Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reclaiming our History | Decoding the Ramayana: The *real* Shri Ram: Whether he was a "bad husband" and what is 'Ram-Rajya'? (Part-XI)

Author's Note: Please visit - The 'Real' Ramayana/ Ram-Rajya - to read the other parts of this series, so as to be able to fully understand or grasp the contents of this one.

What does 'Shri Ganesh' and the 'Hamsa' represent? Why is Shri Ganesh a 'son' of Shakti? What are: 'Sanaatan Dharma', 'Brhaman', 'Vedic' and the 'Upanishad'? Some thoughts on: the soul, AUM - the sound of primal energy and "Dvividha nishtha" or the 2-fold path.

In Part-X, we briefly discussed the auspicious Raga Hamsadhwani.

Hamsa = a bird. Either the white swan or the bar-headed white goose. The white swan is called Raja-Hamsa, literally: the royal swan.

The white swan is a 'vaahan' or 'vehicle' of Maa Sarasvati - the goddess (or symbol) of learning, knowledge and wisdom (all of it of a higher plane.)

It is also associated with Brhma - the name of the cosmic force (or energy) that sustains and supports creation (and stands for Buddhi + the creative and discretionary energies in humans). [The energy or force that our ancients called "Brhmaa" signifies Creation. And this force emerges out of the "lotus-naval" of the energy that our ancients called: Vishnu (Vish = poison). Here "lotus" is a metaphor. A lotus grows in muddy water, yet remains untouched by it. Brhmaa or Creation emerges out of poison (Vishnu), yet remains untouched by it.]

Without all that Maa Sarasvati represents or symbolizes, Shrishti or Creation cannot be sustained.

Maa Sarasvati is referred to as a 'daughter' of Shiv and Parvati (Durga). Essentially to mean: that strength and power (i.e. Shakti and Shiv) must be paired with (or come along with) knowledge and wisdom (i.e. Sarasvati) - for it to work well.

Even Maa Lakshmi (the 'goddess' or symbol of wealth, prosperity, wisdom and plenty) is considered as a 'daughter' of Shiv and Parvati (Durga).

[Through Maa Sarasvati and Maa Lakshmi - we can 'see' positive and auspicious qualities or aspects, like: wisdom, knowledge, etc. Incidentally: Lakmé is the French pronunciation for 'Lakshmi'.]

Shri Ganesh is also considered as a 'son' of Shiv and Parvati (Durga).

'Esh' = the best of. 'Gan' or 'Gana' = person or human.

Therefore: Ganesh symbolizes the best traits that people (gana) need to incorporate. [trait = guna.]

Shri Ganesh represents: great retention power or vast intelligence (as symbolized by the elephant head and elephant's memory). The big head = think big.

The elephant-head: represents calm disposition, intelligence, perceptiveness, knowledge and wisdom. [The light of wisdom = Surya-Kotti Samaprabha; as radiant as a million Suns.]

The small eyes = concentration.

The small mouth and the bent trunk (Vakra-Tunndda) = less noise and more efficiency [as in: "empty vessels makes the most noise"]. The bent trunk is an allusion to or indicates: one who is not given to boasting or talking unnecessarily; in other words: one who is not ignorant.

The big elephant ears = great listening ability. [Remember: it is 'listening' and not merely 'hearing'.] 

The single tusk = retaining the good and discarding the rest. Also: non-extravagant. [In a way: Paramahamsa.]

The big body (Maha-Kaaya) = immense strength: to stop all obstacles or negativeness - in the path of good deeds or actions. 

The large stomach = not constricted; digests or accepts everything (all that life has to offer) without being affected. 

The swift mooshika-vahana (the 'mooshika' or the mouse as 'vehicle') - represents: swiftness (obviously), but a mooshika finds its way through all kinds of terrains and tears down all sorts of obstacles (vighn) - with its sharp teeth. And since Shri Ganesh rides it (the mooshika being his 'vaahan' or vehicle) - the latter remains under control and cannot take Shri Ganesh (or all that He represents) for a ride. That is: lack of negative greed or avoidable desire.

The parasu or axe = to strike down all obstacles in the path of good deeds.

The rope + lotus = to pull you closer to the goal + to pull you away from negative aspects, negative thinking, etc. [A lotus: grows in muddy water yet remains untouched by it.]

The palm in abhaya mudra = blessings + reassurance.

The tasty Modakas = the rewards/fruition of one's single-minded efforts [Karm Yog.] 

