Bases of Dharma in the Gita

– Dr. Shakuntala

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The Gita, through Krishna declares a two-fold bases of dharmaSamkhya or reason and yoga or discipline – “In this world a two-fold basis (of dharma) has been declared by Me of old, blameless one: By the discipline of knowledge of the followers of reason-method and by the discipline of action of the followers of discipline method” (III.3). But before we try to understand reason with discipline of knowledge or jñana-yoga and discipline with discipline of action or karmayoga, we need to appreciate the fact that the term ‘discipline’ is used in two senses in the Gita. One of course is the basis of dharma. The other is defined by the Gita through Krishna as indifference: “discipline is defined as indifference” (II.48). We can take it that it is discipline in the latter sense, that is, in the senses of indifference that is used when the Gita is talking about discipline of knowledge and discipline of action. In other words, it appears that whether we are followers of reason or followers of discipline, discipline in the sense of indifference is a necessary feature of it.

In the Gita, Discipline (basis of religion) appears to be, on one hand, renunciation and, on the other hand, non-attachment: “For when not to objects of sense nor to actions he is attached, renouncing all purpose, then he is said to have mounted to discipline” (VI.4). That is, if we want to understand discipline, then we need to understand what renunciation and non-attachment mean in the Gita. Renunciation in the Gita comes forth as renunciation of actions of desire (XVIII.2). Further, in the Gita, he is recognized as renouncing action who does not ‘loathe or crave’ which is also termed as being free from pairs of opposite (V.3). But if this is renunciation, it appears that it is non-different from what the Gita calls as discipline of mind or buddhi-yoga. In its discussion on discipline of mind, the Gita says about longing and loathing that “one must not come under control of those two, for they are his two enemies” (III.34). But this is how renunciation is understood in the Gita. Again, it says that “Whom all desires enter in that same way he attains peace; not the man who lusts after desires” (II.70). This can be understood as meaning that who is nor driven to act by desire goes to peace. And this is the way renunciation has been defined – giving up acts of desire. Further, this renunciation is also discipline in the sense of indifference: “Content with getting what comes by chance, passed beyond the pairs (of opposites), free from jealousy, indifferent to success and failure, even acting he is not bound” (IV.22).

Discipline, however, in the Gita also means non-attachment. The actions that the Gita has asked one to perform without attachment to fruits are actions of worship, gift, austerity (XVIII.5) as well as natural born action of the individual (XVIII.48). Worship is another kind of action the Gita says one should perform (IV.23). The Gita suggests that if one performs actions without attachment to the fruit of action, one does not get bound (III.7). In fact Krishna tells of himself that he is not bound even though he keeps performing actions because he is not interested in fruits of actions: “Actions do not stain Me, (because) I have no yearning for the fruits of actions. Who comprehends Me thus is not bound by actions” (IV.14). Such actions do not bind because in truth they do not bear fruits, though performed they are barren (IV.20). In other words, it appears that according to the Gita, it is the mental attitude that binds and not mere action.

Of the two elements of discipline, if they can be termed as such, renunciation and non-attachment to fruits of action, the Gita shows its certain inclination towards the latter (V.2). The reason for this can be explained in the following way: renunciation is more an attitude than performance of action. Giving up certain action by itself cannot be called action – at least in the sense of performance. Renunciation is giving up acts of desire. But non-attachment involves performing of certain kinds of actions without attachment to fruits of action. In other words, in the latter case one gives up certain action but goes on performing the required kinds of actions. That is, non-attachment involves both giving up action as well as performance of certain sort of actions while renunciation does not imply performance of action.

Of the ‘two-fold basis’ of the world, the Gita declares reason as one of them. Reason in the Gita comes forth as understanding of the nature of the soul. When Arjuna asks Krishna regarding a way for right conduct, Krishna answer tells of the right way as suggested by reason. The way, as we find it, involves a description of soul’s nature: “He is not born, nor does he ever die; nor, having come to be, will he ever more come not to be. Unborn, eternal, everlasting, this ancient one is not slain when the body is slain” (II.20). Further, it is said that the soul in reality does not feel pleasure and pain. Whatever feeling of pleasure and pain the embodied being feels is due to its contact with matter (II.14). Thus on one hand, the Gita tells that the soul actually does not feel pleasure and pain and on the other hand, that they belong to matter. Reason, according to Gita, thus lies in understanding that pain, pleasure etc are not felt by soul but belong to matter. Likewise, the Gita also tells that according to reason, action does not belong to the soul, but to matter. Having said this, the Gita says that the one who understands reality in true nature – that the immortal does not in actuality feel or perform – in reality he does not perform action. That is, though actions take place, even after one realizes that himself is not the doer, such actions no more bear fruits, that is, they more bind (XVIII.17).

