Sunday, May 15, 2011

Maneesha Panchakam

(Translation from : Maneesha Panchakam by Swami Chinmayananda)

The word 'Maneeshaa' in Sanskrit means conviction and panchakam means a collection of five shlokas. The stotra reveals the normally strong association with the body and the mind which makes even a strong person like Aacharya Sankara starts following a mechanistic mode of life.

The story behind this Panchakam begins with a Aadi Shankara going for a bath at the Ganga in Kashi along with his disciples. Shankara saw a dirty sweeper coming along. He shouted out to him to get out of his way. This was not only a moment of carelessness, but it was a seepage forth of the customs of that time, the very customs that Shankara sought to fight. The response of the sweeper and reply by the sage forms the body of the Panchakam. Shankara sees the divine in the sweeper, and heralds him as his Guru since the sweeper is able to see that he is not what is seen, but he is part of that Self which is compartmentalized into all of us.

Sweeper to Shankara:

अन्नामयादान्नमयम्थ्वा चैतन्यमेव चैतान्यात ।
द्विजवर दूरीकर्तु वाञछ्सी किं ब्रूहि गच्छ गच्छेति ॥

Oh! the best among the twice born, by saying 'move away - move away', do you wish to move matter from matter, or you mean to separate Spirit from the Spirit?

किं गंगाम्बुनी बिम्बितेओम्ब्र्मनौ चंदाल्वातिपयः
पूरे चंत्रमस्ती कच्च्न्घतिम्रित्कुम्भ्योवोर्म्ब्रे।
प्रत्याग्वस्तुनी निस्तारान्ग्सह्जान्न्दाव्बोधाम्बुधौ
विप्रोअयम्श्व्प्चोअय्मित्य्पिमहन्कोअयम्विभेद्भ्रमः ॥

Is there any difference in the 'jewel of the sky' when it is reflected in the waters of the Gangaa or in a ditch in the way side of a slum? Is there any difference in the space as such, be it in a golden pot or in a mud pot? In the ocean of the self existing Blissful consciousness, in the inner Self, devoid of thought ripples, how can there be this delusory distinction" this is a braahmana and this is a dog eater?

Shankara replies as follows:

जग्रत्स्वप्न्सुषुप्तिषु स्फुत्तारा या संविदुज्ज्रुम्भ्ते
या ब्रह्मिदिपिपीलिकान्त्त्नुशु प्रोता जगत्साक्षिणी ।
सैवाहं न च दुश्यवास्त्विती दृढप्रज्ञापि यस्यास्ति चेत
चन्दलोअस्तु स तु द्विजोअस्तु गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम ॥ १ ॥

This indeed is my deep conviction: he who has realised that he is not the seen, but that he is the one Consciousness that illumines all experiences during the waking, dream and deep - sleep states, the one Consciousness that is the sole witness of the entire play of the universe, the one Consciousness which is the very Life Spark in all forms from the Creator down to the ant, he alone is my Guru, be he a sweeper, be he a braahmana.

ब्रह्मैवाह्मिदम जगच्च सकलं चिन्मत्रिविस्तारितं
सर्वं चैताद्विध्य्या त्रिगुनायोशेषं मया कल्पितम ।
इथं यस्य दृढा मतिः सुखतरे नित्ये परे निर्मले
चन्दलोअस्तु स तु द्विजोअस्तु गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम ॥ २ ॥

He who, in his direct experience of the Immaculate Supreme - Bliss - Eternal, has come to the firm understanding that the entire universe is but an extensive play of Pure Consciousness, all projected by his 'ignorance' expressed in the three moods of his mind, while he himself is but that Brahman - he alone is my Guru, be he a sweeper, be he a braahmana.

शास्वन्न्स्वरमेवा विश्वमखिलं निश्चित्य वाचा गुरोः
नित्यं ब्रह्म निरंतरं विमृशता निव्याज्शान्तात्मना ।
भूतं भावि च दुष्क्रुतं प्रदहता संविन्मये पावके
प्ररब्धाय समर्पितं स्वव्पुरित्येशा मनीषा मम ॥ ३ ॥

He who has done long reflections upon his teacher's words that this world of change is permanently in a state of flux; he who has tamed his mind to a true state of quiet and poise; he who has brought his mind, devoid of all dissimilar thoughts, constantly to contemplate upon Brahman; he who has burnt up all his past and future residual-vaasanas in the fire of Pure Consciousness; he who has offered his body to live through and exhaust its present destiny he alone is my Guru, 'be he a sweeper, be he a braahmana.'

या तियार्न्ग्नार्देव्ताभिराह्मित्यांतः स्फुटा गृह्यते
यभ्दासा हृदयाक्ष्देहविश्या भांति स्वतोअचेतनाः ।
तां भास्यैः पिहितार्क्मंदाल्निभां स्फूर्ति सदा भावयन
योगी निवृत्मंसो हि गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम ॥ ४ ॥

A yogee with his hushed mind lives, meditating upon That, which expresses as 'I--I' the subjective individuality in all creatures: plant, animal, human and angels; That, by whose Light, mind and senses and body are all enlivened to activity, even though they are all made up of inert and insentient matter; That, which illumines everything as Sun from behind a bank of clouds - He alone is my Guru: this is my firm conviction.

यात्सौख्याम्बुधिलेश्लेशत इमे श्कद्यो निव्रुता
याच्चित्ते नितरां प्रशान्त्कालने लब्ध्वा मुनिनिर्व्रुतः ।
यस्मिन्नित्यासुखाम्बुधाऊ गलित्धिब्रह्मैव न ब्रह्मविद
यः कश्सित्सा सुरेंद्रव्न्दित्प्दो नूनं मनीषा मम ॥ ५ ॥

During its moments of utter quiet, a yogee's mind gains that Ocean of Bliss, a tiny droplet from which is sufficient to make Indra and others feel contented and happy. Such a one who has dissolved his individual intellect in this Eternal Ocean of Bliss, is verily Brahman, not a mere Knower of Brahman - That rare one, whose feet are worshipped even by the very King of Gods indeed, he alone is my Guru; this is my firm conviction.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mass Movements: How they begin and how they must be ended.