All that Shri Ganesh symbolizes can achieve any goal or purpose together: Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryessu Sarvadaa. [When one prays to Shri Ganesh, one is essentially praying to be bestowed with all these qualities so as to be able to surmount all odds and complete a good deed or task successfully - always (Sarvadaa). Hence, Shri Ganesh is worshiped before the commencement of any auspicious task.]

Our ancients chose the symbol of an elephant-head since the elephant is associated with intelligence, wisdom, great retention capacity and strength. Also: a herd of elephants know or rather can judge from where or which part of a swift stream it is safe to cross - without getting carried away by the water currents. In earlier times, engineers preferred to wait and watch the elephants cross - in order to figure out the safest spot - instead of depending on their instruments, calculations or judgement. [However: Shri Ganesh is not the 'Elephant God' or the 'Elephant-headed God'.]

"Durga" or "Shakti" represents "strength". Only through this (i.e. strength or effort) can one acquire (i.e. create) knowledge, wisdom, prosperity, etc... and all of these (qualities) together can overcome all kinds of obstacles. These (qualities represented by Shri Ganesh, Maa Sarasvati and Maa Lakshmi) in turn enrich "Shakti" (i.e. strength or effort). They complement each other. Whenever they are utilized together, none of it is mis-used or mis-directed. 

Therefore: Shri Ganesh, Maa Saraswati and Maa Lakshmi are also worshiped during Durga Puja or Dussehra and during Deepavali as well (besides during several other occasions of course.)

So: though Shri Ganesh is not a person, yet... He is a 'son' of Shiv and Shakti (Durga). 

Shri Ganesh represents or 'manifests' positive or noble traits (since these cannot be seen with mortal eyes and possess no form). One way of 'seeing' them is through (the idol of) Shri Ganesh, and it is advised that one must endeavour to achieve these positive traits too. Positive or noble traits (or qualities) are worthy of reverence (i.e. worship). [The same principle is applicable to Maa Lakshmi, Maa Sarasvati, et al.]

Opposite traits or qualities (to the ones mentioned above) such as: ignorance, half-baked knowledge, boastfulness, lack of perspective, vanity, an illusion of knowledge or a lack of intelligence, et al are negative traits or qualities. It is advised that one endeavours to let go of them - at the earliest. [And needless to say, these negative traits are not worthy of worship either.]

There are many symbolism, metaphors and imagery that are a part-and-parcel of the 'Sanaatan Dharma' or the timeless 'way of life'. [Sanaatan = timeless. Dharma = way of life.] 

Shri Ganesh and His being a 'son' is just one of them. Shri Ganesh is also 'Vighn Vinashak' or the 'remover of all obstacles' - that may appear in the path of any good deed or purpose. 

In other words: by incorporating all that Shri Ganesh (as well as Maa Lakshmi or Maa Saraswati) represents or symbolizes, we can overcome all kinds of obstacles and odds - in the path of any good deed or action. [Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryessu Sarvadaa.] 

Remember: whatever Shri Ganesh, Maa Saraswati and Maa Lakshmi represents are a 'part' of Maa "Shakti". 'Coz only through "Shakti" (i.e. through strength or effort) can one acquire (i.e. create) knowledge, wisdom, prosperity, etc... and all of these (qualities) together can overcome all kinds of obstacles. And it is precisely for this reason that it is euphemistically said that: Maa Shakti (Durga) 'created' them.

Hence: Shri Ganesh, Maa Saraswati and Maa Lakshmi are also symbolically referred to as Her 'son' or 'daughter'.

[Shri = honorific. Maa = Mother.]

Lets return to the 'Hamsa'.

The Hamsa is an important element in the symbology found in this ancient Vedic faith - the Sanatan Dharm - and represents: wisdom and beauty.

The Hamsa represents perfect union, balance and life. A constant repetition of the word "hamso" changes it to "Soaham", which means: "That I am" or "I am He". Hence, the hamsa is often identified with the (unseen and formless) Supreme Spirit (also known as: the Paramaatma or the Parameshwar; the Ultimate Truth, the Ultimate Reality or the Ultimate Knowledge). 

Or in other words: the Brhman. [It is not a reference to any group, community or people in any way whatsoever. But another name for the unseen and formless energies of the cosmos: the Supreme Spirit or the Supreme Being; also known as the Paramaatma or the Parameshwar; the Ultimate Truth, the Ultimate Reality or the Ultimate Knowledge. The Brhaman is the source of everything, the cause. The Vedanta is all about searching out the cause. The cause is Brhaman.]

Ham-sa when inverted reads as sa-ham, which in Sanskrit means: 'the oneness of the human and the divine'.

