Sunday, December 16, 2012

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

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 is the 'Varna-dharma' or the 'Varnashram Dharma'? Some thoughts on: 'Sat-cit-ānanda', 'Buddh-ism', 'Karm Yog' and 'Swadharma' or 'work born out of one's nature (pravritti)'. Notes on some great yet forgotten Indians. [Do read Part-XI – to get the drift.]

'Sanaatan Dharma' is all about 'Karm Yog'. It is about the art and science of achieving perfection in action. It is about doing one's work with pride and doing it well (with full responsibility). It is about doing one's duty (towards society and towards humanity), no matter what the odds.

Bhagavan Shri Krishna's immortal words from the Srimad Bhagavad-Gita [Chapter 2 Verse - 47]:

|| karmaNi eva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana,
maa karma phala hetuH bhuH maa sanghaH astu akarmaNi ||

Meaning: "Thy business is with the action only, never with its fruits; so let not the fruits of action be thy motive, nor be thou to inaction attached."

Krishna - the handsome King of Dvarka (Dvaravati) and a fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom advises us: that in any situation, we must make a conscious decision and do our best to uphold it - despite the odds. Remaining inactive or being a fence-sitter is not an option. Also: one must not worry about the result, outcome or the consequences of one's action or decision - since that is not in our hands. Our focus should be on doing our duty and doing it to the best of our ability.

He also says that: everything happens due to our action only (including: misguided actions and lack of action.) Hence: we must not blame any external factors for whatever situation we find ourselves in. Everything happens due to our action only (and that includes the consequences of our misguided actions and/or lack of action or even lack of timely action.)

'Sanaatan Dharma' and 'Karm Yog' is all about following one's swadharma. 'Swa-dharma' literally means: 'work or duty born out of one's nature or pravritti'. The 18th chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita examines the relationship between 'swadharma' and 'swabhava' (i.e. one's essential nature). In this chapter, the 'swadharma' of an individual is linked with the 'gunas' or the 'tendencies arising out of one's swabhava' (nature).

Therefore: one has been advised to ascertain oneself, in order to best understand one's nature, tendencies, inclinations and bent of mind; and then to apply oneself accordingly - into an area or field of work that one is best suited for.

This way: one is able to do justice to one's talents and interests... and this in turn leads to contentment. A contented or satisfied person is good for one's family and to society as well, while a frustrated or dissatisfied person does no good to anyone.

This is the 'Swa-dharma' (that Shri Krishna talked about) and which is now known as the 'varna-dharma' or the 'varnashram dharma'.

[Here: Varna = one's nature, inclination, bent of mind or pravritti. Shram = work. Dharma = duty.

Therefore: Krishna's doctrine of "Swa-dharma", now known as "Varna-dharma" or "Varnashram-dharma", means: work born out of one's nature, inclination, bent of mind or pravritti.

Here, "varna" DOES NOT mean colour or complexion.

"Varna" means: one's nature, inclination, bent of mind or pravritti. Later it was used to mean colour; alphabets; etc. Just as how "Purush" to our ancients indicated the Supreme Being (Parameshwar) or the Supreme Soul (Paramaatma). It later became part of grammar and has now come to mean "male".]

However: whatever the work, one must take pride in doing it, and endeavour to do it to the best of one's ability, as this too results in satisfaction and contributes towards the greater good (Loka-sangraha or Loka Kalyana.)

sri-bhagavan uvaca (2-2):

|| kutas tva kasmalam idam visame samupasthitam
anarya-justam asvargyam akirti-karam arjuna ||


Kutas tva = Where from? kasmalam idam = these inferior or negative thoughts have grabbed you. Visame Sam-Upasthitam = in this hour of crisis. AnArya Justam = these Un-Aryan traits. Akirti karam = which does not lead to Glory. Asvargyam = or heaven.


 || Arjuna! How these inferior thoughts have grabbed you? They do not fit higher
[thinking] persons nor lead to higher worlds nor bring fame. ||

Gist: What is the reason for your dejection that has overwhelmed you with sorrow - at such a critical hour? Why Arjuna, are you indulging in depressive thoughts over things that do not deserve it? Such behaviour is ignoble (Un-Aryan-like) and for the mentally weak. It is unbecoming of you; it will not lead you to Glory (Akirti karam) or heaven, Higher Planets (Asvargyam) or towards immortality (which can only be achieved by performing great deeds and thereby leaving behind an everlasting legacy.)

