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Monday, August 20, 2018

Ramayana and Mahabharatha

What is so great about certain statements made about Sanathana Dhrama?

Why are  Ramayana and Mahabharatha  considered great?

This sentence in the introduction of Mr. Srinivasan's book

"Hinduism is not subject to any central control or authority to specify what is correct and what is not correct. It is a way of life evolved over several
 generations , which have been captured in various teachings."

This particular statement above needs some elaborate explanation as many people tend to have a misconception that since as a group of people following Sanathan Dharma do not have an institution or central control, they conclude it is devoid of identity and therefore hovers around in vagueness.

No it is not so, on the contrary, Sanathana Dharma allows multiple identities to evolve and exist in harmony.

Identity or identities are inevitable and inherent.

Whereas, institutionalization is not necessary for life and living.

Though institutions help in monitoring, controlling and delivering certain things in some realms of human activity.

The unique identity and hall mark of Sanathana Dharma is that it is not curtailed or constrained or confined by any particular or specific ideology or identity'

But its philosophy is inherently open to assimilate any identity or open to incorporate various identities.

This is the essence of Advaitha and it has been very well explained in English by Swami Chinmayananda as ,"The spirit of Advaita is not to keep away from anything, but to keep in tune with everything."

One great western philosopher William James too has said something similar, “In the end nothing less than the whole of everything can be the truth of anything at all”.

Everything in nature intrinsically has some[not specific ] pattern, inherent attribute.

When we manage to decipher or uncover or discover those patterns and attributes we assign some term or name to classify or recognize them.

What enables and how this discoveries happen?

This process is done by the many intelligences from sensual to emotional to intellectual to the spiritual [of course, with many nuanced intelligences between and beyond them] using various methods from intense emotional connection  to devotion to philosophical inquiry to scientific methods [of course, with many nuanced methods between and beyond them].

At times, certain discoveries just happen as a revelation  without any conscious attempt .
What is the need and purpose of those discoveries?

The things or theories or patterns or laws of life that are discovered have existed much before human beings managed to discover or to name them.

But only after discovering and anointing a name human beings feel highly elated as if they have created something extraordinary or something that is going to newly inject some new life into their very existence.

Why this happens ?

What are the consequences of this?

For example , let us say gravitation, discovery of number zero, theory of relativity , black hole ,or neural system etc

All the above  required someone to observe or to notice and to explain through a medium and in a way that most of us could understand as well as apply the understanding thus  gained to progress further.

Then,  based on those we have enhanced our understanding of  functioning of various domains and also carried out further experiments to come out with multitude of advancements in many realms of understanding as well as making many technologies that help our life in many ways.

Gravity always existed, exists and shall exist on this planet as an inherent attribute  of this planet.
However, once it is discovered and explained two basic things happen:-

1. We  are able to identify it and its functions;

2. We are able to use it as one more frame of reference to understand .

So, these two factors are the most fundamental benefits to human beings namely,
identity and frame of reference.

Human beings basically need these two to tune into specific frequencies, to concentrate and to focus leading to understand  better and interpret more relevantly.

So, some sort of  identity per se emerges and evolves and enables to distinguish.

It gets both internalized as well as becomes a distinct feature for recognition. 

Therefore , there is nothing wrong with it [identity]  but when identity veneration moves from distinguishing to differentiating to discriminating to fighting  over  some identities with other identities  and trying to force everyone to accept only some specific identity, only then, identity becomes a problem.

Identities could be  anything ranging from following specific ideologies to beliefs to languages to regions to religions to nationalities and so on.

Frame of reference  determines the scale of observation which defines the range and the boundary of our perception.

