Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mandukya Upanishad

This Upanishad is the briefest of all the Upanishads, yet as per Shankara, if one could study a single Upanishad, it should be this one. Once again, this Upanishad aligns with the mainstream Upanishadic view, that there is a Brahman that is one Reality which became the infinite variety of things around us. But the USP of this Upanishad is in its way of suggesting how to get there, through the dream world.

Amazingly, the stages of sleep that the Upanishad talks about are quite similar to what modern science shows us. Except that the latter derives no higher goal from sleep. As we saw in the Mundaka Upanishad, such a knowledge about the material world is only lower knowledge. (Note: The Upanishads do not despise a lower knowledge) Just as the Mundaka suggests that there is a higher knowledge which is Self Realization, the Mandukya also strives to know about the Self, and the mode of this realization is through sleep.

As per the Upanishad, consciousness is in four stages, awakeness, dreaming, sleep, deep sleep and an even deeper super conscious state. It associates the sounds of the three letters 'AUM' to the first three stages, and the complete "AUM" to the fourth stage. The following is the English translation of the Upanishad.

1) AUM stands for the Supreme Reality.
It is a symbol for what was, what is,
And what shall be. AUM represents also
What lies beyond past, present and future.

2) Brahman is all, and the Self is Brahman.
This Self has four states of consciousness.

3) The first is called Vaishvanara, in which
One lives with all the senses turned outward,
Aware only of the external world.

4) Taijasa is the name of the second,
The dreaming state in which, with the senses
Turned inward, one enacts the impressions
Of past deeds and present desires.

5) The third state is called Prajna, of deep sleep,
In which one neither dreams nor desires.
There is no mind in Prajna, there is no
Separateness; but the sleeper is not
Conscious of this. Let him become conscious
In Prajna and it will open the door
To the state of abiding joy.

6) Prajna, all - powerful and all - knowing,
Dwells in the hearts of all as the ruler.
Prajna is the source and end of all.

7) The fourth is the superconscious state called
Turiya, neither inward nor outward,
Beyond the senses and the intellect,
In which there is none other than the Lord.
He is the supreme goal of life. He is
Infinite peace and love. Realize him!

8) Turiya is represented by AUM.
Though indivisible, it has three sounds.

9) A stands for Vaishvanara. Those who know this,
Through mastery of the senses, obtain
The fruit of their desires and attain greatness.

10) U indicates Taijasa. Those who know this,
By mastering even their dreams, become
Established in wisdom. In their family
Everyone leads the spiritual life.

11) M corresponds to Prajna. Those who know this,
By stilling the mind, find their true stature
And inspire everyone around to grow.

12) The mantram AUM stands for the supreme state
Of turiya, without parts, beyond birth
And death, symbol of everlasting joy.
Those who know AUM as the Self become the Self;
Truly they become the Self.

References & further reading:
[1] The Upanishads - Eaknath Easwaran
[2] Mandukya Upanishad - translated by Vidyavachaspati V Panoli
[3] Mandukya Upanishad - wikisource link
[4] Mandukya Upanishad - Hindu Website link
[5] Mandukya Upanishad - with Gaupada Karika

Admin's note: We will now take a departure from the Upanishads and the reader is directed to follow the rest of the Upanishads from the website of the second link in the references or more online reading. Time for more serious stuff.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mundaka Upanishad

The Mundaka (Sanyasi) Upanishad is one of the most important Upanishads, which is focused on the path of knowledge. The objective of the Upanishad is to make the aspirer of knowledge realize that the Supreme Knowledge is that in which the distinction between the knower, the known and the knowledge disappears.

It starts off with a dialogue between Shaunaka and Rishi Angiras with the question: "What is that by knowing which all is known? " Angiras replies that knowledge is two-fold, the Vedas, linguistics, rituals, astronomy and all the arts are the lower knowledge, while realizing the Self is the higher knowledge. In the rest of the Upanishad, Angiras deals with describing what the Self is and how to get to realize it. In a display of the free thought of that age, he even decries the rituals and people performing them - calling them deluded and ignorant of the higher knowledge.

According to Rishi Angiras, to achieve the Self people must do meditation, be pure in their heart and conquer their senses. A person who desires to achieve it needs to seek a teacher who has realized the Self, and once he fills his heart in love and conquers his senses and passions, the teacher will reveal it to him.

But the most important part from this Upanishad is for Indians and the motto "Satyameva Jayate, Na Anritam" meaning that "Truth always wins, not the untruth", something that is quoted ad nauseum in Indian governmental institutions. This motto has been usually stripped of the rest of the part surrounding it, and hence loses its importance to the general public. People are often seen deriding it, and most say that absolute truth cannot win, you will need to lie in some instances to win. Actually, this statement appears in a section of the Upanishad, saying that the Self is the truth, the Ego is falseness, and one should strive to achieve the Self, since relying on the Ego alone one will be defeated. The practice of truth, penance, brahmacharya and the acquirement of correct knowledge are preparations required to achieve this goal. Nested in this context, the motto acquires a new power in which one might have never seen it before. It also aligns itself with the generic Upanishadic objective of assisting the person to realize the Self. I am quoting below that part of the Upanishad in which the phrase appears. The bolded statement below is the motto in question.

Part III [1]

1) Like two golden birds perched on the same tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body. The former eats
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life
While the latter looks on in detachment.

2) As long as we think we are the ego,
We feel attached and fall into sorrow,
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.

3) When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state.,

4) The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all.
Seeing him in all creatures, the wise
Forget themselves in the service of all.
The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest'
Such as they are the lovers of the Lord.

5) By truth, meditation and self control
One can enter into this state of joy
And see the Self shining in a pure heart.

6) Truth is victorious, never untruth,
Truth is the way; truth is the goal of life,
Reached by sages who are free from self-will.

7) The effulgent Self, who is beyond thought,
Shines in the greatest, shines in the smallest,
Shines in the farthest, shines in the nearest,
Shines in the secret chamber of the heart.

8) Beyond the reach of the senses is he,
But not beyond the reach of a mind stilled
Through the practice of deep meditation.

9) Beyond the reach of words and words is he,
But not beyond the reach of a pure heart
Freed from the sway of the senses.

10) Sages are granted all the help they need
In everything they do to serve the Lord.
Let all those who seek their own fulfillment
Love and honor the illumined sage.

1) The Upanishads - Eaknath Easwaran
2) The Mundaka Upanishad - Swami Krishnanand

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chandogya Upanishad

The ancient Rishis suggested that the universe is founded on two principles. One is rita, law, order or regularity. Without it, no scientific or moral discovery would be possible, and it would also not be possible to learn from our experiences.

The other is sacrifice or yajna. The Rishis thought that the universe runs on renunciation, and that the most significant human action is the sacrifice of personal gain for the sake of something higher and holier.

And if rita is the moral law, yajna is the human response to live according to that law, taking nothing from life for the self, but always seeking to give up the self for life and use things so much as if only borrowing from life. This awareness leads to great peace. Describing this self and the way to reach it forms a major part of the Chandogya (meaning "the uprising of the sacred song") Upanishad. The major stories that one should read from this Upanishad are:

1) The story of Satyakama: who is a child born out of wedlock but is not ashamed of revealing that. Satyakama is given 400 cows to take care of by Rishi Haridrumata Gautama and swears to not return until they are 1000. Once they reach a 1000, Satyakama goes back to his Rishi and on his way back is taught the four feet of the Brahman by animals, birds and fire.

2)The story of Shvetaketu: who is Uddalaka's son, and is sent out to a teacher for schooling. At the end of the schooling, while Shvetaketu was well versed in the Vedas, but was found to be lacking in the knowledge of the Self. His father finishes this part of Shvetaketu's schooling.

3) Narada's education: Narada approaches the rishi Sanatkumara and tells him that inspite of knowing the four Vedas - Rig, Yajur, Sama, Atharva and the epics, grammar, rituals, mathematics, astronomy, logic, economics, physics, psychology, the fine arts and snake charming, he was still not satisfied as he could not understand the Self and was thus in sorrow. Narada says that as per several spiritual teachers, to overcome sorrow, one needs to understand the Self and requests the rishi to teach him about it. The latter then proceeds to fulfill Narada's wish.

