WE ARE CONNECTED

                                                                       

 

                                                       (Interactive session on 17.05.2014)

Keynote address by MS. Anuradha Banerjee Sarkar

(Other speakers: Mr. Paritosh Banopadhyay, Mr. Sujit Chatterjee, Mr. A.K.                   Sengupta, Dr.Kalyan Chakravarty, Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal,                          Mr. P.C. Jha, Mr. Subhajyoti Roy, Dr. Madhumita Sarkar, Mr Jogendra singh)

[Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha]

 

INTRODUCTION

The proposition that “we are connected” implies that our connection with our present life relations and friends is not limited to the life we are presently living, but go back to several lives in the past, possibly in varying relationship. Apart from person-to-person relationship, the proposition also suggests a causal connection between our past deeds of previous lives, to our present state of being or events. Currently, the above concept, accepted as gospel truth by believers of re-incarnation for millenniums, has been popularized by some well renowned past life regression therapists like Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Hans W. Tendam (Ms Anuradha banerjee Sarkar, the speaker, has received training from Dr. Hans).

The above proposition has taken the form of a postulate or axiomatic truth in Hindu and Buddhist traditions that subscribe to re-incarnation. Even in Abrahamic tradition that generally does not believe in re-incarnation, causal connection between our deeds in this mortal world and our fate in the next world of Heaven and Hell is accepted. Those who do not subscribe to the theory that the soul survives death, will obviously find the subject proposition as questionable ab initio and may demand harder evidence than what can be ordinarily offered by regression therapists in form of standard validation checks. However, those who are open to conviction will be inclined to subject the above proposition to standard scrutiny with following posers:

a)    If consciousness/mind is a by-product of brain, how can it survive brain? In other words, when a man dies and is either cremated or buried, doesn’t his/her brain cease to exist or become dead? In that state how the consciousness/mind can operate?

b)    Given the limitation of distinctive environment and circumstances, how the action in one life can have causal connection to another?

c)    When the subject is not aware of his past Karma as the cause of his present sufferings, what purpose is achieved by such causal connection?

d)    Can the effect of a man’s past life deeds be neutralized wholly or partially in present life by regression therapy?

Before we address the above posers, let us analyse the proposition and look into the findings of the speaker (in her own words).

 

INTERCONNECTIVITY AS A CONCEPT 

 “We are connected to everyone and everything in this universe.” writes Serge Kahili King, the greatest living exponent of ‘Huna’ or Polynesian philosophy of effective living with love and peace for which Hawaiian Islands are well known. “Therefore”, continues King, “everything one does as an individual affects the whole. All thoughts, words, images, prayers, blessings and deeds are listened to by all that is.” (Ref. ‘Mastering your Hidden Self – A Guide to the Huna Way’)

Science is demonstrating that everything and everyone is connected as part of a continuous energy field. As a result, every thought, feeling and action of ours exert an influence on the whole — the people around us, the circumstances of our lives, the world. The material microcosm is as such linked to the larger macrocosm in a temporal and spiritual manifestation.

Now scientific and other innovative findings are corroborating what many ancient texts, philosophies, and even religions have been stating for thousands of years ….that there is a measurable yet unseen and pantheistic connection between human beings and all life. How is this possible if we can’t detect it with our five senses? We’d all agree that we can’t see radio and TV waves, yet we hear the sounds or see the images when these signals reach the receiving devices in our homes. Most of us have experienced synchronicity …we think of someone out of the blue, and then the phone rings.  In that moment, we become the receiver of that “wave” of information. These ideas of us all “being one” and being able to transmit and receive messages or energies from one another can influence situations, relationships, our health, and more.

We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve met someone for the first time but have this immediate and deep connection – sometimes to the point of being able to anticipate what they are going to say next – or feeling as if they’ve been in our life forever. We have also in this context at some point of our lives experienced a sense of déjà vu.

These kind of past-life connections are easy to spot but what about others that may also stretch across several lifetimes and involve soul promises, but which may not be quite so obvious? How do we recognise them?

First of all, we need to understand that often the souls with whom we have the deepest connection and with whom we have chosen to learn and grow with, are the ones who are there to teach us the most profound lessons. And sometimes these lessons are not easy. Just because you have known one another in a past life does not mean it will all be love and happy endings in this one.

We often have themes we have chosen to work through in this life and we may have several ‘soul mates’ – and we use that term in the broadest possible sense as a ‘soul mate’ is not necessarily a romantic partner but someone with whom we have chosen to form a connection with over several lifetimes; who have chosen to appear at various times in our life in order to help us learn a particular lesson. So, with all this in mind, what are the signs we should look for in even our most challenging relationships that may have a strong past life connection with someone?

01. Look for the lesson. Are we learning something about ourselves – either in relationship to other people or our own behaviour?

 

CASE STUDIES FOR VALIDATION OF INTERCONNECTIVITY

Let me cite a few illustrations from my case studies that would establish beyond doubt our interconnectivity with one another as also causal connection of our present with our past Karma.

At times we think that why on earth am I suffering so much from this particular problem… when my other family members & friends are not facing any problem on this count. According to Bhagavat Purana amd Srimad Bhagavat Gita, the answer is – we are reborn and get a life in accordance with our past karmas or deeds. Let us run a validation check on that proposition through some of my case studies. 

Case Study 1:

Subject: 55 years old Ashwin (name changed), a successful businessman, born in a very poor family, with 6 siblings. He had studied till class VI. His father died when he was only 16 years old. After his father’s death, he had to take the responsibility of the entire family and struggled a lot to earn livelihood for the entire family.  He joined an institution to become an actor, failed there, and then joined the technical line and through a process of great hardship became ultimately very famous as a stage lighting professional. However, the responsibility of the whole family still continues to be with him. His Brothers & sisters, though married and settled, are still very much dependent on him.

Problem: Why he is suffering with so much responsibility till date?

Session: On being regressed, he saw himself as a small child in London. His mother (a Punjabi lady from India) abandoned near a river bank while he was crying his heart out. A kind-hearted Britisher took him to his house, nurtured him with his other children, who were very small. He started going to school. Though he used to get lot of love and affection from this family, he used to feel very lonely, depressed and unhappy. When he was about to get a job, his foster father died entrusting the responsibility of his entire family (wife and other children) to the young man.

On the person’s death, this boy left the house as he felt very scared to shoulder the responsibility of so many people.

He got married afterwards with his wife becoming pregnant a few months later. When he came to know that he would become a father, he walked out from that relationship without even informing his wife. Years later, living the life of a virtual vagabond, he died forlorn.

Through regression, when he was taken to spirit realm after his death in his previous incarnation, he met his master. When he asked his master about his present life problem and solution, the answer was that he had not done his duty towards the British family, when they really needed him. He was unfaithful to: a) his foster father and his family and also to: b) his wife and child. So, in his present lifetime he is fastened with the responsibility of so many people, most of them being his past- life relatives.

Lesson learnt: The law of Karma, as it is traditionally taught, says that our thoughts, words & deeds – positive and negative – create a chain of cause and effect, and that we will personally experience the effect of every cause that we have set in motion. This goes for negative experiences as well as positive ones because often we learn more from failures than we do from our successes.

02. Is anything owed or left over after the relationship is over? You owe them something or they owe you. Or they’ve left something with you. This can be anything from a book, to money, a child or even a horse. Remember, past life unfulfilled soul promises, or intention to meet someone dear, or to come back to someone, provide a connecting thread to present life, though not easy to detect, but nevertheless detectable through key signs or clues. One such key sign may be your intense feeling that you have deep connection with persons you wouldn’t have dreamed were that important in your life!

Case Study 2:

Subject: 32 years old Kalpana (name changed), lost her younger brother who died of blood cancer, when 15 years old. Kalpana was very much attached to her brother. Since his demise, Kalpana was in a state of grief.  According to her, her brother used to come in her dreams regularly.

Problem: She came for a regression session to know whether she shared any relationship with this brother in any of her past lives.

Session: Kalpana was regressed to another life, where she was from a very poor family. Both the husband (present life husband) & wife used to work as labourers. She had a four- year old son, (who in her present life was her  brother who passed away) who was very close to her. This couple used to share a very strange type of relationship. While they did love and care for each other, at the same time both of them were so headstrong that they ended up fighting with each other on most trivial issues and at the slightest provocation. The husband was an alcoholic, and she used to oppose it, and slowly it became a regular feature. The baby boy never used to like this, and used to tell his mother that if she would continue to fight with his father, he would go out of the house & never return.

One day the couple had a big fight at night. Thereafter, when Kalpana was sleeping; her husband left her with their son. His intention was to teach Kalpana a lesson – how it feels like to live all alone for some time, without husband and son. But tragically, both of them died of an accident after being hit by a truck on the same night while crossing the road.

Kalpana had searched for them from pillar to post but could not trace them, and eventually she died an early death because of extreme starvation and acute depression. Before dying, her last thought was “I don’t have anyone by my side excepting my loneliness”…

Kalpana was brought to the spirit realm and, with the help of her spirit guide, her child was reunited with her. She was allowed to hold her son physically with a cushion serving as a virtual child. She was encouraged to ask her son all those things that she could not ask him in the past as well as in present lives. The son answered that he had an unfinished job to come back to her in the present life, as neither he nor his father had any intention to desert her in the past life. In the present life, he had come as a brother and spent some happy times with her, but as he did not like the burden of life, he left the world early. He is very happy now in his present state. He also wanted to convey to Kalpana not to get scared of loneliness.

For Kalpana, this session helped her get over the fear of loneliness. She learnt a lesson that she is still connected with her near and dear ones. She went back home on a very happy note as she got the opportunity to talk to her beloved brother, whom she lost at a very early age.

03. Past life work is a beautiful way to take inter personal connections right back to their sources. It also validates and explains the way one feels about someone in any kind of relationship. 

Case Study-3

Subject: Nandini (name changed), a young lady who had been suffering from severe depression, came to me for cure through regression therapy.  Nandini had lost both her parents at a very early age. She was married to a person who was extremely caring and understanding.  They have a daughter, who was diagnosed as autistic when she was barely five. Incidentally, till she came for therapy, her daughter was not able to speak. But because of her depression, Nandini never used to give enough love, care and attention to her daughter, though she would from time to time blame her destiny for saddling her with an autistic daughter. At the same time, she used to feel perennially guilty for neglecting the child.

Problem: Nandini wanted to know whether her daughter was related to her in any of her earlier lives and whether her daughter had any past life connection with her current life autism.

Session: When regressed, she immediately went to a past life, where she saw herself in some place in Uttarakhand (India), as a housewife with a very cute daughter (her present life daughter). The year was 1953.  Nandini’s husband was a calm, quiet and caring husband. They were having a very peaceful life.

She was then asked to go to the next significant event of that life. She saw that all three of them were going on a journey to another hill station by car, her husband was driving, it was night, and they were driving up the hills. A huge tree trunk had got uprooted and was lying across the road, which her husband had been unable to notice, resulting in the car colliding with it. In the process, the car veered off the road and directly banged on the trunk and started rolling down. The husband and  wife were screaming by now; the car lost its control & suddenly a feeling prevailed in her that they were no more. All 3 of them were spot dead. After death, when her spirit came out of body, she saw her daughter’s body lying at the back seat; very badly injured on the head.

In the spirit realm, she met her daughter, who told her that she had forgiven her father for the accident. She had chosen Nandini as her mother in this life also as that was her last wish before her death in her past life. She told Nandini not to feel guilty for not performing her duty and that she was happy to be her child again in the current life time.

Nandini then met her Master, who told her that her daughter’s autism was due to the accident in her last birth, which had severely damaged her brain. Nandini was asked to give a lot of love and affection to her daughter and to get her treated from a speech therapist. The Master assured her that as soon as the daughter would start speaking, she would gradually show a marked improvement and then, Nandini would feel much better, and start enjoying her motherhood. Subsequent verification from Nandini confirmed that with the help of a speech therapist, simultaneously with adequate motherly affection, her autistic daughter started speaking slowly and showing marked improvement.

04. Coming back to the theme of ‘Karmic connection’ in individual’s lives or incarnations, we have come across several instances of ‘group Karma’ or ‘collective action’. Entire families, town, states and nation can share what is called Group Karma. When groups of people commit acts together as one body, or fail to act what they should, they re-embody together to mend or alternately suffer for their past lapses for which they were jointly accountable for the harm they caused to another person(s). So not only we are connected to people known to us as family or friends, but also to a large group, which might be a nation also. 

Case Study- 4

Client: Sachin (name changed), 41 years old, stationed in Saudi Arabia, came to India to undergo regression therapy. He had lost his father when he was 4 years old. He had felt very bad about it but did not cry. He never cried since then. Sachin was married, fulfilled his responsibility towards his wife and family perfectly, but he had never expressed his true feelings to anyone. He had no social interest, no emotional feelings; his only love was his job. So people generally misunderstood him from his childhood.

Problem: Sachin wanted to know why he was not able to express himself in front of anyone.

Session: When regressed, he saw himself as a young female dancer (Parvati) in a South Indian temple in Andhra Pradesh. Parvati’s parents were very poor; so they sold her to the priests at this temple when she was only 7 years old. This was a big Nataraja temple. She described that there were many girls like her there. At the beginning, a marriage ceremony took place where they all got married to Lord Nataraja. She learnt music & dance, and became a “Devadasi”. Gradually, she started to hate this forced dancing in front of God and Brahmin priests.

The devadasis used to stay in a house located inside the temple compound. The Brahmin priests who used to visit them whenever they felt like, would sexually abuse them. These were the same priests who used to feed them too.  All devadasis used to live a prisoners’ life there. Parvati started hating the environment here and the people around. There was only one close friend of her’s (present life wife) among the devadasis.

Once, a big festival took place at the temple. After their dance performance at the festival, the devdasis came back to their abode. Suddenly, an angry mob entered their residence and started beating the devdasis. They protested that if devadasis could satisfy God & Brahmins with their music and dance then the general public also had the right to enjoy the same. They were forcing the devadasis to dance in front of them. No priest or religious leader came to protect the Devdasis from the wrath of the mob that had gone berserk. The mob then kidnapped some of the Devdasis and fled. Parvati’s friend was one of the kidnapped girls. Shocked completely, Parvati could not take this huge blow in her traumatic life anymore. This was the final straw and she felt, as if her life had lost all meaning. She was disgusted with everyone. She committed suicide by jumping from the roof top of the building they were housed in. Before death, the last thought that crossed her mind was-“no one loves me, I don’t have any near & dear one…I don’t trust anyone & I hate everyone as all are corrupt”.

In the spirit realm, Parvati met per parents, the priests and the people who tortured her. They all had understood their mistake. Parvati forgave them & sent them unconditional love.

At the time of integrating the last life with the present life, Sachin discovered the same pattern of no social interest, no emotional feelings and general mistrust that had come back to haunt his current life without any apparent reason. Many of the past life characters came back to his present life, with whom he shared a very strange and difficult relationship. 

Case Study-5

Client: Mona (name changed), a middle aged lady, came with an emotional issue. She came from a very happy & close knit family. They were a small family of parents with two sisters. The parents were very loving.  However, she noticed that her mother, although very loving and caring, never used to hug or pick them up on her lap or kiss them. In fact, she did not show any kind of physical attachment towards the kids. Mona and her sister used to feel jealous by seeing how their other friends were attached physically with their parents.

Problem: What had made her mother not showing any physical mother-child attachment towards them?

Session: Mona was regressed to a past life in 17th century, in a village in one of the cities in Europe. She saw herself as a 2 year old cute child playing in a small garden, running to catch the butterflies; she was a very happy child. Her house was nearby. Whenever this child used to see that her mother (present life mother only) was busy with some work, she used to quickly come to this garden. Her mother was apprehensive about allowing this small girl to go to the garden on her own as there was a small deep pond on the way. One particular day, her mother did not notice that the child was not at home as she was doing the household chores. All of a sudden, she noticed that her daughter wasn’t at home. It was already dark outside, so she hurriedly ran to get the child from the garden. The mother spotted and picked up the child as soon as she reached the garden. The child was, however, unwilling to come back home. There was a physical scuffle between the two, while crossing the pond on the walk back home. In the struggle that ensued, the child slipped off from the mother’s hands, fell into th pond and got drowned instantly.

At this unfortunate incident and the loss of her child, the mother went mad holding herself to be responsible for the death of the child.

The child met the mother at the spirit realm. The child told her that she did not hold her mother responsible for her death, as she knew that it was an accidental death. Unconditional love and forgiveness was sent to the mother. A healing was given to the mother by masters to wash all her guilt and shame about the past life issue.

Mona used to live in Bangalore, while her mother was in Mysore. After the therapy, when Mona met her mother after around 6 months, she was surprised to see her mother hugging both the sisters, unaware that a therapy was done on her by her daughter.

The first karmic connection we encounter in life and, therefore, often the most crucial to deal with, is the one with our parents and siblings. There is a reason why we come together as a family. There is something we must give to one another, we may have a common mission to achieve together or -something we are meant to do together to help, inspire or to uplift each other.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

The theory that we are connected with one another through several lives including the present one through our mental attachments/detachments and also through the chain of Karma has understandably and quite logically been subjected to strictest scrutiny on several counts. Four such critical posers have been included in the Introduction itself which we are going to address herein. Further, following two queries have also cropped up during the interaction:

i)              With reference to the procedure to access the Master or Spirit Guide for necessary guidance in the course of regression, what is the certainty that an evil spirit does not impersonate as the Master and misguides the subject?

ii)             How the concept of re-incarnation can be reconciled to the theory of evolution from the time of Big Bang to the present day?

Before we address the above two queries, let us first dwell upon the initial four posers made in the Introduction.

a)    How does consciousness/mind survive brain, being its by-product?

Even though quantum physicists like Stephen Hawking are inclined to take consciousness as nothing more than an accidental by-product of brain, which has no possibility of survival after the brain ceases to function, Sir John Eccles, a Nobel Laureate Neuro-biologist, holds a contra view. According to the latter, the scope of consciousness may not remain limited within the confines of the human skull and at times can remain completely dis-embodied (refer: ‘How the Self Controls Its Brain’ by John Eccles).

It is pertinent to mention here that Quantum Physicists are in agreement that electrons behave differently when observed by a human. When not so observed, the electron behaves like a wave. When observed, it behaves like a particle. This change in behavioural pattern would suggest that the electron is aware, just like the human, whether it is being observed or not.

Neurobiologists have taken the above finding of Quantum Physicists to a different level for explaining out- of-body experience (OBE) and near-death experience (NDE) while the body is in an anaesthetized or inactive state. In that state consciousness remains dis-embodied, and the subject observes events from outside the body. After returning to normal sense, the person can relate what his/her consciousness observed and heard from an out of body location. According to Susan Greenfield, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and Professor of Physics at Gresham College, London, none has yet pointed to a single event that occurs in awake but not in anaesthetized brain.

Experiments have also shown, as stated by John Eccles, that consciousness leaves a dying person, floats around observing things and later attach itself to an unborn foetus to start a new existence. Consciousness, therefore, has been classified by neuro-biologists like Eccles as a non-material entity and not a property of brain. It is similar to electron in behaviour. While the electrons in the brain behave as particles, it prevents consciousness from realizing that it is part of a whole. When the electrons behave as a wave, the consciousness becomes aware of its existence outside the mind and body, as a part of the larger whole. When the wave function collapses, consciousness returns to the physical body to become entangled just like the electron. This is known as double slit experiment with electron in quantum physics, which has been applied by neuro-biologists to consciousness. Experiment has revealed that the dis-embodied consciousness possesses visual, auditory, and olfactory senses and experiences a new perception of reality outside of one’s self, I-ness, or oneness. When theperson becomes self-conscious, the wave function collapses and the electron changes from wave to particle preventing the person from being aware of his/her larger self or existence as part of the whole.

The neuro-biological concept of dis-embodied consciousness was well known to Indian yogis several millenniums ago. It finds specific mention in the Bhagavat Gita which goes to the extent of distinguishing mind from consciousness. In verses 4 and 5 of Chapter 7 of the Gita Sri Krishna proclaims as follows:

“My manifested nature (Prakriti), or lower nature, has an eight-fold differentiation: earth, water, fire, air, ether, sensory mind, intelligence, and egoism. My higher nature is the Jiva or the consciousness that sustains the cosmos.”

In verse 8, chapter 15 of the Gita, Sri Krishna reveals: “When the Jiva acquires a body, it brings with it the mind and the senses. When it leaves the body, it takes them and goes, even as the wind wafts away scents from flowers.”

The fundamental concept of past life regression is in harmony with the ancient concept of yoga as also neuro-biological concept of out-of-body consciousness.

b)    Given the limitation of distinctive environment and circumstances, how the action in one life can have causal connection to another? 

The fundamental principle underlying past life regression is that every individual is connected with another, physically or mentally and his/her relationship is largely governed or pre-destined by past Karma or action committed or even omitted not only in present life but also in past lives. What is important for causal connection between two or more lives of an individual is his/her mental condition underlying the commission or omission for which the individual is accountable. Varying environment and circumstances may provoke or induce such commission or omission, but do not influence significantly the causal connectivity between two or more lives of the same soul. The case studies in preceding paragraphs will adequately explain the validity of above observation.

c)    When the subject is not aware of his past Karma as the cause of his present sufferings, what purpose is achieved by such causal connection?   

It is true that when a person takes birth in this three dimensional mortal world, he/she does not remember his/her past lives or deeds that may have causal connection to his/her present life. But the therapists have found that in the course of regression the subject is able to recount the past life deeds or action that has caused the present life sufferings. This memory is hidden or suppressed in unconscious mind which can be dug out by regression. Besides, it is also found out by therapists that the subject, when taken to out-of-body state, mostly after death in a previous life, is able to contact the Spiritual Master or Spirit Guide who explains the causal connection of the sufferings as also the remedy to get over it. The fact that such revelation leads to the cure in vast majority of cases if not in all, is in itself the validation of the concept as also the procedure of the treatment. As to the question why must there be such causal connection between lives and what is achieved by such connection, it is not for the therapist to answer that. As a matter of fact, even a physicist will not be able to answer why there was a Big Bang and why the universes were created following it. The therapist, just as the physicist, can only explain how it happens and not why it does.

d)    Can the effect of a man’s past life deeds be neutralized wholly or partially in present life by regression therapy? 

The therapy can certainly help the subject to get over the effects of his past commissions or omissions substantially by taking necessary corrective action, often with the guidance of the Master, as has been explained in the case studies above.

e)    With reference to the procedure to access the Master or Spirit Guide for necessary guidance in the course of regression, what is the certainty that an evil spirit does not impersonate the Master and misguides the subject?

The possibility of impersonation in the spirit world cannot be ruled out. It is for the therapist to take adequate precaution to guard against such possibility, for which the therapist needs to be properly trained.

f)     How the concept of re-incarnation can be reconciled to the theory of evolution from the time of Big Bang to the present day? 

To re-frame the question, life on planet earth and for that matter in other stars or planets as well, may have originated from a vacuum, long after the Big Bang. Evolution of Human on the earth is only a recent phenomenon, going by Darwin’s theory. Their number has been ever increasing. In the above backdrop, how the theory of causal connectivity of first time human or first creature or first life can be explained?

As per Darwin’s theory of evolution, species evolve from genus in this physical world. Following the same law of nature man has evolved from monkey through multiple intermediate stages. It is quite possible that a man in the course of regression is found to have been born as an animal or bird in previous life. The question is whether there will be any causal connection between his present life and past deeds as an animal or bird, as the case may be. The therapists have in fact come across many such instances where the subject has described his/her past life experiences as sub-human species, and causal connection between the two births has been found to exist.

As to the question whether the first species on earth will have any causal connection with its past, if any, such question is purely academic. Be that as it may, the fact remains that recent scientific researches have revealed that even the tiniest particle has life and in all likelihood consciousness as well. These are able to interact with one another faster than the speed of light and get entangled irrespective of the distance which could measure several light years. There is a distinct possibility that the particles that constitute neurons in the brain are conscious and intelligent, as has been explained above in response to the first poser. Therefore, there is no reason to think that only human species are intelligent and have free will and, therefore, have causal connection with their past lives and the rest are governed solely by the laws of nature with no free will.

 

 

 

 

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Secularism and Spirituality

                                                             

(Interactive session on 18.04.2014)

Keynote address by Mr. Amitava Tripathi

(Devotional song by Ms. Sikha Majumdar, Ratna Chatterjee, Sharmila Bhawal)

(Other speakers: Mr. Ramesh C. Chanda, Mr. Sujit Chatterjee, Mr. Sumit Dutt Majumder, Mr. A.K. Sengupta, Dr.Kalyan Chakravarty, Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Ms. Sikha Majumdar, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Mr. S. R. Das & Ms. Manimala Das)

[Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha]

 

INTRODUCTION

No single English word has perhaps created more controversy over its meaning, interpretation and application, particularly in Indian context, than the term ‘secular’. No less enigmatic is the oft used term ‘spiritual’.

First used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851, the word ‘secularism’ connoted in the beginning a social order separate from religion. In course of time, secularism in Europe suggested a movement toward separation of religion and government or, in other words, separation of state from the church. A logical sequel to that was replacement of scriptural laws with civil laws and elimination of discrimination based on religion. Automatically, it ensured protection of religious minorities.

In Indian context, ‘secularism’, instead of suggesting ‘Dharma-nirapekshata’ (neutrality toward all religions) is interpreted to imply ‘Sarva-Dharma-Samabhava’ or equal feeling (respect) toward all religions. By the 42nd amendment of the Constitution passed in 1976, the word ‘secular’ had been added to the Preamble. Prior to that, the word ‘secular’ was used in the Constitution only once in reference to secular activities of groups as opposed to religious or ecclesiastical activities. No definition of the said term has been provided in Indian Constitution. In the absence of any clear definition or delimitation of the term ‘secular’ the concept of ‘samabhava’ or equal feeling (or respect) to all religions has become the bone of contention in all spheres of life, religious, political, administrative and social, so much so that Hon’ble Delhi High Court in a recent Public Interest Petition seeking withdrawal of commemorative coins of the denomination of Rs. 5 and Rs. 10 with the image of Vaishno Devi on the ground of being un-secular has directed the State to submit what in its opinion is secular in next hearing on April 23, 2014. Similarly, continuation of Shariat laws for Muslims in contrast to uniform civil code for all other religions is often questioned on the ground of being un-secular, on the touchstone of ‘Samabhava’. The term pseudo-secular has come into currency in political arena in recent time.

The English word ‘spirituality’ meaning thought concerning spirit or the vital essence in living beings, originated from Latin ‘spiritualis’. In 5th century A.D its use was restricted to Biblical sense of being animated by God, driven by Holy Spirit. In 11th century the term was used to signify mental aspect as opposed to material and sensual aspects of life. In 13th century, it acquired social and psychological dimensions in the sense of identifying the clergy for the social and the realm of inner life for the psychological. In 17th and 18 centuries the term came to be associated with mysticism or occult power.

Viewed in traditional Indian context, as opposed to Abrahamic tradition, spirituality means the process of self-realization which culminates in the identification of not only self, but all souls as God (Tat Tvam Asi or Thou art That) as the Ultimate Truth, and elimination of all distinctive identities as unreal.

Now the questions are: can we synergize secularism with spirituality in our mundane lives? Is there any symbiotic relationship between the two? Are these two concepts antagonistic? Is it possible at all to integrate spirituality and secularism in India? If so, what are the pre-requisites?

Before we deal with those posers, let us dwell upon the above two concepts at a reasonable length.

 

SECULARISM – as Western concept

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the Latin origin of the word “secularism” is “secularis” meaning not religious or spiritual. According to Roget’s Thesaurus the synonyms for secularism are lay, temporal, worldly, earthly, banal etc.

The term “secularism” was first used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851 An agnostic himself, Holyoake argued that “Secularism is not an argument against Christianity, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of Christianity; it advances others. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there is light and guidance in secular truth.

Holyoake‘s 1896 publication English Secularism defines secularism as a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology to be unreliable or unbelievable. Its three essential principles are : (1)  improvement of human life is possible through purely material means; (2) science is the right path to seek  the answers  of human condition and (3) that it is good to do good,i.e. doing good is its own reward and there should be no further expectations from such acts.

Holyoake held that secularism and secular ethics should take no interest at all in religious questions (as they were unprovable and hence irrelevant), and were thus to be distinguished from free thought and atheism. In this he disagreed with Charles Bradlaugh, and the disagreement divided the secularist movement between those who argued that anti-religious movements and activism were necessary or desirable and those who argued that such measures were not required.

Barry Kosmin of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture classified modern secularism into two types: hard and soft secularism. According to Kosmin, “the hard secularist considers religious propositions to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither reason nor experience.” However, in the view of soft secularism, “the attainment of absolute truth was impossible and therefore scepticism and tolerance should be the principle and overriding values in the discussion of science and religion.”[7]

 

WESTERN SECULARISM – Separation of State and Church 

Secularism is essentially the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons representing the State from religious institutions and personalities. One manifestation of secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings or, in a State declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by the government of religion or religious practices upon its people.  Another manifestation of secularism is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be uninfluenced by religious beliefs and/or practices.

In the first decade of the sixteenth century, the doctrines and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church came under severe attack from Reformists like Martin Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Around this period, another Catholic cleric, Erasmus of Rotterdam, became the chief spokesman of a system of thought known as humanism which held that people were capable of using their intelligence to lead their lives rather than relying on religious belief. Although Erasmus himself refused to espouse the Lutheran cause against the established Catholic Church, his humanist beliefs have increasingly come to inform public thinking in most modern democratic states.

Secularism is often associated with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe and has ever since played a major role in Western society. Due in part to the belief in the separation of church and state, secularists tend to prefer that politicians make decisions for secular rather than religious reasons.  In this respect, policy decisions pertaining to topics like abortioncontraceptionembryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, and sex education are prominently focused upon by western, especially American, secularist organizations.

Most major religions accept the primacy of the rules of secular, democratic society but may still seek to influence political decisions or achieve specific privileges or influence through church-state agreements such as a concordat. However, some Christian fundamentalists (notably in the United States) oppose secularism, viewing it as a threat to “Christian rights” and even national security. The most significant forces of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary world are Fundamentalist Christianity and Fundamentalist Islam. At the same time, one significant stream of secularism has come from religious minorities who see governmental and political secularism as integral to preserving equal rights. 

 

SECULARISM IN INDIA

Secularism in India claims equal treatment of all religions by the state. Unlike the Western concept of secularism which envisions a separation of religion and state, the concept of secularism in India envisions acceptance of religious laws as binding on the state, and equal participation of state in different religions.

With the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976, the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation. However, neither India’s constitution nor its laws define the relationship between religion and state. The laws implicitly require the state and its institutions to recognize and accept all religions, enforce religious laws instead of parliamentary laws, and respect pluralism. India does not have an official state religion. The people of India have freedom of religion, and the state treats all individuals as equal citizens regardless of their religion. In matters of law in modern India, however, the applicable code of law is unequal, and India’s personal laws – on matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony – varies with an individual’s religion. Muslim Indians have Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law, while Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other non-Muslim Indians live under common law.

Secularism as practiced in India, with its marked differences with Western practice of secularism, is a controversial topic in India. Supporters of the Indian concept of secularism claim it respects Muslim men’s religious rights and recognizes that they are culturally different from Indians of other religions. Supporters of this form of secularism claim that any attempt to introduce a uniform civil code, that is equal laws for every citizen irrespective of his or her religion, would impose majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and ideals, something that is unacceptable to Muslim Indians. Opponents argue that India’s acceptance of Sharia and religious laws violates the principle of equal human rights, discriminates against Muslim women, allows unelected religious personalities to interpret religious laws, and creates plurality of unequal citizenship; they suggest India should move towards separating religion and state.

In the first half of 20th century, the British Raj faced a rising tide of social activism for self-rule by a disparate groups such as those led by the Indian National Congress and the Indian Muslim League; the colonial administration, under pressure, enacted a number of laws before India’s independence in 1947, that continue to be the laws of India in 2013. One such law enacted during the colonial era was the 1937 Indian Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, which instead of separating state and religion for Western secularism, did the reverse.

This law along with additional laws such as Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 that followed established the principle that religious laws of Indian Muslims can be their personal laws. It also set the precedent that religious law, such as Sharia, can overlap and supersede common and civil laws.

The 7th schedule of Indian constitution places religious institutions, charities and trusts into Concurrent List, which means that both the central government of India and various state governments in India can make their own laws about religious institutions, charities and trusts. If there is a conflict between central government law and state government law, then the central government law prevails. This principle of overlap, rather than separation of religion and state in India was further recognized in a series of constitutional amendments starting with Article 290 in 1956, to the addition of word ‘secular’ to the Preamble of Indian Constitution in 1976.

The overlap of religion and state, through Concurrent List structure, has given various religions in India, state support to religious schools and personal laws. This state intervention while resonant with the dictates of each religion, are unequal and conflicting. For example, a 1951 Religious and Charitable Endowment Indian law allows state governments to forcibly take over, own and operate Hindu temples, and collect revenue from offerings and redistribute that revenue to any non-temple purposes including maintenance of religious institutions opposed to the temple;[ Indian law also allows Islamic religious schools to receive partial financial support from state and central government of India, to offer religious indoctrination, if the school agrees that the student has an option to opt out from religious indoctrination if he or she so asks, and that the school will not discriminate any student based on religion, race or other grounds. Educational institutions wholly owned and operated by government may not impart religious indoctrination, but religious sects and endowments may open their own school, impart religious indoctrination and have a right to partial state financial assistance.

Secularism in India, thus, does not mean separation of religion from state. Instead, secularism in India means a state that is neutral to all religious groups. Religious laws in personal domain, particularly for Muslim Indians, supersede parliamentary laws in India; and currently, in some situations such as religious indoctrination schools the state partially finances certain religious schools. These differences have led a number of scholars to declare that India is not a secular state, as the word secularism is widely understood in the West and elsewhere; rather it is a strategy for political goals in a nation with a complex history, and one that achieves the opposite of its stated intent.

