love is the way

love is the way durga dashLate nineteen eighties. Just when we thought we were out of our teenage hangovers and stupidities, and the advent of TV and DVD players would sound the death knell for Bollywood, a spate of romantic films ruled the box office. These movies also launched the career of a lot of stars: the innocent looking Juhi Chawla, the dhak dhak girl Madhuri,  the chocolate boy Amir Khan, and romantic singer Udit Narayan  to name a few. We enjoyed listening to those great romantic songs without bothering much about their meanings or origins.

Now we don’t have to even wreck our brains to understand the lyrics of some of the popular songs.  We have to just google it. I found out this from a site:

Aye mere humsafar
Ek zara intezaar
Sunn sadayein de rahi hai
Manzil pyaar ki

O my companion
wait just a while
Listen to the calling
of love’s destination

Even after a little help from the Google, the song may not be fully understandable. I too write poems that friends say they don’t understand. But what I do understand from the above song is that it treats love as some kind of a goal to be achieved. And I have an objection there. Because I think love does not have any destination. Love is the way.

When your goal is to become a doctor, it means you are not a doctor now. Same way if love is your destination you are not in love now.

In those days, not having the advantage of Google to check out the exact lyrics and not being native Hindi speakers, the lines we sang sometimes went like this:

App jaise koi
Mere jindegi mein aai
To baap ban  jaye
…… to baap ban jaye

Duniya kaminooo.. ka mela
Mele mein yeh dil akela

Those days we never tried to understand the meaning of Hindi film songs. These days, even after trying my best I fail to understand the mystic connotations of the majority of Hindi film and pop songs.

 

In Bhakti Sutras (which some translate loosely as the Aphorism of Love), Narada says that love is the goal as well as the way. Of course he was talking of divine love. Similarly many of the songs written by Rumi and other Sufi saints are about divine love.  For the spiritually inclined love is the way to self realisation.

But, for the Bollywoood lyricists love is the way to make lots of money. Some highly paid lyricists have brought down many Sufi bhajans from their high pedestals to the level of teenage infatuations. They don’t even acknowledge that they have plagiarized the songs from Sufi and Bhakti writers. Don’t think it is only the script writers who plagiarize.

Of course our popular bhajan singers do not do a better job when they sing bhakti songs following the tune of Bollywood songs that reminds you of  semi clad heroines and item girls gyrating to the tunes in all their vulgar glory.

In my book Idle Hours, I have dealt at length about my ruminations on love at length in an article. I have also discussed about the origin of the Valentine’s Day.

According to one theory, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who performed secret marriages in the 3rdcentury Rome against the diktat of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers. However, St Valentine would hang his head in shame if he now learns that marketeers are exploiting his name to sell cards, roses, and chocolates to gold, diamond, and platinum. Moreover, we are not satisfied with marketing the ‘ways’ associated with love only for one day. We have invented so many curtain raisers (Rose Day etc.) before the Valentine’s Day.

On a serious note, St Valentine will also hang his head in shame when he learns that even though we are living in the twenty first century we are seducing girls so that it will add to the numbers of our community.

At the other extreme, we are killing the people who genuinely choose love in spite of differences in social status, religion, caste, or creed.

I was deeply touched by the way poet Rahat Indori has put it.

फूल इस सोच में गुम हैं, के कहाँ महकेंगे, 
तितलियों के लब ए इज़हार पे पाबंदी है..... 
क़त्ल करने की खुली छूट है अब भी लेकिन, 
प्यार मत करना, यहां प्यार पे पाबंदी है.....

it was a great show

trapeze.jpg

Six hours of circus-

As usual the politician inaugurated it

And slept throughout the show

To wake up in the last hour

To proclaim

In words impeccable  and rehashed

The situation is under control

The guilty will not go scot free

And the victims will be compensated

 

The trapeze men thought they were

Fighting  a just cause

Going up and down without a safety net

So thought the green and yellow foot soldiers

Going up and down and down

 

Three dozen died

A few heads rolled

(Do we know their names?)

Some cried and

Some cried foul.

 

Far away

In another planet

Faces lit up

‘It was a great show’

They chuckled

And took a break.

(Disclaimer: The post is not related to the faux pass of the Haryana Government in the aftermath of the arrest of Baba Ram Rahim. Scores of people died accompanied by destruction of property as the government agencies were a mute witness to the bizarre reaction of the followers of the Spiritual Guru who epitomized love and peace)

 

Lord Shiva – The strange God from time immemorial

shiva

Even the puranas, that portray him with human attributes, are silent about his birth. Being Shankara – who has your welfare in his mind, he is close to our heart, yet he remains the most mysterious one riddled with contradictions.

He makes the profane sacred so he lives in burial grounds. Is it an attempt by ancient seers to remove taboos associated with places that people are reluctant to visit?