In the concluding part of our series on mass movements, we shall discuss how they begin and how they must be ended in order to achieve a long lasting change in the society. The first part of the series is here.

For these movements to arise, Hoffer [1] describes in "the true believer" that it is essential that the prevailing order is thoroughly discredited. For this this happen, not only should there be blunders and abuses of power by the rulers, but a sufficient articulation of these by men of words. Until these people come about, or until they have a grievance, the prevailing order will continue until it falls by itself or is felled by a neighboring country. To capture the attention of the men of words is so important, that even after the mass movement is successful, these men need to be glued to the cause. Their disgruntled can sweep the young turks from power. Examples for this kind include the stability of Imperial China where an alliance between bureaucracy and the literati was important. The Taiping rebellion then was started by a failed scholar. A similar case existed in the partnership of the Roman Empire and the Greek men of words, and a similar case exists in India, between the Congress party and its journos. We also have our disgruntled men of words at the moment, but it seems they are waiting for their numbers to grow.

The next step of manning the movement is to be done by the fanatics. One might ask why should the men of words precede the fanatics? This is because a fanatic usually shows a virulent extremism for his cause which acts as a culture shock to the prevailing populace. They would rather listen to a man of words. This man would then introduce the people to the new ideas in a piecemeal fashion. Moreover, the authorities are less likely in most cases to muzzle him. In the long run, such men can undermine the people's faith in an existing order and pave way for the fanatics.

The fanatics then move in at the ripest moment. With utter ruthlessness, they will go about tearing the old system to shreds. The words of the litterateurs are now adapted while the men themselves are shoved aside, and the movement is hijacked by them. Where the mass movement is a mild affair in the hands of the litterateurs, who only try to reform the present, the fanatics now wage an all out war on the present. Usually, these fanatics, who themselves are failed men of words come out only when the struggle with an existing order becomes a protracted one.

This is the most dangerous phase of a mass movement. The fanatic doesn't rest once victory has been won, but seeks newer extremes and if an enemy outside the movement cannot be found, this will lead to factionalism. The victories thus won against the old order may soon be lost. This is where the men of action must step in and succeed the fanatic, thus helping to stabilize the movement and freeze its victories. A successful mass movement must have three distinct type of individuals at the outset. It could also be possible for one person to change his outlook, but such changes have mostly been found to be temporary. Once power is won by the fanatics, these practical men stop the conflict with the present and preserve the power won by the movement. The vigor of the movement is to be sapped at this moment and used to form institutions to serve the people. Whereas during the reign of fanatics, devotion to the cause is prized, during the reign of the men of action, duty to the institution is to be given more importance. All this has to be done initially using vocabulary from the days of the fanatics, so as to not disrupt abruptly the continuity from the earlier era.

For a mass movement to be successful, there is the inevitability of the unpleasantness (if not evil) of the active phase of the movement (the phase wherein the movement sets out to acquire power). This is where the fanatic rules supreme. He appears ruthless, self-righteous, credulous, disputatious, petty and rude and often sacrifices or makes one sacrifice much that is dear to oneself in the present. For a mass movement with a worthy cause, it is essential that this phase ends as soon as possible. Nationalist mass movements that have been successful, such as the French and American Revolutions, have had active phases which were relatively short. In the case of India, the failures of the Congress party might be attributed to its not being dissolved once India was liberated from the yoke of the British rule. With the termination of the active phase, the individual is released from a collective discipline. This causes a burst in creativity [2], which was earlier strangled under the fervor of the active phase of the movement.

To terminate the active phase of the movement, firstly, its aim must be concrete rather than be uncertain. As Oliver Cromwell said, "A man never goes so far as when he does not know whither he is going." Usually, this concreteness is delivered by identifying the enemy to be overthrown, and once that is done, starting the reorganization process. Hoffer also recommends a homogeneous population to be essential for an early termination of a mass movement, however, it seems to me that a perception of homogeneity is more essential. Another factor that might lead to such early terminations of mass movements is the degree of submissiveness of the people. A more submissive a culture, the longer the active phase of movements.

Summary: To summarize, a successful mass movement in the Indic context must have the following features at the very beginning of it.

1) A concrete definition of what it is going to deliver.

2) Presence of all three groups of people, viz: the men of words, fanatics and the practical men of action.

3) Propaganda and dissemination of information must first be started by the men of words, followed by action taken up by the fanatics and they in turn should be suceeded by the men of action.

4) A perception of unity of people is a must. Any attempts to thwart this perception need to be defended with utmost vigor.

5) The active phase of the movement must be terminated immediately after acquiring power. Such maturity ends collectivism, revives individualism in the people, and the resulting creativity might even lead to rapid progress in the society.

6) The people should be made rebellious enough about their individualism so that they themselves would not allow the active phase of the mass movement to continue beyond acquisition of its aims.

7) Lastly, if there is any possibility of the mass movement failing, it needs to be disrupted before it takes off. This is because this will create a tendency of having repeated mass movements without sufficient thought to it. People generally do not like getting drawn into such repeated struggles, and finally when the moment is ripe, they would not be willing to sacrifice for the movement, knowing that it too will fail like the ones preceding it.


[1] Eric Hoffer: The true believer

[2] Careers of Milton, Bunyan, Koestler and Silone.

[3] Quoted by J. A. Cramb, "The Origins and Destiny of Imperial Britain" (London: John Murray, 1915), p. 216.