced by Rama, and the Mahabharata about the dharma in real life. With the shift in social behavior from the ideal (in the Ramayana) to the realistic (in the Mahabharata), the latter is a subtler study of dharma, as it tries to shed light on it from different standpoints by bringing in diverse characters, and sometimes even the same characters in different situations in multiple ways in various narratives. Dharma is not absolute but contingent. Dharma is determined by the three conditions of desha, space or location, kala, time and karma, action. As these conditions change, dharma may also accordingly change. That is why it is not absolute or fixed but contingent and variable. But it is variable with qualification, as the following narrative suggests: Yudhishthara, who was also known as dharmaraj or an apostle of Dharma, did not have a monopoly on the understanding of dharma, even he was perplexed. Bhishma Pitamah illustrated the complexity of dharma to Yudhishthara with the narrative of Vishwamitra in the ‘Shanti Parva’ of the Mahabharata.  In a certain rather long and extreme drought, the Sage Vishwamitra, starving for days, reached a Chandala (untouchable, of a lower caste) hunter’s hut in search of food. He saw a fresh piece of thigh of a dog. Vishwamitra wanted to have the dog meat but the Chandala pleaded that by doing so the sage would desecrate the dharma of both of them and it would lead to the committing of a sin. The sage Vishwamitra stated that dharma can be observed only if he were alive, and life is preferable to death. Hence, whatever sustains life — right or wrong — was acceptable to him.   Vishwamitra rejected all arguments of the Chandala by stating that the highest dharma is to save life at any cost, for life is higher than any other principle. He would be able to seek dharma by leading his life in a pious and righteous manner. The Chandala ultimately agreed to part with the meat. But the sage did not eat it alone. He, in consonance with the tradition, divided it in different portions for the gods, the ancestors and all living beings. Lo and behold! It began to rain, and the period of drought was over.  This narrative astonished Yudhishthara, for according to him, how can one be a sage and a pious soul after committing the most despicable act and defiling the dharma? Bhishma resolves his dilemma by saying that the dharma cannot be determined in absolute terms. Also, it cannot be defined by the feeble minded. Its awareness can be developed by following the scripture and the essence of the scriptures. In other words, the epic states that even Yudhishthara, who is supposed to be an incarnation of dharma, is not able to fathom the depths and manifestations of dharma. Further, it underscores a point that life is the highest value, as it is an indispensable instrument for observance of dharma. In this sense, life is superior to dharma. Life is dynamic, ever in flow, and the truth of life must have a practical value, truth as value or rit.  Tulsidas’s Ramacharitmanasa describes dharma in terms of dharma-ratha, a chariot of dharma. During the war between Rama and Ravana, after the death of Kumbhakarna and son Meghanada, Ravana comes to the battle field riding a Yuddha-ratha (war chariot), well protected by armour, and equipped with sophisticated weapons, while Rama is barefoot without chariot or armour. Seeing this Vibhishana gets distressed, and asks Rama how he was going to win over Ravana. Rama tells him that the ratha (chariot) that helps in winning the war in life is not the one that is owned by Ravana but the dharma-ratha, the chariot of dharma. Rama describes the the Dharmaratha (the chariot of dharma or righteousness) to Vibhishan, thus: Its wheels (chakra) of the chariot are valour (shaurya) and fortitude (dheeraj). Steadfastness in truth and good character are its flag and banner respectively. The horses of that chariot are strength (bala), discrimination (viveka), self-control or restraint (dama) and care for others (parahita). Its reins are made of the ropes of forgiveness (kshama), compassion (krpa) and equanimity (samata). Devotion to God is the intelligent charioteer. Dispassion (virati) is the shield, and contentment (santosh) is the sword. Charity (dana) is the axe, intellect (buddhi) is the potent missile (shakti) and knowledge of the self (vijnana) is the relentless bow.  He further adds that a pure and steady (amala achala) mind (mana) is like a quiver, while tranquility, calm (shama) and the various forms of abstinence (yama) and religious observances (niyama) are a sheaf of arrows. Worship and homage to the Brahmins and one’s own Guru is an impenetrable armor. There is no other efficacious equipment or weapon other than the dharma-ratha that is needed for victory, and a person possessing this strong chariot of dharma can conquer even the most mighty and invincible foe, attachment to the world.    Tulsi’s illustration of the dharma-ratha shows the engagement of the Indian mind with the mahavakya dharmam char in different ages through the metaphor of the chariot that represents cyclicality, continuity and movement. So one must keep moving on the path of righteousness.      Last but not the least, in the Indian tradition, as mortal beings have to follow the path of human dharma (manav dharma) so too the gods have to follow their dharma, (deva-dharma). Even in human form, they need to subscribe to their own dharma in every incarnation. In brief, every human being has to know one’s dharma (swadharma), and keep following it in accordance to desh, kala, and karma.           [This article was given by the late Sri Avadhesh Kumar Singh for publishing in Satyameva as his first contribution to the work of Satyameva. We are now reprinting this article with deep gratitude to him — Ed]
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Hindus, Halal And Political Correctness

Halal is an Arabic word that indicates what is allowed or permitted. A practising Muslim’s life is regulated by what is Halal and what is Haram (forbidden or prohibited). Naturally, these permissions and prohibitions extend to food. That is why the slogan of a famous Indian food delivery start-up and restaurant aggregator that “food has no religion” does not make any sense. In fact, much of what we eat is theologically, ritually and culturally coded. No wonder, last year a furious controversy broke out on social media over the popular American fast food chain McDonald’s serving only Halal meat products in India. In response to a customer query, the restaurant chain confirmed, “All our restaurants have HALAL certificates. You can ask the respective restaurant Managers to show you the certificate for your satisfaction and confirmation.” This triggered a debate over whether all customers, regardless of their religious beliefs or persuasions, ought to be forced to eat Halal products. Left-Liberals were quick to react. Shabnam Hashmi of Sahmat told Al Jazeera, “It is an absolutely Islamophobic atmosphere which is existing in India now and each and every occasion is used by right-wing Hindus to attack Muslims.” Many Hindus agreed. They couldn’t care less what kind of meat they ate. Whether the animal they were consuming was slaughtered by Jhatka or Halal didn’t matter. But this attitude of indifference, stemming from a combination of ignorance and political correctness, can go against the very civil liberties and freedoms that we cherish and are committed to uphold. Let us, for a moment, consider what happens when a devout Sikh enters a Halal-certified McDonald’s restaurant and proceeds to order a McChicken Burger. If she follows the Rahit Maryada, she is forbidden to eat Halal meat. She must leave the restaurant or risk violating the tenets of her faith. A Hindu meat-eater, even if not expressly prohibited from partaking of Halal meat, does not have a choice in a restaurant serving only Halal meat. She cannot avail of “Jhatka” meat from an animal slaughtered by a single swift stroke, as per the normal Hindu practice. What is more, she may not know that only meat from animals slaughtered by Muslim butchers is considered Halal. The butcher, in addition, must recite verses from the Koran before the slaughter. The animal is allowed to bleed to death, which according to some animal rights activists is cruel and painful. Halal meat is consecrated by a prayer to Allah. According to a truly liberal, Sanatani outlook, meat sanctified in the name of Allah would not, per se, be offensive or problematic. However, that would only work if both Hindus and Muslims actually believed, after Mahatma Gandhi, that “Ishwar Allah tero naam”. But if that were indeed the case, what would be the need for Halal certification in the first place? Muslims would also not object to receiving sanctified food from Hindu temples. Alas, the world we live in is not yet informed by such lofty ideals. The truth is that Halal meat puts non-Muslim butchers out of work. It also results in a gradual monopoly of Muslims over the meat business. Currently in India, only the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) certification is required on edible products. The FSSAI was set up in 2011 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. As such, Halal certification is not compulsory. But in order not to offend a minority of paying customers in India, many restaurant chains, government establishments and even airlines serve only Halal meat. If they gave non-Muslim customers a choice, there would be no problem. But quite often, meat eaters are forced to eat only Halal products. That way, non-Muslims end up, without quite having an option, supporting the Islamisation of food and also contributing to a reduction of their own food choices. When I lived in Singapore, I found Halal ubiquitous even in a professedly secular, Muslim minority country. In college and university canteens, food courts and roadside eateries, even unwashed dishes were separated on the basis of Halal. As a vegetarian, I once put my used plates on a Halal dishwashing counter. A Singaporean Malay lady worker quickly admonished me, “Over there, la, you’re not Muslim, no?” I didn’t want to argue with her that all vegetarian food was automatically Halal. In the end, all restaurants are forced into the Halal or non-Halal category. The majority Chinese, evidently, belonged to the latter; they have the fewest food restrictions. The rest, Indian or Western, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, as a matter of course, opt for Halal certification. In India, there are several bodies that can certify a product or establishment Halal compliant, for a price, of course. Many have created attractive websites promising a window of business opportunities to prospective clients including access to the estimated 2.5 billion Muslims worldwide. The Indian Halal Certification Board proudly announces that it is affiliated to Sharia councils and Islamic organisations across 120 countries. One website brags that the profits via Halal will easily offset the certification fees. The cherry on the Halal icing is that such products can continue to cater to non-Muslims. This is where the Halal controversy takes a more serious turn. The success of Halal certification needs the support not only of Muslims for whom this is a religious obligation, but also of non-objecting non-Muslims. Gradually, even a small Halal-requiring percentage of consumers can compel more and more companies to pay up for Halal certification. This has been likened by the critics of Halalonomic coercion to jazia, the “infidel” tax that non-Muslims had to pay in an Islamic state just for not being Muslim. If Hindus don’t mind Halal while Muslims insist on it, what happens? Everyone ends up conforming to Halal coercion. This, to conscientious objectors of Halal, is the tyranny of the minority in which “the most intolerant wins” as explained in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Skin in the Game. If we don’t take countermeasures, it is only a matter of time before Halal cosmetics, couture, films, literature, even hospitals and housing complexes, as one near Kochi so proudly and openly advertises itself, will be thrust upon us.   Reprinted with permission of the author Original article <!–Reprinted with permission of the author Original Article –>    
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Mahayuddha, The Great Battle

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

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

Anchors at Indian TV channels are generally intelligent and capable. However, when the topic involves religion, they often lack common sense or courage. Last month Rishab Gulati said on NewsX that he wants to explore how to bring the Indian Muslims, who had been brainwashed into hard Wahhabi Islam, back to a softer Sufi version. Rishab surely would know that all versions of Islam are based on Quran and he would also know that the stark division between believers, who are considered good, and unbelievers, who are considered bad, is fixed in this foundational text itself. So why would he not rather explore how Muslims could be brought back to their ancient, benevolent Hindu Dharma? It would make far more sense. Why would he want a big part of Indians continue to believe blindly, albeit in a softer version, what the invaders violently enforced several centuries ago? Why is he so diffident about his own tradition which has contributed maximum knowledge to science and human civilisation in general? The reason may be that over the last thousand years it was very dangerous to stand up for Hindu Dharma. So people tried to be diplomatic, made compromises, and did not mention and certainly not praise their Dharma, even if they greatly valued it. This attitude seems to have got deeply ingrained and is even in today’s generation present. The English education system also did its bit to cement this attitude and even made it worse, as it portrayed the indigenous tradition contrary to facts as inferior. Not wanting to be “controversial” is uppermost in the mind of many Hindus, when they deal with converts. They rather indulge them than ask probing questions. This attitude is, however, in our times not helpful but dangerous. We have a window now, where we can be truthful and talk about the great advantage that Hindu Dharma has over Christianity and Islam. If we don’t use it, it may close again and then probably for a long time. Most Hindus know, and if some still don’t know, it is urgent that they come to know, that both Christianity and Islam consider it as their divine duty to make their religion dominate the whole globe. Only then their God/Allah will be happy and start the Judgement Day proceedings, when the good believers are allowed to enter heaven. It has however not yet been clarified whether the Christian or Muslim believers have this privilege, as naturally only one “true religion” can be true. For Hindus of course it will be hell, both agree on this. Can any sane person believe that the Creator of this unimaginably vast universe will punish the majority of human beings eternally in hellfire because they did not accept that the truth about how we should live was revealed only recently and only to one particular person on this earth, which is already some billion years old? There are other points which are not flattering for those two religions: Christianity and Islam are not based on reason, intuition or experience, but only on blind belief. One can never know if Jesus is really the son of God who was sent to earth to save us from the original sin and who declared that the way to the father goes only through him. Or we can never know if Allah really communicated via Gabriel with Prophet Mohamed and declared that he is the last prophet and all must follow what Mohammed said. These two religions make blind, unverifiable belief, which is not a healthy attitude, look like a virtue: ‘if you believe blindly what the padres or the mullahs tell you, you will be rewarded with eternal heaven after Judgment Day’, is promised. It is an effective method to keep people subdued on earth, waiting for heaven. And common people suspected this already in the dark ages. In Germany we have an old saying that the Pope makes people stupid (and the King makes them poor). Unfortunately, only members of Christianity and Islam go all out to spread their religion with full zest and especially in the case of Christianity, with lots of money and a detailed strategy. Pious members of both religions do not hesitate to claim that their religion alone is true and all others are wrong and will not be accepted by the ‘true God’. They have nothing to support their claim, except that the founder of their religion allegedly said so. This claim of eternal damnation is meant to frighten people to fall in line. On the other hand, it makes them arrogant, believing “We are the chosen ones. We believe the right thing. Earth and heaven belong to us. All others are damned for eternity.” Believing their clergy, they are on a mission to eradicate all other faiths. And how successful they have been! All ancient cultures were eradicated, except for the Indian culture. In India those two religions have encountered the greatest resistance. Indian culture still stands but greatly diminished. Yet neither Christianity nor Islam has conceded defeat, on the contrary. They push harder than ever now by demonizing Hindus to an unbelievable degree. Do they want the world to believe a false narrative that an “uprising of the oppressed Muslims against the demonic Hindus” is justified and must be supported? There is however one great power on the side of Hindus. It is Truth, both on the relative level (Truth is that Muslims are not oppressed in India, on the contrary) and on the absolute, spiritual level (Truth is one). Hindu Dharma is the best option for humanity. Nobody is forced to believe anything that does not make sense or cannot be experienced. Hindu Dharma is not a fixed, unverifiable ‘belief-system’. It is based on reason, intuition and experience. Its claims make sense and can be verified, like the most basic claim that the essence in all is one and the same – ‘sat-chit-ananda’ – blissful awareness behind the names and forms. But for people to know this, they need to be told, including those whose forefathers have converted and who have been brainwashed into blind belief. If they knew and reflected on those insights, they might see that indeed Hindu Dharma is the best option. Therefore it would be so much better if Hindus went all out and informed others of the value of Hindu Dharma. Compare the Indian reluctance to project its wisdom with China. China has only few sages, but makes full use of them. It established already 15 years ago hundreds of Confucius institutes all over the world which are affiliated to colleges and universities. They teach Chinese language and promote Chinese culture to the Western world. India is the cradle of civilization. It has so much knowledge, and millions of texts are not even translated into English. It has Sanskrit, the language which helps develop the brain, apart from being a perfect language; it has documentation of a number of great sages reaching back thousands of years, it has the deepest philosophy still expressed in a vibrant religion; a huge body of literature, amazing art, dance, music, sculpture, architecture, yoga, Ayurveda, delicious cuisine, incredible temples and yet Indians do little to propagate those treasures. “We are not like them”, many Hindus say, “we don’t advertise our religion and push them into accepting it, like the others”. The insights of the Vedic Rishis need not be pushed; they only need to be known. They result in a very beneficial mind-set, definitely far more beneficial than the divisive, narrow mind-set of the new-comer religions. Knowing that God is within gives inner strength, and knowing that God is also in others, including in animals and nature, makes people kind. This broad mindset needs to dominate in the world, and it is Hindus who can lead the way. Bad people would still exist; they are there in every age, but normal, good people would not be indoctrinated en masse by their clergy into despising and even killing ‘unbelievers’ because they worship the Supreme Intelligence by other names. Looking at Muslims and Christian countries, such attitude also does not seem to make for a happy society. Meanwhile, especially in the West, many Christians and Muslims have lost faith and say it openly. I am one of them and sometimes Hindus tell me: “It’s good that you write. You are an insider, you can do it. We can’t.” My reply is: “YOU need to speak up. Don’t wait for ex-Christians or ex-Muslims. Most of us, who have lost faith, don’t bother about religion any longer. But YOU have been suffering for centuries, with millions killed, and the danger is real that it happens again. If someone is fully authorized to talk about those doctrines, and the harmful mindset they produce, it is YOU, Indian Hindus. In fact you owe it to those millions who were massacred for being Hindus.” Fortunately, in recent years more Hindus do speak up. Maybe soon a mainstream channel will have the courage to debate frankly what Muslims and Christians are taught about Hindu Kafirs and Heathen, and maybe more Christians and Muslims in India, who have lost faith in their religion, will have the courage to say it openly. It surely would be a relief for them. Living a lie by pretending to be believers is painful. Hindus can help by being truthful, even if it means being “controversial”. Maria Wirth Blog
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Hinduism vs Hindutva

