Hinduism with Spine

Swami-Vivekananda

Hinduism is often portrayed as a religion of peace and pacifists. Its legion of world shunning monks and yogis(the genuine ones anyway), reinforce this perception. Sometimes its not even a religion but an Eternal Dharma, a rule of living rightly that goes beyond the worship of its hundred thousand gods.

But all this other-worldliness, the excessive disregard of the world and the adoration of the Eternal and all its manifestations has had an unfortunate side-effect. And that is of lacking a spine, or a true measure and understanding of its own identity.

Origin of our Weakness

I would not be an expert to categorically state whether it was the many hundred years of Muslim rule, or the many hundred years of British rule, or perhaps a weakness that predated both these aggressors that allowed these aggressions to happen. But bottom line we have turned out to be a people lacking a spine.

We spout words about our ancient culture that we have no effing clue about. When our brothers from other religions convert our folks we quote the constitution that allows conversions. When more of our brothers from other religions of peace slaughter us, we quote mantras for peace and convince ourselves to let bygones be bygones. After all an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, as a leading light of the nation had said. When one of us decides to give others a taste of their own medicine we are the right wing!

Don’t get me wrong. If you know me or attempted to read and understand what I have written you will know am all for universal brotherhood and I mean it sincerely. But each culture has to stand up for itself, no one else will come to its aid. Or we will go the way of the Tibetans, the Mayans and all the other peoples that have perished under the onslaught of more ignorant cultures.

Do we understand our religion?

Each of us who profess to be Hindus will have to understand our heritage truly. Not the crap shown on TV serials, or the clueless nonsense spouted by the traditionalists, or the ones that give you certificates. Nor should we believe that spirituality is to be done at the last stage of life, it is such moronic thinking that has given rise to a nation without spine. That allows some so-called secular element within our founding members to interpret our subtle notion of universal brotherhood as a free for all, to come and do as they please. Enough is what I say.

What we need

From now, let each of us vow to understand our identity and our true heritage by going back to the original sources, the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas. Not as intellectuals, not to spout verses without understanding or realizing them. But as students and aspirants to the living truth of these scriptures, the One Divine who transcends everything.

The Method

I want us to do this not as Sanyasis or renunciates, not as intellectuals far removed from reality, not as arm-chair custodians of our heritage. I want us to uphold our values in the thick of material life. To build out the wealth of our nation again and not to see Narayana in poverty alone. To create art that once again captures the myriad infinities of the soul’s beauty. To engage our brothers in strength and pride of our identity and heritage. To churn out perfection in every thing we do and take our place once more at the forefront of civilizations.

The Impediments

It is not easy, this double mode of existence. Long has been our enslavement, impoverished our spirit and our members weak. A little wealth and little success rocks the boat of our pride too much. We are as children, who go into rapture at the smallest bauble. We are not a nation of Arjunas and Ashokas anymore. Even our villains are not fit to take the world stage, we have no strength to even do evil on a grandiose scale. Our Balis and Hiranyakashipus are just myths now.

But this need not be the case anymore. And it can start with us. Today. Let us reconnect with the Self within, in our own way. A little perfection in all that we do, a little service to elevate humanity, a little strength to stand up for our identity and a lot of humility is all it takes to offer as sacrifice to the immanent Divine.

The Guide

After all, as Sri Aurobindo states, “He who seeks the Divine is sought by the Divine”. Let us offer our works, paltry though it be, and Sri Krishna shall be with us. We have endured a lot until now, it is time for us outgrow our limited self-conception.

This post is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda.

On the iPhone, the Alien Monolith and Descent of an Avatar

Nature proceeds in her seemingly purposeless circles. Until nudged to a higher orbit. Where does the impulse to this nudge come from? As esoteric as this topic may sound, I believe we could better understand evolution by looking at a few parallels in technology, literature/art and Hindu mythology.

Mobile Industry and the iPhone

iphone

The mobile industry was a fairly docile world. You had phones with increasing in-built memory, cameras with larger megapixels and larger screens. Forms of clam-shell, flip-phones and the works. In this calm market entered the iPhone. There was nothing in it that was not known earlier-touch interface, accelerometer and the suave graphics.

Yet the tying together, the overarching superiority of the coming together of these elements made it seem almost alien to our common perceptions. Everything, even the usually lumbering telecom providers, yielded to the vision of the iPhone.

Ever since, the mobile industry has not been the same. In trying to emulate and better a competing product, the entire industry is under a evolutionary pressure to up their acts.

2001 Space Odyssey

monolith

Moonwatcher, the pre-historic simian protagonist, leads a sedentary life in this unique novel/movie. Hunting for food, defending his pack of simians from another tribe of simians and so on. Until IT arrives, the monolith. Inscrutable and unlike anything Moonwatcher has ever seen. While monkeying around the monolith he touches it.