[Our soul or the aatman is a part of the divine (i.e. our aatman is a part of the formless forces or the energies of the cosmos). The Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are "Jiva/Atma", meaning the individual soul or personality, and "Atman", which can also mean soul. The Atman is seen as a portion of the Brahman (the Supreme Being or the Supreme Soul - the source of everything, the cause).

What is today known as Hinduism contains many variant beliefs on the origin, the purpose, and the fate of the soul. For example, advaita (monism) or non-dualistic conception of the soul accords it union with the Brahman, the absolute uncreated (the cause; the Supreme Being or the Supreme Spirit), in eventuality or in pre-existing fact. Dvaita or dualistic concepts differ from this, instead identifying the soul as a part and parcel of the Supreme Soul (the Brhaman), but that it never loses its identity. This is where we as an individual get an identity. According to our ancient texts, this identity exists eternally; the soul never dies. It only transmigrates from one body to another body. And therefore Karm Yog is important. 'Karma' or 'Karm Yog' is not punishment, but an opportunity to redeem oneself. Shri Krishna talked about Dvaita.]

[Note: This is what Shri Krishna said about the aatman

'Na jãyate mriyate vã kadãchinnãyam bhootvã bhavitã vã na bhooyaha, 
ajo nityaha shãshvato'yam purãno na hanyate hanyamãne shareere.' 

Translated: 'the aatma is never born nor does it die. Similarly, it is not re-created to come into existence. Since, the aatma is not born, is eternal and imperishable, it has existed since time eternal and does not die even though the body dies.' - the Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verse - 20.

As Arjuna stood in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, he was overcome with feelings of weakness and confusion - since he faced the prospect of killing his own kith and kin. Shri Krishna, who was his charioteer (sarathi and guide) in the battlefield, sought to allay his fears by teaching him about the distinction between the physical body (which is impermanent) and the soul or aatman (which is permanent):

'vāsānsi jīrNāni yathā vihāya navāni grihNāti naro.aparāNi.
tathā śarīrāNi vihāya jīrNānyanyāni sanyāti navāni dehī.' 

Translated: "Just as a human being puts on new garments, casting off old and worn-out ones, the soul similarly takes up residence within new material bodies, giving up the old and infirm ones." - the Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verse - 22.
He also said:
'nainaṃ chindanti śastrāṇi nainaṃ dahati pāvakaḥ
na cainaṃ kledayantyāpo na śoṣayati mārutaḥ'

Translated: I am the spirit/soul... the atman: any weapon, elements of life or any danger cannot destroy me. I am eternal... energetic.

Sri Krishna describes (to Arjuna) the human soul as something that cannot be cut by weapons, cannot be burnt by fire, cannot be drowned in water, cannot be blown by the wind.

Weapons cleave It not, fire burns It not, water wets It not, wind dries It not. This self cannot be cut, not burnt, nor get wet, nor dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, immovable and ancient. This [self] is said to be un-manifested, unthinkable and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing This to be such you should not grieve -
the Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 2 Verse - 23.

Also: the soul does not have a gender. So, a 'female' soul cannot be trapped within a male body or vice versa. These kinds of people are very likely a different kind of humans - and therefore, should come under the 'tritiya prakriti' or maybe the 'chaturtha prakriti' group.

During pranayama, which is a yogic exercise of breath control, the inhalation is believed to sound like "ham", while the exhalation is believed to sound like "sa". Thus, a hamsa came to epitomize the prana, the breath of life.

Mantras were not devised by the ancient seers or the ancient sages (learned persons, like Rishis, Munis, etc) but were 'revealed' to them by (i.e. were derived from) Mother Nature, creation and the universe or the cosmos.

Ajapa (A + Japa = No + Chant) is the primal Mantra.

This chantless Mantra pervades the breath going in and out, the subtle sound 'sah' going in and the subtle sound 'ham' going out. (Sa = Siva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, or Gauri [Parvati or Sakti]; Ham = I am; so = Parvati.) As one chants this subtle-sound Mantra 'soham', a derivative of 'sah-ham', 'Hamsa' comes into being by inversion. Soham, Hamsa and AUM (Pranava) are equipotent.

[OM or AUM is the sound of primal energy, the sound of the universe itself. Space in Sanskrit is 'Vyoma', and this too contains the sacred sound of primal energy: OM or AUM. It is very likely that the Universe (Brhmaand) is shaped like a conch (shankh), and that is why the sound of primal energy or the sound of the universe is: OM or AUM. This sound does not require any external stimuli whatsoever: it is Pranava Naad or Anhad Naad.

