Seeking Vision of God

India has a strong tradition of seeking reality that lies beyond the appearance. It is called searching for god. This search is not considered unusual. Starting from Adi Sankara, many seekers have devoted their lives to such search of god. In recent times, hardly a century earlier, Sri Rama Krishna had attained a vision of the divine. He tried and tested a variety of different paths and faiths and arrived at the conclusion “there are as many paths as there are views”. Yet Sri Rama Krishna did not rely on faith alone. When challenged by Narendra Nath, later Swami Vivekananda, on his vision, Sri Rama Krishna said “not only can I see god, I can show it to you.” 

In today’s world what exactly is vision of god? Why should one seek god realisation? If we take a population of people and categorise them in terms of their behaviour, we may arrive at a bell shaped curve. Where 95% human beings fall within the curve. We call them normal people with usual weakness and strength. Normal people form society, live, love, procreate and die.  There are five percent that fall outside on each end of the bell curve. We call them lunatics or geniuses. They think differently, act differently want different things.

Young Gadadhar Chakraborty, later Sri Rama Krishna, shunned money making education at his early life. When he was banging his head at the alter of mother Kali for a vision, normal people called him mad. Meera Bai felt whole world to be Lord Krishna.  She had everything the world could offer. Comfort, luxury, power, king of Mewar as husband. Any girl in her position would be thrilled. She shunned her marriage, her royal comfort and only thing she wanted was to merge with the blue god, Lord Krishna.

What is mother Kali of Sri Rama Krishna or Lord Krishna of Mira Bai? Why did they and many others before and after them sought to get the realisation of god? Is it possible, at some stage in life  everything becomes so mundane, so irrelevant and so irreverent, that a person wants to break the shackle and move out? A question they ask and the answer they get cannot be described in words. Because according to Vedanta, the truth is beyond speech and mind. A description only limits it. As Sri Rama Krishna would say, “a salt doll went to measure depth of ocean. It never returned to tell the depth. It became one with the ocean”. When the object of search and the seeker becomes one, what is there to tell?

Who can be a seeker? In theory anybody and everybody. But the query does not arise in all. What is the trigger for such a quest? Some say shock? Others believe good work in past lives prepares a human for the ultimate quest. Sight of disease and death, triggered  query in young prince Siddhartha, of Kapilavastu. Siddhartha renounced his family, his throne to seek out immortality. Later after intense penance, Siddhartha attained the state of Buddha. 

Closest I can come in terms of modern analogy is a physicist trying to find that elusive particle that will unlock mystery of origin of universe. How does understanding origin of life universe help any cause in society? It does not cure disease, it does not solve unemployment. Infact, it needs a lot of money to pursue esoteric science. A tunnel is built underground, spanning two countries, and spending billions of dollars, to identify one elusive particle. Why does a physicist need to do it? He has everything in life to make him comfortable? Yet it is his desire to find truth that drives him.  

While a spiritual seeker cannot describe his finding because seeker and the object of search become one. Yet analysis only takes a seeker so far. Seeker realises everything he has searched so far, is not the actual thing. Like a physicist searching the fundamental particle, realises more he goes inside the matter, further it splits. In the end one stares at a void where particles are moving at extremely high velocity. Yet we perceive our world as we do.  Is this what is called Maya, that distorts reality? Once a seeker pierces the veil of Maya, seeker becomes one with truth.

Mahamaya’s Play Ground, Our World

Science continues to point out that our experiences of the  world we consider real, is actually very limited. Our experience is constrained by sensory organs that we have. Using technology we can improve sensitivity of our sense organs but we cannot bring about a qualitative change in our perception of the world. 

In Indian spiritual tradition, it is said that humans are lured by Maya. Because of Maya we forget our real selves and engage in activities that basically transient in nature. In Mahabharata, Yudhisthira was asked by a Yaksha, “what is the greatest wonder in the world?” Dharma raj in his wisdom replied “every man knows that death is the ultimate truth of life. However, he wishes otherwise“. Such is the power of Maya that it rejects reality outright even when it points our direction. 

Once, Narada asked Lord Vishnu, “Prabhu what is Maya?” Vishnu replied “fetch me a glass of water, I shall explain the nature of Maya to you”. Narada went to a spring nearby. He saw a beautiful woman. He fell in love, married, had children. Happy life of Narada fell apart when disaster struck in the form of flood. One by one, Narada lost his son, his daughter, and finally his wife. In agony Narada cried “Oh lord, why are you so cruel. You took away everything from me!” 