Krishna chides Arjun in a forceful manner - for running away from his true calling as a warrior. This is also an exhortation for all of us: to overcome dejection, to banish all sorts of negative thoughts, and to face the vicissitudes of life bravely and cheerfully - without getting overwhelmed by sorrow or misery... and to remain steadfast in attaining our goal. There is no point in being frustrated, dejected or being overcome with sorrow; such behaviour is for the weak-minded or the weak-willed... and serves no purpose.

'Sanaatan Dharma' and 'Karm Yog' is all about following one's swadharma i.e. 'work born out of one's nature or pravritti' and in the above verse, is often interpreted as the 'varna dharma' or the 'duty of a warrior'.

[Arya = 1. a group of people. 2. also means: noble thoughts, noble traits and a noble 'way of life' that stresses upon doing one's duty.]

Shri Krishna's advise to Arjun about doing one's duty, i.e., about upholding one's Dharm (as per one's nature, talent or disposition) - during the course of the 'Kurukshetra War' is today known as the 'varna-dharma' or the 'varnashram dharma' (as discussed earlier.) Their conversation is revered as the 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita,' or 'the Song of the Blessed One' (also: 'the Song of the Fortunate One.')

['Srimad' = honorific; 'Bhagavat' = 'Fortunate' or 'Blessed'; and is derived from 'Bhagah', which means: 'good fortune', while 'Gita' or 'Geeta' = 'Song'. 'Fortunate One' or 'Blessed One' since: Krishna's legacy is not constrained by time and space, and hence his name and message will live on forever.]

The Srimad Bhagavad Gita begins before the start of the climactic Kurukshetra War, with the Pandav prince Arjun becoming filled with doubt on the battlefield. Realizing that his adversaries are his own relatives, beloved friends and revered teachers, he turns to his charioteer (sarathi) and guide, Krishna, for advice. Responding to his confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna explains to Arjun his duties as a warrior and prince besides elaborating on a variety of philosophical concepts.

Responding to Arjun's despondency, Krishna asks him to follow his swadharma or his 'duty as a warrior'.

[Note: The Kurukshatra War was not fought over riches or territory; it was a 'Dharm Yuddha' meaning: a war fought over 'principles' (so as to establish certain norms in society - for the greater good i.e. for Loka-sangraha or Loka Kalyana). It was a war fought to determine the 'way of life' that ought to prevail in society. We will of course discuss this in greater detail in our subsequent posts.]

Both Shri Ram and Shri Krishna are referred to as 'Kshatriya-Shresht' or 'the best among the Kshatriyas or warriors'. However: 'warrior' or 'Kshatriya' is not about bloody battles or wars fought in the battlefield, nor about caste or community. It is about one's nature (i.e. one's 'pravritti') or the 'warrior-spirit' - that motivates one to protest, oppose or fight against all kinds of social ills and injustice. And this is the real 'duty' or 'dharm' of a brave-heart (a true 'warrior' or a Kshatriya-heart.)

Caste is a foreign word; it has been derived from the Portuguese word 'Casta' which means: purity of descent. Do read Part-I and Part-II - for a glimpse of the society that prevailed before Shri Ram ascended the throne. We will also discuss how things changed after Shri Ram ascended the throne... until the demise of the Gupta era; and how and why 'caste' seeped into our culture - in our subsequent posts: when we discuss Sita's much-trumpeted 'Agni-Pariksha'.]

Krishna, through the course of the Gita, imparts to Arjun wisdom, the path to devotion, and the doctrine of selfless action (Nishkam Karm and Karm Yog). The Gita upholds the essence and the philosophical tradition of the Upanishads. However, unlike the rigorous monism (Advaita) of the Upanishads, the Srimad Bhagavad Gita also integrates dualism (Dvaita) and theism (āstika). [Note: Since the pattern of life based on Vedic wisdom is essentially a 'way of life', words like 'rigorous' and its connotations do not quite gel with Vedic philosophy.]

The Bhagavad Gita occurs in the 'Bhishma Parva' of the 'Mahabharata' and comprises of 18 chapters - from the 25th through to the 42nd and consists of 700 verses. However, according to the recension of the Gita commented on by the Adi Shankara: the number of verses is 700, though there is evidence to show that the old manuscripts had 745 verses. [What happened to these additional 45 verses, I know not. But what I can say with certainty is this: that it has been our loss; we have been deprived of priceless knowledge and guidance. Whether there were more than 745 verses, many of which is now lost in the mists of time or to the elements - both natural and otherwise: my guess is as good as yours.]

