Relevance of history

The meaning, purpose, intensity, relevance and vitality of one’s life is their affiliation to a field of study , I believe. For, through deep meditations on that field, one discovers their own self and understands the nature of the world.

Now, to be able to deepen one’s relationship with a field of study, one needs to know, the contribution of a field and also understand what is district about that field. To know this, it is required to know its history. The pre-conditions that triggered the origin of the field, and how the field evolved to give it present appeal.

This is from the point of view of the theory of self, identity and relating to a domain or field of study to make sense of the self and others.

Even in the area of pure human history, I believe that there is nothing like a world history. Relating to history from that abstract and generalised level perhaps will of little utility. Rather history is about focussing on one entity at a time, and understand it’s evolution.

The founder of Bharatiya Vidya Mandir, K.M.Munshi quite succinctly summarizes his view on history that he aspired to present through his writings as follows –

“To be a history in the true sense of the word, the work must be the story of the people inhabiting in a country. It must be a record of their life from age to age presented through the life and achievements of men whose exploits became the beacon lights of tradition; through the characteristic reaction of people to physical and economic conditions; through political changes and vicissitudes which create the forces and conditions which operate upon life; through characteristics social institutions, beliefs and forms; through literary and artistic achievements; through the movement of thoughts which from time to time helped or hindered the growth of collective harmony; through those values which the people have accepted or reacted to and which created or shaped their collective will; through efforts of the people to will themselves into an organic unity.
The central purpose of history must, therefore, be to investigate and unfold the values which age after age have inspired the inhabitants of a country to develop their collective will and to express it through the manifold activities of their life.”

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Loving without a reason

More I reflect on the nature of inter personal relationships, more i tend towards the belief that blind faith is perhaps very important. It teaches us to love what we have, and what we have chosen for ourselves. Be it our own self, our family and friends, our job and colleagues, our community and country.

I love Guruji – Sri Sri, not because he is the most intelligent being in the world. Also my love for him is not based out of a belief that he is a super natural being. He might be. Or he might not. The point is that I just love him as a person; his being – his presence. I love him also, not just because, his presence fills in me with even more love, peace and gratitude. Why that happens, I do not know. And yes, I don’t care to know about it. You call it blind faith. Or you can call it just a choice or perhaps an affirmation.

One thing I know very well. That this blind faith is an ability of mankind to love – without focussing on why to love, and whether the subject is worth the love. Love being an art or a skill that needs to be practiced more and more. Only through such blind faith and unquestioned love, we start learning to love our own self, our family, friends, community, colleagues, nation, world, and the entire creation.

It is like when I love the rows of trees out of my window, I don’t think that they give me oxygen and so they are worth my respect and love. I also don’t love them, just because I belong to them; just because I am connected with them; or just because they are so beautiful and comforting. I love them just blindly, because I say so – just for love’s sake.

This love for the rows of trees can be seamlessly replaced by the love of the self, and others, I believe.

So, what is the outcome or the objective of such a blind faith? It is perhaps just being at peace. Perhaps it is just being a human-being. It is perhaps reminding ourselves that we are not human doing! We perhaps don’t have to do something in order to earn our love and respect for our own self. Or rather i need no reason to just love and respect someone. Perhaps, it is just in the nature of being a human.

Is that what Bhakti Yoga teaches?

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Mahabharata – The philosophical and social anchor

I had this great opportunity to attend the two day intensive workshop on Mahabharata by Prof. Vishwa Adluri and Dr. Joydeep Bagchee, at the NIAS, Bangalore. It was an enlightening session for me, and I am grateful to Indic Academy and Takshashila Institute of Indian Studies, for making this happen.

I have a little background on Rig Veda Samhita, and have been studying it since last couple of years. There is a popular perception in the circles of the Veda enthusiasts that the Epics and Puranas constitute adulteration incorporated to the main pristine body of the Vedas, and that the main point is pushed to the background, and non-essentials decorations have been put forth into forefront, into this subsequent corpus of Hindu texts. Also a clear disconnect is drawn between the Upanishads and the Vedas, bringing forth that Upanishads were unidirectional insights towards “Nivritti”/”sannyasa”, and that Veda constitutes a more holistic approach to be able to live a meaningful life in the “Pravitti”/ being in the thick and thin of daily life.