He remains unaffected even after taking so much poison. The world has both nectar and poison.

To remain unaffected by the poisons of the world requires the state of shivahood.

He is the embodiment of Isha Vashyam Idam Sarvam  – as he lives everywhere.

He is known as kalantaka – the one that ends time. Do we have an indication towards the state of deep meditation or samadhi where one transcends time.

As part of the trinity – the role assigned to him is that of a destroyer. But he is the ultimate savior. During the churning of the seas, he drinks poison. At the time of descent of Ganga, he takes her on his head.

All contradictions manifest and merge in him. He is an embodiment of yin and yang. He is ardhanariswara : half man – half woman. He is an ascetic and a householder at  the same time. He lives in Kailash, where there is only happiness and joy and in burial ground – the place of ultimate grief.

He is worshipped by Gods, human beings and demons. He is worshiped mostly as phallic symbol. At the same time he is known as the destroyer of kama – the god associated with lust.

He is the manifestation of the ultimate. He is nishkama, he is gnaneswara – lord of knowledge, he is mukteswara – lord of ultimate freedom. However, in puranas he is described as a householder who is prone to all human emotions.

He is worshiped by both Rama and Ravana. It signifies the impartiality of the primordial principle – the rit. It shows that the divine rejects none. All are part of Him. Of course finally Rama wins so that balance of dharma is maintained.

He is worshiped by the sober Gyani. At the same time he is the favourite God of the masts  who indulge in addictive substances on his name. This could be misreading of the state of bliss or the twisted logic of the addict to rationalise their addiction and claim social acceptance.

He is truly a strange God who does not mind being part of strange and bizarre rituals. The sacred and the profane merge. All are welcome. Even his entourage consists of strange beings and non beings like goblins. Anybody can stake claim to him.

However, amidst all the chaos, He is calmness manifest. He remains centred and free from all attachments.

He is the mystic of mystics. I grapple for words to describe his full glory. To such a lord I bow down with reverence.

Om Namah Shivaya.

Indian Bloggers

Of self discovery and spirituality

May be somewhere at the age of twelve I started to have deep feelings of uselessness of life. The feelings continued off and on. Pressing responsibilities and needs, first of a student life, then of a professional and family life drowned out the inner call.

Of course, since childhood I had been interested in yoga and meditation. I used to do certain practices following the instructions in some books that I had come across. However, I was not having any deep  feeling or any significant progress as an amateur self taught pilgrim of the spiritual journey. But my self taught yogic practices continued from high school till the first year of college. Then, sometime in the second year I discontinued the yogic practices and my lifestyle took 180 degree spin off.

Indian BloggersIt is said in esoteric spirituality that every spiritual / non-spiritual  cycle lasts twelve years. It may be a matter of pure coincidence that after my third 12 year cycle,  I started again to search for answers to some of the existential questions that had bothered me every now and then: Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Is there any use in this thing called life? yeh jina bhi koi jeena hai yaro? These feelings of inner emptiness, uselessness, meaninglessness continued for quite some time. I turned my attention to a variety of spiritual literature. But nothing satisfied me.

One day while channel surfing on TV, I got stuck with an interview of Sri Sri Ravishankar taken by Pratibha Advani. I do not remember what exactly was the question or what was the answer, but I had a feeling that I  got a starting point for the answers to some of the disturbing questions in my mind. Then, one day out of curiosity I went to the Art of living center to inquire about their workshops. It was a Tuesday and I was told the next workshop known as the Art of Living Basic Course was to start in two hours.Without thinking much I enrolled my self. Then I was in Hyderabad.

The six day workshop, for me was sheer bliss. By the end of the course my journey of self discovery had begun on a serious note. After that I visited the Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru and met with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I also did many advanced courses.

Of course till now I have not got the final answers to my ‘existential’ questions. The quest of self discovery is still on. But the difference is, now I have the feeling that  I am on the way. As I continue with the spiritual practices and knowledge, I experience many positive changes in my attitude towards life and society.

Different people may have different experiences and opinions about Art of living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But one thing I know is that the word bliss cannot remind me, first of all,  anything other than the Art of Living.

I have realised that one need not be a believer of anything to experience the bliss of meditation, yogic practices and mystic glimpses into the nature of truth.

sri sri quote.jpg

In addition to Sumelika Das, I must thank Cattie’s World  for being the inspiration for this post.

The Idea of India

 

Even to this day the accepted idea of India in the west has followed the concept propounded by Sir John Strachey (1823-1907), a British Civil Servant posted in India. He said, “ ….. India is a name which we give to a great region including a multitude of different countries. There is no general Indian term that corresponds to it….. There are no countries in civilized Europe in which people differ so much as the Bengali differs from the Sikh …. That there is not, and never was an India, or even any country of India, possessing according to European ideas any sort of unity, physical, political, social and religious: no Indian nation, no ‘people of India’ of which we hear so much. We have never destroyed in India a national government, no national sentiment has been wounded, no national pride has been humiliated and this not through any design or merit of our own, but because no Indian nationalities have existed.