4) The City of Brahman: This story has a very vivid imagery of the city of Brahman, within which there is a lotus of the heart and inside of which there is a space, wherein there lies the fulfillment of desires. The writer directs us to long for and realize this space, which is said to contain the infinite space beyond us. This city of Brahman is impregnable, by old age and is ever fresh, since with old age it is only the body that dies and not the Self. One who finds this city and thus the Self is free of all physical and mental ailments. But only a person who is pure and self controlled can reach the city, and in it, they live a life of perfect freedom.

Other gems in the Upanishad include the Prajapati teaching Indra and Virochana, and the Wisdom of Shandilya. I will quote the first part of the Upanishad that explains the significance of the word OM.


Chapter 1: The Word.

1) Let us meditate on OM the imperishable, the beginning of prayer.

2) For as the earth comes from the waters, plants from earth, and man from plants, so man is speech, and speech is OM. Of all speech the essence is the Rig Veda; but Sama is the essence of Rig, and of Sama the essence is OM, the Udgitha.

3) This is the essence of essences, the highest, the eighth rung, the venerated above all that human beings hold holy. OM is the Self of all.

4) What is rig, what is sama, at the heart of prayer?

5) As rig is speech, so sama is song, and the imperishable OM is the Udgitha. Speech and breath, Sama and Rig, are couples,

6) and in the imperishable OM they come together to fulfill each other's desire.

7) For those who, knowing this, meditate on the imperishable OM, all desires are fulfilled.

8) With the word OM we say, "I agree," and fulfill desires.

9) With OM we recite, we give direction, we sing aloud the honor of that Word, the key to the three kinds of knowledge.

10) Side by side, those who know the Self and those who know it not do the same thing; but it is not the same: the act done with knowledge, with inner awareness and faith, grows in power. That, in a word, tells the significance of OM, the indivisible.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad - The Path to Immortality

{Reproduced from "The Upanishads" by Eaknath Easwaran. Comprises of notes from his introduction & a short passage from the Upanishad.}

"Brihad-aranyaka" means "the great forest" and is the longest and the most revered Upanishad. The story revolves around Yajnavalkya, a saint famous for his dialogues with his wife Maitreyi, a contemporary Gargi and for being Guru to the famous king Janaka of the Ramayana fame.

The basic feature of Yajnavalkya's teachings in the first part of the Upanishad is to realize the self, which is identical in all of us. If we discover this self, he tells his wife, in our own consciousness and see that when we love, we love this self, then there would be no more parting and sorrow in this world. This teaching forms the first part of the Upanishad.

In the next two sections, Yajnavalkya enters a discourse with Gargi and explains how all existence is woven with the Akshara, the Imperishable, which has no size, cannot be sensed, does not have senses, has no attachment, cannot consume nor can be consumed. As per him, all physical phenomena is grounded in this Akshara. To know this Akshara, according to Yajnavalkya is to achieve immortality at death. (I am yet to understand the concept of Akshara, but it seems to me that this was one of the first attempts to write a theory that explains everything, similar to the general theory of relativity or today's upcoming string theory.)

In the closing, the Upanishad reveals what to do after realizing the realities of life, with the three syllables "da-da-da" that is "damyatta, datta, dayadhvam" - translated as be self-controlled, give, be compassionate.

We have thus summarized the Upanishad. I'll close the post by quoting a passage that I most identify with, something that is relevant today in this age of nuclear families, loved ones separated by compulsion of occupation, children studying in a far off country and shaping their future. That is, the parting of Yajnavalkya from Maitreyi.

The Path to Immortality
1) "Maitreyi", Yajnavalkya said to his wife one day, "the time has come for me to go forth from the worldly life. Come, my dear, let me divide my property between you and Katyayani."

2) Maitreyi: " My lord, if I could get all the wealth in the world, would it help me to go beyond death?"

Yajnavalkya: "Not at all. You would live and die like any other rich person. No one can buy immortality with money.

3) Maitreyi: "Of what use then are money ane material possessions to me? Please tell me, my lord, of the way that leads to immortality.

4) Yajnavalkya: " You have always been dear to me, Maitreyi, and I love you even more now that you have asked me about immortality. Sit here by my side and reflect deeply on what I say.

5) A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in him.

A husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Wealth is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

Brahmins are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Kshatriyas are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

The universe is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

The gods are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Creatures are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

This Self has to be realized. Hear about this Self and meditate upon him, Maitreyi. When you hear about the Self, meditate upon the Self, and when you finally realize the Self, you come to understand everything in life.

6) For brahmins confuse those who regard them as separate from the Self. Kshatriyas confuse those who regard it as separate from the Self. Gods and creatures confuse those who regard them as separate from the Self. Everything confuses those who regard things as separate from the Self.

Brahmins, kshatriyas, creatures, the universe, the gods, everything: these are the Self.

7) No one can understand the sounds of a drum without understanding both drum and drummer;

8) nor the sounds of a conch without understanding both the conch and its blower;

9) nor the sounds of a vina without understanding both the vina and the musician.

10) As clouds of smoke arise from a fire laid with damp fuel, even so from the Supreme have issued forth all the Vedas, history, arts, sciences, poetry, aphorisms, and commentaries. All these are the breath of the Supreme.

11) As there can be no water without the sea, no touch without the skin, no smell without the nose, no taste without the tongue, no form without the eye, no sound without the ear, no thought without the mind, no wisdom without the heart, no work without hands, no walking without feet, no scriptures without the word, so there can be nothing without the Self.

12) As a lump of salt thrown in water dissolves and cannot be taken out again, though wherever we taste the water it is salty, even so, beloved, the separate self dissolves in the sea of pure consciousness, infinite and immortal. Separates arises from identifying the Self with the body, which is made up of the elements; when this physical identification dissolves, there can be no more separate self. This is what I want to tell you, beloved.

13) Maitreyi: I am bewildered, Blessed One, when you say there is then no separate self.

Yajnavalkya: Reflect on what I have said, beloved, and you will not be confused.

14) As long as there is separateness, one sees another as separate from onself, hears another as separate from oneself, speaks to another as separate from oneself, thinks of another as separate from oneself, knows another as separate from oneself. But when the Self is realized as the indivisible unity of life, who can be seen by whom, who can be heard by whom, who can be smelled by whom, who can be spoken to by whom, who can be thought of by whom, who can be known by whom? Maitreyi, my beloved, how can the knower ever be known?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Isha Upanishad: Summary

Expressing in detail each verse of the Isha Upanishad gets too long for a blog, so I will only make a brief summary of the ideas behind the Upanishad as translated in the previous post. The Isha  Upanishad follows the principle of reconciliation of extremes such as:

1) The Conscious Lord and phenomenal Nature.

2) Renunciation and Enjoyment

3) Action in Nature and freedom in the Soul.

4) The One Stable Brahman and the Multiple Movement.

5) Being and Becoming

6) The Active lord and indifferent Akshara Brahman.

7) Vidya and Avidya.

8) Birth and Non-birth.

9)Works and Knowledge.

The Upanishad doesn't glorify any extreme over the other. Renunciation is to go to the extreme, but it should be integrated with enjoyment. Action has to be complete, but so has there to be freedom of soul from its works. And while unity is the goal, it has to be brought about through experience of the multiplicity. This is much unlike later thought where God, Renunciation, Quietism, the One, Cessation of Birth, the Knowledge, were praised and the concepts of the World, Enjoyment, Action, the Many, Birth, the Ignorance were subdued, which culminated in Illusionism and the thought that existence in the world is a snare and a meaningless burden imposed on the soul by itself, which must be ended asap. The concept of seeing multiple things as one is not an insignificant one and is the basis of much science that is prevalent today. As Aldous Huxley wrote: "All science, is the reduction of multiplicities to unities."  

Going through each of the above mentioned 9 groups:

1) The Conscious Lord and the Phenomenal Nature:

  • The Nature is described as a movement of the Conscious Lord.
  • The objective of this movement is to create forms of his consciousness so that He can enjoy the multiplicityby occupying many bodies as the one soul and enjoy the movement by their relations.

2) Enjoyment & Renunciation:

  • Enjoyment of the above mentioned movement depends upon renunciation of the principle of desire founded on the principle of egoism and not a renunciation of world existence.

3) Action & Freedom:

  • In this regard, the Upanishad believes that actions are not inconsistent with the soul's freedom, and that it only appears that man is bound by his works.
  • He has to recover his freedom by recovering the consciousness of unity in the Lord, unity in himself, unity with all existence.
  • After this, he should embrace life and work completely, and work towards manifestation of Lord in them, since that is the law and objective of our life.