In the book Human Destiny, Lecomte du Nuoy- a marvelous book that everyone must read – if I remember correctly this comes in 34th page.
It is not often our perception but the scale of observation and frames of reference which create the phenomenon. The scale of observation depends on man; it is he who creates it. In nature, different scales of observation do not exist. There is only one immense, harmonious phenomenon on a scale which, in general, escapes man. The structure of man's brain necessitates dividing into arbitrary compartments and cutting up into isolated pieces. With the aid of several instruments science creates more phantasmagoria: "on our scale of human observation, as pointed out before, the edge of a razor-blade is a continuous line. On the microscopic scale, it is a broken but solid line. On the chemical scale we have atoms of iron and carbon. On the sub-atomic scale we have electrons in perpetual motion which travel at the rate of several thousand miles per second. All these phenomena are in reality the manifestations of the same basic phenomenon, the motions of the electrons. The only difference which exists between them is the scale of observation"

“Humans have a need for a stable frame of reference. Religion apparently fills this need. In effect, humans crave answers to questions that no other source of knowledge has an answer to, which only religion may seem to answer. However, a sense of free will must be given in order for religion to appear healthy. An authoritarian notion of religion appears detrimental.”- Erich Fromm.

Sanathana Dharma has its identities very well manifested in both Salience and Substance which are the two vital aspects of identity.

"Samuel Huntington penned a book titled Who Are We? [Penguin Books, India 2004] to define American's identity as a “White Anglo-Saxon Christian who speaks English”. It seems contrived since majority of Americans are not ‘White’, but Huntington is emphatic.?

Huntington's contribution to definition of an identity lies is in seeing the two components of this identity: Salience, which is the importance that the citizen attributes to national identity over the other many sub-identities. Second, Substance, which is what the citizens think they have in common, and which distinguishes them from others of other countries."

Variety and plurality are inherent aspects of nature and Sanathana Dharmic philosophy of existence  has it well embedded in all its manifestations.

"Existence consists in the interplay of a plurality of elements whose true nature is indescribable and whose source is unknown. Combinations of these elements instantaneously flash into existence and instantaneously disappear, to be succeeded by new combinations of elements appearing in a strict causality." - Earle Ernst, The Kabuki Theatre 

There is no need for control in creativity and human expression  

Even a real rationalist like Bertrand Russell writes in POLITICAL IDEALS (1917)CHAPTER IV INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY AND PUBLIC CONTROL

“The creative impulses, unlike those that are possessive, are directed to ends in which one man’s gain are not another man’s loss. The man who makes a scientific discovery or writes a poem is enriching others at the same time as himself. Any increase in knowledge or good-will is a gain to all who are affected by it, not only to the actual possessor. Those who feel the joy of life are a [source of ] happiness to others as well as to themselves. Force cannot create such things, though it can destroy them; no principle of distributive justice applies to them, since the gain of each is the gain of all. For these reasons, the creative part of a man’s activity ought to be as free as possible from all public control, in order that it may remain spontaneous and full of vigor. The only function of the state in regard to this part of the individual life should be to do everything possible toward providing outlets and opportunities”.

Taking off from where we left regarding two important aspects 'identity' and 'frames of reference' as part of my interpretation of two lines in introduction,

if we carefully pursue and peruse the plots and characters of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, we would notice that every happening, issue, event, individual actions etc delineate great and intrinsically vital lessons for life and almost all components that help individual life with all inevitable aspects of life from the worst to the best in various realms of life.

Why am I jumping to Ramayana and Mahabaratha while reading a book on Sanathana Dharma?

It is because those two texts give in a nutshell through a narrative of story many aspects of life as they manifest and it drives home the point that how by relating to various incidents in those two stories we can maneuver through our own individual life.

That is the reason these two texts are being referred to here.

Now, let us see from the perspective of a global audience, merely as avid students of literature, philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, culture etc, even as stories ( even if we leave aside religious, historical, scriptural, mythological significance and reverence) they carry and convey  excellent things.

Let us see some of them in the light of what is written and referred to in this book.

Everything has its own dharma [for people who may not be comfortable with this terminology] internal dynamics, inevitable structure, inherent patterns etc based on certain inherent characteristics/attributes and acting according to situational or contextual relevance. Unfortunately our understanding of them is limited.

Similarly, there are certain universal principles one of which is all our actions fall within these three categories i.e. what we want to do, what we can do and what we are destined to do. At different times and different situations one or more of these will or may or must predominate.

Life on the whole, as a macro issue consisting of multitude of micro elements i.e. individual lives, cannot be easily over generalized or over simplified.

However, the human mind because of its inherent limitation has to identify before it can psychologically get convinced easily by wading through the ABCD of dilemma as to what to Accept, Believe, Choose, Decide..