Hindutva represents an essential social, political, cultural and historical consciousness of Hinduism rooted in its Dharmic and spiritual core. It is never alienated from it. Shashi Tharoor is an erudite author and his English prose is eminently readable. He generally makes sense in his views and opinions on many issues, in spite of being a Congress politician. But his recent book “Why I am a Hindu” appears to be quite disappointing and superfluous, if one were to go by his speeches and interviews promoting it. The ideas in the book are solely aimed at discrediting Hindutva as something alien to Hinduism proper and hence illegitimate. This whole premise is baseless, dubious and deceptive. For decolonized and self-conscious Hindus, this whole ‘debate’ about Hinduism vs Hindutva is artificial, pointless and divisive. Even if one manages to define these two terms with certain characteristics peculiar to each of them, that would be more of ‘traits’ rather than two separate and watertight categories. For example, how would one classify Vijayanagara Empire and Shivaji’s Hindu Padshahi? Hinduism or Hindutva? Without these movements, the very survival of Hindu religion and culture in many parts of the country would not have been possible. Shashi Tharoor would have been born as Shahul Hameed, and Ramachandra Guha as Rahman Gafoor, had these developments not happened in history. And even today, Hindu religion and Hindu communities face such dangers and threats from the aggressors and enemies of Hindu Dharma, both within India as well as in other parts of the world. To ignore and downplay this sense of history as prescribed by these self-delusional ‘erudite’ writers and their cohorts is suicidal for Hindus. The same confusion would elude regarding say, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo too. For that matter, even regarding Sankaracharya’s consolidation of Advaita Vedanta and his iconic Digvijaya, the all India tour, Ramanuja’s tireless Bhakti mission and institutionalization of Sri Vaishnavam, Basavanna’s Veera Shaiva teachings and Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas uniting all Hindus of North India cutting across castes, sects and language dialects. Are these Hinduism or Hindutva? In the case of Swami Vivekananda, we already see Jyotirmay Sharma, an anti BJP academic putting him under Hindutva, but Shashi Tharoor under his brand of ‘non-Hindutva Hinduism’, whatever that means. Debates around this theme are intentionally engineered in the media by Nehruvian secularists and Leftists of late, and the recent book by Tharoor also belongs in this category. These anti-Hindu ideological camps are desperately watching the crumbling of Nehruvian, Leftist, Secularist dominance in all spheres of India’s national life, not just in politics and economics, but also in social and cultural affairs. Their original narratives of ridiculing, dismissing and neglecting Hinduism as an old relic of the past or nothing more than a bundle of superstitions and caste evils, in their vintage style will no more work now. Such discourses will be frowned upon in today’s India and will spell disaster for their political ambitions. The fact of the matter is that Hinduism has proved to be far more enduring in the 21st century India compared to the silly 20th century fads like Nehruvian socialism, Marxism, Liberalism or various hues of Socialism. That is why the posturing as to we are ‘more Hindus than Modi and BJP’. There is a calculation that such posturing will find favor with many ‘common’ Hindus and ‘spiritual’ Hindus, who allegedly associate Hindutva negatively with violence and bloodshed, but Congress brand of ‘secular Hinduism’ (never mind the term being oxymoronic) with peace and harmony. This is because, a large majority of ‘common’ Hindus have already been swayed by the successful rosy propaganda of ‘No bloodshed Hinduism’ over decades. “Hinduism has been facing any number of onslaughts, but nothing could destabilize it. Because it is not a religion established by someone. It was neither propagated zealously, nor defended with bloodshed. It is a way of life… the current trend of Hindutva hooligans claiming to safeguard Hinduism, if left unchecked, will definitely besmirch the spiritual core of this age old tradition”. We often come across such a refrain from many such ‘common’ Hindus. But, is this fully correct? Hinduism being spiritual and non-propagating is true. But “not defended with bloodshed” is plain wrong. True that Hindus have not caused bloodshed due to their aggression on others. But let us not forget that we had to shed lot of blood to defend our religion from the onslaught of aggressive Abrahamic religions. How can one explain why Hinduism was saved in spite of a thousand years of Islamic aggression, when all other countries and civilizations that came under Islam’s sword were simply wiped out without any trace of their ancient culture? Was it by some magic or some strange spell? No. It was because generations of our ancestors shed their blood to defend and safeguard it. We remain Hindus today only because Vijayanagara Empire, Rajputs under Rana Pratap, Marathas under Shivaji, Ahoms under Lachit Borphukan, Nayaka warriors of the South, Gajapatis of Odisha, Sikhs under Guru Gobind Singh and countless other Hindu brave men and women continuously fought and died, over centuries. Our great Gurus and sages guided us in this long struggle. Let us not insult their sacrifices by denial. Yes, ultimately there is the supreme divine force of Dharma guiding such a course of history. But, there has to be a realistic human action, with the spilling of real blood and sweat to manifest that divine Dharmic force in the real world. This should be understood without any confusion or ambiguity by all the Hindus. The 19-20th century Hindu resurgence and the Hindutva politics are nothing new, but a continuation of this history. One can criticize specific threads and strains in it, but to deny it completely is detrimental for Hindus. Such denial is born out of a certain self-hypnotization coupled with a deeply colonized mindset. What this mindset lacks is sense of history and social consciousness, but it tries to disguise that with ambiguous notions of spirituality and harmony. The main aim of the ‘Hinduism vs Hindutva’ narrative is to confuse Hindus who, after a long slumber have woken up to respect their religion, to fight for their rights and honor, to have a sense of their own history, to proudly proclaim their religious affinity without shame and to gain political consciousness. The ascent of Narendra Modi in 2014 despite so much anti-campaign against him and the BJP is only the first step towards the next wave of Hindu renaissance in Indian politics. There is still a long journey. The reactionary shouts like the book by Shashi Tharoor are nothing more than feeble attempts to counter this march, and they are doomed to fail. The term Hindutva is a lofty one and is any day better than the Colonial term ‘Hinduism’, for that matter. The Sanskrit suffix ‘tva’ indicates essential nature, unlike the suffix ‘ism’ which is usually applied to ideologies, theories or philosophical and artistic fads, like Communism, Fascism, Impressionism or Existentialism. Just to give a comparison, what would a practicing Christian prefer to call his religion as – Christianity or Christism? Obviously the former and not the later. Technically, the same argument applies to Hindutva vs Hinduism too. But again, we don’t want to unnecessarily vilify the term Hinduism on this silly point, as it has already become popular all over the world to indicate our timeless religion. So we embrace it wholeheartedly without worrying about the schism regarding ‘ism’ in a similar way, why should Hindus belonging to non BJP parties be asked to vilify and hate the term Hindutva? Hindutva represents an essential social, political, cultural and historical consciousness of Hinduism rooted in its Dharmic and spiritual core. It is never alienated from it. The likes of Tharoor and Guha desperately try to give it a limited meaning associating with RSS/BJP politics alone. Such caricaturing is only aimed at weakening the above said consciousness for narrow and selfish political motives and to create yet another wedge among Hindus on ideological lines. This is not just plain wrong, but very dangerous for the wellbeing of Hinduism the religion, and Hindus, its adherents. Instead, Congress should adopt the word Hindutva and convince us why they represent better Hindutva compared to Modi and BJP. “The question is”, said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things”. “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be the master – that’s all”. Reprinted with permission from the author First printed in India Facts
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Reflections on Hinduism (3)

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

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

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

A recent article in a national newspaper titled ‘Covid Fight: Govt system in front, private hospitals do the distancing’ has highlighted that the large-scale battle with Covid in India is being fought by Government hospitals and health institutions. Two-thirds of the hospitals beds and 90% of the ventilators in India are privately owned and yet they are handling less than 10% of Covid patients in the country. It is as if a firefighter were preparing to fight a conflagration and was only allowed to mobilize a highly restricted amount of poorly maintained equipment and material and poorly trained personnel. Calls have been made from various sections of media and leadership to nationalize all private health care enterprises in India immediately. And yet, this is not an optimal solution.  The Covid epidemic has only brought to light the extremely neglected state of health care in the country and the slow deterioration of every medical institution. In my opinion, fixing this diseased health care system requires a comprehensive approach that would be consistent and systematic and not knee-jerk. A wider, non-partisan and disinterested discourse is needed involving the various sections of the system. Yet, bold reforms are needed. Some, though not all, interventions could be among these:  Strengthen medical schools and graduate medical education (GME): Education has deteriorated even from the days I did medical school. We had great teachers who were dedicated and caring and drilled the knowledge in us, rigorously and sometimes painfully. Unfortunately, now the students are focused on preparing for multiple-choice questions for entrance exams and do not gain the clinical experience and expertise that is critical for any doctor. Teachers are busy with their own private practice and students are missing out on the most essential aspect of learning. This is not just in India. I recently taught a group of residents from various parts of the world; none of them knew how to hold an ophthalmoscope. I had to take a class on just how to hold the instrument properly and learn how to look in the eye of a patient. Better screening and aptitude tests before students are admitted to educational institutions might be considered.Strengthen primary care: Primary care is looked down upon; specialists are in high demand. The basics of engaging a patient are forgotten; how to listen, diagnose, ask, talk, examine are not emphasized. Primary care providers are paid less and have little influence in the care of their patients. Without a strong network of primary care, perhaps like in Cuba, we will not be able to provide quality, reduce costs and create a strong bulwark against such epidemics in the future. Better community and public health, education, nutrition, hygiene, sanitary services, clean water and air, and public safety are essential. The end-point is health; everything affects our inner and outer states of equilibrium or homeostasis.  Enhance rural care: Rural health is in shambles. Doctors do not like to live in the villages. Basic services are not available. Ambulance and trauma services are minimal. The referral process to secondary or tertiary system is disconnected and uncoordinated. Perhaps a Rural Health Corp can be constituted to ensure health care to our villages. Or doctors can be incentivized to live and practice in the villages.  Support Ayush: The indigenous systems of health care should not be shunned. They should be encouraged and integrated with the vast network of health care practitioners in the county. Ayurveda, yoga, unani, naturopathy, siddha and homeopathy can be effective if used appropriately and in the right hands. Medical tourism can be encouraged with the help of Ayurveda and yoga hubs across the country for wellness and chronic conditions. The goal eventually should be use to the concept of holistic health and ‘svasthya’ to reach an optimal state of individual development where each person’s true potential is allowed and facilitated to grow and reach its utmost fulfilment. Improve and expand government hospitals: Just like ‘Make in India’, we should have ‘Treat in India’. The politicians, senior bureaucrats and leaders need to get treatments in India. This is the only way they will take health care seriously and work towards improving it.Remove politics and commercial interests from health care: Big pharma and lobbyists need to be extricated from the health care system. The insidious problem of kickbacks, referral fee and cuts needs to be resolved if any meaningful reform is envisaged. This is the true virus; Covid is only a symptom. Enhance emergency and trauma service: A comprehensive approach to this is needed including education, traffic reforms, better roads and railways, ambulance services and trained transportation and evacuation personnel, and advanced trauma centers. Advanced facilities for research: Indians needs to become self-reliant in this field. Our research facilities are anemic and dilapidated. We need to bring the best scientists to the country and establish a culture of academic excellence and research. When we are talking about being ‘aatma nirbhar’ we need to do so in maintaining our state of wellness and ‘aarogya’.Use of technology: As information technology grows, medical education, rural health care, medical record keeping, primary care, urgent health care, research and diagnostics can be improved. Telehealth, extended reality, artificial intelligence, Internet of things, advanced data analytics, nanotechnology, cryo-technology, and genetic interventions and therapeutics can selectively increase the reach and improve the skills of our workforce while improving quality and utilization of services.Reform Insurance: Ayushman Bharat focused on an incidental approach to treatment; the next step should be towards prevention, improving population health while reducing waste, improving metrics and patient and provider education. The money spent on Ayushman Bharat which is mostly going to private entities might be better spent on public health care and rural health care systems.  The entire nation has been mobilized on a warfront. It is the time when our neglect of education and health is addressed on an emergent basis. Without the backbone of a strong health care system no country can be truly advanced. And if India needs to reach a GDP of 5 billion by 2024-5, this might be the most efficient and effective way to do so. A great nation needs a very healthy population.
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The Question of Jhatka Halal
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The Question of Jhatka & Halal

Much has been said about the Halal means of slaughter and its impact on the food supply chain in particular, and the economy of the nation in general. Let us also look at the issue from a health perspective and try to deduce some tangibles. Halal means anything that is allowed according to the Sharia law of Islamic jurisprudence. And thus Halal has spread to every aspect of the life of our nation like, soaps, cosmetics, drugs, books, groceries, and even hospitals and airports becoming Halal, though 80% people of this nation are Hindus. Halal has become a code of sale and purchase to and from a particular community, thus laying the grounds for an economic apartheid, while also being a parallel certification system with no legal sanctity or accountability to the government of the day. Coming back to health aspects of Halal, let’s divide it into two areas: the meat trade and the rest of it.  Halal meat is a very specific form of slaughter and packaging which consists of following — The animal must be facing the Kaabaa, the holy place of Muslims.The slaughter must be done by a Muslim only.Kalma must be recited during the slaughter.Most importantly, only the carotid artery and the trachea of the animal must be slit and the animal must bleed to death.  The media space has been flooded with literature that this form of slaughter is healthier since all blood is pumped out by the dying animal’s heart. It is also claimed that for the same reason Halal meat is tastier and has a longer shelf life. However, there is not a single scientific study to back these claims.  Let us attempt to look at this from a purely medical perspective. Let us also compare the ‘Dharmic’ (I use the word “dharmic” to include Sikhs and Hindus) way of slaughter, known as Jhatka, with Halal to gain better understanding of the issue.  Jhatka comprises of beheading the animal in a single stroke. This is in tune with the Hindu and Sikh scriptures and the commands of our gurus, especially Sri Guru Gobind Singh.  There is another form of slaughter advocated by animal rights activists where the animal is stunned mechanically or electrically and then beheaded by a single stroke . It is called Single Slice Humane Slaughter ( SSHS) and is widely used in the Western world. There are three medical aspects of slaughtering technique we will consider to compare Halal with Jhatka. First , the claim that Halal leads to cleansing of blood from the body makes little sense because though blood is known to be a good culture medium of bacteria, there is no evidence that fresh blood is harmful to the body. What we eat as meat has blood enmeshed in it anyway. Besides, blood has a tendency to clot when exposed to air, so clotting around the carotids would anyway block them, hampering the exit of blood. This looks like a lame argument to support Halal unless it can be supported with incontrovertible scientific data. Secondly, when the animal is cut open but is still alive to feel the pain because its spinal cord is intact, the animal’s body releases stress hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline, both of which are known to be bad for the human heart. This does not happen with Jhatka slaughter because of the rapidity of death that ensues decapitation. Thirdly, Halal is an extremely cruel form of slaughter where the animal’s throat is slit and it is left to bleed to death. This cruelty triggers a complex chain of emotional and biochemical reactions in the animal’s body some of which are known to us and some unknown. Shifting away from the issue of meat, what are the other implications of Halal food in our day to day life? Halal proponents say that alcohol or anything derived from pigs is haram, or prohibited. A huge number of drugs like cough syrups need alcohol as a base and concentrated spirit is the best skin disinfectant known. Are we to understand that due to the beliefs of a particular community, time tested drug compositions and compounds that shield us from bacteria and viruses are to be re-researched and re-introduced into our health services? And then what is the certainty of finding alternatives to alcohol, besides the billions of dollars and man hours which will be lost in such an endeavour? The usage of products derived from pigs is prohibited according to the non-negotiable caveats of Halal.  Consider this against the background that the pig is genetically the closest animal to humans and holds the key to revolutionize treatments to various human ailments like diabetes, parkinsonism, burns and contractures among other things.  Until just a few years ago the pig pancreas was the only source of insulin capable of being produced at an industrial scale and it helped save millions  of lives. Pig skin is also used as an alternative to human skin in surgery of burns and contractures.  Can we even conceive the loss of human lives and ensuing morbidity that can stem from abandoning research on an area with a massive potential such as pig derivatives?  American pharma companies were forced to remove pork gelatine as a covering for capsules and was replaced by beef gelatine, costing billions of dollars for a belief that does not seem to have any solid scientific backing.  The economic demerit, and perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Halal, lies in how it works towards assuming full control over the global supply chain. Needless to say, this practice is religiously discriminatory towards all non- Muslims of the world and pushes millions out of jobs.  This is also in complete violation of the Lassies-Faire economic model of the modern world and against creating a competitive market.  Case in example, the entire meat supply of five star hotels and airlines in India is controlled by Halal certified vendors only. This kind of monopolization of food supply chain seriously affects the freedom of choice that should be the hallmark of any free and democratic society. Moreover, Halal certifications have no legal or scientific basis but they have completely overtaken our food supply chain.  Most of the times, big corporates yield to this economic blackmail by Sharia proponents but a lot of times Halal certifications are enforced through fear of violence as well.  Thus Halal certifications are an extortion of businesses and add huge costs to food. An estimate shows that global Halal certification economy runs into a trillion US dollars.  When companies like Amul, Patanjali, Cadbury, Bikaji, KFC, McDonald’s, Air India, Indian Railways yield to this unfair practice, we must understand the seriousness of this economic besiegement of our nation and national economy.  It is time that we get the right facts around Halal economy so that we can make a reasoned choice based on science and not superstition.  To sum up:   Based on sheer science, Halal meat is not superior to Jhatka meat. In fact, Jhatka is safer. Jhatka is the closest to humane slaughter. Jhatka is religiously sanctioned for Dharmics (Hindus, Sikhs etc.).Halal food is about capturing the food supply chain.Halal is religious discrimination and works against the free market.Halal has the potential to seriously jeopardize medical research. Halal is a parallel food certification and food supply system without legal basis or checks and balances.  It is time that a fair playing field is offered to all players of global food supply chain and nations and companies do not yield to compulsions of sectarian belief systems.  — The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous. The author, however, wishes it to be known that s/he is a medical professional and has researched the subject carefully before writing this article. S/he is also willing to answer questions that readers may wish to raise about the content of this article. (Ed)
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battle sanskrit
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Indian Politics & the Left / Right Dichotomy