In the West, the word secular implies three things: freedom of religion, equal citizenship to each citizen regardless of his or her religion, and the separation of religion and state. One of the core principles in the constitution of Western democracies has been this separation, with the state asserting its political authority in matters of law, while accepting every individual’s right to pursue his or her own religion and the right of religion to shape its own concepts of spirituality. Everyone is equal under law, and subject to the same laws irrespective or his or her religion, in the West.

In contrast, in India, the word secular does not imply separation of religion and state. It means equal treatment of all religions. Religion in India continues to assert its political authority in matters of personal law. The applicable personal law differ if an individual’s religion is Islam, Christianity, or Hindu. For example, the minimum age of marriage for girls is 18 for Hindu and Christian Indians, while the personal law according to Sharia allows Muslim Indians to marry a girl less than 12 years old. In Western secular countries, age of consent and age of marriage are derived from secular laws, not religious laws.

The term secularism in India also differs from the French concept for secularity, namely laïcité. While the French concept demands absence of governmental institutions in religion, as well as absence of religion in governmental institutions and schools; the Indian concept, in contrast, provides financial support to religious schools and accepts religious law over governmental institutions. The Indian structure has created incentives for various religious denominations to start and maintain schools, impart religious education, and receive partial but significant financial support from the Indian government. Similarly, Indian government financially supports, regulates and administers the Wakf Council (Islam), historic Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries, and certain Christian religious institutions; this direct Indian government involvement in various religions is markedly different from Western secularism.

 

INDIAN SECULARISM UNDER SCRUTINY

The disgraceful surrender of the Indian government to retrogressive pressure in the infamous Shah Bano case is a permanent blot on India’s secular credentials. The controversy is not limited to Hindu versus Muslim populations in India. Islamic feminists movement in India, for example claim, that the issue with Muslim Personal Law in India is a historic and ongoing misinterpretation of Quran. The feminists claim Quran grants Muslim women rights that in practice are routinely denied to them by male Muslim Ulema in India. The ‘patriarchal’ interpretations of the Quran on the illiterate Muslim Indian masses are abusive, and they demand that they have a right to read the Quran for themselves and interpret it in a woman-friendly way. India has no legal mechanism to accept or enforce the demands of these Islamic feminists over religious law.

Writing in the Wall Street JournalSadanand Dhume criticised Indian “Secularism” as a fraud and a failure, since it isn’t really “secularism” as it is understood in the western world (as separation of religion and state) but more along the lines of religious appeasement. He writes that the flawed understanding of secularism among India’s left wing intelligentsia has led Indian politicians to pander to religious leaders and preachers, and has led India to take a soft stand against Islamic terrorism, religious militancy and communal disharmony in general.

Others, particularly historian Ronald Inden, have also observed that the Indian government is not really “secular”, but one that selectively discriminates against Hindu communities while superficially appeasing Muslim leaders (without actually providing any community or theological benefits to regular Muslims in India). In fact, left-leaning governments in India (such as in the Indian states of UP, Bihar, West Bengal, etc.) covertly support Madrassa curricula for Muslims, helping traditional Islamic scholarship and teaching fundamentalist beliefs. 

 

Spirituality – as Western concept

‘Spirituality’ like secularism has no universal or uniform definition. In Abrahamic tradition ‘spirituality’ was understood in the beginning as the search for the sacred – ‘a transcendent dimension within human experience’.

According to Waaijman, traditionally spirituality meant a process of re-formation which aimed “to recover the original shape of man, the image of God,” (one may recall the revelation in Old Testament that God created man in His own image). In course of time, the meaning of the term kept on changing, from internal experience of the individual to “Hasidism, contemplation, kabbala, asceticism, mysticism, perfection, devotion and piety”.

Etymologically, the English word ‘spirituality’ is a derivative of the word ‘spirit’ which means “animating or vital principle in man and animals”. The term ‘spiritual’ means “concerning the spirit”, which is derived from Latin spiritualis, which comes from “spiritus” or “spirit”.

The word ‘spirituality’ came to be commonly used toward the end of the Middle Ages. By that time, the earlier Biblical meaning i.e. recovery of the original shape of man, no longer sounded convincing.  Spirituality was meant to imply the mental aspect of life, as opposed to the material and sensual aspects. In Social context, spirituality denoted the domain of the clergy while Psychologically, it denoted the realm of the inner life. In the 17th and 18th century a distinction was made between higher and lower forms of spirituality (a spiritual man was taken to represent higher form of Christianity).

In early 19th-century, intuitive and experiential approach of religion rooted in Protestant movement, brought about a significant change in the concept of spirituality with endorsement of universalist and Unitarianist ideas suggesting that loving God shall redeem all living beings, not just Christians, and that there must be truth in other religions as well.

 

Vedantic Spirituality

Vedantic universalism lies at the core of Hindu spirituality from the hoary past down to present time. According to this spiritual tradition, entire cosmos including all matters and spirits are nothing but God or Brahman in evolved form. In the state of dissolution all that are evolved get involved into Brahman. This ongoing cycle is the axiomatic Truth in Vedanta. Spirituality, according to this tradition, is the process of realization of this axiomatic Truth. The obvious corollary is that one who has realized this Truth does not make any distinction between the man and any sub-human species and also does not discriminate one man from another, given the fact that God is at the core of every evolved form including human. At the height of spiritual realization one experiences identity with God (Sohaham or I am He) and at the summit of spiritual experience the Ultimate Truth reveals itself as ‘all that exists is God’ (Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma) or ‘Thou art That’ (Tat Tvam Asi).

It is this rich spiritual tradition of non-discrimination handed down to posterity by great spiritual leaders, prophets, sages and saints, great secular emperors and ministers, belonging to different ages and faiths,  that forms the core of Indian secularism,  notwithstanding the deviation like hereditary and highly discriminatory caste system, untouchablity, discriminatory evangelical preaching and forcible conversion from one faith to another. The spirit of Sarva-dharma-samabhava imbibed by Indian Constitution owes its origin to this non-discriminatory spiritual tradition.

 

Secular spirituality

Secular spirituality is a recent phenomenon, though well known in olden days. It suggests adherence to spiritual ideals and tenets such as love, compassion, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, harmony, non-violence and concern for others outside religious framework. Some of the ancient religions like Buddhism, Jainism etc. did not dwell upon God or even mention It. Even Samkhya philosophy, arguably the oldest Indian philosophy, did not mention God. In content and substance, these philosophies can be held as secular. Yet there is no denying that for reason of its supreme emphasis on the spiritual growth of all adherents through meditation, and noble deeds and thoughts, thrust of all those religions has been essentially spiritual.

Secular spirituality of recent time is, however, distinctive from traditional religions and philosophies including even those that did not mention God. The emphasis of Secular spirituality is on secular practices such as Yoga or psychotherapy for mental cure through past life regression.

As for Yoga that essentially belonged to Hindu tradition is not relatable to any religion in particular and has been universalized since last century, world over. Although it has been adopted internationally as a secular exercise to integrate the mind and the body rendering them uni-directional to achieve higher goal in life, the said higher goal so targeted can be termed as spiritual in essence.

The other example of regression therapy to cure patients is essentially a secular procedure, having no bearing whatsoever on spiritual realization. However, with past life regression popularized by psychiatrists like Dr. Brian Weiss, emphasis has shifted entirely to developing spiritual qualities such as love, compassion, forgiveness, non-violence, concern for others etc. in order to get over mental fixation or baggage from past lives that are at the root of present life sufferings.

The above two examples of secular spirituality are merely illustrative and not exhaustive. 

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Every civilization or culture, according to Swami Vivekananda, has a particular life-centre, and the life-centre of Indian culture is spirituality.  Indian spirituality is deeply rooted in philosophy. Philosophical enquiries in ancient India were carried out in the inner world and not in the external world like it were done by contemporary Greek philosophers. The emphasis of Vivekananda, the great Vedantist, was, however, more on man-making than on God-realization. In his series of lecture on Practical Vedanta, the Swami summed up his views on faith as follows:The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself”. This practical approach made the Swami known as neo-Vedantist of the present era, whose views showed perfect blend of spirituality and secularism.

 

Let us now revert to our first poser in the Introduction, i.e. can we synergize secularism with spirituality in our mundane lives. If we care to study the messages of all spiritual leaders irrespective of their nationality, tradition or faith, their emphasis has always been on service to the poor, apart from faith in God. As for India, in Vivekananda’s words: “the national ideals of India are RENUNCIATION and SERVICE”. The underlying motivation for both is essentially spiritual, though the action toward fulfilment of above two ideals par se is secular. Likewise, Buddha’s concept of Nirvana is spiritual but his prescription of eight-fold path to prepare one for Nirvana is secular. Sage Vashishtha’s lessons to Rama, compiled in Yoga-Vashishtha were apparently secular with a clear undertone of spirituality. Our answer to above poser, therefore, is that synergy between secularism and spirituality in our mundane lives is quite possible.

 

As to our second poser whether there is any symbiotic relationship between secularism and spirituality, we have come to the conclusion that since a spiritual person does not believe in discrimination between any two persons based on religion, he/she is essentially secular. But the contrary proposition that all secular persons are essentially spiritual is not true, even though some secular persons may also be spiritual. Therefore, we have no reason to conclude that secularism and spirituality have symbiotic relationship.

 

As regards our third poser whether the above two concepts are antagonistic, we have already concluded that there is no apparent conflict or contradiction between secularism and spirituality and that all spiritual persons are necessarily secular going by the fact that spiritually presupposes non-discrimination.

 

Let us now come to our last two posers, viz. whether it is possible to integrate spirituality and secularism in India? If so, what are the pre-requisites? The answer is clearly in the affirmative for the former, while for the latter the only pre-requisite that comes to mind is self-less service without discrimination going by our national cum spiritual ideals, delineated by Swami Vivekananda.

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LOVE AND DETACHMENT IN SUFISM

                                                           (Interactive session on 22.03.2014)

                                                            Keynote address by Mr. R. K. Gupta

(Other participant speakers: Mr. A. K. Sengupta, Asim K. Banerjee, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Dr.Santosh Ganguly, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. Ramesh Chanda, Mr. Sarada Ranjan Das, Mr. P. C. Jha, Mr.Jogendra Singh)

                                             [Devotional song by Ms. Sikha Majumdar & Ms. Kavita Chanda]

                                                   Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Love and detachment in mundane sense are self-contradictory as love implies a sense of attachment while detachment suggests lack of it. Therefore, it is difficult to conceive that a person can be both a lover and yet detached at the same time in relation to another person. To be more precise, the question is if I love a person, can I be detached from that person.

In spiritual domain, detachment from material comforts, objects as also any living being is often mandated and prescribed with a view to enable the seeker to attain the Highest Truth viz. God-realization. The purpose underlying such mandate is to render the mind singularly devoted to or concentrated upon God. With that objective in view, it is customary to treat any attachment to mundane world as a distraction. True love, to protagonists of renunciation or detachment, is love for God only and nothing else.

In the above perspective, the question that logically arises is how God is to be defined. Definition surely means limitation and how do we define the Infinite. According to Abrahamic tradition, God as the Creator of universes is distinctive from His creation, and can be defined as Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent, the qualification that none else can possess. By this exclusive definition of God we suggest that God is Infinite, and none of us can become God.  Thus when we say we love God, our love is meant to be directed to external God who is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. Obviously if we love God, we at the same time cannot be detached from God. Thus the concept of detached love appears to be self-contradictory and irreconcilable.

If it is suggested that the person who truly loves someone, be it God or human, would be naturally detached from everyone / everything else, it may amount to propagating selfish love, thereby belittling love’s all-encompassing positive effect. Christ’s dictum – “Love thy neighbour” or Mohammed’s teaching for brotherhood surely do not speak of detachment. How then love can be reconciled to detachment?

Hindu Vedantic tradition contrary to Abrahamic tradition, however, offers an inclusive definition of God (Brahman). More precisely, when Vedanta says ‘God is One,’ the suggestion is that there is no other existence except God (Ekamevadvitiyam). In that sense, all of us are God in reality (Sohaham or aham Brahmasmi) sans realization. That being the Truth, there is no difficulty in taking selfless love for a fellow human as divine. In other words, love per se is divine. The difficulty lies in simultaneously accepting the prescription for detachment. If we find divinity in everything that exists, why should we detach our mind from this mundane world and why should we make a distinction between spiritual and mundane worlds. Vedanta says that mundane world is transient, and anything that is transient is not real. Corollary to above premise in present context is that true love is not transient but ever-lasting. But, how can love become ever-lasting unless both the subject and the object are permanent? This problem of transient love can also be overcome by attributing divinity to the subject and the object, entangled in true love. But the problem still persists at the core. If everything that exists is divine, why should we detach ourselves from it? Our subject today is all about this perplexing question, with specific reference to Sufism. 

 

Love –  the force of attraction 

Love is the most fundamental force with the characteristic quality of attraction existing in all living and non-living beings. While the love in the gross matter manifests as the gravitational force and is governed by the Law of Gravity, in the living beings love manifests in various forms. Today’s topic, however, relates to love in spiritual sense i.e., the love of a devotee for the Divine. This force of love keeps on constantly exerting its pressure on things to move towards and merge with the beloved. The gross matter is continuously attracted towards other material bodies be it the tiniest particles or the celestial bodies and the soul inherently urges to merge with the Supreme Soul. Big or small, living or non-living, this fundamental force of love exists universally.

This force of love would have had its way and everything would have merged with the Origin, the Creator, if there were no movement. The universe would have collapsed because of the gravitational force if the tiny particles and the celestial bodies were not revolving in their orbits. Similarly the soul also would have merged with the Supreme Soul, if it were not for the fulfillment of Almighty’s desire that the soul through movement should gain experience, feel the pain and sufferings of others, acquire compassion and thereby shed the feeling of separate existence (ego) and ultimately realise the Truth of the unity of existence. The universe exists because of His desire; it is His ‘leela’ (the divine play) in which every living creature is rejoicing, oblivious of the true nature of things and the real purpose of life. It is only a few to whom He reveals the secret of His love and takes them to their Original State of Love.

Mahatma Radha Mohan Lalji, a great Sufi saint (1900-1960) has said, ‘love is quenching the thirst on the physical plane, but thirst is not love. The human being is love, and Love loves the human being. To realize Love is to realize the God. If one sits before the open fire, it warms him. There is no effort on his part. Those who have realized the Truth are like this fire and their company ignites the warmth of love in the hearts of seekers. God realized Himself in the heart of Hearts of the human being. It is like the ocean and waves; they disappear and are here. When we realize, Love disappears. We cannot give shape or name to Love. The deeper one goes, the more it disappears. It radiates from every part of the body.’  

 

The desire to become perfect

Love can be expressed as the desire to become perfect, to remove all imperfection. This is true of the love at the physical plane as well as at the spiritual plane. At the physical plane, eyes love to see a beautiful thing, ears love to listen melodious songs, nose loves to smell flowers and so on. It is this lacking in the sensual perceptions, which is desired to be fulfilled and is called love for that thing.

At the spiritual plane, one desires to remove imperfection of one’s conduct. The love for the saints of God is explained because of their perfection in conduct and, therefore, people are attracted towards them. The love for God is also explained similarly, God being the most Perfect. He has created the universe and He runs it perfectly. One, who does not understand it, lives in the world with anguish, pain, suffering and sorrow; he lives miserably. One, who has this knowledge, also lives like an ordinary person in the world, but he lives with the understanding that the world has been created by the God, the Lord of the universe, who is running it perfectly. This understanding makes him live happily in the world in accordance with His desire and it results in love for God, reflecting in universal love.  

 

Love for God 

All the religions lay stress on love for God, but it is difficult to understand what is really meant by love for God. For most religions the love for God is expressed in obedience and worship. The true nature of love, however, needs to be understood. One loves oneself the most; it is a fact of life experienced by everyone some time or the other. One loves oneself the most because of his identification with one’s own self. If one loves somebody else, it is because of the reason that he starts identifying himself with that other person. For example, the mother loves her child because she identifies herself with the child, so much so that she feels the child as a part of her own existence. On the contrary, the child has no identity of its own, for its ego has not yet grown; the child knows nothing except the mother, being completely dependent on her, which explains its love for the mother. As they both grow, the child starts acquiring his own individuality and the mother also starts recognizing child’s independent existence. The degree of love starts getting affected.

 When one talks of love for God this sequence is reversed. One could consider God as the mother of all mothers and the seeker as the child, who has to traverse the path from a state of grown up ego to the state of complete dependence on God i.e. surrender unto Him. With the complete surrender of the ego one acquires the spiritual knowledge that his essence is the essence of God i.e. the duality starts disappearing and one starts realizing that his reality is nothing but the Reflection of God. With this realization one reaches the state of Unity i.e. the state of Oneness. In this state there is no difference between the love, faith and enlightenment. This is the true knowledge. When this realization dawns one’s self exists no more.

 

Love for the spiritual Master 

The love for God has, therefore, to be understood as the complete Unity with the God. But then the God is Absolute and for most people it is difficult to surrender, to love something so abstract. Most people, therefore, need the help of a spiritual Master. The Master has a physical body and is like them. The disciple can perceive Master’s existence through his own senses. It is easy for him to surrender his ego at the feet of his Master. The love for the Master gradually leads the disciple to the realization that there is no duality between the Master and the God. The face of the Master is only a mask behind which lies the Reality.

One can consider the Master like the river that is continuously flowing towards and merging with the ocean. At the point of merger there is no difference between the river and the ocean. On merger with the ocean the river loses its identity, its independent existence. It becomes one with the ocean. The disciples who are like small watercourses by merging themselves with this river i.e. the Master can reach the ocean i.e. the God. On their own it is not only difficult but almost impossible for the small watercourses to travel through all this distance without the fear of being lost on the way. Their merger with the river paves the way for them to merge with the ocean. This is the easiest and the nearest path for the seekers to reach their destination. It is for this reason that the Sufis lay stress on the love for their Master.

The great Sufi Master Bayazid (8th Century AD) also said that ‘love for the friends of Allah results in their love for you. The Almighty looks at the hearts of His saints and if He will see your name engraved in their hearts, He will forgive you.’ It is for this reason that the Sufis love their Master the most.  Their love for the Master lifts them to a state of bliss and presence in the heart of their beloved. Muhammad az-Zahid, a great Naqshbandi Sufi Master narrated an incidence concerning his Master Sheikh Ubaidullah al-Ahrar. Once his Sheikh fell sick and asked him to get a doctor from Herat.  One of his co-disciples Maulana Qassim requested him to fetch the doctor fast, as he could not withstand the suffering of his Sheikh. It took him thirty-five days to return with a doctor.  On return, however, he found that his Sheikh was well and Maulana Qassim had died.  He asked his Sheikh about the sudden demise of Maulana Qassim, who was so young. Ubaidullah al-Ahrar said, ‘When you left, Maulana Qassim came to me and said, ‘I am giving my life for your life.’ I asked him not to do that but he said, ‘O My Sheikh! I didn’t come here to consult you. I have made the decision and Allah has accepted it from me.’ Ubaidullah al-Ahrar said that he couldn’t change his mind. The next day he became sick with the ailment of his Master, which was reflected on him. He died and Ubaidullah al-Ahrar got well without the help of a doctor.

 

Love for all creatures 

In unity with the God what exists is only the Reality of the God and one sees the existence of the God alone in all beings. His love takes the form of Divine love for all beings. The love for God does not mean hatred towards the world; rather it results in the understanding that the others need to be treated in the same manner as one would himself like to be treated. One cannot be saying that he loves God by neglecting his duty towards the others. The mother cannot be justified in neglecting her child for the sake of performing her pooja and similarly a king cannot be said to love God if he spends all his time in worship and refuses to protect his people from the enemy. The real love for God is to do one’s duty with utmost care and attention, while at the same time remaining in His Presence i.e. taking it to be a Divine order to discharge his obligations most faithfully. 

 

Supremacy of love 

The great Sufi Master Bayazid established supremacy of love by saying that ‘the Almighty can be approached only through love.’ The love for the beloved reveals his secrets in the heart of the lover and conversely the knowledge of the beloved produces in his heart the love for the beloved. The knowledge of the true beloved i.e. the God is a source of tremendous happiness. As in the case of worldly knowledge, the more complicated an issue is, the more pleasure one gets in understanding and resolving it. Similarly in the spiritual world, the knowledge of the God being the highest, one, who seeks to acquire His knowledge moves on the path of bliss.

In regard to supremacy of love, the great Sufi Master Mahatma Ramchandraji (1873-1931) has also said that ‘love is such a thing which crosses the limits of the Seven Skies.’  His disciple Thakur Ram Singhji (1898-1971) also used to say, ‘Love is all encompassing.  The Almighty can be realized only through love.  The illiterate Gopis had won the love of Lord Sri Krishna only through their unfettered love.’ The true love brings in enlightenment.  In fact there is no difference between Love and Enlightenment.  Love is God and the purpose of acquiring knowledge is to know the God. Love is the culmination of knowledge and it is the height of enlightenment. 

 

Ekatmata, faith and surrender 

The true meaning of love thus is ‘ekatmata’ (oneness) i.e. complete merger with the beloved and cessation of the duality.  There is no scope in love for the separate existence of the lover and the beloved. As soon as the feeling of duality between the Master and the disciple vanishes, one starts seeing His manifestation everywhere in the entire universe.  Selfless love gradually turns into devotion, which makes one identical to one’s beloved.  The disciple (the lover), however, is imperfect, and, therefore, it is the Master (the beloved), who being perfect, merges with the disciple and takes him on the path of love. We have references in the mystic literature:

‘Jab mein tha tab Hari nahi, abHari hai mein nay

Prem gali ati saankri, ya mein do na samay’

(Till I existed, God was not there.  Now only He exists and I am not there. The path of love is so narrow that it has no place for the two.)

In the satsang (spiritual assemblies) of Hajrat Baqi Billah (16th Century AD), a renowned Sufi Sheikh (Delhi), Masters of other Silsila (Sufi Orders) together with their followers also used to participate. Once when all of them were engrossed in deep meditation, all of a sudden Hajrat Baqi Billah stood up. His body was trembling and it appeared that he might fall. One of the persons got up and gave him support. After a little while when he was somewhat composed, one of the Masters present in the assembly very politely enquired ‘Hajrat Qiblah (your honour) – what blessing have you received from the Almighty today that you are prepared even to sacrifice your life for it.’ Hajrat Baqi Billah replied, ‘Brother, what can I say. When all were deeply engrossed in remembering the Almighty, my eyes opened for a while. I saw a dog passing in front of the door. This dog resembled the one, which used to visit the abode of this slave’s Master. My Master used to feed the dog with the food left over from his own dish. This slave used to feel jealous of that dog and used to think that dog to be more fortunate than him. Seeing this dog, I was reminded of my Master and that dog and I was overpowered by the flux of love. I, therefore, could not control myself.’ On listening to this explanation, the Master who had asked this question himself got into such a state of ecstasy that he remarked, ‘Hajrat Khwaja Sahab, only you can be a Sheikh (Master).’ He then loudly uttered ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ and abandoned his life in that state of ecstasy.  

The essence of love lies in complete faith and surrender to the beloved. Rabia of Basra, the first and the most famous of the women Sufi saints, followed the path of tawakkul i.e. complete dependence on God. When asked if she loved Prophet Muhammad, she is stated to have said that the love for God in her heart has left no room for anything else. She struck down the Ayat relating to hatred towards Saitan from the Holy Qur’an, since there was no place left for any hatred in her heart. She also regarded all rituals as meaningless, including visitation to Kaaba. One of her greatest contributions to Sufism was her conception of prayer, which she considered as a free and intimate supplication to God. 

Hazrat Rabia was born in a poor family.  She became orphan at a very young age. Her family was scattered by a famine and she was sold as a slave for a sum of only six Dirhams.  Her master had put her on to the job of looking after the household affairs, which kept her busy throughout the day. She performed her duties with utmost sincerity and in the night when she retired to her room, she used to engage in offering prayers to her Lord. One night her master happened to see her absorbed in prayers through a window of his house. He saw Rabia grossly engrossed in prayer and a beam of divine light engulfing her. Deeply impressed by it and a little bit frightened, her master set her free the next morning. Rabia then devoted herself to the love of God, living a life of extreme poverty.

Prayer for Rabia was a free and intimate communion with the God. For her the ritual of offering the prescribed prayers (Namaz) and other religious observances were of no merit. The true prayer for her was to be in the presence of God. She did not offer prayer in expectation of any reward or for avoiding punishment. She used to pray: ‘O my Lord, if I worship You from fear of Hell, burn me in the Hell, and if I worship You with the hope of paradise, exclude me from it; but if I worship You for Your own sake then withhold not from me Your Eternal Beauty.’

Rabia’s dependence on God was complete. She is considered to be a great exponent of complete trust (tawakkul) in God. She refused to accept any assistance or help from any one. She considered it to be a shame to ask for worldly things from the God to whom this world belongs. There was, therefore, no question for her to ask for anything from them to whom it did not belong. She had the firm faith that how He, who provides for those who envy him, could be expected not to take care of those who love Him?  He does not refuse sustenance to one who abuses Him. How then shall He refuse sustenance to one whose heart is overflowing with Love for Him? She had, therefore, turned her attention completely away from the world. Rabia also did not allow people to visit her as she considered that they might relate to her what she did not say or do.  She did not approve of any miracles to be related to her. People used to say that she finds money at her place of worship and that she cooks her food without fire and so on. She, however, refuted all such attributions made to her and said that she felt happy in living in the condition in which the Almighty kept her. Thus her existence itself had become a living prayer to the Almighty.

 

Love knows no barriers 

The story of Sheikh Sanan in the book Mantiqu’t Tayr (Conference of Birds) written by the great Sufi Master Fariduddin Attar, of whom Maulana Rumi said; ‘Attar traversed the seven worlds of Love while we are standing only at the corner of one street’, reflects the idea of the supremacy of love in a very touching manner.

Sheikh Sanan had devoted his life to serving God and His creation. He had four hundred faithful disciples living with him. One night, Sanan had a dream in which he saw himself bowing to an idol in the city of Rum. He ignored the dream initially but when it recurred, he decided to visit Rum. His disciples also insisted on accompanying him. All of them left for Rum and after some days they arrived at the outskirts of Rum, near a temple. At the temple Sheikh Sanan heard a heart-touching female voice singing a sad love song. On following the voice, Sheikh Sanan saw a young beautiful Christian girl singing that sad song. Her charming beauty overpowered Sheikh Sanan’s heart. In a moment his heart slipped away from his hands. He was dumbfounded and felt as if he had no existence of his own left any more. He could stand on his feet no longer. He sat down with tremors rocking his body. The fire of love made him forget all about himself.

The fire of love incapacitated Sheikh Sanan so much that he forgot that he was a Sheikh of so many disciples, who were witnessing his strange condition. Nothing was important to him anymore except seeing the face of that young girl again. The young girl had left the temple without noticing the Sheikh but Sheikh Sanan decided to stay there through the night in the hope of seeing her again the next morning. His disciples tried to persuade him to go to the city with them but it was of no avail. The pain of love was growing stronger and stronger in Sanan’s heart. He was crying in this agony. His disciples were confused, unable to understand how their Sheikh could behave like that. 

Sheikh Sanan was possessed by the love for the Christian girl. Nothing existed for him except his beloved. The next day came and then the night, the Sheikh could not have a glimpse of the girl again. He became exceedingly restless. His disciples tried to take him out of this obsession. They asked him to perform ablution for clearing his soul, offer prayers (Namaz), and to repent for his sin. The Sheikh answered that they knew nothing of his condition and that he had done his ablution with the blood of his heart for his beloved.  He was repentant not of his love but of his Sheikhood.  He regretted that he did not fall in love earlier and said that his prayer now was only for her.

Not understanding what their Sheikh had said the disciples requested him to forget everything that had happened and to go back with them to Mecca and its Kaaba.  Sanan replied that his Mecca now was that temple where he found his love and its Kaaba was his beloved, the Christian girl. His disciples asked him whether he had no shame uttering these words and what face would he show to the God?  The Sheikh replied, ‘The God himself has made me to fall in love. How can I act against His will?’

The helpless disciples left their Sheikh at the temple in the hope that time will heal the heart of their Sheikh and they found a nearby place for themselves. They thought that perhaps their Master might change his mind and return back to Mecca with them. Days passed in waiting both for the Sheikh and the disciples. Sanan started living on the path opposite the temple from where he could see the girl crossing him in the hope that one day she would notice him. He started addressing her with an imaginary name in his poetry, which he started composing as a result of pain of love in his heart and he would sing the same in sad melodies.

At last, one day the girl noticed him and asked him why he was living there on a street, without home, in the company of dogs. Sanan replied that he had fallen in love with her and would stay there until she responded. The girl was astonished looking to his old age enough to be her grandfather and asked him retortingly whether he was not ashamed of himself to fall in love with a young girl.

Sheikh Sanan was unperturbed. He replied eloquently that love knows no age.  Whether young or old, love pierces the heart of the lover the same way. Not knowing what to say, the girl asked him to abandon his Shakhhood, convert to Christianity, drink wine and renounce his faith in his holy book and all obligations hereunder to be eligible to deserve her favour.

For Sanan, his only faith was his love. He did what the girl had demanded of him gladly. He sang and danced with rejoice proclaiming that he had become nothing for love; he had lost his honour in love and asked the young girl what more he could do for her? She was more than amused. She asked him to buy her gold and ornaments and if he had no money, not to waste his time on her. The Sheikh replied that he had nothing left with him except his heart that too he had already given away to her. He could not live in separation and would do anything she desired of him. The girl put her condition to be his wife that he should look after her pigs for one year. If he tends the pigs to her satisfaction, she would be ready to become his wife on completion of one year. The Sheikh gladly accepted her wish and took up his residence in the pigsty and started tending the pigs with love and care.

Sheikh Sanan’s disciples were utterly disappointed. Their faith in their Sheikh was completely shattered and their hearts were broken. They were confused and they did not know what should they do now? Should they stay in Rum or should they return to Mecca. They asked Sheikh Sanan what should they do? Did he want them also to convert to Christianity as well? They will stay with him, if he asked them to do so. Sheikh Sanan, however, told them to do whatever they wanted and that he wanted nothing from them.  If any one asked them about him, they should tell the truth.

The disciples returned to Mecca. They had no courage to tell anything about their Sheikh to anyone. However, one of their colleagues who could not go to Rum, being on journey, on return to Mecca and not seeing their Master, asked his colleagues about him.  They told him the entire story from the beginning to the end.

On listening to what had transpired, he asked his colleagues how dare they judge their Sheikh as having done something wrong? He cried for his Sheikh from the depth of his heart. He told his colleagues that they did not know the etiquettes of the path of love. If they truly loved their Sheikh, they should have remained with him and followed him.  If the Sheikh had torn off his Sufi robe and put on a cincture, they should have done the same. They should have stayed with him in the pigsty. He said this is what the true love demands.

This faithful disciple remembered and cried inconsolably for his Sheikh day and night. On the fortieth day he had a vision.  He saw his Master Sheikh Sanan standing in the presence of God with a dark cloud of dust from the temple hanging between Sheikh Sanan and God. Suddenly, the dust blew off and the Divine Light embraced the Sheikh. Then he heard an eternal voice saying: ‘When the fire of Love burns one of all his possessions, only then he becomes worthy of seeing the Eternal Beloved. Nothing has any value in the creed of Love except the selfless love. Until the mirror of the soul is cleared of the dust of existence one cannot see the reflection of the True Beloved in it.’

When he told of his vision to his colleagues, all of them decided to proceed to Rum, where they found their Sheikh with his forehead on the ground in salutation to the God. Sheikh Sanan had travelled beyond religion and was liberated from all bondage. He had truly become nothing in the love of his True Beloved. The Sheikh had become one with his true Beloved. He was silent but filled with bliss. The disciples gathered around him and all of them started back for Mecca.

Meanwhile, the young girl also had a dream. She saw a glimpse of the Almighty in her dream. She had realised that it was He who was the true Lover. It aroused an intense desire in her heart to be united with that Eternal Beauty. The pain of love and separation had also captured her heart. It was now revealed to her that it was only the Sheikh, who could show her the way to the Eternal Beloved.

She rushed to meet the Sheikh and on learning that he had left for Mecca, ran into the desert in order to catch up with the Master. The pain of love had melted her heart, which was pouring down in the form of tears from her eyes.  For days together she ran barefooted in the desert, calling to her Master with love and devotion. The fire of love had reduced everything in her to ashes leaving nothing behind.

Sheikh Sanan had known in his heart that she was running in the desert to see him. He sent his disciples to look for her. On seeing the great Master, the young woman threw herself at his feet. Holding his feet firmly, she said, ‘My Master, I am burning with love. I am dying to see my Beloved, who has disappeared after showing a glimpse and arousing this fire of love in my heart. I cannot see Him anymore. Help me to see my Beloved again.’  The Sheikh took her hands gently and looked into her eyes deeply as if he was peeping into her soul, conducting it to her Beloved through his own soul. The young girl met her destiny. She screamed, ‘O Beloved, I cannot bear Your separation any more’ and with these words she united with her Beloved leaving her mortal remains behind.

Sheikh Sanan stood still for a while and then said, ‘They are fortunate, who reach their destiny and meet with their Beloved. They live eternally in union with Him.’ He then paused for a moment and added, ‘But those who are left behind to guide others to their goal must sacrifice their bliss of communion for the sake of His pleasure!’

A disciple on whom this secret is revealed that the God loves his Master is definitely the recipient of God’s grace. A story is related. A King had ten wives who wanted to know whom did the King love the most. They asked the King. The King showed them a ring and said that next day, whoever of them has the ring, is his most beloved wife. In the night the King got ten similar rings made and sent one each to each of his wives. Now, if someone else other than the wives of the King knows this secret definitely he is the dearest to the King. So is the disciple to whom it is revealed that the God loves his Master.

