In Search of Vedic Role Models for Modern Male Population – III. Uncertainty of Pursuit and the Biology of Purusha

Rudra-Manthan Series

(Continued from Part-II)

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

The feminine aspect of the Mahat Śakti has been modeled through the Nava-Durgā for human practice and realization (https://vedicwaves.wordpress.com/2021/04/28/nava-durga-as-ideal-model-for-the-development-of-women-to-attain-their-natural-full-potential/) in a relatively simple symbolization of the various phases of a woman’s life. The masculine aspect has never been explicitly modeled in the past to the best of my knowledge, although it is no rocket science to imagine it would be the Śiva. Since Śiva form represents the visible world, with infinite diversity, modeling it in a set of fixed formats is difficult, and this perhaps is the explanation of the absence of a symbolic representation of the masculine form. In terms of the Purūṣa and Prakṛti also, the former is defined through the pursuit (in deed a word derived from Purūṣa), which is a lot more uncertain than the Prakṛti even with its diversity. This can be seen reflected in a popular Sūbhāṣita as follows

नृपस्य चित्तं कृपणस्य वित्तं  मनोरथः दुर्जन मानवानाम्|

त्रिया चरित्रं पुरुष्यस्य भाग्यं दैवो न जानाति कुतो मनुष्यः||

Nrupasya chittam krupanasya vittam manorathah durjan manavaanaam|

Triyaa charitram purushasya  bhaagyam  daivo na jaanaati kuto manushyah||

i.e. Even the Devas do not know about a king’s (or a rulers) mentality, the wealth of a miserly person, about the wishes of wicked persons, the way a woman will behave, and what will be the fate of a man.  Then how can an ordinary person know about it?

The prediction of the pursuit of unknown which man has more tendency to do, and thus also the consequence of such pursuit certainly is uncertain. Also, the triya that comes from stree is related to sāttvic, rājasic, and tāmasic gunas that women possess simultaneously (remember multi-tasking!), which is by its nature difficult to determine. These are the factors why the uncertainty is associated with these two very important traits men and women possess biologically and psychologically. However, women nevertheless would have more control over their own conduct compared to men, leading to more risk variability men’s life as pointed out in a Harvard Health Publishing article.

Over 15 years ago there were psychological studies conducted on men and women in terms of spatial and navigational skills. It was found that men have higher spatial skills compared to men. What implications would this might have in the lives of men? When men find themselves located in a place be in forest or car they are able to have better sense of their position. This means they will be adept to parking their cars in a given place, or may have a sense of the direction they need to pursue to get out. On the other hand, women have better navigational skills by being able to spot items on the way, thus making them milestones to find their way. Thus, while women may be flexible or appear distracted but their ability to spot items helps in their navigational needs. Men, on the other hand, have sense of directions but the details of getting to a place will have many uncertainties.

Biologically men and women are quite different, beginning with genetic, metabolic, and physiological, that leads to social and cultural behavior, imposed or otherwise. According to Robert H. Shmerling “The uneven playing field for boys starts early. The Y chromosome tends to develop mutations more often than X chromosomes and the lack of a second X chromosome in men means that X-linked abnormalities among boys are not “masked” by a second, normal version. Survival in the womb is also less reliable for male fetuses (for uncertain, and probably multiple, reasons). Developmental disorders are also more common among boys; some of these could shorten life expectancy.”

In addition, the hormonal secretion, including sex hormones (Figure 1), dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which affects mood, behavior, and physiology, are quite different not only in their pattern, but also in their effects. For example, the oxytocin – a social bonding hormone, has positive effect on women whereas somewhat negative effect on men. All this begs the question for the need to utilize the knowledge of ancient India coded in Vedic texts for modern times to create a role model for men.

Figure 1. Level of sex hormone in men and women.

(to be continued….)

Editorial note – As a complementary to the Indian tradition of Nava-Durgā as the ideal role model of girls and women, it is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. Recently, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras as Rudra-Manthan for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential. Rudra-Manthan series of articles continue to explore that possibility to promote a better understanding of the needs and to provide educational support to boys and men.

– Prof. Bal Ram SinghSchool of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

‘Yagyas’ – Your Connect with the Divine

Mrs. Rati Hegde

In the Durgā Sūktam, Jātavedās, interpreted physically as fire, represents the Omniscent Īśwara. He (the Divine Agni) is exhorted to lead us and protect us by taking us across all perils just as the captain takes the ship across the sea. He is also requested to save us from all wrong-doings. He is Tarasi – skilled in saving and helping in crossing over and He is requested to help us cross the ocean of Samsāra.

Yagya (Yajña) is a ritual in which the performer of the Yagya invokes any particular devatā via Agni (fire) with the help of a mantra, gives an oblation or offering to the devatā and asks for a blessing for the benefit of mankind, the environment, animals and every part of nature on this earth and beyond. While doing so, the Yajmāna (or the performer of the Yagya) also hopes that good fortune befalls him too, because he is through his offering, strengthening nature and the devatās. This is a divine ritual in Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism.

*Yagya is a medium of connectivity with the divine forces. Yagya is also a process of purifying atmosphere through the agency of fire. Vedas have two fundamental concepts and they are ‘Yoga’ and ‘Yagya’. Vedic texts describe in detail the processes of Yagyas. In fact, Yagya is at the core of all Vedas. A study of Vedic texts and Brāhamaṇas indicates the main components of Yagya as :  

a) Sankalp-divine resolve of the good of Society and self.

b) Agnidevatā Prasthāpana– Engagement of Prakāś Śakti (Light Energy) in the process of Yagya  

c) Havirdravya for oblations to be offered to the sacred fire for carrying them to the main Deity for which Yagya is being performed

d) Timing of Yagya as per position of constellations for Interplanetary Communications and Cosmic Energy Influences.

e) Mantras and Prayers-Sound Energy vibrations and frequencies for the desired effect as per Mantra Vijñān or Mantra Śāstra

f) Sacrifice for the sake of common good and

g) The Resonance Effect of all these components to carry through and achieve the Sankalp. The objective of Yagya has to be ‘Vyaṣṭi -Kalyān’ and ‘Samaṣṭi -Kalyān’. Only then can that particular act or ritual qualify to be called as a Yagya.*

When we usually talk of a Yagya we picture a ‘havankund’, i.e., a pit where wood is burned, ‘havis’ (food for the devatā) is offered, Brāhmins sitting around the ‘Yagnakund’ chanting mantras, elaborate rangolis, and a couple sitting in front of the Yagya offering their prayers. Yes, this is the way a ritualistic Yagya is conducted… but there are other forms of Yagyas in which only the fire element, the sincere prayer, the offering, the Yajmāna and the personal devatā are there. They may not fit into the Vedic elaborate Yagya as we usually know of, but it is a Yagya nevertheless.

Last year, when Modi ji asked everyone to light lamps as a thankful gesture to those who were our caregivers and our Covid heroes, many claimed that it was based on the Devī Purāṇa. During the battle against Mahiśāsura, Kātyāyaṇī (a form of Durgā Devī) is believed to have lost her energy on Aṣṭamī day. On Sandhi Pūjā Muhūrat she was re-energised and she killed Mahiśāsura. To this day, Bengalis light 108 lamps on this Muhūrat during Durgā Pūjā. This lighting of lamps (Agni), singing verses in praise of Mā (mantras), praying for relieving the universe from all kinds of negative energies, i.e., Asuras (benefit of mankind and strengthening the devatās) … all this is a form of Yagya itself, but it is done publicly without the involvement of any structured ritual or Yagnakund.

Another form of Yagya which almost everyone must have been involved in but never realised it to be so, is the burning of Holīkā or Kāma on the day before Dhulī-vandan on Holī festival. Holīkādahan or KāmaDahan is the burning of logs and old, unused stuff while invoking Śivā / Viṣṇu in the form of folk songs/ballads, thus destroying the tāmasic feelings in one.  People offer upalās (cow dung), maize, corn, ghee, etc. to the fire. The ‘Yajmāna’ and the ‘Purohita’, both are the self and blessings are asked for destruction of the negative elements in nature, in the surroundings and within us.

There is also another form of Yagya which everyone who is a practising hindu performs in their very own houses every day. This is the lighting of the diyā or the lamp during sandhyā (dawn/dusk). Here too Agni is invoked to send our prayers to the devatās, offerings are made (in the form of ‘prasād’) and prayers are offered to various devīs and devatās either through mantras or through our own words. We seek to destroy the negative energies in ourselves and our house and seek to strengthen the divine within us.