We don’t realize this but most of the television that we see is based on Western pop-culture. A lot of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, is based on Western ideas. Technology and Science also come from West. So is the language this article is written in. Even life philosophies seem to be dominantly coming from Western influences today. We don’t realize this but the West is completely normalized in our minds. This is not a critique of West’s dominant prevalence, but a call to analyze it. It is sitting accessible in our mind, let’s use it as an opportunity. We are not force fitting things into the right or wrong blocks, but just observing things for what they are. We will explore West first (पूर्व पक्ष), and then look into how that fits (or doesn’t fit) India. Western Philosophy Pattern Most of Western ideas stem from Western philosophy. It is based mostly on right or wrong, moral or immoral, yes or no, ethical or unethical, on or off, heaven or hell, good or bad etc. This can be generalized as either-ors, or bifurcations, or the best way to describe as dichotomies (partition of a whole into two subsets). This is a convenient approach for decision making and to solve problems, “Here’s two things, now choose one of them”. Today’s science and technology also follows this philosophical pattern. Computers are based on binary switches (on or off) and all concepts are extrapolated from that. Science in general works on the cold hard division of whether it works or it doesn’t. There is no acceptance of a spectrum of functioning. If the science falls below a certain success rate cutoff, it is “not science”. West also has its nuances though the binaries & positivism have taken over the dominant space. It has been centuries and it seems West is still sticking to this convenient polar approach, instead of exploring if there is anything wrong with it. Convenient does not mean correct. Western Political Understanding The political landscape in West is divided into two as well: Left Wing and Right Wing. Let us focus on the US, given that it calls the shots today. They have the liberal Democrats (Left Wing) and the conservative Republicans (Right Wing). Well, they do have Independents too, but historically they have only been able to get an abysmal 5% win. And then there is this practice of bi-partisanship (in other words, centrism) which, of-late, has been thwarted thanks to the Western developed polarizing social media (especially Twitter). So, overall, it is safe to stress that America effectively has only two polar opposite political parties: Democrats and Republicans. West is as West can be: A dichotomous theme park. Let’s quickly glance at what these parties stand for. It is visible that the Left basically projects itself as a modern counter response to the Right which bases itself on traditional cultural values. I stress, we are not judging, we are just understanding the bifurcation. Republicans / Conservatives / Right-WingDemocrats / Liberals / Left-Wing Pro Western CultureMulticulturalism Soft White People PreferenceRacial Inclusiveness Exclusive Christian identity Irreligious* Family ValuesIndividualism Soft Male Preference, Pro-LifeGender Equality, Pro-choice* Asserting Two Biological SexesGender Fluidity* Freedom of SpeechSoft Censorship, Political Correctness Individual Justice, Due ProcessSocial Justice, Identity Politics Low Taxes, Small GovernmentHigh Taxes, Big Government Private Healthcare, Education, No WelfareFree Healthcare, Education, Welfare Free MarketRegulate Businesses Tight BordersOpen Borders Passionate Meat EatingAnimal Rights* Climate is just fine, No WorriesFix the Climate National SovereigntyGlobal Order Western Political Dichotomy (* include contradictions of Islam) How Americans Vote American people however, are just regular people. Some are democrats, and some are republicans, and then a big chunk sees a middle ground, and then some who think independently. (This follows a natural four section division explored in Hindu philosophy – चतुष्कोटि). The voting patterns show that there are red states (which vote republican mostly) and blue states (which vote democrats mostly), then swing states (who sometimes choose red and sometimes blue). These swing voters are either seeing a middle ground, or are independents forced to choose between these two parties. Because of this contrasting organic voting pattern, most of the elections are won marginally. Point is, the American people are intellectual enough to understand the complexity and deserve more than a dumbed down decision of choosing between just the two. But then I am digressing. This is the West’s headache to solve (or not, it is up to them). Application to Indian Politics Which brings us to India. Going by the West’s prescribed convenient route, the majority’s culture gets the de-facto “Right wing” tag, and everyone else, “Left wing”. And this is where we can start our judgement given this is our culture. Let’s call these indigenous cultures (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Adivasis, Parsis, Swadesi Muslims etc.) the “Indics”, and let’s map the Right Wing standings to the ethos of the Indics. Right-Wing StandingsWhat Indics Think Pro Indic CultureYes Soft Preference to … Brahmins?No Exclusive Indic identityNo Family ValuesYes Soft Male Preference, Pro-LifeNo Asserting Two Biological SexesNo Freedom of SpeechYes Individual Justice, Due ProcessYes Low Taxes, Small GovernmentDepends Private Healthcare, Education, No WelfareDepends Free MarketDepends Tight BordersYes Passionate Meat EatingNo Climate is just fine, No WorriesNo National SovereigntyYes Mapping Western Right Wing to Indic Values This makes no sense whatsoever. Indics were supposed to be Right Wing but it is capturing most of the liberal Left Wing ideas. Some Right Wing standings got included too. Thankfully, the garbage is rejected (male preference, exclusivity of a religion, identity politics, political correctness, possible homophobia, climate change deniers etc.). And then there are things which don’t seem partisan but plain debatable. Let’s dissect this further. Left-Wing StandingsWhat Indics Think MulticulturalismYes Racial InclusivenessYes IrreligiousYes IndividualismYes Gender Equality, Pro-choiceYes Gender FluidityYes Soft Censorship, Political CorrectnessNo Social Justice, Identity PoliticsNo High Taxes, Big GovernmentDepends Free Healthcare, Education, WelfareDepends Regulate BusinessesDepends Open BordersNo Animal RightsYes Fix the ClimateYes Global OrderYes Mapping Western Left Wing to Indic Values What the Indian Ethos Stand For While Indics want National Sovereignty and Tight Borders (due to the problems is has faced of late), it supports the idea of a Global Order (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्). Its fundamentals have gender equality, and cultural inclusiveness (ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः). It wants Indic religions, alongside other religions, but respects atheism as well. It wants family values while respecting individualism as well. Gender fluidity is fine. Nature is a goddess so protecting it is not just a future investment but a moral obligation. समोऽहं सर्वभूतेषु न मे द्वेष्योऽस्ति न प्रिय: I am equally disposed to all living beings; I am neither inimical nor partial to anyone (Bhagavad Gita – 9/29) And then there are temporally shifting points in which the Indics say that they will trust the Parliament. For example, the current government has introduced new socialist policies for the poor which have proved to be very good. So even if we become an Indic socialist country (like Canada), that’s fine. Another example, the current government is trying to privatize some sectors because of high corruption and operational inefficiency. So even if we become an Indic Capitalist country (like UAE), that’s fine too! Point is, these remain debatable and pro-rata. We seem to be going all over the place if we are seeing this from the simplistic Western dichotomous lens. In the East, complexity is understood since childhood, and whether we are taught the technicalities of चतुष्कोटि or not, the essence is built right into our minds. The Indic cultures are able to absorb all the seemingly reasonable asks of both sides and balance them, while keeping the temporally conditional things as debatable. The “Left” Wing? What about the “Left wing” from the Western lens? Sure, what is the Left side left with? Other than some make believe “Right-Wing Fascism” fear-mongering, what exactly will it stand for? It comprises of strict Abrahamics, Wokes, and some Communists. Let’s explore. Strict Abrahamics are exclusively conservative so Left Wing ideas are essentially blasphemous for them. Communists can sure stand in with the Left Wing, but then the Indics don’t mind some socialist policies themselves, so the Commies’ existence become diluted. What about the Wokes? It’s not clear what they stand for. Is it Westernizing India? Why though? Because it’s “cool”? “Netflix and Chill”? “Limp and Loose”? Not reasonable arguments. The Indics have all the necessary progressive points of modernity in place. Thanks, but no thanks. What about Majoritarianism West While that was policies, one can try to argue “Majoritarianism is bad” from a democratic stand point, hence majority should fall unconditionally into Right Wing. Alright, let’s look at why the West thinks this way. All Western countries are either born out of digesting some cultures e.g. Pagans of Europe, or by expanding while killing them off e.g. Natives of America and Aboriginals of Australia, or run operations by enslaving or colonizing them e.g. Africans, Asians and Indians. If that wasn’t enough they waged wars in Middle East on the basis of some speculations and floored a bunch of nations. While that’s outside home, the condition of minority African Americans in their own backyard is questionable at best and remains debatable in their politics. Remember we are not judging, just analyzing the thought process. They maintain the optics of “Human Rights” to compensate for their moral failures around the world. They have a general sense of guilt association with their majority holdings. (Their imaginations of the future is always dystopian and self loathing, such as Avatar, Westworld, Hunger Games, Omniscient, Altered Carbon, Serenity, Star Wars, Walking Dead, etc. and the success of these movies give a hint of their internalized guilt). In their world, “Majoritarianism is bad” makes sense. India In our world, in India however, it has been the other way around. The “majoritarian” Indics have actually been the victims of the aforementioned digestion/killing by the two dominant Abrahamic cultures. And surprisingly we are still happily living together. We just want to be vigilant (due to aggressive proselytism) but overall we see those past unfortunate events as circumstantial and want to move on. Adding further to this contrary, we are still suffering from colonial dividing policies. The farce aryaninvasiontheory to divide the North and South, and the European castasystem to reinterpret वर्ण जाति (Varṇa Jāti) as rigid, were imposed by colonials. We are till date picking up the pieces with Dalits, and are in the process of clearing these mistakes forced on our culture. Point is, the Indics have no guilt of invasions on other cultures and lands, or oppressing anyone in their own capacity. Thus the “Majoritarianism is bad” burden is for West to bear for their own past. Sorry but not sorry, we do not share your White Guilt. Our collective conscience is clean. Food for thought: Are the Abrahamic “minorities” of India really minorities? For all practical purposes, given the global unity of these Abrahamic religions, and their control of world politics, trade and universalism, the Indics actually are the minorities in our globalized world. If West is looking to compensate for their moral failures of the past, then in case of India they can fight for the Indics‘ right to their land. Or at best, notinterfere. The Argument Specialized bifurcations, in the context of culture, India can be inclusives vs exclusives. Or in terms of modernity, it can be Indics vs Westernizers. Even then, neither are we interested in the pro-inclusive talks of the exclusives (because that doesn’t sound trustworthy and regardless we are inclusive in the first place), nor are we interested in getting Westernized (modernity can very well be achieved without changing one’s culture. Japan and Indonesia are good examples of that). This was just some added demonstration that bifurcations in general don’t really work for the complex India. For example, it is quite legitimately possible to imagine a Jain politics as one would imagine Buddhist politics as a Naiyāyika or Mīmāṃsaka politics as also of a Vedantin politics. And of course not to leave out Cārvāka philosophy. And so on. Our current (Western based) descriptions of reality around us and the categories by which we understand and describe it are inadequate to capture the reality appropriately. This calls for efforts to better our own abilities as well as the capability of our language(s). This is the continuous effort that such great thinkers as Gaṅgeśa Upādhyāya or Raghunātha Śiromaṇi were doing. This effort stopped owing to the atrocities during the British rule and continued post-independence owing to the rejection of a vast territory of our past. As I mentioned, we are picking up those pieces till date. Conclusion India cannot be seen from the Western Left and Right political lens as it does not capture the reality of our polity. Force fitting the diverse Indic परम्परा to the mundane left right Western categories is disingenuous. The Pro-Indics should not be called Right Wing. Anyone doing so is being sloppy with their intellect. The political dichotomy of Left vs Right is lazy and underdeveloped even for the West, and we suggest them to revisit it. Reprinted with permission of the author (May 2020)
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श्रद्धाशक्ति तथा भविष्य निर्माण
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Agni Purusha, Being of The Fire

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

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
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Open Letter
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An Open Letter

What was called in the ancient times Sanatan Dharma, which has come down to us today under the name of Hinduism, with its many branches, sects and gurus, is in great danger today, as it is attacked by many forces. The enemies of Hindus are united, even if it is in disunity, even if it is a temporary arrangement based on a common hatred. Christian conversions, the onslaught of Muslim fundamentalism, the abhorrence of communists for Hinduism, the infinite dangers of Globalisation and Americanisation, the disregard of India’s intellectual elite of India for their own culture and spirituality, are slowly but surely making a dent in India’s psyche … There are so many great gurus incarnated in India at the moment. Yet not only are they not united against the common enemy, or for the common good, but they often compete against each other for disciples or territory and even criticize each other. Disunity has always been the curse of Hinduism and India and whichever enemy conquered this country, did it not because of superior strength, but because they were helped by Hindu betrayers. Remember the last great Hindu empire, that of Vijaynagar. The Christians have a Pope, the Muslims the word of the Koran, communists have Der Kapital of Karl Marx, but Hindus are fragmented in a thousand sects, which often bicker with each other. Excerpted from François Gautier’s article posted on July 27, 2018 and reprinted here with permission
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Demonization Of Hindus
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Demonization Of Hindus At Danger Level

Anyone who knows even a little about the mindset of Hindus knows that genocide is simply not in their genes. It never happened and it can never happen. Killing someone because he worships God under another name is for Hindus unimaginable and ridiculous. Sometimes I check the German TV channel Deutsche Welle (dw) to know what they want us to think. Unlike in India, most German news channels are government friendly. Yet it always amazes me, although India and Germany are on friendly terms, how negatively dw reports on India. So when on 17. April 2020 dw ran a negative story on “Islamophobia at an all-time high in India” and claimed that the Modi government uses the Covid 19 crisis to stigmatise Muslims, I was not surprised. The report showed Muslim vegetable vendors complaining that Hindus boycott them. It is true. Even in my village people refuse to buy from Muslims now, but dw did not tell the reason why this happens. It did not tell that some clerics considered the Corona virus as sent by Allah to kill millions of Hindus and asked the faithful to spread it. A huge congregation of Tablighi Jamat, an Islamic missionary movement, took place in Delhi, after which many participants spread out all over India and spread the virus at a time when the whole of India had only some 800 cases and few deaths. The administration and police tried feverishly to trace all those thousands of Tablighis and their contacts, after many of them, including foreigners, had tested positive for the virus. It was a Herculean task. But given the huge population density in India, it was crucial to prevent community spread of the virus. Police razzias and doctors who came to test were often pelted with stones. Several were injured. Moreover, the Tablighis in quarantine facilities or hospitals behaved awfully. Doctors complained about spitting on them, excreting in the corridor, making obscene gestures, running around naked in front of female nurses, and demanding meat to eat. Why would good Muslims, (and missionaries are supposed to be good Muslims), behave like this? The answer is probably that good Muslims know their holy books and want to follow their command. They know that Allah sees Kafirs as the worst of creatures who will burn in hell for eternity (Quran 98.6), so naturally they have contempt for them. They also know that they need to fight till the whole world accepts only Allah (Q 8.39). And since it is not easy to wipe out millions of Kafirs, the virus is seen as a gift from Allah which will do the job if widely spread. So it is no surprise that especially good Muslims want to spread the virus. Videos show how they aggressively resist testing, violate curfew, spit on vegetables and currency notes. A video shows policemen picking up currency notes from the street with a stick and putting them into a plastic bag. It is very insidious to throw money on the road, as the temptation to pick it up is surely great for children and the poor. So it should not surprise that nowadays, during the Corona crisis, Hindus turn Muslim vendors away because they can’t be sure if those vendors are ‘good’ Muslims who believe that Hindus should die out. It is impossible to know, because they are allowed to deceive Kafirs, provided it fosters the spread of Islam. So “better safe than sorry” is naturally the motto. But all this was not mentioned by dw. At the end of the report, a woman commentator from India was interviewed. She said that there is a “360 degree discrimination against Muslims by the Modi government”. It was a lie. The government is not discriminating between different religious groups in regard to relief operations which are running in full swing, with money credited to accounts and massive support to migrant labour. I was annoyed about this type of reportage on India, especially, when dw does not show the real discrimination in Pakistan against Hindus and Christians who claim they don’t get rations during the Corona crisis and several were forced to convert to survive. But then, I was used to the bias against India by dw. A few hours later I checked once more on dw. The same report was broadcast, same footage, same vendors complaining, but now the woman commentator had been replaced with Arundhati Roy. This seemed strange. When she started to speak, slowly, amiably, with a smile in her for-Western-eyes pretty face, it was pure poison, vicious and dangerous. Roy is known to tell terrible lies about India since years but this time, something more sinister seemed brewing. Why did dw not simply run the same report again? Was that previous commentator not vicious enough? Here is what Arndhati Roy (who by the way is Christian) said on the clip that dw put out on Twitter: “Honestly the situation is approaching genocidal, because the government’s agenda has been this. Since this government came, Muslims have been lynched, Muslims have been hunted down but now the stigmatization with this illness has left government policies on the street now. You can hear it everywhere. It comes with the threat of extreme violence.” This clip went viral. Yet it was not the complete interview. Here are some more comments by her which I had jotted down: She said that the extreme violence comes in the background of the massacre (she used the word massacre) in Delhi – cleverly not mentioning who massacred whom, but implying of course that Muslims were massacred. She rued that Trump was there at the time, but didn’t say anything. She called RSS the mother ship of BJP who wants a Hindu state; said that the world welcomes Modi but it should know that he is very much part of the agenda (of making a Hindu state) and they were already building detention centres. She called most anchors in MSM channels “single member lynch mobs”. And as if this all was not enough, she compared the situation in India with what happened in Ruanda before the massive genocide and that genocide in patches happens already. She asked the world to keep its eyes on it. The anchor called it a very important message and asked how can we prevent the genocide, taking it for granted that Roy had spoken the truth and genocide is indeed planned by the Indian government. In the end, Roy is introduced among other flattering attributes as “most acclaimed intellectual”. I felt shaken after hearing her. She gave the false and dangerous impression to the world that Hindus are planning genocide of Muslims. This is not a small thing. It is extremely dangerous and on Twitter already support comes in for the ‘Muslims of India’. We stand by you, is promised and a lawyer dressed in Arabic outfit tweeted he will adopt the cause of Muslims in India at UNHRC in Geneva for free… it got 17,6k likes and over 5k retweets. Anyone who knows even a little about the mindset of Hindus knows that genocide is simply not in their genes. It never happened and it can never happen. Killing someone because he worships God under another name is for Hindus unimaginable and ridiculous. Yet for the past thousand years Hindus were at the receiving end of jihads and conversion campaigns and millions of Hindus were massacred in cold blood because they were Hindus – massacred by Muslims. So did Arundhati Roy demonise Hindus so badly to instigate Muslims to “rise up against the oppression” and prepare the world to believe that oppression by Hindus is for real? Is she trying to help Pakistan fulfil its “unfinished agenda” of taking Hindustan fighting and make it accept Islam? Arundhati Roy would know that Hindus are not aggressors by nature. She and her ilk may be desperate to paint Hindus black, as especially in Europe, people become more and more wary of the behaviour of Muslims in their countries but don’t have any problems with Hindus. The faith of Hindus is based on Dharma and Dharma means to do what is right and in tune with one’s conscience. ‘Good’ Hindus are those rare human beings who see others as brothers and sisters, and are kind to animals and nature, too. Hindus do not divide humanity into those who are chosen by God and those who are eternally damned. Hindu children are not taught to look down on non-Hindus, unlike children of the dogmatic religions who are taught that their God loves them but does not love those ‘others’ unless they join their ‘true’ religions. However, Hindus are often too naïve to realize what mind-set the dogmatic religions foster. They unwisely give privileges to Muslims and Christians, which even Hindus don’t have, in spite of Swami Vivekananda warning already over 100 years ago that every convert is not one Hindu less but one enemy more. Sri Aurobindo also felt that hope for India lies in those, who converted out of Hinduism, to lose faith in their new religion which most accepted anyway due to pressure or allurement at the time of conversion. Truth does not need pressure and allurement. It makes sense. Untruth needs to be enforced with brutal laws that forbid people to believe anything else than what is declared as “the only truth”. The Hindu view is undoubtedly closer to truth. Nobody is forced to believe it and yet Hindus held on to it under extremely painful circumstances, and Westerners, dissatisfied with the Church, accept Hindu Dharma on their own accord. It is also no coincidence that modern science discovered that all is One Energy after Indian philosophy became known in the west. Nobody needs to be worried about a nation where the Hindu roots are fostered. Where Sanskrit is taught, which is the most perfect, dignified, powerful language on earth. Where yoga is practised in schools, which is an ideal means for all-round development and which, on a deeper level, helps to find fulfilment in live. Where Vedic philosophy is studied, which inspired the new scientific discoveries in nuclear physics. Where the amazing wisdom of Mahabharata and Ramayana becomes common knowledge. Where children chant “Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu” (May all be happy). Why would those Indians who converted to Islam or Christianity not be also proud of the achievements of their ancestors? India was the cradle of civilization, a knowledge hub and the richest country on earth. It was known for its wisdom. Surely Christians and Muslims cannot have any objection that students are taught this fact or that they chant “May all be happy” in Sanskrit, the language of their forefathers. If someone calls such teaching communal it is malicious. Is not he the one who tries to divide society and not those who say “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (all is one family) due to their philosophical outlook? One day, when people have become tired of blindly believing irrational dogmas, and when nobody is threatened any longer with dire consequences or even death if he stops believing in those strange dogmas, the world will be grateful to Bharat Mata that she has conceived and preserved over millennia those eternal, precious insights for the benefit of humanity.
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Hindu Majoritarianism : A Cruel Joke