Love of God is given to all since it is He who has given birth to all. Existence itself is the manifestation of His love. The Sufis consider human beings to have the highest place in His creation.  But the perfection of human beings lies in becoming a ‘complete man’ (Insanu’lkamil).  The Qualities and Attributes of the Almighty reflect prominently in a complete man. All creatures endeavor to evolve as complete man, as one could realize the Supreme Being only after that. The journey of all creatures started from the Supreme Being and will end with reaching back to Him. The period spent in the process is the ‘period of being’ (DauraneWajood). It is, therefore, not possible that His highest creation, the man is devoid of love. This love, however, does not surface till the heart is cleaned and it reflects that love like a mirror reflects the light of the sun.

Initially the Sufi wayfarers considered it necessary to live a life of ascetics and hermits, with immense fear of God. They, therefore, spent their time in meditation and in the remembrance of God to overcome their ego. Gradually, however, they realized that ego could be sacrificed only through love. Without love one cannot stand firmly for long. History is full of such examples where ascetics have fallen to their ego. Famous Sufi Jami has said, ‘you can adopt any method to shelve your ego but love is the only way which definitely protects you from ego.’ Sufis believe that Love is God. It is the gift of the God. It cannot be learnt from the human beings. It can be acquired only through His grace. For the Sufis love is the only way to realize the God. They consider the entire creation to be His manifestation and, therefore, unless one has love for all the creatures, one cannot claim true love for God. Someone has said, ‘there can be as many ways to realize the God as are there the number of atoms. But the simplest and the fastest way to realize Him is to serve His creation.’ Thus, the Sufi, on the one hand endeavors to clear his inner-self, and on the other he renders selfless service and derives happiness in comforting others.

 

Selfless love           

Sufis consider Uns (selfless love) for God as the shortest way to reach Him. The mother loves her son with no self-interest; she does not look at his vices or his goodness, nor does she live on any hopes from him. Even if she has any expectations, which are belied, her love for the son does not become any less. It is possible that at times the mother may get annoyed with the son but it does not mean that her heart would not melt seeing him in any difficulty. If one loves God in the same manner then there is no veil left in between. The only veil is that of self-interest, if that is not there, all the distance is travelled and one reaches his destiny immediately. Mahatma Ram Chandraji has stated in his book ‘Mazhab Aur Tahqiqat’ on the basis of his personal experience that there have been such great persons, who in their lives never engaged themselves in any spiritual practices, no jikr, no meditation, no contemplation, no worry about crossing spiritual stages, no desire of achieving salvation, peace or any such thing nor even to realize the Truth, but because of their intense love for their Master in their hearts and following his order to the hilt without caring for the result or their own interest in it, they have become one with their Master. Mahatma Ram Chandraji has further stated that he would not have believed it if in his own case his experience was not something similar. He, however, has cautioned against exhibition of superficial love to cover up for ones lethargy, which would lead him nowhere. 

Prophet Muhammad was asked once to which religion did he belong and it is said that Jesus Christ was also asked the same question. The fact is that all saints, all prophets belong to the same Religion, the Religion of the Lovers of God.

 

Adab in love 

It is also important to mention that Sufis attach a lot of importance on proper ‘Adab’ (respect or etiquettes), particularly till the duality does not cease to exist, as reflected in this couplet:

Khamosh a dil bhari mahfil me chillana nahi achcha,

Adab pahla karina hai mohabbat ke karino me

            (Be quite o! my heart, it is not proper to cry in the presence of others; for the lovers observing proper etiquettes is the first necessity)

            (The story of Bulleh Shah and Hazrat Inayat Shah is related)

            Of course when this feeling of duality ceases to exist, there remains no veil between the lover and the beloved. We have known the examples of the great saints like Andal Rangnayaki (who used to wear the garland herself before offering it to the Lord), Shabri (who tasted the berries before offering to Lord Ram) and Vidur’s wife (who forgot to cover herself and ran to receive Lord Krishna, Who threw His shawl to cover her up). Till such a state of mind is achieved it is important to observe proper etiquettes.

            It may thus be said that the root of love lies in duality but it flourishes and blooms in unity or absorption in the beloved.

 

Detachment – a state of mind 

As regards detachment, ordinarily detachment is taken to mean no attachment with anything or anyone. For Sufis, however, detachment is a state of universal attachment, where one acquires the state of love for all, nothing pulling him towards any particular thing or being. In fact attachment exists when one is pulled particularly towards something or someone. When there is no special attachment and one acquires the state of universal attachment, it could be said to be the state of real detachment. Detachment for Sufis does not mean being unconcerned or unmoved. Sufis consider detachment as the state of ‘Istagna’ i.e., a state of such affluence, such abundance that one completely becomes oblivious of that thing. For example, if one acquires multitude of money, would one be mindful of losing or acquiring a few coins? He would be in the real state of detachment from money. 

            Thakur Ram Singhji in this regard used to say that the true detachment is a state of mind. It is not the renunciation of the world. Whether one lives in one’s home or in the jungle, the real objective is self-realization. When all the faculties are diverted towards the Almighty, the true feeling of detachment also develops. If, however, something, live or material, induces a reaction, one may either try to detach himself from that thing or the easier method of achieving the objective is seeing the reflection of the Almighty in that thing. In this context, Thakur Ram Singhji used to narrate a story:

Once a King got attracted towards a beautiful girl. He insisted upon meeting with her. The girl asked the King to see her after a week. When the King reached her house after a week, what he saw was that the girl had become very weak and her beauty had lost the charm. The King enquired what had happened to her and how had she lost her charm. The girl indicated the King to go to the next room. The King went to the next room, but could not enter it, as the room smelled badly with human excreta filled in pots. When the King tried to cover his nose and mouth, a maid standing nearby asked him “why are you condemning the very thing which you wanted. The beauty of the body is only on the outside. Inside the body, it was this excretion only but as the body is covered with the skin, it neither smells nor does it attract flies.” The King was shaken completely. He understood the message and developed a feeling of detachment. Through this story Thakur Ram Singhji used to explain that the King neither renounced his Kingdom, nor did he withdraw from his duty but what he renounced was his ill thoughts and his attachment with the girl. 

 

Everything belongs to God 

In simple words garnering a firm belief that everything belongs to the God is true detachment in the real sense. The story related to Shams Tabrez, the spiritual Master of Maulana Rumi is related. Once Mahatma Shams Tabrez was passing through a place where a young boy had died and his mother was crying inconsolably. Some people who knew Mahatma Shams Tabrez spotted him and requested him to give life to the dead body. Seeing the pathetic condition of the mother, Mahatma Shams Tabrez ’s heart got filled with compassion. He asked the dead body “Kum-be-Ijnillah” (get up by the order of the Almighty), but the dead body did not respond. Mahatma Shams Tabrez then kicked the dead body ordering him “Kum-be-Ijni” i.e. if you do not get up by the order of the Almighty, get up by my order. The dead body immediately got up. This matter reached the ears of the Emperor of Multan who held Mahatma Shams Tabrez to be a Kafir and ordered his skin to be peeled off. The Emperor’s servants were afraid of Mahatma Shams Tabrez and could not dare touch him. Seeing their condition Mahatma Shams Tabrez himself caught hold of his skin by the hair on the head and ordered his skin to leave his body. The skin of his body from toe to head came into his hand which he handed over to them and went away.

On hearing this incidence another Fakir came to Multan and asked a goldsmith to make a ring for the finger of the Almighty. On being asked by the goldsmith he showed his own finger for the measurement. The goldsmith was stunned. He told the Fakir that a few days ago another ‘God’ has lost his skin and now it is you who want to lose life by showing your finger as the finger of the God. The Fakir, however, started shouting more loudly as he had deliberately entered into this discussion. Listening to this dialogue many people gathered there and the Emperor also was informed of this new incidence. The Emperor called the Fakir and told him “look, I am prepared to give to you whatever you want, but do not utter these words like a Kafir.” The Fakir told the Emperor that before asking for anything he wanted some of his questions to be answered by the Emperor. The Emperor agreed to answer him. The Fakir asked the Emperor, what are those things which the Emperor was authorised to give him.

Emperor: All the land, treasure, animals, servants, army, the palace etc. everything is mine, which I can give to you.

Fakir: Who owned all these things before you were born.

Emperor: These were owned by my father and prior to him by my grandfather and so on.

Fakir: When these were with your father, he would also be claiming them to be his and similarly your grandfather must also be claiming them to his.

Emperor: Yes. They must be claiming so and after me my son or who-so-over will be the Emperor will claim them to be belonging to him.

Fakir: Then think over and tell me from where have these things originated and where shall these end.

Emperor: What is there to think about? All the things, the entire world has originated from the Almighty and these shall end also in the Almighty. I am fully convinced of it and this is also, the truth.

Fakir: Ok, then be alert and be firm on your words. If what you have said is true, then whose skin was it which was peeled off and whose finger is this for which I was asking the goldsmith to make a ring?

The Emperor was speechless. He bowed his head down and started thinking. If he admitted that the skin belonged to the Almighty, he will be charged of the offence of getting the skin belonging to the Almighty peeled off. Besides, the claim of the Fakir to make a ring for the finger of the Almighty also was right as everything belonged to the Almighty. The Emperor fell at the feet of the Fakir begging him to be pardoned. He requested the Fakir to explain him the difference between a devotee and a Kafir. The Fakir explained that a Kafir claims everything to be his own or belonging to others, forgetting the Almighty; whereas a devotee takes everything to be belonging to the Almighty and acts accordingly. The Emperor had understood his mistake.

 

Renunciation- subtle ego 

Renunciation also involves exercising subtle ego. Shams Tabrez used to roam about bare headed. On being asked why his head was not covered, Shams Tabrez is stated to have said:

            “Sar barhana, nestam daram, kulhi char tark’

Tark-e-duniya, tark-e-ukva, tark-e-Maula, tark-e-tark”

(This means – my head is covered with four crowns. First, renunciation of the world (tark-e- duniya); second, renunciation of the heaven (tark-e-ukwa); third, renunciation of the God (tark-e-Maula); and fourth, renunciation of the will power (tark-e-tark) through which the first three renunciations were made).

In regard to ‘renunciation of the God’, Thakur Ram Singh ji explained that ‘tark-e-Maula’ does not mean to forget the God or to be an atheist. It really means to stop searching for the Almighty since the Almighty always lives in the heart of the devotee and is so close that it is difficult to differentiate between ‘Him’ and oneself. When one experiences that he and the Almighty are one and the same, then what is left to be searched? Who is to be searched? The desire to find ‘Him’ then vanishes. By ‘tark-e-tark’ one should understand renunciation even of the sense of renouncing. Such a person is the greatest and an absolutely contended person.

My Master Thakur Ram Singhji also used to say:

“Jab se miti hai chahat, fulon ko sunghane ki,

Sare jahan ke gulshan, mere hi ho gaye’

(Ever since I have given up the desire to smell the flowers, all the gardens of the world have become mine)

 

No conflict between love and detachment           

Thus, there is no conflict between love and detachment. A true lover loves the Almighty and, therefore, the entire creation, no space left in his heart for hatred towards anyone. Similarly, one who is truly detached considers everything belonging to the God and, therefore, sheds the feeling of ‘me and mine, you and yours’, which is the root- cause of all evils and hatred.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS: 

The questions we raised in Introduction regarding compatibility of love with detachment stand resolved. There is indeed no conflict between the two when we construe true love as self-effacing and non-possessive. It is this self-effacement and non-possessiveness that makes the lover detached, even from self, and unites the lover with the beloved in spirit. Bhakti (devotion) movement of Sri Chaitanya in 15th century epitomized this selfless and detached love for the divine (Sri Krishna). When the mind gets fully absorbed with the thought of the beloved, even to the exclusion of self, the love gets transformed into detached love. We need not get into the debate whether mundane love can become selfless or divine. Suffice it to say, love is mundane when it is self-centric, and divine when it is selfless. Obviously when love is selfless, the question of possessing the beloved as one’s own does not arise. When self is effaced, sense of attachment disappears and the perfect unity between the lover and the beloved is established. 

An anecdote of how passionate love of a queen of Magadha, named Ahalya, wife of king Indradyumna, for an ordinary subject called Indra, transcended physical limits and pains has been depicted in yoga Vasishtha by sage Vasishtha to Rama. When their love was exposed, the king punished them severely in various ways, first by throwing them into ice-cold water in winter, then into a large frying pan, under the feet of an elephant, and lastly lashing them with rods, straps and hammers. But each time they came out smiling as if in blissful merriment. When asked to explain how they survived such punishments, this is how they explained the phenomenon:

 “O King, no torture can separate us. The world is full with the form of the other. We view the whole world as full of ourselves. We see our beloved in every shape and form. We are in the enjoyment of bliss and so we are entirely unconscious of our body. We do not experience any pain. We will not feel the slightest pain even if the body is cut to pieces. When the mind is intensely attached to an object, it will not experience any pain. No power on earth will be able to divert this mind from its beloved object. All these bodies originate from the mind only. Mind does everything. It is the highest body. Even if this body perishes, the mind will take fresh bodies quickly according to its liking. If this mind is destroyed beyond resurrection through Atma Jnana (wisdom of soul), then only will bodies stop cropping up.”

The king realised the truth of their statement and banished them from his kingdom so that they might live together elsewhere. Sage Vasishtha concluded his story with following annotation:

“The body with various organs is no other than the mind. This universe also is nothing but the mind. If the mind perishes, both body and the universe will vanish.” [The above anecdote is taken from ‘Stories from Yoga Vasishtha’ by Swami Sivananda]

The above anecdote from Yoga Vasishtha helps us in understanding how in all-absorbing love two souls transcend physical barriers and sensation, and become one, and why Mansoor Al-Hallaj, a great Sufi saint, did not exhibit any sign of pain when he was executed by the orthodoxy in the gallows for blasphemy for shouting Anal Haq (I am the Truth). Mansoor Al-Hallaj was no exception. Several Sufi saints even to this date have been and are being persecuted by the orthodoxy for their all-encompassing love for humanity and divine ecstasy, often misunderstood and mis-construed as blasphemy. 

Absorption in love with the beloved is not a unique Sufi concept. Nor is the concept of detachment or of detached love peculiar to Sufism. On a spiritual plane, these concepts were well known to all ancient religions. Bhagavad Gita, in verse 10, chapter 5, compares a detached mind with a lotus leaf. Just as a lotus leaf does not get wet even while immersed in water, a detached mind does not get affected even while engaged in action. At the same time, in verse 32, chapter 6 of Gita Sri Krishna pronounces to Arjuna as follows:

            Atma-aupamyena sarvatra samam pashyati yah Arjuna I

            Sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramah matah II

            [O Arjuna, that Yogi is the greatest who identifies self with others in their grief or pleasure]

Uniqueness of Sufism lies in their pursuit of love to attain the Truth. It is not a religion in a normative or ritualistic sense. Even though some well known Sufi saints have engaged in converting their followers to Islam, Sufi philosophy in general does not believe in conversion or discrimination on grounds of religion, sex, race, caste or creed while pursuing the path of love for uniting with the Divine.   

 

 

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SPIRIT WORLD

                                                                           Spirit World

 

(Interactive session on 07.02.2014)

Keynote address by Asish Kumar Raha

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Ms. Madhulika Chatterjee, Mr. Ranjan Chatterjee, Mr. P.C.Jha, Ms. Shikha Majumdar, Mr. R.K.Gupta, Dr.Kalyan K.Chakravarty, Ms. Krishna Lahiri, Dr. Suhas Majumdar, Mr. Sarada Ranjan Das)                                      .

     [Devotional song – chorus led by Ms. Jayanti Dasgupta]                         ]

 

INTRODUCTION

Man’s curiosity to know, explore and discover self is as old as human civilization. Are we the body, or the mind or brain or consciousness or the soul, or a combination of all these are the questions we have been struggling to resolve from time immemorial. The question that arises is whether we exist beyond life / death. In other words, the question which we are going to address today is whether there is any Spirit World of higher consciousness, distinctive from our three dimensional phenomenal world.

All established and organized religions subscribe to the belief in the existence of soul even though the concept of soul may not be uniform. While the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Greeks and the Romans believe in re-incarnation of souls, religions belonging to the Abrahamic tradition do not generally subscribe to such phenomenon. As for belief in God’s existence, most of the organized religions, barring a few ones like Buddhism, take it as axiomatic and the very basis of the religion. Philosophical treatises like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita have elaborately dwelt upon the Spirit World as the domain belonging essentially to higher dimensional consciousness. Science, on the other hand is inclined to reject above phenomena in the absence of hard evidence.

The question is why we should delve into a subject that has engaged our mind and intellect from time immemorial with no fruitful resolution.

The reason why we consider this subject as relevant still, is the dimensional leap in our knowledge of outer space and particle worlds and the realization of our very limited understanding of the law of nature that prevails in our own universe, let alone distinctive laws of nature prevailing in 10500 universes that the physicists like Stephen Hawking claim as existing. It is, however, an admitted fact that scientific researches into consciousness have remained more or less neglected. Our approach to this metaphysical subject in 21st century, therefore, needs to be scientific, though primarily empirical.

The questions that we need to address in our interaction are as follows:

  1. Is there a phenomenon called consciousness which is independent of mind or brain? If the answer is yes, following questions will crop up to be logically addressed.
  2. Does consciousness survive death?
  3. Is there any evidence of Spirit World of higher consciousness that lies beyond 3-dimensional phenomenal world?
  4. How are the Spirit World and the Phenomenal World inter-related?
  5. Is there any empirical proof of re-incarnation?
  6. Can the Spirit World be accessed with our 3-dimensional sense-organs?
  7. Is the Spirit World subject to a different Law of Nature? If so, can it be described? Is there hierarchy in Spirit World? 

 

Consciousness – Views of Sri Krishna and Stephen Hawking – Comparative study

 

The multi-dimensional Spirit World, as we understand it to be, is the domain of higher consciousness, as compared to our material three-dimensional world of Five Elements. Before we take up the subject in right earnest, let us first dwell upon the theme of consciousness which is the pith and core of our subject.

While on the theme of consciousness, the concept of a scientist is apparently at variance with that of a philosopher. To remain within our focus, let us examine/analyze the views of Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest physicist of modern time, and that of Sri Krishna, arguably the greatest thinker of olden times. 

Stephen Hawking in chapter two, captioned ‘The Rule of Law’, in his ‘The Grand Design’ has raised serious doubt as to whether man possesses consciousness or is a biological robot having no free will, based on recent experiments in neuroscience. In support, he has referred to the finding that by electrically stimulating the brain, one could create a desire in a patient to move his/her hand, arm or foot or to move the lips and talk. In his words: “It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behaviour is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.” He goes on to say in the last chapter of his book under the same caption viz. ‘The Grand Design’: “We cannot solve exactly the equations for three or more particles interacting with each other. Since an alien the size of a human would contain about a thousand trillion trillion particles even if the alien were a robot, it would be impossible to solve the equations and predict what it would do.” Therefore, owing to our inability to do the calculations so as to predict its actions, we concede, according to Hawking, that any complex being has free will (though in reality they do not have). It is thus patently clear that physicists like Stephen Hawking are reluctant to accept the phenomenon like consciousness or free will for the simple reason that all these are governed by brain and not independent of it.

Strikingly similar to the above view of the renowned physicist is the revelation made by Sri Krishna in verse 27, chapter 3 of the Gita a few millenniums before the physicists like Hawking have come to the finding that man has no free will, which is as follows:

“All action is universally engendered by the attributes (Gunas) of primordial nature (Prakriti). A man whose self is deluded by ego thinks, ‘I am the doer’.”

Sri Krishna reiterated the above truth in verse 33, chapter 11, Gita, when he said:

“These (enemies) stand killed by me already. Be you merely an instrument, O Savyascahin (Atjuna).”

Again in verses 4 & 5 of chapter 7 of the Gita, Sri Krishna pronounces to Arjuna as follows:

“My un-manifested nature (Prakriti) has an eightfold differentiation: earth, water, fire, air, ether/space, sensory mind (manas), intelligence (buddhi) and egoism (ahamkara).”

“The above is my lower nature (apara prakriti). But understand, O mighty armed (Arjuna)! That my different and higher nature (para prakriti) is the soul (jiva), the self-consciousness and life-principle that sustains the cosmos.”

It is noticeable that Sri Krishna while holding that the Jiva (soul) as a doer was just an illusion, made a clear distinction between the mind, intelligence and egoism on one hand (which is clearly governed by the brain that comprises trillions of molecules) and the consciousness on the other hand, the latter being the sole attribute of the soul (Jiva). It is also stated that it is this consciousness that sustains the cosmos. Obviously, the all-sustaining consciousness is independent of the body or the brain. And the whole game in this phenomenal world is to get over this illusion by awakening one’s consciousness to the realization that the Jiva is neither the body, nor the mind, nor the brain, but pure consciousness, independent of all these.

Now the question is whether the mind, intelligence and egoism are also independent of the body or the brain, like consciousness per se. Apparently, going by verse 27, chapter 3 of the Gita cited above, one will be inclined to think that those attributes are body-centric. When the body goes, those attributes also cease to exist. But Sri Krishna had another take on that. He explains in verse 8 of chapter 15 ibid as follows:

“When the Jiva (soul) acquires a body, he brings with him the mind and the senses. When he leaves that body, he takes them and goes, just as the wind wafts away scents from flowers.”

From the above pronouncement of Sri Krishna, it would appear that the above three attributes of the soul viz. mind, intelligence and egoism, though originated from the Nature (Prakriti) and distinct from consciousness, are not body-centric.

The next important question that falls for determination is whether Jiva has free will or choice while living in a mortal body. While Hawking has serious doubt whether a man has free will or choice in the absence of conclusive mathematical proof, Sri Krishna answers in the affirmative in verse 47, chapter 2, Gita when he said:

“Karmenyavadhikaraste ma faleshu kadachana’

(Your right is for action alone, never for the results).

What logically follows from the above dictum of Sri Krishna is that man has the discretion whether to do a thing or not while the result of his action is not in his hands. Holistically viewed, life of a man is programmed by Prakriti (Nature) just as a computer game is programmed. The discretion rests with the player with various options while the result linked to each option is pre-determined and predictable by the one who has designed the game as also the one who has gone through it successfully.

Viewed from a physicist’s standpoint, Hawking, while conceding that human behaviour is indeed determined by the laws of nature, observed that “the outcome is determined in such a complicated way and with so many variables as to make it impossible in practice to predict. For that one would need a knowledge of the initial state of each of the thousand trillion trillion molecules in the human body and to solve something like that number of equations. That would take a few billion years….” (ref. chapter 2 of The Grand Design). Einstein strived, without success, to find the equation of ‘The Theory of Everything’ that would explain and resolve all the mysteries of the Nature. According to Hawking, “M- theory is the unified theory Einstein was hoping to find” that may eventually lead to the discovery and predictability of The Grand Design’ of the nature by human beings who are mere collections of fundamental particles of nature. However, Hawking admits that as of now M-theory has no answer to the puzzle how amidst 10500 varying laws of nature, we humans ended up in this universe, and what about those other possible worlds (ref. conclusive para in chapter 5 of The Grand Design, captioned ‘The Theory of Everything’).

The key to ‘The Theory of Everything’ that has eluded scientists so far lies, according to Sri Krishna, in the inner consciousness of the man and that key can be retrieved by way of self-awakening or God-realization only. Once a man acquires the ultimate wisdom or realization that he is the Brahman or God, all worldly knowledge acquired through study, research or austerity would be as futile as a well when entire area is flooded (refer verse 46, chapter 2, Gita).

The fundamental difference in the approach of the physicists like Stephen Hawking vis-a-vis that of Sri Krishna was that the former totally denied the role or existence of consciousness in fact-finding or in search for the truth while for the latter, consciousness independent of the mind, brain or egoism is the key to the realization of the ultimate Truth whereupon all the mysteries of this phenomenal as also spirit worlds get unfolded. By denying the existence of consciousness, Stephen Hawking has fallen into the trap of self-contradiction, of which he may not be unaware, in that he has denied free will to the man as also to the nature, or in other words to the biological robot as also to its programmer. Such contradiction is not to be found in Sri Krishna’s concept of lower consciousness of his Apara Prakriti that pervades the phenomenal world of mind and matter, and higher consciousness of his Para Prakriti that prevails in the Spirit World.

 

Sources of information

 

Our sources of information for the subject are frontline religions, spiritual treatises, scientific researches, direct experiences and experiments.

As for well-known religious texts, we may refer to Abrahamic religions, viz. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, ancient Egyptian religion, ancient Greek and Roman religions, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism. As regards spiritual treatises we may rely upon Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads as also Buddhist writings. Besides, some modern thoughts on the subject as have been penned down by Sri Aurobindo, Swami Abhedananda, Swami Yogananda, Swami Sivananda, Sogyal Rinpoche etc. shall be kept in view. As for scientific studies and researches, reliance may be placed on the findings of past-life regression therapists, notably Dr. Brian Weiss, and the documentation of out of body experiences of several heart surgery patients by Dr. Raymond Moody. So far as direct experiences are concerned, the speaker has had the opportunity to gather considerable and substantial information regarding Spirit World through seance.

The commonality that runs through all established religions is the concept of heaven and hell, i.e. heaven for good deeds and hell for bad deeds, as also the existence of soul. However, religions differ on the point as to whether a man who has committed both good and bad deeds should go to heaven or hell or both, and whether after they have finished their term of reward or punishment, as the case may be, should be re-born.

Abrahamic religions subscribe to the concept of eternal heaven following the Judgment Day for the ones whose good deeds have outweighed bad deeds and eternal hell for the ones whose bad deeds have outweighed good deeds. In course of time, the concepts of limbo for un-baptized and innocent souls and purgatory for purification of souls before the Judgment Day have come in currency. After the Judgment Day, it is said that old heavens and the earth will disappear and new heavens and new earth will be created by God for pious souls to live eternally with God, while evil doers will perish in hell fire. In other words, heaven on earth has been conceptualized, post-Judgment Day.

On the question of re-incarnation, opinions vary in Abrahamic religions. Although there is no mention of re-incarnation in the Talmud, the Zohar written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai around the time of Jesus, mentions re-incarnation repeatedly. Jewish mystics in general including Kabbalistic Judaism, accept re-incarnation as a divine reality. Notwithstanding some references in Bible to re-incarnation, the Christians and the Islam, however, do not subscribe to the concept of re-incarnation on the ground that it cannot be reconciled to the concept of the Judgment Day when God will pronounce final judgment in respect of every individual with reference to their deeds on earth. The souls, according to both the religions, await the Judgment Day in their grave.

Islamic theology, however, speaks of seven levels each for heaven (Jannah) and hell (Jahannam), thus making a gradation of good and bad deeds. Barzakh in Sufi tradition conceives an intermediate region called Isthmus, which is described by the Sufi scholar Ibn Arabi as simple and luminous, and like a dream world between the phenomenal world and the spirit world, from which contact can be established with both the worlds. While Islam does not subscribe to re-incarnation, the Sufi sect in Islam believes in re-incarnation.

The Egyptian concept of heaven and hell as also souls pre-date Abrahamic tradition as is evident from the inscriptions on the walls of the royal tombs and also on papyrus. While the concept of hell in ancient Egyptian religion is quite similar to that of Abrahamic and other religions, the unique feature of heaven in Egypt was that even the pious ones were to pass through the Netherworld (hell) and spells were required to enable them to cross the Netherworld to enter heaven. As for the existence of soul, it was believed that the soul was a double of the physical body and would remain as long as the body would remain. Hence the mummification of the dead. Central to the religious belief in after-life by ancient Egyptians was the concept of Ba, Ka and Akh, Ba implying the unique personality of the dead, Ka meaning the vital essence of the dead (soul) and Akh suggesting a ritual that makes the dead into a living person by uniting Ba and Ka. In Egyptian theology, it is possible for the soul to die a second death, which is permanent, and the rituals and spells are used to prevent such permanent death of the soul in after-life. Egyptians believe in re-incarnation not in the sense of re-birth but by way of revival of the dead.

The Zoroastrians believe that Urvan or the departed soul stays on earth for three days after death sitting either at the head of the body, if pious, or at the feet of the body, if wicked. Thereafter they are taken by the messengers of Yima (Yama for the Hindus), the king of death, to Chinvat bridge for final judgment. For the wicked ones the bridge narrows down to the width of a blade-edge so that they fall into the hell of darkness while the pious ones are taken to heaven. Misvan Gatu is the place for those who are neither pious nor wicked, which lacks both joy and sufferings, somewhat like limbo.

The Greek god Hades and the Roman god Pluto are called the king of the underworld. It is believed that souls after death are ferried across the river to the king of the underworld for judgment as to whether they should be sent to Elysium for the pious, Tartarus for the evil, the Asphodel Fields for those whose sins and good deeds equalled, or the Fields of Punishment for those whose sins were not as serious as to deserve burning in lava in Tartarus. Both the Greek and the Roman religions believed in re-incarnation of souls, according to one’s karma-cum-option.

Hindu and Buddhist belief in hell and heaven are not on the same page as Abrahamic traditions. First, there is no singular Judgment Day for the souls in these two religions which believe that souls are consigned to heaven and hell based on on-going judgments by the Lord of Death, according to their Karma and get re-born after their term of reward or punishment is over. Second, there is no concept of permanent heaven or hell based on the principle of pre-dominance. According to Hindu and Buddhist traditions, for part good and part bad deeds, the soul will have proportionate reward and sufferings in heaven and hell respectively. Both the religions firmly believe in re-incarnation. Pertinently, both the religions have done elaborate research on after-life and re-birth. Garuda Purana for the Hindus and Tibetan Book of the Dead for the Buddhists extensively deal with after-life existence of souls in subtle bodies.

Past life regression and next life progression therapy pioneered by Dr. Brian Weiss and popularized world over, can be reasonably taken as having established inter-relation of souls through numerous incarnations, accountability for the Karma and the significance of love that survives death. To a large extent, his findings stand corroborated by the findings of Dr. Raymond Moody who has recorded the experiences of some of his patients who had out of body experience during heart surgeries. Dr. Eben Alexander, an American neuro-surgeon, has recounted in his book ‘Proof of Heaven’ (2012) his experience in Spirit World during the period of seven days when he was brain-dead and in coma owing to a rare type of meningitis. The well documented case of Shanti Devi, born in 1926, with memory of her previous life which was verifiable and got verified is often cited as a testimony of re-incarnation.

 

Death – an illusion!

 

Is death real or an illusion? To find an answer to this apparently simple question, we have to first determine whether it is the body that dies or the life in the body that is terminated with death. To think that the body lives and dies would mean that the body is co-terminus, if not identical with life, i.e. when the life ends the body ends or vice versa. But is life identical with the body? Is the body self-conscious? Science has no categorical answer to these questions as physicists like Stephen Hawking are inclined to hold, in the absence of any conclusive evidence in support or to the contrary, that consciousness and life are accidental products of non-conscious nature. This, as a proposition, is paradoxical and hence unacceptable.

Let us look to the contra view of Bio-scientists as also the pronouncements of Sri Krishna in the Gita on the subject of death. First, the relevant citations from the Gita.

In verse 20 of chapter 2, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna as follows:

“The self is never born nor does it ever perish; nor having come into existence will it again cease to be. It is birth-less, eternal, change-less, ever-same. It is not slain when body is killed.”

In verse 22 ibid, Sri Krishna goes on explaining as follows:

“Just as an individual forsaking old garments dons new clothes, so the soul relinquishing decayed body enters a new body.”

In the very next verse Sri Krishna describes the inherent qualities of the soul as follows:

“No weapon can pierce the soul; no fire can burn it; no water can moisten it; nor can any wind wither it.”

In sum and substance, it is pronounced by Sri Krishna quite categorically that the soul does not die with the body and that it is clearly distinctive from the body. What follows logically from those assertions is that death is an illusion, given the fact that man’s real identity is the soul or consciousness and not the body.

Robert Lanza, Chief Scientific Officer of Advanced Cell Technology, in his scholarly work titled ‘Biocentrism’ has held out an alternative model of ‘The Theory of Everything’ that questions the very basis of the M- theory expounded by physicists like Stephen Hawking. It is contended by Lanza that life or consciousness is not an accidental by-product of the laws of physics, not merely the activity of an admixture of carbon and a few other elements, but it is fundamentally immortal. Life/consciousness creates the universe instead of the other way round. He has thus switched the perspective of our study of universes from physics to biology, by arguing that our consciousness plays a central role in creating the cosmos. ‘By treating space and time as physical things, science picks a completely wrong starting point for understanding the world,’ Lanza points out. Death, according to Lanza, is nothing but an illusion.

It is pertinent to mention here that Lanza’s bio-concept of death is not different from the concept of a physicist in that both consider human body as a collection of thousand trillion trillion molecules that do not die when the body dies. The only difference in Lanza’s approach lies in his emphasis on consciousness as the creator of the universe which physicists do not seem to agree with.

However, when we consider how a man would look like to one-dimensional and two-dimensional creatures, the role of consciousness in our perception of the universes becomes patently clear. To be precise, a man would look no more than a dot to one-dimensional creatures and no more than lines and circles to two-dimensional creatures. As to the question how a four-dimensional creature with additional time-space dimension, would look like to a man of three dimensions, scientists are not too sure. According to some, four-dimensional creatures will be visible only at the curves and not as a whole, and that too not at all time, its image constantly expanding and receding, vanishing and re-manifesting in a number of places almost in no time. Scientists generally agree that fourth dimensional creatures are beyond our perception just as three dimensional creatures cannot be perceived by lower dimensional creatures. In the above scenario, the universes that we perceive with our three dimensional consciousness cannot understandably be the same at a higher dimension. M-theorists have so far conceived as many as eleven dimensions while our perception stumbles at the fourth dimension itself. Thus our three dimensional perception of death may change altogether at a higher dimension that may make us perceive with a higher sense that our real self does not die when it leaves the body made up of trillions of molecules.