Knowledge is the means for the followers of reason. This knowledge comes forth in the Gita as knowledge that reality is one which can be understood under its ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ nature. The first, the ‘lower nature’ constitutes the universe (VII.4), while the second, the ‘higher nature’ is the soul, the support of living being (VII.5). And then there is the Lord in whom “this (universe) is strung, like heaps of pearl on a string” (VII.7). These two natures of the ultimate reality again have been explained in Gita under different headings – the Field and the Field-knower. And this knowledge of the Field and Field-knower is considered as true knowledge in the Gita (XIII. 2). In another place of the Gita we come across knowledge as knowledge of the Lord and Brahman as well as that of the Strands as the binding factor. The man of knowledge thus knows that the actual agent is matter. As such he can be assumed to be acting with the knowledge that it is not he who is acting. This is also the way how disciplined man is defined: ‘I am in effect doing nothing at all?’ – so the disciplined man should think, knowing the truth, when he sees, hears, touches, smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes, talks, evacuates, grasps, opens and shuts his eyes; ‘The senses (only) on the objects of sense are operating’ – holding fast to this thought (V.8-9).  Thus it can be said that the man who performs with knowledge is practising discipline of knowledge.

A study of the bases of dharma reveals the importance of mental attitude in performance of dharma in the Gita. That the Gita has attached indifference to both the ways of reason and discipline is indicative of this very feature. In fact that this is so is clear from the very beginning of Krishna-Arjuna conversation. Arjuna asks Krishna what is dharma: “My being very afflicted with the taint of weak compassion, I ask Thee, my mind bewildered as to the dharma” (II.7). But Krishna does not answer by telling what dharma is. Rather what Krishna says reveals the importance of mental attitude: “Abiding in discipline perform actions” (II.48). And this indifference is certainly of mental nature. However, though the importance lies in the mental attitude, the Gita cannot be taken as advocating mental attitude alone. What it advocates is performance of action with certain mental attitude and not mere mental attitude. And that is why the advice to Arjuna is not just to carry the attitude but to fight with the right mental attitude: “Holding pleasure and pain alike, gain and loss, victory and defeat, then gird thyself for battle” (II.38).

Dr. Shakuntala, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy,  University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam

 

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गीता में योग की व्याख्या

डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र

(continued from previous article)

योग की गीता में व्याख्या से मन में शंका उठती है कि प्रभु ने योग की कई परिभाषाएं दे डालीं जिससे योग के स्वरुप को समझना सामान्य जिज्ञासु के लिए कठिन हो गया है। पहले सिद्धि और असिद्धि की समता को योग कहा; फिर कर्म की कुशलता को योग कहा और आगे दु:ख के संयोग के वियोग को भी योग कहा। किन्तु विचार करने पर यह शंका निर्मूल सिद्ध होती है। प्रभु ने योग के अनेक लक्षण नहीं बताए हैं अपितु एक ही लक्षण को अनेक प्रकार से समझाया है। वास्तव में फल की आशा छोड़कर कर्त्तव्य बुद्धि से कर्म करते रहना ही कर्मयोग है। उस फल की आशा को छोड़ने के अलग-अलग विवरण हैं। फल की आशा छोड़ देने पर सिद्धि और असिद्धि में समानता हो जायेगी। फल की आशा से ही कर्म-सिद्ध होने पर सुख और असिद्ध होने पर दुःख हुआ करता है; फलाशा न रहने पर न सुख होगा न दुःख। तब सिद्धि और असिद्धि में समता हो गयी। यही योग है। इसी प्रकार समानता रखकर कर्म करते जाने से आत्मा पर कर्म का कोई प्रभाव नहीं आता इसलिए यह अर्थात् योग एक बड़ा कौशल या चतुरता भी हुई। यहाँ फलाशा के त्याग को ही ‘कौशल’ शब्द से प्रकट किया है क्योंकि फलाशा-त्याग न करने के स्थिति में फलाशा पूर्ण न होने पर दु:ख हुआ करता है। फलाशा छोड़ देने पर दु:ख का भी प्रसंग नहीं रहेगा। अत: दु:ख संयोग-वियोगरूप लक्षण में भी वही बात प्रकारांतर से कही जाएगी। कहने का तात्पर्य यह है कि एक ही विषय को भिन्न-भिन्न शब्दों से भिन्न-भिन्न अर्थों में समझाया गया है। ‘योग’ शब्द का अर्थ कर्म-योग मान लेने पर सभी लक्षणों की सङ्गति उक्त प्रकार से हो जाती है।