If you Google “Hindu murders in Karnataka”, you will get a plethora of reports citing varying numbers of RSS, VHP or Bajrang Dal activists lynched to death by those claiming to wage a jihad against the so-called infidels. There may be disputes over the number of Hindus murdered, but all articles reporting this agree on specific killing of Hindus by jihadi elements. The gross average of the numbers comes to 12 in the past two years. Twelve families destroyed, yet no reports on media! No outrage at Jantar Mantar. No storming of the streets by the bindi brigade. No discussion on prime time television. No letter of condemnation to the ‘intolerant’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi by former bureaucrats and self-proclaimed academicians. Contrast this with the murder of Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh two years ago. The whole leftist jihadi cabal went berserk and tremors of the ghastly murder were felt even in the United States where The Washington Post and The New York Times published articles on “murderous” Hindu gangs. The government of the State gave a government job to the kin of the murdered, approximately Rs 1 crore worth of compensation and properties to the bereaved family. A similar sequence has been repeated in the Kathua rape case. It is as though this rape (still unproved) and murder was more newsworthy than incidents of similar crimes reported everyday by the media. On an average, three Hindu girls are raped everyday in neighboring Pakistan for the singular reason that they are Hindus. Three Hindu underage girls raped everyday! Let that sink into our consciousness. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about it? Why are Hindus the most forsaken people on this globe? In any civilized society, a murder or rape is a heinous crime. Why do rapes and murders of Hindus evoke a yawn from the Indian media and so-called civil society while the same entities go ballistic on the mere reporting of a rape or murder of a Muslim? Of course, that one rape or murder is the retribution for another is not my case. There is a pattern to this madness. Four reasons can be inferred directly from this strange conduct of the global community and the media to this direct assault on Hindu life and ethos. First, money, the eternal motive. Because Hindu society is devoid of a central core of leadership, all attacks on Hindus are left to be defended by local resistance, which almost never happens. On the other hand, the Abrahamic faiths, plush with funds from zaqaat and tithe, fund the spread of lies against Hindus so as to malign the Hindu faith globally. It isn’t without reason that very aggressive spokespersons of the Church and jamaat councils find prime airtime to view their side of the narrative whereas Hindus are represented by tilak-wielding, dhoti-kurta clad, usually overfed mahantas from some godforsaken akhada, who not only are ill at ease speaking English but also whose Hindi is pathetically inarticulate, sounding more like a cacophony instead of an argument. Why isn’t ever a Rajiv Malhotra, a Satish Sharma or a Vamsee Juluri invited to TV channels to articulate the Hindu side of the story? Obviously, to make Hinduism look mediaeval and archaic to the global community as well as the urban Hindus themselves. RSS swayamsevak Rudresh was stabbed to death in broad daylight in Bengaluru Second, human beings are generally infected with the desire to appear good and just to the world around him. It is a psychological malaise that camouflages the sloth and cowardice of the self-proclaimed liberals in the garb of justice and equanimity. Hence, all atrocities against Hindus are downplayed or brushed under the carpet because the Hindu intelligentsia and media have internalized the strange hypothesis that crimes against the majority are not as bad as those against the minorities. So, when there is genocide of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan, the world looks the other way, but a stray incident where the usual community of perpetrators is targeted — or the religion of the victim does not even occur to the criminal — and the whole cabal mounts horsebacks to defend the so-called minorities. This active trivialization of crime against Hindus is partly due to the lack of efficient and honest Hindu leadership and partly due to the proclivity of looking good to others, even at the cost of hushing up the truth and siding with lies. Man’s capacity to deceive himself is infinite. And nothing proves this more than the abject bigotry of the nation’s elite and intelligentsia towards atrocities on Hindus in Bharat. A case in point: Ever wondered why not a single movie has been made on the Kashmiri exodus of Hindus by the rudalis of Bollywood? Not a lucrative business? But Mumbai riots and demonization of Balasaheb Thackeray in Bollywood continues uninterrupted. In fact, there is a well oiled, well funded machinery of writers who keep churning out atrocity literature against the Hindu faith on a regular basis. Sometimes, in the name of an obsolete Manu Smriti and, sometimes, in the name of caste conflict. They never run out of ideas to malign the Hindu civilisation. The idea is to generate a sense of victimhood in the minds of people, especially from the minorities and the poorer sections of Hindu society. Once victimhood finds roots in the human psyche, man is capable of the worst kind of violence and mayhem. It is a very dangerous game that the media and self-styled liberals are playing. When the beast of victimhood manifests, it is mayhem unleashed on one’s own citizenry, which even the most well-meaning and well-equipped police cannot control. Third is the lack of poorva paksha (homework and research). The Indian intelligentsia first co-opted the lines of sarva dharma sama bhava from Hindu scriptures and then turned it on its head to attack Hindus from all sides. The so-called Hindu leadership of the RSS and VHP too are part of this circus since they too believe that all religions are the same. This is a white lie. And this lie comes out of a deficient, linear understanding of dharma instead of a holistic one. The Macaulay system of English education has produced a crop of apparently educated people in this nation with zero spiritual quotient. Sarva dharma samabhaava is a beautiful yogic realisation penned down by Hindu rishis after decades of meditation in their ashramas. It was a peak experience they recorded in the Upanishads and it came after real, solid hard work of tapasya. They did not believe in sarva dharma sama bhava; they saw it and hence they lived it, too. It was an experience of a perfect harmony with nature and fellow human beings. Now, in today’s world, when there is a direct conflict for supremacy of a religion over another, sarva dharma sama bhava is a perfect recipe for disaster because it is completely out of context, and in fact a white lie, especially when there are religions that come to the table with options of violence and rape for those who do not believe in their religion. The Hindu leadership and the fake intelligentsia of this besieged nation lies when it parrots an Upanishadic wisdom to unsuspecting Hindus. And lies have consequences. Horrible consequences that are borne by poor, unsuspecting Hindus living on the cusp of jihad in States like Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and Jammu & Kashmir. The Hindus on this globe are confused and lost because they are being asked to be accommodative of all other faiths while the other faiths are carrying on with their predatory nature to kill or convert Hindus all over the world. This is an asymmetric conflict in which Hindus are at a huge disadvantage of narrative as well as resources. This warrants the study of yet another case in point: Demographics of the Indian subcontinent. About 15% was the population of Hindus in Pakistan in 1947. It is now 1.4%. 35 % of Bangladeshis were Hindus in 1947; the Hindus now comprise a mere 7% of the population. Even in India, Hindus have reduced from 88% in 1947 to just about 79%. Eight crore Hindus have been murdered in 1,400 years of Islamic invasion of this unfortunate nation of ours. (Will Durant) These are official census data on which there is no TV debate ever, although demography is destiny especially in a democracy. The state and the media are both ignoring the demographic inversion of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and parts of Jammu to the peril of Hindus. If the situation is a figment of the imagination of the Hindutva brigade, even then, these issues need to be discussed — to call the bluff of Hindu activists. Fourth, offense is the best form of defense. Because the jihadi-leftist nexus is already indulging in a dance of death in Bharat and globally, the slightest aberration by Hindus is trumpeted as a ‘majoritarian’ backlash — although on the scale and ferocity of it, these acts of Hindu vandalism are no match to what is being unleashed by Islamist terrorists in Kashmir and communists in Kerala. The constant onslaught on Hindu lives and thoughts have resulted in a Hindu leadership that is constantly apologetic and a Hindu citizenry that is in complete disarray. In spite of being the most unaggressive and sublime thought mankind has ever achieved, Hinduism is on a constant guilt trip and consequently, the great ethos of Hindu civilisation is getting diluted, eventually disappearing. If the largest community of this nation feels orphaned, it is a matter of serious concern for the policymakers of this nation because a universal grudge of the majority community cannot be ignored for long. Eventually, it will explode with unmanageable consequences. God forbid, if some fanatic Hindu radicals exploit the entire Hindu anguish and come up with a physical response to attacks on Hinduism, we will be witnessing an unprecedented mayhem, the glimpses of which we got in the form of mobs unleashed on streets in the name of cow vigilantism and random lynching of people by madmen masquerading as Hindu warriors in the not so distant past. Father of Gudiya (name changed) addressing a press conference in Kolkata, complaining that the city police is scared to venture into the neighborhood where his daughter was kidnapped by a Muslim suspect The constant attacks on Hindu ethos, and sheer concern for survival, have already led to a reverse consolidation of Hindus against the ‘Breaking India’ forces, a term coined by Rajiv Malhotra who has meticulously identified the patterns of attack by other faiths along Hindu fault lines. It is finding resonance in many upper and middle class Hindu households. The advent of social media has given a very wide reach to the works of Hindu scholars. This too is leading to a reverse consolidation of Hindus against the incessant onslaught on their way of life. The social media has also ensured that Hindus are no longer helpless victims of this constant demonization of their faith. A counter narrative to Hinduphobia is being built up by some brilliant minds on raw data and meticulous poorva paksha by Hindu scholars. Every society must either be governed by a just law or impeccable morals. Law comes from the state and morals from religion. In a nation-state like Bharat, the grounds of legal apartheid were laid when different civil codes were applied to different sets of population. So there goes the law. If Hindus were to take to streets demanding a uniform civil code, would the Indian state be justified in cracking its whip on them? Does the Indian state have the moral fibre to look Hindus in the eye and question the Hindu angst on Article 370, Hindu genocide in Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh, murders of Hindu leaders all over Bharat, and scores of such issues which genuinely contribute to accumulated Hindu anger? As far as morals are concerned, Hinduism is an egalitarian faith which has been evolving continuously for more than 8,000 years. Even the scriptures are not considered sacrosanct, what to say of holy men or gods of the past. Hindu faith even accepts nastikta (atheism or non-acceptance of the authority of the Vedas — Ed.) as a school of thought. Contrast this with the Abrahamic faiths that insist on one god, one book and one prophet. Without going into the merits of one religion over another, does anyone in his right mind actually think that such varied understandings of religions can eventually give rise to a moral code that can govern a society as complex as India? Even if it is done, how will we arrive at a consensus? By shastrartha (theological debates)? As of now, that does not seem to be happening. All we see are a spate of deceitful or forceful conversions and acts of random but unceasing violence against Hindus. How does a society function and progress where law and morals are so debilitating and partisan in nature? This is a question that must shake the consciousness of every politician and policy maker of this glorious but besieged nation. It is only a matter of time before Hindus consolidate and respond to the constant encroachment on the physical, spiritual, moral, educational, emotional and mental space of the Hindus. In the absence of a coherent and visionary leadership, what shape that resistance is going to take is anybody’s guess.  Hindus are being pushed to the wall and the rest of the world led by leftists, evangelists and jihadi forces are trying to put the blame on Hindus themselves, albeit unsuccessfully. The absurdity of this is going to fall sooner than later.  If we have been able to deduce with reasonable certainty that Hindu majoritarianism is a joke and a lie woven by the leftist opinion makers, we can also safely conclude that Hindus themselves are under attack. So what is the real remedy for Hindu anguish?  First, stick to the idea and practice of secularism with absolute clarity and unflinching commitment. The state must be indifferent to religion. Period. No preference to this or that religion on artificial premises of numbers and economic conditions. The former prime minister Manmohan Singh had stated that Muslims had the first claim on the resources of India. This kind of thought should be seen as the worst kind of violation of the spirit of secularism. Real secularism is the key to the survival and productive functioning of a modern state; all discrimination  based on religion should be firmly done away with. Second, talk to Hindus. They are helplessly witnessing their 8,000 year old civilisation crumble in front of their eyes. There are enough Hindus who will not let this crumbling happen without resisting it tooth and nail. If a Muslim or a Christian is proud of his faith, why not a Hindu? Do not make ‘Hindu’ a bad word. Let Hindus be. The anguish of Hindus on the Kashmiri genocide, the demographic inversion, the murders of Hindus of south India, the incessant attacks on Hindu life and property are all genuine. The state and all concerned parties must address these or be prepared for an overwhelming reaction, which could become uncontrollable. The writing on the wall is clear. Hindus are tired of being defensive about their faith and are patiently waiting for the Hindu leadership to respond. If the state continues to ignore the Hindu narrative, the Hindu beast might be unleashed. Hope things don’t come to that pass.
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India’s Svaraj Parampara
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India’s Svaraj Parampara