We find a corroboration of the said higher perception in verses 10, 16 and 17, chapter15 of the Gita:

“The deluded do not perceive Him staying or departing or experiencing the world of the gunas (qualities). Only those whose eyes of wisdom are open can see Him.” -10

“There are two beings in the cosmos, the destructible and the indestructible. The creatures are the destructible, while subtle existence within (Kutastha) is the indestructible.” – 16

“But there exists another, the Highest Being, designated the ‘Supreme Spirit’ – the Eternal Lord who, permeating the three worlds, upholds them.” – 17

It is this subtle existence within each creature that cannot be perceived with three dimensional consciousnesses and to perceive that one needs to arouse one’s higher consciousness. But that subtle existence is also not the ultimate truth viz. the Highest Being, to perceive Whom one needs the grace of the Supreme Spirit by utmost devotion. This is the sum and substance of the above verses from the Gita which suggest that our limitation of three dimensional perceptions can be transcended in the realm of consciousness only. Hawking’s emphasis on physical laws and Lanza’s emphasis on consciousness highlights our dimensional limitation but not its resolution.

 

After the soul departs from body

 

So far we have referred to and cited various authorities, both spiritual as also scientific, while on theoretical plane. From now on, we will shift our focus entirely to the Spirit World, primarily relying upon Hindu, Buddhist and Egyptian texts as also direct experiences and scientific studies.

The question is in which form the soul departs from the body and what does it do immediately thereafter.

It is generally believed in all three traditions mentioned above, that the soul departs in ‘etheric double’, meaning the subtle body of ether resembling the physical body, being of the size of a thumb or even less than that, but invisible to the naked eye. It takes away all five sense organs, all three Gunas, and the mind from the physical body when it departs. Every such etheric double is connected with the physical body with a silver cord which provides the psychic link. At death the said link is snapped. There are occasions when a person being clinically dead for some time is said to revive or return to life, as is mentioned in ‘Life after Life’ by Dr. Moody. There are also instances when a yogi transmigrates his soul leaving his mortal body behind for considerable time and re-enters his body at will, like it is believed to have happened with Shankaracharya. In all these cases, the connection of the silver cord between the subtle body and the gross body remains intact. Once the connection is snapped it is not possible for the subtle body to return to the gross body. The stretch of the silver cord is limitless and it is capable of stretching to any distance depending on the psychic strength of the person concerned.

While in etheric double, the soul remains near its forsaken body and keeps trying to re-enter the body without success, once the silver cord is snapped. In this state the attachment to the body continues together with thirst, hunger, desire, anger, greed, delusion, addiction etc. with no means or medium to satisfy the same except through smell and smoke of the offerings that contain the essence of food. All these earthly attachments prevent the soul from ascending to a higher state, viz. the astral world, by shedding off the etheric double. This is precisely the reason why the Hindus cremate the body upon death and pray for liberation of the soul from earthly bondage during the Shradh ceremony whereupon the soul is believed to shed off its etheric double. Similar rituals in other religions have been prescribed for spiritual elevation of the departed soul.

Now the question is, for how many days the soul remains in etheric double. According to Hindu belief, it remains in such state till Shradh ceremony is performed according to the prescription of Lord Vishnu as provided in Garuda Purana. It is, however, not necessary that every soul upon death gets into etheric double. Spiritually advanced souls pierce through etheric double to reach the astral world with speed of light.

In Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) etheric double is called mental body which has a form similar to the body just lived, sans defects of any kind. By the force of constant thoughts the mental body is unable to remain still even for a moment and is always on the move. It can pass through solid barriers, wall or mountain and can see through three dimensional objects. It is invisible to living beings except to advanced souls. In that state all five elements are present in the make-up of the mental body with hunger and thirst and it derives nourishment from burnt offerings and the offerings dedicated in its name. This state has an average duration of forty nine days and a minimum length of one week. The Lord of Death after considering the Karma of the departed soul in totality makes his judgment, as a result of which the soul may take immediate re-birth or is given opportunities for liberation in the next higher state called astral world.

The ancient Egyptians like the Hindus and the Buddhists also believed in etheric double. However, according to Egyptian faith, any injury or harm to the dead would cause instant harm to its double. They further claimed to know the spell by which they could unite the dead with its double as also how to elevate the soul from the netherworld to a higher realm/level viz. heaven. It is believed that the art of mummification of the dead was developed to ensure a long life to the etheric double so as to enable it to unite with its earthly body.

The concept of hell is common to all three religions discussed above. The souls suffer punishment for bad deeds while in etheric double or in mental body with all their sense organs alive and alert.

 

Journey to the astral world

 

Persons exceedingly attached to material life linger in etheric double with all five elements and the six enemies viz. passion, anger, greed, delusion, addiction and jealousy, with no means of satisfaction. Those who have broken through the etheric double fall into a deep sleep to awaken in the astral world. This, however, does not apply to an advanced soul who pierces through the barrier of etheric double to be taken to the astral world with speed of light immediately upon death. In the astral world attachment to the material world is a taboo, and the process of detachment from material desires or entanglement is undergone slowly by the soul. The astral world has seven levels, the highest being known as the heaven. Each level has sub-levels. Departed soul is sent to the level adjudged apt for it going by its past Karma, by the Lord of Death called Yama. There is no Karma in the astral world, and hence there is hardly any scope for promotion to a higher level except through re-birth, by the grace of a spiritual master or deity from a higher level in answer to prayer of the departed soul or fellow living beings.

The astral world can be depicted as the world of light and wish-fulfilment. In this world the souls meet their acquaintances of several past lives and realize that their immutable souls are deathless, nameless, without beginning or end. Nonetheless, they are not liberated yet, as they continue to be tied by the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and their derivative qualities. The astral world is infinite in its expanse and creative in the sense that souls can create fancy worlds by their thought. Higher the level greater is their power and vibration.

Vibration, according to M theorists in Physics, is the cause of creation of universes, gravity, time and matters. In spiritual science also it is recognized that every soul has a vibration. Higher the soul at spiritual level, stronger is its vibration. This explains why a soul placed at a lower level cannot ascend to a higher level as it cannot withstand the strong vibration and the dazzling light. However, a higher soul can descend at will to a lower level.

There is no hell in astral world.

It is believed that in astral world souls enjoy the fruit of their good deeds for a fixed term, determined on the basis of their respective Karma, and they are re-born, not necessarily on the earth, or as human, at the end of their term. The soul’s placement in a high dimension is directly relatable to its subtleness, more subtle it becomes higher it rises. The soul becomes more subtle when it sheds off the elements, first the earth, then water, fire and air in that order, together with corresponding qualities which stick to those elements.

According to Buddhist tradition, as has been elaborately dealt with in The Tibetan Book of the Dead and also The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the whole of our existence can be divided into four Bardos which are as follows: 1) the ‘natural’ Bardo of this life, 2) the ‘painful’ Bardo of dying, 3) the ‘luminous’ Bardo of dharmata (Sanskrit word, meaning essence of soul) and 4) the ‘Karmic’ Bardo of becoming. The natural Bardo is the best time to prepare for death by following the teachings of the Tathagata, while the painful Bardo lasts from the beginning of the process of dying until the end of ‘inner respiration’ which in turn culminates in the dawning of the ‘Ground Luminosity’. The luminous Bardo of Dharmata encompasses after death experience of the nature of mind or luminosity/clear light which manifests sound, colour and light. The karmic Bardo of becoming lasts right up to the new birth. The vast majority of people do not recognize Ground Luminosity owing to their ignorance and plunge into a state of unconsciousness which can last up to three and a half days when they are clinically dead. This is why as per the custom in Tibet, dead bodies are not touched for three days after death. Thereafter only cremation takes place. The Bardo of Dharmata has following four phases, each one offering an opportunity of liberation. The first phase is called luminosity when space dissolves into luminosity and the departed soul takes on a body of light. If this phase of luminosity is not recognised by the ignorant, the rays and colours then coalesce into balls of light of different sizes and within them peaceful and wrathful deities appear and enormous spherical concentration of light seems to occupy the whole space. This is called the second phase of Dharmata when luminosity dissolves into union to manifest in form of Buddhas or deities of various form, colour and size. There are forty two peaceful and fifty eight wrathful deities depicted in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. If the soul fails to gain stability, the next phase unfolds as ‘union dissolving into wisdom’ in form of brilliant display of light to manifest five wisdoms of space, mirror-like reflection, equanimity, discernment and accomplishment. If the soul does not yet attain liberation, wisdom dissolves into spontaneous presence in one tremendous display. The limitlessness of this vision is beyond our imagination. Every possibility is presented from wisdom and liberation to confusion and rebirth.

From the above, it will be seen that in Buddism, light plays an important role in identification of the path of Dharma, Nirvana or re-birth. While on re-birth, the Tibetan Book of the Dead speaks of various options going by the colour of light and guides the initiates how to choose a worthy birth by opting for the right colour of light, if re-birth is unavoidable, even though departed souls are advised to pray to the Buddha to get rid of re-birth.

 

Ascent to the Spiritual World

 

Like the astral world, spiritual world has seven levels, starting from 8th to 14th level. This world is pervaded by love and respect as souls at a spiritual level experience Brahman/God as all pervasive light that vibrates in every living being that includes particles as well.

The 14th level happens to be the highest dimension where liberated souls reside as Pure Consciousness, shedding off all four elements, viz. earth (body of particles), water (fluid), fire and air and exist with the last element called Akasha or space. Those who have shed off this last element as well are said to be merged with Brahman/God and lose their identity. All three Gunas, viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are also non-existent in 14th level. It is the discretion of a liberated soul to take re-birth for the good of the deluded souls. When they take re-birth, they willingly accept the bondage of Prakriti (nature) and get their souls tied by the three Gunas with all other additives and elements, and go through the process of liberation once again from the three dimensional world as a natural corollary to their mortal existence, with the purpose of guiding the mortals into the right path and also to restore the balance in the phenomenal worlds, when absolutely necessary. They also have the power and discretion to lift their disciples to the highest level by their grace provided they are fit otherwise for such elevation. Though liberated, the souls in 14th level stay with their individual identity. They have clairvoyance but not the power of Brahman for reason of their separate limiting identity and do not interfere with the events or happenings in the phenomenal worlds except at the level of consciousness. The prophets, messiahs and avatars belong to the highest spiritual domain.

 

Concluding remarks

 

In conclusion, we are inclined toward the view, based on empirical as also psychic evidence, that consciousness as a phenomenon is distinctive from mind or brain and not co-relatable to mortal existence as it survives death. Past life Regression Therapy pioneered by Dr. Brian Weiss, documentation of out of body experiences of the patients of Dr. Raymond Moody, communication with the dead through séance, and advanced yogis, instances of transmigration of souls and recorded instances of past life reminiscences are clear pointers to the finding that consciousness is not co-terminus with the body, which acts no more than a medium to contain it for a limited period in our three dimensional world. As a case in support, the anecdote of Shanti Devi is worth mention.

Shanti Devi, born as a little girl in Delhi on 12th October, 1926, carried a vivid memory of her past life at Mathura spanning from 1902 till 1925. Ever since she started speaking, she narrated in great detail the incidents and experiences associated with her husband of previous life at Mathura, naming him as Pundit Kedar Nath Chaubey. Her parents at first were dismissive of her reminiscences as meaningless jabber of a kid. When the situation went out of hand, and her memory showed no sign of effacing, her grand uncle was called for assistance. The address of her husband of previous birth was taken by said grand uncle from the little girl to carry out necessary verification at Mathura. Surprisingly Kedar Nath replied to the letter suggesting that the relations of little Shanti may contact one of his relations in Delhi, named Pundit Kanji Mal, for further inquiry in the matter. As soon as Shanti saw Kanji Mal she identified him as the younger cousin of her husband and responded to all his queries with such intimate details that only a close family member could have known. Kedar Nath was called to Delhi by Kanji Mal and he came with his ten year old son and his present wife. Shanti recognized her husband at the very first sight and was in tears seeing her son who was older than her. After the drill of verification, Pundit Kedar Nath confirmed that Shanti was the soul of his first wife who died at Mathura. Of the things Shanti revealed was that a hundred rupees were hidden underground in the upper storey room of the house at Mathura, which she vowed to donate to the temple of Dwarakadhish. A committee of inquiry was formed to investigate the whole episode. Shanti was taken to Mathura by train by her parents and the investigation team. As the train steamed into the Mathura station, she identified an old man in the crowd as the elder brother of her husband named Babu Ram Chaubey. She led the team to her house of previous birth and passed every test. Going upstairs she dug up the hole in search of the hidden money but did not find it there. Pundit Kedar Nath confessed that he had taken it from there after his wife died. When she was taken to the house of her past life parents she recognized them and wept a lot. The above recorded anecdote, apart from many other instances of similar nature, conclusively establishes two phenomena. First, memory does not die with the body but is carried forward by the soul as receptacle. In other words, consciousness survives death. Second, there is re-incarnation.

Our second finding is that scientific studies of past life regression and documentation of out of body experiences by an eminent surgeon, apart from the anecdote of Shanti Devi provide us with enough empirical evidence to smack of the Spirit World, dealt with elaborately in all well-known religious and spiritual texts.

Third, the Spirit World and the phenomenal world are inter-related at spiritual level, the former being at a higher dimension. These two domains have no direct interface, even though the soul migrates from one to the other alternately. Succinctly put, phenomenal world is the place for Karma or action while the Spirit World is for reaping the fruit of karma or action.

Fourth, as to the question whether Spirit World can be accessed with our three dimensional sense organs, the answer is – NO. Given the fact that Spirit World belongs to a higher dimension, we, the three dimensional creatures, cannot surely comprehend a higher dimensional being with our five sense organs. Swami Vivekananda very aptly explained this phenomenon in the following way. If we had an extra sense organ, the whole universe would have looked differently. With yet another sense organ, the earlier look also would have completely changed into something else. Sri Aurobindo thought it possible to bring down the Supramental to our three dimensional phenomenal world through some yogic process, whereby every human cell could be supramentalized. However, his concept still remains as a hypothesis.

Lastly, we have come to the finding based on recorded experiences and rational explanation that Spirit World is also subject to law of nature, except for the highest level of consciousness which is not subject to the control of Prakriti or nature or, to be more precise, under the yoke of the three Gunas namely Sattva, rajas and Tamas. We have also reasons to believe that there is hierarchy in Spirit World and souls are placed at the level they fit into according to their Karma.

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Sanskrit & Sanskriti (Culture)

                                                         

                                                                  (Interactive session on 12.01.2014)

                                                           Keynote address by Dr. Kalyan Chakravarty

                        (Other participant speakers: Mr. Ashok Kumar Sengupta, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay,                                         Mr.Sanjay Dasgupta, Mr. Somnath Sarkar, Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Ms. Mitali Ghosh & Ms. Anjoo B. Chaudhury.

                                                             [Devotional song by Ms. Jayanti Das Gupta]

                                                  Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

Sanskrit happens to be one of the ancient living languages in the world today, even though the number of Sanskrit speaking persons is on the decline. Many even in India wherein it is believed to have originated are inclined to dub it as a dead language. On the other hand, space scientists like Rick Briggs of NASA Research Center is of the view that Sanskrit is most suited among all known languages to be adopted for artificial intelligence or computer, particularly for use in space science, for reason of its brevity, simplicity, grammatical and phonetical superiority over other languages. Understandably NASA has taken initiatives in that direction.

Antiquity of Sanskrit is still an unresolved puzzle for various reasons. Scholars are widely divergent in their view about its origin. For reason of its strong affinity with Greek, Latin, or for that matter with Gothick and Celtick languages, and even Persian, though blended with a different idiom, many scholars are inclined to ascribe same origin to all these languages. Some others, considering the wonderful structure, grammar and refineness of Sanskrit vis-a-vis Gothick, Celtick and Persian languages are of the opinion that Sanskrit was the Mother of those ancient languages, which was transmitted or spread to other regions from India through maritime commerce or/and cultural exchanges. The prevalent view, which was given currency by Philologists like Sir William Jones in his book ‘The Sanskrit Language’ (1786), however, is that Sanskrit and other ancient languages mentioned above were Proto-Indo-European (PIE) languages. Even Persian language was added to the same family. Some researchers have even ascribed common source of origin to this PIE to a more ancient language, since extinct. Sri Aurobindo subscribed to this theory.

According to popular belief, two large highly civilized continents, named Atlantis and Lemuria were inundated by the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific/Indian Ocean respectively around 10,000 B.C. The said common origin of PIE could have been the spoken language of those two continents which had gone under the oceans. Some orthodox scholars of Sanskrit in India believe that Sanskrit was the language of the Devas that was inherited by humans with all its purity and splendour, which in course of time got distorted and smirched.

Be that as it may, while the need for further research into the origin, growth and utility of Sanskrit as a language cannot be gainsaid, its fitness or suitability for adaption as the computer language or the language for Artificial Intelligence has added a welcome dimension to justify its revival as the language of the future.

‘Sanskriti’ means culture or value system. Even though language ordinarily happens to be one of the ingredients or components of culture, in this instance, the word ‘sanskriti’ is clearly a derivative of Sanskrit, the language. This suggests an extra-ordinary relationship between the two. The reason why culture of ancient Indians, called Aryans, got identified with a language they spoke was that they called this language a Divine language or ‘Deva Bhasha’ and the script when it came into currency subsequently as ‘Deva nagari’. The Vedas which they believed to have fallen from God’s mouth, and from which their entire civilization had originated, were composed in Sanskrit. Therefore, Sanskrit being the medium of the Vedas to which the Aryan civilization was sourced was obviously the source of ‘sanskriti’ or culture as well, in the early Vedic age. In other words, all those who knew Sanskrit and spoke that language were known as Aryans who alone were held as cultured persons in the early Vedic age.

Let us now look back to the achievements of Sanskrit in the fields of art, literature and philosophy, which, taken together, epitomized ‘sanskriti’ in India, since the time of the Vedas.

 

Erosion of Sanskritic tradition:

The Sanskritic traditions provide a beacon to benighted humanity, to regain homologic in place of hegemonic values, to realize that human being is only a part, not the weaver of the web of nature, to promote coexistence rather than co-annihilation. These enable us  to see the phenomena of accelerated species extinction, climate change, ethnic strife, genocide, destruction of the co-evolutionary interdependence of organic and inorganic communities, marginalization and impoverishment of the majority of humanity as consequences of substitution of power centric philosophies for Sanskritic and analogous traditions of companionate and cooperative living. Symptoms of the malaise resulting from erosion of the Sanskritic traditions are many. Life is being lost in living, wisdom in knowledge, knowledge in information, and exchange value is being placed over use value. All sacred and ecological values are being reduced to production categories. Contextual, oral, intangible, ecology wisdom traditions, held trans-generationally by custodial communities, are being textualized and commoditized into a procession of simulacra in electronic media in a society of spectacle, driven by a consciousness industry. Community values of guardianship of natural resources, obligations to ancestors, posterity and spirit are being steadily eroded.  The variety and complexity of biological and cultural forms which provide sustenance to human and non human communities are being superseded by radical simplification. Signs are being divorced from referents, shape from meaning, stage from habitat, arts from life. The non extractive covenant with nature and the sustainable materials economy based on intrinsic, ultimate and transcendental values, celebrated in Sanskritic traditions, are being superseded by a philosophy of utilization, objectification and appropriation, based on instrumental, proximate and existential values.  It is possible, from the standpoint of the traditions, to question the particularistic roots of the teleology of technological progress which claims to fulfill its telos, after Hegel, to sublate, absorb and supersede cultures, nourished by the Sanskritic traditions, as inadequate symbols found in oscillation and fermentation rather than in reconciliation and identity with the itinerary of spirit.

This is a time when human beings have started making use of nature, instead of holding it sacred and inviolable. The diversity and interdependence of species and integrity of planetary ecosystems are being destroyed by the profligate human approach of mining nature’s capital. The more educated and developed the country, the higher its human development index, the more unsustainable its style of production and consumption, the higher its carbon foot print. There is an unprotected and unequal flow of knowledge and resources from gene rich countries to capital rich countries, from rural to urban regions, from the unconnected poor to the connected rich, across the Infobahn. Genetic uniformity is being promoted through hybrid and mono cultural crops, ignoring the danger of such overdependence in case of blight or an epidemic. One quarter of the human population consumes four fifths of the world’s resources, two fifths of its food resources, 40% of its annual net photosynthesis production. The collective right to unfixed ideas, held by majority of humanity in rural hinterland is being replaced by individual, intellectual property right to fixed expressions. In consequence of the consequent erosion of human knowledge, skill, memories and natural resources, humanity is hastening its own destruction, without the benefit of a comet shower, nuclear winter or a geological cataclysm. In Swami Vivekananda’s words, addressed to sister Nivedita, ‘we are like cattle, driven to the slaughter house under the whip, hastily nibbling a bit of grass on roadside’. 

 

Identity and Difference:

The idea of the human subject as the bearer of telos to control rest of the world has been expressed by many ways as the Absolute Spirit of Hegel, Ego Cogito of Descartes, the Monad of Leibniz or Historical Materialism of Marx. Depredation of the earth, standardization of humanity, conflagrations of war, genocide and violence, the curse of social injustice and economic inequality are consequences of such attempts to guide the world by monolithic systems or absolute ideas. The traditions pronounce that, from death to death one goes, who sees disunity here (Mṛtyoh sa mṛtyumāpnotiya iha nāneva paśyati. Bṛhadāranyakopaniṣad 4.19). The traditions conceive the world as a theophany and seek cultivation rather than domination of nature, in all its diverse differences, for advancing health and well being of all. It hails one, the supreme poet, hero, father, mother (Kavitama, vīratama, śāntatama, pitṛtama, matṛtama, vipratama), in whom the universe is united as in a nest (yatra viśvam bhavatyekanīḍaṃ. Yajurveda 32.8) The world bears people of diverse languages, religious rites (Janaṁ vibhṛtī Bahudhā vivācasam nānādharmāṇam pṛthivī yathaukāśam. Atharvaveda 12.1.45). The one presiding over the universe is invoked at once as the friend, the stranger, the divine, the human (saṁdeśyah, videśyah, daiva, mānuṣah. Atharvaveda 4.16.8). Its unity is not violated by diverse descriptions (ekam sadviprāḥ Bahudhāḥ vadanti. Ṛgveda 1.164.46. That one who, though of one color, assumes many colors, pregnant with meaning, by virtue of manifest powers. Yaḥ ekovarṇo Bahudhā śaktiyogādvrarṇānanekānnihitārtho dadhāti. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 1.1). The universal brotherhood of humanity is established in the maternal womb, and by shared divinity (bhrātṛtvam… maturgarbhe bharāmahe. Ṛgveda 8.83.8; Gṛhaṁ Kṛtvā martyam devāh puruṣamāvi Īśan. Artharvaveda 11.8.18). Hence, all humanity, of all ages, are addressed as friends. Love and yearning are transmitted to all regions. Long life, happiness, freedom and plenty are desired for all in āyuṣyāni and pauṣṭikāni sūktāni. Unity of mind, heart and action, sahṛdayam, sāmānasyam, avidveṣam, is desired in moving, speaking and thinking together (Ṛgveda 2.21.6; 6.12.5; 8.68; 10.18.3; 10.101.2.4; Yajurveda 32.8). King Aśoka assumes the responsibility to promote compassion, truth, human relations, according to time hallowed traditions. yarisā porānāpakiti, welfare and happiness for all, sarvalokahitam, growth of essentials of all sects, sala-badi siyati sarva-pāṣaḍanam and declares the entire humankind as his children, save munise pajā mama (Erraguḍi Minor Edict 2, Shāhbāzgarhi Rock Edict 7,12, Girṇār Rock Edict 6, Dhauli Rock Edict).

 

Concord in place of Discord:

The Sanskritic tradition provides a consensual platform for intercultural dialogue on the strength of its inclusive content of ethical conduct.  The Buddhist saṁgha of sharesmen was set up as an antidote to the misery, anomie of insular, exclusive individualism.  Its message of all embracing compassion, karuṇā, interconnectedness of all phenomena in pratītyasumutpāda, heroic, rightful exertion, majjhimapanthā, moderation, provided a way out of the morass of meaningless ritualism.  In anekāntavāda, syādvāda and aparigraha, Jainism came up with relativist, rationally critical, possibilistic, non exploitative alternatives to absolutist pursuits of power, pelf and ideology.  The adherence to abstractions in orthodox Brahminical philosophy and the heterodox Buddhist and Jaina philosophies was gradually leavened by surging devotionalism, to yield the Bhāgavata dhvajas, pillars of devotion, like the 2nd century Heliodorus pillar at Vidiśā. The word of Buddha, ātmadipoh bhava, be a lamp unto yourself, or the statement in Mahāpurāṇa 4.65, which identifies vāni, daiva, Iśvara and karman, putting action on top of all, find response in Yogavāśiṣṭha, which prizes puruṣakāra over niyati. Na daivam na ca karmāni, na dhanāni, na bāndhavāh, śaranam bhavabhītānām svaprayatnād nṛṇām.  Nothing, apart from their own efforts, neither fate, nor physical movement, wealth nor relations can help people, who are afraid of this world. Yogavāśiṣṭha 5.13.8.  Further, a bad deed done yesterday can be converted into a good one by pauruṣa, hyah kukarmādya yatnena prāyati hi sukarmatām. Yogavāśiṣṭha 6. (i) 51.47.  The clarion call attributed to Dhanvantari, the master physician: na tu aham kāmaye rājyam na bhogān na sukhāni ca, kāmāye duhkhārtānām prāṇinām ārtināśanam.  I covet no kingdom, enjoyment, pleasure.  I want to remove the pain of suffering humanity (Satyavrat Shastri 2006.  Discovery of Sanskrit Treasures, Vol 5. Yash Publications 134p).  The principle of mutuality and coexistence is established in the words ātmanah pratikulāni pareṣām na samācaret(Vyāsasubhāṣitasaṅgraha, verse 1.7). The essence of human relations and dharma has been announced again and again as ācāra, śīla, vṛtta, good conduct, which holds society together.  The essence of dharma has been elucidated as fortitude, forgiveness, self control, non appropriation, purity, regulation of senses, wisdom, knowledge, avoidance of anger, dhṛti, kṣamā, dama, steyam, śaucam, indrīyanigraha, dhiḥ, vidyā, satyam, akrodha (Manusmṛtī 6.9), ahiṃsā, bhūtapṛyahitehā, nonviolence, urge to do good to all beings (Bhāgavatapurāṇa 11.17.21).  In practice, these qualities are translated as dayā, dāne, sace, socave, mādave, sādhave (Delhi / Topra pillar inscription of Aśoka, line 12). The attribute of dāna is explained in the words, Kevalāgho bhavati kevalādi. One who eats alone, eats sin alone (Ṛgveda 10.117.6).  Life of such quality and activity is based on character, the loss of which leads to loss of everything else. 

Even royal conduct is based on these principles of mutuality.  Rājan is so called because of his responsibility to please his subjects, prakṛtirañjanāt.  Ācāra, śīila, vṛtta are foundational precepts of Aśokan edicts, as they were in epics, to govern relations of human beings.  The goal of right thinking and action is defined as welfare of others. Paropakārāya satām vibhūtaya (Nītiśataka 71). Vipadi dhairyam athābhyudaye kṣamā, sadasi vākpaṭutā, yudhi vikramaḥ  Fortitude in adversity, forbearance in prosperity, eloquence in assembly, valour in battlefield are the hallmark of leaders of humanity (Rāmāyaṇa 2 18.91). The Aśokan inscriptions stress good conduct as dharma, including care for parents, compassion for creatures, non violence, self introspection, truthfulness and purity. Thus, his Girṇār rock edict in prākṛt directly translates into Sanskrit as anālambhah prāṇinām, abhihiṁsā bhūtānām, jñātinām sampratipatti. Abstention from killing of living beings, nonviolence, consideration for with and kin.  His Topra (Delhi) pillar edict speaks of all pasṇavan, bahukalyāṇam, the pursuit of the least sinfulness, and the maximum welfare of people as his goal. His Rāmpurvā pillar edict says jivena jive no pusitaviye. Living beings must not be fed with living beings. In another Rampurvā pillar edict, he says ‘I think of how best I may bring happiness to all the people, relatives and neighbours, far or near. The Garuḍa pillar inscription of Heliodorus at Vidiśā speaks of three essential ingredients of good conduct as self control, sacrifice and vigilance.

 

Nature – Culture Harmony:

It is necessary, for averting the day of reckoning, to go back to the Sanskritic tradition of sacramental contracts between human, non human and divine families that epitomize natural elements and forces. It is necessary to recall and replenish this tradition to maintain the world as a self regulating biological holon, an ecohouse which sustains and equilibrates itself like a heating unit with a thermostat, through a cybernetic flow, exchange and biogeochemical cycling and recycling of energy and materials. We have to reaffirm the affective world view, enshrined by the Sanskritic tradition, in which the universe is not indifferent but sympathetic to humanity, in which the idea of ṛta, shivān, satya, dharma, good law and regularity, controls capricious or aleatory interests, and, may be adopted to changes in time and space (Ṛta navya jayatam, Ṛgveda 1.105,15. Ṛtumarṣanti sindhavah satyam tatāna sūrya. Ṛgveda 1.105,12. Satyam vṛhad ṛtam ugram tapo brahma yajñaḥ pṛthivīm dhārayanti. Atharvaveda 12.1.1). A hymn to mother earth says, ‘may Pṛthivī make ample space and room for us. What I dig from thee, earth, may rapidly spring and grow again. Let me not pierce through the vitals of thy heart (Atharvaveda 12.1.1). The cycle of creation is described as proceeding from the sun, through the cloudburst, to the growth of medicinal plants, food crops and lifebreath (Mahānārāyaṇopaniṣad, Jñānasādhanānirūpaṇm); or, from the waters to the fire, waters being designated as medicinal (Taittirīyāraṇyakam, Aruṇapraśna 26,111). Paśupati is worshipped as residing in all animals, plants and topographical features (Taittirīya Saṁhitā, Śrī Rudrapraśna). In life and death, the plants, waters and elements become the names of all creatures (Ṛgveda 3, 55.5; 10, 16.1-6). All rulers have followed Aśoka’s example of planting trees, creating water bodies and upgrading the environment as part of this dharma of sustenance of the environment.

Indian arts speak from the Sanskritic traditions to address the nutritive, therapeutic, generative forces of the universe. Raudrīgāyatrī in Śatarūdrīya offers a vāgyajña to the myriad forms from all quarters of earth, air and sky that reside in Paśupati.  The equinoctical and solstitial movements in the solar universe, cloud burst, rivers, mountains, oceans play a role as dramatis personae in the vast theatre of the universe.  Śatarūdrīya 16.31 worships Śiva in waves, floods, clouds, lightning, storm, grass, foam, trees, herbs and shoots (C. Śivaramamūrti 1975. Śatarūdrīya: Vibhūti of Śiva’s Iconography, Delhi, Abhinav) Ṛgveda 10.16.6. beseeches Agni and Soma to restore the limbs of ancestors, gnawed by beasts. Lakṣmī resides in oṣadhis, vanaspatis, kalpavṛkṣas, medicinal plants, trees, wishfulfilling creepers, as pūṇyagandhā, of sacred fragrance, as araṇyānī, a sylvan deity (C. Śivaramamūrti 1982. Sri Lakṣmī in Indian Art and Thought, Delhi, Karan Publications: 34-35, 61, 80-81).  Varuṇa, Agni, Soma are addressed as ṛtasya gopa, guardian of order, and dhṛtavrata, of fixed ordinances (A.A. Macdonnel 1897. Vedic Mythology Repint, Varanasi, Indological Book House 1963: 26) Ṛgveda 7.33, requires every Naciketas, organism, to appease the God of death, atop the sahasraudumbara, to which each paśu is bound as to a stake.  Atharvaveda 10.8.9. identifies the Droṇa kalaśa, when full, as Viśvarūpa.  Sixty thousand Sagaraputras are connected with the diurnal movement of the earth.  Tripathagā Gaṅgā represents the yogic granthis and tīrtha, and offers symbolic ablution to cleanse and transform the bhaktas, before they enter garbhagṛha. Baudhāyana Śrauta sūtra 10.13 propitiates Agni in the plants to cure diseased limbs.  A sarvauṣadhapātra, bowl with all medicinal herbs, is offered to the adhvarya, while preparing the field for Agni.  The temple is conceived as śyenaciti, an eagle with outspread wings, and, as a sacrificial altar, a funeral cairn, to hold the ashes from psychophysical combustion. The altar, known as svayamatṛṇṇa, is the site for immolation of the little self of the puppet to the great self of the puppeteer.  Entire nature cries as Śakuntalā leaves the forest for her husband’s home in Abhijñāna Śākuntalam of Kalīdāsa.