You are wrong Sir Strachey, as wrong as you can be. You have not only missed the sacred geography of India but also its impression of inexplicable  ‘oneness’ that was deeply felt by a western educated Nehru, who was one of the greatest votaries of secularism post independence. He wrote in his Discovery  of India, “ It was not her wide space that eluded me, or even her diversity, but some depth of soul which I could not fathom, though I had occasional and tantalizing glimpses of it. Though outwardly there was diversity and infinite variety among our people, everywhere there was that tremendous impress of oneness, which had held all of us together for ages past, whatever political fate or misfortune that had befallen us. The unity of India was no longer merely an intellectual concept for me: it was an emotional experience that overpowered me.”

The word India is a Greek word that referred to the land beyond the river Sindhu. The Greek historians wrote works they called Indika to consolidate knowledge received from this land. Of course the people did not call their own land India. The indigenous term was Bharata, derived from the famous son of King Dushyanta. It was also called Bharatavarsha, the land of Bharata. The Indian sub continent was known as Jambudwipa (Rose Apple Island) or Kumaridwipa (the island of the Virgin Goddess).

The names Bharatavarsha and Jambudwipa are not only ancient, but also very much in vogue.   Every Hindu Sankalpa, to make explicit one’s position in the cosmos, starts with,  “In Jambudwipa, in Bharatkhanda, in so and so city …….”.  This tradition has been followed since time immemorial.

What is so special about India’s landscape is that in addition to being diverse and dramatic, all its landmarks like rivers, mountains and seashores etc.  are alive with myths and stories, ranging from being local to pan Indian, being little known to being part of famous legends known throughout the length and the  breath of the country with links to the great epics like Ramayana or Mahabharata.

india-a-sacred-geographyWhatever I have written so far in this post have been excerpted, deduced or distilled from the book, India-a Sacred Geography. Diana L. Eck- the author of the  book is a professor of comparative religion and Indian Studies at Havard University. She has won numerous accolades and awards for her sensitive portrayal of religious history in Indian as well as American contexts. The book attempts to explore the myths and realities surrounding the idea of India giving us the historical perspective beginning from the vedic age.  At the core, it tries to establish that: (as excerpted from the book blurb)

“ ……….  ultimately Eck shows us that from these network of pilgrimage places, India’s very  sense of region and nation has emerged. This is the astonishing and fascinating picture of a land linked for centuries not by the power of kings and governments, but by the footsteps of pilgrims.”

The book also explores the impact of muslim invaders and colonialism on this sacred landscape and how even the replicas of this interlinked sacred places have been created by Muslims and Christians in India. However, the book primarily focuses on the sacred geography of the land from the point of view of Hinduism and there are detailed explorations of the places of pilgrimages and how they are linked to each other across India and some times find there local replicas.

Contrary to the belief that all the desecrations of temples that took place during Muslim rule were due to religious bigotry of the rulers, the author is of the view that it was more to do with stripping the conquered from their association with the source of power. For many rulers the patronizing of a particular place of worship was closely linked to his extent of power. Of course, many of the places of pilgrimage that they destroyed or tried to destroy – like the Somnath Temple, the Jagannat Temple at Puri, – have bounced back to their former glory.

My own view is that you may try to destroy the idea of India by destroying its sacred landscape, but how do you destroy the myths which are harbored in the minds of its people? At  a deeper level, perhaps, the idea of India lives in the collective consciousness of its people through the myths that have been handed down since time immemorial, construction of temples and associating the geography with the myths being a part of that process.

Prodding  through volumes of ancient Indian texts, the author has brought out many interesting facts, narrations and insights of the ancient seers. Here is one that I found interesting: India’s imaginative world map, as envisaged by the ancient seers, did not make India the centre of the world as did Anaximander who made Greece the centre of his world map. In fact the Indian seers were not only aware of the existence of the other parts of the world beyond Indian sub-continent, but also  idealized other parts of the world some of which they named as Ketumala, Uttarakuru, Bhadrashva etc. According to them in many other countries people led far better lives and had more material resources to enjoy life.

Then of course they had this final warning: However, it was only in India that the ultimate freedom or moksha was possible as it was the karmabhumi (lands of spiritual action) while other countries were bhogabhumi (lands of worldly enjoyment).

Therefore this Bharata is the most excellent land in the Rose-Apple island, O Sage. For the others may be lands of enjoyment, but this is the land of action” (Mahabharata)

Is not the above statement true even today? In fact it is so true that sometimes I doubt it was written thousands of years ago.