That the universe is conch-shaped is (perhaps) indicated by the idols or the 'physical manifestations' of the unseen energies of the cosmos (such as: Vishnu and Shakti) being depicted as: holding a conch in hand. Essentially to indicate that: these forces/energies support the universe (Brhmaand).]

Soham is the unintonated sound of normal breathing, meaning: 'I am He.' ["aham" + "sa"]

[The awareness that one is inseparable from or is a part of the divine i.e. a part of the Brhaman or the unseen energies of the cosmos - exists only in enlightened persons.]

Hamsa, meaning 'Swan' as in RamaKrishna Parama-Hamsa, stands for an ascetic - Hamsan.

The Hamsa is seen as a symbol of purity, detachment, divine knowledge, cosmic breath (prana) and the highest spiritual accomplishment. It is supposed to transcend the limitations of creation - for it can walk on the earth, fly in the sky (air) and swim in the water. Just as the swan or hamsa lives on water but its feathers do not get damp, similarly a Hamsan (or an ascetic) tries to live in this material world full of Maaya, yet remains detached and is not impacted by its transient and illusionary nature.

The hamsa is supposed to possess the ability to separate the water from the cream (in milk). The hamsa's ability to separate milk and water symbolizes the need to discriminate between good and bad and the eternal and evanescent.

Any learned or knowledgeable person(s) that have been able to only imbibe the good or the positive aspects of his or her learning or knowledge (i.e. has been able to understand the true essence of knowledge and learning) is known as: 'Paramahamsa'. 

[Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsadev is a shining example. This great man was the 'guru' i.e. teacher and guide to the great Swami Vivekananda.]

Shri Krishna too has been compared to the 'Hamsa' and to the magnificent peacock. [Ram and Krishna are one and the same: as Ramakrishna.]

Shri Krishna is a Hamsan or 'ascetic' in the sense that whatever he did was not for any personal motives or gains. His was selfless service (Nishkam Karm) for the greater good (Loka-sangraha or Loka Kalyana.) And so were the deeds of Siya-Ram, Kaikeyi, Manthara, Lakshman, Hanumanji, et al.

[However, being a 'Hamsan' or 'ascetic' - due to their selfless service towards society and towards humanity - does not make either Ram or Krishna 'celibate'.]

This over-glorification (or even glorification) of 'celibacy' is not part of our ancient culture, but a result of later misunderstandings and mistranslations (including by aliens). 

One cannot renounce (tyag) anything unless and until one has experienced it (bhog).

This ancient Vedic faith - the 'Sanaatan Dharma' - has space for both: the active and the renouncer.

The verse "gnanayogena saankhyaanaam, karmayogena yoginaam" comes before " karmaNi eva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana, maa karma phala hetuH bhuH maa sanghaH astu akarmaNi " in the Srimad Bhagavat Gita (which is universally renowned as the jewel of India's spiritual wisdom.)

"gnanayogena saankhyaanaam, karmayogena yoginaam"

eans: "People who already have a meditative bent of mind can take up renunciation, while the rest of the folks (including Arjun) who are yet to have that mindset are better off taking to an active lifestyle."

Shri Krishna's "Dvividha nishtha" or the 2-fold path is not exclusive of his doctrine of "Karm Yog" - the art and science of achieving perfection in action.

People who already have a meditative bent of mind can take up renunciation - that is their path (to Karm Yog).

While the rest of the folks (including Arjun) who are yet to have that mindset are better off taking to an active lifestyle - that is their path (to Karm Yog).

This ancient Vedic faith or the 'Sanaatan Dharma' - was never envisaged as a 'religion', simply because: the word 'religion' or its connotations were unknown to our ancients. Therefore: there is no 'religion' or 'ism' associated with "puja" or "homa" or "chantings" or "mantras" or "prasad" or for that matter: with anything that is associated with this ancient and timeless 'way of life'.

Yes, 'Sanaatan Dharm' is a 'way of life'. [Sanaatan = ancient or timeless, Dharm = path or way of life.] 

It is essentially an accumulation and reflection of the wisdom and illumined knowledge (jnana) - that our ancients (men and women) derived or gathered from nature and from creation. There is no "founder". 'Sanaatan Dharm' was never a cult movement or any movement for that matter, to unite people under a single "founder", simply because there has never been a "founder". 'Sanaatan Dharm' was never meant to be a 'religion' or 'ism'; it is essentially a blend of wisdom, illumined knowledge and Vigjnana - that can be acquired only when one's mind's eye (i.e. one's manas-chokhshu) is open.