The Sanskritic traditions govern the saṁskāras, the deśa, kāla and jatyācāras, territorial, familial and sectarian customs in the ceremonies, accompanying the rites of passage from life to death, conceived as sacramental contracts between human and divine families for metrical self integration, chandobhiratmānāmsaṁskaraṇa, by imitation, anukaraṇa, of divine forms, daivyāni śilpāni (Aitareya Brāhmaṇa VI 27).  In these rites, all elements in nature are invited to participate at garbhādhāna, the pre natal rite of conception, and all gods are invited to ready the womb and set the embryo (Ṛgveda 10, 184). In Prājāpatya ceremony for puṁsavana, heavenly plants are invoked for quickening a male child as father, the earth as the mother and the ocean as the root (Atharvaveda 3. 23. 6). The four cardinal quarters of the earth and the sky are requested to assist in the jātakarma, birth ceremony.  Nāmakaraṇa, naming, is done after stars, deities and elements of order, goodness and beauty in nature.  The Gāyatrī mantra accompanies upanayana, conferral of the sacred thread, for initiation into a new personality, a second birth, along with the utterance, Thou, O Agni, are inflamed by wood, I am inflamed by life, insight, vigour, cattle, holy lustre (Pārāsara Gṛhyasūtra 11.4). Vedic ślokas place marriage on rock girt foundations; gṛbhṇāmi saubhagatvāya hastaṁ mayā patyā Jaradaṣṭir yathāsa Goddess, I hold your right hand in my right one for all time to come (Ṛgveda, X. 85.36). Amoham asmi sā tvam asmy sāmāham asmhiṛk tvam, dyaur aham pṛthvī tvam. If I am the breath, you are the speech, but if you are the speech, I am the breath. If I am Sāmaveda, you are Ṛgveda. I am heaven and you are the earth (Atharvaveda, 14.2.71). In Antyeṣṭi, or funeral ceremony, the body is purified by fire and water, to facilitate its passage beyond. The bamboo staff is used in samāvartana, the end of studentship. Udumbara, fig branch, is applied to the neck of the wife in sīmantonnayana, parting of hair, and a stone is mounted to make the marriage firm. In Aitareya Upaniṣad II. 1-4, fire enters the mouth of Puruṣa as speech, wind enters his nostrils as breath, sun enters eyes as sight, heavenly quarters enter ears as hearing, plants and trees enter the skin as hairs, the moon enters heart as mind, death enters the navel as out breath, water enters the virile member as semen.  All living beings are conceived as agnīṣomīya paśus, that combine fire and water principles through the systalic and diastolic process. The sap in the trees, honey in the flower, blood and semen in the body, milk in the cow, rain in the sky epitomize a rotary cycle of waters between earth and heaven.  In the Upanishadic chant, the divine couple is seen as congeneric:  Rudra Sūrya, Umā chāyā; Rudra yajña, Umā vedi, Rudra vahni, Umā svāhā; Rudra vṛkṣa, Umā valli, Rudra puṣpa, Umā gandha. The sun and shadow, sacrifice and altar, flame and oblation, tree and creeper, flower and the fruit become one in Urnāsahita Śiva.

 

Body as Bridge to Universe:

This indelible connection between nature and culture in the family of human and nonhuman communities is captured in Indian arts through a process of transformation of nature through culture, to harmonize with the rhythm, patterns and designs in nature, celebrated in Sanskritic traditions. Once every sense partakes of the supreme being, Arts, having to cater to senses, have to commune with him. As Chāndogya Upaniṣad 3. 14 says sarvam khalvidam Brahma manomayaḥ, prāṇaśarīro ākāśātamā sarvakāmah, sarvagandhah, sarvarasah. Everything is Brahman. Pervaded by mind, breath, and pervading all action, all desire, all smell, all flavour. In the best and finest expressions in arts, there is a balance of serenity and energy, contemplative fervor and arrested action. This balance is achieved through a participation, a communion with the essence of natural processes rather than through a pinch beck imitation of their expressions in concrete physical shapes.  Hence, Indian art is understood through lakṣaṇas or canons of beauty and accuracy of form and function, in fidelity to archetypes, rather than in conformity with anatomical attributes of physical prototypes (Figs.   ).  It is this unity of sign and signifier that makes for the simultaneous articulation of the sensual and spiritual elements in arts. Indian art is not meant for mere entertainment, alleviation of anxiety or utility, utkaṇṭhā vinodana, vyutpatti mātra or vyāpāramātra, but for rectification of personality, to make it fit for tasting of ideal beauty, rasāsvādāna, akin to the tasting of godliness, Brahmāsvādasahodara (Sāhitya Darpaṇa 3. 2-3).  This is why art in the Sanskritic tradition is a means for dispensing with art, through identification of the subject with the object of devotion through a graduation from sālokya and sāmīpya to sāyujya. In order to worship God, one must become God, na Deva Devam arcayet.  Śivo bhutvā Śivam yajet.  The tālamāna or canons of proportion are dedicated to a search for a principle of order, ṛta, underlying the universe, which animates the body of the artist or the temple, as the body and house of God, through prāṇa or the vibrant breath of life (Greek pneuma or Chinese Ch’i).  Indian art, inspired by the Sanskritic tradition, does not try, like Graeco Roman ‘classical’ art, to attract attention of the spectator to its outer surfaces. Instead, it invites the bhakta, the devotee, fragmented in personality and alienated from universal consciousness by phenomenal forces, to become avibhakta, integrated with the noumenal, through a rectification of consciousness.  The suggestion, tat tvam asi, Śvetaketo, thou art that, Śvetaketu, in the Upaniṣad, is a suggestion for uniting micro nuclear personal consciousness with universal consciousness. Which is why, it is said of Indian art, raṅge na vidyate citram, tattvam hyakṣaravarjitam (Laṅkāvatāra sūtra 2.17-18). The picture is not in colours, the supreme element being beyond physical description.

In the permeation and transformation of nature through culture, the Sanskritic tradition is articulated through the yogic images of Buddha, Jina, Śiva (Figs.  ), and provides a bridge between this world and the world invisible, pratyakṣa and parokṣa.  The transient saṁsāra provides access to mokṣa, liberation, whereby saṁsāra mokṣāyate.  Kulārṇavatantra defines the way of the yogīs as invisible like the bird track in the high sky or the course of the fish in the deep sea.  It adds that to act not, akriyā, is the highest worship or pūjā; to observe silence the noblest recitation; not to think the supreme meditation, dhyāna; not to desire, the supreme fulfillment (Heinrich Zimmer 1926/ 1984 (trans). Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of India.  Princeton University Press, 225, note 46, IX, 232-33).  The Yogic form of arrested breath is not to be explained through internal relationship of organic parts or a visual catalogue of grammatical and syntactical features.  It has to be understood as a workshop for intense activity of celebration and concentration, as symbolic of dynamic repose, or withdrawal of senses from the world, prior to world affirmative action. The Yogaśarīra is assumed for lokasaṃgraha, collective welfare. It is described variously as praṇava tanu, kāraṇa or vaindava deha in tantra, prasāda, prema or rasadeha in Vaiṣṇavism, videha kaivalya in sāṅkhya, dharmakāya in Buddhism, the body being retained by the Yogī out of compassion for benighted, unredeemed humanity, even after he/she has broken fetters of ignorance or attachment to the body.  The yogī is an āntarika agnihoṭr, ātmayāji, who has given up retas, passions, in penance, tapas, in an internal sacrificial fire. He illustrates the principle, havirvaih dikṣitah. The initiate is the oblation. He has attained ānanda, the joy of release, from the thraldom of desire, autonomy, for acting with an everliving, ever throbbing fire of creative exaltation.  He illustrates the Upanishadic principle, ānandam Brāhmanaḥ vidvān na vibheti kutaścana. (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 4). One suffused with the joy of living in Brahman is not afraid of anything  Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, Buddha, Mahāvīra, Śiva Dakṣiṇamūrti are seen in the traditions as yogis, guides, redeemers, benefactors, advancing on chaos and darkness, and not as cowards fleeing before a revolution, or solitaries cloistered in sanctuaries. They embody samatvam, equanimity, in adversity or prosperity, samadarśinatvam, impartiality for the small or tall, freedom from affections of rāga, dveṣa, moha, passion, malice, delusion, and, in Buddhism, from rati, pṛti, tṛṣṇa, the three daughters of Māra.  They see and act after nature, in its own manner of operation, to enforce a sympathetic compulsion, a desirable consummation of its forces, for the good of all.  Yoga being a process of psychic transformation and sacrifice of eros in thanatos, the Buddha image demonstrates the formula, yah kleśaḥ sā bodhi, yah saṁsāraḥ tannirvāṇam.  The world flux and extinction, the void and plenum, dharma cakra and bhava cakra are one.  The cakra, in the procession and recession of the spokes, hub and felly, denotes both pravṛtti and nivṛtti(Figs.   ).

The Jina, in kāyotsarga mudrā(Figs.   ), enjoyment as road to renunciation has attained dementation of discriminative consciousness. Buddha in Māradharṣaṇa (Figs.) exemplifies not conquest but transfiguration of Māra into Buddha.  Similarly, Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata offers lessons in renunciation, transcending the din and turbulence of battles and victories, failures and hatreds.  Sītā is won to be given up.  Pāṇḍavas win a pyrrhic victory to start off on mahāprasthāna. Goethe, in an appreciation of Abhijñāna Śākuntalam explains this yogabhogātmaka philosophy in the words,” wouldst thou, the young year’s blossom and the fruit of its decline, wouldst thou, the earth and the heaven, in one sole single name combine, I name thee Śakuntalā and all at once is said. In Kumārasambhavam, Pārvatī transforms herself from a resplendent beauty bedecked in glittering ornament and garment, into an ascetic, wasted in penance, to win Śiva niyamakṣāmamukhī dḥrtaikaveṇi. Iyeṣa sā kartrumavandhyarūpatām samādhimāsthāya vapubhiratmani. (Emaciated by penance, wearing a single braid, she wished to ensure, through penance, that her beauty was not barren.) In Meghadūtam, the cloud passes from the temporal world of ephemeral beauty to the Alakāpuri of eternal beauty. Buddhist vaipulyasūtras like Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra or Suvarṇaprabhāsottamasūtra address the theme of the ultimate fulfillment of kingship in the sacrifice of life, limb, flesh, wealth, kingdom, kith and kin for the redemption of humanity. The goal is transformation of the body corporeal into body spiritual, of nirmāṇakāya into dharmakāya, after the model of Cakravartī Dharmarāja Buddha, who preaches śūnyatā, but practices karuṇā, who stays on to teach people of the world even after attaining enlightenment.  He pulls his mind from the body like a reed from its sheath, to use the words of Dighanikāya, and becomes the transcendent victor in gambhirebuddhagocare.

The artistic endeavor in Sanskritic traditions is a graduation from a state of wretchedness to a state of blessedness.  In this endeavor, parts of the body are not organically related, to function biologically, but ideally related, to function as meditative vessels. Hence, Yaśodhara, in his 12-13th C. A.D. commentary on the 2nd C. A.D. text of Kāmasūtra on six limbs of painting, does not mention rūpa bheda as fragmentation of forms, as misunderstood by Bachhofer, but as differentiation of types, as explained by Coomaraswamy. His śloka goes like this: rūpabhedah pramāṇāni, bhāvalāvaṇyayojanam, sādṛśyam, varṇikabhaṅga, iti citram ṣaḍāngakam.  The six canons of proportions embody sentiment and charm, correspondence of formal and pictorial elements.  It is only when the art is close to its source of inspiration and retains the exaltation of the direct, Intuitive apprehension of reality, conveyed by great masters of the law, like Buddha, Christ, Mahāvīra or Saṅkara, that the art is successful in expressing an intimation of the joy of such vision partially, through its tantras, mantras and yantras.  The unity of figures of speech and figures of thought is directed towards effecting a metamorphosis, from the unfree state of Jīva to the free state of Śiva.  The worshipper accesses and unites with pratimās, cakras, maṇḍalas, the temple as the meru, axis mundi, mantra mūrti, through abhigamana, pradakṣiṇa, bhūtaśuddhi, tattvanyāsa, vyāpakanyāsa. (Figs.  )

The Indian arts are but so many means prescribed in the traditions for the person to go out of himself/herself to come back to himself/herself, from a divided to a fullness of consciousness.  They provide bridges for experiencing unity through duality, a hermeneutic, circular and homeward journey of the human being for becoming what he/she already is, human. Humanity, unlike that of a flower being a flower or a creeper being a creeper, is not its birth right, but the highest attainment of its civilization, its culture.  Therefore, when scholars like Fergusson, Marshall, Foucher or Bachhofer have tried to interpret Indian art in terms of its formal features, it has been misunderstood, against the Sanskritic tradition, that has inspired it.  This is why we have statements like that of George Birdwood describing the Sarnath Yogi Buddha as “an uninspired, brazen image, vacuously squinting down its nose.  A boiled suet pudding would serve equally well as a symbol of passionate purity and serenity of God”.  This is why Bachhofer, in his Early Indian sculpture, explains the movement of form from Bharhut through Sanchi to Amaravati in terms of formal Wӧlfflinian polarities or Dilthy’s theory of consciousness as a movement from unconsciously unclear, through consciously clear, to consciously unclear.  There is in Birdwood a failure to understand the idea of Buddha in which the body was depicted in loyalty to the concept of pāramitās, the plenitude of heroic ascesis, compassion, fervid love for all creation.  It is a failure in Bachhofer to appreciate the change in visual perception, from Bharhut, keyed to ascetic abstraction, to the suffusing, melting flavor of devotion in Amaravati (Figs.  ).  In the same formulation, the gradual flattening or desiccation of art in India cannot be explained in terms of stylistic changes in external motifs, but, in terms of what Coomaraswamy explains as śithilā samādhitvam or slackening of attention to the inner essence of nature and reality.

 

Multiplicity and Unity:

In its textual dimension, Sanskritic manuscripts have been written in a diversity of regional scripts, a variety of shapes and materials to experts the seminal ideas of the tradition on all arts and science. The manuscripts have been illustrated with narratives, auspicious symbols, and introduced with svastiracana and worshipped (Fig.   ).

There is a constant movement, in Sanskritic tradition, from multiplicity to unity. Recital of music has been compared by the great dancer Bālasarasvatī with a temple in terms of the tradition, as follows: Recital is like a temple. Its outer tower is Alārippu, half way hall jātisvaram, great hall, śabdam; holy sanctum, varṇam, self fulfillment in padam. There, cascading lights are withdrawn, drum beats die down. In tillānā, the final burst of sound takes place and one is alone with God. First, we have metre and melody, and then melody and metre, then music, meaning and metre. Finally, music, meaning without metre. In music itself, there is see saw movement, ascent and descent, from the tonic heart of unstruck, anāhata sound, through primary notes or śrutis, to the crescendo of struck or āhata music. This music widens out and rolls back to sama. The images in the temples explore the circumscribed space around them in a circle, vertically, horizontally, moving from minimum to maximum deviation, searching for the moment of the most dynamic, rapturous balance. The dancers station themselves in the centre, describing a triangle in Bharatanāṭyam, a square in Kathākali, a spiral in Maṇipurī, axial in Kathak. The temple in its ūrdhva and talacchanda, in its praveśas and nirgamas, recesses and processes, rotates around the imaginary, vertical plumbline or brahmasūtra, connecting the centre of the temple with its oculus and crown (Figs.   ). The world appears to be an ever widening circle of hurtling galaxies, held in gravitational balance. Atoms are seen to contain vast regions with electrons moving around nucleus.  This is analogous to the perception of the relation between the human and the divine, in the Sanskritic tradition. As Swami Vivekananda says, “man is an infinite circle, whose circumference is everywhere, centre is in one place. God is an infinite circle, whose circumference is nowhere, centre everywhere. Man becomes God, if he multiplies infinitely his centre of consciousness”. This is why we have the words, Ātmā sarvāntarah. The soul is inside everyone.

 

Union of opposites: Wisdom and Method:

The Apsarās, Nāyikās, Mithunas, Yakṣas, Nāgas are intertwined with other flora and fauna to celebrate the indissoluble union between forces of creation and procreation.  They adorn the body and house of God as alaṁkāra, to incite marriage and fruition between earth and heaven, enacted in the temple after laying of the gnomon in the vāstupuruṣamaṇḍala, through garbhādhānam, prāṇapratiṣṭhā, cakṣurunmīlanam, laying of the womb, lighting of breath, opening of the eye. Agni and Soma, Śiva and Śakti, aham and idam, puruṣa and prakṛti come together in images like Aradhanārīśvara (Figs.  ). Atharvaveda 10.8.27 addresses Brahman: Thou art man, thou art woman, thou art boy, thou maiden (tvam strī tvam pumānasi). As the Ṛgveda has it, in the beginning, there was neither aught nor nought, neither death nor immortality, neither light nor darkness, only chaos indiscrete, in which God lay shrouded.  Then, turning inward, he grew by force of inner fervor and intense abstraction.  First, in his mind, grew desire, the primal germ productive, the first subtle bond connecting entity and nullity. Also, in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, the one existent, being unhappy alone, created the external world, becoming duplex.  Unhappy divided, like two halves of a split pea, he reintegrated himself.

The regaining of the primordial unity of the person and his nature is expressed in many ways in the Sanskritic tradition as one and many, emanation and resolution, static and kinetic, integration and disintegration, rest and movement, wisdom and method, prajñā and upāya. Cult syncreatic images of Siva and Buddha, Harirara, Martanda Bhairava, Trideva, on the transformation of Siva into Avalokitesvara, its feminization into Kuan-yin in central Asia, into Bhatārā Guru in Southeast Asia articulate the consensual approach of the tradition.  The forms, carved on the body of the temple (Figs.  ), are so many ornamental patterns to make for the sufficiency and adequacy of the temple body for inciting and celebrating union of the male and the female principles.  These forms are differentiated, tactile and plastic, when viewed from proximity (Figs.), but optically integrated into an undifferentiated visual mass, in a distant view (Figs.).  In formal terms of Riegl, the haptic is transformed into optic, with a change in perspective. The best of Indian art has been conceived as differentiated but integrated in yoga, in the intense concentration of a mind, to visualize the iconic symbols in fusion, like a sword blade flickering with the light of distant towers, to feel the thought animating them as immediately as the odour of the rose.  About this process of conception and execution, combining utsāhaśakti with mantraśakti, it is said in Abhilāṣitārthacintāmaṇi 1.3.158: cintayet pramāṇam, taddhyātm bhittau niveśayet. Conceive the attributes in meditation, and then introduce them in a construction.

 

Love and Devotion: Women as Uniting Principle:

The Vedic ṛṣikās study Vedas, compose mantras, make chariots and perform yajñas. Women play a central role in Sanskrit traditions as mother goddesses, sisters, virgins or guardian deities (Figs.  ) for bringing progeny, health and prosperity. She presides over birth and speech of living beings, foundation of temples and their thresholds, cardinal directions and metres, auspicious occasions like kalyāṇotsavas, as saptamatṛkās, adhiṣṭhāna matṛkās, devara devīs, caturbhaginīs, Girijā, Mīnākṣī, Dākṣāyanī, She plays an ambivalent role to punish as also to provide bounty. She dispenses śasya and oṣadhipātras, pots of herbs and medicines, as bhūdevī. As Cāmuṇḍā, she sports in lakes of blood. She has been the patron goddess for initiation in devadāsi cult and dacoity, for marginalized bāul singers, fishermen and boatmen. She protects the village as grāmadevatā, in her āmmān or maternal mutations. Mother goddesses are worshiped throughout rural India to sanctify rites of passage, and illustrate seasonal and work rhythms through vrata diagrams (Figs.  ) or bhūmiśobhā floor paintings, kohbar wall drawings, nāgamaṇḍalas and kathās. She undergoes metamorphosis in Buddhism as Ugra, Ekajatā, Mahācīna, Nīlasarasvatī, Tārā in Tibet and East Asia. Martial arts, hymns, spirit dances are dedicated to her. Lakṣmī adorns saughāgyapaṭṭa, the auspicious, luminous forehead of the temple door. In Madhubanī art in Bihar, the lotus, joined by a bamboo shaft, symbolizes union of Haragaurī. Śiva and Śakti coexist in the androgenous Ardhanārīśvara (Figs.  ) form.

Women appear as Nayikās, Apsarās, Yakṣīs (Figs.  ), to adorn the temple body. They are shown applying vermilion and collyrium, rinsing hair, throwing ball, tying belt, extracting thorn. In rāgamālā paintings, the woman is shown in different stages of union or separation, in agony or ecstasy. In the poetic conceit of dohada or pregnancy longing, trees release their pent up flowering at the quick glance or touch of a lovely girl, while her nubile form expands in adolescence or passion. (Figs.     ) In Kṛṣṇalīlā paintings, Kṛṣṇa is shown wrapped in fine silk cloth, like a dark lotus root, swathed in yellow pollen, while Rādhā is shown as a smouldering beauty with dark eyes. Fair Rādhā and dark Kṛṣṇa together look like lightning on storm cloud, sable night, streaked with clusters of light. Gopīs seemingly become harlots, to leave their husbands, to meet Kṛṣṇa, who multiplies himself and dances with one and all in Lakṣmī temple, Orchhā in Central India. This tryst of the soul with the unconditioned, at the call of the infinite, transcends time and necessity. It has been celebrated in some of the most delicate compositions, illustrating Jayadeva’s Gītagovinda, or Keśavadāsa’s Rasikapriyā.

The multiplicity of names and roles given to the women in the Sanskritic tradititon provides a corrective backdrop to their marginalisation, commoditization and harassment in modern society.  As developing countries are being domesticated into a global knowledge society, women are being reduced to backroom functions for servicing it, at paltry wages, as primary workers in sweat shops. Their continuing role as defenders, collectors and propagators of food, fodder, greens, tubers, arts and bio cultural diversity needs to recognised in the light of their all encompassing role as personified principles of wisdom and compassion in the Sanskritic traditions.  These traditions can help create a more gender inclusive approach to enlarge the space of women’s rights. This will help correct the patriarchal, hegemonic language used by a technifying, occidental civilzation vis a vis the Orient. One recalls the language of insemination and supersession used by Hegel, who compared Indian art with the wan beauty of a woman after child birth. One also remembers Paul Hacker’s suggestion about the logos seed being barren in Indian soil, which can bear fruit only when transplanted to soil, fertilized by Judeo Christian streams of thought.  The idea of woman as the Magna Mater, as a pervasive principle of creation and procreation, can help exorcise the negative approach towards women as objects of entertainment and marketing strategies.

 

Cultural Landscapes: Convergence of Sacred and Profane:

The sacred and profane, the physical and mental landscapes (Figs.  ), the amphitheatre of the earth and the heaven converge in Sanskrit tradition through rites of exorcism, propitiation, sympathetic or apotropaic magic, benediction and regeneration, sacrifice and renewal. India is united by the myriad oral and written versions of the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa which are enacted, recited, painted and carved across languages, castes, creeds, cults and ethnic groups. The idea of anṛśaṅsya, non violence and tṛṣṇākṣayasukha, the bliss of desiressness, integrates the diverse differences of the tradition in its vernacular expressions. The laukika, gārhastya, kula and varṇāsrama dharmas distinguished by Rāmāyaṇa, pervade its regional versions in the entire country.  Names of places, cultural heroes, men and women, water bodies, rivers and mountains are named after the epic nomenclatures. Epic landscapes are further narrativized in the complex orality of local dramas, dance and music. All human and natural resource strategies of the country, including sacred groves and water harvesting structures, are governed by terms of management, equity, efficiency and economy, which are culturally rooted in the Sanskritic tradition. The water harvesting structures are governed by principles like minimum interference, maximum impounding. There are mss. like Viśvavallabha in Ballav maṭh library, Nathdwārā, Jalabindu, Jalavāhana, Jaladīpikā, in city library,  Amsterdam, which provide principles for regulating direction, flow, volume of waters. Atharvaveda 12 invokes mother earth to yield water to those of pure conduct and to punish water polluters. Sacred groves house shrines and location specific approaches of preserving the gene pool of rare and vanishing plants. They are protected by taboos and prescriptions, sanctioned by ceremonials and rituals, derived from a blend of Sanskritic and local traditions.

The Himalayan range is seen in this perception of the sacred nature of earth, as an umbilical cord connecting the earth and the heaven. Mount Everest, Nandā devī are seen as mother goddesses. Demajong in Sikkim is seen as a land of sacred treasures, hidden by Padmasambhava, who carried the massage of Buddha across the Himalaya. Kārttikeya is reputed to have split open the Himalayan pass, krauñcadwara, the magnum foramen in the divine body, at Kailāśa.  The mahāsiddhas, dhyānībuddhas, pañcarakṣā goddesses, arhats, jātakas, gandharvas, nāgas, the peregrinations of gods and goddesses and their exploits in Sanskrit lore, are associated with the Himalayas. Itinerant story tellers, śoubhikas, have carried narrative paṭṭas and scrolls, while lotsavās or intercultural translators like Kumārajīva, Atīśa Dīpaṅkara, Bodhidharma, Sāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla have travelled across the Himalayas, explaining Sanskritic traditions of unity of humanity and compassion.

In Central India, the Sānci stūpa is surrounded by ruins of hundreds of stūpas. The stūpas provide, in their voluted architraves, toraṇas, prototypes of pictorial scrolls, unfolded earlier in yakkha, caitya, stūpa, chuḍā, sāgara, Indra mahas, festivals of guardian deities, tumuli, hairlocks, sea etc.  The entire landscape was permeated by the idea of Buddha. The city of Ujjayini witnessed the simultaneous creation of works on enjoyment and renunciation like Śṛṅgāraśatakā and Vairāgyaśataka, Caturbhāṇī texts like Padmaprābhṛtakam, Pādatāḍitakam. It is conceived as a sacred landscape, traversed by Śiprā. Sipra is seen as a companion of Mṛtyuñjaya Śiva and as Gaṅgā or ambumayī mūrtī of Śiva in the Mahākālakṣetra. The land of Mahākāla is pregnant with the idea of the therapeutic self release, inundation and cleansing of waters, of which bhasmārati or worship of Mahākāla, by lustration of ashes, is a symbol. The city is conceived as amṛtasya nābhi, equivalent to the maṇipura cakra in the piṇḍaśarīra, the human body and the solar meridian of the Brahmāṇda, the body of the universe. River Narmadā is hailed by Saṅkarācārya as Jīvajantutantubhukti- muktidāyakam, narmade, dharmade, śarmade, marmade, nirmade, niṣkarmade. The river is dotted with piligrimage sites, temples and houses of meditation, and prehistoric habitats which have witnessed spiritual excursions, efflorescence of civilizations and a ceaseless surge of creative activity. The hill at Oṁkāreśwar is compared with the Jyotirliṅga, Aum or Praṇavaliṅga, rimmed by jalahari, formed by the twin sacred rivers, Narmadā and Kāverī. 

In Central India, in Tattvaprakāśa and Śṛṅgāraprakāśa, King Bhoja Paramāra explains his ideas on the need for aligning architectural knowledge and knowledge of śāstras, by incorporating abhimāna, self esteem, as the only rasa. He engages himself in a creative pursuit for uniting sound and meaning and demonstrating the release of paśu from pāśas by union with Śiva as Pati. Bhoja tries to realize the idea of paśupāśavimokṣaṇa by constructing sacred precincts of the Bhojpur temple, surrounded by an embankment on an immense waterbody, created along Kaliāsot river in Betwā source region. Seen by some as a svargārohaṇa prāsāda or a commemorative shrine, Bhojpur temple is surrounded by a rocky terrain with hundreds of mason marks and preliminary drawings or hastalekhās. Adjacent to the temple is also the atiśayakṣetra with śaśvatacaityas, dedicated to Jaina Tīrthaṅkaras. The ideas of self negation and detachment, harmony and comprehension, brought about this organic linkage between the physical landscape and mindscape. The Jaina diagrammatic representations of Śrī siddhe, Bṛhad siddhe cakras, Nandiśvara on Jambudvīpa, sammet Śikhara, Samavasarana embody sacred landscape. (Figs.  )  Like many sacred cities of the country, Puri in Orissa is celebrated in several Purāṇas and Sthalapurāṇas, as Puruṣottamakṣetra. It is connected with the spiritual journey of the devotee to meet God in udvāsanam. The surrounding landscape is ideally traversed through 12 main yātrās. The king ruled as the vice regent of the lord and the Jagannatha triad has been acknowledged as their own in Buddhist, Jaina, Brāhmin and tribal Śabara persuasions.  The influence of the Jagannātha cetanā cult has been pervasive, so much so that the 16th century Muslim poet Sālabega hailed the Lord as katiādhana, the dark darling. Texts like Śāradātilaka, Spandakārikā, Kramadīpikā, Gopālārcanavidhi provide a background to theory and practice that animate this cultural landscape. The sacred vibrations in the landscape are renewed from time to time by providing navakalevara, a new body, to the dārubrahma, the wooden image of God. The mādlāpañjis have preserved, in the local dialect, a history of this landscape and its custodians. 

The so called tribal belt of Dakṣiṇakośala in the present states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa is pervaded by stories of Naṅgābaigā, Barādev, Mahādeva, Aṅgādev, Liṅgodev, who are analogous forms of Śiva and Paśupati. Naṅgābaigā and Naṅgābaigin are akin to Mahādeva and Pārvatī. The folklore is closely connected with the legends of Lakulīśa and his four disciples, with Śiva as the primal hero of music, fertility and cultivation, presiding over ancestral and impregnation rites for the earth. The Somasiddhāntin or Pāśupata concepts comprise traditions of heterodoxy, dissidence and nature worship. These are closely connected with tribal cults of Sāmant, Kādā, Mahādevī sarnās or sacred Tutelary gods of crops, household hearths, pastoralism, hills and hunting preside over the sacred landscape. All local animals figure not only in forests, totemic designs in tribal houses and rituals, but also in Brahminical deities, temples and inscriptions of Deepadih, Tala. Folk and tribal vrata diagrams, nagamandalas represent sacred, impregnable precincts as apotropaic mental altose. (Figs.  ), Sirpur, Maheshpur. The pristine orality and prescriptive texts converge to create a cultural landscape in which there is no boundary and no sense of priority, superiority or anteriority in folk, tribal or classical arts or pantheon.

In South India, the Tamil land is divided into eco cultural provinces according to their geological situations, flora, fauna and deities since saṅgam days and earlier. The eco cultured demarcation of the landscape links with the traditional division in poetry, in akam and puram, love and war, secular and sacred. Thoniāppār, the lord of Siyāli, presides over Kumbhakoṇam, and provides an equivalent of Noah’s Ark, to protect flora, fauna, surviving from a deluge, in the sacred, inviolable boat, Thom. 

 

Co-existence as alternative to Co-annihilation:

The Sanskritic tradition offers, in this manner, a theory of restitutio integrum, to enable us to recover the shared life, vibration and purpose of discrete phenomena. This longing to commune with nature is not, as suggested by Hegel, an attempt to finitize the divine or divinize the finite, nor to force nature and humanity to assume each other’s forms.  Nor is this, as seen by Marx, a perverse, fetishistic exchange to drain humanity of its life and lend it to objects.  Nor, for that matter, as Freud would have it, is this a dream image emerging from para normal, psychic states.  This is part of a philosophy, carefully constructed after the manner of nature’s operation, to help humanity to define itself, as not what it is actually, but what it is potentially, and to exchange its role of lord of beings for that of shepherd and sounding board of the Being.  All organic and inorganic communities come together in Indian arts, in a process of eugenics, hygiene and proliferation in the universe, conceived as a family of nāmas and rūpas, names and forms, which are united in friendly commerce with gods.  To quote Heidegger, who questioned the dissociation of nature and culture within the western tradition and looked at the eastern tradition for its renewal, “mortals dwell in the unified fourfold play of the earth and heaven, gods and mortals, to save and not master the earth or wear it out.  They receive sky as sky and do not turn night into day, nor day into harassed unrest; they wait for the intimations of the coming of the divinity and do not mistake the signs of their absence.  They initiate their own nature, being capable of death as death.  Dwelling in this manner, Heidegger says, quoting Hӧlderlin, man dwells poetically (Martin Heidegger 1950-51, Poetry, Language and Thought, Harper and Row, New York, 227-229).

 

The Discourse:

The first segment addresses this discourse by presenting the validity, continuity and sustainability of the Sanskrit tradition as an alternative to an unsustainable human approach to civilization. It explores Sanskrit as the basis of a universal language, a fulcrum of a multi cultural society and polity, acceptance of the life enhancing truths of diverse belief systems, for India as well as the world (Indra Nath Choudhary). Based on caring and sharing, mutual sustenance and regard, the inclusive, humanistic tradition of Sanskrit provides an antidote to the malice of greed and violence, besetting the contemporary world (Gaya Charan Tripathi). It provides an ecological conspectus for sustainable development, respectful of thresholds of nature (Anand Burdhan). It is based on the dialogical tradition of Śāstrārtha variously designated as Vāda, Brahmodya, through which clash of tradition and modernity can be resolved, permitting the society to evolve and adopt itself to changing contexts. It provides a fine honed instrument for dispute resolution and reconciliation in a world riven by differences. It exemplifies Francis Bacon’s statement, “out of clash of errors truth emerges” (Radhavallabh Tripathi).  In terms of Nyāyaśāstra, it is rational, willing to subject knowledge to the test of falsifiability, eudemonistic rather than pessimistic, being directed to alleviation of misery caused by nescience (Ajay Mishra).  The structural analysis of Pāṇini and the metaphysical, semantic analysis by Bhratṛhari are part of a continuous grammatical tradition, which opens the door to development of language universals for bridging word and meaning and for resolving dichotomies in human psyche (Dipti S. Tripathi). It provides an easily negotiable bridge to the use of multimedia tools, with enhanced retention levels, in its inclusive, interdisciplinary, inter generational, reiterative, transmission modes of teaching and learning (Pratapanand Jha). It questions the theocentric, monistic, anthropocentric, Abrahamic postulates of dichotomy of science and religion, man and universe, subject and object of knowledge, and absolutist teleology of linear progress. It provides a cyclic view of evolution, a theory of co evolutionary interdependence of nature and culture, mutual involvement of the human and divine, identity and difference, a normative order of duty for collective good rather than a formal order of individual legal rights (Kapil Kapoor).