4) The quiescence and the movement:

  • The Quiescence of the Supreme being and his movement are just one Brahman and to discriminate between them is a function of our consciousness.

5) Being and Becoming:

  • Being is one, Becomings are many, but this simply means that all Becomings are one Being.
  • The individual is urged to see the One Being, but we have not to cease to see the many Becomings and are included in the Brahman's view of Himself.

6) The active and the inactive Brahman:

  • Both of these are simply two aspects of the one self, the one Brahman, who is the Lord.
  • The inaction is the basis of the action and exists in the action. This inaction is actually His freedom from all He does and becomes.

7) Vidya and Avidya:

  • The consciousness of unity is Vidya and the consciousness of multiplicity (which is the result of the movement of the one consciousness) is Avidya.
  • This consciousness sees all things as one in its truth idea. but differentiate in mentality and formal becoming.
  • The cause of the ego-sense is recognition of only Avidya and avoiding Vidya.

8) Birth and Non-Birth:

  • The self is uniform and undying and in itself always possesses immortality. 
  • It does not need to descend into Avidya and Birth to get the immortality of Non-birth; for its possesses it always. 
  • It descends in order to realize and possess it as the individual Brahman in the worldly life.

9) Works and Knowledge: 

  • Works and knowledge oppose each other only until they are of the egoistic mental character.
  • Mental activity is essentially fragmentary, & only when the ego is diminished does it see the Oneness behind everything.
  • It is then, that True Buddhi (Vijnana) emerges from the Buddhi which is possible on the basis of the senses.
  • Vijnana leads us to pure knowledge (Jnana), pure consciousness (Chit). There, we realise our entire identity with the Lord in all.
  • In Vijnana, Will & Sight are combined and no longer as in the mind separated from each other.
  • Thereafter our will becomes the law of truth in us, and knowing all its acts and their sense and objective leads to the human goal, which is the enjoyment of Ananda, the Lord's delight in self being the state of Immortality.
  • In our acts also, we become one with all beings and no longer proceed on the path of egoism based on divisiveness.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Isha Upanishad: Translation

We will end our discourse on the Isha Upanishad started earlier with this post and the next. First, we will start with the translation of the Upanishad from the renowned saint Aurobindo.

(Note that the invocation to the Upanishad starts with the shloka mentioned in the earlier post. This translation is meant for the rest of the Upanishad.)

All this is for habitation by the Lord, whatsoever is individual universe of movement in the universal motion. By that renounced thou shouldst enjoy; lust not after any man's possession. (1)

Doing verily works in this world one should wish to live a hundred years. Thus it is in thee and not otherwise than this; action cleaves not to a man. (2)

Sunless are those worlds and enveloped in blind gloom whereto all they in their passing hence resort who are slayers of their souls. (3)

One unmoving that is swifter than Mind, That the Gods reach not, for It progresses ever in front. That, standing, passes beyond others as they run. In That the Master of Life establishes the Waters. (4)

That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within all this and That also is outside all this. (5)

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught. (6)

He in whom it is the Self Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness? (7)

It is He that has gone abroad - That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil. The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self existent has ordered objects perfectly according to the nature from years sempiternal. (8)

Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone. (9)

Other verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding. (10)

He who knows That as both in one, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, by the Ignorance crosses beyond death and by the Knowledge enjoys Immortality. (11)

Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Non-Birth, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Birth alone. (12)

Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Birth, other that which comes by the Non-Birth; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding. (13)

He who knows That as both in one, the Birth and the dissolution of Birth, by the dissolution crosses beyond death and by the Birth enjoys Immortality. (14)

The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove, O Fosterer, for the law of the Truth for sight (15)

O Fosterer, O sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illuminating Sun, O power of the Father of creatures, marshal thy rays, draw together thy light; the Lustre which is they most blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold. The Purusha there and there, He am I. (16)

The Breath of things is an immortal Life, but of this body ashes are the end. OM! O Will, remember that which was done remember! O will, remember, that which was done remember.(17)

O God Agni, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin. To thee completest speech of submission we would dispose. (18)

With this, I will end this post. I will return tomorrow, with a summary of the whole Upanishad.

P.S: Do let us know if you need an expansion of one of the shlokas. I will provide it for you in the comments section.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam - What it was and what it is made out to be.

A few days ago while blog hopping, came across two great posts [(1) and (2)] by fellow blogger Bharatendu on the well known homily of Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam and how it has been misinterpreted by our socialist and secular mainstream intellectual thought which has made it out to be some kind of vision of global village by ancient India. In fact, it is nothing of the sort, and had little importance in the day to day lives of our ancients. I found these great pieces by Bharatendu spread very little, and hope to bring more attention to this topic by posting it here.

So, the shloka in which vasudhaiva kutumbkam appears is as follows: -

अयं निजः परोवेति गणना लघुचेतसां
उदार चरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम

This is translated as :

"This is my own and that a stranger is the calculation of the narrow minded. For the magnanimous hearts however, the entire earth is but a family."

The way this shloka is quoted ( I would go so far as to say abused), it would seem that it is part of an important scripture, such as the Bhagvada Gita, the Vedas, the Manu Smriti or the Puranas and formed an important part of the life of our ancients. A few examples of it's use (from Bharatendu's blog) are as follows:

"In ancient India the liberal perspective was defined by the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam… in contradiction to the ‘Clash of Civilizations’… the theory I don’t agree with. We have to reclaim that liberal space.” : Dr. Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minister of India, Address to the Harvard Alumni Association, March 25, 2006 at New Delhi.

“…India that once, 2000 years ago, had proclaimed vasudeva(sic) kutumbakam – the world is one family…”: Ms. Sonia Gandhi in her acceptance speech on occasion of being conferred the “Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold” by Belgian government for her “constructive nationalism and efforts to foster a multicultural, tolerant society in India”, on November 11, 2006 at Brussels / Bozar.

"...Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam is our foreign policy." Pranab Mukherjee in his Rajya Sabha speech on Dec. 5 2007.

But so far, the shloka has only been found (as untill 2008 by Bharatendu) in the hitopadesha, panchatantra, certain summaries of works of Chanakya and Bharatrihari, Maha Upanishadam, certain recensions of vikrama charitra and in the works of Bhatta Udbhata and it is not at all part of a sermon directing people to believe that "the whole world is my family". I am quoting one of the stories mentioned by Bharatendu while demolishing the shloka for our purpose here to understand one instance of the use of the shloka, and the reader is requested to follow the rest of the posts linked in the references section.

subuddhi the Crow, chitrA~Nga the Deer, and ksudrabuddhi the Jackal

“Long long ago, in the champakavaTI forest of magadha, there lived two friends – a Deer called chitrA~Nga and a Crow named subuddhi. It so happened that a Jackal named kshudra-buddhi, (the proposer of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, as we shall soon see), was passing by and his eyes caught hold of the healthy Deer as he was grazing nearby. The lust to devour him immediately arose in the Jackal’s mind, but knowing Deer to be too swift in a chase, he decided to fall back on his cunning – to win first the confidence of the Deer. The VK-preacher therefore approached the Deer, saluted him, and introduced himself as a lonely newcomer with friendly intentions, and proposed a friendship and brotherhood with the Deer. The naive Deer fell for the sweet words of kshudra-buddhi, and not knowing his true intentions, invited him to his own dwellings.

So, they started towards the Deer’s place, and on their way sitting on the branches of a champaka tree was Deer’s old and wise friend subuddhi the Crow. Seeing them passing by, the Crow asked the Deer, ‘O chitrA~Nga, who is this second fellow with you? ‘ ‘A Jackal, my new friend’, answered the Deer. To this, the Crow asked: ‘But, do you know him well enough? One should never extend friendship and shelter to anyone without knowing their real nature and intentions, learning the history of their ilk and giving them a test of time.’ The Deer lightly shrugged this aside, saying, ‘But this Jackal is very friendly’.

Seeing his friend in delusions, the Crow began relating to him a story about how jaradgava a Vulture was killed by unwisely trusting an impostor (that story reproduced later below). He warned the Deer against trusting the Jackal without learning more about him.

So far the Jackal had kept quiet, and it is at this juncture that he opened his argument with the famous shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, demanding the Deer to not be of a narrow mind by considering the Crow a friend and himself an alien. The vasudhaiva-kuTumbakam discourse successfully put to rest all doubts that had arisen in the Deer’s mind, and dismissing the Crow’s wise council he went ahead in bringing the VK-preacher into his home.”