Nothing outside has changed. He is not hurt or burnt. Yet, imperceptibly, he has changed within.

The docile simian has learned of aggression. And in the next encounter with those of another tribe shows he means business. Until then death was an immutable reality, but now he knew and understood that death could be conferred by the strong.

Here again, the introduction of another principle, rendered artistically as monolith, determines the course of evolution. The presence of danger in the environment alone could not cause Moonwatcher to gather the skills necessary to survive by aggression.

An, as of now, unknown causal agent triggered a change within Moonwatcher.

Descent of an Avatar

PitchingTent

The evolution of life proceeds in its Darwinian pace. The dinosaurs and the reptiles all. Some chosen for continuation and some for cessation. And then comes the impulse, that higher order and harmony which lifts life to the next level.

The first fish that peeped out of the water to breathe air. That transmuted suffocation into breathing. The first simian that stood up to gaze upon its environs. The mind that stumbled upon introspection. The first question. The first poetry. The first perception of anguish. Everything. Each was a push of our evolutionary impulse.

After each impulse we did not remain what we were just a moment ago.

The environs supported these but the Hindus believe that the cause for these high changes, these spurts and bursts of evolving life was the Avatar, a manifestation of the Supreme Divine who descends for a purpose.

There have been many Avatars. The popular ones are Narasimha, Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, with the detailed list available here. Follow the history of each and you find the evolutionary impulse working from the level of gross forms towards the subtle forms of Dharma.

A Common Theme

In each of these cases there is the steady progression of normal progress, until impelled by an element that exceeds our current common perceptions.

This impulse is named variously as genius, evolution and even called an Avatar by subtler perceptions.

Each is a facet of the one master impulse. And in that impulse will be the key that answers this manifold becomings of our individual selves and the Universe.

Institutional Hypocrisy

Sometimes, well oftentimes, India, my beloved country, seems to be a nation of hypocrites. If you just nodded in sage understanding, you can stop reading right away.

Imagine, the nation got into a huff about Gandhi’s belongings staying in foreign lands, away from these holy shores. So much planning and expense went into ensuring it was returned back to India. That too for belongings that Gandhi himself did not bother to keep!

If only our people had got themselves into a fit for not following Gandhi’s principles, how much better this country would have been!

Before you think this is a stray incident of oversight, let me assure you it is not. This rot runs deep.

The caste system is one of my favorites. The brahmin, at the top of the social pecking order, the guardian of knowledge chants his mantra and hordes his learning.

The brahmin dwells on the omniscience and omnipotence of his chosen Deity or Principle and yet acts in the real world as if his deity were a holed up only in specific statues and words. Imagine that, confining the Infinite to specific forms!

As if the Absolute would be sullied by dirt and tainted with sin because some time-bound social norm was not followed, or because of the place one was born or color of their skin. What use is knowledge if it does not reflect in ones actions?

To take another case, the monarchy and kingdom states that India had in abundance prior to independence is a another blight on our past. Just see what we have replaced it with, a system of dynastic politics under a democratic mask.

We as a nation and peoples seem to have a inherent weakness and subservience to perceived authority. We grovel, shiver and kneel at the first sign of purple.

Our politicians and family-held corporations seek to bequeath their scepter to their children. Suitability and skill for the task be damned. After all, it must have been ordained somewhere in their karmic past!

The accident of biology is turned into an unquestionable fiat of fates.

One stands baffled at the magnitude of this mess. The heart quakes in helplessness. But hope remains. After all, we have overcome 600 years of foreign rule, at least partially, and have an identity of our own.

What we make of ourselves now will determine the course of what we shall be many hundred years hence.

The Symbolism of Indian Art

Great minds have weighed in on the nature of Indian art. Its grandeur, the suffusion of riches, sometimes even a suffocating bewildering maze of beauty heaped pell-mell. Check the excesses of this race here.

It seems there was not the clear path, a logical progression, like say the clearly delineated phases of styles like in western art. The Indian method, if there ever was one, was like the actions of spy who had gone rogue. There are hints of a method, but its context, the conditions and its aims seem foreign to the mind of the modern viewer.

The Indian mind lived a dream world and out of it birthed forms of wonder.

To one who does not posses the key to this dream vocabulary the works of magnificence appear even as the labored efforts of a primitive race – snatches of beauty appear to gleam out from a few perspectives, we appreciate the scale, the engineering aspect of hewing rock and stone, but the piety that birthed gods from inert nature is unseen.

Yesterday I stumbled upon an instance of art so simple in its execution that it instantly yielded a clue to the nature of Indian mind.