The second segment of the volume explores the various ways in which the alternative theory and practice of the Sanskrit tradition have evolved in India.The tradition is both rational and intuitive, conservative and radically interpretative, with ramifications through a succession of ācāryas and textual recensions, and manifold dissemination of Nigamas from Āgamas. This convergence of centripetal and centrifugal elements of cognition and application continue till this day (Vijay Shankar Shukla). It has avoided fragmentation, objectification, instrumentalisation and commodification of knowledge by uniting śāstra and prayoga, arts and sciences (via contemplativa and via affirmativa) (Sudhir Lall). It provides an encompassing philosophy of language in which time and motion, past, future and present are related both integrally and differentially. Together, they conceal and reveal the same principle in diverse manifestations. The Kāla and Śabdatattva provide an approach for acknowledging the diverse differences in the same person or the cyclic changes in its manifestations (Ganesh Prasad Panda). It celebrates Yajña as a uniquely constructive way of living in the world by sacrificing destructive passions and obsessions with senses and sense objects, attachment to fruits of action and ignorance about the true end of life (Narayan Dutt Sharma).  It enshrines the concept of Tīrthas for fording the sacred and profane by sanctifying cities, mountains and rivers as Kṣetras or holy abodes of the supreme principle in its diverse manifestations. It provides a corrective to the attitude responsible for pollution and desecration of environment today (Sushma Jatoo). Continuity of identity and ancestral memory is maintained through records preserved in several tīrthas all over India including Mithila (Kumar Sanjay Jha). A number of such Tīrthas in Kashmir are listed in the Nīlamata Purāṇa and Bhṛṅgīśa saṁhitā. Valuable literary, mystic, spiritual and historical traditions preserved in Vedic, Pāñcarātra saṁhitās, Śaiva and Śākta texts, versions of Rājataraṅgiṇī, Mokṣopāya/Yogavāsiṣṭha, Buddhist Vibhāsas, Śilpaśāstras await regeneration. They are symptomatic of the many streams of learning and research in the Sanskrit tradition, which have dried up and need to be revitalized for re animating cultural and mental landscapes, which transcend political or administrative boundaries (Advaitavadini Kaul).  The tradition is also unique in glorifying the human body as the Madhyamaṇḍala, Mukhyacakra, the Liṅga, the main seat, sign and prototype of the supreme being, which can be adorned by Mudrā for inciting Bimba Pratibimba bhāva and Pratibimbodaya, i.e., for inciting the sense of identity between the body and the universe. Mudrā is articulated through hastas, sthānakas, piṇḍibandhas codified in the Nāṭyaśāstra and analogous traditions in a semiology and ontology of gestures. It evokes the joy of faith and communion through integration of the fragmented self in a process of blissful self fulfillment. The Cinmaya, symbolic nature of Mudrā is fundamental to Āgamic, Tāntric rituals and iconology (Kamalesh Dutt Tripathi). The comprehensive nature of Rājadharma or kingly obligation based on the respect for trivarga, commitment to the maintenance of maryādā or discipline, protection and welfare of the people has been discussed in detail in the Śānti, Sabhā and Vanaparvans of the Mahābhārata. This obligation limits royal sovereignty, as the symbol of state authority, encompassing all walks of life (Sujatha Reddy). An ancient precursor of the nexus between the king, state and the people is provided in the Indradhavjamaha or festival of the banner of Indra described in Vedic Saṁhitās and sutras, Brāhmaṇas, Mahābhārata, Nāṭyaśāstra and Purāṇas, Buddhist texts and dramas in different religious traditions. Worshipped in the form of a bamboo pole or a Jarjara, the staff of Indra represents the victory of the Suras over Asuras, good over evil, essential to royal obligation and sovereignty (R. Sathyanarayana).

The third segment of the volume charts the diaspora of the alternative, syncretistic approaches developed by the Sanskrit tradition from India to South, Southeast, East and Central Asia. this diaspora has been steered by Brahmin Gurus, Asoka’s emissaries, Buddhist and Jaina monks. It has been articulated in propagation of Dharma as per Paurāṇi prakṛti, syncretism of orthodox and heterodox cults, epic devotionalism, blend of theory and practice, achieved in local variant of Āgamas and Nigamas, and in deification of ancestors in memorial shrines The Bangkok manuscript used by the Rajaguru of Thailand during the Swing festival, the Jaina Pratiṣṭhātilaka used for consecrating the South Indian temple, it through a succession of teachers, the Buddhacarita, amplified by Āgamic and Puranic acknowledgement of Buddha as an avatāra of Viṣṇu, have provided several planks for active cross fertilization of the Indian and South Asian traditions (R Nagaswamy). In the Perso Islamic and Turko Mongol world of Central Asia, Indian learning, transmitted in Sanskrit, became part of the Ilm, the acquisition of which was laid down in the Quranic injunction. The tradition was transmitted through translations done by great scholars like Al-Biruni. Indian medical sciences, political and moral catechisms, astronomy and mathematics shaped Central Asian thought in a manner which remains to be properly acknowledged (Mansura Haidar).  The silk route became an artery for a flow of commerce and for Sanskrit traditions through Chinese, Tibetan, Uigur, Turkic, Sogdian, Khotanese, Tokharian and Kuchean translations.  Great monastic libraries buried under sand have yielded Sanskrit texts and translations done by Lotsavās or inter cultural translators like Xuan Zang, Itsing, Pao Chang, Kumārajīva, Bodhidharma. The northern Brāhmī gave rise to the Siddhamatṛkā script in Central Asia. The southern Brāhmī was transmitted through Pallava Grantha script to South East Asia. Sanskritic lore became part of the code of conduct of sage kings of Central and East Asia. Sanskrit traditions shaped rituals for royal consecration, theory of state and administration, cultural geography, educational and social organization of Asia with appropriate ethnic inputs (Shashibala).  The Khmer Sdok Kak Thom inscription in Cambodia illustrates the way the ritual of Śivaliṅga Mahābhiṣeka was transmitted from India to South East Asia and used by Devarāja cult for anointment of Śiva and king, and for legitimation of royal authority (Bachchan Kumar).

 

An Exhibition of Ideas:

The exhibition offers a display of the Vedic theory and practice of sacrifice through ritual objects. The Vedic altar, the human body, the temple, the cakra, maṇḍala, sacred landscapes are theatres for the symbolic reenactment of the primordial drama of interaction of fire and water, food and feeder, birth and death, masculine and feminine, nature and culture, emanation and resolution. They embody the idea of a coincidentum oppositorum, the polymorphous monotheism of a singular, universal essence, the convergence of gati, motion, centrifugal, pravṛtta initially, nivṛtta, centripetal, finally. They are sites for the sacrifice of the little self of the puppet to the great self of the proffeteer the Apthoryāma samayāga, Mahāmastakābhiṣekam of Bāhubali, the Mahākumbha, the journey of Gaṅgā from Mukhbā to Gaṅgotri are dedicated to the ceremonies of sacrifice, consecration and water cosmology.  The Sanskritic tradition which animates the idea of the exhibition is a continuing project of lending efficacy to the pristine natural operations for ensuring their effective future recurrence, as against the project to violate, degrade and exploit nature.

 

To step back to step forward:

Sanskrit studies the world over have enormously enriched indology through comparative philology, through translations, interpretations, concordances, surveys, investigations of authorship, textual ramifications and etymology. Study of the Sanskritic traditions from within has to, however, go on simultaneously for it to grow and contribute to global thought. There is a need, in terms of Rājaśekhara’s Kāvyamīmāṁsā, to unite bhāvayitrī and kārayitrī pratibhās, and reread knowledge and ecology wisdom traditions, preserved in these traditions, for contemporary adaptation and application.  It is inappropriate that a tradition which bred all streams of thought and replenished all branches of learning and applications through āgamas and nigamas, should now dry up in a desert of speculative interpretation and laborious reconstruction, without any practical objective of equilibrating, correcting and bringing the traditions forward for acknowledging and questioning premises in modern disciplines. The pāṭhas, prātiśākhyas, the paraphernalia of textual criticism have often been harnessed in search of an authentic core, in what are regarded as palimpsestual Sanskrit textual traditions.  This ignores the layers of history which have accumulated through time and reflect historical changes in the understanding of the tradition. It also excludes the vast orality based on Sanskritic traditions but available today only in local scripts and unscripted oral narratives.  It is necessary to enrich the plurality that takes off from the essential core of the traditions, moving beyond logocentrism, and correcting the amnesia and aphasia, loss of memory and speech, which have overtaken the oral and local variations of the Sanskritic tradition. It is necessary to remember that the sahṛdaya and sāmājika temperament is not confined to classicising discourses.  The sthalipulakanyāya of judging by a few specimens is not the approach to be adopted with regard to the Sanskritic traditions, which must be retrieved and renewed from nontextual as well as local, ‘subaltern’ sources, which may be as ancient or older than the classical core. The taphonomic logic suggests that absence of evidence is not evidence of vital elements in tradition. These elements can be retrieved, regenerated and retold for future by correcting the research bias.

It is time that we work together the world over is to recover the life enhancing elements of the Sanskritic tradition, by going through and beyond the dṛṣṭa, śruta, kṛta and prokta paths for their comprehension. We have to acknowledge and transcend the obsession with genealogy of codices, the pursuit of hyper archetypal copies or the bio phylogenetic, digital, philological analysis of texts, on an interactive global platform. We have to step back, to recover the luminous understanding in this tradition, about the interdependence of all beings. We can then step forward, from paranoia to metanoia, from intransigent, belligerent, tribe conscious solitarism to a species conscious world, with multiple cores and peripheries. Open minded, multivocal, polyphonic at a conscious, critical level, the Sanskritic traditions constitute a single serial structure with defined boundaries on an inspirational and intuitive level. We may act like bees, to collect juices from diverse trees, to assemble them in unity (Uddālaka Āruṇi dialogue, Chāndogya Upanisad 6.1 ff). Tasyai tapo damaḥ karmeti pratiṣṭhā vedāh sarvāṅgāni satyamāyatanam. Penance discipline, work, knowledge, truth are the essence of such a project for understanding. We have to move out of an immersive engagement with the manipulation of allegory, trope, metaphor or heterotopic inflation of contentious discourse, to recover the unity of mythos and logos, conceptual and perceptual, representational and nonrepresentational action and contemplation, implicit in the language of the tradition (Brahma dṛṅha, kṣatram dṛnha, Yajurveda 6.3). It will help us move out of an exclusively cognitive world view in which the human being inhabits a universe, empty of personality and considers himself/herself competent to construct himself/herself and the society by deliberate design. It will unite us in vibhūtiyoga, to bind humanity in friendship (Ṛgveda 10.71.1.2), and promote happiness, health, wide room for all in this beloved world, here and now (Atharvaveda 30.17, Ṛgveda 9.84.1).

The Sanskritic tradition should be read in the unfolding backdrop of non linear mathematics, fluid mechanics, high energy physics, isomorphism of verbal and genetic codes. It should be renewed in the light of the growing perception of the world as a web of relationships, in which the Newtonian theory of simple location and individuality of bits of matter, independent of external relation, is giving way to the concept of what physical entities throughout the universe mean for those regions (Alfred North Whitehead 1960, Adventures of Ideas, New York, Mentor). It should be celebrated and read forward into the future in the light of the belated realization in science, that hidden worlds connect to the things that hide them, tide pools connect with unfathomable seas, which connect with our chromosomes (Roger Rosenblalt, Time Magazine, May 2000). Theory has come to the fore when it has become necessary to ask of this Sanskritic tradition what it said, because on has forgotten what it did. Theory has to reinvent itself to road the sophire perennis, the universal dialect of this tradition. It has to attempt a homoisis to return the intuitin understanding of reality in this tradition from repetitive formulae and from the grip of sacerdotal semioticians, divining authorial intention, on behalf of a lay congregation, in a temple of entelechy. It has to read the tradition to recover its meaning, salvage it as a constitutive and corrective element in contemporary civilisation.

 

A Self Renewal:

In a hermeneutic, circular movement from the past to the whole, from present to the past, from one tradition to another, the Sanskritic tradition will be completed rather than depleted. It will be based on cross cultural, trans disciplinary dialogue, based on understanding and realization rather than mere argument and ratiocination. With a mutual fecundation of horizons, ‘the same line will no longer be the same. What is to come will not be a future present. And, yesterday will not be a past present (Jacques Derrida, 1978, Writing and Difference: Trans. from French – University of Chicago Press: 1978:26, 28, 292-3, 296,300). We reiterate the Vedic message which accepts change and experiments for harnessing themis to dike, the social to the natural order (navyam jāyatām ṛtam, let the new truth grows. Ṛgveda 1.105.15.). The announcement sā saṁskṛti prathamā Viśvavārā is a call to go back to the beginnings of the Sanskritic tradition, for unlocking it as the source of untold blessings and bounty.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

Over last two decades, space scientists, notably Rick Briggs of NASA Research Center, working on Artificial Intelligence have expended time and energy on designing an unambiguous representation of natural languages to make them accessible to computer processing. They almost came to a finding that natural languages were unsuitable for the transmission of many ideas that artificial languages could render with great precision and mathematical rigour, till they discovered that there was at least one language, namely Sanskrit, that had an inbuilt method of paraphrasing in a manner that was identical not only in essence but in form with current work in Artificial Intelligence. Rick Briggs in his article ‘Sanskrit & Artificial Intelligence – NASA’ demonstrates that “a natural language can serve as an artificial language also, and that much work in AI has been reinventing a wheel millennia old.”

In the backdrop of hypothetic common origin of proto-Indo-European-Persian languages, the question that defies any satisfactory explanation is how Sanskrit language developed in ancient India as more perfect, copious and more exquisitely refined than other contemporary languages, even though it cannot be said with authority that Greek, Roman and Persian civilizations lacked in vigour, cultural resources or talent as compared to their Indian counterparts. There is also no evidence in support of the conjecture that Vedic Sanskrit was the offshoot of the cultural and linguistic inter-mixing among the Greeks, Roman and the Persians who might have migrated in large number from their climatically hostile territories to more hospitable land in India in search of a better pasture, all the more so when those western as also the Persian civilizations reached their height during the early and late Vedic periods. There ought to be a better explanation as to why space scientists of NASA along with those involved in researches in artificial intelligence find Sanskrit, an ancient and practically a dead language, as the most suited for science for its grammatical and phonetical superiority over other current natural languages. 

Thus, given the fact that Sanskrit in India was evidently much more developed than the Gothick, Celtick and Persian languages, when all those civilizations were in their primacy, it may be permissible to infer that Sanskrit may not have shared a common origin with all those languages even though it was distinctly possible that those contemporary civilizations came in close contact with one another as a result of which some Sanskrit words may have been added to their vocabulary. It is also possible that Gothick, Celtick and Persian languages were considerably influenced by Sanskrit. By way of illustration, some Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian and Proto-Germanic words along with corresponding English words with Sanskrit root are given below.

Illustration of English/Greek/Latin/Arabic/Persian/Proto-Germanic words with Sanskrit Roots:

Root Sanskrit Word

Median Word in Latin(L) / Greek(G) / Arabic(A)

Derived English Word

Gau (meaning Cow)

Bous (G)

Cow

Matr (meaning Mother)

Mater (L)

Mother

Jan (meaning Generation)

Genea (G)

Gene

Aksha (meaning Axis)

Axon (G)

Axis

Navagatha (meaning Navigation)

Navigationem (L)

Navigation

Sarpa (meaning Snake)

Serpentem (L)

Serpent

Naas (means Nose)

Nasus (L)

Nose

Anamika (means Anonymous)

Anonymos (G)

Anonymous

Naama (means Name)

Nomen (L)

Name

     

Ashta (meaning Eight)

Octo (L)

Eight

Barbara (meaning Foreign)

Barbaria (L)

Barbarian

Dhama (meaning House)

Domus (L)

Domicile

Danta (meaning Teeth)

Dentis (L)

Dental

Dwar (meaning Door)

Doru

Door

Dasha (meaning Ten)

Deca (G)

Deca

Madhyam (meaning Medium)

Medium (L)

Medium

Kaal (meaning Time)

Kalendae (L)

Calendar

Kri (meaning To Do)

Creatus (L)

Create

Mishra (meaning Mix)

Mixtus (L)

Mix

Ma (meaning Me/My)

Me (L)

Me

Pithr (meaning Father)

Pater (L)

Father

Bhrathr (meaning Brother)

Phrater (G)

Brother

Loka (meaning Place)

Locus (L)

Locale

Maha (meaning Great)

Magnus (L)

Mega

     

Makshikaa (meaning Bee)

Musca (L) (Meaning Fly)

Mosquito

Mrta (meaning Dead)

Mortis (L)

Murder

Na (meaning No)

Ne

No

Nakta (meaning Night)

Nocturnalis (L)

Nocturnal

Paad (meaning Foot)

Pedis (L)

Ped as in Pedestrial, Pedal etc

Pancha (meaning Five)

Pente (G)

Penta, Five

Parah (meaning Remote)

Pera (G)

Far

Patha (meaning Path)

Pathes (G)

Path

Raja / Raya (meaning King)

Regalis (L)

Royal

Sama (meaning Similar)

Similis (L)

Similar

Sapta (meaning Seven)

Septum (L)

Seven

Sharkara (meaning Sugar)

Succarum

Sugar / Sucrose

Smi (meaning Smile)

Smilen (L)

Smile

SthaH (meaning Situated)

Stare (L) (meaning To Stand)

Stay

Svaad (meaning Tasty)

Suavis (L)

Sweet

Tha (meaning That)

Talis (L)

That

Tva (meaning Thee)

Dih

Thee

Vachas (meaning Speech)

Vocem (L)

Voice

Vahaami (meaning Carry)

Vehere (L)

Vehicle

Vama / Vamati (meaning Vomit)

Vomere (L)

Vomit

Vastr (meaning Cloth)

Vestire (L)

Vest

Yauvana (meaning Youth)

Juvenilis (L)

Juvenile

Narangi (meaning Orange)

Naranj

Orange

Pippali (meaning Pepper)

Piperi (G)

Pepper

Chandana (meaning Sandalwood)

Santalon (G)

Sandalwood

Chandra (meaning Moon)

Candela (L) (meaning light / torch)

Candle

Chatur (meaning Four)

Quartus (L)

Quarter

Shunya (meaning Zero)

Cipher (A)

Zero

a (prefix meaning “not” ex: gochara – agochara)

a (L)(G) (prefix meaning “not”)

a (prefix meaning “not” ex: theiest-atheist

an (prefix meaning “not” ex: avashya – anavashya)

un (L)(G) (prefix meaning “not”)

un (prefix meaning “not” ex: do-undo

Arjuna (meaning Charm of Silver)

Argentinum (L)

Argentinum – Scientific Name of Silver

Nava (meaning New)

Novus (L)

Nova – New

Kafa (meaning Mucus)

Coughen

Cough

Mithya (meaning Lie)

Mythos (G)

Myth

Thri (meaning Three)

Treis (G)

Three

Mush (meaning Mouse)

Mus (L)

Mouse

Maragadum (meaning Emerald)

Smaragdus (L)

Emerald

Ghritam (meaning Ghee)

??

Ghee

Srgalah (meaning Jackal)

Shagal (Persian)

Jackal

Nila (meaning Dark Blue)

Nilak (Persian)

Lilac

Srgalah

Shagal (Persian)

Jackal

     

Upalah (meaning Precious Stone)

Opalus (L)

Opal

     

Upalah (meaning Precious Stone)

Opalus (L)

Opal

Barbar (meaning stammering)

Barbaros (G)

Barbarian

Jaanu (meaning knee)

Genu (L)

Knee

Sunu (meaning Son or Offspring)

Sunu (German)

Son

Ghas (meaning eat)

Grasa (German)

Grass

Samiti (meaning Committee)

committere (L)

Committee

Sama (meaning Same)

Samaz (Proto Germanic)

Same

Lubh (meaning Desire)

 

Lubo (Latin and Proto Germanic)

Love

Agni (meaning Fire)

Ignis (L)

Ignite

Hrt (meaning Heart)

Herto (Proto Germanic)

Heart

Yaana (meaning journey, wagon)

Wagen (German)

Van, Wagon

Nara (meaning Nerve)

Nervus (L)

Nerve, Nervous

They (th pronounced as in thunder, meaning they)

Dei (Germanic)

They

 

As for the pronounced suitability of Sanskrit to pass for the language of science, scholars refer to the concept of zero prevailing in Sanskrit which was absent in other contemporary languages. To be precise, in Roman script the number 1000 was written as M (Millennium), 2000 as MM, 10,000 as ten times M, and so on. In Sanskrit, 1000 was written as such and known as Sahasra, ten thousand as 1 Ajut, 1 lakh as laksha, 10 lakhs as 1Nijut, 1 crore as Koti, 100 crores as 1 Arab, 100 Arabs as 1 Kharab, 100 Kharabs as 1 Neel, 100 Neels as 1 Padma, 100 Padmas as 1 Shankh, 100 Shankhs as 1 Mahashankh and 100 Mahashankhs as 1 followed by 19 zeros. Such concept of zero as also description of number with 19 zeros was absent in other contemporary languages.

Another advantage of Sanskrit over other ancient and modern scripts/languages was its precision by way combining two or multiple words into a single word having the effect of substituting a sentence with a single word. The use of Visarga or cologne at the end of a word changing its meaning is another feature that contributes to precision, and is absent in other languages. As for example, let us take the single word –  सूर्यकोटिसमप्रभः (Suryakotisamaprabhah) which combines 4 words, viz. Surya (Sun), Koti (Crore), Sama (Equivalent to) and Prabhah (Effulgence), meaning in totality “one whose effulgence is equivalent to that of a crore suns”. Thus it can be seen that what takes 11 words in English has been described in just one single word in Sanskrit in the given example. It is also noteworthy that by using a Visarga (:) at the end of the Sanskrit word:  सूर्यकोटिसमप्रभ, the properties have been changed into an object. In other words, in the absence of the Visarga, the meaning of the word would have been suggestive of a property, i.e. –‘effulgence equivalent to that of a crore suns’. By putting the Visarga ( : ) at the end of the word, the meaning of the word is changed to an object/subject, i.e. “one whose effulgence is equivalent to that of a crore suns”.  The Visarga in the given example has substituted following three English words: “One whose” and “is”. It is thus demonstrated how Sanskrit would ensure precision.

The other advantage of Sanskrit vis-a-vis English, currently the most popular computer language, is that sentences in Sanskrit do not necessitate vowels like in English.

There was a time when under British rule Sanskrit together with sanskriti were made to give way for English education under economic compulsion artificially created by the British Raj, as no job was on offer for a Sanskrit-literate person except handful teaching jobs, while knowledge of English was made a pre-condition for employment even to clerical posts. India bade good bye to Sanskrit as its hidden strength was yet to be unfolded. The day may not be far off when advancement of Information Technology and artificial intelligence may compel reinstatement of Sanskrit, the language of the past, as the language of the future replacing English.

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Shankaracharya & Swami Vivekananda

 

                                                    (Interactive session on 14.12.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. Asim Banerjee

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Ashok Kumar Sengupta, Mr R. K. Gupta, Mr. N. N. Sarkar, Mr. S. K. Ganguly, Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Mr. Ramesh Chandra Chanda, Dr. Bhawal & Ms. Sharmila Bhawal)

[Devotional song by Ms. Jayanti Das Gupta

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION:

Adi Shankaracharya, the great exponent of Advaita Vedanta and a reformer of Hindu religion who is also credited with reviving and restoring the Vedic religion to its pristine purity can possibly be compared only with Swami Vivekananda, considering the enormous contribution of the both in the fields of religion, philosophy and spirituality. A. L. Basham, the reputed British historian and Indologist, while dwelling on Vivekananda’s contribution observed that “in centuries to come he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world, especially as far as Asia is concerned, and as one of the most significant figures in the whole history of Indian religion, comparable in importance to such great teachers as Sankara and Ràmànuja.” Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, while on the contribution of Vivekananda, observed: “If you really believe in the divine spark in man, do not for a moment hesitate to accept the great tradition which has come to us, of which Swami Vivekananda was the greatest exponent.”

There were striking similarities between the two spiritual titans of India. Both had profound respect and sense of duty to their mother, so much so that they did not care for the traditional monastic norm of complete separation of tie with her. They both travelled through the length and breadth of the country after Sannyas (monkhood). Both of them were exponents of Advaita Vedanta. Both were against the rigours of caste system. Both revolted against ritualistic religion, exploitation, and superstitions and both were out and out non-conformists. Both gave their own interpretation about Brahman and the Vedanta and both gave a new direction to the contemporary society. Last but not the least, both are remembered and revered as the saviour of Hindu religion in the face of grave crisis and threat of near extinction.

The above similarities in thought and action notwithstanding, there were some striking differences in the understanding, approach and interpretation of the Vedanta by Swami Viveananda vis-à-vis Adi Shankaracharya. Before we dwell upon those differences, we will first present a life sketch of both the luminaries. 

Life sketch of Adi Shankara:

Adi Shankara was a Hindu philosopher from Kaladi in present day Ernakulam district, Kerala, who consolidated the doctrine of advaita vedānta.

His works in Sanskrit established the doctrine of advaita, the unity of the ātman and nirguna Brahman (brahman without attributes). His works dwell on ideas found in the Upanishads. He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutra, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis.

The main opponent in his work is the ‘Mimamsa’ school of thought, though he also offered arguments against the views of some other schools like ‘Samkhya’ and certain schools of ‘Buddhism’.

Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers. He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mimamsa school established strict ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas (“monasteries”), which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta of which he is known as the greatest revivalist. Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and the founder of the Shanmata tradition of worship.

Traditional accounts of Adi Shankara’s life can be found in the Śankara Vijaya, which are poetic works that contain a mix of biographical and legendary material, written in the epic style. The most important among these biographies are the Mādhavīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of Mādhava, c. 14th century), the Cidvilāsīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of Cidvilāsa, c. between the 15th and 17th centuries), and the Keraļīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of the Kerala region, extant from c. the 17th century).

Shankara’s miraculous birth:

788–820 CE: This is the mainstream scholarly opinion, placing Shankara in mid to late 8th century CE. These dates are based on records at the Śṛṅgeri Śāradā Pīṭha, which is believed to be the only matha to have maintained a relatively unbroken record of its Acharya. However, other Mathas such as Kancheepuram, Dwaraka, and Govardhana Matha (Puri) are inclined to place him between 509 BC and 477 BC, based on their records. However, historians are more inclined toward the Sringeri records, according to which Shankara was born in 788, in a Nampurdi– Brahmin family at  Kaladi, (Kerala). According to lore, it was after his parents (Father: Shivaguru and Mother: Bishishtha/ /Aryamba ), who had been childless for many years, prayed at the Vadakkunnathan temple, Thrissur, ( another book says Chandramouliswar Shiba temple near to their house), that Shiva appeared to both husband and wife in their dreams, and offered them a choice: a mediocre son who would live a long life, or an extraordinary son who would not live long. Both the parents chose the later; thus a son was born to them. He was named Shankara (Sanskrit, “bestower of happiness”), in honour of Shiva. His father died while Shankara was very young. His upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony, the initiation into Brhamchari life, had to be delayed due to the death of his father, and was then performed by his mother. As a child, he showed remarkable scholarship, mastering the four Vedas by the age of eight. 

Sannyasa (renunciation of the worldly life):

At the age of 8, Shankara decided to lead a life of sannyasa, but it was only after much persuasion that his mother finally gave her consent. According to legend, he received her consent in a very interesting manner too. While bathing in the river Poorna ( river Alwai) one day, a crocodile caught hold of his leg and appeared to be about to devour him. Shankara appealed to his mother, who had arrived at Poorna (Alwai), asking for permission to become a sanyasi at least in these last moments of his life. His mother finally gave consent, only to have the crocodile let go of young Shankara. After Shankara was saved from the jaws of crocodile, his mother was reluctant to permit her son to renounce the world and follow a Sannaysa life. She was particularly feeling insecure, in the event of her son after becoming sannyasi might move away to distant places leaving her alone in the ancestral home. Understanding the predicament of his mother, he assured her that the God who saved him from the jaws of crocodile will also take care of her during his absence. He also assured her that after her death, he will perform the last rites. On the assurance of her son, finally she gave her consent.

While studying in the Gurukul, his teacher was astonished to see his scholastic caliber, and here he had told him about the location and name of his Guru who was in linage of Patanjali Rishi, for pursuing his advance studies in religious scriptures. After his Mother’s consent, he was free from family bondage, and then left Kerala and travelled towards North India in search of his guru. Finally, he arrived at the banks of the Narmada River, a pilgrimage place Omkareswar, he met Govinda Bhagavatpada (Givindapadacharya) the disciple of Gaudapada. His Guru was inside a cave and he was in deep meditation since last several years. When Shakara met Govindapada, he asked his identity, and he replied with an extempore verse that brought out the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

“I am neither the earth, nor water— but one change less Shiva”.

Govindapada was impressed and took Shankara as his disciple. The Master instructed Shankara to write a commentary on the ‘Brahma Sutras’ and propagate the Advaita philosophy. Shankara travelled to Kashi,  an importamt pilgrimage place of Hindu’s.  According to legend, while on his way to the Vishwanath Temple, an untouchable accompanied by four dogs came in the way of Sankara. When asked to move aside by Shankara, the untouchable replied: “Do you wish that I move my everlasting Ātman (“the Self”), or this body made of flesh?” Realizing that the untouchable was none other than god Shiva himself, and his dogs the four Vedas, Shankara prostrated himself before him, composing five shlokas known as Manisha Panchakam. At Badari he wrote his famous Bhashyas (“commentaries”) and Prakarana granthas (“philosophical treatises”).

Debate with Mandana Mishra

One of the most famous debates of Adi Shankara was with the ritualist Maṇḍana Miśra. He held the view that the life of a householder was far superior to that of a monk. This view was widely shared and respected throughout India at that time. Thus it would have been important for Shankara to debate with him. It took place in Mahishmati (present name Mandla) on the banks of river – Narmada, in M. P.

Shankara, after debating for over fifteen days, Madana Misra accepted  defeat. In this debate, Maṇḍana Miśra’s wife Ubhaya Bhāratī acted as referee. She then challenged Adi Shankara to have a debate with her in order to ‘complete’ the victory. She asked him questions related to sexual congress between man and woman – a subject in which Shankaracharya had no knowledge, since he was a true celibate and sannyasi. Sri Shankracharya asked for a “recess” of 15 days. As per legend, he used the art of “para-kaya pravesa” (the spirit leaving one’s own body and entering another’s) and exited his own body, which he asked his disciples to look after, and psychically entered the dead body of a king. The story goes that from the King’s two wives, he acquired all knowledge of “art of love”. Thereafter, Shankara entered his own body and regained consciousness. Finally, he answered all questions put to him, related sexual congress between man and woman by Ubhaya Bhāratī; and she allowed his husband Maṇḍana Miśra to accept sannyasa with the monastic name Sureśvarācārya, as per the agreed-upon rules of the debate.

Philosophical tour: 

Adi Shankara then travelled with his disciples to Maharashtra and Srisailam. In Srisailam, he composed Shivanandalahari, a devotional hymn in praise of Shiva. The Madhaviya Shankaravijayam says that when Shankara was about to be sacrificed by a Kapalika, the god Narasimha appeared to save Shankara in response to Padmapadacharya’s prayer to him. As a result, Adi Shankara composed the Laksmi-Narasimha stotra. 

He then travelled to Gokarṇa, the temple of Hari-Shankara and the Mūkambika temple at Kollur. At Kollur, he accepted as his disciple a boy believed to be dumb by his parents. He gave him the name, Hastāmalakācārya (“one with the amalaki (Awla) fruit on his palm”, i.e., one who has clearly realised the Self). Next, he visited Sringeri to establish the Śārada Pīṭham- Sarada Temple and made Sureśvarācārya his disciple. After this, Adi Shankara began a Dig-vijaya “tour of conquest” for the propagation of the Advaita philosophy by controverting all philosophies opposed to it. He travelled throughout India, from South India to Kashmir and Nepal, preaching to the local populace and debating philosophy with Hindu, Buddhist and other scholars and monks along the way.

Proceeding to Saurashtra (the ancient Kambhoja) and having visited the shrines of Girnar, Somnath and Prabhasa and explaining the superiority of Vedanta in all these places, he arrived at Dwarka. Bhaṭṭa Bhāskara of Ujjayini, the proponent of Bhedābeda philosophy, was humbled. All the scholars of Ujjayini (also known as Avanti) accepted Adi Shankara’s philosophy.

He then defeated the Jainas in philosophical debates at a place called Bahlika. Thereafter, the Acharya established his victory over several philosophers and ascetics in Kamboja (region of North Kashmir), Darada and many regions situated in the desert and crossing mighty peaks, entered Kashmir. Later, he had an encounter with a tantrik, Navagupta at Kamarupa. 

Adi Shankara visited Sarvajñapīṭha (Sharada Peeth) in Kashmir (now in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). The Madhaviya Shankaravijayam states this temple had four doors for scholars from the four cardinal directions. The southern door (representing South India) had never been opened, indicating that no scholar from South India had entered the Sarvajna Pitha. Adi Shankara opened the southern door by defeating in debate all the scholars there in all the various scholastic disciplines such as Mimamsa, Vedanta and other branches of Hindu philosophy; he ascended the throne of Transcendent wisdom of that temple. 

Shankara’s Mahasamadhi:

Towards the end of his life, Adi Shankara travelled to the Himalayan area of Kedarnath-Badrinath and attained videha mukti (“freedom from embodiment”)

He passed away in the year of 820 when he was just 32 year old. There is a samadhi mandir dedicated to Adi Shankara behind the Kedarnath temple.                           

Sources of information:

The advent of a religious leader Shankarachary was in the 8th century, and after a gap of almost 1000 years, another religious leader descended on this earth, Swami Vivekananda. There are some controversies about Shankaracharya’s birth period and his philosophical tour too, since in those days no proper records were maintained, particularly about great saints and sears, since they lead a very secluded life. Whatever we have known, was only through their established Mutts, and from the recordings of their teachings by the disciples and some from their manuscripts.. In the course of time, some of these manuscripts were worn out and hence became unreadable. In the present age, with the development of science and technology, there was no problem to maintain records about the life of this class of people such as Swami Vivekananda, and thus we are able to know in greater details about him in comparison to Shankarcharya.