Nation and Modernity from Mahatma Gandhi to Narendra Modi (With Special Reference to a Lesser-known Speech by Sri Aurobindo) by Makarand R. Paranjape Still Seeking Svaraj From Mahatma Gandhi to Narendra Modi, Indian democracy, despite its various drawbacks and failures, is somewhat of a political marvel. Here is where the notion of svaraj may serve as a useful lens through which we can measure its achievements. We can start by asking whether Indian democracy really embodies the ideal of svaraj, so eloquently enunciated by several leaders of the freedom struggle including Lokmanya Tilak, Dadabhai Naoroji, Sri Aurobindo, and Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, svaraj is not a contemporary, but age-old Vedic idea, going back to ancient times. Though we have completed seventy-two years of independence, it is obvious that the struggle for svaraj is far from over. To me, the central purpose of understanding our svaraj parampara or tradition of autonomy is to bring us closer to understanding what freedom, independence, and democracy really mean. That is because svaraj is more than political independence it is the reassessment and reassertion of our civilizational genius. To achieve this, we must try to overhaul our entire intellectual infrastructure, for which we need nothing less than a new vocabulary of self-understanding. Such an overhauling would mean, at the least, the realignment of our intellectual enterprise with what we have truly sought and valued for millennia–the pursuit of self-knowledge, truth, virtue, beauty, and, of course, happiness–and the organisation of our material resources in such a way that our daily life conduces to these aims. In the previous sections we saw how this orientation was provided by our pursharthas, the cardinal aims of life—Dharma, Artha, Kama, and, ultimately, Moksha. But in our attempts to regain our parampara, merely substituting Western ideas by half-understood Indian ones will not do. These languages of Indian selfhood are almost as colonized as Indian English is. Therefore, sprinkling some Indian words into our thinking process will not suffice. Just as language chauvinism is not the answer to our language-problems, conceptual chauvinism will not serve to liberate us either. We need to change our minds. This fundamental transformation is far more crucial than the superficial changes that are usually advocated by language, religion, or cultural nationalists. Once we understand that svaraj is the issue, we see parampara not in dialectical opposition with its Other, adhunikata (modernity), nor is Bharatiyata (Indianness) a mere opposition to Pashyatikarana (Westernisation). Parampara, instead, is whole, integral, not just fragmentary or antithetical. Not a knee-jerk reaction to the domination of Western categories over Indian ones, but a deep understanding of the difference will take us forward. This can be done, as we have seen, by opening a 1. I deliberately spell the word as svaraj, not only because that is closer to its pronounciation in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, but because I think we must all reflect on its meaning and make it our own. Swaraj, the older spelling and form of the world in English is used while quoting the earlier writers on it. Portions of this essay have appeared in my earlier writings. dialogue between Bharatiya parampara and Western modernity so as to create new spaces of knowledge and svaraj. What is Svaraj? Svaraj is a very old Vedic word, but comes into the vocabulary of modern India in the nineteenth century. Some say Dayanand Saraswati’s Satyarth Prakash (1875) contains its first modern usage, but I have not been able to find it. Dayanand quotes the Vedic ‘यःस्वयं राजते स स्वराट्’, but does not apply it to political independence from Britain. The earliest modern use is probably in Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar’s pamphlet “Shivajir Mahattva” (1902), republished two years later as “Shivajir Diksha.” Deuskar was a friend of Sri Aurobindo, who also began to use the word. In a few years, with the struggle for freedom acquiring momentum especially because of Lord Curzon’s partition of Bengal in 1905, it became the most evocative and popular of indigenous words for political freedom, whether purna or total, or partial within the British Empire. Several important political leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Dadabhai Naoroji, and Aurobindo used the word, as did Gandhi, who also adopted the word, making it a household mantra in Hind Swaraj (1909). The latter is not only one of his most important books, but also a comprehensive statement of the aims and methods of non-violent revolution. In the discourse of the freedom movement, though svaraj mostly signifies political autonomy, Gandhi meant much more by it. Perhaps, he and others were intuitively aware with its etymology, though they did not explicitly explain it. Actually svaraj is an adaptation and shortening of the Sanskrit word svarajya, which is an abstract noun. The word is a compound of sva + raj sva means self and raj, means to shine (the etymology being raj deepnoti). Hence the word means both the shining of the self and the self that shines. The root raj gives us many words associated with power including Raja, Rex and Regina. The symbology of light is very important in the Vedas because it suggests the sun of higher consciousness – tat savitur verenyam, as in the Gayatri mantra. It is to that sun, savitur, that Aurobindo refers in his great poem, Savitri. So svarat is a self-luminous person, and svarajya is a state of being svarat or enlightened. We might actually say that svaraj is a very ancient word for enlightenment, the power and illumination that come from the mastery of the self. When applied to a single individual, its form is svarat, an adjective. It is a word that occurs many times in the Rg, Sama, and Yajur Vedas, as it does later in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In the Upanishads, it can be found in the Chandogya, Taitteriya, and Maitri. It is in India that political independence came to be expressed even in modern times in so radically spiritual a manner in terms of enlightenment and self-illumination, not merely political power or independence. Opposing the colonizers and imperialists was thus the external aspect of svarajya the internal aspect was to have a good, just, and beautiful state, an enlightened social order. Svarajya is therefore the principle that aspires for better self-management, more effective inner governmentality, because illumination comes from internal order, not oppression. Originally, svrajya refered to the inner management of a person’s powers and capacities, of the senses, organs and of all the different constituents of the person. When these were well-governed, the person too would be all-powerful. For Gandhi, the homology between the individual body and the body politic was a useful metaphor if not a self-evident truth. 2. See C. Mackenzie Brown’s ‘Svaraj, the Indian Ideal of Freedom: A Political or Religious Concept?’ Synonymous with liberty, freedom and independence, svaraj thus suggests a host of possibilities for inner illumination and self-realization. The word svaraj is preferable to decolonization because svaraj is not anti- anyone else. One’s own svaraj can only help others and contribute to the svaraj of others. In svaraj the personal and the political merge, one leading to the other, the other leading back to the one. I cannot be free unless all my brothers and sisters are free and they cannot be free unless I am free. Svaraj allows us to resist oppression without hatred and violent opposition. To fight for svaraj, Gandhi developed the praxis of satyagraha or insistence on truth or truth-force for the rights of the disarmed and impoverished people of India. Svaraj thus means self-restraint, forbearance, refusal to rule over others. One of the clichés about India is that no matter how powerful the country was, it did not send expeditions of conquerors to countries outside the peninsula, huge armies to conquer, colonize, and bring back pelf from overseas expeditions. This is how the Arabs, Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Portuguese, British, Dutch, French and the others behaved, coming to India to conquer or plunder, but there is no record of Indian armies doing the same in other lands. The historical record of India does not show a desire to go and rule other people, to enforce its will on them, to trample them, to exploit them economically, to oppress them, to crush them – that is not, it would seem, the Indian way. But, by the same token, to be ruled by others is also unacceptable to the Indian spirit Indians, too, like other self-respecting peoples, have fought against it. Throughout Indian history, the struggle for svaraj has gone on, often unrecorded. We have innumerable instances of villagers protesting against emperors, blocking roads, refusing to pay taxes, fasting and so on. The Vijayanagara Empire fought for svaraj, as did Chattrapati Shivaji. In the 150 years of British rule, there was a revolt practically every single year in India. Some part or the other was always up in arms against British rule. So Pax Brittanica was a great illusion. How could there be lasting peace without svaraj? While svaraj has an inbuilt anti-imperialistic orientation, it also evokes a culturalist-nationalist position in which one’s civilizational heritage is owned up, even embraced, rather than discarded. It that sense, it suggests not a Western type of universalism, but a colourful cosmopolitanism, rooted in a radically different notion of ‘self’. But there is nothing ‘communal’ or fanatical about this project. That is why I believe that Gandhi took great pains to emphasize that svaraj is not a form of narrow nationalism or jingoism. Instead, it is a special, cooperative and pluralistic way of being in the world. If debates on globalization, sovereignty and culture, are ultimately, debates about which way we want India to go, it is clear that both modernity and post-modernity represent paths which we should not fully accept. At best, they provide convenient points of entry to the real questions that shape our lives. Because these paths have made inroads into our own life and consciousness, they must to be examined, understood, possibly appreciated from a distance, but ultimately negated or incorporated into the broader quest for svaraj. Sri Aurobindo’s Idea of Svaraj On 24 January 1908, almost two years before Gandhiji wrote his seminal treatise Hind Swaraj on his way back from England to South Africa aboard S.S. Kildonen Castle, Sri Aurobindo made a speech in Nashik, Maharashtra. It is not one of his famous or well-known orations because it is not available in its original English. It was translated into Marathi and published the following morning in a Marathi paper, Nasik Vritta. We know of it because the Bombay Presidency Police retranslated into English in their Intelligence Abstract. It was first published by Archives and Research, a biannual journal published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in the first number of its first volume (April 1977) and subsequently included as Part 5 of Sri Aurobindo’s Political Speeches and Writing, 1890-1908, in his Collected Works. Sri Aurodindo elaborates on the meaning of svaraj in this speech. Interestingly, he spends the first minutes disclaiming any oratorical skills as well as having anything to say for himself or on his own: “whatever I do is not done by me of my own accord. My actions are dictated by God. … I have hitherto been a writer and not an orator, but circumstances forced me to try my hand at oratory.” He next defines the goal of the national struggle, which hitherto had been somewhat vague, but suddenly, “either by a stroke of fortune or by divine inspiration,” has acquired new clarity and urgency. The goal was defined by “the old patriot” in his Presidential Address at the Calcutta Congress in 1906: “We do not ask any favours. We want only justice. Instead of going into any further divisions or details of our rights as British citizens, the whole matter can be comprised in one word — ‘Self-government’ or Swaraj like that of the United Kingdom or the Colonies.” Sri Aurobindo quotes the same speech from memory in a slightly different way, “We must have Swaraj on the lines granted to Canada and Australia, which is our sole aim.” According to Sri Aurobindo, if India’s forget about svaraj, they will go extinct: “If we do not acquaint ourselves with the object in view, viz., Swaraj, I am afraid we, thirty crores of people, will become extinct.” He reminds his listeners that it is people of Maharashtra that kept the torch of svaraj burning even during the darkest night. It is after this that Sri Aurobindo’s speech rises to a new level, not onl of eloquence but of spiritual inspiration, “Swaraj is life, it is nectar and salvation. Swaraj in a nation is the breath of life. Without breath of life a man is dead. So also without Swaraj a nation is dead. Swaraj being the life of a nation it is essential for it.” Those nations, not matter how great and glorious they may have been in the past, come to grief when they forget svaraj. Sri Aurobindo refers to the ancient Roman empire, comparing it with the British empire: “In ancient times the Romans had extended their sovereignty over many countries as England has done at present…. Their lives and properties were all secure as ours are, but in spite of all this, it was said that the people under the sway of the Roman Empire came to grief with its downfall, and were harassed by savage people. The reason is, they had no Swaraj. After a lapse of centuries they stood on their own legs and established for themselves Swaraj and became happy.” But those who aspire for it, must realise that svaraj is to be “gained by our own exertions. If it is gained otherwise, which is impossible, it cannot last long for want of strength in us.” Imploring the sovereign won’t do because “he won’t give it.” Sri Aurobindo sarcastically refers to the moderates who think that prayer, petition, and protest will win us svaraj. “Unfortunately there still exists a party of men who still cling to the idea that we shall obtain Swaraj by asking for it, which is to be regretted. This party thinks that we are not capable of managing our own affairs, that we are being trained in that direction and that our benign English Government will extend Swaraj to us by degrees.” Sri Aurobindo argues to the contrary, “The English value the importance of India. Its possession gives them status. If they once allow India to slip from their grasp, they will become a nonentity. Under such circumstances it is silly to say that the English will train us and entrust us with Swaraj. By reposing confidence in the English people we are already reduced to a miserable condition and in the end will become extinct.” 3. Dadabhai Naoroji’s Speeches and Writings (Madras: Natesan, 1917), p. 76. Then he considers a second way to attain svaraj: “Another way of obtaining Swaraj is to seek aid from a neighbouring nation. But this means jumping from the frying-pan into the fire. No matter from whom we seek assistance their own interests will first be considered.” Later, when Subhas Chandra Bose wanted the help, first of Germany, then of Japan to win India’s independence, Sri Aurobindo opposed this method. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which in those days not only had many admirers of Bose, but also several others who sympathised with Germany because it was fighting Britian, were disappointed. Sri Aurobindo even asked them to leave the ashram if they didn’t agree with his view that Hitler had to be opposed at all costs, even if it meant temporary siding with the Allies. Now, Sri Aurobindo comes to the the third way, one which Gandhiji also advocated: “We should, therefore, acquire it by our own efforts.” No other way would work we had to fight for our own svaraj. But the question remained: “how we should do it. We do not possess Swaraj nor have we the power to retain it. The answer is, we cannot master the art of swimming unless we struggle in the water. We should, therefore, be prepared to undergo hardships in the struggle for Swaraj, as there is no other alternative.” Here, all ways seem to be open, whether non-violent, violent, or some combination of them. Sri Aurobindo does not spell this out in this speech, but this is what we can glean from his other writings. Here he speaks of faith in God “God created us independent” therefore “we should be full of inspirations. With full faith in God we should preach independence through the length and breadth of the country and a beginning should be made to impart national education.” The importance he places on “national education” is unmistakable. If in addition to education, Indians can “take into their own hands judicial and executive work … we shall have more than half of Swaraj in our hands.” Sri Aurobindo believes that the Bengalis who struggled for svaraj by defying British colonial authority, “do not fear fine, incarceration, deportation or the extreme penalty of the law…. If a Bengali lad is punished in connection with the Swadeshi movement, he smiles and says it does not matter much.” He urges Maharashtrians to follow suit: “O inhabitants of Maharashtra, since you and Bengalis are stirring to attain one end and as we are all sons of Aryabhumi, let us all jointly set ourselves to the task of bringing about a state of things in accordance with the commandment of God. We, Bengalis, depend upon you because the sons of Maharashtra were brave soldiers a short while ago. You enjoyed Swaraj when you were harassed by Mahomedans.” He reminds his audience of Tukaram, Ramdas, and of Shivaji, the warrior king who established svaraj in Mahatrashtra. Under Shivaji, “The poor were rescued from molestation by the wicked and the country prospered.” In the present state, he urges all to heed to the “divine inspiration,” to the “the commandment of God.” He wants Indians to unify “from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari.” He concludes by proclaiming, “If we, imbued with this idea, become united with a firm resolution to obey the commandment of God, I feel sure we shall gain our Swaraj in twenty years. It won’t take centuries….” In retrieving and reconsidering this little-known speech of Sri Aurobindo our attempt has been to place him in his rightful place at the heart of India’s svaraj parampara. Svaraj in Today’s Context Narendra Modi’s elevation to the post of India’s Prime Minister in 2014, I have argued in several of my writings, marks a watershed for India. His winning again, with an even more impressive count of 303 in the 2019 general elections definitely signifies the end of the Nehruvian socialist, secularist consensus that prevailed almost as a state religion in India for some six decades of independent India. It was this combination of developmental nationalism and inclusive Hindutva which proved to be the winning ideology that swept Modi and the BJP to power a second time. To my mind, Narendra Modi has understood the idea of svaraj better than his predecessors and is therefore the best instrument to confirm and fulfil the prophecy of rising India. Under Modi, India has progressed more, in the real sense of the word, in five years than possibly in the whole of its previous six decades. This great transformation cannot, of course, be measured merely in economic terms, although the figures indicate that our growth rates are among the highest and the inflation certainly the lowest since independence. In addition, access to government services and schemes, whether Jandhan, Ujjwala, Saubhagya, Swachh Bharat, etc., has been unprecedented. A clean government led by a charismatic and strong Prime Minister with ministers and officials who deliver have redressed the trust deficit between the citizenry and the ruling elites. The concomitant rise of India on the world stage, thanks to the Modi doctrine, has led to a quantum leap in the respect accorded to India. Furthermore, improvement of both national security on the borders and reduction in crime, lawlessness, and violence on the home front suggest an era of peace and stability. Last but not the least, a new pride in our identity, culture and heritage, especially for the Hindu majority, have ended the self-loathing and civilizational inferiority complex which have plagued us for centuries. Modi earned his mandate and popularity by delivering on good governance and development. Moreover, after the 2019 verdict, the signalling so far has not been belligerent or triumphalist Hindu nationalism, but inclusive Hindutva. The new government has also tried to reach out to all sections of the populace, not just Hindus, with special schemes for their education, upliftment and the safeguarding of their rights. To me therefore, the new nationalism that Modi 2.0 represents is svaraj in its manifold dimensions. Today svaraj means the augmentation of India’s hard power through military prowess, economic empowerment, and determined diplomacy on the one hand, combined with Soumya Shakti, the soft power of culture, spirituality, yoga, cuisine, couture, and so on, on the other hand. Together they add up to nothing less than India’s rejuvenation, renewal, and rise. This may sound hyperbolic or over enthusiastic. But the mood of the nation is certainly upbeat.
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Mahayuddha, The Great Battle

A dharma yuddha, unlike other battles fought on the ground, is mostly invisible and inaudible, it is waged in the depths of consciousness and engages ancient unseen forces that have always been on earth to resist the victory of Light and Truth.  Dharma is not religion but the creative force of Truth, and it has always struggled to maintain its foothold on earth, for human nature, still largely unregenerate and driven by forces of ignorance and egoism, opposes Truth in all possible ways.  The earth, as our ancients explained, is the field of evolution and therefore critical for both, the forces of Truth and those of Darkness and Ignorance. It is on earth alone that the consciousness can grow to its true heights and fathom its true depths; and for this, the noblest souls choose to be born on earth so that they can participate in the evolution. There are other planes of consciousness too besides earth, but those are all typal planes where the being neither evolves nor devolves. It is on earth alone that one can evolve to a perfect godlike consciousness, daivic, or devolve to a demonic one, asuric. Therefore the forces of Truth and Falsehood have been engaged in a timeless battle for supremacy on earth — for whichever force dominates earth will dominate evolution. If Falsehood were ever to dominate earth (no, in spite of all contrary appearances, it still does not), this universe would be one of falsehood where the Asuras would grow in stature and become the godheads of this Cosmos. Instead of a Rama or Krishna, we would have a Ravana or Kamsa presiding over the evolution of consciousness on earth.  This timeless great battle, the Mahayuddha, took a major and decisive turn in 1956 when the Supermind (Truth Consciousness, Vijnanamaya Shakti) descended into the earth atmosphere after ages of intense tapasya and spiritual struggle against the forces of evolution. The descent of the Truth Consciousness itself changed the course of the spiritual history of humanity decisively, irreversibly. But that did not mean that the victory of Truth was assured. On the contrary, the asuric forces intensified their energies and multiplied their efforts to push back the Truth, perhaps destroy it altogether.  However, Truth being what it is, it cannot be destroyed, but it can be pushed back, opposed and resisted, driven underground. And that is what is happening today, all around us, from global religious and political platforms to our homes and hearts, wherever even a trace of falsehood exists, there the battle rages, unseen and unsounded.  Make no mistake about this: each one of us is an instrument, a nimitta, in this great battle for earth. Which way the battle will go depends on how much of ourselves, our consciousnesses and will, we put into this battle, how much of our skin is in the game, how conscious and silent we can remain even as the battle rages furiously on.  But to fight, to be in the thick of this battle, to be effective and efficient instruments of the Truth in this pitched battle against cosmic, terrestrial and psychological falsehoods, there is a necessary preparation that all have to undergo, a secret Kshatriya training of old, a training as much spiritual as physical and psychological.   The true warrior of Light must be immersed in the Light first. None should allow even a shadow to be cast on one’s mind or heart. One has to have complete and unrelenting fidelity to Truth, to Light, to what our ancients called jyoti parasya. This is nothing short of tapasya but it needs to be enormously concentrated and hastened. We do not have the time for years of sadhana. These are times for intensification, concentrated acceleration. For this intensification and acceleration, two conditions are necessary: deep inner silence and absolute samata. Samata is equality of spirit, equality of mind and heart: there must not be the least inner disturbance, agitation or excitement. The warrior of Light must always wear a luminous armor. As Sri Krishna says to Arjuna: agitation obscures the Light. Remember, this is what the asuras around us want, to obscure our Light through contaminating our own inner state, by throwing into us their disturbances and excitements, their bitternesses and grievances, their soul-sapping selfishnesses and fears. Remember too that there is no way an asuric being can directly attack an armor of Light — they can only attack by using our consent and our will, which sometimes we too innocently and willingly give. Samata is a shield in this battle. None can pierce the shield of perfect samata. No matter how disturbing or hostile the circumstances, our equality of spirit must be firm, unshakeable, absolute. It is this shield that the Divine Master in us needs to wage this battle. Without this shield, even the Lord cannot fight. This shield of perfect samata is not too difficult if we understand the two elements needed to create it: an absolute faith in the Master, in Sri Krishna; and a vast surrender to Him. Nothing else is needed. With faith and a perfect surrender, the warrior can go through any battle unscathed.   Inner silence is the psychological condition for the battle. No thought must arise, no desire to destroy, no fear of being destroyed. The mind and heart must remain immutably calm, the being quiet and concentrated. With such an inner condition of silence, of unbreakable mauna, the warrior becomes one with the Force of Narayan working through him or her. This is our unseen battle, and this is the inner preparation needed. There is no time to waste. The stakes are high. But we have, on our side, the Shakti of the Truth Consciousness itself. 
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All Religions are not the same part 1
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All Religions Are Not The Same