यहाँ एक और प्रश्न उठता है जिसका समाधान अत्यावश्यक है कि फलाशा-त्याग अर्थात् फल की आशा को छोड़ देने से क्या अभिप्राय है?

फल की आशा छोड़ने से तात्पर्य है कि फल के प्रति चिंता ही न करे। इसके दो कारण हैं –  पहला कि फल के बारे में सोचने पर कर्म दुष्प्रभावित या विकृत होगा। दूसरा केवल कर्म के प्रति मनुष्य का अधिकार है यानी केवल कर्म करना ही उसके वश में है; फल के प्रति मनुष्य का अधिकार अर्थात् वश ही नहीं है। यानी फल क्या मिलेगा? कितना मिलेगा? कब मिलेगा? इत्यादि मनुष्य के अधिकार-क्षेत्र के बाहर की बात है। अत: अधिकार-क्षेत्र से बाहर के विषय में चिन्तना करना ही व्यर्थ है। इसीलिये प्रभु ने कहा है – कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन

तब ऐसे में प्रश्न उठता है कि अनधिकार होने के कारण यदि मनुष्य फल की इच्छा का त्याग कर देवे यानी उसके बारे में सोचे ही नहीं तब फिर कर्म करने का प्रयोजन क्या रहा? और बिना प्रयोजन के मनुष्य कर्म ही क्यूँ करे?

इसका समाधान यह है कि प्रयोजन दो प्रकार का समझा जा सकता है – १. क्षणिक या ऐहिक और २. आत्यन्तिक या पारलौकिक । क्षणिक प्रयोजन वह है जिससे प्राप्त सुख की अवधि निश्चित हो; यानी जिसमें फल के उपभोग की समाप्ति अर्थात् वियोग-रूपी दु:ख भी मिलना तय है। क्षणिक प्रयोजन के ही तीन अवान्तर रूप हैं – धर्म, अर्थ और काम ये तीन पुरुषार्थ। किन्तु उत्कृष्टतम कर्म से प्राप्त ब्रह्मलोकरूपी फल के भी भोग के पश्चात् पुन: मनुष्य जीवन-मृत्यु-चक्र में फँसता है। भगवान् ने स्वयं ही कहा है – आब्रह्मभुवनाल्लोका: पुनरावर्तिनोऽर्जुन (गीता )

किन्तु आत्यन्तिक प्रयोजन वह है जिससे प्राप्त सुख का अन्त ही नहीं है अर्थात् जिसमें लेश-मात्र भी दु:ख नहीं है। यही कारण है कि इसे परमप्रयोजन या परमपुरुषार्थ मोक्ष कहा है।

अब यह मनुष्य पर है कि वह किस प्रयोजन का चयन करता है। मनुष्य, जो कि लेश-मात्र भी दुखाकाङ्क्षी नहीं है, वह ‘दुःख हो ही न’ ऐसा प्रबंध क्यों न करे? वही आत्यन्तिक-प्रयोजन अर्थात् मोक्ष है जो केवल पूर्वोक्त योग यानि कर्मयोग  से ही संभव है।

Krishna-arjun-e1489044770798

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इस प्रकार जो कर्म, मनुष्य को स्वभाव से ही बांधने वाले हैं, वे ही मुक्ति देने वाले हो जाएं – यही वस्तुत: कर्मों में कुशलता है। कर्म करने की ऐसी ही चतुरता को योग कहते हैं कि मनुष्य कर्म करता भी जाए और उसके बंधन में भी न फंसे। काजल की कोठारी में जाकर बिना कालिख लगाए निकल आना ही बड़ी भारी चतुरता है। ऐसी ही कुशलता योग से प्राप्त होती है कि कर्म करता भी जाए और उसका फल भी अपने पर आने न दे।

इस प्रकार देखा जाए तो योग: कर्मसु कौशलम् योग की परिभाषा से बढ़कर उसकी महिमा का उद्घोष है।

डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र, सहायकाचार्य (ज्योतिष), राष्ट्रिय-संस्कृत-संस्थान, भोपाल परिसर, भोपाल, म.प्र.