At the moment, Narada heard Vishnu calling him, “Where are you Narada? How long will you take to fetch a glass of water?” This is Maya. In Vishnu’s time what was a few minute, in Narada’s scheme it was lifetime.  In the world we forget what is our real purpose. Finally, when we call out, god listens. Only problem is we don’t call because Mahamaya covers our vision with an illusion created by her. Sri Rama Krishna says “pray to Mahamaya as mother, beg her, she will reveal herself to her son or daughter, when they call her.”

Children of Adishakti, So Blissfully Unaware

I was returning from a holiday trip. I was seated on the front seat. Driver was in a chatty mood. He said sir, “come visit my state Himachal for a visit. We have temples of mother goddess where body parts of sati had fallen“. 

As the story goes, Uma, daughter of the king of mountains, had chosen Shiva as her husband against wishes of her father, Daksha. Like any doting father, Daksha wanted better husband for Uma, instead of half naked Shiva, who is smeared in ash, sitting in eternal meditation on himalayas, has ghosts, and demons as his consort. Once Daksha had organised a yagna, but he did not invite Shiva, the eternal yogi. Uma hearing of festivities at her fathers house, decided to pay a visit. Daksha, still angry with Uma, insulted Shiva in the worst possible way in front of all invited guests. Uma, unable to bear insult to her husband, left her body, then and there, and became a sati. Shiva, when he heard Uma’s death, assumed Rudra rupa, a form where he is the destroyer. First, he killed Daksha, then he started roaming around the world with Uma’s body on his shoulder. Worried, gods and goddesses pleaded with Lord Vishnu to do something. Vishnu started chopping Uma’s body parts using Sudarshan Charka. 

There are fifty two places in India where body parts of sati had fallen. There are temples of mother goddess in these places. Five places in Himachal include – Chintpurni Temple in Una district. Chamunda Temple in Kangra district, Brijeshwari Temple in Kangra district. Jwalaji Temple in Kangra district, Naina Devi Temple in Bilaspur district.

I have not had a chance to visit temple circuit of Himachal yet. But the story kept me thinking. Whether we believe or not temples do exist as does the tradition of worshipping mother goddess. How come in a country where mother goddess is worshipped as primordial energy, adishakti, we lack sons who can stand up against injustice to their wives? What does worship of shakti means to a common man / woman? What does one achieve when they visit mount Kailash, abode of eternal yogi, Shiva? 

Yogis and saints say, an ordinary human has forgotten his real nature under the influence of maya. Worship of shiv and shakti may be a matter of faith for common man, but through specific practice one can realise a vision of shiva / shakti. Such a vision is not for benefits in physical plane, rather it is in the domain of metaphysics. Who are such seekers and what drives them, I do not know.

Do We Need God In This Age

This is a beautiful time in this part of the world. Autumn has arrived. Clear blue skies. Temperature is no longer unbearable. Arrival of mother goddess is being celebrated in the form of Durga Puja and Navaratri. An atmosphere of festivity is all around. Come to think of it, do we understand what is worship of god in feminine form? Do we feel vibration of energy that manifests itself? 

In this day an age as technology makes our lives more easy, do we need to invent god? What can god give us that we do not already have? We can control birth and death. Like proverbial Brhmastra, we have access to nuclear and thermo-nuclear devices that can destroy the world. We have precision guidance technology for minimal collateral damage. We can control food production. We have access to medicines to cure diseases. We have access to technique and technology to replace and body part. Soon we may live forever, thanks to medicine and technology.  True, there are many diseases for which no cure exists. But it is a matter of time, before progress in science and technology may discover cure for most intractable of diseases.   Genetic engineering and recombinant DNA technology hav helped us create food surplus that is pest resistant, that lasts longer and packs more nutrition. With the help of technology one can grow food in most arid region of this earth. Soon, with the progress in space science and technology, man may go to outer space and inhabit a distant planet. So what can we ask from god? 

Yes there are problems of plenty in certain parts of the world. And, there are other parts of the world where there people kill each other in the name of religion. There are places where many people do not get enough to eat everyday. People still die of hunger, malnutrition. Baby food is adulterated to earn more money. Medicines and food meant for poor are sold in black market. Girl child are still killed, women burnt to death for not bringing dowry. But do we need god to improve these conditions? Will simple and efficient resource management not solve these problems? Do we need to invent god to solve these problems. There is science and technology our new age god.