The remainder of the story can be summed up in two sentences. The cunning VK-reciting Jackal started dwelling with the naive Deer, and as soon as the opportunity arose, pushed him into a deadly trap. However before he could kill the Deer, our wise hero subuddhi the Crow devised a clever trick by which not only the Deer was rescued but also the VK-reciting Jackal was slain.

Now, that is the context in which VK is recorded in the hitopadesha by the great paNDita of politics nArAyaNa, and he is unambiguously clear about its application when he assigns this shloka to come from a brotherhood-preaching shrewd subversionist. It gives a clear warning against blindly welcoming any idea, individual or group without due diligence of studying their history, nature and intent.

However, let us also read the other story, in response to which the VK is uttered in hitopadesha, which would leave absolutely no room for any doubts in this matter of how hitopadesha treats vasudhaiva kuTumbakam:

jaradgava the Vulture and dIrghakarNa the Cat

While warning his friend against trusting the Jackal, subuddhi the Crow thus addressed the Deer:

“There, on the banks of the mighty bhAgIrathI is a cliff called gR^idharakUTa, and upon it grew a great fig-tree. In the shelter of its hollow lived an old Vulture named jaradgava, who due to old age had neither any eyesight left in his eyes nor nails in his claws. The other birds that lived on that tree were friendly to him, and out of pity used to donate from their own food small portions to him, and this way the poor fellow was passing his days. In return, jaradgava used to guard the little offspring of the birds when the parent birds were away.

One day, when the older birds were gone, a Cat called dIrghakarNa (‘Long Eared’) came there to make a meal out of the nestlings; and those tiny birds alarmed at seeing him, created noise that roused jaradgava from his slumber. ‘Who comes there?’ demanded jaradgava. Now dIrghakarNa, on noticing the big Vulture, aborted his meal plans, but as a flight was not possible he resolved to trust his destiny and to approach tactfully. ‘Arya,’ he responded, ‘my salutes to you!’ ‘Who is that?’ asked the Vulture. ‘A Cat,’ answered dIrghakarNa. ‘Lay off, Cat, or I shall slay you,’ shouted the Vulture. ‘I am ready to die if I deserve death,’ said the Cat, ‘but first let me be heard.’ ‘OK then, tell me first your purpose of arrival.’ asked jaradgava.

‘I live,’ melodramatically began dIrghakarNa, ‘on the banks of ga~NgA, bathing daily, performing the penance of chandrAyaNa vrata, strictly being a vegetarian like a bramachArI. The birds that come there, speak very highly of you as the one firmly established in dharma and worthy of all respects. So with my curiosity greatly aroused about you, I decided to drop by Sir, to learn from you about nIti and dharma.’

‘You appear like so deep gone in learning,’ he continued, ‘and still Sir, I am surprised that your sense of dharma tells you to be ready to slay a guest! Doesn’t the nIti say unambiguously about what a man’s dharma is towards his guests?’ The Cat then went on delivering an elaborate speech, quoting eloquently from the shAstra-s about the dharma and cut quite an impressive lecture on peace and non-violence.

Shrugging that onslaught of quotations from shAstra-s aside, wise jaradgava interrupted, ‘Listen, I know only this, that you are a cat and the cats eat meat. Since here are young birds that I am given to protect, I warn you one last time – leave immediately.’

Upon this, dIrghakarNa intensified his drama, and touching the ground with his two claws and then his ears, invoking all the Gods, he said, ‘I have overcome all the passions by practicing the chandrAyaNa vrata; I have learnt the shAstra-s; and I am a follower of the religion that is called non-violence itself. And so he went on.

Such prolonged drama of the Cat finally silenced the old Vulture, who at last allowed him to live in the hollow of the tree with himself.

With the passage of days, and having gained more confidence of the Vulture, the Cat slowly began picking the nestlings for his meal. After devouring them one by one, the cunning fellow would drop their bones near the hollow of jaradgava, who being blind did not notice it.

One day, alarmed at their children going missing, the parent birds began investigating. The shrewd cat quickly made his escape, and the birds soon discovered the bones near the hollow of jaradgava. They at once inferred that their children had been eaten away by the old Vulture in whom they had placed their trust. Thus enraged the birds swiftly executed jaradgava in no time. Although being innocent and a true well-wisher of the birds, he paid for the folly of giving shelter to the wrong kind.”

Above story is which evokes the vasudhaiva kuTumbakam from the cunning subversionist in hitopadesha.


[1]: The Hoax called Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam - Part 1

[2]: The Hoax called Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam - Part 2

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Knowledge, from a Vedic Perspective

This is from the book: "In search of the cradle of civilization" by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak and David Frawley. It is a good read, for people who are just beginning to learn about Hindu culture. I was expecting a lot more about certain details but the authors have only skimmed across several important topics. Perhaps, that was their intention. Anyway, I am paraphrasing from passages which explained what was knowledge according to my ancestors, which for people like me, who are in the field of creating knowledge might be irrelevant since we need to know things in its exactitude. The problem with knowing things from a materialist perspective is that the knowledge gets locked from the general public and they cannot grasp it without sufficient investment of time starting from the basics of that branch of knowledge. This is alleviated by the Vedic method of conveying knowledge and the subtle metaphorical ideas that are more generalized and easier to grasp for the laymen, provided he accepts a Guru and knows or is shown how to decode the metaphors. The following is how knowledge was expressed according to the Vedas: -

1) Vedic theory of knowledge is based on a belief in the interconnectedness and unity of the whole universe, primarily the three components - viz. the cosmos (adhideva), the individual living being (adhibhuta), and the Spirit (adhyatma). Thus, the Vedas are meant to be interpreted in three ways.

2) The Vedic rishis acknowledged that straight logic cannot answer all questions and that scientific knowledge included some paradoxes for e.g. Yajnavalkya when he says in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: "The Gods are fond of the invisible and dislike the visible." In this sense, the invisible is the vast realm of existence that is not perceptible to the senses.

3) The Vedic Rishis did not go into the details of any phenomenon, but communicated the essence of what they saw. And this was in the form of metaphors, which is why it is advisable not to read the Rig Veda superficially.

4) The Vedas are to be read with a questioning attitude and not with a closed sense of dogmatism. Asking questions are the first step towards acquiring knowledge, and in this the Vedic perspective mirrors functioning of today's science.

5) The Rishis proclaimed a unity that is inexplicable and can be seen only from an elevated state of mystical awareness. This is considered a creative reservoir or potentiality, also known as the Purusha and envisioned as a giant man.

6) The world was said to be created through the Purusha's self sacrifice. His mind was said to have given rise to the Moon, his eyes to the Sun, his breath to the air element, his navel to the midspace, his head to the sky and his feet to the earth.

7) The purpose of human creation was now to preserve the unity of the Purusha and all human activity including architecture, sculpture and literature was to be modeled on it. In fact, they set the goal of life to study the mystery of the Purusha.

We shall end this topic here, for as I said, the authors have only skimmed this important topic. I will revisit it when I get my copy of this great book by one of the best authors ever possible, on the topic.

Role of religion in a society and fault tolerance.

In this day, when people have started regarding science as their, blatant outspokenness is glorified - (whether it be for a better cause or by one woman mobile republics, that remaining of no consequence) and evangelical atheism is on the rise, religion has been relegated to the poor and lower - middle middle class of the society, it might be useful to understand some role of religion in shaping the society, that too from an engineering perspective. But let me first start with Machiavelli's views on how religion is useful in shaping the society.

Reading from the points Machiavelli makes in the chapter "On the religion of Rome" from the discourses on book one of the first ten books of Titus Livy, which are as follows: (it is necessary to make an attempt to generalize the points and not quote verbatim, since Machiavelli talks from an Italian/Roman perspective which many readers might not follow or find boring.)

1. After Romulus's reign in Rome was over, the Senate elected Numa Pompilius as his successor and Numa introduces religion into Rome to discipline civil society so as to put a fear of God into the people.

2. This facilitated easing of policy execution on the part of the leaders.

3. Citizens then stood in far greater fear of breaking an oath than a law, as though they had a greater fear of God's might than for man's.

4. Religion was useful in directing the armies, in animating the people, in keeping men good and in shaming the wicked.

5. Where there is religion, it is easy to introduce military discipline, but where there is no religion, the latter can be introduced only with great difficulty.

6. Without invoking God, intelligent people have many beneficial things which might not be directly acceptable to the people.