Another simplified form of Yagya which almost every Hindu housewife indulges in everyday in her kitchen is the lighting up of fire (in any form) to cook food (anna). In Chapter 5 of Yajñavalkya Smriti on the duties of a householder, Yajñavalkya refers to Pañchyagnas which are supposed to be done nitya (everyday) – Bhuta Yagya (feeding of animals, birds, sick people, etc.), Svadhā ie. feeding of Pitṛs (by men, when they offer ‘anna’ to the Pitṛs before eating their food), Deva Yagya, i.e., feeding of food to fire, Brahma Yagya, i.e., Swādhyāya or learning of Vedas and finally Manuṣya Yagya, i.e., feeding the guests. In the above, since we cannot do Deva Yagya every day, it has become a custom to thank Agni when lighting the fire for the first time in the day for cooking, by offering a small piece of anything special that is cooked to Vaiśvadeva (the Agni in the cooking fire), by the housewife. Most housewives also like to keep a small piece of food for the crows or ants everyday and giving a ‘roti’ to the cows and the dogs is part of the Bhuta Yagya. The main ‘bhojana’ is first to be given to guests (Manuṣya Yagya), old people, pregnant women, children, etc and then the householders can consume the food. The importance of this fire is so much that even when any other Yagya takes place at home, the gṛhiṇī (housewife) is called upon to bring that fire to set light the first spark in the Yagnakund. Another form of Bhuta Yagna is when rangoli is drawn by using fine rice powder so that ants and other insects and small birds can consume it later.

What about children? Can they perform any Yagya? Well, you know the crackers that one bursts during Deepāvalī? While the lighting of the lamps and keeping it outside our homes or on window sills is to invite Mātā Lakṣmī and Prabhu Śrī Rām to our homes, I would like to claim that the bursting of crackers is the way we invoke the memory of our devatās through Agni and the sound of the crackers. This is how we introduce our children to Agni and Yagyas in a joyful way.

Purists may say that all of the above are not actually Yagyas, but the fact remains that all of the above are actually miniature versions of the elaborate Yagya rituals done to please/placate/energize our devīs and devatās and to energize ourselves too. Those who seek to bracket Hinduism as a religion with elaborate rituals aimed at trampling upon or restricting certain ‘castes’ from reaching out to God without any medium (like a Brāhmin Purohit) in between, do not know the vastness called Dharma. For every ritual which is elaborate and reaching out to the entire Brahmāṇda (universe), there also exists an extremely simple form (Piṇde) which bestows upon the devotee and the deity the same benefits as the elaborate one. Of course, the only condition is that there should be Śraddhā (faith) and Bhakti (devotion). In fact, without the two, even elaborate rituals do not give the prescribed results.

[*With inputs from Shri Anand Gaikwad]

Mrs. Rati Hegde, columnist and author

In Search of Vedic Role Models for Modern Male Population – II. Philosophical Concept of Equimportantity

Rudra-Manthan Series

(Continued from Part-I)

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

The term ardhanārīśwar is not only a symbol of unity shown of the male and female elements of the consciousness, but the name itself symbolizes something further, that is it is ardhanārīśwar, not an ardhanāreśwar, implying the basis of all that is conscious is the Śakti component of the female element of the existence. According to an article by Professor Subhash Kak “Our root consciousness – Śiva, PrakāśaCit — is what makes it possible to comprehend reality. It is the self-shining Light (Prakāśa) both creates the world and makes it understandable.” Thus Śakti by itself maybe incomprehensible, perhaps in the similar way as is the energy unless transformed into matter is not visible in the physical world, as can be understood from E = mc2, where E are energy and mass of matter, respectively.

More importantly, how do we perceive this universe? How are our faculties developed? How do we “see” the world we are in? Obviously, we see and perceive through the faculties which use us as the reference. Sānkhya philosophy (Figure 1) mathematically presents it as Mahat (the primordial principle or element) that consists of 24 elements, 5 bhūtas (pañcabhūtas), 5 tanmātras (subtle elements), 5 gyānendriyas (sensory organs), 5 karmendriyas (organs of action), mana (mind), buddhi (wisdom), citta (consciousness), and ahankara (existence). The Mahat itself is created by the combination of prakriti and puruṣa, as represented in the ardhanārīśwar of Śakti and Śiva.

Figure 1. Twenty Five Elements of Sānkhya Darśan

For the awareness of the knowledge, it is interaction or association of the two that makes the knowledge perceivable or discernable. Since the Śiva component of the ardhanārīśwar is visible result of this perception, this consciousness is identified with Śiva. Professor Kak writes “Universal consciousness, as a unity, is Śiva or Bhairava. Śiva makes it possible for the material associations of the physical world to have meaning.”

In terms of providing meaning to a given sound, Professor Kak writes “Our phenomenal knowledge can only be in terms of the associations of the outer world. But the associations in themselves need something to bind them together. The binding is the mātṛkā, the womb of elementary sounds or phonemes associated with the resonances of the mind, which are components of the spoken language. It is the binding that makes it possible to understand words or symbols when they are strung together.” This binding is carried out through prakāśa or light represented by Śiva, which associates the Śakti or creation that is a consciousness with free will (swātantrya). The free will when associated with illumination on mind becomes icchha Śakti or will power, and when it reflects upon itself it is vimarśa. The mystery of Śiva can be resolved through meditation on samaya, where Śiva (Prakāśa or Light) and Śakti (Vimarśa or Knowledge) are one, according to Kak. In other words, samaya is the element of efforts required to realize the unity of Śiva and Śakti, which is nothing but the self itself.

With the above philosophical background, one can attempt to examine social and scientific construction of female and male, which is also symbolically a tool to realize self. Since the self-inside is same as outside there ought not be any qualms in understanding the meaning of the diversity outside to create the unity inside. While a proposal for equality sounds reasonable, and certainly attracts popularity, but considering variations in traits, actions, consequences, freedom, associations, etc., equality is unnatural and an attempt to suppress the acceptance of diversity. Female and male are starkly different, but equally important. It is time perhaps to discover another word, such as equimportantity, which would allow description of the Mahat (shown in Figure 1 as part of the Sānkhya Darśan) in terms of infinite components of beings and non-beings, each with its unique features, where an absence of any makes the Mahat disappear (as Mahat cannot be incomplete), thus defining the equimportantity. Mathematically, if something is infinite, taking an element will limit its infinity, thus the loss of that infinite element, Mahat, for example.

Once the equimportance is established, it is easier for everything or everyone to express oneself to one’s full potential, without any need of imitation, copying, or following others. Ultimately, the outer world is the way to reflect on oneself in terms of Śiva being reflected on Śakti, and thus an acceptance of the world as it is, and then retaining once own innate nature with realization preserves all.

(continued to part-III)

Editorial note – As a complementary to the Indian tradition of Nava-Durga as the ideal role model of girls and women, it is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. Recently, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras as Rudra-Manthan for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential. Rudra-Manthan series of articles continue to explore that possibility to promote a better understanding of the needs and to provide educational support to boys and men.