The 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita' distills the timeless knowledge of the 'Veds' (whether of all the four - the Rg Ved, the Sama Ved, the Yajur Ved and the Atharva Ved - I cannot say; but of the Rig Ved and the Sama Ved certainly) and those of the 'Panchatantra', the 'Upanishads', the 'Ramayan', etc., as well.

Hence: the 'Srimad Bhagavad Gita' is a book that holds immense wisdom and knowledge within its pages and is the jewel of ancient India's spiritual wisdom, one that is not constrained by time and space.

Swami Vivekananda drank deep from this fountain of wisdom. Here are his thoughts on 'Karm Yog' [and as you can see it is not different from Shri Krishna's doctrine of 'Karm Yog']:

Once (during his famous trip abroad), some aliens drew his attention to a pile of books, sacred books of every faith, kept against the wall. The Srimad Bhagavad Gita was at the bottom, on the bare floor, while every other book - belonging to various faiths, were piled on top of it.

Those aliens' intention was to mock him; they meant it as an insult or snub, since we were a colonized nation and worse: dark-skinned people.

However, Swamiji - in his characteristic calm and serene manner smilingly responded that it was the right arrangement, since: the root is always at the bottom.

He exhorted Indians to: "Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached". [Do read about his views and thoughts, if you can.]

Vivekananda means: 'one who derives happiness through one's consciousness' or one who has achieved eternal bliss of self-realization i.e. Sat-cit-ānanda (pronounced as: sach-chid-ānanda). Sat describes an essence that is pure and timeless; cit is consciousness; ānanda is absolute bliss. [Do read: Link - to know more about this great  'Parivrâjaka' - the Wandering Monk from India.]

For the ancient Egyptians this great land was "God's land" or the land of Punt (India), since ancient India was far superior to others - in all respects. [The ancient name for Egypt is Miṣr, Mishr. Now, whether folks with the surname 'Mishra' or 'Misra' or 'Mishr' or 'Mishir' have anything to do with ancient Egypt, meaning: whether their forefathers were part of groups that migrated from ancient India, and after a few generations returned - in order to escape the onslaught of the barbaric Mlechcha hordes: I do not quite know.]  

In Part-XI, we discussed how the word 'religion' or 'ism' never existed in this ancient Vedic faith - the "Sanaatan Dharm". This is because: this timeless 'way of life' was never a cult movement or any movement for that matter, to unite people under a single "founder", as there never has been a "founder".

This ancient Vedic faith or 'way of life' is inclusive, assimilative, and therefore, any lecture on secularism is futile, uncalled for, a sheer waste of breath, energy and time.

Just because somebody somewhere suddenly decided to rechristen 'Sanaatan Dharm' as 'Hindu-ism', or mistranslated it as a 'religion' or mis-termed it as 'ism' - does not automatically make it so. And the same principle is applicable to (so-called) 'Buddhism' too.

Bhagavan Shri Gautam Buddh's message was not unknown to our ancients. His teachings are derived from this vast ocean of knowledge and treasure-trove of wisdom - known as the 'Sanaatan Dharm'; it is simply one of its many tributaries. Shri Gautam Buddh's doctrine of karma is inspired by Shri Krishna's doctrine of 'Karm Yog'. [Shri Ram, Shri Krishna and Shri Gautam Buddh belonged to the same lineage, land, culture and heritage, and all of them are transcendental legends in their own right. Do read: Part-VIII.]

Therefore: it is misleading to say that Samraat Aśoka embraced "Buddhism". Simply because: this 'ism' bit has been appended to Shri Buddh's message much later. During Ashoka's time, there was no such concept like 'religion' or 'ism', and hence the insistence on the existence of "Buddhism" (or even "Jainism" for that matter) is a figment of someone's fertile imagination. It is laughable. In fact, Samraat Ashoka was instrumental in spreading our ancient knowledge, wisdom and heritage to ancient China and elsewhere.

Even to this day, Sanaatan-dharmis pray at Mandirs or temples irrespective of whether these are associated with so-called Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Gurudwaras. And most of us have read the Panchatantra, the Hitopadesh, the Upanishads, the Jataka Tales and the Jain Tales.

[Note: unfortunately, by the 6th Century AD, diverse unwanted aspects had adulterated Shri Gautam Buddh's teachings, and his message of peace had degenerated into an excessively docile version. The misunderstandings and misinterpretations by later scholars probably played their part.]