7. Thus, religion introduced by Numa into Rome was one of the primary causes of her prosperity, for that was the source of good laws, which in turn, bring good fortune, and from good fortune results all the good from the institutions of the land.

Along with the above, there is one major sector that religion has a role in, that is, designing the society according to the rules of fault tolerance. Now, what does fault tolerance have to do with it? Well, this is what fault tolerance means. (click) The theory here, is that while you can make an excellent system when you delete any mention of God, the sole responsibility of leading such a system depends on good rule by the ruling class and which over a long period of time, decays since the ruling class will invariably get corrupt with concentration of power in the hands of a cliche. Once the ruling class starts manifesting decay, and licentiousness, the society will start crumbling, for there is nothing to fall back onto (Remember the Sanskrit saying, 'yatha raja, tatha praja' really becomes true in this case, since there is no better ideal available for the people to follow. In case of a pre-existing religion, at least some people will try to emulate the Gods of the religion, and rise above their rulers). This is where fault tolerance comes into play, that the system keeps on running at sub-optimal conditions even when the key dominoes of the system have been withdrawn. This is where Machiavelli too realizes the importance of this concept, but of course, he doesn't call it by this name. As per Machiavelli, welfare of a republic or kingdom lies not in ruling it wisely while the ruler lasts, but in organizing it in such a way that the state endures after he has passed away. And the best effect of religion is here.

The obvious corollaries (my points) that emerge from such a religion would be that -
1) The control nodes of such a religion should rest solely within the state. If the control nodes exist outside, they can lead to external manipulation of a people.

2) The structure needs to be kept decentralized with checks and balances on the powers of each control node, otherwise we have to endure with a parallel power centre apart from the Central Government in the same state.

3) Towards the above end, the religion should be divided into different philosophical schools to not only cater to people of different tastes, but also so that there is constant competition between each school, something that would help each school of thought better itself and its followers. Yet, there should be a common meeting ground of each school rooted in Dharma.

4) The end goal of such a religion should be to make people do good during the existence of a good state, even after the good state has passed, and create a legend that enables the people to resurrect the same state, or resist an imperial power.

As usual, followers are invited to add more to this post.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Differentiating the pleasant and the good.

Many people can't differentiate the pleasant and the good. This is a big problem in a democracy, where people start voting themselves lollipops and vote a bread and circus democracy in, also check what that means by an excellent post from a close ally.

I know, Diwali prayers and the feeling of union with family, laughing and joking are all good, but if you have time, try to get your countries out of such a democracy if it is in one, and if it is not in one, keep it out of it.

In this, a part of the Kathopanishad can be of use. I am quoting an excerpt from a translation of the upanishads by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester. I assume either you have a copy of the Kathopanishad, or can read the part before the part I have taken from online sources.

Nachiketa: "Tell me, O King, the supreme secret regarding which men doubt. No other boon will I ask.

Yamaraj: "The good is one thing; the pleasant is another. These two, differing in their ends, both prompt to action. Blessed are they that choose the good; they that choose the pleasant miss the goal.

Both the good and the pleasant present themselves to men. The wise, having examined both, distinguish the one from the other. The wise prefer the good to the pleasant; the foolish, driven by fleshly desires, prefer the pleasant to the good.

Thou, O Nachiketa, having looked upon fleshly desires, delightful to the senses, hast renounced them all. Thou hast turned from the miry way, wherein many a man wallows.

Far from each other, and leading to different ends, are ignorance and knowledge. Thee, O Nachiketa, I regard as one who aspires after knowledge, for a multitude of pleasant objects were unable to tempt thee."

Please read the rest of the Upanishad from your source. Let us resolve to be like Nachiketa and be able to differentiate between the pleasant and the good this year. At some places, that has already begun to happen. May that light spread and elevate us from this darkness. A very happy deepavaly and a happy new year to all of you readers.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sankhya vs. Yoga

In an earlier post, I had questioned why Sankhya was said to be inter-related with Karma Yoga in the Bhagwada Gita. While I haven't found anything on that, I have been able to find a discourse between Bhishma and Yudhishthira where Bhishma answers Yudhisthira on the difference between Sankhya and Yoga. This is from an unabridged version of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata translated by Shri Kisari Mohan Ganguli.

Yudhishthira said: It behoveth thee to explain to me, O sire, what the difference is between the Sankhya and the Yoga system of philosophy. O foremost one of Kuru's race, everything is known to thee, O thou that art conversant with all duties!

Bhishma said: The followers of Sankhya praise the Sankhya system and those regenerate persons that are Yogis praise the Yoga system. For establishing the superiority of their respective systems, each calls his own system to be the better. Men of wisdom devoted to Yoga assign proper and very good reasons, O crusher of foes, for showing that one that does not believe in the existence of God cannot attain to Emancipation. Those regenerate persons, again, that are believers in the Sankhya doctrines advance good reasons for showing that one, by acquiring true knowledge of all ends, becomes dissociated from all worldly objects, and after departing from this body, it is plain, becomes emancipated and that it cannot be otherwise. Men of great wisdom have thus expounded the Sankhya philosophy of Emancipation.

When reasons are thus balanced on both sides, those that are assigned on that side which one is otherwise inclined to adopt as one's own, should be accepted. Indeed, those words that are said on that side should be regarded as beneficial. Good men may be found on both sides. Persons like thee may adopt either opinion. The evidences of Yoga are addressed to the direct ken of the senses those of Sankhya are based on the scriptures. Both systems of philosophy are approved by me, O Yudhishthira. Both those systems of science, O king, have my concurrence and are concurred in by those that are good and wise. If practised duly according to the instructions laid down, both would, O king, cause a person to attain to the highest end. In both systems purity is equally recommended as also compassion towards all creatures, O sinless one. In both, again, the observance of vows has been equally laid down. Only the scriptures that point out their paths are different.

Yudhishthira said: If the vows, the compassion, and the fruits thereof recommended in both systems be the same, tell me, O grandsire, for what reason then are not their scriptures (in respect of the paths recommended) the same?

I have quoted only the beginning of the conversation, the rest can be followed from here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A tribute.....

... to a person who cares a lot about our motherland.

The complete version is here: click . The whole conference was about 2 hours long.

I like the basic concept of the approach that there is someone out there, who is directly interacting with the people and coercing them to do something for the nation. However, there are a few flaws with the push of the arguments.

1) It heavily relies on information gathering.
2) It heavily relies on middle class action.
3) It ignores the masses and wants them to do nothing.
4) It ignores the spark to fire up the three Is - inspiration, information, involvement.

I doubt the existence of this middle class in the past, when we defeated the Bactrian Greeks, annihilated Scythians, Yueh-Chis, assimilated the Hephthaelites (ok this is still up in the air, one version is that we managed to destroy them as well), almost destroyed the Sultanate rule, almost destroyed the Mongol rule, forced the British to leave. I doubt a broad based information gathering system then.

So, how did these things happen and how did we fare better then than we are doing now? I will leave this question open to visitors.

I doubt the middle class will do anything to save the nation. Although they have the means, they feel the pangs of the nation being tore asunder by forces beyond their control, they have all the reason to stay quiet. A few genuinely concerned people will continue to struggle nonetheless. Anything that doesn't involve the masses will fail.

About information, how many would sincerely sit down and absorb all that is out there? How should an average person reading something for the first time confirm the veracity of facts? What or who will motivate him to get involved after getting informed and inspired?

Somewhere, people have left out the elephant in the room in their quest to reform India. In fact two elephants. The two elephants that Chanakya did not miss. Check the following videos:

(Edited on 31st October, 8:16 pm. At the advice of Karmasura, and since none have taken up the conversation so far, I am expanding on the following videos and what they mean in the present day context for India so as to make my point clearer to the audience)

1) Chanakya's speech at Kaikayiraj Sabha.

This is a speech Chanakya makes in the conference room of Kaikayiraj. Karmasura had provided the translation of this post here for the same purpose as mine. The purpose is to rally up support following the Greek invasion from different quarters of the society. Chanakya says that an important pillar of any society is the education system and its participants i.e. the teachers. To paraphrase, the lesson from the video is that a teacher should feel proud only when the nation is victorious. The nation will be victorious when its values and customs will be maintained. This is possible by the nation when the teacher follows his duties. Thus, to reform India, we need to reform the teacher, and the education system and instill them with a nationalist zeal. There is also a suggestion for arming the teacher and militaristic training in schools and rebellion against the state if force is required to restore national pride. Most likely, there will not be any need of a rebellion to reform India, but the military drill can instill good health among the youth, and good health will enhance productivity, and also keep them from stupor and other ills in the society.