Lord of Beginnings

A simple rock, rough and unfinished. Much like the unregenerateness that is man. With no characteristics that would distinguish if it were to lay by the street corner. Perhaps even serve as a stepping stone to span a pothole on a crowded pavement. A simple stone that patiently bears the footfalls of men, men more inert than itself perhaps.

Hosted on a frame. The shape is irregular. Almost like a triangle, or is it a parallelogram?, but one that did not yield to Greek world view.

Upon this stone were drawn three short parallel lines in white, with a red dot right in centre.

Four strokes is all it would have taken. Like the meaningless incantations of an Occultist. Gestures that made no sense to our pragmatic world-view. But that dipped into some mystic sky to gather some of its hue and splash on stone.

Lo, now we have Ganesha, the Lord of Beginnings.

In a flash the mundane is made profound. A time-born inertness stands as a monument in time to the eternal. From now, Indian society would revere this stone. Offer its devotion, oblations from its prayers and let the light from a sacred fire leap out and touch the God in time. From now this would be a symbol, a conduit for the mind of the aspirant to pass through.

And in this symbolic world-view resides the key to understanding ancient Indian art. Not to compel nature into regular forms, to suffocate her infinite variety within the confines of geometry.

No, the Indian mind allowed nature, and hence art, to course the free skies of the intuitive mind. Every object it saw- cow, dog, tree, stone, could be made profound. The temples were the artistic assertions of Kings. But the devotee did not need them, not essential to the progress of his soul. In the thickness of the jungle, or beside the banks of a stream, the pebble shaped as the form of his devotion would do. By that devotion the God will be brought down into the pebble. A temple more grand and sublime than any made by hands will be erected in the vastness of his heart. And the mantras that burn through his mind shall create the pedestal, the flowers, the offerings. Every ritualistic injunction shall be followed, no rule overruled. Here will prayer be made perfect.

This is the key. Every object could aid in the soul’s turning to the Divine. Here at last was a race that could practically live out the idea of a Divine’s Omnipresence. Every object could be God. All it took was a flash from the intuitive mind.

Ignore this symbolic thinking, and one is as a child wandering the halls of heavens wondering if the shining hosts were the legends of his comics come alive. One would still enjoy the color and flash and splendor. And in doing so walk away from doors of eternity because it did not speak the rational language of men.

The Mystique of the Curse in Hinduism

Durvasa flees, his curse backfires

A curse is hard to escape. Within the tomes of Hindu mythology and its epics, the occurrence of a curse is a frequent certainty. Most ancient civilizations, ancient Greek, Biblical, Egyptian etc., had curse practitioners.

The practitioners were almost always someone wronged. Someone whom the laws of Dharma were to protect but failed to. Instances of cursers include chaste women, short-tempered Rishis and incarnate manifestations of the Divine. The curse was the last resort of the weak and the oppressed. The final card that would play out in time.

The recipient of the curse were just about anybody. Gods yielded in silent submission to law greater than their omnipotence, for they too were subject to the causal laws. Cities were subject to it. Kings. Gods. Nothing was spared.

Framework of Laws

The Hindu conception of laws of life had many layers to it. The individual was said to be governed by the law of Karma, cause and effect to be worked out within this framework of life. The notion of Dharma, or the principle of righteousness, provided for laws the individual and the larger collective had to adhere to. Kaala, or Time, was also seen as a law that governed the lives of men. Above all this, as an inscrutable element, was the notion of Lila, or Divine Play, something mounted for the purpose of the immanent Divine to realize and savor within the scope of Time.

Time-bound Laws Were Mutable

Each of these co-existed, overlapped and even cross wired many a time. Everything was subject to ignorance and error. Even Kaala, or Time, could err. Ensuring the short-term survival of the wicked and the tyrant. But Lila stood far above as the chief arbiter who could correct every wrong. What a short-sighted God yielded as a boon to the Rakshasa would be overcome and negated by the Avatar who would come later.

Idea of Lila, or Divine Play

Lila was above the idea of Karma, or Dharma, or even Kaala. Sri Krishna in the Mahabharata exemplified this idea of Lila. Superficial notions of individual and time based morality were shattered for the wider perception of Dharma. Time bound ideas of Dharma were exceeded in the expression of the supreme Lila.

But the Lila and the certainty of it was only given to the Avatar. Not for common mortals or the lesser gods. Here is where the curse comes handy. How do you compel an unyielding Time or the Supreme Divine to hear your case? When all else fails you curse.

Qualities for a Curser

The curse required some basic qualities if it had to be effective. If you were a Rishi you had to acquire Tapas, the spiritual strength that is born of introspection. A woman had to be chaste – chastity was seen as a shield that even the Gods would fail to conquer. A householder and commoner had to adhere to his Svadharma, the law of his personal evolution. Each of these would ensure there was enough charge for the Curse to work.