Yet, there is a quest within inner recess of human.  Sri Rama Krishna begged mother Kali to show herself? What motivated William A Gans of California to leave comfort of his American home and life to join one of the most austere monastic order – the Naga sadhus? Naga sadhus do not carry any worldly possession. So much so they have renounced their clothing and roam around almost naked.  William Gans became known as Baba Rampuri. What is this quest?

Surgical Strike, Demand of Proof and Artist Ban, India a Divided House

India is divided whether to play cricket with Pakistan, whether to have Pakistani actors work here, whether India actually undertook surgical strike across line of control? We all love Pakistani cricketers, we love Pakistani actors. This is difficult time. If there is death in the house we do not go out to play cricket. We do not go out to watch movie. Our soldiers are being killed at the border. We cannot extend hand of friendship unilaterally. Pakistani actors do not need to bad mouth their country. They could have simply condemned terrorist violence. India had tried to extend hand of friendship. Every time there has been an attack. Nothing has changed in past so many years. 

Those who say, “we did not ask soldiers to fight on the border. So what they died?” Are being crass and insensitive. If every Indian says he has no responsibility to guard our border, then we shall be nowhere. If we do not let our kids to join army, at least let us not demean those who join the army and fight our battle.

It is nothing unusual for Pakistan to deny surgical strikes carried out by India. It may have a specific design which may serve several purposes. 

  • First, it will be a face saver of army and ISI, that have appropriated so much budget and power, that cannot protect their country. 
  • Second, it may avoid taking action against India and go for escalation. 
  • Third, Pak army and ISI may look for clue in the proof about how to avoid future strike. Surgical strike should remain secret about its operation. Those who know what happened know. 

Pakistan had denied US had come in and killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad, when he was under protection Pakistan military and ISI. Pakistan had denied every evidence India has provided on several terror strikes. So another evidence will mean nothing. It will be a cannon fodder for denial. 

A journalist can claim and write what she saw six days after operation. A surgical strike is not necessarily done using bofors gun. Trained soldiers quietly surround targets and destroy them If bodies are removed, which there are report were removed, what destruction one can see. By all account terror camps and launch pads are ramshackle huts and tents. Only asset are jihadis waiting to cross over and kill in India. If these people were killed, bodies removed, and buried, what can a reporter report? 

Strange that we are giving credence to motivated propaganda by Pakistani army and ISI. We forget that India had updated Pakistani DGMO, envoys of important countries. We forget Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan have supported Indian position and boycotted SAARC meeting in Pakistan. USA and Russia have agreed to our position. China has kept quiet. What else does matter? By the way, Pakistan can always call envoys of different countries and debunk Indian claim. Provided, countries have their consulates still in Pakistan.

Tannistha Chatterjee, Skin Tone and Racism

Actress Tannistha Chatterjee recently walked out of Comedy Nights Bachao. She had serious objections being roasted on her skin color. Ms. Chatterjee dubbed the channel and script writers racist. I personally think, Ms. Chatterjee was right in walking out of a show she was not comfortable participating.

Personally, I think the practice of judging people on their skin color is abhorrent. In India we have a deep seated obsession towards people with fairer skin. Matrimonial sections of our news papers are full of adverts that ask for fair skinned bride and groom. Our superstars, male as well as female, advertise for products that can improve skin tone. These are social biases, definitely. We are prejudiced people. But does this make us racist?

That is how many people in India address others they consider outsiders. They will call a person from West Bengal as BANGALI. Anyone south of Bindhya, will be called MADRASI. People from Rajasthan will be called MERO, and those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will be called KHOTTA.  Africans will be called KAALU. These are insecure and ignorant people. Many do not even realise that they are offending another human being. May be their behaviour reflects their  upbringing. But I do not think these people are racists. If one can tolerate initial boorishness, then they are nice people.

I think, people writing script for Comedy Night Bachao in Colors channel are not very intelligent, narrow minded and have a very poor sense of humour. These guys do not know what constitutes satire and when they are crossing over into  personal space. Recently, one of the scriptwriters of Comedy Night was interviewed in a radio show. In his usual bravado he said there is no question of apology to Ms. Chatterjee. She had come to the show knowing it was a roast format. No wonder, Comedy Night Bachao has a poor viewership. 