2) Chanakya's speech to a friend's mother.

This video was also translated by Karmasura here. Chanakya talks to a mother of a person who wishes to volunteer for the revolt against the Greeks. The issue was about getting recruits to fight against the Greeks. Chanakya's younger brother wishes to join the military but his mother refuses to. In the video, Chanakya says that if a mother is attacked, her sons will not stay quiet. So, if the motherland is attacked, why should her sons stay quiet? This wins her over, and gets his younger brother to join the army. The video is a showcase of the powerful influence of a mother in a family. While the father is away at work for most of the day, it is from the mother that a child does basic schooling. Many great people on this god forsaken third rock have shown great regard for the lessons they have learnt from the mother. Thus, if the mother is instilled with a patriotic zeal, she will instill the same in her sons and daughters, and they will not betray her teachings when they grow older. And, an extra effort to train today's mothers is needed, because once the part in no. 1 is established, the resultant human females from the education system will have automatically imbibed the patriotic spirit.

Once the spirit of nationalism is instilled, people will be automatically inspired to get informed and then get involved in participating in national activities. No effort needs to be done to invoke the 3 "I"s as has been mentioned by Shantanuji in the video.

These two, I think, will do a tremendous good for the upliftment of the nation, rather than specifically bombarding the middle classes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Understanding the Cosmic Dance in the Divine Amphitheatre: Sharad Poornima

Borrowed from a friend, and I have kept the whole note intact without any modifications. This is on understanding the Raas Leela and specially for those who have been thinking that Lord Krishna's Raas-Leela has sexual connotations.


Indian legends have it that Krishna danced with milkmaids on the banks of the river Yamuna on the full moon night of autumn. This dance is referred to as Raas-Leela. Western theologians tread this subject with caution, some ascertaining a sexual connotation to the mystery behind it. Indian philosophers have tried to read between the lines focusing on the symbolism of the same, digging for deeper spiritual meaning. To understand Raas-Leela, the dance of celebration, what is first necessary to know is that the whole of life is a meeting of contradictory forces, and that all its happiness comes from this union of the opposites. The very mystery and ecstasy of life lies hidden in this unio mystica. To begin with, it is good to understand the metaphysical meaning of the celebration that our universe holds. And then, together, we will go into the life of Krishna, a complete miniature of this celebrating universe.

Raise your sights and look at whatever is happening all around in this vast universe of ours. Is it anything other than a dance, a celebration, an abounding carnival of joy? It is all celebration, whether it is clouds gliding in the heavens or rivers rushing to the seas or seeds on their way to becoming flowers and fruit, or bees humming or birds on the wing or love affairs between men and women. It is all a panorama of play and dance and celebration.

Raas has a universal meaning; it has a cosmic connotation and significance.

Firstly, the meeting of opposite energies is the cornerstone of all creation, of the universe. To construct a house with a door, we put an arch at the top of the door with the help of opposite shapes of bricks to support it. It is just this placing of opposite kinds of bricks in the arch that upholds not only the door but the whole building. If we use uniform kinds of bricks in the arch, it will be impossible to construct a house. In the same way, the whole play of creation, at every level of life, begins when energy becomes divided into two opposite parts. This division of energy is at the root of all creation, of all life in the universe, and with the cessation of this division all life's play comes to a full stop. When the same energy becomes one, when it returns to its primordial state, total destruction, the ending of the universe happens. And when the same energy again divides itself into two, creation begins anew.

Raas, the dance of celebration, is the most profound attribute of the mighty stream of creation. And creation in itself is the interplay of polar opposites -- thesis and antithesis. When opposites collide with each other it results in conflict, hostility and war, and when they embrace each other there is love and friendship. Without the meeting of the two, creation is impossible. So we have to go into the significance of Krishna's raas in this context.

It is not all that we see when Krishna dances with the gopis, the milkmaids, but we can see only that much with our gross eyes. Krishna's raas with the milkmaids of his village is not an ordinary dance, on a small scale it really represents the universal dance of creation that, since eternity, goes on and on. It epitomizes the everlasting drama of the making and unmaking of the universe. It gives you a glimpse of that divine dance and that immense orchestra.

It is for this reason that Krishna's maharaas ceases to have a sexual connotation. If one literally believes the texts, Krishna was eight years old at the time of the maharaas on the full moon in autumn. It is hard to imagine any sexual interpretation in the mind of an eight year old. And he danced with the gopis. The term "gopi" in Sanskrit means someone who has turned inward to derive pleasure. Such milkmaids who have turned inward would not derive pleasure from ordinary sex. In reality or wider interpretation Krishna does not dance as a mere Krishna, he represents the whole of the male element in creation, known in Sanskrit as purusha. And similarly the gopis represent the entire female element, prakriti. The maharaas represents the combined dance of prakriti and purusha. People who take the maharaas as a sexual representation of life are mistaken; they really don't understand it. And I am afraid they will never understand it. To put it rightly, it is a dance of the meeting of the male and female energies, of purusha and prakriti. It has nothing to do with any individual man and woman; it represents the mighty cosmic dance.

Legend has it that it happened on the full moon night of autumn. The significance of autumn is the representation of balance; it's neither too hot nor too cold in autumn. The full moon represents completeness. The maharaas is Yog, merging of the individual self into the Supreme; call it Brahman, God, Nature, Higher Self or whatever you may. It is the dance of the electrons around the nucleus or the dance of the planets around the sun. The electrons are equally and oppositely attracted to the nucleus and so are the planets to the sun. Their relationship is unique and can be very well represented by the maharaas. Rutherford's model of the atomic structure or Copernicus's and Kepler's model of the solar system can easily be explained by the maharaas that was either conceived, or who knows, happened, thousands of years ago. The gopis represent the electrons and the planets and Krishna, the nucleus and the Sun, respectively.

It is because of this that a single Krishna is shown to dance with any number of gopis. Ordinarily it is not possible for a single man to dance with many women at a time. Ordinarily no man can be in love with many women together, but Krishna does it, and does it beautifully. It is amazing that every milkmaid, every gopi taking part in the maharaas, believes that Krishna is dancing with her, that he is hers. It seems Krishna has turned into a thousand Krishnas so that he pairs off with each of the thousand women present there. It is just a representation, an imagination to make humankind understand the great mysteries of chemistry and physics and astronomy in the simplest terms.

It is utterly wrong to take the maharaas, the celebration dance of Krishna, as that of an individual person. Krishna is not a person here; he represents the great male energy, purusha. The maharaas is a representation in dance of the great meeting between male and female energies. But the question is: Why is only dance chosen as a medium for this representation? The medium of dance comes nearest to the mysterious, to the non-dual, and to celebration. Nothing can express it better than dance. The celestial dance is happening every moment, every second, in every atom and the ethereal cosmos, whether we see it or not.

Let us look at it in another way. Dance is the most primitive form of human language, because when man had not yet learned to speak, he spoke through gestures. If one man had to communicate with another, he made gestures with his face, his eyes, his hands and feet. Even today a dumb person only expresses himself through gestures. Verbal language came much later. Birds don't know a language, but they know how to chirp and dance together. Gestures make up the whole language of nature. It is used and understood all over. So there is a reason why dance came to center stage for the raas, the celebration.

Gesture is the most profound medium of expression because it touches the deepest parts of man's mind and heart. Dance reaches where words fail. The sound of the ankle bells of a dancer says a lot even where speech is ineffective. Dance is more articulate than anything else. A dancer can go from one end of the earth to another and will, more or less, make himself understood through his dance. No language will be needed to understand and appreciate him. No particular level of civilization and culture will be required to understand a dance. Dance is a kind of universal language; it is understood everywhere on this planet. Wherever a dancer goes he will be understood. Man's collective unconscious is well aware of this language.

To me, the great raas happening in infinite space, with millions of stars like the sun and moon dancing rhythmically, is not an ordinary dance. The atomic "dance" is now known to everyone. It is not meant for entertainment; it is not show business. In a sense it should be described as overflowing bliss. There is such an abundance of bliss in the heart of existence that it is flowing, overflowing. That is what we call the river of existence. The presence of the polar opposites in the universe facilitates its flow.