Swami Vivekananda (born: Narendranath Dutta; Naren) was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahangshadeb (born: Gadadhar Chattopadhaya; Gadai) - a great spiritual 'guru' and the finest priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir (situated on the banks of the river Ganga.) 

The intrepid reformer, philanthropist and zamindar - Rani Rashmoni - not only built this beautiful temple but also persuaded the simple-living and reclusive Sri Ramakrishna to take charge of the activities there.

Sri Ramakrishna's famous disciple, Swami Vivekananda, spread the culture, heritage and majesty of this great land far and wide. Among Swamiji's noted disciples was Sister Nivedita or Bhogini Nibedita (a Scots-Irish social worker and schoolteacher, born: Margaret Elizabeth Noble) who gave her all to India. [Bhagini or Bhogini = 'Sister' in Bangla.]

She was a friend to many intellectuals, poets and artists, including: Rabindranath Tagore (Robi Thakur), Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and his spouse, Abala Bose; Nandalal Bose, Subrahmanya Bharati and Abanindranath Tagore.

Her book Kali, the Mother influenced Abanindranath Tagore (Aban Thakur) to paint Bharat Mata [Motherland.]

Sister Nivedita also came in contact with Saradamoni or Maa Sarada (a great spiritual teacher and spouse of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamshadeb), who opened Nivedita School. Maa Sarada also started Durga Pujo @ Belur Math (in 1901). 

After Sri Ramakrishna passed away due to throat cancer, Maa Sarada (along with some of her companions) undertook a pilgrimage to North India and visited the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir at Benaras as well as the city of Ayodhya. After returning to Bengal, she became a 'guru-ma' or a 'spiritual guide'... and a much loved one at that.

In Dec 1910 she went to Kotharia in Orissa, and then traveled all over the South of India: to Madras (now Chennai), Madurai, Dhanuskoti and Rameswaram. She reached Bangalore (in 1911) and then returned to Bengal.

Btw, here is a piece from an editorial in Karma Yogin, written by Bhagini Nivedita; it shows her immense respect for India:

The whole history of the world shows that the Indian intellect is second to none. This must be proved by the performance of a task beyond the power of others, the seizing of the first place in the intellectual advance of the world. Is there any inherent weakness that would make it impossible for us to do this? Are the countrymen of Bhaskaracharya and Shankaracharya inferior to the countrymen of Newton and Darwin? We trust not. It is for us, by the power of our thought, to break down the iron walls of opposition that confront us, and to seize and enjoy the intellectual sovereignty of the world.

... In other words: 'Karm Yog'.

[Note: Aryabhatta's way of explaining and presenting complex theories and phenomena is very unique. I'm not aware whether the much-vaunted Greek astronomers came any close.

The pioneering botanist and physicist Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose was great in every sense of the word. His was a phenomenal mind. He demonstrated that plants too had life when everyone else thought otherwise (and this "everyone else" included the scientific community, who would have surely employed 'logic', or their version of "logic" - in order to reach such a conclusion.) 

[Bose made a number of pioneering discoveries in plant physiology. He used his own invention, the crescograph, to measure plant response to various stimuli, and thereby scientifically proved parallelism between animal and plant tissues.]

Acharya J.C. Bose's explanation of what is "living" and "non-living" is a true eye-opener. It could not have happened without a blend of imagination and spirituality. And this, he would have clearly imbibed from our ancient heritage.

In my humble opinion: he enriched logic. He infused or rather breathed life into logic.

Mere cut-and-dry logic - devoid of imagination/ or philosophy/ or a bit of spiritualism - will remain incomplete. Is it not?

Acharya Shri J.C. Bose as well as Shri Aryabhatta were able to effortlessly merge logic with imagination and/or philosophy and/or spirituality. The results are there for all to see.

Yet, we have successfully buried their names in the sands of time, while others (aliens) have happily claimed the credit for their work. [Incidentally: Acharya J.C. Bose never sought patent, believing that knowledge is free and therefore, should be available to all and should benefit all. "It is the invention which is of importance for the mankind, not the inventor". Can you find any peer of such a noble-minded man? It's our great pride that such a phenomenal scholar was born in our country.]

But where are: Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, Pingala, Bhaskaracharya, Panini, Charak, Shushruta, Baudhayana, et al?

And where are the ones that are much closer to our times?