– Prof. Bal Ram SinghSchool of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

स्वस्थ जीवन की ओर ले जाने वाला साधन ‘योग’

डॉ.अलका शर्मा

प्राचीन शास्त्रों में मानव जीवन का परम लक्ष्य पुरुषार्थ चतुष्ट्य की प्राप्ति माना गया है। धर्म, अर्थ, काम, मोक्ष सभी की प्राप्ति स्वस्थ शरीर द्वारा ही संभव है|

धर्मार्थकाममोक्षणारोग्यम मूलमुत्तम्।

(चरक संहिता २.१.१६)

स्वस्थ शरीर द्वारा ही मानव संसार के समस्त कार्य, धनोपार्जन, लोक-व्यवहार, व्यापार, नौकरी, पारिवारिक-दायित्व, भजन, चिंतन, मनन आदि करने में सक्षम होता है। कालिदास ने भी धर्मसाधन के लिए स्वस्थ शरीर को ही अनिवार्य माना है-

शरीमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्।

(कुमारसम्भवम्)

क्योंकि यदि हमारा शरीर विकार ग्रस्त है तो वह क्षीण व दुर्बल हो जाता है और अस्वस्थ व्यक्ति जीवन के समस्त आनंद-धन, ऐश्वर्य, भोजन से विरक्त सा हो जाता है। अस्वस्थ व्यक्ति को प्रकृति के सुंदर दृश्यों में भी रुचि नहीं रहती। निरंतर अपनी व्याधि के विषय में ही चिंतित रहता है। अतः जीवन का वास्तविक आनंद लेने के लिए शरीर का स्वस्थ होना परम आवश्यक है।

स्वास्थ्य के प्रति सजग व्यक्ति अपनी-अपनी रुचि के अनुसार भिन्न-भिन्न उपाय करते हैं। उदाहरणार्थ- प्रातः काल जागरण, उषा-पान, प्रातःकालीन टहलना, व्यायाम, जिम, विभिन्न खेल आदि। स्वास्थ्य के प्रति सजग हमारे प्राचीन ऋषियों ने पुरातन काल में ही शरीर को स्वस्थ रखने, इच्छाशक्ति को प्रबल बनाने के लिए, मन पर संयम रखने के लिए एक उत्कृष्ट प्रणाली को विकसित किया जिसे ’योग’ कहते है। योग के वास्तविक महत्व से अनभिज्ञ पर जिज्ञासु जनसाधारण के मानसपटल पर यही प्रश्न उठता है कि वास्तव मे ’योग क्या है’? जब हम अन्य व्यायाम कर सकते हैं तो फिर योग क्यों?

साधारण शब्दों में योग का अर्थ है ’जोड़ना’। शरीर व मन को परस्पर जोड़ना ही ‘योग’ है। पतंजलि-योगसूत्र के अनुसार शरीर, मन, व मस्तिष्क में तादात्म्य स्थापित कर मानव को स्वस्थ, ऊर्जावान, सक्रिय बनाने की कला ही ’योग’ है क्योंकि कभी हम शरीर से स्वस्थ होते है, पर मन अशांत होता है और कभी मन शांत है तो कभी शरीर लाचार हो जाता है। ऎसे में हम योगासनों के माध्यम से स्वस्थ तन, प्रसन्न व शांत मन की प्राप्ति करते हैं।

गीता में ’समत्वं योग उच्यते’( २/४८) कहकर योग की अत्यन्त सारगर्भित व्याख्या की गई है। कहने का अभिप्राय यह है कि जहाँ संतुलन, समत्व, लयबद्धता, सामंजस्य, अद्वन्द है, वहीं योग है। इसके विपरीत जहाँ संघर्ष, विग्रह, असामंजस्य, असंतुलन, असंगति है, वहीं रोग है। प्रायः लोग अपने परिवार, समाज, व्यवसाय, नौकरी में सही तादात्म्य स्थापित नहीं कर पाते और परिणाम स्वरूप अशांति, संघर्ष, बैर, व्याधि, रोग उनके जीवन का अंग बन जाते है। योग के अनुसार वीणा की सुमधुर ध्वनि तभी सुनाई पड़ती है, जब उसके सभी तार कसे हो। उसी प्रकार हमारे शरीर व मन के भी तारो में पर्याप्त लयबद्धता, संतुलन हो तो हमारी जीवन-वीणा में भी सुमधुर झंकार प्रस्फुटित हो उठेगी। यदि हम अपने शरीर को स्वस्थ रखना चाहते हैं, साथ ही हड्डियों की लचक, पुष्ट मांसपेशी, शरीर में सुचारू रूप से रक्त संचार, शरीर के सभी अंगों- ह्रदय, मस्तिष्क, गुर्दे, पाचन-तंत्र, श्वास- तंत्र आदि को पुष्ट करना चाहते हैं तो निश्चित ही योगासनों से निम्न लाभ अवश्य पाएंगे-

  • स्वस्थ व सुडौल शरीर
  • प्रसन्न व शांत मन
  • मानसिक शांति
  • आंतरिक प्रसन्नता
  • तीक्ष्ण बुद्धि
  • निर्णायक शक्ति
  • चिंतन की स्पष्ट दिशा
  • तेज स्मरणशक्ति
  • इन्द्रिय निग्रह
  • मुखमंडल पर तेज

वस्तुत: योगासन शरीर को स्वस्थ रखने की पूर्ण चिकित्सा-पद्धति है, जिसमें शरीर में उत्पन्न समस्त व्याधियों का योगासन द्वारा उपचार व निदान किया जा सकता है। योगासनों से शरीर लचीला बनता है, सभी ग्रंथियों में रस-स्राव नियंत्रित होता है, एकाग्रता व शांति का अनुभव होता है, सहन-शीलता, दृढ़ता आत्मसंयम आदि गुणों का विकास होता है, तथा मन पर नियंत्रण होने के कारण सूक्ष्म शरीर सकारात्मक भाव से प्रभावित होता है।

कुछ लोग योग को जटिल प्रक्रिया मानते हुए अपने स्वास्थ्य रक्षण हेतु अन्य व्यायाम, विभिन्न खेल, या जिम आदि को अपनी दिनचर्या में शामिल करते हैं। वैसे तो शरीर को स्वस्थ रखने के लिये व्यायाम, भ्रमण, तैराकी, जॉगिंग, साईक्लिंग, बैडमिंटन, टेनिस क्रिकेट, जुडो आदि कई प्रचलित तरीके हैं। इन सभी से निसंदेह हम शरीर में चुस्ती-फुर्ती, स्थूलता में कमी,  सुचारू रूप से रक्त-संचार आदि लाभ ले सकते है| प्रत्यक्ष को प्रमाण की कोई आवश्यकता नहीं होती। उपरोक्त चर्चा का सबसे बड़ा  उदाहरण इस कोरोना संकट में देखने को मिला। कोरोना वायरस श्वास व नासिका के द्वारा शरीर में प्रविष्ठ होकर कितनी तेजी से फैला, ये सभी ने देखा और जाना। कोरोना के समय मॉल, बाज़ार, जिम, क्लब, रेस्ट्रोरेंट जब सब कुछ बंद था। यहां तक कि वेक्सीन भी बहुत देर में उपलब्ध हुई। ऐसे में जहां अनुलोम-विलोम,  कपालभाति, भस्त्रिका आदि प्राणायाम ने आशातीत परिणाम दिखाए और करोड़ों लोगों को स्वस्थ किया। वहीं ॐकार, नाद, भ्रामरी प्राणायाम द्वारा सामाजिक जीवन से दूर अपने घरों में ही कैद करोड़ों लोगों को अवसाद, डिप्रेशन आदि से मुक्ति मिली। इस प्रकार जिन्होंने भी योग पर विश्वास कर योग की शरण ली उन्होंने उस कठिन समय में केवल घर में ही रहकर योगासनों से लाभ उठाया और अपने प्राणों की रक्षा करते हुए मृत्यु पर विजय प्राप्त की।

मेरा व्यक्तिगत अनुभव भी इस दौरान रहा। नंवबर, २०२० में अपने दफ्तर जाने के कारण मैं और मेरे पति दोनों ही कोरोना से संक्रमित हो गए। पहले से ही नियमित रूप से योगाभ्यास करने के कारण हम दो दिन में ही ठीक हो गए क्योंकि प्राय: ऎसा माना जाता है कि योग के कारण रोग-प्रतिरोधक क्षमता (immunity) बड़ जाती है। प्राणायाम के नियमित अभ्यास से प्राण शक्ति ’ऊर्जा’ ऊर्ध्वगामी हो जाती है। श्वास को लंबा, गहरा, लयबद्ध बनाने से आयु में वृद्धि होती है क्योंकि जितना गहरा श्वास हम लेंगे उतने ही दीर्घ जीवी हम होंगे।

श्वास-प्रश्वास की गति को वेगपूर्वक लेना व छोड़ना ’भस्त्रिका प्राणायाम’ कहलाता है। जैसे सुनार धौकनी से सोने को परिष्कृत करता है, उसी प्रकार इस प्राणायाम से हमारे शरीर की अन्तरिक शुद्धि  होती है। कपालभाति  व भस्त्रिका सहयोगी प्राणायाम है। कपालभाति प्राणायाम में श्वास को बार-बार बाहर फेंकने में अधिक शक्ति लगती है और सांस लेने में उतने  वेग की आवश्यकता नहीं जबकि भस्त्रिका में सांस लेने व छोड़ने दोनों में ही वेग का प्रयोग होता है। इससे दमा, टी.बी, वायु रोग,  रक्त-शुद्धि,  सुचारू रक्त संचार,  सूर्यनाडी, चंद्र नाडी  एवम सुषुम्ना नाड़ी का शोधन होकर प्राण सुचारू रूप से प्रवाहित होने लगता है। कोरोना  काल में शीघ्रता से ठीक होने में मुझे इन प्राणायामों ने मदद की। इस प्रकार योग की गुणवत्ता व श्रेष्ठता स्वतः दृष्टि गोचर है। कोरोना काल में विश्व के समस्त देशों ने योग के महत्व को जाना व स्वीकार किया है।