Isn’t it India where the serious spiritual seeker lands up, ultimately? (In spite of all her shortcomings)


Indian Bloggers

Essays on Hinduism by Karan Singh

 

essays-on-hinduismIt is not a book review. I am not going to write about the pros and cons of the book. I loved the book and will give a summary of the book along with the salient features that stuck me.

I read this book over  a couple of days in a hospital waiting room. Once I started the book or every time I restarted the book, I  got lost in no time and forgot about the surroundings, till someone came and tapped my shoulders.

This book is written by Karan Singh, an Ex-Cabinet Minister in the Congress Government. So the book is not coming from a member of the saffron brigade. Nor is it written by one of those so called foreign scholars. Hence, we may expect a fair degree of neutrality along with the right amount of compassion, unlike the contents in the plethora of books on Hinduism which either exalt it to the point of exaggeration or portray it as nothing more than a religion of snake charmers, idol worshipers or  charlatans  selling solutions for premature ejaculation.

Blurb:

In this collaboration of essays the author discusses the basics of Hinduism. Outlining the message of the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads, he argues that Hinduism is not a cult, nor a bunch of dogmas but a religion of the highest order that speaks of an immanent and transcendental god. It also offers a philosophy of life that cuts across ethnic and geographic barriers between men. According to him, the essentials of Hindu religio-philosophic teachings are pervaded by the ideals of universalism and love for humanity.

The author drives home the relevance of Hindu unversalism to an age in which nations are armed for mutual annihilation. He maintains that successful application of the  Hindu seers will help humankind to overcome the worst crisis facing it in the nuclear age, and will lead to restructuring  the world on the all-embracing principle of freedom and equity. the text is followed by the author’s lucid translation and commentary on Mundak Upanishad.

 

However, what the blurb does not talk about is the recurring theme in the book that Hinduism has five basic tenets . The author returns to these tenets again and again. These five tenets, in brief, are as follows:

  1. The concept of Brahman, the unchanging undying reality that pervades the entire cosmos. The vedic seers saw that everything in the universe changes and they called the creation sansara, that which always moves. But they also perceived that behind this change there was an unchanging substratum from which the changing worlds emanated like sparks from a great fire. This supreme all pervasive entity known as brahman has been beautifully described in various upanishads.
  2. The second great insight of the vedic seers was that,  as the changing universe outside was pervaded by Brahman, the changing world within man himself was based upon the immortal spark known as  Atman. The human entity is born again and again across aeons, gathering a multitudes of experiences and gradually moving towards the possibility of perfection.
  3. Having perceived the existence of Brahman without and the Atman within, the great seers realized through their spiritual insights that Atman and Brahman are essentially one. This  concept of Tat Twam Asi (that thou are) is beautifully expounded and illustrated in Chhandogya Upanishad.
  4. The fourth basic tenet is about the supreme goal of life  which is to realize the deathless Atman within and its unity with the Brahman.
  5. The fifth one is the concept of Karma – a concept that includes Action, Causality and Destiny.

In the chapter, Secularism – a New Approach, the author emphasises  the need for an Indian approach to secularism as opposed to the western approach which is prevalent now. According to the author,  India has never had an organised church , so the European concept of secularism was never relevant to our requirements. The following are the three premises suggested by the author to form the basis of our secularism:

  1. The term Sarva-dharma-sambhava (Not favoring a particular religious denomination over others) is a  far more meaningful formulation than Dharma-nirapekshata and  is much closer to the view of Mahatma Gandhi on secularism.
  2. When the conflicts among various religions and religious sects which create serious law and order problem, it is clear that the myth of religion being a purely personal matter can no longer be sustained and the state has to take cognizance of religion as social force.
  3. The myth that, as education increases and living standards improve religion will steadily lose its hold over the minds of people and become increasingly peripheral, has been debunked by the facts that  more places of worship are found in developed societies than the underdeveloped ones.

The author also touches upon the subject of environmental preservation and other issues faced by the global citizen  and how the solution can be found combining modern findings with vedic wisdom. At the end the author hopes that  the world recognizes ‘Basudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ (The whole world is one family) as propounded  by the ancient seers so as to realize the oneness of the human race and rise over individual and class differences to  end the conflicts among nations and groups.

Thus, major parts of the book explore the insights of the ancient seers as found in the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures in general and the Bhagavat Gita in particular.  In a way, though the eighteen essays along with the appendix containing commentaries on Mundaka Upanishad, the author presents the soul of Hinduism, as opposed to its body which are the various rituals associated with the religion ans which are also the major focus of many of the western writers and Indian intellectuals.

My recommendation:

If you want to have a feel of the soul of Hinduism and get many of your long held myths  (which you might be unaware till you read this book)  about the religion  get busted, this book is a must read for you.

Indian Bloggers