War, Peace and a Trade Secret

war and peace

The war is not over.

The meek fight to inherit the earth

Over airy base of war ruined castles

Nations, creeds, everything yours and mine –

Wrapped in golden words,

The word that was an invention.

Dreams of either or may make you shiver.

You take up the gauntlet for a just cause

While the merchants of war have the last laugh.

Peace, violence, death, life and foolishness

Are  means to an end, to someone’s end.

Crowds gather for enslavement

To spiced up stories, to invent

Another just cause to die for.

The meek, the nobles and the kings

Meanwhile profess peace.

For you, me and the whole of humanity.

Welcome the meek with blood,

the noble with inventions,

and the king with approval.

Ssssss….. a trade secret.


Indian Bloggers

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

Shravanabelagola

shravanabelagola

The majestic statue
high on the hill
invites us
for a rendezvous
of bliss and innocence.

It is fashionable
To come here
To be selfied and uploaded
And arouse  a little jealousy
“Look where we camped last weekend”.

A lone devotee infirm and old
Climbs up panting and chanting
To touch at least some height
Before her death.

Tiny flowers without leaves
Pop up from the hard rock
What  a humble offering
To the huge bare Bahubali
Standing tall on the bare hill,
With relics and  writings as ambiguous
as his silence!

How do they proclaim peace
in words of war -
The scholars fight it out.

The sun follows us inch by inch
As we limp up slowly
To rise above the world
And its maya.

 

(A detailed account of my visit to Shravanabelagola, Belur, Halebid and Shringeri can be read here :  Journey Through Karnataka’s Heritage Sites )

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An Inquiry into the Nature of Reality

In spite of so much development in science and technology, even scientists are baffled by the elusive nature of the sub-atomic particles. So in my attempt to inquire into the nature of reality, I am reminded of one of the vedic skeptic statements known as the Nasadiya Sukta. It is a hymn in the Rig Veda and is regarded as the first agnostic statement of our civilization.

The last stanza of the Sukta reads thus:

Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know

nasadiya-sukta

In this context it is worth being reminded of the famous zen story:

The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, “Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?

Even after thousands of years of evolution, we have not reached finality with regard to the knowledge of the ultimate reality. Who can say for certain what is reality and what is illusion?

Many mystics and metaphysical poets have had visions of reality that they tried to express it in their own mystical ways. It is difficult to decipher them for the lay man. It will be like deciphering the babbles of a drunk for the sober ones. But certain aspects of reality can be experienced in an altered state of consciousness, or so it is claimed (including amateur mystics like me).

The Buddhist view of reality is that it is all nothingness, things are born of nothingness and go back to nothingness (Sunyabaad). Adi Sankara, the proponent of Adwaita Vedanta,  had a contrarian view. He said that it is all fullness. Even the first sloka of Isavasya upanishad propounds :

Ishabashyam idam sarvam jat kinchit jagatyan jagat.

(What-so-ever there is, it is all filled with the essence of Ishwara)

While the eastern approach to reality has been an intuitive one, the western approach has been scientific. Or, we can say the eastern approach has been to look within where as the western approach has been to look outward. Hope at some point of time, they converge and east and west do meet.

The latest development is that science has nearly come to discover  the God Particle which would solve the mystery about the nature of the ultimate reality. The basic fundas about the God Particle, in simple terms, are as follows:

Electron, proton and neutron are the trinity of the atomic science and each has some mass however negligible. An atom contains these three basic particles which are in turn formed by interaction of mass less particles called quarks.  How these basic particles acquire mass has remained a mystery for the scientists. In 1964, a British physicist, Peter Higgs, came up with this idea that there must exist a background field passing through which particles acquire mass by being dragged through a mediator, which was subsequently named the Higgs Boson. The scientists sometimes call it the “God Particle” — it is everywhere but remains frustratingly elusive.

This reminds us of the Upanishads where God is conceived of as the substratum of everything, subtler than an atom, pure energy, present everywhere but elusive. Coincidentally, quantum physicists have found that their theories are not much different from the teachings of the Upanishads.

In March 2009, the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory came close to finding the God particle. What prevented them from finding the particle was a component malfunction in the Lab. Even though it still remains elusive, the scientists have come closer with each subsequent experiments at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland and elsewhere.

I am hopeful that if scientists continue with their experiments, one day they will definitely nail the elusive God Particle. God willing, of course. 😀

Till then there is nothing that prevents us from enjoying the mystery of reality, illusion, delusion, the gods or the God Delusions.

My Idea of an Evolved Human Being

An evolved human being has the innocence and intelligence of a child, yet is without the accompanying helplessness and childishness.

The evolved human being loves his neighbors, his culture & his nativity. However, he never confines himself to any boundary. He learns to see an individual as an individual and does not draw pre-matured conclusions based on the particular group the individual belongs to, by virtue of his birth. (more of this elaborated in I see you as you are)

He recognizes all the conditioning he is subjected to by the society and the vested interests and rises above them.  However, he does not forget his duties to the society and his fellow living beings.

He may or may not be a follower of rigid religious rituals, but he has a kind of religiosity or spirituality  that is not dependent upon any concept of God or Heaven or Hell.

Indian BloggersTo be an evolved human being is not only about valuing one’s own freedom, but also recognizing and respecting the freedom of others, at the same time realizing that we are all interdependent.

To be an evolved human being is about never going beyond a healthy point to persuade another to our own views and behave to our liking. It is never projecting our own dreams on others, however dependent they may be on us.

The evolved human being has his way, which he may follow very fervently. However, he recognizes and respects other paths.

Everything, anyway, one day returns to the source. The evolved human being, while realising the impermanence of everything, does not neglect to live with passion and commitment. (More of this at One life is not enough yet this moment is enough unto itself)

The evolved human being is truly an individual, yet he is the ultimate universal man. For him all the world is one family – ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’.

evolved man.jpg

 

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)


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