गीता में शरीर को क्षेत्र कहा गया है- ’इदं शरीरं कौन्तेय क्षेत्रमित्यभिधीयते’ (१३.२)। जिस प्रकार खेत में बोये गए बीजों के अनुरूप ही फल प्राप्त होता है, उसी प्रकार शरीर रूपी खेत में उत्तम कर्म संस्कारों का वपन करना चाहिए।

अपने शरीर की प्रकृति को जानकर रक्षण करना हमारा ही दायित्व है। पर यह कितनी विडंबना है कि हर व्यक्ति देश, विदेश, भूगोल, खगोल, विज्ञान आदि की पूर्ण जानकारी रखता है पर अपने ही शरीर के पूर्ण विज्ञान को कभी जानने का प्रयास भी नहीं करता। गलत दिनचर्या, पथ्य-कुपथ्य से सर्वथा अनभिज्ञ, योगासनों, प्राणायाम, ध्यान से कोसो दूर होकर व्यक्ति अपने शरीर को असंख्य व्याधियों का शिकार बना लेता है। अतः अपने जीवन में योग को अपनाए और ’जीवेम शरदः शतम्’ जैसे वैदिक स्वप्न को साकार करें।

डॉ.अलका शर्मा, साहित्यकार एवं निदेशक, निजी कंपनी

Minimizing Unhappiness in Life through Practice of Yoga

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare

‘Yoga’ literally means linking, bonding, or getting connected by something with something. In common usage, it is linked with ‘luck’ or ‘chance’ of occurrence of several events together during same time period.

Every Human’s lifespan can be split into a series of durations of experiencing ‘happiness’ and ‘unhappiness’. Within these periods, there can be different levels of intensities of these feelings. Practice of yoga devotes ways and means of decreasing the duration as well as the intensity of feeling ‘unhappiness’ by using techniques recognized in the yoga. These activities may consequently get accompanied with increasing both the duration and intensity of feeling ‘Happy’. To understand this goal, we first need to understand (a) the nature of, and (b) some major reasons of feeling unhappy.  Let us enumerate some of them, and simultaneously enlist the Yogic solutions to minimize them.

While experiencing deep sleep, we are totally unaware of any feeling of either ‘happiness’ or ‘unhappiness’. Therefore, we can count this duration under the list of ‘not feeling unhappy’. Consequently, trying to enjoy deep sleep, as long as possible, is the simplest method of reduction of the period of feeling ‘unhappy’ in our life. In cases where we do have time to sleep, but are unable to get the sleep, we should consult a physician or psychiatric to treat our sleeplessness by using any pathological treatments. Correspondingly, we should learn the Śavāsana and yoga-nidrā to stay relaxed in these ‘sleep like’ states of mind, devoid of feeling unhappiness.

While experiencing the state of ‘turīya-samādhi’ we are free from unhappiness. Transcendental Meditation is a comparatively simpler technique, developed by Maharshi MaheshaYogi-ji to learn and practice.

While experiencing the dream state, if we get bad unhappy dreams, they are often caused by some fear psychosis, hidden in our mind. Bhakti-yoga and vrata-archanā based karma-yoga or kriyāyoga, based solutions aimed at getting the blessings of our God or Goddess can be helpful. Another devotional faith or Japa-yoga based solutions are helpful in reduction of duration of feeling unhappy resulting from bad dreams.

While experiencing the awakened state, we often feel uneasiness originating from multiple physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, environmental conditions. At present, we do not have any standardized scales and gauges for measurement of intensity of unhappiness, resulting from any particular reason. Still, let us imagine that we can arbitrarily assign some value to the unhappiness caused by a ‘Cause’ ‘C1’ and plot it against time ‘t’ then we shall get some sort of  line or curve. The area of projections under this curve from time t1 to t2 gives us a measure of our ‘unhappiness’ suffered during this duration, due to cause C1. e.g. in a typical case of a physical injury caused by a cut suffered by a cook (serving in a restaurant) while cutting a vegetable, the duration of its healing and the intensity of the pain due to this injury, as well as, inability or inefficiency in work suffered during this healing period, etc. represent the measures of unhappiness suffered by that cook. Simultaneously, this cook may suffer from any number of other physical deceases. Diabetic conditions may prolong the duration of suffering and the area under the curve increases. Scolding from his employer for his inefficiency, or cut in his daily salary during this period as well as the expenditure involved in treating the wound, etc. can add to his worries and feelings of unhappiness. Appropriate diet and appropriate medical treatment supporting lifestyle along with a mental attribute of higher levels of patience and tolerance (kshamā) will help to reduce the intensity.  The measure of the total unhappiness suffered can be increased, reduced, and controlled by such modifications. Says Gita-

युक्ताहारविहारश्चयुक्तचेष्टश्चकर्मसु | युक्तस्वप्नअवबोधश्चयोगोभवतिदु:खहा || (6.17)

There can be several thousands of causes or reasons which can bring varieties of physical states of unhappiness. Their intensity is assignable with some arbitrary value suitable to each cause. Gaining higher and higher unhappiness intensity levels can be considered as rise in that.

The natural tendency of any soul (jīvātmā) is to get motivated to undertake conscious actions which are expected by that soul to reduce and minimize this unhappiness potential. This Vedic law is very similar in nature to the law of modern Physics called as the ‘Law of Minimum Potential Energy’. Naturally, the consciousness’s motivating force is directly proportional to the difference in the values of the instantaneous state of unhappiness with the lowest possible state of unhappiness.

Hunger and thirst are routinely recurring forms of two axes of unhappiness. The Vedic solutions are appropriate quantities of appropriate nutritious food and drink. Regularly repeated appropriate diet and dieting is the solution for minimization of these routine causes of unhappiness.

Boredom resulting from daily routine work is another common reason of feeling uneasy type unhappiness. Presently, we resort to undertake a journey to some tourist resorts, hill stations to encounter this problem. Most of the ancient pilgrimage places such as jyotir-linga, Śakti-sthala etc. are located on beautiful places, hills, river-banks or ocean-beaches. Undertaking pilgrimage especially by walking with devotionally oriented groups has been working as health recovering cum spiritually educating annual program for millions of persons in India. These programs are combinations of bhakti-yoga, and appropriate activities of Yoga.

Usefulness of ‘Yogāsana postures, prāṇāyāma practices, dhyāna meditation etc. have already become globally popular. YouTube based instruction programs as yogic remedies to several common deceases (e.g. asthma, BP, diabetics, arthritis, back-pain etc.) are available on the internet. All these are yoga-based methods for reduction of unhappiness via improvements in physical, mental, emotional health and immunity.

Dr. Dhananjay B. Ghare, Former Scientist, IISC, Bengaluru

Plant Wealth Revealed in the Śrī Rudram

Dr. Raghava S. Boddupalli

Formation of Śrī Rudram

Lord Rudra is the deity mentioned in all four Vēdic texts at multiple places and in multiple forms. Also, Rudra is highly admired in Vēdas and Purāṇas. The name ‘Rudra’ occurs 98 times in the RV, 113 times in the Kṛṣṇa Yajurvēda (KYV), 22 times in the Śukla Yajurvēda (SYV), 4 times in the SV and 45 times in the AV. The Yajurvēda hymns that have gained particular importance are the ‘Rudra Namakaṁ’ (TS 4-5-1 to 4-5-11) and the ‘Rudra Camakaṁ’ (TS 4-7-1 to 4-7-11), which constitute the ‘Śatarudrīyam’ or the ‘Śrī Rudram’ or ‘Rudrapraśna’. Traditionally, along with Namakaṁ and Camakaṁ, Puruṣa sūktaṃ is also chanted.