This ancient Vedic faith is a 'way of life' and the stress is on 'dharm', meaning: 'to do one's duty whatever the obstacles in one's path'. [Dharm also meant: endeavouring to follow the right principles whatever the situation one may be faced with.]
Vedic = from the Veda. 'Veda' comes from the Sanskrit root 'Vid' which means: 'to know' and this in turn has given rise to 'Vidya' or knowledge. So, 'Sanaatan Vedic Dharma' is the treasure-trove of timeless knowledge - which OUR ancients gathered or learnt from nature (Prakriti), universe (Brhmaand) and space (Vyoma) - and then accumulated within the four Vedas and its other tributaries like the Upanishads, the Purans and so on. Hence: this timeless knowledge is essentially a 'way of life'.

Unfortunately: today 'dharm' or 'dharma' is automatically taken to mean 'religion' or 'ism'. And 'Sanaatan Dharma' has turned into 'Hindu-ism'...! [Thanks to 'knowledgeable' aliens and their spiritual disciples.]

Yet: 'Dharm' for our ancients did not mean 'religion'. It was given the colour of religion by later day (mis)interpreters and alien translators who either misunderstood the words/phrases or did not have adequate phonetics/words/vocabulary in their language. Or maybe: willfully misinterpreted it.

The word 'religion' never existed in this ancient Vedic faith: the "Sanaatan Dharm". It was never a cult movement or any movement for that matter, to unite people under a single "founder", simply because there has never been a "founder". So, when 'knowledgeable' people write about or lecture us on secularism, it is a futile activity. They only end up displaying their gigantic ignorance 'knowledge'. Sanatan Dharma was never a 'religion' or 'ism'; and hence, Sanaatan-Dharmis or Sanaatan-hearts do not understand this peculiar concept of 'religion' or 'ism', nor do they view things through such a prism. 

[Note: The term Upanishad is derived from upa (near), ni (down) and sad (to sit), i.e., sitting down near a spiritual teacher (guru) in order to receive instruction in the Guru-shishya parampara (tradition). Upanishad also means 'setting at rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the Supreme Spirit (Brhaman)...' 

A gloss of the term Upanishad based on Shankara's commentary on the Katha and Brihadāranyaka Upanishads equates it with Ātmavidyā, that is: "knowledge of the Self," or Brahmavidyā i.e. "knowledge of Brhama." Shankara derived the word from the root "sad" (to destroy, to loosen, to reach) with Upa and ni as prefixes and kvip as termination and equated it's meaning with the destruction of ignorance. Therefore, Upanishad means Brhama-knowledge by which ignorance is loosened or destroyed. The treatises that deal with Brhama-knowledge are called the Upanishads and so, pass for the Vedanta. The different derivations together make out that the Upanishads give us both spiritual vision and philosophical argument. In the Upanishads the spiritual meanings of the Vedic texts are brought out and emphasized in their own right. [However: given the passage of time and the seepage of various 'impurities' as well as mistranslations, it is up to us to separate the grain from the chaff, so to speak; since quite a few chaff has gained the status of grain - if you know what I mean.]

The authorship of the Upanishads is unknown, but some of their chief doctrines are associated with the names of particular sages such as: Aruni, Yajnavalkya, Bâlâki, Svetaketu, and Sândilya. The Upanishads belong to the class of sruti, or 'revealed literature', uttered by the learned sages in the fullness of an illumined understanding of the truth (Brhaman). According to tradition, there were over two hundred Upanishads, but the philosopher and commentator Shankara (who lived sometime between 509 and 820 C.E.) only composed commentaries to eleven of them, generally regarded as the oldest ones. The Muktika Upanishad lists 108 Upanishads. According to Panini's Ashtadhyayi (also known as: Panineeyam), the total number of Upanishads was 900. Patanjali too puts the number at 900. Hence: it appears that most of them are lost forever. [Imagine the amount of knowledge that too has been lost along with them.]

Unfortunately: the demise of several languages and ancient groups (clans or tribes), as well as the systematic conversion of indigenous people, the adivashis or vaanvashis (tribal) - all over the world, to some or the other organized 'ism' - has had devastating effects vis-à-vis written and oral history, heritage, art, crafts, knowledge, ancient texts, languages, culture and folklore. We simply have no idea of what has been lost - forever.

If we are to reclaim some of our lost glory - it is important that we revert to 'Sanaatan Dharm' instead of persisting with 'Hinduism' and cleanse all the unwanted aspects that have seeped in or crept in over time (the kind that great humans like Krishna, Ram, Sita et al successfully fought against. We must invoke their guidance and spirit in our hearts and souls.)

[We will continue our discussions in the next post...]

(Do stay tuned…)

Picture: The majestic white swan, Shri Ganesh and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsadev.

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