So, the human mind has to engage in categorizing and classifying everything into easily cognizable units to measure, evaluate and apply.

These are the basis of scientific approach be it about concepts of time or generosity or courage etc.

In addition while doing this measurement one has to ensure maximum adaptability, verifiability and scientific proofs.

Time is one such excellently and most exhaustively explained concept in the texts of Samantha Dharma which are well brought out by the author for everyone to easily understand.

Besides, while dealing with human actions the major aspects of human being must be constantly reminded, namely, the biochemical aspect of body anatomy, the psychological aspects of the mind or intellect or conscious awareness and the energy field that enables the functions of these.

All the above are emphatically reiterated in both Ramayana and Mahabaratha.

Of course, beyond these, there are dimensions as to how to tune in these or link these individual Atmas spiritually with the UNI+VERSAL paramathama .

Religion is inescapable and it is profoundly influential in any culture or society because beyond its rituals and pompous paraphernalia, beyond its creeds, beyond its myriad forms, it has been in spirit and in truth a great binding power. That in fact is the literal meaning of the word Religion from the Latin Relig(are) : To tie, to fasten. Re-RE +LIG=Bind , tie. That is binding the Part with the Whole. Integration of the individual Self with the Universal Self; perception of the presence of Universal Self in all forms of life.

Religion is understood better by synthesis than by analysis. 

Religions grow better by syncretism than by antagonism. 

As D.J.Mercier, the Archbishop of Malines has said even “Sound Philosophy sets out from analysis and terminates in synthesis”. 

Regarding religious differences, men of vision and wisdom have explained and warned repeatedly knowing well that the common man with his limited perception and the fanatic by limiting his perception may engage in petty fights and arguments over differences.

The inevitable fact of life and stark reality is that whatever we may have planned or planning to plan may not be the plan that unfolds in life in all spheres of life irrespective of whatever label we may give to that as fate or destiny or even we may try to ignore it or work hard to justify it. 

This does not mean or need not necessarily lead to the conclusion that we must not plan and that there is no use in planning.

We are all co-pilgrims in life’s journey- Inward and Outward [exploring reality in a variety of ways through a variety of conceptual schemes].

The journey has to be both ways.

All of us need to learn the trick of inducing inner expansion to overcome the tedium and distress of the routine life’. ‘Convert our loneliness into aloneness and make an inward journey towards absolute aloneness. Even Carl Gustav also felt that ‘God is within us as a psychological reality’. And as Miroslav Holub says ‘Wisdom is the understanding of the self and of the World- One cannot disregard either ‘. Our destination is the same even as our source is the same. As Swami Vivekananda says in his speech “THE ABSOLUTE AND MANIFESTATION” in London in 1896 “If you seek a Universal Religion which can apply to every one, that religion must not be composed of only the parts, but must always be their sum total and include all degrees of religious development……and the book from which to learn religion is your own mind and heart.

Ramayana and Mahabharatha  are  not so much about prescription but portrayal through characters and events to practice with clear elucidation of consequences.

In fact the whole of Bhagawad Gita, one of the reasons why it became more popular among the 28 Gitas, is that all its 700 stanzas are sand- witched between two words the starting word 'Dharma' and the last word ‘Mama’.

It must be actually read as ‘Mama Dharma’= my dharma- does not mean either Krishna’s or Arjuna’s Dharma, rather  when everyone reads it becomes ‘his Dhrama’ and all these 700 verses [ subjected to all sorts of excellent, enlightening as well as, often used as tool to justifying traditional practices, explanations by many] primarily are about attitudes to be adopted, actions to be executed and reactions to show at different situations taking into consideration the overall welfare of all [humanism].

This manual is more about balancing the intellect and emotions and most importantly through both emotions and intellect, or to be precise in short it talks about the dynamics of synthesis of human nature and nature of Truth [ define as you may- it is the inevitable and intellectual perception and sometimes all logic eluding factor].

Life is all about movements, actions and reactions which broadly could be defined as i.e. Karma but then the Laws [Dharma ] of motions [Karma] of life are very important and therefore prioritized.

Personal grief, sorrows and miseries are difficult to handle even for some of the most advanced intellectual giants or highly sane and even balanced souls.

It is easier to sit and sermonize or pontificate dispassionately as an outsider.