My personal little ongoing journey in the world of Rig Ved Samhita, leaves me with a body of sparkling philosophical insights scattered all over the 10,000 mantras spread across 10 big books known as Mandalas. They are truly inspiring and beautiful. However, in these years of my relationship with the Vedas, I have always struggled to derive a unity in the text, searching tirelessly to carve out a holistic story to arrive at a coherent understanding out of it. I tried this by creating visualisations, mind maps, notes, exploring the semantics of the Rig Veda and discovering the pattern of the hidden meaning in the proper nouns used repeatedly across the text. With the intensive reading of the text, and their rigorous and precise translations and commentaries for stalwarts, I was able to progress much in this journey. But then that aesthetic thirst to find a coherent binding story remained in me.

This workshop on Mahabharata was the exact and precise dose of nectar I was looking for, in my scholarly struggles all these years. Trying out a satire, Prof Adluri proclaimed in the beginning of the workshop that the Mahabharata was the fifth Veda, and that Duryodhan was the modern man and Dhritarashtra was the postmodern man. That was a shock to me. I started listening with extra attention and concentrated into all the details Prof Bagchee and Prof Adluri were putting forth in their characteristic, world class scholastic rigour. (Both have PhDs form the hallowed – “The New School”, NYC).

I was fascinated, to finally having been introduced to that complex, humongous but extremely unified and coherent body of Myth that I was looking for, which was efficiently binding the entire corpus of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas. So, here was the ultimate creation of the great sage Vyasa, where he gives to the world, a complete story, which if one understands, its profound philosophical nuances, can drive home all the world of the wisdom primarily from the Veda Samhitas and Upanishads.
Getting a view of that was the greatest ‘Ahaa’ moment for me. The authors focused on the first book of the Epic – The Adi Parva, and the Moksha Dharma – part of the Shanti Parva book, to bring to the point that the war story and the related historical narrative of the Mahabharata is just a small aspect of the Epic. The Epic is primarily impregnated with profound philosophical and theological narrative to drive home into the psyche of its readers the cyclical nature of time and at the same time the futility of violence, anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, anger, attachment, and arrogance. Beautifully the Epic draws fractals of self-recursive narration to bring forth this point very strongly and all pervasively. At the same time the Epic clearly and precisely demarcates the two worlds – the world of Vasu, guided by ephemeral temporality and bondage due to that (Pravritti) and the world of Vasudev – inspired by the constant companionship with Dharma leading one to the realm of ultimate freedom, continuing to carry out the daily responsibilities (Nivritti).

The professors also gave several examples of the self-recursive frames of stories within stories and the repeated parallels from various parts of the Epic to drive the point of Unity and the coherent design of the Epic. Contrary to the limited view of the German Indologist, the professors were able to present their rigorous research proving the ill-founded prejudices against the Epic by German Indologist that Mahabharata is a chaotic collection of non-relevant and extraneous stanzas. Also the limited view of the Epic as a merely historical work was challenged. Over the two days of the workshop the professors were beautifully and rigorously able to drive the point that Mahabharata goes much farther in being an aesthetically rich, literary, philosophical and symbolical tale which has a strong purpose to drive in Dharma in the everyday life of common man. Along with the heroic glorification it also drives in systematic methods that can be practised by common ordinary readers to achieve that ultimate freedom and peace.

The Profs established with their rigorous research work that Mahabharata is not a chaotic text. Everything in the book has a definitive meaning and weaves out a unified narrative which has a central dharmic theme. The epic also shows that ‘nirguna’ and ‘saguna’ are not contradictions. Rather they complement each other to strengthen that relationship with the divine. Also it proclaims that ‘Bhakti’ is not a prejudice, but rather a mode of enhanced understanding. Also finally it was brought to the table that history and dharma are not interdependent. Historicity of the epic has nothing to do with its dharmic implications and importance.

The audience of the workshop was a great conglomeration of Sanskrit scholars, and also youth and veterans from varied professional domains. The discussions and debate on the nuances of the text and philosophy rendered in this great Epic were immensely invigorating and intellectually very stimulating. I express my heartiest gratitude to Indic Academy and Takshashila Institute of Indian Studies for organising this. I request them to kindly arrange for follow up sessions to go in details into the Epic under the guidance of Prof. Adluri and Prof. Bagchee, remotely over the Internet. I am sure there would be thousands of eager scholars like me, all over India and the world, who would like to continue their journey exploring, and practising with the Epic in our day to day life. And such a difficult and worthwhile enterprise will certainly require Gurus of the like of the Profs. Adluri and Bagchee.