Birth of Vivekananda:

Like Shankara his birth was too with the blessings of Siva. His mother Bhubaneswari Devi’s first two children died at an early age, and later she had three daughters. She was very eager to have a son and she through one of her family members in Varanasi, asked her to make offerings to Vireswara Shiva Temple for His blessings to bear a male child. Simultaneously, she herself practiced on every Monday’s special austerities, devotedly worshipped Shiva in her home shrine. (If one visit Swami Vivekananda’s renovated ancestral home in Kolkata, will see a replica of Shiva Lingam in the shrine room). One night she saw in a dream that Lord Shiva appeared before her and took the form of a child. She awoke, and was excited remembering her dream, and now onward she was sure that she would have a son with the blessings of Shiva. In the wee hour of the morning, the much expected son (future Swami Vivekananda) was born to her on Monday, January 1863 on the day of Makara Sankranti, an auspicious day according to Hindu calendar. She named him ‘Vireswara’, remembering her son was born only due to blessings of ‘Vireswara Shiva’. Later, his name was changed to Narendranath Dutta (Naren), son of Viswanath Dutta who was an attorney in the Kolkata High Court.  His family belonged to the second highest cast, Khatriyas while Shankara was a Brahmin, considered to be the highest cast in the Hindu society. We notice a lot of similarities between Naren and Shankara right from their childhood. Shankara was a gifted divine soul so was Naren. This can be further amplified from some of his childhood incidences.

Childhood:

From childhood, he used to see a marvelous point of light between his eye brows no sooner he shut down his eyes to go to sleep. He used to amazingly

watch this light changing colours and getting bigger and bigger until it took the form of a ball and there after burst and covered his entire body. No sooner this happened, he lost outer consciousness and fallen into sleep.

Another phenomenon was noticed by his family members that Naren used to sit for meditation along with his friends for long hours. He had to be shaken to bring back to normalcy. One incidence is quoted here to illustrate what a great concentration power he possessed right from his early age:

“One evening when they were seated for meditation, suddenly one boy noticed a Cobra snake slowly crawling on the floor. Seeing the snake, one of them alerted their friends, but Naren was unmoved and remain totally absorbed in meditation.   Hearing the noise, Naren’s parents came, and seeing the cobra, they were nervous, but preferred to remain silent, lest the snake is disturbed and provoked to bite. Fortunately, the snake moved away without harming Naren. After this, his parents enquired, as why he didn’t run away from the scene. He quietly replied that he was not at all aware about the presence of snake or any other thing, since he was in inexpressible bliss.

All these incidences showed that he was born with special power of controlling his mind, which usually takes years for sages/yogis to attain to such a level of concentration. In due course Naren showed his exceptional memory, intelligence, and leadership qualities, and he excelled in singing. On the whole, he revealed his capabilities in all spheres of life. With growing age his personality was very attractive, particularly his glowing face with bulging eyes, and all these were essentially came out from his within solemnity and inner peace.

College days:

While he was a college student, he studied both, Indian philosophy (Vedas, Upanishads, Gita etc.) as well as Western philosophy written by philosopher like John Stuart and Herbert Spencer etc. He came in contact with Devendra Nath Thakur (Father of Rabindra Nath Thakur) and Keshab Chandra Sen, and they were the leaders of Brhamo Samaj. Right from college days, the monastic tendency was natural to him, and he decided to remain celibate and lead the life of a sage.  

Meeting Ramkrishana:

One question was haunting his mind, whether anybody had actually seen God face to face?  He enquired from many learned scholars and teachers, but he didn’t get a clear answer. Ultimately, on the recommendation of his maternal uncle, around the year 1982, Ramchandra Datta, who took him to Ramkrishna at Dakshineswar when he was just 19 years old. To his great surprise here he found a man who could confidently say that not only he has seen God but he can show him too.   Ramakrishna further told him, who wants to see God? The worldly people are attached to ‘Kamini and Kanchan’ (women and gold), and they have no interest to see God.

This meeting with Ramkrishna was a turning point in his life. Subsequently, Naren started visiting Him at Dakhineswar, but initially he didn’t accept him, rather opposed him on His several beliefs like worshipping the idol of ‘Goddess Kali’ in the Dakshineswar temple as a living God. He also didn’t accept Ramakrishna’s often going into trance (Samadhi), loosing outer consciousness. He felt, it was nothing but some kind of mental disease. Ramkrishna was least perturbed since knew who he was. He in his vision had seen that Naren was not an ordinary mortal, but actually he was a ‘Nara’, the ancient age, the incarnation of Narayana, and one day he will be forbearer of his mission.. Without feeling least disturbed, He very patiently tried to convince him that form and formless are one and the same, like Ice and water.  As regards His going into trance, He said that when the mind is totally absorbed in God, there is no more body consciousness. On attaining Samadhi, the body falls off like a dry leaf falls off from the tree.  But, the Awatar’s (Incarnation), can only return from Samadhi to a normal state for the welfare of the people such as Narada and Sukhdeva. 

Father’s demise:

His father’s sudden death in 1884, was the biggest blow in Naren’s life. He left the family bankrupt; creditors began demanding the repayment of loans, and relatives thrown them out from their ancestral home. Naren, once a son of a well-to-do family, suddenly became poor. Being the eldest of the family, he realized that he has to take care of the family burden. He tried for a job but miserably failed. Under such a distress situation, he requested Ramakrishna to pray to goddess Kali for their family’s financial welfare. Ramakrishna suggested him to go to the temple and pray for himself. Following Ramakrishna’s advice, he went to the temple thrice, but failed to pray for any kind of worldly necessities after visualizing a living Kali, instead he prayed for knowledge and devotion. That day on word he realized Idols are only a means to realize truth and hence it cannot be rejected. Ramakrishna was very happy to see that Naren has at last accepted His mother Kali, and surrendered himself at the feet of Ramakrishna as his Guru.  His association with Ramakrishna was for around six years and that was enough to transform him as future Vivekananda to lead monastic life initially along with 12, and later another 4 of His direct disciples.

Ramkrishna’s Mahasamadhi:

Sri Ramakrishna developed throat cancer, and was transferred from Dakhinesewar to Kolkata and later to a garden house in Cossipore. Narendra and other disciples took care of him during his last days, simultaneously their spiritual training continued under His guidance. During his stay at Cossipur, doubt arose in his mind, “Is really Ramakrishana an incarnation of Rama and Krishna”? Just at that time, Ramkrishna called him in his room, and told him, “Do you have still doubt about Me”?. Ramakrishna said, “Yes I am the incarnation of Rama and Krishna, but not according to your Vedanta philosophy”. He knew Naren is a follower of Advaita Vedanta, does not believe in the existence of God in any form. There is another incidence took place, which was life’s lesson for him. One day Ramakrishna asked Naren, about his goal of life. He replied that he wants to remain absorbed in “Nirvikalpa Samadhi”. Hearing this, Master rebuked him, and said that how could you be so selfish? You want only your personal liberation (Mukti)? He further said, “I had expected you to be like a Banyan tree, where people from all walks of life will shelter under you to free themselves from their mental worries.”. Naren realized his mistake. There after a day came, when Master passed off his inner spiritual power to Naren to carry forward his message to the people. He also entrusted the responsibility to him, to take care of His direct disciples, and to ensure that they lead a monastic life. The final Samadhi was at Cossipore on 16 August 1886.

Establishment of first Monastic center at Baranagar, October, 1886

After the passing away of Ramakrishna, Naren’s main task was to establish a Centre, where all the direct disciples of Master could reside and continue spiritual practices as taught by Him lest they should not return to their home, and become a householder. If this happens, all the effort of the Master to spread his messages will be lost.

Leaving aside this, he was quite worried about the lack of any financial support for the survival of his family members (Widow Mother, brothers and sisters). What will happen to them, if he joins the monastic order? If he neglects the family, they are bound to die. He felt, no matter, even if they die, he will not give up the responsibility entrusted to him by his Master. There is no harm, if I sacrifice my family for the sake of a greater cause.

With the financial help of one the Master’s house hold devotees, Surendra Nath Mitra, Narendra established first center in a dilapidated house at Baranagar. Here they kept the ashes of Ramakrishna and daily offered prayer and practiced meditation. They lead a very hard monastic life, since they had very little fund at their disposal to meet expenditure on food and other daily needs. All these hardships didn’t deter them and they continued to practice prayer and meditation with all the sincerity and made a very good spiritual progress.

Ramkrishna, during his last days at Cossipore had already given ochre colored clothes to His disciples, but none of them had formally taken Sannysa as per Hindu rites. Therefore in 1887 on an auspicious day, Naren and his brother disciples performed ‘Biraja Hom’ (a formal monastic vows) in Baranagar and had  taken ‘Sannyasa names’ as per guidance of Naren. Naren,  himself had taken the name ‘Bibidishananda’. At a later period, at the request of Ajit Singh (Raja of Khetri), his  sannyasa name was changed to Vivekananda, before his departure to America. (There are controversies about his taking this name).

Parivrajaka (Wandering in India) (1888–1893):

(His wandering was not continuous, but often there were breaks, and he returned to Kolkata to meet his mother for whom he had great weakness, and also to meet his brother disciplse at Baranagar.)

In 1888, Swamiji left the Baranagar monastery, as a Parivrâjaka, without any fixed travel plan. His only possessions were a kamandalu (water pot), staff and three books: the Bhagavad Gita, Vivek Chudamani, and The Imitation of Christ. He travelled extensively from North to south and East to West, particularly in Himalaya, Tarai regions and places, of pilgrimage. During his journey he lived on alms, or as guest of Temples in holy places, householders, and occasionally as guest of state officials, as well as rich people like Maharajas.  His main purpose of this tour was to know more about this country, people, their customs, cultures, religious faith of various sects, and the living condition of the poor and down trodden. His Parivrajka days and have been well complied by several authors. Most authentic book has been written in Bengali language by Shri Shankari Prasad Bosu, in six volumes: Vivekananda and Samakalin Bharat Barsha’ (Vivekananda and contemporary India).

Visit to Kanykumari Rock:

Kanyakumari, is located at the southern tip of India, where Bay of Bengal meets Arabian Sea. This place is well known for the temple of Kanyakumari. Here, Swamiji swam across the sea and sat on the rock for meditation at a stretch for three days. Later, this place is known as ‘Vivekananda Memorial Rock’ where a temple has been constructed, and a statue of ‘Vivekananda’ has been installed.

Sitting on the rock, he passed into a deep meditation. He had the vision of the present and future of India. He could understand the reasons for downfall of India from its past glory. He realized, “India shall rise only through a renewal and restoration of that highest spiritual consciousness that has made her, at all times, the cradle of the nations and cradle of Faith”.  He saw her greatness: he saw her weaknesses as well- the central one of which was that the nation has lost its individuality. There is only hope lay in a restoration of the culture of Rishis. Religion was not the cause of India’s downfall; but the fact that true religion was nowhere followed: for religion, when lived, was the most potent force.

(This paragraph is taken from the book, ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda by His

Eastern and Western disciples, page 341’.) 

Meeting Shankar Rao Panduramga at Porbunder:

He was the Dewan of the Porbunder state, located in the western part of Gujarat.  He was a great scholar of Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy, besides he knew French language very well. He had visited several European countries along with the maharaja.  Swamiji was his personal guest for about nine months. Swamiji took lessons from him on Panini Byakaran (grammar) of Sanskrit language.   Moreover, he learnt French language too from him. He was very much impressed finding his in-depth knowledge of Hindu philosophy, and his capacity of expression in English language. Panduranga was the first person to advise him to visit Western countries and deliver talk about Hindu religion, since during his couple of visits to those countries he felt that they have very poor impression about our religion. Swamiji smilingly said, I am a wanderer, and as such I have no Plan, even then I will keep in mind your suggestion.

Meeting of Raja of Ramnad Bhaskara Sethupathi at Madurai:

Swamiji had a meeting with the Raja of Ramnad Bhaskara Sethupathi The raja was a graduate of Madras Pesidency college. He used to read over- seas news- papers to keep himself well informed about the happenings in those countries.

He had read that there would be a ‘World Parliament of Religion in Chicago’. After meeting Swamiji, he felt that he will be an ideal representative of Hindu religion in the forthcoming conference. He requested him to participate in the conference and was willing to bear his expenditure. Swamji, here too said he will think over his proposal.

Meeting Alasinga Perumal at Madras:

He meet Alsinga Perumal at Madras. He was a teacher in a college but he was very popular amongst the students. Alasinga meet Swamii, during his stay at Madras. He was very much impressed after attending his public lectures. He persuaded Swamij to attend Parliament of religion at Chicago.  For His foreign trip, he started collecting fund from the public, with the help of his students.  Swamiji conceded to their request after he had a vision of his master, who gave order to proceed for this conference.

Meeting Ajit Singh, Raja of khetri:

During his parivrajak days, he was at Mount Abu, where he first meet the Raja. He became his disciple and later he had taken him to his state khetri. Swamiji had spent long time with him, and both of them had developed a great liking for each other. Raja had persuaded him to change his name from Swami Bibidishananda to Swami Vivekananda. He fully supported his visit to Chicago. He purchased a first class ticket for his sea voyage. Not only this, he sent his dewan Jagmohan to see him off at Mumbai sea port.

Swami Vivkananda’s Visit to America:

First visit to the West (1893–1897)

With the help of Alasinga Perumal, and Raja Ajit Singh, Vivekananda ailed from Mumbai to America on 31 May 1893 for America, via Ceylon, Japan, China, Canada and finally arrived at Chicago on 30 July 1893. On arrival, he was disappointed since organizers of the Parliament of Religion refused to accept him as delegate without proper credentials. Vivekananda came in contact with Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University, who recommended his participation in the conference by writing a letter to the Chairman of the conference, Mr. Barrows. Prof. Wright in his letter wrote “To ask for your credentials is like asking the sun to state its right to shine in the heavens”. Finally with the help of the professor, he could participate in the conference as representative of Hindu religion.

Parliament of the World’s Religions:

The Parliament of the World’s Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition. On this day, Vivekananda delivered a brief speech addressing the audience, “Sisters and brothers of America”. On uttering these words, Vivekananda received a two-minutes standing ovation from the crowd of seven thousand.

 Selective extracts from the Swami’s speech:

“When silence was restored he began his address, greeting the youngest of the nations on behalf of “the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sanyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance”.

“I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both the tolerance and Universal acceptance. We believe not only universal toleration, but we accept as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religion and all nations of the earth”.

“As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!”

“Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me.” (Gita)

“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth.——- But their time is come: and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning honor of this convention may be death knell of this fanaticism, of all persecution with the sword or with the pen, and all uncharitable feelings between persons wending to the same goal”.

His lecture was non-sectarian, broad based. Obviously, this had very much impressed the guests present in the conference. Here some of the quotes given below from the reports as appeared in the newspapers:

The New York Herald noted, “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation”. American newspapers reported Vivekananda as “the greatest figure in the parliament of religions” and “the most popular and influential man in the parliament”.

He spoke several times at the Parliament of Religions on topics related to Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony among religions until the parliament ended on 27 September 1893. Vivekananda’s speeches at the Parliament had the common theme of universality, emphasizing religious tolerance.

Thereafter he went on a lecture tour to several states of America and later to England. During his lecture tour, there was great appreciation as well as criticism from the Christian missionary groups. After the lecture, one lady asked him, “Is it true that in India, Mother throw their first child to the river in order to feed crocodiles”? Swami Vivekananda replied, ‘Yes Madam’. My mother had thrown me to the river, but I was so fatty that the crocodile could not gulp me. So madam, I am here to answer your question. On hearing this, the audience gave a big laugh.

One person told Swamiji that ‘I consider that this world is like a school, and here we are all students’. Swamiji said, “I consider the world is like a circus, where we are all jokers, and trying to entertain people with the expectation to receive applause”.

Vivekananda spent nearly two years lecturing in USA. Later he realized that lectures alone would not help to establish Vedanta thoughts in this country. He founded the Vedanta Society of New York and started taking classes from his residence, It had good effect. This helped to establish permanent Vedanta centers in New York. He invited two of his brothers monks from India to continue his works from these centers. By now, America has almost 29 centers. Beginning in June 1895, Vivekananda gave private lectures to a dozen of his disciples at Thousand Island Park in New York state, and his lectures were compiled and a book was published ‘Spiritual Talks’. During his stay in USA he had attracted several men and women, and some of them became very close to him. One of them was Josephine MacLeod (claimed herself as friend), and she said that it was my second spiritual birth. Besides her, Sara Bull, Christine and many others became his disciples. Miss Margret Nobel, later Sister Nivedita from England was one of his  most devoted disciple who spent her life in India offering her services to educate women and in relief works.

During his stay in USA, Miss Macleod had engaged a stenographer, Mr. J. J. Goodwin, who used to take dictation of his lectures and classes. Today, we are able to read his Complete works (initially it was in 7 volumes) in 9 volumes only due to Goodwin who served his Master without taking any remuneration, and later he became his disciple.

After his triumphant visit to the West, he returned to India in 1997. On return, he delivered lectures at several parts of the country, and those were compiled into a book, named, ‘Lectures from Colombo to Almora”. 

He remembered his problem to participate in the World parliament of religion due to lack of any credential. He had also seen how well Christian Missionaries have established institutions through which they are able to Influence people. Therefore on his return, the first job he had taken up was the establishment of Ramakrishna Mission and Math at Belur. (For more information about his institution building see the Chapter on: “Comparison between Shankara and Swami Vivekananda”.)

Second visit to the West: 

His second visit to the West was in 1899-1900, along with his brother disciple Swami Turiyananda and Sister Nivedita. His purpose of visit was to install Swami Turiyananda in Sanfrancisco, (California), where he had already established a Vedanta Center, and he wanted to reinforce the two centers established in New York and at Green peace.

By the time he returned, he was not in good health. He started distancing himself from all the activities of the Mission. He started telling, “I will not cross 40 years”.

Some believe, his detachment from all activities came after his visit to the temple of ‘Khir Bhawani’ at Srinagar (Kashmir). While at Srinagar, he went to this temple, and was disgusted looking at the dilapidated condition of the temple which was damaged by the fanatic Muslims. He questioned to himself, “Was there no one to protect Her? If I were there—”. Then he heard a voice coming from the Mother,  “Do you protect me or I protect you? If I want, I can construct a seven story temple building”. On hearing this he started saying, “Who am I? It is the ‘Mother’, She knows all. No more planning, no more work”. After this unexpected incidence, one could see the kind of disenchantment in the later part of his life. This can be made out from the extract of his letter written to Miss Macleod around this time. 

“I am glad I was born, glad I suffered so and glad I did make great blunders, glad to enter peace. Whether this body will fall and release me or I enter into freedom in the body, the old man has gone, gone forever, never to come back again! Behind my work was ambition, behind my love was personality, behind my purity was fear. Now they are all vanishing and I drift.” 

Vivekananda passed away while meditating in his room at the Belur Math on

the night of July 4th, 1902, At that time, he was 39 years five months old.

Vivekananda was not only a great teacher, a great saint patriot, and an inspirer of people down to the present generation. His mortal body has gone, but he will always remain alive in the heart of people. He dedicated his life to his Master, Ramkrishna. His mission was spiritual combined with effort to revitalize the society.

A Comparison of Life and works of Swami Vivekananda and Shankara’ 

Respect and duty to Mother even after Sannayasa: 

Shankaracharya promised to his mother that he will meet him at the time of his death. He did it. When he arrived at his mother’s house, she was in death bed. After her passing away, he wanted to perform last rites. But the neighbors strongly opposed him. Without any help from the neighbors, he alone performed her last rites and thus he kept his words.

Similar was the love of Vivekananda for his mother. He loved his mother very much. On return from the West, he had taken his mother for a pilgrimage to some of the notable places in Bengal and Assam.  Besides, he tried to arrange financial help through some of his contacts. But he was not very successful. He very much dependent on Ajit Singh, Raja of Khetri, who initially helped her, but within a short period he met with an accident and passed away. This shows, even after accepting monastic life he tried to do his best to help his mother but his mother continued to live under financial distress. 

Rejuvenation of Hindu religion or Santana Dharma: 

Several Leaders have periodically appeared to preserve and further Indian’s ancient culture, one of the foremost was Shankara in eighth century and Swami Vivekananda in the nineteenth century, and they revealed essence of Vedas and propounded the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.

What is Advaita Vedanta? Advaita Vedanta is the one which that deals with the identity of the jiva and Brhaman. In this respect, Ramakrishna explained all the three Vedantic- philosophy with a very simple example quoting a conversation between Rama and Hanuman:

Rama asked Hanuman, “What do you think of me”?

Hanuman replied in the following lines:

Sometimes, I see you as my Master and I am your servant. (Dvaita Vedanta)

Sometimes, I see myself as part of you. (Vishishta-Advaita, propounded by Ramanujam)

Sometimes, I see you and me as one and the same. (Advaita Vedanta)

During the eighth century, under the influence of Buddhism and Jainism, and numerous other Hindu sects, Hinduism was on the decline.  Hinduism was divided into innumerable sects, each quarrelling with the others. The followers of Mimamsa and Sankhya philosophy were atheists, inasmuch as  they did not believe in God as a unified being. Besides, there were numerous theistic sects. There were also those who rejected the Vedas, like the Charvakas. During this period Tantrik cult was adopted by several Buddhist sects, and in turn they too attracted many Hindus in their fold. Due to the influence of Buddha religion, the prominent temples in Gaya, Ayodha, Kamykha (Kamrup) and Pashupatinath in Nepal, were practically closed, and there was no more regular worship of the Idols. Shankara re-instated the deities in these temples, removed many religious and social superstitions, and formulated the essentials of formal worship, which is even followed to day.

Shankara held discourses and debates with the leading scholars of all these sects and schools of philosophy to controvert their doctrines. In his works, Shankara stressed the importance of the Vedas, and his efforts helped Hinduism regain strength and popularity. He reintroduced a purer form of Vedic thoughts.

Shankara, followed by Madhava and Ramanuja, was instrumental in the revival of Hinduism. These three teachers formed the doctrines that are followed by their respective sects even today.

However, by the nineteenth century, India was first ruled by the Islamic rulers followed by the British, and as a result a substantial number of Hindus were converted to Islam and Christian religions. Leaving aside conversion, the base of Hindu religion was weakened due to caste system. The upper castes and priests exploited the lower caste.  Moreover, a large percentage of lower caste people were treated as untouchable. That apart, there was infighting among various sects of Hindus, such as Vaishnavas, Saivas, Tantrik etc. The rituals and dogmatism were prevalent in the society. All these had weakened the base of Hinduism. To break away from this caste-ridden, superstitious and divisive society, Raja Ramomohan Roy introduced a new sect known as Brhamo Samaj, following path of original Vedic teachings. The Brahmos were against caste system and idol worship. This had influenced the educated classes in Bengal. Initially Swami Vivekananda joined this sect, but later he came in contact with Ramakrishana and accepted his opinion about religions, ‘Jato Mat tato path’ (Various are the ways to God).

Vivekananda,  an Advaita Vedantist, followed his Mater’s foot step, and re-oriented the traditional Hindu religion on the line of Sanatana Dharma in order to free the contemporary society from the overwhelming problems of casteism, superstition and sectarian fights. The emphasis was laid on devotion rather than rituals, and Monks of the order took active part in serving people on the principle of ‘Shiv Gyane Jeeb Seva’ (Offering service to the people as Shiva). This new approach to the religion had gradually attracted people and in due course there were increasing number of followers of Ramkrishna.

Vivekananda’s visit to the West:

Though Shankara as well as Swami Vivekananda travelled through the length and breadth of the country, Swami Vivekananda was the first Monk to visit Western countries, to spread the message of Vedanta and to remove misconception about Hindu religion. He was also the first Monk to establish Vedanta centers in the Western countries and could influence a large number of intellectual, and people from high society which helped him to receive donation from them to establish first Ramakrishna Math and Mission at Belur (Kolkata).

Building Religious Institutions:

Shankaracharya:

Buddha was the pioneer to build religious Institution, to spread His message to the people. This considerably helped to establish Buddhist religion in India as well as in other countries. After him, it was Adi Shankara who established four Maths and Dashnami Sampradayas solely to spread the message of the Vedanta and to revive Sanatan Dharma in the face of the Buddhist influence.

The Dashanami Sampradaya, a section of the Ekadandi monks under an umbrella grouping of ten names. Several other Hindu monastic and Ekadandi traditions remained outside the organisation of the Dasanāmis.

Adi Sankara organised the Hindu monks of these ten sects or names under four Maṭhas (monasteries). Each math was headed by one of his four main disciples, where each continues the Vedanta Sampradaya. All these Maths are independent in their belief and practices. Besides, the advaita sampradaya is not a Saiva sect, despite the historical links with Saivaism. The names of the four Maths, location, follower of particular Veda out of four Vedas and designated Sampradayas out of the ‘Dashnami Sampradyas’ are given below:

*(Reproduced from the book, ‘Shakaracharya’ written by Swami Apurbananda of Ramakrishna Mission.)

-On the western part of India at Dwraka, ‘Sarada Math’: follower of Shambeda-

“Tattomasi”  Sampradyas: Tirtha, Ashram

-On the Eastern part, at Puri, ‘Govardhan Math’: follower of Rigveda- “Pragyanam Braham” Sampradayas:  Jana and Aryanay.

– On the northern part at Jyotirdham, ‘Jyotir Math’ or Joshi Math on the way to Badrinath, follower of Athrbaveda- “Ayang Atma Brhama”

Sampradayas: Giri, Parbat, and Sagar

-On the Southern part at Chikmagaluru district in Karnataka ‘Sringeri Math’ follower of Yajurveda – “Aham Brhamsmi” Sampradaya: Saraswati, Bharati, Puri.

Swami Vivekananda:

While in the West, Vivekananda spoke about India’s great spiritual heritage; in India, he repeatedly addressed social issues: uplifting the people, service to the poor and the downtrodden, education to all especially to girls, eliminating the caste system, promotion of science and technology to uplift the economic condition of the mass.

In this respect he had written a letter from Chicago on March 19, 1894 to one of his brother disciples in India, a part of it is reproduced here:

“We are so many Sannayasis wandering about, and teaching the people metaphysics – it is all madness. Did not our Master say, “An empty stomach is no good for religion”. Therefore, the foremost need of the hour is to remove hunger, upgrade people to lead a moderate life, before teaching them about religion.

He realized that there are needs to build institutions also to attract youths to carry forward his message. On 1st May, 1987, he called a meeting at the house of Ramakrshna’s household disciple Balaram Bose, and there he proposed to establish Ramakrishna Mission, and Ramakrishna Math or Monastery.  The role of Math was limited to spiritual activities. But the Mission was designated to offer services to the people, such as relief work, establishment of dispensaries and hospitals for medical aid, schools and colleges for education. He entrusted the responsibility to Sister Nivedita to start girl’s school. He felt that the India cannot progress unless women are educated. He said it’s like a bird, which cannot fly only with one wing. He was very much interested in setting up Monastery for women too. But during his life time he could not do that. Later, women Monasteries were established after the name of Holy Mother Sarada Devi. In India they are addressed as Sarada Mission/Math and in the West, Sarada Convents.

Ramakrishna Math was consecrated later at Belur on the bank of river Ganga. The Belur Math is the headquarter of all the Maths, and Missions along with their sub-centers totaling around 70 numbers in India, and around 50 numbers in Asia, and Western countries. Swamiji firmly believed such centers should be near the locality to serve as a role model to the house holders and also to attract youths to join the mission. Of course with the help of Captain Savier, Advaita Ashram was established at Mayavati, in the Uttrakhand, at the foothills of Himalaya Mountain. This center is located in a very isolated place, exclusively for spiritual retreat.

Not only this, these Mission centers are essential to train new generation in accordance to the teachings of Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, and of His Master’s teachings. He gave a clarion call to the youths of India, ‘Arise Awake and Stop not, till the Goal is reached.” He told the youths, ‘Why are you worried about death? You are destined to die one day or the other. Be strong, Have a goal in life, Strive for it and don’t give it up, till you achieve it’.   He also said that ‘What country needs, is Muscles of Iron and Nerves of Steel’? His powerful statements had great impact, on the youths, particularly amongst the freedom fighters, and several of them later joined Ramkrishna Mission.  He also firmly believed, the youths should be a blend of good points exists in other faith,s such as Hindu’s spirituality, Buddhist karuna (unselfish love for humanity), Christian Missionary spirit of serving the society, and Muslim’s spirit of brotherhood.

Universal Religion:

As already stated above,  Swami Vivekananda’s outlook of religion was non- sectarian and broad based, which appealed to the people of the East and the West.  He introduced in all the Ramkrishna Math and Mission the traditional pujas such as Durga puja, kali puja, Saraswati puja,  Janmastami, Sivratri,  and birth days – tithi pujas of great saints and prophets including Jesus and Buddha.. He was very much interested in establish Universal religion or Sanatana Dharma, to stop infighting between different sects and religion.

Some of his concepts about Universal Religion are quoted from the book, “What religion is’ by John Yale, (Later Swami Vidyatatmananda) This book is a compilation of the Swamis books on Yogas and lectures.

The Ideal of Universal Religion: 

“Each soul is potentially divine

The goal is to manifest this divinity within

Controlling nature external and internal.

Do this either by work or worship or psychic

Control or philosophy- by one or more

Or all of these- and be free.

This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas

Or rituals or books or temples are but

Secondary details.”

Publications:

Vivekananda felt the need to publish journals in English and other Indian languages to spread the taechings of Ramakrishna’s as wel as teachings from other religious scriptures and books. In this respect, first publication was made from Chennai math, monthly. Journal, ‘Brhamabadin’, later name was changed to ‘Vedanta Kesari’.

From Belur math, ‘Udbodhan’, a Bengali monthly journal, and from Advaita Ashram, Myavati, another English monthly journal ‘Prabuddha Bahrat’ were published. Subsequently, all these journals along with many other journals in English as well as in other vernacular languages are published these days, having a wide circulation.

Literary works:

Shankarcharya was a great composer of Verses and Bhashyas.

His Bhashyas and commentaries on the Prasthana –traya three fundamental scriptures – Upanishad, Brhmasutra and Bhagbat Gita are the basis of Hinduism.

He also wrote prakarana grathas , primars on Advaita philosophy, and numerous  strotas, hymns, to Gods and Goddesses.

Shankarcharyas Bhashyas on the ten Upanishads  had great impact on the people.

The mantra in Katha Upanishad, ‘Arise, Awake, and learn by approaching the excellent ones’ was frequently quoted by Swami Viveananda. Shankara  commented

On this Mantra, ‘ You creatures who are sleeping in ignorance that has no beginning, arise, turn towards the knowledge  of the self; awake, put an end to the sleep of ignorance which is terrible by nature  and is the seed of all evil”

Other Upanishadic statements, have in Indian traditional values and worship are:

“Matri devo bhava/ pitri devo bhavo/ acharaya devo bhavo/athithi devo bhavo’.

Shankara composed several verses which are very popular amongst the spiritual seekers and devotees. Through these verses, he conceptualized the dictum – ‘Brahama Satya and Jagat Mithya’ (Brahman is the only Truth, this world is unreal). Here we quote few verses from two of his well- known books: ‘Bhaja Govindam’  (which contains-32 verses) and ‘Vivekcudamani’: (which contains 500 verses). Another book in verses, ‘Shivananda lahari’ is also quite popular amongst the devotees.

Bhaja Govindam:

Verse No. 1.

Renounce, O fool, your ceaseless thirst

For hoarding gold and precious gems;

Through deeds performed in earlier lives;

Devote your mind to righteousness

And dispassion be your law.

Verse no. 3

Uncertain is the life of man

As rain drops on a lotus leaf ;

The whole of human kind is prey

To grief and ego and disease.

Vevekcudamani: 

Verse no. 5

For what greater fool can there be than

The man who has obtained this rare human birth

Together with bodily and mental strength and yet

Fails, through delusion, to realize his own highest good?

Verse no 7.

The scriptures declares that immortality cannot

Be gained through work or progeny or riches,

but by renunciation alone. Hence it is clear that

work cannot bring us liberation.

Swami Vivkanannda has composed 50 numbers of songs, poetries, and Sanskrit verses. 

Barring songs and verses,, most of the poems were written by the Swami in English language. In his pre-monastic days, he had written a book along with another musician on Classical Music. He was himself a great singer. He always delivered lectures extemporary, but thanks to the free service of J. J. Goodwin, a professional and highly proficient stenographer,  we could read his complete works (9 Volumes) which also includes his personal correspondence.   Another book titled ‘Inspired talk’, was a compilation of his teachings during his stay for about six months along with his 12 disciples, at Thousand Island Park, USA. The influence of his teachings turned two of his disciples to monks, and five of them to Brhamacharya life.

His writings on Yoga’s:

There are 18 chapters in Gita on Yoga’s, but Swamiji compiled them into four Yoga’s namely: (1) Bhakti Yoga, (2) Gyan Yoga, (3)Karma Yoga, and (4)Raj Yoga.

Of all these Yoga’s; Raj yoga is most popular in the Western countries. Surprisingly, Beijing University in China has translated and published ‘Raj Yoga’, which is now a very popular book amongst the University students.

Karma Yoga:

It means, “ Self realization  Through Selfless Work” . Some of his sayings on Karma Yoga arecited below.

“The Karma Yogi is the man who understands that the highest ideal non-resistance. Before reaching the highest ideal, man’s duty is to resist evil. Let him work, let him fight; let him strike straight from the shoulder. Then only, when he has gained the power to resist, will non-resistance will be a virtue”.

“The whole gist of the teaching is you should work like a master and not as a slave; work incessantly but do not do slave’s work. Work through freedom! Work through love!”

“The main effect of work done for others is to purify ourselves. By means of constant effort to do good to others we are trying to forget ourselves; this forgetfulness of self is the great lesson we have to learn in life. Every set of Charity, every thought of sympathy, every action of help, every good deed, take so much of self- importance away from our little selves and makes us think ourselves as the lowest and the least; and, therefore, they are all good”.