It is difficult to prescribe rules for any type of crisis in any aspect of life.

However, if the mind, especially , that of a grown up individual, is equipped with certain qualities, then,) encountering the crisis becomes a shade more simple and sane.

However, the balanced mind, calm soul, caring heart, clever mind will wait and work on multiple options before resorting to impulsive actions which may more often result in regret.

Life is the sum total of many choices and decisions we make/take at every moment and the concomitant actions and reactions based on them.

But, does life or our cultures or social systems or religions or education systems offer us readymade templates to make/to take relevant or correct choices and decisions with multiple options at every moment?

Broadly yes, and they are depicted in these two great works Ramayana and Mahabaratha.

They emphasis that human beings can never shun passion, compassion and dispassion. Why?

Unless there is passion there won't be that intense interested involvement to do anything; without compassion and reciprocation no one can perform anything for long in society; be it within the family or office or society at large; without conscious development of dispassion one cannot move away or ahead from what one has been doing as it is as one may or will get struck with the redundancies of some routine.

Most cults ignite one's passion, publicize compassion and make one develop a selective dispassion towards everything else so that one would remain a loyal follower of the cult with its well decorated and ornamented cage of identity. Be it in politics or religion or brand building.

The cult leaders assiduously develop strategies which pander to these scheming.

That is the reason, these two Ramayana and Mahabaratha [ like religion in general] are too voluminous and exhaustive.

The word cloud on Religion rendered in English would include at least the following:-
Religion; God or Gods or Goddesses; Divinity; Worship; Devotion; Prayers; Religious Scriptures; Sacredness; Sacrifices; Rituals; Traditions; Heaven; Hell; Symbols; Idols; Statues; Reward and Punishment; Virtue and Vice; Sin and Punya [opposite of sin]; Supernatural elements; Social Customs; Cultural activities like Music; Dance; Preaching etc; Great art and architecture; Innumerable literary works; Reverence for Nature and natural elements; Meaning of Life; Origin of Life; Universe; Origin of Universe; Creator; Angels, demons, spirits, wizards and witches; Morality as defined by  certain socio religious mores; Superstitions, Beliefs, Faith, Ferventness, Fanaticism etc; Socially sanctioned and approved norms; Sacred places or specifically assigned places of worship; Debates about  Origin of life and species; Methods of proper living; Mythologies; Miracles; Mysteries; Magic; Epics; Philosophical concepts; Benevolence; Blessing; Grace; Scholarly discussions; Soul; Spirit; Spirituality; Psychological security; Self –Realization; Social cohesion; Reality; Ultimate Truth; Authority; Sanctity; Priests; Saints; Sages; Holiness; Omni present; Omni potent; Scholarly literature; Occult science; Wise men, Popular stars endorsing religious affiliation; Preaching and   Propaganda; Doctrines; Ideologies; Charity; Love; Fear; Humility; Forgiveness; Non violence; Service to humanity; Care and Compassion; Mortality; Immortality; Many more things all ensuring Obsessive Emotional bonding; A Binding Identity so strongly glued that it assigns the very meaning to existence of the individual in a particular society; Sanctifying sex; celebrating  Births and Deaths; Justifying  Wars and Destruction and  Ruins in the name of Religion; Conversions; Rationality; Scrutiny; Science; archeology; ethnography; history; evolutionary psychology; cognitive science; Consciousness; Conscious Awareness; Inner-self; Group Identity; Social bonds; Harmony ; Unknown.

The above list is common factor for almost all religions. This list is neither exhaustive nor exclusive to any particular religion.

This above bunch of words representing a very wide spectrum of emotions, activities etc including glaring contradictions is because Religion has or has been allowed to permeate into almost all major areas of human life primarily the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the individual being; the social, and cultural spheres of human beings as a whole; in brief religion is extremely pervasive.

The stories  of Ramayana and Mahabaratha also give a broad guideline to great story  telling technique.

While the book in the first few pages itself has a easily understandable design on fear and its associated emotions I wish there was one on love too, because, almost all human emotions and actions are the manifestations of with various degrees of intensities of the two predominant emotions-LOVE  and FEAR.

You may do a self verification.

FEAR-the two way hinge


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