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On Diversity

There is a personal inclination that a person develops over a lifetime, influenced by their genes as well as childhood conditioning. A fully grown man hence has those unique impressions, needs, talents and interests hardened in his psyche. This process sprouts diversity.
By definition, it might be excruciatingly painful for people of two starkingly diverse groups to get along with each other. But at the same time it might be immensely important for diverse groups collaborate because each brings on the table something complementary to the other. Hence there has been lot of emphasis on this mutual friendship and collaboration between diverse communities over the centuries of all major civilisations.

Give all the plus points on being able to manage and integrate diversity, it is at the same time imperative to enable the individual differentiation to be nurtured. A disproportionate focus on integration without helping an individual to develop his own uniqueness and strength aligned to his innate abilities would lead to a cohort of spineless and mediocre individuals. Such a group might have an increased ability to please others and forcibly enforce a pseudo unity and team spirit. Such a group generally lacks creativity and self defeats the foundational purpose of farming such teams and communities. The direction the community is led is decided by the most powerful and most vocal.

Hence before forming a diverse team it is important to nurture the diversity in the first place. And such a diversity cannot be incubated without adequate support, guidance, inspiration and examples. Now here is the trick. Such an ecosystem can only be created by the stalwarts of of the same inclination as the person at hand. Forced diversity in the formative years might at the outset, smother any possibility of a unique blossoming of the person. Differentiation has to be concretised before the appreciation of the integration, can be developed! Diversity works well with a set of people who equally know the weight of their own individuality. Only then creative thoughts and diverse ideas sprout, compete and complement. Otherwise what starts with an ostensive diversity, ends up as a homogeneous cohort.

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The realm of immortality

We all humans crave for connection. We are social beings, and need to relate to others like us. We thrive in their company. We get reduced being left out. We need connection. This fundamental need of humans has been catered to through various means and methods in society. There used to primitive races which entered in community orgies every month, to replenish that need to connect. Other institutions like marriages, family, church, etc were created to foster such bonding.

Now, one thing is very important to understand here. That is what is the fundamental basis of such bonds! If the basis is merely physical and emotional, then such bonds break fast as the emotional and physical need change. Then we need to have frequent changes in the companionship. We would always be in search of novelty, trying out newer and newer experiences and relationships. This is what most of the western societies go towards. And now, the new generation is also getting swayed. That socially accepted rituals of community orgies is not a possibility in the modern world, due to the obvious issues with such a set up in long term. So, what is the way out for the post modern mankind?

The only way out as appears to me is to explore and find the common platform of bonding from the realm of immortality between two individuals. This realm of immortality are those that never perish, and which help us to become better at the same time. Such common platforms of bonding are hobbies, studies, research, sports, games, yoga, art, religion, social service, etc. All these are examples of activities which need a big amount of expertise and skills and are difficult to do. When people engage with each other to do activities that they like and that needs enough work to develop proficiency on and are at the same time difficult to perform, people connect very well to each other and are at peace and glorious about their progress.

This set up serves mankind in the following ways –

  1. Create bonding and satisfies that primordial craving to connect and engage into social bonding with fellow human beings.
  2. Improves the skill of the person into that activity, and makes them more differentiated and unique. That enables them to more positively impact their community and create value. This sets up a continuous engine of growth and prosperity.
  3. Their sense of peace and joy is now centered and founded upon an immortal domain that never perishes away. Rather it continues to pull them into higher complexities and challenges, and there is no looking back. One can continue to enhance their expertise in an art, game, activity etc, and there is no limit to excellence. That journey is eternal and constant.
  4. They are not anymore attached to the ephemeral aspects of nature like a particular human, animal, institution, relationship etc. They are free. This sense of extreme freedom breeds immense courage and that is a starting point of creativity.
  5. One does not need loo much wealth to engage into a spontaneous activity that inspires them. Moreover int his world of internet things are more easily accessible.
  6. With age this capacity does not diminish. Brain is ever capable to recreate new abilities. This phenomenon is known as brain plasticity.
  7. There is no more emotional baggage of hatred, anger, jealousy, lust, arrogance etc which has very debilitating impact on mind body and other human abilities, and their capacity to connect to fellow human beings.
  8. Man is at ease with the mere uncertainties of life. He rather thrives in the inherent unpredictability of life.
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Being eclectic, yet compassionate