Like: Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Dr. Meghnad Saha, Srinivasa Ramanujan, C.V. Raman, Sisir Kumar Mitra, et al?

Sadly, they are all lost in the mists of time. Not only have we successfully banished our greats from our collective memory, we have also ensured that they faded off the pages too. Come to think of it: we have done even better. Given our propensity for building "narrow domestic walls", we might even label the great Dr. Meghnad Saha as "backward".

Mindless, isn't it?

Incidentally: Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose or Prof. S.N. Bose is the Bose behind the group of elementary particles called Boson, 'Bose Statistics' and the much-acclaimed 'Bose-Einstein Condensation' - for the creation of a new form of matter. Yet, while Einstein was duly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (for the 'Bose-Einstein Condensation') Prof. S.N. Bose was blithely overlooked due to 'wrong' colour of skin. And also because: awarding him would have hampered the painstakingly built up image of a dark-skinned inferior people and a backward, colonized nation - one that friendly aliens arrived to 'civilize'.

Acharya J.C. Bose made very significant contributions to the field of chronobiology and circadian rhythms even before these two technical terms were coined. Bose was the pioneer of experimental science in India. He was an inventor of the first order and devised many sensitive instruments for his research: both in physics and physiology. He invented the crystal radio detector, waveguide, horn antenna, and other apparatus used at microwave frequencies. [Satyendra Nath Bose and Meghnad Saha were two of his notable students.] Acharya Bose is also the unsung hero of radio communication, although the knavish Marconi received credit for it. [More: HERE.]

Acharya J.C. Bose carried on his scientific research despite racial discrimination and a lack of funding and equipment (courtesy our friendly colonizers who blocked and discouraged original research in all its colonies). Sister Nivedita wrote, "I was horrified to find the way in which a great worker could be subjected to continuous annoyance and petty difficulties ... The college routine was made as arduous as possible for him, so that he could not have the time he needed for investigation." 

But then I am also reminded of what Lord Curzon (Viceroy to India from 1899-1905) wrote in his letter to Queen Victoria: that in order to keep up their superiority of race, culture, heritage and history - they needed to have colonized countries and colonized people, or words to that effect. I interpret this as an advice or urge: to diligently work towards ensuring that the mindset remained perpetually colonized.

[Also: going by various narratives, there seems to have been a sudden eruption of the 'civilized man' courtesy some or the other revolution, and there also seems to have been an equally sudden eruption of the 'culturally and scientifically evolved civilized man' in Greece. Thankfully, most of us were not born yesterday; I said most of us: since we must factor in the neo-Curzons. Frankly: I'm not sure how such narrow-minded views of history and heritage will help the ones that strive hard to dispense them. Since: a crow cannot metamorphose into a peacock - simply by pasting some peacock feathers onto its body. In a manner of speaking that is, no offense meant to the crows though. :) Wonder why nobody talks about the fate of the many hordes of barbaric Mlechchas that were driven out of modern Asia by great emperors like Chandragupta Vikramaditya? Wonder why nobody writes about the original inhabitants or the indigenous people of the lands halfway around the world or tell us what happened to them? Or why nobody enlightens us about the fate of the Sakas and the Huns (white and red) or even the progeny of Hannibal, Attila and their co-marauders?]

Incidentally: the ruins of the ancient Indus Valley city of Mohenjo-daro was discovered by Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay (also known as: R.D. Banerji) though the credit has gone to our friendly colonizers. The 'scaling' of the highest peak of the Himalayas and the systematic exploration and recording of the entire topography of the Indian subcontinent was achieved by an Indian - the mathematical genius: Radhanath Sikdar, though (unfortunately) here too the credit has been claimed by aliens. Everest died at Greenwich (December 1, 1866) having never ever laid his eyes on the great mountain that bears his name...! [Do read: Link.] While: the names of Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay and Radhanath Sikdar have been consigned to oblivion. :(

On a separate note: all Indian languages have a depth and richness that perhaps cannot be matched by English, Latin, etc. All the versions of Sanskrit (a language steeped in antiquity and derived from nature, creation and the cosmos), as well as the earlier versions of the languages prevalent today (in India) have imagination, spirituality, and maybe even philosophy embedded into them. Therefore: even when they have evolved with time, some amounts of these have been automatically carried forward.]

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

(Do stay tuned…)

Picture: Shri Krishna and Arjun, Swami Vivekananda, Rani Rashmoni, Sister Nivedita and Maa Sarada.

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