 

योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्

[It was broadcasted by International Broadcast service, All India Radio, New Delhi in 2016 on the occasion of International Yog Day]

डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र

‘योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्’ यह श्लोकांश योगेश्वर श्रीकृष्ण के श्रीमुख से उद्गीरित श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता के द्वितीय अध्याय के पचासवें श्लोक से उद्धृत है। श्लोक इस प्रकार है –

“बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृतेतस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्”।।इति।।

श्लोक के उत्तरार्ध पर यदि गौर करें तो दो बातें स्पष्ट होती हैं। पहली योग की परिभाषा एवं दूसरी योग हेतु प्रभु का स्पष्ट निर्देश। उनका उपदेश है कि ‘योगाय’ अर्थात् योग के लिए अथवा योग में, ‘युज्यस्व’ अर्थात् लग जाओ। कहने का तात्पर्य है कि ‘योग में प्रवृत्त हो जाओ’ यानि कि ‘योग करो’। अब प्रश्न यह है कि क्यूँ करें योग? इस प्रश्न का उत्तर उन्होंने श्लोक के पूर्वार्ध में दिया है कि बुद्धिमान व्यक्ति अर्थात् योगी, वर्तमान में ही अथवा इस संसार में ही ‘सुकृत’ एवं ‘दुष्कृत’ अर्थात् पुण्य एवं पाप से मुक्त हो जाता है। योग के इस हेतु को स्पष्टतया जानने के लिये, सबसे पहले यह समझना परमावश्यक है कि ‘योग क्या है’? या ‘योग किसे कहते हैं’?

httpwww.boisetemple.orgbhakti-yoga

(Source of Image: http://www.boisetemple.org/bhakti-yoga/)

गीता में ‘योग’ शब्द के तीन अर्थ हैं – १. समता; जैसे – समत्वं योग उच्यते(२/४८); २. सामर्थ्य, ऐश्वर्य या प्रभाव; जैसे – पश्य मे योगमैश्वर्यम्(९/५); और ३ समाधि; जैसे – यत्रोपरमते चित्तं निरुद्धं योगसेवया(६/२०)। यद्यपि गीता में ‘योग’ का अर्थ मुख्य रूप से समता ही है तथापि ‘योग’ शब्द के अंतर्गत तीनों ही अर्थ स्वीकार्य हैं। इसके अतिरिक्त गीता में योग की तीन परिभाषाएं भी मिलती हैं जो कि दूसरे अध्याय के क्रमश: ४८वें एवं ५०वें श्लोक में तथा छठे अध्याय के २३वें श्लोक में निर्दिष्ट हैं। ये परिभाषाएं क्रमश: इस प्रकार हैं –

“समत्वं योग उच्यते”(गीता २/४८)

“योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्” (गीता २/५०)

तं विद्याद्दु:खसंयोगवियोगं योगसंज्ञितम्।(गीता /२३)

‘योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्’  के दो अर्थ लिये जा सकते हैं –

1. कर्मसु कौशलं योग: अर्थात् कर्मों में कुशलता ही योग है।

२. कर्मसु योग: कौशलम् अर्थात् कर्मों में योग ही कुशलता है।

यदि हम पहला अर्थ लें यानि कर्मों में कुशलता ही योग है तो, जो बड़ी ही कुशलता से सावधानी से ठगी, चोरी या फिर हत्या आदि कर्म करता है उसका कर्म भी ‘योग’ हो जाएगा! किन्तु ऐसा मानना उचित नहीं है और फिर श्लोक में निषिद्ध कर्मों का प्रसंग भी नहीं है। अगर हम यहाँ ‘कर्म’ शब्द से केवल शुभ कर्मों का ही ग्रहण करें तब फिर ‘कर्मसु कौशलम् योग:’ इस पद के दो अलग-अलग परिप्रेक्ष्य में भावार्थ निकलेंगे जो प्रसंग-विशेष में तो ठीक प्रतीत होते हैं किन्तु गीता में प्रभु द्वारा प्रतिपादित योग के सिद्धांतों से इतर सिद्ध होते हैं। आइए उन दोनों पर ही गौर करते हैं –