The roast conducted by AIB on Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor was also extremely obscene to many peoples sensibility. It was argued that freedom of expression must be allowed to flourish and people must decide whether they want to listen to such roasting. I think same standard must be allowed for Comedy Night Bachao also.

Bollywood, Pakistani Artists and Ban

There is a lot of debate and discussion if art, culture and sports should be above politics. Noted personalities like Nana Patekar,  Om Puri, Mahesh Bhatt, and many others have taken positions for and against the motion. 

I like many Pakistani actors. I like Fawad Khan. I love Zindagi TV and relate to programs it broadcasts. My eyes go misty when I watch Veer Zara, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and other movies that have cross border message. Yet can everything remain normal when Indian soldiers are being killed? 

It has been argued that we did not stop people to people contact after Kargil war. May be sometime one has to say enough is enough. What else can you say to families of a slain soldier, a murdered and maimed civilian? 

Pakistani actors do not have to betray their country. Still they can condemn terrorist violence. Anyway, Pakistan always claims they are not involved in terror activities against India. So why not condemn the act? If sympathy of Pakistani actors lie with Kashmiri separatists, then should the money they earn here in India not be considerd a sacrilege. 

Bad things may happen to good people. May be Pakistani actors are caught in the maelstrom of politics between two countries and people.

Post Uri Attack, Indian Responds

After attack on army base in Uri, there was a lot of debate about potential Indian options. Many had felt that India had a very limited options against a nuclear armed Pakistan. To everyones surprise, Indian special forces had crossed over line of control and destroyed terrorist launching pads. Predictably, debates have started. Some say, India has given a fitting response to decade long terrorist strikes and nuclear blackmail. Others believe India has opened a can of worms, and the genie is unlikely to go back inside the bottle. The practice of strategic restraint that India has followed for many years has been abandoned.

I am not a war monger. I feel happy and quietly joyous when I see civility and humane behaviour between people. I eyes go misty watching Veer Zara, My Name is Khan and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  India must live at peace with herself as well as with her neighbours. We have tried to do just that, despite being attacked at regular intervals. Countless people have been maimed, disabled or killed.

We have followed principle of strategic restraint in the face of repeated provocations and deceit. Of the numerous small and large incidence, let us look at a few:

  • Shimla agreement signed between two prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Z A Bhutto, was junked as soon as it reached Pakistan;
  •  Lahore bus journey was followed by Kargil invasion;
  • Terrorists sailed into Mumbai and killed innocents;
  • Indian prime ministers extended hand of friendship was chopped by attack on Pathankot airbase.
  • Indian gesture of allowing Pakistani investigators into airbase was not followed by reciprocal visit of Indian investigators.
  • Then came attack on Uri base;

As murder and mayhem progressed, we were angry, helpless and clueless. We never retaliated. We believed, being a larger country India must not respond to our neighbour in the same coin. We must try to resolve any dispute in a civilised manner. We must wean away our neighbour from violence using our love.  We created “Aman ki Asha”. We encouraged cultural exchange. We enhanced people to people contact. We played cricket. We allowed film actors, singers from neighbouring country to come here, earn money and go back. We reasoned after all, actors are not terrorists. Why should they have to answer for the act committed by someone else? 

We were living under threat of nuclear attack. Our neighbour has repeatedly said they would use nuclear weapon if feel threatened. They never articulated threat perception. This fear of possible nuclear attack had forced us into inaction. As a nation we were emasculated and our military emerged as an impotent force. 

We were also living under fear of world opinion. As it emerged, post surgical strike there were not many people who downright criticised Indian operation. More so it was highlighted that India did not occupy territory, Indian did not attack Pakistani army, India simply acted on terror launching pads. 

Crossing the line of control by Indian special forces has overcome the mental blockage and emotional baggage of nuclear threat. We may not have solved terrorist problem. We definitely have created a perception if pushed against wall we shall push back. This new found realisation made us feel good. Such a morale booster is important for armed forces as well as for general population. Our neighbor will send terrorist irrespective of we remain restrained or we act. Why not hit back then and see how far they go.

Now the question that begs answer is can we do diplomacy using non-violence alone? Can a violent neighbour be controlled by pure love? Running a country cannot be compared to renouncing our rights over territories and resources. Because as an administrator, one has to lead the nation. National interest always remains supreme. From that angle, retribution and punitive actions are acceptable means when diplomacy is unable to make any headway.