Deflection of a Curse

The nullification of curse was almost never managed head on. It always had to be deflected, a workaround had to be sought. This required the knowledge of someone who exceeded the spiritual stature of the curser. If it was a someone who had acquired some spiritual merit then a Rishi could figure out the workaround. If it was a Rishi who cursed then you had to head to a Godhead to redeem yourself. But the key aspect was this – An incarnate Godhead never cursed, never ever cursed. In fact he took on any curse with equanimity, it was the price he would pay..even with his life if need be in sticking to the laws of Time.

And overarching all this was the idea of the Lila, the Divine Play of existence.

Summary

The curse was an instrument of action. It was intent vocalized towards a specific result. The target could be anything as long as the practitioner had the spiritual merit. Laws of existence could be superseded by curses. 

What is next?

There is much more to explore on this particular topic especially in comparison to how a curse was perceived in other ancient civilizations and specific instances of how the curse is not what it seems on the surface within Hindu mythology.

Appreciate any feedback, even a curse, for putting you through this! 🙂

Religion is Dead, Long Live Religion

Religion as a system of living is dead.

What remains is only ritual, some archaic pictorial descriptions and a strained existence with a society that wants answers now.

Promises of nubile maidens, an unstrained existence, of honey and wine amidst Mediterranean climes, harps and precious little actual work to do don’t hold water anymore.

Instead of religion being the equalizer and opener of minds and doors, now it is money that plays religion’s role.

Money is the disinfectant for all notional ideas, the grand flattener of various mental terrains. Religion, social structures, moral values, caste & creed and every damned ism vanishes with money.

Religion is nothing but a few spiritual best practices that helped the individual connect with their higher goal . A set of best practices that have worked for a few and been codified into systems.

Let us not get into what the goal itself is. Each race and time seems to have its own definition of it.

The point to note is who checks if these steps work now. Whether the ism and systems hold validity, who would stand up and question its efficacy?

Does the crossing of the fingers to symbolize a cross work? Does the gesture of bowing the head to a temple passing by gain the attention of the god? Or the call to the faithful, does it rouse the spirit? Do these gestures done over a life time, accumulate in some way, and open a path to the rare heights?

The religion and the ritual has lost its efficacy. We need to step back and re-invent the methods and means of our aspirations.

Whether it is in the bunch of universal values we adopt. Or in the rigorous monitoring of our motives. Or even the curtailing of our appetites. The time has come to better understand the residual effect of our thoughts and actions, or as some would say to be aware of the Karmic impact of our actions.

In a sense we have to return to first principles, to begin anew. To discover the forms that are relevant to the current age and time.

And in doing so build the next version of religion. A personal religion. Intensely private. Of infinite variations.

What would such a religion look like? It would allow me to be born with the Vedic chant, sit at the foot of the Cross-bearer and learn of fortitude, cavort with the Dark-Hued one besides the banks of Yamuna, bow in utter obeisance to the fierce protection of the All-Mighty Mother, smile a little at the humor of a Rishi and allow me to join my brothers at their fasting.

I shall not be confined to a single strain of joy. Delight in its infinite variations shall come unto me.

I shall not be circumscribed by a single taxonomy. All methods shall be mine but none shall call me their own.

Within me Zeus and Indra shall discuss the finer aspects of their bolts. Adam and Manu shall wonder together what it means to be the first beings to aspire. The triune of the Bible and the triune of the Veda and Purana shall discover their shared identity.

With the middle man and the chatter of a mindless crowd gone, my paltry breast shall be big enough to hold the universe of truths.

The individual ‘I’ shall discover its oneness with all that is. And the many shall cease to baffle me.

This I shall learn to be the true religion.

Long live religion!

Many Selves – The Inaugural Post

Taken by Flickr User: happyhorizons

Image via Wikipedia

Hello,

I am a blogger based out of Bangalore, India.

My old blog was getting a little too cluttered- with Sri Aurobindo, Terrorists and Singularity jostling for space on a single browser window.

Hence I decided to have start this new blog, dedicated to topics that make up our sense of self, our aspirations and our highest goals.

Why the name “The Many Selves” ? –  I have noticed that what we are in our normal moments is only an aggregation of the many facets of us hidden inside. We are either the result of one predominating tendency, or a handful of them coming together to deliver a summed up experience.

Just as our emotional selves has its ups and downs, like us feeling peppy or depressed at different points of time, the notion of what we are also changes over a period of time. Or even many times within the same day.

I believe we become what we are.

But there is no single clear route by which we have arrived here. And our destinations too will not be reached in a known manner.

Regardless, the way to proceed forward in any endeavor is to confront, harness and utilize these individual selves.

The new blog will be a place where I share my thoughts and insights pertaining to this goal of harmonizing and letting the aggregate self move forward.

And in sharing these thoughts I hope you would take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in your inner challenges. 

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