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
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All Religions are not the same part 2
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Hindu Dharma is Nearest to Scientific Concept of Time

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
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Logic System in Hinduism – How it Differs From The West

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
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Hindu Epistemology With Its Pramāṇa (Proof) System Is Closest To Science

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
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Hindu Cosmology Is Unique In the Comity of Religions

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
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Shiva the Destroyer doing the Dance of Death, Tandava
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Hindu Theory of Death Aims At Liberation

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
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Veer Durgadas

माई ऐड़ा पूत जन, जेड़ा दुर्गादास, बाँध मुंडासे राखियो, बिन थांबे आकाश! Mother, give birth to a son just like Durgadas, Who stopped the flooding dam of the Moghuls without any support. Veer Durgadas was one of the chieftains of Jaswant Singh, the King of Jodhpur, when Aurangzeb ruled Delhi. The king developed some disease and was to die of it. He was young at the time and his son, Ajeet Singh, was still a suckling infant. Jaswant Singh knew in his heart that the rest of the greedy chieftains would kill Ajeet Singh the moment he would die. Hence, he was very restless on his death bed! It is here that a young Durgadas approached the dying king and asked him the reason for his restlessness! Jaswant Singh told Durgadas of his fears and said that he is unable to die in peace because of it.  Veer Durgadas collected a few of the trusted chiefs loyal to the King and swore on Mother Jagadamaba to protect the family of the king as long as even one of them were alive. Trusting the custody of his toddler with Veer Durgadas, Jaswant Singh bid adieu to the mortal world! Those were very treacherous and tricky times. There were people who wanted to join hands with the Moghuls and take over the reins of the Kingdom of Marwar (Jodhpur). No one could be trusted! Then Aurangzeb himself wanted to merge Jodhpur into the Moghul empire under the pretext that Ajeet Singh was an infant. Durgadas created a network of espionage and counter espionage to keep himself informed about every move of the locals as well as the Mughals. It was this extremely tricky and intelligent foresight that kept Durgadas ahead of the enemies of the State of Marwar! Aurangzeb, with the support of other Rajput chiefs who were jealous of the erstwhile King and Durgadas, annexed Jodhpur and took the child Ajeet Singh into custody. Durgadas, with the Thakur of Balunda (a small principality in Marwar), planned the escape of young Ajeet Singh from the clutches of the Mughals. With Durgadas there was a poet warrior (known as a Chaaran), Jadaaw ji, who dressed up like a snake charmer and went into the palace where Ajeet Singh was being kept. Jadaaw ji hid little Ajeet in a basket and took him out of the palace.  The Mughal army immediately went out in their pursuit, and the escape happened quite in the Bollywood style! 10-15 valorous Rajputs would stay behind to engage the Moghuls and thus provide time for Durgadas and Ajeet Singh to gain some distance. All the warriors would be slain and then the pursuit would resume. In the end, Durgadas, Thakur Mokham Singh of Balunda, Jadaaw ji, and seven other horsemen were all that managed to reach the safety of Marwar, and kept Ajeet Singh in Balunda till his teenage.   Durgadas continued inflicting heavy damages on the Moghuls by engaging them in relentless guerrilla warfare! With Aurangzeb growing old, and his grip on power loosening, a war of succession broke out between his children. Durgadas supported one of his sons, Akbar, in the war of succession. Akbar died of some disease and Aurangzeb asked Durgadas that his daughter-in-law and grandchildren be returned to him. Durgadas, the man that he was, returned the lady and her children to Aurangzeb !  Aurangzeb is supposed to have asked his daughter-in-law: कैसा दिखता है वो चूहा? — How does the rat look? The daughter-in-law replied: कैसा दिखता है? जहाँपनाह, जोधपुर में उन्हें बाबोसा कहा जाता है. और किसी की हिम्मत कहाँ कि उनसे नज़र मिला के उनकी तरफ देख सके! हमने तो सिर्फ उनकी रोबदार आवाज़, या जूतियों की आहट ही सुनी है !  — How does he look? He is called “babosa” in all Jodhpur. None dares look him in the eyes. I have heard only his strong voice or the sound of his footfalls.  For a barbarian like Aurangzeb, it was inconceivable that his daughter-in-law would have remained untouched in custody, but Veer Durgadas was a man of such integrity and honor that he never even looked at the Moghul princess!  This was the unwritten code for the worshippers of Shakti — to respect and protect the honor of women, even if they belonged to the enemy camp! Such decency in times when it was a done thing to have the women of the opposite camp for yourself. आठ पहर चौबीस घडी, घुडले ऊपर वास। सैल अणि सूं सेकतो, बाटी दुर्गादास ॥ Riding on horseback, days and nights would pass! On the rough terrain of the Aravalis, Durgadas baked flour balls with the tip of his spear ! For a good 20-25 years, Durgadas kept on fighting from the hills of Sirohi and Pali. In 1707, Aurangzeb died. This was an opportune time for Durgadas and he attacked Jodhpur and took control of Jodhpur after a little resistance from the disarrayed Mughal Army.  Here is where we see the actual greatness of Durgadas and his real character. There have been many warriors in Rajasthan who fought for defending their land and women but we know of only one Durgadas who fought for concepts as abstract as loyalty and religion. On annexing Jodhpur, he did the coronation (rajyabhisheka) of Ajeet Singh and fulfilled the promise he had made to his father Jaswant Singh. He could have easily eliminated Ajeet Singh and become the King himself, but he chose to remain loyal to his word and gave the kingdom effortlessly to Ajeet Singh! Nowhere in history can we find such unflinching loyalty to his motherland and such absolute detachment from power as in the life and deeds of Veer Durgadas Rathore !  Alas, if we Hindus had learnt and drawn inspiration from this soul, the history of this subcontinent would have been entirely different! Instead of an unending saga of humiliating defeats at the hands of any and everyone who managed to cross the Indus, we would have been a proud race, unyielding in our honor and self respect! सिंघां देस विदेस सम, सिंघां किशा वतन्न । सिंह जिका वन संचरे, सो सिंघां रा बन्न ॥ Homeland or a foreign land is the same for lions! What nation can contain a lion? Whichever land he wanders into, that land belongs to the lion ! Final chapter of Durgadas’s life. Tragic, but also, one that raises Durgadas to sublime heights! Sometimes, I find it difficult to believe that we Hindus are the progeny of such noble souls ! Once Durgadas crowned Ajeet Singh the king of Jodhpur, he relegated himself to the background, largely spending his time and energy in rebuilding temples destroyed during the Moghul reg But he also helped Ajeet Singh tighten his grip on his regime. Then things happened, as has always been the misfortune of this great land of ours. Ajeet Singh, probably as a consequence of his insecure childhood or his below average mind, got jealous and suspicious of Veer Durgadas, the very man because of whom he was alive! Though largely metaphorical, there is a story that once Ajeet Singh is supposed to have said to Durgadas..”बाबोसा, आप म्हारे हामी मति बैठिया करो !” — Old man, you must not sit in front of me in the Durbaar .  When Durgadas gave him a questioning look, Ajeet said ..”आपने देखूं तो मने विखा रा दिन याद आवे !” — When I see you, I am reminded of the days of my deprivation! So much for the wisdom and grace of our erstwhile rulers! Durgadas endured such insults off and on, just for the sake of his loyalty to his motherland, till one day Ajeet Singh’s yes-men convinced him to do away with Durgadas altogether.  Durgadas got the whiff of the plans and the day he was to be murdered, he approached the King in the Durbaar and spoke aloud — I had procured a lot of gold in the battles of South India. I am an old man now, I want to gift you the gold and retire!  Ajeet Singh indicated to his point man to refrain from killing Durgadas, and then an appointment was fixed for Durgadas and Ajeet Singh to meet in the outskirts of Jodhpur …. Durgadas had asked 500 horsemen loyal to him to lay an ambush there. As soon as Ajeet Singh turned up, he was surrounded by the horsemen and  Durgadas said to him: ऊंदरा, थूं मने मारेला? हूँ तुर्कों रे हाथ नी आयो, थूं मने मारेला? अगर थारा बाप ने वचन नी दियो वेतो तो अबार थारो माथो वाड देतो! थाने सोनो चावे? औ जोधपुर रो राज दियो नी थाने …अबे आगो जा ! — You rat ! You will kill me? I could not be contained by the Turks and you will kill me? Had I not promised your father to protect you, I would have beheaded you right now! And what more gold do you expect from me? I have given you the kingdom of Jodhpur! Now, get lost before I forget my promise to your father .. Durgadas Rathore, well into his 70s, along with a few of his loyal friends, turned his back to his motherland and rode away into the sunset, never to return. Durgadas walked away from the land he had taken birth in, had nurtured with his blood and sweat for the sake of a vow he had made, his head held high, in honor and unflinching loyalty ! The lion of a man walked away after showing his prey his real worth! The eagle cast a final glance on the kingdom of Jodhpur, spread his wings, and took his flight into oblivion, leaving behind the dust to settle and the turkeys to flutter their noisy wings of mediocrity. The land of Marwar lost her only noble son to the back stabbings of lesser mortals! From Jodhpur, Veer Durgadas went to stay in Udaipur. Then one day, the Maharana of Udaipur gifted watermelons to the camp of Durgadas. Upon receiving the watermelons, Durgadas immediately asked his men to pack up. When asked the reason, Durgadas replied, “The Maharana has sent us a message. Watermelon is called ‘matiro’ in Mewari. This can be also be understood as ‘mati’ (do not) and ‘ro’ (stay)! Durgadas then went to Ujjain and lived an ascetic’s life with the locals there. On 22 November 1718, on the banks of the Kshipra river at Ujjain, aged 81 years, Veer Durgadas Rathore breathed his last, with only a handful of his loyal friends by his side to witness his departure. The samadhi of Veer Durgadas lay in ruins for almost three centuries, till my grandfather, the late Thakur Akshay Singh Ratnu, went to Ujjain in the 1950s and wrote at least 300 letters to different organizations of Rajputs to rebuild the samadhi. Sometime in the 1980s, the present day Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh, a fine and compassionate soul, took the trouble to go to Ujjain and got the Jeernoddhar (renovation) done. Renamed the Chakrateertha, the samadhi of Durgadas was rebuilt in red sandstone. Author’s Personal Note
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The Question of Varna

Indians always prided themselves on their reliance on Pratyaksha Pramāṇa in contradistinction from the Abrahamic religions, for which belief in the Word of God or Allah was the very fundamental of their existence. The nearest that the Indians got to this absolutist principle of total belief, excluding all reason and rationality, was shabda pramāṇa. The principle is summed up in this shloka from Mahābhārata[1]:  Pratyaksham hyetayormulam kritāntaitihyayorapi/pratyaksheṇāgamo bhinnah kritānto vā na kinchana|| Root of both inferential evidence and scriptural evidence lies in direct evidence (empirical/experiential). If the inferential evidence or scriptural evidence is against the direct evidence, their validity cannot be accepted. The interesting bit is that the conversation is taking place between Rishi Panchashikhā and King Janaka, and the Rishi is giving a poorvapaksha of the nāstikas, who are justifying their viewpoint by referring to what the āstikas always contend. So the value and primacy of pratyaksha pramāṇa was universal in our ancient traditions. In fact, it is as axiomatic in the Indian traditions as ‘belief’ or ‘shabda pramāṇa’ is in the Abrahamic traditions. Islam had an interesting battle between the rationalists and the conservatives during the first half of the Abbasid period (750–1258 CE). The two sides were the Mutazzalites and the Asharites. While the former battled for reforming the interpretation of the Islamic texts to include ‘immanence of divine’, the Asharites insisted on the complete separation of Creator from his creation. Mansoor Hallaj was tortured and beheaded for proclaiming An’a Haq, or I am the Truth, a concept analogous to Aham Brahmasmi of Advaita Vedānta. The early Sufis were very much of this temperament, and dabbled with concepts of Cyclical Time in the style of what early Christians did before the Councils pronounced a curse on Cyclical Time (5th Ecumenical Council, 553 CE). The issue was finally settled by Al Ghazali (died 1111 CE), the guru of all Sufis who decisively intervened on the side of the conservative Ulāmā, brought in the concept of ontologically broken Time, in which Allah creates and destroys the Universe moment to moment, and verily determines every action of a human being. This put paid to the spiritual doctrine that had been ushered in by the Mutazallites and taken up by the Tahqiqi (those with Haq, or Truth) school of Ibn Arabi, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Sena (Avicenna), etc. and the movement of Ishtehad (reform) died an untimely death. This was the beginning of the ‘Dark Age of Islam’, that continues till date. The triumph of conservatives in association with devotionists also brought in the concept of Taqlid, from the root qallada (imitation) that prohibited use of aql or reason by anyone else except the authorised clerics. The prohibition of the use of reason came in handy for the Christians who began a turn around from the Christian Dark Ages under St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) by asserting Christian superiority in reason. I have given this context as I found, to my amazement, during a debate on birth-based concept on Varna in a WA group, where my position was based on the Vedas and the Bhagwad Gita (which is unambiguous on the point, stating boldly that ‘Chāturvarṇam mayā srishtam, guṇa karma vibhāgashah — I have created four varnas according to innate qualities and acquired functions), I found that many traditionalists among Hindus also hold views on pramāṇa similar to the Ulāmā. Even as great masters throughout history, including Ādi Shankara, preached oneness behind all material reality, the traditionalists are not even ready to let one discuss the scriptures unless you have been trained in the Vedas under a proper Āchārya.  One such person, RK, was not even ready to let anyone get a word in unless he vetted the name of your Āchārya. While others or I would have their gurus, the sheer emphasis on Adhikāra smacked so much of Taqlid, that I was forced to write a piece on it. Having prided myself on the scientific bases of the Sanātana tradition, as laid out in my 6-part series on ‘All Religions Are Not The Same’, it came as a rude shock that many well-meaning, erudite, and well qualified people continue to harbor the evidence of shabda pramāṇa as higher than pratyaksha. It is obviously not the Sanātana tradition as I gave out at some length in the above series. The Sanātana and all other Dharmic traditions permit questioning, and permit all the elements of scientific method to be applied, i.e. questioning, verification, universalization, repetition and falsification are fully permitted to establish the Truth. Verification is permitted to be external, or even internal — empirical or experiential. Yet, even people well schooled in the sciences thwart questioning by citing Adhikāra and Paramparā. The two have great application in preserving the base of Dharma, but if people like RK ossify it and deny any falsification attempt, when rebuttal or falsification is not permitted, the unchallengeable doctrine gets reduced to dogma — exactly like any Abrahamic creed. The varṇa concept is well accepted as a classification of tasks, and throughout history, jatis have moved up and down the varṇa ladder. Yādavas are the foremost example of this up and down movement. Even in recent history, important dynasties like Vijayanagara and Mysore were Yadavas. The Karṇa story in Mahabharata is also an educative one. While Duryodhana made him the king of Anga to take him up the ladder of varṇa to the status of a Kshatriya, there were many who asserted Adhikāra even in those times. Parashurāma would have no issue with him if he had requested him to make him a Brahmin, as many like Vishvāmitra, Valmiki and Veda Vyāsa had become in the past. It was his cheating that made him abort his education. The epics are full of these narratives, such as the Mahabharata discussions in the Yaksha episode and the Nahusha episode during the vanavāsa of the Pandavas. On the other hand, we have many Acharyas who assert birth-based varṇa. It would be fair to contend that birth-based varṇa is totally the handiwork of the Āchāryas in the medieval times. Almost all of them find their justification in Ādi Shankara, yet one of the most scathing indictments of not just birth-based varṇa, but discrimination based on varṇa is in Manishā Panchakam of Adi Shankara. However, the Āchāryas disregard even this pratyaksha pramāṇa by quibbling on the context. We know that in the Sanatana traditions, context is more important than literalism, and even the Vedas have layers and levels of meanings at different levels of vāk[2]. Yet, the traditionalists do not baulk at anything while supporting birth-based varṇa. It is time for all of us who wish to have a glimpse of the Divine within to face up to this Taqlid like irrationality and liberate the Sanātana from the Purātana. Printed with permission of the author (May 2020) [1] Mahābhārata: Shanti Parva: 211.26 (Critical Edition, Sukhthankar), 218:27 (Gita Press) [2] The psychic levels of vaikhari, madhyamā, pashyanti, and parā [Editor: For further reading on the 4 levels of Vak]
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Reflections On Hinduism (6)