Namakaṁ Camakaṁ caiva puruṣa sūktam ca nityaśaḥ |

Mahādēvēna tattulyam tanmē manaḥ śivasaṃkalpamastu ||

‘Rudram’ occurs in all the original 108 (92 KYV and 16 SYV) branches (Śākhas) of the Yajurvēda (YV), thus giving rise to the name ‘Śatarudrīyam’. Rudram is found in the six recensions of the YV (4 of KYV and 2 of SYV) surviving today. In the Śrī Rudram alone, the name ‘Rudra’ occurs 18 times and the name ‘Śiva’ occurs 14 times in the Namaka Praśna. The popular name ‘Namaka Praśna’ is due to the repeated utterance, 187 times, of the word “Namah or Namo” (salutation). Following this, the ‘Camaka Praśna’ is chanted wherein the words “Ca me” (meaning ‘and me’), repeated 338 times, hence popularly named ‘Camakam’. While chanting the Śrī Rudram, it is customary after reciting the 11th Anuvāka of the Namaka Praśna, the additional eight Mantras that are chanted which contain the famous Mahā Mr̥tyuṃjaya Mantra, and the other Mantras are revealed in the TS, but elsewhere. Among these eight Mantras, three Mantras are revealed in the RV, four Mantras in the Taittirīya Āraṇyakam (TA) and one Mantra in the TS.  These Mantras are brought together and merged after the 11th Anuvāka of the Namaka Praśna and together are described as ‘Rudra Namaka’. By chanting these Mantras, we are praying Lord Rudra to protect us from untimely death. Similarly, after the 11th Anuvāka of the Camaka Praśna, a Śānti Mantra that is routinely recited is obtained from the 3rd Kāṇḍa of the TS [3-3-2(4)].  With this, the chanting of the ‘Śrī Rudram’ is completed. The three Mantras that are adopted from the RV into the Śrī Rudram are provided with the YV swara. The additional Mantras might have been appended by our R̥ṣis.

Botanical Facets of Śrī Rudram

The Mantras/liturgies in the Śrī Rudram describe agriculture crops, plants, trees and botanical and agriculture terminology. The term Ōṣadhi appears in mantras of Śrī Rudram. Ōṣadhi means an annual plant or herb with medicinal properties. It also means a plant that dies immediately after it produces seeds or a herb that lasts for one year or season [TS 4-5-2(11)]. Śrī Rudram explains that plants and trees containing trichomes (kēśa or hair-like structures) on both sides of the leaves, i.e. dorsal and ventral surface of the leaf [TS 4-5-2(2)].  Both the leaves and the trichomes (hair-like structures) are containing the chlorophyll (hari or harita) and hence they are green in colour. Just as hair are innumerable in number and that protect the skin and the head of the human beings, leaves are also numerous and protect plants and trees. The term Śaṣpa is mentioned in the YV Saṃhitās [TS 4-5-8(16) and VS 21-29] and in RV Brāhmaṇa (AB 8-5-3 and AB 8-8-4), YV Brāhmaṇa[SB 12-7-2(8) and SB 12-9-1(2)]. Sāyaṇāchārya in his commentary on Taittirīya Saṃhita mentioned that Śaṣpa means a just born Darbha grass (Desmostachya bipinnata) grows on the banks of the Ganga River. It also denotes ‘young’ or a ‘sprouting grass’.

tryaṃbakaṃ yajāmahē sugandhiṃ puṣṭivardhanaṃ |

               urvārukamiva bandhanānmṛtyōrmukṣīya māmṛtāt || – TS 1-8-6(11)

My Salutations to Lord Rudra, as the scent, colour etc. are all superior as mentioned by Upanishad in ‘Divyagandha:, the Sri Gandha tree (Santalum album)’, ‘Divyarasa:’ etc., has been used here. Also, in this Mantra it is an invocation made with a request to release the clutch of ‘Mṛtyu’ (death). The essence of this Mantra signifies the fact that just as the ripened Urvāruka (see Figure 01) (cucumber fruit = Cucumis sativus) separates on its own from the stem, in the same way I would like to liberate myself from the cycle of life and death.

Figure 02 – Urvāru (Cucumis sativus) – (a) Cucumber field, (b) Flowering stage, (c) Cucumber fruit intact with the plant, (d) Cucumber fruits and (e) Seeds

Lord Rudra’s weapons such as Triśūla, Bow (Pinakam), Arrows and others are made out of an important and highest quality wood comparable to that of a Nyagrōdha (Ficus benghalensis) tree [TS 4-5-10(10)]. It is described that Lord is seated in a banyan tree in Kailasa, which is 100 Yōjanas tall and 175 Yōjanas wide (Yōjana is a Vedic measure of distance that was used in ancient India. One Yōjana is about 12-15 kilometers in length) and that banyan tree is the refuge of those anxious to obtain Mokṣa.

The 4th Anuvāka of the Camaka Praśna starts with ‘energy’ so much needed for day to day living. It then lists various sources of energy and the means to procure them (agriculture, conquest, etc.).  It asks for the abundance of those sources. It indicates the requirements for the success of Agriculture, growth of the plants and creepers. For the reputed food, the Annam, revealed the major, minor food grains, legumes and an oil seed crop that would give relief from hunger. Here, seven cereal crops, four legume crops and one oil seed crop are revealed (TS 4-7-4, see Figure 02).

……व्री॒हय॑श्च मे॒ यवा”श्चम मे॒ माषा”श्च मे॒ तिला”श्च मे मु॒द्गाश्च॑ मे ख॒ल्वा”श्च मे गो॒धूमा”श्च मे म॒सुरा”श्च मे

प्रि॒यङ्ग॑वश्च॒ मेण॑वश्च मे श्या॒माका”श्च मे नी॒वारा”श्च मे || – TS 4-7-4.

Figure 02 – Cereal, Legume and Oil Seed Crops Revealed
in the Śrī Rudram

The different qualities of cereal grains and their progressive increase in growth of food grains are detailed in this Anuvāka (TS 4-7-4). It prays for the condition in which one never has to go hungry (akṣut) and the condition in which one never runs out (akṣitiḥ) of any item required in a given day. One also gets the message that having food and drink with many more people is more elevating for the nourishment of the body and mind. All these actions are energy-imbibing (eating, drinking etc.) are to be done with a sweet and pleasant manner of speaking, which will definitely reflect in the subtle portion of the food which goes to the mind.

The plants/trees and their derivatives are the key for the ritualistic activities and their significance is described in the Yajurveda. Yajña is the subject matter of entire Vēda. The general requirements to perform Yajñas and are detailed in the Śrī Rudram. The general requirements of Yajñaand Yāgas, in the form of preparation of Yajña Vēdi, Samidhas (kindling wood), Yajña implements (manufactured from different wood of trees), plant-derived oblations, and others are clearly indicated in the Camaka Praśna of Śrī Rudram (TS 4-7-8).

This brief article explains some significant botanical aspects of the Śrī Rudram. An exhaustive explanation of all botanical and agricultural facets is available in the article titled, ‘Agriculture Crops, Plants and Trees Revealed in the Śrī Rudram (Raghava S. Boddupalli (2019) Asian Agri-History, 23(4): 261-281). In summary, the flora of Śrī Rudram contains, one (01) wild grass, seven (07) cereal crops, four (04) legume crops, one (01) oil seed crop, two (02) creepers, five (05) shrubs and fifteen (15) trees. The plants and trees mentioned in the Camaka Praśna are more in number when compared with the Namaka Praśna. The reason for this is that in the Camaka Praśna we pray to the Lord Rudra to provide various crops, plants and trees required for our living and also to perform Yajñas and Yāgās. The crops mentioned in the Śrī Rudram are being cultivated even today for food and fodder.

Dr. Raghava S. Boddupalli, Institute of Sanskrit and Vedic Studies (ISVS)

Editor's note: The above mentioned author's article titled, ‘Agriculture Crops, Plants and Trees Revealed in the Śrī Rudram’ published in Asian Agri-History journal has received 'Dr. KL Mehra Memorial Award'.

In Search of Vedic Role Models for Modern Male Population – I. Genesis of the Issues

Rudra-Manthan Series

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

In a free country like United States of America, the land of equality and justice, there is a statistics from the Congressional Research Service that advises the US Congress on facts and data, entitled American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, Updated July 29, 2020, which states that the combined deaths in Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf war were 95,156 for men and 25 for women. Even if an adjustment is made for the percentage of male and female (approximately 85:15), the number of deaths for male vs. female (99.974:0.026) is extremely lopsided.