There is a significant saying of Nietzsche's. He says, "It is out of chaos that stars are born." Where there is no system, no order, only the interplay of energies remains. In this interplay of energies, which is raas, Krishna and his milkmaids cease to be individuals, they move as pure energies. And this dance of opposite energies together brings deep contentment and bliss; it turns into an outpouring of joy and bliss. Rising from Krishna's raas this bliss expands and permeates every fiber of the universe.

Although Krishna and the gopis are no more with us as people, the moon and the stars under which they danced together are still with us, and so are the trees and the hills and the earth and the skies that were once so drunk with the bliss of the raas. So, although millenia have passed, the vibes of the maharaas are still with us.

Now scientists have come forward with a strange theory. They say although people come and go, the subtle vibes of their lives and their living remain suffused in existence forever. If someone goes to dance on the grounds in Vrindavan where Krishna once danced with his gopis he can hear the echoes of the maharaas even today. If someone can play a flute near the hills that in the past echoed with the music of Krishna's flute, he can hear those hills still echoing it, everlastingly.

In my view, the raas symbolizes the overflowing, outpouring of the primeval energy as it is divided between opposites. And if we accept this definition, the raas is as relevant today as it was in the times of Krishna. Then it becomes everlastingly relevant. May we always be blissful and perceive this cosmic dance, not just on the full moon of autumn (Sharad Poornima), but every day, every moment. May this maharaas fill us with joy and peace. Greetings on this auspicious festival!


Sharad Poornima (The autumn full moon) was yesterday on the 22nd October.

C.G. Jung on India

Been reading Jung of late. Following are few excerpts from the book "Psychology and the East" by renowned psychologist Carl Gustav Jung on what things India can teach the West (and these days, itself). For a first visit (in December 1937), he makes many good points which some of us are fast forgetting. I do not find fault with him yet for having wrong observations on the Indian dhoti (he thinks people cannot fight in it, perhaps he had not seen Kalaripayattu being practiced) and studying Buddhism separately, since he had little time to explore India properly. I however find two of these excerpts very important.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter "What Indians can teach us". Jung feels that Indians do not think as a Westerner does, but he perceives his thinking. In that way, he resembles a primitive person.

"I am now going to say something which may offend my Indian friends, but actually no offence is intended. I have, so it seems to me, observed the peculiar fact that an Indian, in as much as he is really Indian, does not think, at least not what we call "think". He rather perceives the thought. He resembles the primitive in this respect. I do not say that he is primitive, but that the process of his thinking reminds me of the primitive way of thought production. The primitive's reasoning is mainly an unconscious function, and he perceives its results. We should expect such a peculiarity in any civilization which has enjoyed an almost unbroken continuity from primitive times."


I am not quite sure how a Westerner thinks, but I do think by perceiving my thought, and imagining the results of my actions. But Jung says that this thought of the Westerner is the outcome of a split between the conscious and the unconscious personalities of a person, and while the Westerner tamed the conscious side, the unconscious remained barbarous. He adds that this is the reason why inspite of being technologically superior and scientifically advanced, the Occident can commit ferocious atrocities on human life. The Indian thought in comparison comes from having a union of the conscious and the unconscious sides, and his view of life is wholesome.

Jung also warns of the collapse of Eastern culture in "The Holy Men of India". This section on pages 184-6 of the book reads much like high school essays on the ill effects of Western life, but is one of the most relevant part of Jung's observations on the Orient:


"The Eastern peoples are threatened with a rapid collapse of their spiritual values, and what replaces them cannot always be counted among the best that the Western Civilization has produced. From this point of view, one could regard Ramakrishna and Shri Ramana as modern prophets, who play the same compensatory role in relation to their people as that of the Old Testament prophets in relation to the "unfaithful" children of Israel. Not only do they exhort their compatriots to remember their thousand year old spiritual culture, they actually embody it and thus serve as an impressive warning, lest the demands of the soul be forgotten amid the novelties of Western civilization with its materialistic technology and commercial acquisitiveness. The breathless drive for power and aggrandizement in the political, social, and intellectual sphere, gnawing at the soul of the Westerner with apparently insatiable greed, is spreading irresistibly in the East and threatens to have incalculable consequences. --- snip --- The externalization of life turns to incurable suffering, because no one can understand why he should suffer from himself. No one wonders at this insatiability, but regards it as his lawful right, never thinking that the one-sidedness of this psychic diet leads in the end to the gravest disturbances of equilibrium. That is the sickness of Western Man, and he will not rest until he has infected the whole world with his own greedy restlessness. "


Jung is greatly influenced by Ramana Maharishi to whom he had been introduced by Heinrich Zimmer through this book. Zimmer seems to be a bigger enthusiast on India, whom we will explore later if time and resources permit. Jung feels that solving the above problem of Western Culture can be done through a study of the East.


" The wisdom and mysticism of the East have, therefore, very much to say to us, even when they speak their own inimitable language. They serve to remind us that we in our culture possess something similar, which we have already forgotten, and to direct our attention to the fate of the inner man, which we set aside as trifling and teaching of Shri Ramana are of significance not only for India, but for the West too. They are more than a document humain: they are a warning message to a humanity which threatens to lose itself in unconsciousness and anarchy. It is perhaps, in the deeper sense, no accident that Heinrich Zimmer's last book should leave us as a testament, the life work of a modern Indian prophet who exemplifies so impressively the problem of psychic transformation"

On the above, anything that becomes a positive feedback loop will keep growing larger, until it burns out the resources and gets destroyed on its own. The solution to such a problem is for us to remove the causative factors before the burn out time arrives or device an inhibiting mechanism that converts it into a negative feedback control system and makes our culture of today arrive at an equilibrium. The path that Western Culture has put us on and it itself is on is a positive feedback cycle. At some point, this has to end or it will end us. The destruction of today's culture of never ending desire and greed is not only a moral problem, but is proven to be similar to problems in science and biology as well and it will be no surprise if it goes in a similar fashion.

How to solve the problem?

I do not know yet. Perhaps the awareness that this is wrong and needs to be corrected is sufficient to satiate today's desires. Perhaps more is required? To answer that must be one of the objectives of this blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A little bit of Machiavelli for the Hindu mind.

Serving the country at any cost is a vital Hindu thought, and several Hindu sages have spoken of it in different eras. But most of us assume it is about fighting on the day of war, serving the poor and so on. Indeed it is all that, but it is also about pre-planning for existential threats, for which few have any regard for. It is impossible to make a majority of people think in this fashion, because many people would look at the current strength of the Indian state and think that it has bright prospects and will keep going from one strength to another. What we need for the country to effect it into policy, is a critical mass of people having strategic consciousness and the ability to look ahead of their immediate needs. The pre-planning for national security involves among other things, peering into a competitor's mind and read his literature plus understand the foundations of his thought. Here's a post for the security conscious minority, a minority that will always be treated as social outcasts of a particular kind if they dare open their mouth among the majority, by laws that have little empirical basis.

Following is an excerpt from Machiavelli's "The Prince" which is considered one of his best pieces and is widely used in many places to determine foreign policy. It might very well be useful to determine our foreign policy too. I advise reading all of his classics. Most of them are almost free.

(Warning: If you're thinking that the Indian Subcontinent consists of only the Indian State, you can leave the post now. If you're thinking it is still a bunch of states that deserve to be united in favor of the most powerful state, you are my kind.)

From Ch. 3 Mixed Principalities:


Moreover, a prince who occupies a province which, as previously described, differs from his own, must become the leader and defender of the less powerful neighboring states and seek to weaken the more powerful among them. He must also be on guard lest by any chance a foreigner equal to him in power should enter them. Such an event always comes about through the help of discontented inhabitants who willingly admit a foreign power either through excessive ambition or through fear, as was the case with the Etolians, who admitted the Romans into Greece. So, it was also with every province that the Romans entered, they were brought in by the inhabitants themselves. It is in the nature of things that as soon as a powerful foreigner enters a province, all the weaker powers in it will become his allies through envy of those who have been ruling over them. This is so true that, with respect to minor powers, the invader need do nothing at all to win them, for they will all willingly merge in the state which he has acquired. He has but to see to it that they do not gain too much strength and authority. With his own forces and their support, he can very early reduce the stronger powers and then become arbiter of the entire province. Any ruler who does not succeed in doing this will soon loose what he has won, or so long as he does manage to hold it, will have a host of difficulties and annoyances. The Romans very carefully observed this policy in the provinces they conquered. They sent out colonies; they protected the lesser powers without increasing their strength; they reduced those who were strong, and they did not permit powerful foreigners to gain a footing. Their conduct in Greece will suffice as an example: there the Romans protected the Achaeans and the Etolians, reduced the kingdom of the Macedonians, and expelled Antiochus. Nor did they ever reward the Achaeans and the Etolians by allowing them to enlarge their states, or allow Philip to persuade them to become his friends until they had weakened him. Nor did the power of Antiochus ever induce them to permit his keeping any part of Greece. In this instance the Romans did everything that wise princes should do who must have regard not only for existing disorders but for future ones as well, avoiding them with all possible diligence.