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

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

The mahavakya of the Shikshavalli says, Dharmam Char: ‘Follow Dharma’ or ‘Keep moving on the path of Dharma’.  Since the verb determines the movement and quality of the subject, so the word ‘char’ needs our attention first. ‘Char’ means ‘keep moving on’ or ‘move along’.  Let me contextualize this a bit.  India speaks through subtle symbols. One of the significant Indic symbols is the chakra. Chakra is a ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’. The character of the wheel is movement. Life is nothing but a series of movements, continuous, in different forms. It is the opposite of stasis. The wheel symbolizes the perpetuity of movement, the character of life. It came to be associated with time and life as the kala chakra, time-cycle and jivan chakra, life cycle. This wheel found its way into the Indian intellectual and cultural psyche through various schools of Indian thought and manifested in multiple tangible emblematic forms as in the chakra in the Sun temple of Konarka which, after Independence, found its way into the Indian flag and the Ashok Chakra.  The mahavakya celebrates the primacy of movement in the cosmos that Aitareya Brahmana elaborates through the narrative of Harishchandra and his son Rohit. In the narrative, Indra explains to the wandering Rohit the importance of motion with the metaphors of the bees, birds and the Sun —                          Charanbai madhu vindati charantsvadu mudambaram Suryasya pasya sreemanam yo na tandrayate charan (Charaiveti, Aitareya Brahmana, 7.15) Loosely translated, this means that the honey bee, by its motion, collects honey, and birds enjoy tasty fruits by constant movement. The sun is revered, by virtue of its constant shining movement; therefore, one should be constantly in motion. ‘Keep moving, keep moving on!’  Every being in the cosmos follows the principle of moving on. So should human beings. By moving on, one gathers new experiences and every new experience adds to consciousness and one moves on from finite to infinite, and becomes a little less incomplete.  Now the question is — if one has to keep moving on, what should one be doing while on the move? Moving on aimlessly without knowing what is to be done would be futile. So the sage qualifies that movement should be oriented to Dharma.  Of the four purusharthas — inherent values of the universe or goals and obligations of human life — Dharma is the first. Artha, Kama and Moksha are the other three. Dharma, however, does not mean religion. There is a deeper meaning — dharayate iti ya sa dharmah: Whatever is worth ‘upholding’ or ‘worth doing’ in any given situation for an individual or a community, is dharma.  Can Dharma be practiced in isolation? The answer is no. Just knowledge of dharma is not enough; dharma must be lived, practiced. While acquiring material well-being, artha, and fulfilling one’s desires, kama, one must remain oriented to dharma, mindful of dharma and practicing dharma.  The pursuit of dharma does not entail renunciation of the world, nor does it mean that one cannot follow it while leading the life of the householder (grahastha) and engaging in worldly work. Janaka followed dharma while being a king, and the Vyadha in the Mahabharata was a humble hunter. In simple terms, it means that artha and kama, unattended by dharma, become anartha  and dushkama — the antithesis of artha and kama. However, if artha and kama are pursued in alignment with dharma, the fourth purushartha, Moksha, is inevitable.  Moksha, freedom from the cause of suffering (of one’s own and of others), is the natural consequence of adherence to dharma while pursuing the other two goals of human life. Moksha is not a faraway metaphysical goal but a state of being that is attained here, and here alone, in this life and in this world.      If one wishes to follow the path of dharma, one needs to know and understand dharma. But would it not be a very complicated process to know dharma before practicing it? Yes, if one takes the philosophical or intellectual route; and no, if one takes the route of loka or wisdom.    Taking recourse to the shastra mode, the academic or intellectual mode, could be abstract, unpleasant and even cumbersome. Knowledge without understanding and experience is never a source of happiness. Wisdom helps in discovering the path of life to be chosen, as stated in the answer that Yudhishthara gave to Yaksha:  Shruti vibhinna smratyopi bhinnah  Neko muniyasya vachah parmanam   Dharmasya tatvam nihitim guhayam,  Mahajano yen gatah sah panthah. (The Mahabharata, ‘Vana Parva’, 3.13.315) The essence of dharma is hidden. So what is to be done? There are two ways: either one can find the path of dharma with one’s experience and observation or just follow the path of the great souls or wise men. The former is a longwinded, time consuming and cumbersome process while the latter is simple and straight. Just knowledge of dharma is not enough; it needs to be practiced and lived. Every individual and every particle in the cosmos has its own dharma. But some, or many, would deviate from dharma. Then what would correct and balance out the deviation? Right dharmic action by those who adhere to their own dharma, swadharma,  even when others do not. That is why the Gita asks us to follow our own swadharma — Swadharme nidhanam shreyah pardharmo bhayavaha. (Geeta , Chapter 3, shloka 32)      Major philosophical schools and cultural texts like the epics, the puranas and the folk narratives of India explained various aspects of dharma by using drishtanta as a mode of construction and dissemination of knowledge. The Ramayana was enunciation of dharma as an ideal that was practiced by Rama, and the Mahabharata about the dharma in real life. With the shift in social behavior from the ideal (in the Ramayana) to the realistic (in the Mahabharata), the latter is a subtler study of dharma, as it tries to shed light on it from different standpoints by bringing in diverse characters, and sometimes even the same characters in different situations in multiple ways in various narratives. Dharma is not absolute but contingent. Dharma is determined by the three conditions of desha, space or location, kala, time and karma, action. As these conditions change, dharma may also accordingly change. That is why it is not absolute or fixed but contingent and variable. But it is variable with qualification, as the following narrative suggests: Yudhishthara, who was also known as dharmaraj or an apostle of Dharma, did not have a monopoly on the understanding of dharma, even he was perplexed. Bhishma Pitamah illustrated the complexity of dharma to Yudhishthara with the narrative of Vishwamitra in the ‘Shanti Parva’ of the Mahabharata.  In a certain rather long and extreme drought, the Sage Vishwamitra, starving for days, reached a Chandala (untouchable, of a lower caste) hunter’s hut in search of food. He saw a fresh piece of thigh of a dog. Vishwamitra wanted to have the dog meat but the Chandala pleaded that by doing so the sage would desecrate the dharma of both of them and it would lead to the committing of a sin. The sage Vishwamitra stated that dharma can be observed only if he were alive, and life is preferable to death. Hence, whatever sustains life — right or wrong — was acceptable to him.   Vishwamitra rejected all arguments of the Chandala by stating that the highest dharma is to save life at any cost, for life is higher than any other principle. He would be able to seek dharma by leading his life in a pious and righteous manner. The Chandala ultimately agreed to part with the meat. But the sage did not eat it alone. He, in consonance with the tradition, divided it in different portions for the gods, the ancestors and all living beings. Lo and behold! It began to rain, and the period of drought was over.  This narrative astonished Yudhishthara, for according to him, how can one be a sage and a pious soul after committing the most despicable act and defiling the dharma? Bhishma resolves his dilemma by saying that the dharma cannot be determined in absolute terms. Also, it cannot be defined by the feeble minded. Its awareness can be developed by following the scripture and the essence of the scriptures. In other words, the epic states that even Yudhishthara, who is supposed to be an incarnation of dharma, is not able to fathom the depths and manifestations of dharma. Further, it underscores a point that life is the highest value, as it is an indispensable instrument for observance of dharma. In this sense, life is superior to dharma. Life is dynamic, ever in flow, and the truth of life must have a practical value, truth as value or rit.  Tulsidas’s Ramacharitmanasa describes dharma in terms of dharma-ratha, a chariot of dharma. During the war between Rama and Ravana, after the death of Kumbhakarna and son Meghanada, Ravana comes to the battle field riding a Yuddha-ratha (war chariot), well protected by armour, and equipped with sophisticated weapons, while Rama is barefoot without chariot or armour. Seeing this Vibhishana gets distressed, and asks Rama how he was going to win over Ravana. Rama tells him that the ratha (chariot) that helps in winning the war in life is not the one that is owned by Ravana but the dharma-ratha, the chariot of dharma. Rama describes the the Dharmaratha (the chariot of dharma or righteousness) to Vibhishan, thus: Its wheels (chakra) of the chariot are valour (shaurya) and fortitude (dheeraj). Steadfastness in truth and good character are its flag and banner respectively. The horses of that chariot are strength (bala), discrimination (viveka), self-control or restraint (dama) and care for others (parahita). Its reins are made of the ropes of forgiveness (kshama), compassion (krpa) and equanimity (samata). Devotion to God is the intelligent charioteer. Dispassion (virati) is the shield, and contentment (santosh) is the sword. Charity (dana) is the axe, intellect (buddhi) is the potent missile (shakti) and knowledge of the self (vijnana) is the relentless bow.  He further adds that a pure and steady (amala achala) mind (mana) is like a quiver, while tranquility, calm (shama) and the various forms of abstinence (yama) and religious observances (niyama) are a sheaf of arrows. Worship and homage to the Brahmins and one’s own Guru is an impenetrable armor. There is no other efficacious equipment or weapon other than the dharma-ratha that is needed for victory, and a person possessing this strong chariot of dharma can conquer even the most mighty and invincible foe, attachment to the world.    Tulsi’s illustration of the dharma-ratha shows the engagement of the Indian mind with the mahavakya dharmam char in different ages through the metaphor of the chariot that represents cyclicality, continuity and movement. So one must keep moving on the path of righteousness.      Last but not the least, in the Indian tradition, as mortal beings have to follow the path of human dharma (manav dharma) so too the gods have to follow their dharma, (deva-dharma). Even in human form, they need to subscribe to their own dharma in every incarnation. In brief, every human being has to know one’s dharma (swadharma), and keep following it in accordance to desh, kala, and karma.           [This article was given by the late Sri Avadhesh Kumar Singh for publishing in Satyameva as his first contribution to the work of Satyameva. We are now reprinting this article with deep gratitude to him — Ed]
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Reflections on Hinduism (4)
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Reflections on Hinduism (4)

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

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

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

Hinduism. . . gave itself no name, because it set itself no sectarian limits; it claimed no universal adhesion, asserted no sole infallible dogma, set up no single narrow path or gate of salvation; it was less a creed or cult than a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. An immense many-sided and many staged provision for a spiritual self-building and self-finding, it had some right to speak of itself by the only name it knew, the eternal religion, Santana Dharma . . . Sri Aurobindo, India’s Rebirth Hinduism and the Future Can a religion evolve over time, revise its fundamentals, and respond creatively to new conditions and demands? Or is religion to be forever bound to its initial conditions, forever repeating revelations and beliefs of its founder or founders? If humanity evolves in consciousness over time, should religions not evolve as well? Do religions have an evolutionary relevance for humanity? The answers to all these very important questions will depend largely on how a religion has originated and evolved over time so far; and how its followers have been able, or allowed, to use the religion in their own personal spiritual quests and journeys.  For the purposes of our analysis, we will be classifying religions as either static or dynamic. A static religion is one that is organized around a central and more or less fixed belief system originating directly from its founder or founders; a dynamic religion is one that is mystical / spiritual and does not adhere to a particular belief system or values.  A dynamic religion is therefore evolutionary while static religions are conservative. But this is not always entirely true. In reality, things are more nuanced. No religion is either wholly dynamic or wholly static: all religions have some evolutionary elements and possibilities and some conservative elements and practices. What makes a religion dynamic is how the evolutionary and the conservative are balanced in application and practice, what is emphasized and what is de-emphasized over time. Responsiveness and adaptability would be significant markers of a dynamic, evolutionary religion, whereas rigidity and strict adherence would be markers of a static and conservative religion.  In the initial sections of this article, we shall explore the Hindu dharma to see what its evolutionary possibilities are and whether it can remain spiritually relevant for a 21st Century humanity.  Hinduism and Evolution: Can a religion evolve over time? If a religion is bound to a particular sacrosanct tradition or infallible theology, a particular prophet, messiah or scripture, then obviously it cannot. For a religion to evolve, it must also necessarily be able to outgrow several of its traditional beliefs and practices. There can be no real growth without a certain outgrowing of forms and formulations no longer relevant or meaningful to those who follow the religion.  For a religion to evolve, it must keep the spirit of enquiry as its principal value and experiential spiritual knowledge as its core.  Hinduism is arguably the one religion that has the potential of evolving into newer forms and bodies of experience and knowledge more suited to a humanity of the 21st Century. And it can do so precisely because Hinduism has grown as a religion only by a constant revision and evolution over ~5000 years of its existence.  Hinduism, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, has always been a continuously enlarging tradition of the Godward endeavor of the human spirit. This is how Hinduism, as a vast and varied body of spiritual knowledge, has grown over the years: by continuously enlarging itself, emphasizing an uncompromising spirit of enquiry instead of strict adherence to belief, and insisting on Truth instead of dogma.  Direct spiritual experience has always been valued more in Hinduism than dogmatic beliefs and scriptural references. Shruti (what is revealed and heard) and sakshatkara (direct seeing and knowing) have always been profoundly important in the Hindu tradition and preferred over any other source or authority. It must however be noted here that shruti, direct intuitive and spiritual revelation, is a dynamic ongoing process. What is revealed to one Rishi (seer, sage or prophet) can be superseded by what is revealed to another, at a later time or even contemporaneously. The Hindu dharma has always unambiguously stated that no one seer or prophet can have the final or last word. Consciousness is a dynamic and ever-evolving process and there can be no single end-product of such a process. No seer or prophet can be the final word, but every seer and prophet of Hindu dharma is a necessary link, a stepping stone, to the Supreme Truth. Each seer and prophet is a facilitator, a teacher and guide, and each has his or her place in the Hindu scheme of things.  It is true that the Hindu dharma has its scriptures, but it is not bound to any of its scriptures, it considers no scripture infallible as it considers no teacher or seer infallible. Fallibility, in fact, is a basic assumption of the Hindu dharma. As long as one lives in relative ignorance, and as long as one has not become completely identified and one with the Supreme Truth Consciousness, one will always be fallible. The only “infallible authority” the Hindu dharma acknowledges and reveres is the Divine Truth within, the Inner Teacher and Guru, the Indwelling Divine or Ishvara. This is important to understand: the final spiritual authority is the Truth within, Sat, accessible by anyone willing to devote his or her energies sincerely to this endeavor. It makes no difference to the Truth whether the seeker is low caste or high caste, atheist or believer, born into Hinduism or born into some other faith — Truth is Truth, and all human beings have equal access to it regardless of time or place.  If this be the central tenet of the Hindu dharma, then it implies that the source of the dharma is living and dynamic and cannot be fossilized within a historic structure or tradition.  This has enormous implications. For one, no true disciple of the Hindu dharma can quote scripture or teacher to block debate, dissent and revision; however exalted and advanced a teacher or Guru may be, the final arbiter is always the Inmost. This is the reason why, at a Vedanta conference in Madras, during a debate on a certain scriptural point, when a pundit objected to Vivekananda making an assertion because it was not sanctioned by authority, Vivekananda could retort, “But I, Vivekananda, say so!” This is also the reason why Sri Aurobindo, one of the foremost exponents and exemplars of Hinduism, one who is widely regarded as a Maharishi in the Hindu tradition, could take Hinduism beyond its scriptural and traditional boundaries and extend its scope far beyond even what was attained and declared by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, inarguably one of the most revered texts for Hindus anywhere in the world.  As expected, the traditional orthodox interpreters and followers of the Hindu dharma could not stomach Sri Aurobindo’s bold innovations and criticized him openly for claiming that his Yoga was “beyond” all that was hitherto attained by all of the past Hindu Gurus and avatars.  Not only that, Sri Aurobindo also indicated, more than once, that the Hindu tradition of avatars (Divine Incarnations) was not a finished thing, there was no concept of the last avatar in Hinduism. As long as there shall be an evolutionary need for avatars, so long shall avatars be born upon earth.  Hinduism then contains the possibilities of further evolution — it has evolved so far through its foremost practitioners through the ages, and shall continue to do so, regardless of what the traditionalists feel. Whether the orthodox Hindu (Hinduism permits and absorbs within itself both the orthodox and the heretic, the traditionalist and the modernist) likes it or not, Hinduism is a dynamic and creative religion, not a static one. This is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and most other world religions. Hinduism is dynamic and creative primarily because it is a spiritual and mystical religion at the core. A spiritual religion, by definition, must follow the soul, the spirit in man; it cannot be the other way round where the spirit follows or is constrained to follow the religion. A religion that claims precedence over the spirit becomes external and non-spiritual; and a non-spiritual religion will inevitably become subservient to external authority (of the scripture, priest and the church) and will not allow the freedom of spiritual quest and expression to its followers. Any individual spirituality outside the theological or ecclesiastical confines of the religion will be regarded as heretical or blasphemous.  A spiritual or mystical religion, on the other hand, cannot have any theological or ecclesiastical confines as that would be a contradiction in terms. The soul in its quest for Truth will soar beyond all outer forms and formulations, as the Truth it seeks is infinitely beyond anything that even the vastest and wisest mind can conceive. Thus, as the consciousness evolves, so must the religion. As the Vedas and the Vedanta reveal: Truth is vast, brihat, encompassing and transcending all space and time, and cannot thus be contained in any one timeframe, however cosmic that timeframe may be. Not only is it vast or brihat, it is universal and supra-cosmic, encompassing and transcending the entire cosmos, and thus cannot be contained by any one human sect, society, nation or religion. To claim that a particular community, faith or nation possesses this Truth would be like a sea wave claiming that it possesses the entire sea.  Hinduism is a spiritual and mystical religion because the source of Hindu thought and dharma is the eternal, living Truth of the soul or the spirit; and it is mystical because its entire body of knowledge and practice derives from direct and intuitive spiritual and yogic experience.  Thus, being spiritual and mystical at the core, Hinduism can, and indeed must, evolve into a religion in alignment with the needs and demands of a future humanity. It must not only be progressive but radical in accelerating the pace of human evolution. If this does not happen, Hinduism too, like most other world religions, will soon become obsolete and irrelevant, and die out in a few generations.  To stay dynamic and relevant, Hinduism must remain true to its core and spirit, and be open to change and revision, be willing to outgrow many of its past formulations and abandon many of its old dogmas, practices and beliefs.  Hinduism will need to preserve and revivify its Sanatan core, its deep and vast Vedic and Vedantic knowledge; and it will need to reach out into an equally vast evolutionary future, the seeds of which it hides in its heart as its supreme and final mystery — rahasyam uttamam.
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All Religions are not the same part 1
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All Religions Are Not The Same

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
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In the Wink of an Eye
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In the Wink of an Eye