Does this statistics reflect a cultural conditioning or an innate inclination, not for the death, of course, but to opt for a task that risks life? Is this only a modern time phenomenon or an ancient practice? There have been women warriors and fighters in modern times like Rānī Lakṣmībāī, Rānī Durgavati, or Rānī Chennāmma, as well as in ancient and mythological times like Durgā, Kaikeyī, Surpaṇakhā, Lankinī, etc. However, the overwhelming number of men fighting and dying in battles is beyond any shred of doubt. The Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, the two epic wars were fought by only men the extent of their annihilation at least in Mahābhārata war to restore the honor of women! There is no such an instance for the other way around.

What may be the driving force for such a preponderance of inclination in men? If it is due to cultural conditioning, there ought to be a change with change in cultural expression today when there is equality among men and women. If it is due to an innate inclination, it needs to be understood from philosophical, psychological, and scientific analyses.

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing (a consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School), wrote a blog (dated February 16, 2016) article entitled “Why men often die earlier than women”, with following observations:

There are many reasons why the ratio of men to women (which is roughly equal in young adulthood) starts to favor women over time. Among the most powerful factors? Men tend to

Take bigger risks. Some of the reason seems to be “biological destiny.” The frontal lobe of the brain — the part that controls judgment and consideration of an action’s consequences — develops more slowly in boys and young men than in their female counterparts. This may contribute to the fact that far more boys and men die in accidents or due to violence than girls and women. Examples include biking, driving drunk, and homicide. This tendency toward lack of judgment and consideration of consequences may also contribute to detrimental lifestyle decisions among young men, such as smoking or drinking to excess.

Have more dangerous jobs. Men far outnumber women in some of the riskiest occupations, including military combat, firefighting, and working at construction sites.

Die of heart disease more often and at a younger age. In fact, men are 50% more likely than women to die of heart disease. The fact that men have lower estrogen levels than women may be part of the reason. But medical risks, such as poorly treated high blood pressure or unfavorable cholesterol levels, may contribute as well.

Be larger than women. Across many species, larger animals tend to die younger than smaller ones. Although the magnitude of this effect is uncertain in humans, it may work against male longevity.

Commit suicide more often than women. This is true despite the fact that depression is considered more common among women and women make more (non-fatal) suicide attempts. Some attribute this to the tendency for men to avoid seeking care for depression and the cultural norms that discourage men from seeking help for mental illness.

Be less socially connected. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, people with fewer and weaker social connections (which tends to include men more often than women) tend to have higher death rates.

Avoid doctors. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are far more likely to skip routine health screens and far less likely than women to have seen a doctor of any kind during the previous year.

Even in this Corona crisis, we can find stark differences between male and female for the infection and mortality rates, with male accounting for more than two fold infections and death rates.

Philosophically speaking, there is a concept of Ardhanārīshwar, the Śivā and Śaktī, the essential concept of completeness. Could it be the Śivā that could be the symbol of the role model for males, just like the Nava-Durgās are those for females? To answer such a question one needs to examine various forms of Śivā to provide options of inclination to boys and men for the development of their innate qualities.

(to be continued….)

– Prof. Bal Ram SinghSchool of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

Editorial note – As a complementary to the Indian tradition of Nava-Durgā as the ideal role model of girls and women, it is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. Recently, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras as Rudra-Manthan for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential. Rudra-Manthan series of articles will explore that possibility to promote a better understanding of the needs and to provide educational support to boys and men.

Nava-Durgā as Ideal Model for the Development of Women to Attain their Natural Full Potential

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

Science has taken a dominant position in the world for at least for the past 500 years or so, making every aspect of life being examined through the lens of science, or at least scientifically. Thus are the fields such as social science, political science, in addition to hard sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Corona pandemics has brought a few previously ignored items of discussion regarding men and women. Women are less vulnerable to Corona infection and Covid disease by about half compared to men. In addition, their immune reaction is so strong that anaphylaxis reaction from Covid vaccination is entirely occurring in women. There are several other biological differences between men and women (Singh, https://myind.net/Home/viewArticle/the-irony-of-empowering-the-powerful-women), mostly favoring women physically and biologically, which gives them on average 5-7 years higher longevity. How does it translate into the social behavior, structure, and treatment of women in the world generally? India traditionally being a matriarchal society (yes, it is contrary to general belief, but I am talking about matriarchy meaning mother and patriarchy meaning father, as opposed to ladiarchy and maniarchy! Singh, https://www.umassd.edu/indic/faculty-and-staff/director/india-new-england-jun-2007/) also needs to be looked at rationally and objectively.

Culturally, women in India under ideal conditions have high place in the society – Durgā, Saraswatī, and Laxmi. With all those superior physical and mental power as indicated above, there is perhaps no doubt left why women are referred to as the Shakti or power! Even 30-40 years ago, at least in eastern UP, girl names had Devi (divine) added as a suffix. It reflected what society perceived and professed for women’s high place. Kanyā pūjā is still common throughout the country during the Navarātrī celebrations. To rationally examine the practice of Kanyā pūjā during the Navarātra, one needs to examine first the nine forms of Durgā described for the purpose.

What do these forms truly represent, how they are symbolized with body forms, what items they carry in their hands, what they ride, and what people expect to get when they worship them. While considering such traditions, one needs to be cognizant of their symbolic nature. For example, it will be utterly ridiculous to consider a lady with 10 hands riding a tigress no matter how courageous she may be! It will be equivalent to a cardboard model of river bridge of an engineer makes to design a real bridge but someone tries to take a car over the cardboard bridge.

When considered in a scientific way, the NavaDurgā represents phases of a woman’s life, which undergo a lot more physiological and psychological changes naturally. Thus, the nine forms of Durgā in fact represent the life stages of a woman, starting as a daughter (Shailputrī) and ending with a wise woman (Siddhīdatrī) who can provide advise and blessing with her experiences.

प्रथमं शैलपुत्री च द्वितीयं ब्रह्मचारिणी।

तृतीयं चन्द्रघंटेति कूष्माण्डेति चतुर्थकम् ।।

पंचमं स्क्न्दमातेति षष्ठं कात्यायनीति च।

सप्तमं कालरात्रीति महागौरीति चाष्टमम् ।।

नवमं सिद्धिदात्री च नवदुर्गाः प्रकीर्तिताः ।।

which translates as the first is Shailputrī, second Brahmavādinī, third, Chandraghanṭā, fourth Kushmaṇdā, fifth Skandamātā, sixth Kātyāyanī, Seventh Kālrātrī, eighth Māhāgaurī, and ninth Siddhīdatrī. The characteristics, features, actions, etc. are listed in Table 1, which also carries phase of life a woman’s life in the comment section.

Interestingly, and coincidentally, these features of development match with the hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s life (Figure 1).

Table 1. Names and characteristics of Nava-Durgā with message for female development

NameQualityArms Rides onActionFeatureComment – a message for girls/women
ShailputriReborn after Sati, power of nature, and embodiment of Tri-devasTwoNandi OxNoneEarly ageStage of a kanya or a young girl or daughter
BrahmavadiniAscetism and penanceTwoOn footNoneTeenagerTime of learning
ChandraghantaBell-shaped half moon on forehead, courageTenTigressCan be malevolent but is sereneYoung lady Young and courageous with a lot of capability
KushamandaRadiant with energyEight LionessCapable of killing demonsLearning over, doing begins Confident
SkandamataMother of Skanda, sits on and carries two  lotus flowersFour Ferocious lionCaring and teachingMotherly, devotedAbove the messy world
KatyayaniAngry, Vengeance against demonsFour Magnificent lion Killed MahishasurProtectiveNatural instinct of a mother to protect
KalratriDestroyer, dark complexionFourDonkeyKilled Shubmha and Nishumbha Fiercest and ferociousRepresents time as darkness that engulfs all eventually
MahgauriBright, shiny, intelligent, wiseFourBullNoneForgivingFull of wisdom
SiddhadatriLeft half of Ardhanarishwar, Treats sura and asura the sameFourLion or TigerNoneGives boons of siddhisUltimate mother of all, giving blessings

Also, perhaps as a result of changes in their physiology periodically they are more aware of their nature, and thus women in general reflect the sāttvic thoughts and action. And, indeed, the society prospers when that sanctity is maintained.