शुभ कर्मों में कुशलता ही योग है अर्थात् शुभ कर्मों को कुशलतापूर्वक करना ही योग है। इस अर्थ में ‘योग’ शब्द से मानसिक, बौद्धिक एवं शारीरिक समन्वयन एवं तादात्म्य अभिप्रेत है। यानि मन, बुद्धि एवं शरीर इन तीनों को एक साथ जोड़कर जब हम कोई कार्य करते हैं तो निश्चित ही उस कार्य में कुशलता या संपूर्ण दक्षता प्राप्त होती है, जिसे योग कहते हैं। व्यावहारिक परिप्रेक्ष्य में, यह अर्थ सटीक है एवं सफलता के सूत्र-रूप में स्वीकार्य है। आधिदैविक या अलौकिक परिप्रेक्ष्य में इसका भावार्थ यह है कि यदि कुशलतापूर्वक अर्थात् मन, बुद्धि एवं क्रिया तीनों के ही संयोग से यदि जप-तपादि अनुष्ठान किया जाए तो निश्चित ही अभीष्ट (शक्ति/सिद्धि) से योग (या संयोग) होता है।

अब यहाँ प्रश्न यह है कि उक्त दोनों ही भावार्थ, गीता में प्रतिपादित योग की संकल्पना से किस प्रकार भिन्न हैं? इसको समझने के लिए योग की परिभाषा को समझना होगा, जिसमें कहा है  –

योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय

सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते”।। (गीता २/४८)

अर्थात्हे धनञ्जय! तुम योग में स्थित होकर शास्त्रोक्त कर्म करते जाओ। केवल कर्म में आसक्ति का त्याग कर दो और कर्म सिद्ध हो या असिद्ध अर्थात् उसका फल मिले या फिर न मिले, इन दोनों ही अवस्थाओं में अपनी चित्तवृत्ति को समान रखो। अर्थात् सिद्ध होने पर हर्ष एवं असिद्ध होने पर विषाद अपने चित्त में मत आने दो। यह सिद्धि एवं असिद्धि में सम-वृत्ति रखना ही योग है ।

यहाँ ‘योग’ शब्द कर्मयोग का ही बोधक है। यहाँ न केवल कर्म के स्वर्गादि फलों के छोड़ने की बात कही गयी है अपितु प्रातिस्विक फल की आशा छोड़कर कर्म करने से जो चित्त-शुद्धि या भगवत्प्रसाद आदि फल प्राप्त होते हैं, उनकी सिद्धि-असिद्धि में भी सामान भाव रखने की बात कही गयी है अर्थात् यह विचार मत करो कि इतने दिन मुझे कर्मयोग में लग गए अभी तक मेरी चित्त-शुद्धि कुछ नहीं हुई या भगवत्प्रसाद के कुछ लक्षण मुझे दिखाई नहीं दिए। तुम तो केवल कर्त्तव्य समझकर कर्म करते जाओ, इस कर्म का फल क्या हो रहा है इस ओर कोई दृष्टि ही न दो। इसी का नाम योग या कर्मयोग है। इस श्लोक की व्याख्या में कई विद्वानों ने योग का अर्थ परमात्मा से सम्बन्ध माना है यानी परमात्मा से सम्बन्ध रखते हुए कर्म करो अर्थात जो कुछ करो वह परमात्मा को प्रसन्न करने के ही उद्देश्य से करो और कर्मों को परमात्मा को ही अर्पण कर दिया करो।

योग या कर्मयोग के पूर्वोक्त स्वरूप के आलोक में अब हम पुन: योग: कर्मसु कौशलम् के उन पूर्वोक्त भावार्थों पर विचार करते हैं। अगर यहाँ शुभ-कर्मों को ही कुशलतापूर्वक करने का नाम योग मानें तो मनुष्य कुशलतापूर्वक साङ्गोपाङ्ग किये हुए शुभ-कर्मों के फल से बंध जाएगा। कहा भी है– फले सक्तो निबध्यते; अत: उसकी स्थिति समता में नहीं रहेगी और उसके दुखों का नाश नहीं होगा। फलत: प्रभु द्वारा प्रतिपादित योग की संगति इस अर्थ में नहीं बैठेगी।