If you've been following current trends in India's geopolitics, then as far as the Indian subcontinent is concerned, all the above actors are in place. What was the traditional reach of the Indian subcontinent, comprising of states - Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and as some say, even Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and some parts of modern day Iran, are all still splintered as was the case at the end of the Maurya Dynasty. Elsewhere in "The Prince", Machiavelli makes a point that a splintered people will be easy to conquer. A new wave of imperialism awaits us as the pressure applied on the rump state of India increases from all these sides and as the balance of military power shifts steadily from the Indian state onto the regions in its vicinities. We have missed out on the maneuvering phase of the enemy. Luckily, we have a democracy, and what an individual can do is to get informed, get others informed, vote for and give feedback to parties and people that are most security conscious. If there is any absence of such people, you have the opportunity to join the system and bring the change you wish. At the bare minimum, we can wish to enhance the military power of the Indian state, and keep the balance of military in our favor. Uniting with the lost states will happen if they happen to discover their roots at a later time, or the rising un-affordability of raising a modern military makes them fall within our ambit as autonomous states.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introduction to the Ishavasya Upanishad

The following is a brief description of the Ishavasya Upanishad by Swami Suvijananda. The first clip below is a description of the opening stanza of the Upanishad as below, which is on the lines of Lavoisier's law of conservation of mass.


ॐ पुर्नामादाहा पुर्नामिदम पूर्णत पुर्नामुदाच्याते ।
पूर्णस्य पुर्नामदय पुर्नामेवावाशिश्यते ।

ॐ शांतिः शांतिः शांतिः ।।

This is complete, and what comes out of this is complete.
Though this has come out, and though this is complete, that is also complete.

When completeness is removed from completeness, what remains is completeness.
When completeness is added to completeness, what comes out is also completeness.

He goes on to describe this by the creation of a pot of clay from clay. Note his breakdown of the word Upanishad and his explanation of how Upanishad is about illumination and not instruction.

In the second part, he says that the Upanishads directs us to be heard and listened to, and not to be read and studied. According to him, "listening has to be done with the ear and the mind plastered behind the ear." Total silence is recommended to listen something. Another interesting point that he notes is that all the shastras are in the form of a dialogue and not a monologue, started with the student asking the teacher a question and the teacher answering him, which is exactly opposite to the examination system prevalent today. Also note his division of humanity into categories depending upon a person's inclination towards learning, and defining who can be a student to the Upanishad.

Conclude the video series by viewing this clip as well.

For more on the Ishavasya upanishad, refer here: click

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Meaning of History & Itihaasa

History has always been a second love after engineering for me. While I have briefly discussed different events in Hindu history on this blog, I haven't given a post on the philosophy of history till date. This post is meant to give a Hindu perspective of this philosophy, as has been elucidated in appendix D of "The Pernicious Effects of the Misinterpreted Greek Synchronism in Ancient Indian History" by Kosla Vepa which was a work presented in the "International Conference of Indian History", 2009. (Post is an abridged version of appendix D of the hyperlinked work & modified to suit our purpose)

"Historians & philosophers have been contemplating the meaning of history since the beginning of history. A simple definition of history is "remembering the past" or knowledge of what has happened from the start until the present. It is also the knowledge of the past since record keeping was initiated. The purpose of studying history in school text books is to teach the student understanding of what has taken place so that we may build upon and understand how a nation functions and how it came to be. We also study the history of other nations and how their history interacts with ours. A greater awareness of history results in a more enlightened and educated citizenry. Knowledge of our past helps us understand the present and prepare for the future. Knowing the history of the world helps the individual respect and appreciate one's form of government and society as well as become better informed about differences in civilizational ethos of other peoples of the world. (this also helps to better appreciate the evolution of diversity among us, and give an opportunity to make peace with people from different spheres of thought, culture and race)

The original meaning of Itihaasa had a more precise sense than the word history. The etymology attested to be Panini indicates itiha to mean "thus indeed, in this tradition". One of the earliest references to Itihasa is in Chanakya's Arthashastra. Investigations lead us to believe that the Maurya Empire for which he was the perceptor began in 1534 B.C. (please avoid chaos on this issue.) He defines Itihaasa, in the context of syllabus prescribed for training of a prince with the following words:

"Puraana (the chronicles of the ancients), itivrtta (history), akhyayika (tales), udahaarana (illustrative stories), dharmashastra (the canon of righteous conduct), and arthashastra (the science of government) (- and economics) are known as itihaasa (history)."
Kautilya's Arthashastra -- (Book 1, Ch. 5).

History (Itihaasa) in this definition takes on the meaning more akin to the sense of historiography and is perhaps more eclectic & appears to indicate a super set of political science and history as we use them today.

In the Mahabharata, which is itself considered itihaasa, Adi Parva 1.267-268 mentions that a knowledge of the Itihaasa and Purana is essential for the proper understanding of the veda. By the time the Brahmana and the Upanishada were written, & certainly by the time the Itihaasa and the Purana were written, there was such a well defined sense of history, that the Mahabharata cautions us that the Veda are afraid of those who would read it without a prior acquaintance of the Itihaasa and Purana.

Kalhana in the Rajatarngini states that: "History will be the narration of events as they happened, in the form of a story, which will be an advice to the reader to be followed in life, to gain the purushaarthas namely kama, the satiation of desires through artha, the tool, by following the path of dharma, the human code of conduct to gain moksha or liberation.""

Friday, September 24, 2010

When Hanuman is Dead

What should one think of a society that cannot stand & fight & win for the values that it holds dear to itself? What should one think of a society where values keep shifting from one goalpost to another, from a bad position to a progressively worse position over time (over the scale of a year if not a month, that of a decade if not a year, that of a century if not of decades, that of a millennium if not of a century), where the tendency is to accomodate the evils that have accumulated in the society rather than stepping forth and destroying them?

I believe that Hanuman has died in that society. Read the following story, (courtesy a note to which I was tagged on FB) to understand why.

"At one point in the Ramayana, Indrajit (Ravana's eldest son) launched a massive attack against a section of Rama's army, causing massive slaughter. When Jambhavan (the commander) arrived at the scene to survey the damage, the first thing he said was, "Is Hanuman alive?"

Hanuman subsequently arrived at the scene and Jambhavan was glad to see him alive and safe. Another soldier asked Jambhavan, "Why did you ask only about Hanuman, is he the only one you care about?" Jambhavan replied, "No, but if Hanuman is alive and everybody else dies, we are still going to win the battle eventually, whereas if everybody else is alive but Hanuman is dead, then we are all doomed."

There is a meaning to this story that transcends its original context and applies to every challenge of life. Hanuman symbolises devotion, sacrifice and determination. These qualities are absolutely necessary to accomplish any difficult and strenuous task. If we are weak in every other way, devotion, sacrifice and determination can still carry us to success in seemingly impossible tasks. Whereas if we possess every other skill and talent, it is not good enough if we are lacking in the qualities that Hanuman symbolises. If we are lacking in every other way, we'll be OK with Hanuman alone, but if Hanuman is missing then we're in trouble.

This is true on many different levels of activity. From a military perspective it has been shown that a weaker force with single-pointed devotion and thirst for sacrifice towards their cause is more effective than a larger, better equipped force that lacks the dedication and devotion. On an inner spiritual level, the qualities of Hanuman are essential for the spiritual seeker to be able to make a true realisation of the Divine. Even a simple man with dedication, devotion and determination can attain God, whereas a highly educated person with strong intellect and many other qualities would still fail without the qualities of Hanuman."

These three qualities might just correct the problems in such a society. Devotion, sacrifice and determination, towards the highest possible goal in the society, towards making everyone in the society content, avoid situations of resource denial to the people, towards making people pursue the collective good of themselves and their neighbours and the society should solve most of the problems of such a society. Re-invigorating the Hanuman spirit in the society, that of devotion, sacrifice and determination can still change a lot of things, even if bigger objectives in the society are not currently attainable. The rest might just follow after this.