Janak is widely known as the the King-philosopher of ancient India. He was a Rishi, a Seer, as well as a noble and accomplished king. His court was famous for patronizing philosophers, sages and poets. He used to hold debates on philosophy and dharma. These were known as shastrarthas. Leading scholars, young and old, were invited to these shashtrarthas. Janak himself was an ardent thinker and had a deep yearning for knowledge. But, in spite of all his knowledge, he lacked the spiritual wisdom and so became increasingly arrogant as his knowledge grew. However, he was perhaps aware of this deficiency in him and so his deepest aspiration was to meet a spiritually realized being, a sage, who would consent to be his Guru and lead him to perfection. He met countless sages but never did he meet the one he was awaiting. One day, it so happened, that the Sage Ashtavakra, known as much for his profound wisdom as for his physical deformities, was visiting Janak’s kingdom. He heard about a shastrarth that was being conducted by King Janak, and so he reached the palace and entered the court of King Janak. As he entered, the courtiers and scholars present there looked up at him and could not suppress their emotions as they saw the deformed young boy walking into the court. The name Ashtavakra itself meant eight bends or deformities in the body. The story goes that Ashtavakra was cursed by his father while he was still in the womb, and so was born deformed. Some felt pity, some a bit of horror, and some laughed out in obvious derision. Ashtavakra remained calm as he looked around the assembly. And then he spoke in a voice clear and sharp: “I thought I had come into the company of wise men! Isn’t this King Janak’s court? But I only see cobblers here — for you see only my skin and try to assess me, even as a cobbler assesses quality by seeing the skin! Know you not that a river may run a crooked course but never the water?” As the words rang out loud and clear, all the courtiers and guests fell silent, embarrassed by their own action. The King himself stood up and did his namaskara to the young stranger. “I see force in your bearing, young man, and a power in your voice. There is also a calm in your eyes. I can sense a wisdom and light around you. Can you give me the highest knowledge?” The King asked his young guest. Ashtavakra said, “Yes, O King, I can.” Suddenly feeling inspired and confident, the King asked more directly: “Will you give me the knowledge of Brahman in the wink of an eye?” “Indeed,” replied Ashtavakra, “I will. But for that you have to give me Gurudakshina first!” Gurudakshina is the gift that the disciple gives to the Guru to repay him for all that he has gained at the feet of the Guru. “What is it that you would want, Sir?” Asked the King “Everything that you have,” replied Ashtavakra. In the presence of all the scholars and courtiers, King Janak immediately and unhesitatingly agreed. “Your throne and kingdom, first, O Janak!” Said Ashtavakra. Janak said quietly, “Yours, Noble Sir” Ashtavakra then asked Janak to leave his throne and sit amongst the courtiers and scholars as the throne no longer belonged to him. Janak quietly obeyed. Then Ashtavakra said, “Cease all your planning and thinking about your kingdom for it is no longer yours.” Janak threw out all his planning and scheming and sat still, his mind empty. Ashtavakra then asked Janak to drop the body awareness — “Your body is no longer yours, Janak. Drop your identification with it!” Next Ashtavakra asked Janak to give up all thoughts, for the mind, and all its activities, were not his anymore. In the proximity of a realized Guru, Janak could empty his whole consciousness and become utterly still in mind and body. In a trice, the realization of the Self came upon him. Janak, enlightened, bowed deeply before Ashtavakra, the great rishi who had given him the knowledge of Self in “the wink of an eye”. Ashtavakra then asked the King to return to the throne, saying: “O King, now rule your kingdom as a custodian, a trustee, for you are now free of all ownership and doership. Live your life as a witness, for you are free of all identification.” And so it came to pass that Janak became one of the legendary Sage-kings of ancient India. Even the highest knowledge can come to one who is willing to give up his all in a single moment if asked by the Guru. The Guru’s Presence and Grace are inestimable in one’s spiritual quest. Retold by Nirakara
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Swamiji And The Mother

Swami Vivekananda visited Kashmir in the year 1898. While visiting the ‘Mother Kshira Bhavani’ temple he saw all the destruction the Islamic invaders had done to the statues and the temple.  Swami Vivekananda was hurt and was angry at the foolish invaders.  He prayed to Mother Kshira Bhavani — Mother, why do you let them do this? Why did you let them destroy your own temple and your own statues? Immediately, as a response, Swamiji heard a voice speak to him — How is it your business? Why do you bother with ‘why I let the invaders do this’? Is it you who protects me? Or is it me who protects you?
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Yajnavalkya & Janaka

King Janaka was one of the favorite students of sage Yajnvalkya. Yajnavalkya would always keep an empty front seat in his classes, so that if Janaka came, he could sit there and listen to his teachings. Yajnavalkya had many bright students, and some dull ones too. The dull ones complained among themselves that ‘Sage Yajnavalkya valued wealth of King Janaka more than the knowledge of his “bright” students and that was why he always kept an empty seat in the front’. Sage Janaka was aware of his students’ dissatisfaction about this. One day King Janaka was listening to a discourse by Sage Yajnavalkya at his forest Ashram along with the other students of sage Yajnavalkya. There was a huge forest fire at a distance, it was moving everywhere rapidly, one of the soldiers came running to the king and informed, “Lord the forest fire has burnt parts of the palace.” “Go do what is necessary then.” said the King, instructed him on whom to contact and what to do and kept listening to the discourse. The other students of the sage ran in various directions to save their clothes and stuff, while King Janaka was attentively listening to the words of Sage Yajnavalkya. When the other students of Yajnavalkya came back after the forest fire receded, they saw Janaka sitting there, fully involved in the learning not bothered about the kingdom. They felt ashamed. Sage Yajnavalkya retorted “The king with all his wealth, queen and palace wasn’t as much worried as you were for the sake of your torn loin clothes. Now you must have realized why we keep an empty seat for him to occupy whenever it is possible for him to take time out and come here from his busy life. Come on now, sit, let’s study.”
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A Man On The Hilltop
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A Man On The Hilltop

There is a very famous Zen story: A man was standing on a hilltop. Three persons saw him; they started arguing about him, about what he was doing there. One said,  ‘He must have lost his cow — I know that man — and he must be looking for his cow from the hilltop.’ And the second said, ‘I cannot agree, because when one is looking for something one does not stand like a statue, unmoving; one moves, looks this way and that. But he is just standing like a Buddha-statue. He is not looking for something — he is waiting. Maybe a friend has come with him for a morning walk and is left behind and he is waiting for him to come.’ The third said, ‘I disagree, because when somebody waits for somebody who has been left behind, once in a while he looks back to see whether he has come or not. But that man is not looking back at all; he is not even moving. He is not waiting. My feeling is that he is meditating.’ They could not agree on what that man was doing so they decided to go to the man and enquire. The first man said, ‘Are you looking for your cow?’ The man said, ‘No, I am not looking for anything.’ The second said, ‘Then I must be right: you must be waiting for your friend who has been left behind?’ The man said, ‘No, I am not waiting for anybody.’ The third said, ‘Then I have to be right — now there is no other alternative left — you must be meditating.’ And the man said, ‘No, I am not meditating either.’ Then all three asked ‘Then what are you doing?’ He said, ‘I am just standing.’
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The Parable Of The Milkmaid
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The Parable Of The Milkmaid

A milkmaid used to supply milk to a Brahmin priest living on the other side of a river. Owing to the irregularities of the boat service, the milkmaid could not supply him milk punctually every day. Once, being rebuked for her going late, the poor woman said, “What can I do? I start early from the house, but have to wait for a long time at the river bank for the boatman and the passenger.” The priest exclaimed, “Woman! There are people who cross the ocean of life by uttering the name of God, and can’t you cross this little river?” The simple-hearted woman became very glad at heart on learning this easy means of crossing the river. From the following day, she started to supply the milk early in the morning, as she was supposed to. One day the priest said to the woman, “How is it that you are no longer late now-a-days?” The milkmaid replied, “I cross the river by uttering the name of the Lord as you told me to do, and don’t stand now in need of a boatman.” The priest could not believe this. He said, “Can you show me how you cross the river?” The woman took him with her and began to walk over the water. Looking behind the woman saw the priest in a sad plight and said, “How is it, Sir, that you are uttering the name of the God with your mouth, but at the same time with your hands you are trying to keep your cloth untouched by water? You do not fully rely on Him.” Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once said, “You can force your demands on God, he is in no way a stranger to you, he is your eternal companion.”
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That Thou Art

The Upanishads are profound meditations on the truth of the Supreme Self, and constitute the principal source of Vedantic mystical knowledge. The word Upanishad (उपनिषद्) is derived from the roots upa (by) and niṣad (sitting down). Literally, Upanishad means the student or seeker sitting in the presence of the Guru, the Master, and receiving the knowledge of the Self.  However, the Upanishadic process was always dialogic — questioning, and even challenging, the Master to dispel one’s doubts was very much expected and encouraged.  This particular story, amongst the most popular in the Vedantic tradition, illustrates one of the great Upanishadic Mahavakyas — Tat twam asi, That thou art. (Ed) “No idiot has yet been born in our line nor has any in our family neglected the study of the Vedas. So, young soul, go to a gurukula, be a brahmachari and learn the Vedas.” The sage Uddalaka Aruni thus addressed his young son, Svetaketu, when he attained the proper age to go to a preceptor for study. The dutiful son obeyed his father. After studying all the Vedas for twelve long years at the feet of his guru, he came home. When the father saw him, he could at once perceive that his son had become a man of learning but that he had missed spiritual training and teaching. Instead of humility he had developed conceit and instead of peace, there was turmoil in his mind. One day the father said to him, “Dear child, did you not ask your guru to teach you that mystic wisdom which is the key to all other knowledge, to all other thought, and that wisdom which unfolds the Unknown to man?” Svetaketu was not a little surprised when he was thus accosted by his father. He instinctively felt that something was lacking in his own education. So he said to his father, “Dear father, what is that wondrous knowledge that you speak of? Do teach me that yourself. Obviously my guru did not know the knowledge you refer to, otherwise he would not have failed to impart it to me.” “Dear child, it is something like this. You know that these earthen pots and toys are made of clay. Once you understand the essential nature of the clay of which these are all made, you know and understand all these things also. Then all these are mere forms and names of forms, which the clay has assumed. The essence of them all, the thing that matters is the clay. So too if you understand the nature of a particular metal, everything that is made of that metal is known to you. The various things that are made of that metal are then mere names and forms. What matters is the metal and its nature. Take the various things made of steel such as a sword, a razor, a knife, a needle. When you know the nature of steel, all these are but names and forms, which that steel assumes. What matters is the steel and your knowledge of it. That is the essential truth. All else is mere verbiage. So you should get to know the essence of things, the one thing that underlies this vast and multitudinous mass of name and form.  “In the beginning of things there was pure Being, one without a second. It willed that it should become many. Then it manifested itself in many forms, such as light, liquid, solid and so on. This rich variety of things came into existence by permutation and combination of these forms. Then life appeared, and among the living beings, man with his varied powers and functions.” After listening to all this the son said, “Father, all this is very interesting. Excuse me for a question. Where does a man go when he sleeps?” Uddalaka replied, “When a man sleeps he becomes for the time being one with the Spirit or one with the one eternal Being. He is merged in himself as it were. A man’s mind is like a beast tied to a peg by a long rope. It turns round and round the peg but cannot get away. So too does the mind turn round the prana or the vital power in the body but cannot leave the body. When a man is about to die, his power of speech is merged in his mind, his mind is absorbed in the prana, the prana is again in its turn merged in light and this light merges in the power beyond. That power is subtle. It pervades the universe. That is the Truth. That is the Spirit. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” The son again said, “I am not fully satisfied. Tell me more of this great wisdom, so that I can understand.”  “Dear child, bees bring tiny particles or droplets of honey from various flowers and store it in the hive. Once in the hive, do the droplets know from which flower they came? Need they know it? So too all these beings when they merge in the ocean of Being, they know not whence they came. They lose all individuality. Whether it is a lion, a tiger, a mouse or a worm before merging, all become one when they have once merged in the ocean of consciousness. That in which all these merge is the One Being. That is subtle. It pervades everything. It is the Spirit or Atman or Pure Consciousness. That thou art, O Svetaketu! “Dear child, various rivers from the four quarters flow into the vast seas. They all become one with the seas. Can you then make out the waters of the various rivers? No. So is the case with these various beings when they merge in the One Being. That thou art, O Svetaketu! “If you strike a tree at the root, or in the middle or at the top, some sap oozes out but the tree still lives. If you cut off a branch here and there from the tree, that branch fades and dies away but the tree still lives on. Thus that which is deprived of its life dies but life itself does not die. The power by which life lives eternally is the Spirit. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” Svetaketu listened to all this very attentively but he was still at a loss to know as to how to comprehended the intangible Atman. So he asked his father, “How to know this subtle thing, dear father? Tell me that.”  Then Uddalaka thought of a simple device. He pointed out to a big banyan tree nearby and asked his son to bring a ripe fruit from that tree. When he brought the small red berry-like fruit, he told his son, “Split it into two, dear child.” “Here you are. I have split it into two.”  “What do you find there?” “Innumerable tiny seeds of course, and what else can these be?” ‘Well, take one of those tiny seeds and split it again.” “Yes, here it is. I have split a seed.”  “What do you find there?”  “Why, nothing at all.”  “O dear child! This big tree cannot come out of nothing. Only you cannot see that subtle something in the seed from which springs forth this mighty tree. That is the power, the spirit unseen, which pervades everywhere and everything. Have faith. It is that spirit which is at the root of all existence. That thou art, O Svetaketu!” “’This is something very baffling, father. But how on earth can I realize it, even if I merely know it?”  Uddalaka said, “Just do one thing. Take a few crystals of salt and put them into a bowl of water while you go to sleep and bring it to me in the morning.” The obedient son did as he was told and on the next morning took the bowl to his father.  The father said, “Dear son, take out the salt please.” Svetaketu felt exasperated and said, “Father, what do you mean? How is it possible to take out that salt?”  “All right. Then just taste the water on the surface. How does it taste?”  “It is saltish and is bound to be so.”  “Take the water in the middle and at the bottom and tell me how it tastes.”  “Well, that too is saltish and is bound to be so.”  “My dear child, do understand now that the Spirit I spoke of pervades all existence like the salt in this water in the bowl. That is the Subtle Spirit. That thou art, dear Svetaketu!” “Dear father, how to go about all this? It looks so simple and yet is so very difficult.”  Uddalaka said, “Now I shall tell you how to go about trying to realize the Spirit. Suppose we blindfold a man and lead him into an unknown forest away from his usual residence. What would he do? How would he try to find his home? As soon as he is left to himself, he would just remove the cover from his eyes. Then he would wander about inquiring for the region from which he was taken away. He would go from village to village and ultimately he would come across someone who would lead him in the right direction. Thus would he reach his home. That is the way to find out the spiritual home from which we have all strayed into the wilderness. The Spirit is the one reality towards which we have all to direct our steps. That thou art, O Svetaketu!”  Thus spoke Uddalaka Aruni in the Chandogya Upanishad. 
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Ram ji
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Commissioned by Ramji

The immutable calm of the Sannyasi irritated the fellow passenger, a petty trader. He looked upon the hordes of Sadhus as parasites and saw an opportunity to give a piece of his mind to this young man in ochre who, he decided, ought to earn an honest living instead of hoodwinking people. This incident in the life of Swami Vivekananda had taken place in the summer of 1890 when he was a young unknown sannyasi and not a world celebrity after the Parliament of Religions at Chicago (September 1893). Swamiji had been on a visit to the ruler of a Princely State and was now traveling in a third class compartment. He had refused to take anything from the ruler who would have been glad to offer much wealth to Swamiji, but the latter was adamant. Only a ticket — that too by the third class — was all that he needed.  In those days in the hot summer months, because of a great shortage of water in Rajasthan, drinking water sold for one paisa a glass on wayside stations. Swami Vivekananda, not having a single paisa with him, could not buy water. The trader had noted this. He asked Swamiji how it was that he didn’t have even a few coins with him, to buy water, or food! Swamiji replied that God carried his purse and always looked after his needs; he didn’t burden himself with money or other possessions. This was a good point to nettle the Sannyasi, thought the trader. He had with him a surai — an earthen pot filled with water — and a basketful of food. From time to time he drank some cool water and took a sweet or a fruit. And all the time he kept taunting Swamiji with the negligence of his God, who didn’t care how much his disciple suffered!  Swamiji refused to get annoyed or to retort. He remained calm. This infuriated the passenger even more. At about lunch-time they reached a small junction station of Uttar Pradesh where they had to change trains. The other train was to come after an hour or so. In those days some of the out-of-the way small stations didn’t even have a shed for the passengers to relax under.  This station had a single tree to provide shade to the third class passengers. The trader at once took out a duree, a thick cotton spread and unrolled it under the most shady part of the tree and brought out food from his basket, cool water from his earthen pot and partook of a hearty meal, all the while taunting Swamiji and his God about the inability of the latter to provide even a drop of water to his hungry and thirsty disciple. Swamiji kept smiling as he sat on the ground.  Suddenly they saw a man hurrying towards them. He had a clean mat and a covered basket in one hand and a large tumbler in another. He spread the mat at a clean place, took out a leaf and arranged on it cooked vegetables, pooris, two or three types of sweets and then came with the tumbler towards Swami Vivekananda and with folded hands said, “Come, Swamiji, be pleased to take some food.”  The trader was watching this with intense curiosity. Swamiji answered the stranger, “Brother, surely you are mistaken. You do not even know me. I am here for the first time. How could you have brought food for me? It must be meant for someone else.”  The man answered humbly “I am a food vendor. In the morning I prepared some vegetables and pooris and some sweets and sold them. At noon, having finished my business, as usual I lay down to sleep. While I was asleep I saw Ram-ji standing by my side. With the touch of his foot he woke me up. I thought it was a dream, so I changed sides and went back to sleep. This time Ram-ji prodded me with his foot and told me, ‘Wake up, one of my devotees, a Sannyasi, is sitting on the station platform. He is thirsty and hungry. Carry food and water for him.’ I woke up and prepared these fresh pooris and came running. Here is some cool water. Please wash your hands and feet. Due to you I had the darshan and touch of Ram-ji.” The man prostrated himself before Swamiji.  Tears of love flowed from Swamiji’s eyes as the trader fell at his feet and begged forgiveness.  A True Story Retold by Shyam Kumari  (Courtesy: The Heritage, August 1987)
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