Being eclectic in one’s pursuits is probably one of the most important key to peace, creativity, productivity and potency. We are most of the times in pursuits of something or the other. The pursuits might be that of friends, companionship, materials, inspiration, peace, joy, happiness, schools to study from, subjects to pursue, books to read, authors to know, languages to learn, places to visit, clothes to wear, food to eat, etc. One needs to understand that it is essential to pursue the highest. For the quality of our pursuits define our identity.

It helps to remember the the thumb-rule – ‘Give up the small for the infinite’. One needs to continuously give up the ordinary and embrace the ideal – in anything and everything. This habit ensures that one is evolving, and confirming to one’s nature of being human. For it is in the most primordial nature of man to evolve; for that matter of any living entity. The quality of our moment to moment constant companionship determines the quality of our soul. If one mourns at the loss of petty people and things in one’s life, one squanders the possibility of investing one’s time and creative efforts in the pursuits of the ideal. At times, this ideal also would need to be painstakingly discovered from the plethora of the entities around ones own self, which one might have not even noticed, in the first place. These entities might be people, processes, things or ideas – both within and outside.

Being eclectic about our pursuits brings forth focus. At the same time it helps us to avoid distractions from the ocean of noise around. This saves time, energy and efforts. It is the foundation of “Nishtha”, “Shraddha”, Perfection and Peace. That breeds productivity, quality and potency. This drives value creation – both in one’s own life and the society one belongs to.

This art of being eclectic arises from the ability to let go the mediocre. The ability of letting go, the mediocrity in people, vocation, activities, thoughts, speech and action sprouts in man only when he is pulled by the enchantments of the Ideal. This enchantments need to be continually fuelled. The practice to invoke the divine with the usage of the inspiring models, literature and art in the scriptures, pursuits of difficult disciplines of study, reading a good book, time spent in gym, yoga, running amidst nature, stroll by the side of the ocean etc are some means to maintain the eternal pull towards that Ideal. This constant pull makes this ability of letting go the mediocrity but natural.

This entire scheme can be depicted in this flow –

Step 1 – Engage in inspirational activity, thought, and speech

Step 2 – Maintain the pull towards the Ideal

Step 3 – Let go the small for the infinite

Step 4 – Let that sense of rejection from masses peel of naturally

Step 5 –  Automatic setting in of a self sustaining evolution towards the Ideal

Step 6 – Spontaneous setting in of the feeling of Gratitude , Peace, Glory and Joy in the self and the chosen eclectic world around

Step 7 – Productivity and potency in one’s ideas, speech and action

Step 8 – Go to Step 1

Interestingly in the shloka 5.18, Bhagavad Gita proclaims that wise is one who sees equally the learned who is endowed with knowledge and humility, cow, elephant, dog or the most crude in the darkness of ignorance! Here the sameness of these different groups have not been proclaimed. The mere fact that they are named separately, implies that they are not same. Rather the point is that the wise is able to accept all these diversity, and has the equal sense of belonging and inclusiveness for all forms of creation. It is like having a satellite view in which one is able to see the big picture, and all-inclusive perspective, where all the aspects appear part of the whole, without any obstructions of judgement which blind us from see the person, events, situation as – is!.

So, the point is not relinquish the attitude of eclecticism. Rather, it is about develop that eclectic discernment on the foundation of compassion, inclusiveness, and love. As per the shloka, the idea is not seeing cow, dog, elephant, ignorant, and the learned in the same level. Rather it is about seeing them in a detached mode from a “bird’s eye view”, with the same “bhav” or attitude of compassion, inclusiveness and love.

The shloka goes like this  –

5.18 – विद्या विनय सम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे  गवि हस्तिनि शुनि चैव श्र्वापाके च पण्डिता: समदर्शिन:

The wise sees all with the same detached attitude of compassion, love, understanding, like a ‘bird’s eye view’, no mater the entity is a learned or an ignorant. Or the entity is an elephant, dog or cow.

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Bhagavad Gita 5.15 Mind Map

Bhagavad Gita

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