Many a time the pedagogical meanings of many ancient shlokas and practices are either not understood or taken superficially. For example, Manusmriti states that ‘yatranariyasya pujyante ramante tatra devta’. This is wrongly translated as – where women are worshipped that becomes god’s abode. Another way to translate the same shloka would be that where women rise to the level of being worshipped, gods make that place as their abode. This would mean that all those living in her house will behave like devās!! The onus, therefore, is on the innate strength of women to raise their level with their knowledge, practice, management, and caring of the society. But that sounds too inordinate and cumbersome, especially in modern system of society where my troubles are someone else’s fault for both men and women!

Figure 1. Life stages and hormonal changes in women (From https://www.otsuka.co.jp/en/nutraceutical/about/nutrition/womens-health-and-nutrition/).

India’s great tradition of considering girls as representatives of goddess like Durgā, and celebration of this tradition at least twice during the Navarātras begs the question whether boys also get to learn about their place and position in the society. Curiously, Nava-Durgā forms of devīs originate in the Ardhanārishwar! It is quite likely that the Kanyā pūjā during the Navarātra is to remind the young girls of their potential to realize to be in a privileged position of the society. In this way, young boys are treated step-motherly by the society, leaving them to fend for themselves. It is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. It couldn’t be more fitting than to consider the 11 Rudras as the role model for boys and men to shape their ideas to pursue. Therefore, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential.

– Prof. Bal Ram SinghSchool of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

Holi: The Feast of Multidimensional Harmony and Divine Love: The Yajna and Yoga for All

Prof. Shive K. Chaturvedi

In the age of prevailing conflicts, confusions, emptiness, and meaninglessness, many leaders of all kinds and creeds-intellectuals, social scientists, physical scientists, theologians, and politicians have suddenly started preaching about the urgent need of harmony and love within this variegated world. The irony is that these words and concepts remain evasive and elusive to most of us. In the absence of real active participation (with mind, speech, and action) in the feast of harmony and love, the entire endeavor of leaders of all colors and creeds appears to be nothing more than a sonorous verbiage-an utter nominalism. Do we have an opportunity for such a feast of inviting harmony and unalloyed love? Yes we do! And that is what the Holi is all about.

The historical origin of Holi is still shrouded in mystery; however, many good indications place it in very remote times, all the way back when Bhagavan Krishna spent his miraculous and divine playful boyhood in Vrindavan, Braj-Bhoomi, India (more than 5000 years ago). Its current traditions and practices appear to have evolved from harmonizing of many dharmic, adhyatmic, social, and folk traditions.

The Holi celebration begins with a bonfire. The bonfire is started by collecting, from every house in the village, the accumulated trash, garbage, and waste. This clean-up act is the reminder of the necessity of cleaning all the physical, as well as mental, spaces where lots of polluting elements have grown out of our material nature, such as uncontrolled sensual desires, anger, delusion, hatred, violence, lust, and greed. People gather around the bonfire and make offerings that might include roasting ears of new, still green barley crops which are still in the fields (this act is a kind of Vedic Yagna), and sing and dance around the fire, with songs, including the chants written in local vernacular. After all, this is New Year’s Day; a day to welcome the most colorful, joyful spring season-the king of all seasons. This is the Holika-Dahan.

In the Braj-Bhoomi, Holi playing is a battle of divine love. Young wives of the village are ready to attack the best men of the village with their sticks. It is time for colors; the wet and dry, all kinds. Everyone has been transfigured; no one is recognizable; the whole Braj-Bhoomi appears to be in great social turmoil, chaos, craziness, and good humor–yet everyone is in a state of great joy. The erotic mood is in full swing, yet within the expanded bounds of ethical and moral norms. People are impersonating Shri Radha and Krishna; the roles have been reversed; the genders gone astray. This continues for a day or two, and then purification and restructuring starts by washing, cleaning up, and donning new clothes.

This is a new beginning. Everyone greets one another with a new promise of cooperation, support, and love for the rest of the year. Radha-Krishna Bhajans (devotional songs) go on with joyful celebrations, with intense divine passion and love (Bhakti Yoga), after all, the Holi of Krishna is no mere intellectual exercise; no mere theory of love, no mere academic play: rather it is Divine Lila that each one of us must actively participate in and play our respective sva-dharmic roles with great passion and joy.

The richness, variety, and beauty of Holi Colors are the metaphors for the colors and the moods of five basic elements of Prakriti (material Nature), the changing world, seasons, and mind-an aspect of Divine Shakti Maya. The new beginning, the adhyatmic renewal for a better future for all must start by smearing out and covering up all worldly, social and physical and mental distinctions and categories. The Holi celebration tends to transcend all the established differences and diversity of varna, caste, color, sex, age, wealth, power, and attitudes. The social destruction and renewal, world pollution and purification, smearing out the diversity to re-enact harmony and unity occur, not only on intellectual planes but it is played out physically and mentally by each and everyone with great joy. After all, it is Holi of Radha- Krishna-the feast of multidimensional harmony and divine love.

Prof. Shive K. Chaturvedi, Los Angeles, California, USA

क्रांतिकारी नारीवाद में सू-फेमिनिज़्म (Sū-Feminism) और सी-फेमिनिज़्म (Sī-Feminism) के भारतीय विकल्प

– प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

अंतर्राष्ट्रीय नारी दिवस इस बार सीता जयंती के आस-पास होने से स्वाभाविक विचार आया कि क्या होता यदि सीता नारीवादी होतीं? यदि होतीं, तो किस तरह का नारीवाद प्रतिपादित करतीं? क्या आज का नारीवादी समूह (फेमिनिस्ट ग्रुप) उन्हें स्वीकार करता? ऐसा माना जाता है कि संसार में ऐसी कोई विचारधारा नहीं, जो महाभारत काव्य में न मिले, और उसी तरह विश्व में ऐसा कोई चरित्र नहीं, जो रामायण अथवा रामचरित मानस में न मिले। इस प्रकार नारियों के अनेक रूप रामायण के घटनाक्रमों में दृष्टिगोचर होते हैं। इनमें कैकेयी, कैकसी, कौशल्या, मंथरा, ताड़का, तारा, मंदोदरी, रुमा, सूरसा, सिंहिका, शबरी, सीता, शूर्पणखा, स्वयंप्रभा, सुलक्षणा, मांडवी, उर्मिला, श्रुतकीर्ति, अहिल्या, अनुसूइया, लंकिनी, इत्यादि उल्लेखनीय नारियाँ रही हैं। वैसे तो इन सभी नारियों के साहस, स्वातन्त्र्य, सामर्थ्य एवं समर्पण की अपनी अद्भुत कहानियां हैं, नारीवाद के प्रसंग का यथोचित प्रतिपादन सीता और शूर्पणखा चरित्र से प्राप्त हो सकता है।

हम देखते हैं कि सीता और शूर्पणखा ये दोनों क्रान्तिकारी महिलाएँ थीं। शूर्पणखा ने उस त्रेता काल में अपने मन से विवाह किया था। हालांकि, रावण ने उसे स्वीकार नहीं किया था। लेकिन, उसके बावजूद वह सेना की एक कमांडर, हुआ करती थी, और पूरा दंडकारण्य उसके अधीन था। इसलिए उसने राम को, जब वे  वहाँ पहुँचे, तो ललकारा। तो ऐसी वैसी महिला नहीं थी शूर्पणखा। वह बलिष्ठ थी और अपने क्रान्तिकारी विचारों के आधार पर ही उसने कार्य किए। उसने अपने महाबली भाई रावण से एक समझौते के अंतर्गत उस क्षेत्र का कार्यभार संभाला था, वह सबला थी, अबला नहीं। वह कूटनीति में निपुण थी, रणनीतिज्ञ थी। रूप, रंग, तेवर बदलने के गुण थे, उसके अंदर। खर, दूषण जैसे सेना नायक उसके आदेश का पालन करते थे। और वह यह सब अपने क्रान्तिकारी विचारों के कारण थी। वह स्वच्छंद, मनचली थी। उसके राम या लक्षमण के ऊपर आसक्ति केवल स्वच्छंदता ही नहीं, बल्कि रणनीति को भी दर्शाती है। राम रावण युद्ध की मुख्य पात्र वही थी।