“The world’s wheel within a wheel is a terrible mechanism. There are only two ways out of it. One is to give up all concern about the machine, to let it go and stand aside – to give up our desires. That is very easy to say, but almost impossible to do. The other way is to plunge into the world and learn the secret of work. Do not fly away from the wheel of the world machine, but stand inside it and learn the secret of work. Through proper work done inside, it is also possible to come out”.

Concluding remarks:

Just as in physical science, the researchers from the time of Einstein have been striving, though without success, to crack the mystery of ‘the Theory of Everything’, by knowing which nothing would be left to know in science, the pursuers of spiritual science from the days of Upanishad have strived to resolve the same mystery underlying the creation, expressed in following words:  “Kasmintu vagvo vignate sarva midam vignatam Bhavati” or “What is that knowing which we know everything”? To the Vedantists, THAT by knowing whom everything is known is BRAHMAN, the Supreme Consciousness, WHO is immanent in every being and in every particle.

Just as physicists have by now explored the mystery of creation of universes from the microscopic Cosmic Egg through Big Bang and have also concluded that this process of expansion/creation continues as long as vibration in the cosmic strings/membrane continues, the Vedantists had come to the same finding a few millenniums ago in spiritual cum phenomenal domain.

The Vedanta have defined Prana (life), the source of life in phenomenal world, as Spandan or vibration, which pervades entire cosmos (Akasha). According to the Vedanta, Brahman evolves into Purusha (Hiranyagarbha or golden egg) and Prakriti which are at the root of entire creation of the phenomenal as also noumenal (spiritual) world. At the time of dissolution, entire creation gets involved in Brahman. This evolution and involution are a continuing process in cyclical order. In the dissolved state, all three Gunas, viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas remain in perfect equilibrium. When Brahman chooses to get into creative mode, the said equilibrium is upset with the pre-eminence of one of the Gunas. This leads to spandan (prana) or vibration and the said vibration leads to the creation of the Prakriti and the Purusha. The first manifestation of the Prakriti is known as Mahat or Intelligence, followed by Aham or universal egoism, Panchendriyas or five organs, Pancha Tanmatra or five subtle elements, Pancha Mahabhoota or five prime elements viz. land, water, fire, air and sky/ether. The Purusha is known as the Hiranyagarbha, from which all souls/lives sprout and pervade the entire creation. All souls are endowed with the three Gunas (viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) of the Prakriti. This in sum is the mystery of evolution and involution of Brahman, according to the Vedanta.

While the above Vedantic postulate, spelt out in the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Srimad Bhagavat Gita, is accepted by our great spiritual Masters such as  Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanuja, swami Vivekananda etc. their approach, interpretations, teachings and preaching have not been quite the same. As for instance, according to Shankara, Brahman is the ultimate and the only Truth and all else is just Maya or illusion, and untrue. Since the world is in a flux and hence, impermanent, the transient world is illusory and untrue. Thus this mortal world that we actually see and experience is in reality nothing but Brahman. It is like seeing the rope as snake. From the above postulate what logically follows is: all is Brahman (Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma) and there is nothing outside of Brahman. This being the basis of Advaita (non-dualist) philosophy of Shankara, he is inclined to dismiss entire phenomenal world as unreal and illusory and suggest that the ultimate pursuit of a Truth seeker ought to be to know and realize self as Brahman (Aham Brahmashmi or I am Brahman). In this philosophy there is no scope for reconciling the actual to the ideal. True, that Shankara had composed verses to glorify Lord Shiva, Sri Krishna, Goddess Saraswati, Ganga, Durga etc. and had also been instrumental in restoring several Hindu temples to encourage commoners to pursue their devotion to their respective Gods and Goddesses. But the fact remains that through his commentaries on the Gita and the Brahma Sutras and numerous debates with the most reputed scholars of his time what he tried to establish was that Brahman was the sole reality and the only Truth, while the rest was all delusion or illusion. He, however, did not oppose idol worship or caste system even though the same were strictly not in conformity with his Vedantic philosophy.

Swami Vivekananda, on the other hand was a firm believer in the reconciliation of the actual to the ideal. Thus while Shankara was dismissive of the world as illusion on the ground that the world being transient could not be real and the only reality was Brahman, Vivekananda was of the view that reality was subjective, depending on the level of the perceiver. Thus when a person sees the rope as snake, to him the snake is the reality, not the rope. When his vision gets clearer, the rope surfaces and the snake vanishes. Similarly, if a man sees the world as world and not as Brahman, to him the world is the reality, and not the Brahman. However, to a Vedantist everything that exists is Brahman in varied impermanent forms. If that be so, the question that arises is why should not the Vedantist serve Brahman in various forms, ignoring the form or its impermanence. This, according to the Swami, would be in consonance with the Vedantic concept of Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That). Since it is the poor, the downtrodden and the sufferers who need our service the most, the Swami urged his followers to render selfless service to those people as if they were serving God. He even went to the extent of suggesting that serving those hapless people was more important than studying the Gita or the Vedanta. The Swami’s empathy toward the suffering multitude emanated from the Vedantic concept of Tat Tvam Asi and not out of pity or compassion. This explains why he proclaimed that he was prepared to die several times in this world so as to be able to serve the poor and the sufferers.

In sum, therefore, despite ex-facie similarities in the philosophy, belief, sense of duty to mother, extra-ordinary talent as also contribution toward revival of the Vedanta and the saving of the Hindu religion in the face of a threat of near-extinction, their difference lies in their perception of the same TRUTH in different perspectives. While Shankara’s perspective was entirely intellectual, Vivekananda listened primarily to his heart. It was, therefore, not difficult for Vivekananda to reconcile the actual to the ideal so as to make the present lives coincide with life eternal. To Shankara such reconciliation was patently impossible.

                                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                   

 

 

 

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God & gods

                                                                           GOD & gods

 

(Interactive session on 14.11.2013)

Keynote address by Mr. Gautam Kanjilal

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Ashok Kumar Sengupta, Mr R. K. Gupta, Mr. N. N. Sarkar, Ms. Anindita N. Balslev, Mr. Asim K. Banerjee, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. P.C. Jha, Dr. Suhas Majumdar)

[Devotional song by Ms. Jayanti Das Gupta]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha

 

INTRODUCTION

The concept of God is perhaps as old as human history. And no concept has been subjected to more questions, challenges, research, and debate than the concept of God. Our purview today is not whether God exists or otherwise. Our limited focus is on the concept of God vis-a-vis gods, according to various organized religions, philosophy and researches.

In the process it will be necessary to dwell upon some pertinent question relating to both the concepts of God and gods. Those questions are as follows:

  1. Whether God is one, all-inclusive or many.Whether God has a gender, form and attributes or God is neutral, formless and without attributes.
  2. Whether God has created universes and all creatures including humans, and, therefore, is distinct from all ITS creations or whether entire creation has emanated from God and will eventually subsume in God.
  3. Whether gods are distinctive from God.
  4. Whether gods are human, super-human, aliens from space or spiritual entities.

As to the varying concepts of God according to well-known traditions such as the Vedantic and the Abrahamic ones, we have dwelt upon the same at great length while discussing in a previous session on ‘God & anti-God’ on 24.8.2013. The Vedantic concept of Brahman can be explained briefly with reference to an anecdote from Chhandogya Upanishad relating to sage Uddalak and his son Shvetaketu (Cha. VIII. iii. 1-2) to bring out that Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause of this mortal universe. This was explained by way of a practical illustration. The father Uddalak asked his son Shvetaketu to mix a lump of salt in water in a container and bring that container to him. Instruction thus complied, the son was asked to drink the water from the top, the middle and the bottom portion and to report how it tasted. When Shvetaketu informed his father that the water tasted salty uniformly, Uddalak asked his son to produce the lump of salt. The son replied that it was impossible to produce the lump of salt as it had melted in water. Uddalak thereupon explained that the salt which was no longer visible in the water was the material as also the efficient cause of the salty water. Brahman which is super-consciousness is like the salt that pervades all individual consciousnesses like the water in this phenomenal world. “Shvetaketu, thou art That” (Tat Tvam Asi) is the cardinal message of the Vedanta that is applicable to the whole of the mankind irrespective of their faith or background.  The Abrahamic tradition as represented by Old Testament, New Testament and also Quran describe God as the One who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. The Buddhist tradition as also the Samkhya philosophy of early Indian tradition is silent about the existence of God.

Before we address above five questions in depth, it will be worthwhile delving into various studies and researches on the above subject with particular emphasis on gods.

VARYING CONCEPTS OF GOD

Let us begin by saying that the ideas, beliefs or opinions pertaining to God as also gods that we are going to dwell upon or examine here have been expressed for last few centuries by several learned scholars, scientists and archaeologists. Some of these findings have substance and, therefore, the same merit serious consideration. We will dwell upon the concept of God first, and the gods later.

One may wonder how to define and describe God. And also at times one may also wonder how does an individual and God relate to each other. To be more precise, the question is whether the relationship between God and an individual is like one-way traffic, one being the creator and controller and the other being ever subservient and a servant. Is it the case that the human individual should be thinking of God, or is it that God, whosoever it may be, is also thinking of each individual at the same time? We grow up with ideas filled with reverence for God or the gods described in our respective religions, without actually experiencing the intimate touch, except for the spiritually advanced prophets like Jesus or saints like Sri Ramakrishna, who claimed deeper contact or interface with God the Almighty. Most religions also claim that their prophets or spiritual Masters were able to establish a direct and deep relationship with the Almighty or their personal God. Others are simply followers of such Masters or faith. While on the topic of GOD, we must accept that most of the dogmas and beliefs are mostly blind and primarily based on faith alone and not upon any concrete evidence or personal experience of the believers.

As with most of us, our perception/definition of God has been fully influenced `a priori by fellow believers, that GOD being a SUPERNATURAL ENTITY NOT HAVING A FORM (may be because we have not seen Him in physical form), is all-pervading, omnipresent, and most powerful entity and the most benevolent representing ALL GOOD. Some of us regrettably feel at times that God apparently uses the power to the advantage and disadvantage of selected human and other lives on Earth. The human mind is such that anything powerful though being very much revered is simultaneously also greatly feared and that is perhaps why we also fear God in some ways. It may be the fear of the unknown or the fear of punishment for wrong-doing.

It will be of interest to see what some of the organized religions which can be broadly classified as monotheists, polytheists and inclusivists say about God.

No uniform concept of GOD in Hinduism

Unlike in Abrahamic tradition, the concept of God is not uniform in Hindu tradition. As has been briefly mentioned in the Introduction, the philosophical content of Hinduism is represented by the non-theist Samkhya, and theist and inclusivist Vedanta which includes Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, the Gita etc., (known in short as Uttar Mimansha),  while its ritualistic content is represented by the early Vedas (known as the Purva Mimansha) and the Puranas, which are apparently polytheist.

Gods or Devas named in Rig Veda

One of the earliest statements in the history of mankind on the subject of our discussion today, ‘God and gods’, come from the Rig Veda (I.164.46):

 

Indram Mitram Varunam Agnim ahuratho Divyah sa suparna Garutman |

Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti Agnim Yamam Matarishyanmahuh ||

The mantra mentions the names of several Vedic gods – Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, Garutmat, Yama, Matarishvan – but states  that (God or true existence) is One (Ekam Sad) but the sages perceive many attributes in That  (vipra bahudha vadanti).  This mantra is the Vedic version of the Upanishadic mahavakya ‘Ekamevadvitiam’ i.e., (God or true existence is) One and without a second. Thus it can be seen that the Vedas have made a distinction between God or Brahman and multiple gods called Devas as also their adversaries called Asuras who were born of the same father viz. sage Kashyapa, but different mothers, viz. Aditi and Diti. Since, sage Kashyapa was human, it would stand to reason to infer that both the Devas and the Asuras were also human. However, it is possible that the Devas and the Asuras were more advanced, scientifically as also spiritually than the contemporary humans.

The Vedas state that there are 33 main Gods in its pantheon.  The Puranic conception, which is also the prevalent idea among Hindus till now, that there are 330 million Gods, might have come from the double meaning of the Sanskrit word koti. According to the nineteenth century Sanskrit-English dictionary by Mueller & Mueller, which is perhaps still regarded as most authentic, koti  has a quantitative (10 million) as well as a qualitative (pitch, climax, excellence) meaning.  Perhaps the word koti was used initially to focus on the glory or excellence (mahima) of Gods, but later used in the quantitative sense to accommodate increasing number of Puranic Gods, which could be justified under the Vedic expression tritringshati koti (33 koti) gods.

In any case, the 33 godheads in the Vedic pantheon are 8 Vasus (ashta vasu), 11 Rudras (ekadasha Rudra), 12 Adityas (dvadasha Aditya), Prajapati (Brahma of Puranas) and Vishnu.  Some scholars would, however, replace Vishnu by Indra, as Vishnu is called Upendra in Veda and has a subordinate position to Indra. As stated above, those 33 godheads were born of human parents and, therefore, human beings. However, according to the traditional belief, they all drank nectar and became immortal while the Asuras, their step-brothers, were deprived of the same and continued to be mortals like all other beings.

Vedantic concept of non-dual God vis-a-vis Puranic gods

In view of the Vedantic non-dual (advaita) concept of God, men at all ages seem to be caught in a conflict on which of the multiple godheads to worship. The Vedic people often had this question – kashmai devaya habisha (To which god shall we offer our oblation)? In the process, the concept of Trinity comprising Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar came into being, thus reducing godheads from 33 to 3. And all the attributes of Brahman were super-imposed on each of the Trinity by their respective devotees. Each group claimed that their god was superior to the other two. The Puranas on each of the Trinity compiled stories to establish superiority of one over the others. Later-age religious texts like Mangalkavyas of Bengal are also full of stories of rivalry or quarrel among the gods and goddesses. The traditions of other countries like the Greek mythology are no exception to this phenomenon.  Many scholars feel that men have created the gods in their own image and thus our gods, despite their superhuman power and knowledge, have assumed human characters.

Abodes of gods

What are the abodes of these gods?   Epics like the Mahabharata as well as the spiritual experience of many saints and sages talk about a structured universe (brahmanda) in which there are many worlds (lokas), which are inhabited by divine beings, devatas.  Even the Upanishads, which are often regarded as a focused search for the realization of atman (atmanam viddhi is its main aspiration), also talks of a structured universe.  In the well-known debate between the sage Yajnavalkya and Gargi, daughter of Vacaknu, in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.6.1), in which Gargi is threatened loss of her head if she persists with further questions, Yajnavalkya identifies as many as twelve hierarchical worlds, one pervading the other, going upto brahma-loka, which seems to be the highest point of manifestation, beyond which the great sage was not prepared to entertain any mental query.  We also find in Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri, the journey of King Ashvapaty in search of the Divine Mother, whose abode he found in the Unmanifest, beyond many divine worlds, each inhabited by Godheads having consciousness of that loka..

To us, humans, all these great beings are gods as we are no match to their powers, knowledge and consciousness.  Even those beings who are often regarded in a negative sense, the raksha, pishacha or pramatha – the nether-gods or apa-devatas  get God-like obedience or worship from us as the dimensions of their perceived powers are immensely bigger than ours.

Sri Aurobindo’s concept of Supramental and the gods

There is one aspect of human existence which gives men the potential to transcend the gods eventually.  Sri Aurobindo wrote in a letter to a disciple that Gods are typal beings and do not evolve per se.  If they want to evolve and progress further, they have to take birth in a human body and acquire a psychic being like a man.  This is also the conception behind many of the Puranic stories of gods taking a human birth to do sadhana for further spiritual progress.

Sri Aurobindo has forseen an evolutionary future for mankind, when Supramental beings with a body of light, having infinite knowledge and power and bliss, would appear on earth, just like men evolved out of animals. Even at this stage, a great yogi like Sri Ramakrishna or Tailanga Swami could rise to the level of Satchidananda in their meditation, which may be a level higher than many of the Gods, as we perceive them.

This supreme mystery of human life, ignorant weaklings crawling on earth, yet having potential of scaling great heights of consciousness, have been magnificently portrayed by an unlikely novelist, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya in his only novel on life after death, Devyan.  There we find a god takes the hero of the novel Jatin, now a dead person, to the Himalayas (in the Kailash-Mansarovar area) and points to the caves of the rishis who, still in their earthly bodies, have been engrossed in meditation. The god told him that although physically these rishis were ordinary earthlings, when they attained the state (sthiti) of Nirvikalpa Samadhi, they would rise much above the gods.

The ancient Hindu scriptures describe the creation/evolution of time, the cosmos, the universes, and all that is contained therein from the cosmic egg called Brahman and takes us through aeons, describing celestial worlds of spirit and phenomenal worlds of matter as parts of Brahman. Basically, Hindu philosophical texts such as Vedanta speak of the Brahman as the all-inclusive whole or Purna Which evolves and involves in continuous cycles. The state of evolution is called creation and the state of involution is called dissolution.

God in Abrahamic Tradition

In the Genesis of the Old Testament it is written as follows:

“1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

“2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.”

“2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

“ 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou latest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

“2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

“2:23 And Adam said this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

The above extracts from the Genesis prima facie reveal that God, according to the Abrahamic tradition has a form, and that the first man Abraham and the first woman Eve were not created by God’s words like in the case of natural phenomena like light, the firmament, the earth and the water, as also all the creatures. Instead, He undertook an exercise/action to produce man from the dust and to produce breath of life to make him live. As regards Eve, God apparently did some genetic engineering/surgery with a rib of Adam to produce her. Besides, God has been described in Genesis as ‘He’.

The concept of Satan, though absent in Old Testament, surfaced in New Testament. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have on the whole dwelt upon the Devil, also called Satan, and/or Lucifer, as a rebellious fallen angel or demon that targeted humans with the sole intent to lead them astray. It is credited with bringing death into the world. Enoch describes the Devil as the Prince of Grigori who was driven out of Heaven for rebelling against God. The Devil or the Satan has also been identified in the Book of Revelation as the serpent which lured Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

God in other religions

SIKHISM speaks of IK ON KAR, the ONE AND ONLY ONE, the ONE AND ONLY SUPREME ONE, their symbol or icon meaning ONE WITH EVERYTHING, one creator manifest everywhere. (Here, I may add that Nanak did not accept the Hindu scriptures because he felt that only the creator knows when creation took place and how; so descriptions in the Sanskrit texts did not find acceptance in Sikhism.)

ZOROASTRIANISM, though later they too had their prophet, Zoroaster, also refers to ONE GOD i.e. AHURA MAZDA, though the contra is manifest in the almost equally powerful evil spirit Angra Mainyu. .

OTHER RELIGIONS SUCH AS THE

ANCIENT GREEK and the MAYAN RELIGIONS for instance had multiple Gods: The common factor was that these religions did not subscribe to the concept of UNITY or the ONE SUPREME BEING-CREATOR-GOD as we see in the earlier described religions, but they conceived of a Leader of the gods in their pantheons. The Greeks had their Olympic pantheon lorded over by ZEUS, mixed with eastern deities like Isis and Cybele, while further north, Thor ruled the Norse arena with his thunderbolt.

The MAYANS revered many gods including Itzamna, Kukulcan, Bolon, Tzacab and Chac.

The Sumerians and the Egyptians too had multiple gods and so did some smaller sects.

Gods – a distinctive entity?

Let us now turn to the concept of gods as opposed to God. It is this part which interests many of us and in many ways leading to our interest in astronomy, UFOs and related topics, and gradually expanding our interest to encompass thoughts and posers such as:

  • Is God a creation of the human mind or real? If real, why did God create the universe and life and when ?
  • Did super mortals or super beings once walk the Earth? And whether they were visitors from outer space, possessing enormous power, capabilities and advanced scientific knowledge?
  • More specifically, were such alien visitors the ones referred to as gods in our religious texts ? If so, what are the proofs available? How do we explain to ourselves under what circumstances mankind has gone to the extent of not only describing gods in written graphics and texts but also drawing images of near human forms while attributing more than human-like features and superman-like qualities and went further by leaving behind legends and stories describing extra-ordinary feats of such divine beings? Great epics and legends have been attributed to ancient narrators and authors across all parts of the globe. This is a world-wide phenomenon, not restricted to any specific country, continent or religion.

The above questions have been the subject matter of extensive research and discussions world-wide, over a very long time. We may have reasons to subscribe to some of the hypotheses and opinions expressed.

Many scholars have felt that there is a certain gap in history which is unaccounted for. Not only that, history as we know, is not complete, or is even wrongly recorded in the minds of humans, sometimes wrongly interpreted. The very thought of such a gap existing is very unnerving when we consider a range of issues about humankind, their origin, how they originated and evolved over time.

Take the Vedas and the Puranic texts for instance. The creation of the universe, the matter of creation as such, the divine influences and evolution of good vs. evil forms, the dimensions of time, celestial and material space and consequent creations, the history of the myriad lesser gods, etc. are described in a highly intelligent and intellectual way, mostly in the manner and way far beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals perhaps. Where did this high standard of jnan and original perception come from? To say that humans as we know ourselves, with our known characteristics, were capable of coming out with such highly intellectual writings in ancient time is debatable. What happened to the natural rate of progress ? Scientific concepts are embedded in the scriptures. It is perhaps inconceivable that ordinary humans or Indians of some prehistoric era would have practised what they were preached to through these great vaults of knowledge and yet did precious little to cling on to these morals over large periods of time. Surely, the concepts embodied in these ancient texts would not have emanated from the brain of ordinary mortals, then populating the earth. What is mystifying is perhaps some of the following references found in the Puranic and other associated texts:

 

The Puranic concept of time, age & space

Even Brahma’s age and the age of the solar system have been given a calculation. The sage VedaVyas explains in the Bhagavatam that 155.52 trillion years have passed since Brahma originally created this planetary system, and this is the present age of Brahma.

(The Bhagavatam says, “Brahma’s one day equals to 1,000 cycles of the four yugas (one cycle of four yugas is 4.32 million years). It is called one kalp. There are fourteen Manus in one kalp. For the same length of time there is the night of Brahma. This is called pralaya or kalp pralaya. At that time the earth planet and the sun along with three celestial abodes (bhu, bhuv and swah) enter into the transition period (and become uninhabited). During that period Brahma holds within Himself all the beings of the material and the celestial worlds in a suspended state and sleeps. (The next day he again produces them and re-forms them as they were before.) In this way Brahma lives for two parardh (twice of 50 years). After that, there is a complete dissolution of the brahmand (the planetary system and its celestial abodes). This is called prakrit pralaya of the brahmand.” (Bhag. 12/4/2 to 6). According to the above information, Brahma’s age which is also the absolute age of our sun and the earth planet is: 50 years of Brahma x 720 days and nights x (1,000 x 4.32 million years of the four yugas, which is one day of Brahma) + 1,972 million years* (the existing age of the earth planet) = 155.521972 trillion years.)

Therefore, many of the events described in the ancient text can theoretically be said to have occurred millions of years ago ??????

Many Divine acts and happenings are beyond material logic. The scriptures say that the gods, resident in celestial world, also walked the Earth. The concept of material space is described as being the solar systems while the celestial space comprises Brahm Lok and Vaikunth within the brahmand.

(Brahmand literally means the egg of Brahman or the cosmic egg in the parlance of science. The  Virata Purusha as also Prakriti are stated to have originated from Brahmand. The Virata Purusha is often identified with Brahma, the creator, by his devotees, and alternately as the Vishnu and the Shiva by their respective devotees. Material creation consists of an earth planet with a sun, moon and planetary system in the material space and similar creation in the celestial space.

It is believed by the devotees that the topmost celestial abode belongs to their respective gods viz. Brahma (called Brahmlok), Vishnu (called Vishnulok or Vaikunth) and Shiva (called Shivalok). What we see here is that the Earth has been separated from the celestial space from where the Gods came. So, the bottom line is that GODS CAME FROM SPACE. THAT IS THE REFRAIN.

Battles between good & evil

There are references to battles between the Devas and the Asuras or the Divine & the Devil in almost all ancient texts.

References to Giants exist in ancient literature and tales. Even the Greeks and Norse legends mention the existence of Giants on planet Earth. Interestingly, even before the advent of Christ, Giants find a mention in the GENESIS which is believed to have been written by Moses :

To quote :

“6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown”.

 Indian scriptures describe incidents or happenings in the celestial abode, such as the stories of frequent conflicts between the Asuras (demons) and the Devas (gods).

Acquisition of wisdom & weapons from the gods

The story of Nachiketa of Kathopanishad illustrates how a small boy called Nachiketa landed on the celestial plane of the Yama (the god of death & piety) of his free will and acquired the ultimate knowledge of the soul (atman) from Yama as one of the three boons offered by Yama. Consequently, Nachiketa crossed the mayic realm of death and birth. (b) According to the epic Ramayana, King Dasharath sometimes visited god Indra and accepted his hospitality. (c)  The epic Mahabharata describes how Arjuna, during his exile period, travelled to the celestial abode of Devaraj (The king of the gods) Indra and obtained celestial weapons from Indra and other gods.

Mysterious & inexplicable earthly phenomena

Some of the earthly phenomena recorded by venerable sages known for their pursuit of Truth, are beyond phenomenal logic. For example: (a) Shukdev, son of VedaVyas remained for twelve years in the womb of his mother without giving her any discomfort. On the request of his father, VedaVyas, when he came out, he was of the age and the height of a twelve year old boy. Not only that, he was fully absorbed in the Bliss of nirakar brahm (formless God). He didn’t even look to anyone around him. He just walked straight into the forest. (b) As for another example, when the sage VedaVyas was beseeched by his mother Satyavati, the widow-queen of the Kuru dynasty to help the two widow princesses to beget sons to continue the dynastic succession, VedaVyas simply possessed the two queens from a distance without physical contact and they conceived. They gave birth to Pandu (the father of the Pandavas) and Dhritrashtra (the father of the Kauravas). (c) It is also stated in Mahabharata how from the fire of King Drupada’s Yagna emerged Draupadi as an adult princess and Dhristadumnya as an adult prince. Such happenings are beyond any logical explanation, but at the same time cannot be discarded as figment of imagination if one follows the style & manner of the narration, and that too by a sage like VedaVyas who was a stickler for truth. Besides, faith and belief also play a major role here.

Advanced knowledge of medical & other sciences in ancient time

There is ample proof of advanced knowledge in medicine, being prevalent in ancient India. Where and from whom did Sushruta (6th century B.C.) acquire his knowledge? Assuming that medical science was so advanced as to be able to include diagnosis of diabetes and cancer as also other forms of diseases, apart from undertaking complicated surgical procedures, how is it that advancement progressively did not happen and stopped suddenly? Even 4 to 5 centuries ago, medical science in most parts of the world was way behind medical achievements reflected during the period of Sushruta . It is interesting to note that the Hindu pantheon comprises a huge number of Divine entities and lesser gods, with vivid descriptions of almost all gods being akin to human beings. Moreover, each god was associated with some good or power, capability, or characteristic including death, wealth and sex.

Are gods distinctive species from outer space?

It is the view of many that while the existence of God as the SUPREME BEING is not being debated, it being a question of faith and because many mysteries have no logical answer, all our descriptions of the very large number of Gods have evolved following humanity’s interactions with super-beings who had long ago visited our world. It is natural to expect that early humans would have painted/drawn/sculpted and described verbally whatever they had actually seen. Some could be the result of human imagination. It must be accepted that if aliens did actually visit the earth in the past, they naturally would have been really a very advanced race, replete with such advanced scientific knowledge that our human ancestors would not have been able to digest or absorb easily and fully. Many scholars believe that humans had drawn  godly forms on the cave walls according to the various specific qualities possessed by each such god.

Dhanwantari, the physician of the Gods, finds a mention in the Vedas and the Puranas, in relation to the samudra manthan, and is credited with imparting medical knowledge which permeated to Sushruta. He is aptly described as holding in one hand the pot of Amrita and medicinal herbs in the other arm.

Vishwakarma is depicted as the architect for physical creation of the universe and earth.

While all deities have been placed in heaven, it is interesting to note that mixing amongst Gods and humans was a very common phenomenon, particularly in the ancient periods. Union of Gods and humans was described at many places in the Vedic literature. So, it is not unlikely that such unions did take place.

References to Vimanas and astras of highly devastating capabilities only tend to project a basis in support of this proposition too.

Now, who were these Gods if they were not aliens? What is mystifying is the disappearance of such God-like creatures from the planet Earth.

Evidence in support of alien theory

While some of our logical conclusions can be derived from our scriptures, we may mention some highly probable evidence of gods’ landing on & residence in earth which would appear to suggest that ALIENS DID VISIT OUR EARTH .

First of all, it is natural to expect that any alien race visiting our planet would be scientifically very advanced in every way. Also, as we mentioned earlier, humans who witnessed such alien invasion were in awe and recorded their observations as they saw them. Events that impacted humans on Earth have been depicted in great detail within the limits of capabilities of the authors and artists.

The following works of scholars in recent times, providing reasonable proofs of visits of alien to Earth are briefly mentioned below:

1. In a series of books called the Earth Chronicles (1st book titled The 12th Planet), Zecharia Sitchin, a renowned archaeologist, refers to excavations in Sumeria (somewhere around Iraq) which threw up tablets of great informative value. The antiquity of the tablets is estimated at 6000 years. The Sumerian Tablets reveal the way Earth was formed through a collision between two celestial planets; and also that a planet called Nibiru in an elliptical orbit years comes into contact with our planet every 3600 years and that how its inhabitants, the Annunaki, who had advanced knowledge and technology, created the human race on Earth by splicing their genes with beings that already existed here. In fact, several religions, legends and myths tell tales of extra-terrestrial beings that somehow intervened in the evolution of life on Earth. According to the mythology, the Annunaki were advanced beings responsible for several monuments on Earth, the moon and Mars. Humans on Earth were genetically altered in order to be turned into slaves for the gods/Annunaki who would then have us mining for gold amongst many other precious minerals. This controversial theory is based on Sitchin’s interpretation of ancient Sumerian texts, with its origin in the Bible, in the book of Genesis. Many other religions and myths describe how atomic explosions and nuclear war had happened thousands of years ago and according to the vimana documents there were even advanced anti-gravitational flying machines in existence as far back as 20,000 years ago.

2. The Great Pyramid of Egypt consists of 2.5 million blocks of stone, some weighing more than 40 tons. Scientists till today have not been able to determine what tools and methods were used to move these huge blocks, with so much precision. It is an engineering enigma, all dimensions being mathematically accurate.

3. Gigantic sarcophagi found in huge vaults. Were they meant for giants?

4. The pyramid top and alignments of some group of pyramids point towards Orion.

5. Sumerian seals describe myriad mysterious figures. Were these a result of experiments?

6. Egyptian gods were half human half animal/birds. Horus had a falcon’s face.

7. Electric battery found in the Sumerian area.

8. Walls made of large blocks of stone fitted perfectly, neatly joined, found in Peru. No technology available today would be able to create that.

9. The Piri Reis Map on ice-free Antarctica strongly suggests that the map was drawn on the basis of aerial survey undertaken several millenniums, if not several lakhs of years ago when Antartica was free of ice and its rivers and grounds were clearly visible.

10. In Peru, spider like and mysterious lines are seen as drawn which are visible only from the sky.

CONCLUSION:

1.As to our first poser in the Introduction whether God is gender neutral, one, many or All-inclusive Whole, formless or with form, with or without attributes, our conclusion is that God as IT has been conceptualized in different religious and philosophical texts, is beyond our perception through the existing five senses. The sages, spiritual Masters, prophets and the Avatars who are believed to have perceived God within or outside of them have invariably awakened their higher senses, often described as the Third Eye.

Having said that, it would be necessary to understand the difference between the concept of monotheism and the concept of all-inclusive integral whole, verily described as ekamevadvitiyam (one without a second). In the former case, God is numerically described as one to the exclusion of all others, meaning thereby that you and me or others can never become God. To monotheists attribution of Godhood to any individual would amount to blasphemy. Since God is described as one which after all is a number, a form is automatically assigned to God, though it is not perceivable by our existing senses. Once God is assigned a number and a form, IT cannot be without attributes. Monotheists of Abrahamic tradition are also inclined to assign masculine gender to God (refer Genesis in Old Testament).

As has been stated above, the concept of Ekamevadvitiyam (one without a second) is clearly distinctive from monotheism in that in the former case, no other entity except God (Brahman) is believed to exist. In other words, the postulate for the subscribers of the all-inclusive God concept is that God alone exists. The rest is illusory. Vedantic concept of God (Brahman) falls in this category. To Vedantists, Brahman has no form, therefore, no gender, no attribute (Brahman is Nirguna), no beginning, no end and is all-inclusive or Purna. It is not One But Whole as entity or matter is outside Brahman.

Polytheism falls clearly outside the purview of God we are dwelling upon either as the Nirguna or as the Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient.

2. The question whether God is the creator or has been self-evolving and involving cyclically is a matter of perception. When we believe in personal God, we tend to subscribe to the theory of creation of this and other universes together with all living beings by God. When we subscribe to the holistic integral theory of Vedanta, we believe that God self-evolves into myriad forms which we call creation and all those external forms get involved in God what we call dissolution. Swami Vivekananda was of the view that a person’s understanding was directly relatable to his/her spiritual level.

3. As to the question whether gods are distinctive from God, our answer is – yes. On the basis of recent researches, there are reasons to infer, if not to conclude, that gods, so called, were both scientifically and spiritually far more advanced than our primitive ancestors.

4. As to the question whether gods were human, super-human, aliens from space or spiritual entities, a definite answer still eludes us. While the possibility of the gods being alien from outer space cannot be ruled out in view of the ongoing researches some of which have been mentioned above, we cannot also over-rule the likelihood of the gods being human, based on the ancient texts suggesting that they had human parentage, born of the sage Kashyapa and Aditi. It is, however, possible that they were scientifically and spiritually so much more advanced than their contemporary humans that godhood was assigned to them.

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