सीता भी कम नहीं थीं, लेकिन व्यतिरेक है। सीता को प्रायः एक अनुसेवी, आज्ञाकारी, समर्पित महिला के रूप में दिखाया जाता रहा है, परन्तु सीता जन्म से ही एक क्रांतिकारी स्वभाव की व्यक्ति थीं। दो घटनाओं से यह पता लगता है – एक कि, राजा जनक ने कहा था कि, ये धनुष शिवजी का है, कोई उसको उठाएगा नहीं। और क्या किया सीताजी ने? पहले धनुष को उठा दिया। अपने पिता की अवज्ञा करके उठा दिया। ये तो दूसरी बात है कि धनुष बहुत भारी था, उठाईं कैसे। लेकिन उन्होंने कहा कि, शिव का धनुष है, तो मैं क्यों नहीं उठाऊँ, मैं साफ करूँगी, मैं उठाऊँगी। और दूसरा, जब राम और लक्ष्मण जब वन जाने लगे, तो कैसे उर्मिला नहीं गईं, कैसे सुमित्रा ने इस बात के लिए लक्ष्मण को मनाया, लेकिन सीता को कोई नहीं मना पाया। बहुत सारे सन्दर्भ कहे गए हैं, जिसमें सीता को प्रकृति के बारे में बहुत ज्ञान था, लेकिन दर्शन की भी वह बहुत बड़ी ज्ञाता थीं, और उन्होंने दर्शन के आधार पर राम से वाद-विवाद करके ये सिद्ध किया कि, नारी का स्थान पति से परे नहीं हो सकता है, खासकर अगर पति विपत्ति में हो तो। इसलिए वह भी एक ऐसी नारी थीं, जिन्होंने क्रान्तिकारी विचारों का आचरण करके अपने जीवन के आदर्शों का पालन किया।

सीता के विद्रोही विचारों की और भी झलक मिलती है, जब उन्होंने अपने देवर लक्षमण की खींची रेखा को भी भिक्षा देने हेतु पार किया, और लंका से हनुमान जी के साथ अकेले आने से इंकार कर दिया था। लेकिन इन विद्रोही कार्यों में भी उनके कर्तव्य पालन की ही छवि दिखती है। लक्षमण रेखा भी पार कर उन्होंने रघुकुल को किसी भिक्षुक को खाली हाथ लौटने के कलंक से बचाने, तथा पापी रावण को दंड दिलवाये बिना हनुमान जी के साथ लंका से वापस आने से इंकार किया था। 

अंत में सीता जी अयोध्या आने के पश्चात् निष्कासन की बात आती है, जिस पर लोग (विशेषतः महिलाएं) बहुत सारी आपत्तियाँ जाहिर करते हैं। वह घटना भी एक सन्दर्भ में ही समझी जा सकती है। भारत की परम्पराओं में खासकर के उस समय की परम्परा में जब राजा सिंहासन पर बैठता था, उसका राज्याभिषेक होता था, तो रानी का भी राज्याभिषेक होता था। सिर्फ राजा का राज्याभिषेक नहीं होता था, इसलिए यह नहीं कहा जा सकता है कि, रानी राजा से किसी तरह से कम हो सकती है। तो राम कौन होते हैं उनको निकालने वाले? अगर उनका भी राज्याभिषेक हुआ, तो ऐसा नहीं हो सकता है।

दूसरी बात यह है कि, उस समय राजतंत्र नहीं हुआ करता था, बल्कि प्रजातंत्र हुआ करता था। प्रजा का जो मूल रूप है, वह आज वाला प्रजातंत्र नहीं है, जिसको लोग कभी-कभी प्रजातंत्र कह देते हैं। प्रजा की एक सबसे बड़ी विशेषता है कि, प्रजा जो है वह आत्मनिर्भर होती है। वह किसी सरकार की नौकरी के चक्कर में नहीं होती, किसी सरकार से उसको कुछ नहीं चाहिए। जब वह आत्मनिर्भर होगी, तो जैसे अभी कुछ लोग गाँव से जुड़े होंगे, तो धोबी, नाई, कारपेंटर, कुम्हार, ये सारे लोग अभी भी नौकरी नहीं करते हैं, और ये अपने जीवन को स्वयं पालते हैं। उस समय राम के राज्य में किसी को नौकरी नहीं करनी पड़ती थी। सब लोग अपनी, जो भी उनके सृजनात्मक भाव थे, विचार थे, कुशलता थी, उन्हीं के आधार पर जीते थे। इसलिए वे पूरी तरह से स्वतंत्र थे, और राम इस बात को मानते थे कि, अगर स्वतंत्र व्यक्ति कुछ कहता है, तो उसे हमको मानना पड़ेगा।

राम की अपनी बात नहीं थी, बल्कि वो इस प्रणाली या व्यवस्था के लिए पूरी तरह से कटिबद्ध थे। सीता जी भी कटिबद्ध थीं, क्योंकि दोनों का राज्याभिषेक हुआ था। धोबी आता है, तो धोबी प्रजा में आता है, और जो भी कहते हैं, जो भी ऐसी बातें होती हैं, सीता जी स्वयं इसका निर्णय लेकर वह जाती हैं जंगल में। अब लोग बोलेंगे कि, कैसे ये निर्णय लेकर जाएँगी जंगल में?

आज के युग में अगर आधुनिकता देखनी है, तो अगर मियाँ बीवी में कोई बातचीत हो जाती है, तो पहले तो माताजी के यहाँ फोन जाता है, मायके में, भाई को बुलाओ, बाप को बुलाओ इनको समझाएँ, नहीं तो पुलिस को बुलाओ। लोग कहेंगे कि, उस समय पुलिस नहीं थी, गुरु तो थे, गुरु के यहाँ जा सकतीं थीं। लेकिन वह गईं कहाँ? जंगल में। उनका बाप झोपड़ी में रहने वाला तो था नहीं। मान लीजिए नहीं बुलातीं, तो राजा था उनका बाप, मायके चली जातीं। लेकिन क्यों नहीं गईं? इससे लगता है कि उनका निर्णय उनका था। अगर उनको निकाला जाता तो ऐसा वो नहीं कर सकतीं थीं। अगर उनका निर्णय उनका था, तो उनके व्यवहार को देखना पड़ेगा। उन्होंने राम के प्रति नकारात्मक एक भी शब्द न तो कभी खुद कहा, न अपने बच्चों से कहने दिया? और अन्त में उनकी मुलाकात राम से होती है, तब राम की बात का विद्रोही भाव से उल्लंघन करते हुए धरती में समाती हैं, ये कह के समाती हैं कि, आगे कभी भी मेरा जन्म होगा, तो मैं आपको ही पति-रूप में पाना चाहती हूँ। आजकल के ज़माने में जहाँ डिवोर्स बहुत बढ़ता जा रहा है, ऐसी नारी जो इतनी यातनाओं के बाद भी अपने कुल की परम्पराओं के आधार पर अपने जीवन को कठोरता से भोगते हुए, अपने बच्चों का पालन करते हुए, मान मर्यादा से रहते हुए और इस संसार से जाती है, वह नारी रामराज्य लाने में, रामराज्य प्रकट करने में सहायक सिद्ध हो सकती है। 

इसलिए,

‘रघुकुल रीति सदा चलि आई, प्राण जाइ पर वचन न जाई।

जैसी कुलरीति को सीता ने पूरी तरह संजोकर अपने आचरण में, अपने चरित्र में प्रकट किया। इस प्रकार सीता का वैदेही नहीं, बल्कि ये विद्रोही भाव ही रामायण की जड़, आधार, एवं सम्पूरण है, और रामायण को सीतायण कहना अतिशयोक्ति नहीं होगी। हालाँकि इस बात के लिए सीता की सम्मति संभवतः नहीं होगी।

आज की महिलाएँ, आज की बहू, बेटियाँ, बहनें, माताएँ व् पत्नियां अगर क्रान्तिकारी नारीवादी बनना चाहती हैं, तो उनके सन्मुख दो सशक्त भारतीय विकल्प मौजूद हैं, एक सू-नारीवाद (सू -फेमिनिज्म), जिसमे शूर्पणखा वाला क्रान्तिकारी, बलिष्ठ, स्वच्छंद, और बराबरी का भाव-विचार व आचरण हैं, तथा दूसरा सी-नारीवाद (सी-फेमिनिज्म), जिसमें सीता वाला विद्रोही, कर्तव्यनिष्ठ, परम्परावादी, व धार्मिक भाव-विचार व आचरण हैं।

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA and Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study, JNU, Delhi, India