यहाँ एक जिज्ञासा है कि शुभ कर्मों को करने के बाद भी मनुष्य दु:ख क्यूँ पाएगा? इसका समाधान यह है कि कितना भी शुभ कर्म-करने वाला क्यूँ न हो किन्तु मनुष्य की सभी इच्छाएं पूर्ण नहीं होतीं अथवा सब कुछ सर्वदा ही उसके मनोनुकूल नहीं होता; जो कि अंतत: उसे दुःख ही पहुঁचाता है। यदि ऐसा नहीं होता तो फिर मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम राम या फिर सत्यवादी हरिश्चंद्र, जो कि स्वप्न में भी अशुभ कर्मों से दूर रहे, उन्हें अत्यंत कष्ट क्यों झेलना पड़ता!

तब ऐसे में प्रश्न उठता है कि दु:ख की आत्यन्तिक निवृत्ति कैसे हो? इसका उत्तर है – जीवन-मरण-चक्र से मुक्ति अर्थात् मोक्ष होने पर। ये कब होगा? उत्तर है – कर्मफलों के संपूर्ण भुक्त हो जाने पर। फिर शंका हुई कि जब तक जीवन है तब तक न तो कर्म करना कभी समाप्त होगा और न ही उसके फल का भोग और बिना फल भोगे तो कृत-कर्म की समाप्ति भी नहीं होगी; कहा है –नाभुक्तं क्षीयते कर्म। कहने का तात्पर्य यह है कि कर्म से फल की उत्पत्ति एवं फल-भोगार्थ पुन: कर्म; इस प्रकार से तो यह अनवरत चलने वाला क्रम बन गया। दूसरे शब्दों में, जीवन-मरण-चक्र से मुक्ति ही नहीं होगी। यह सुनकर तो और दुःख बढ़ ही गया। अरे भाई! जब तक मुक्ति नहीं होगी तब तक दु:ख भी समाप्त नहीं होगा। यह तो बड़ी ही भारी विपदा है! क्योंकि जो व्यक्ति धरती पर आया है उसका कर्मासक्त होना और फिर इस आसक्ति के कारण दु:खी होना निश्चित है। शास्त्रों में आया है –कर्मणा बध्यते जन्तु: अर्थात् कर्मों से मनुष्य बंध जाता है। कर्म कितने ही बढियां हों, उनका आरम्भ तथा अन्त होता है और उनके फल का संयोग और वियोग भी होता है। जिसका आरम्भ और अन्त संयोग और वियोग से होता है, उसके द्वारा मुक्ति कैसे प्राप्त होगी? साथ ही यह प्रश्न भी अनुत्तरित रह गया कि दु:ख के संयोग का वियोग कैसे हो? अर्थात् दु:ख का निवारण कैसे हो?

इन्हीं समस्याओं के समाधान हेतु प्रभु ने योग या कर्मयोग का सिद्धांत प्रतिपादित करते हुए उपदेश किया कि बिना आसक्ति रखे कर्म करना ही योग है, जिससे कारण कर्म के फल अर्थात् भोग से सम्बन्ध छूट जाता है और अन्तत: मुक्त होने के कारण दुःख भी समाप्त हो जाते हैं। इसी कारण प्रभु ने ‘योग’ को दु:ख के संयोग का वियोग भी ही माना है –

तं विद्याद्दु:खसंयोगवियोगं योगसंज्ञितम्।(गीता /२३)

यदि उपर्युक्त अर्थ (यानि कर्मों में कुशलता ही योग है) का ही ग्रहण करना अभीष्ट हो तो फिर कुशलता का अर्थ समत्व या निष्कामभाव यानि कि ‘योग’ लेना होगा। किन्तु जब उपर्युक्त पद में ‘योग’ शब्द आया ही है तो फिर पुन: कुशलता का अर्थ योग करने की क्या आवश्यकता है? यानि “कर्मों में कुशलता ही योग है” इस अर्थ से काम नहीं चलेगा। ऐसी स्थिति में “योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्” का ‘योग ही कर्मों में कुशलता है’ ऐसा सीधा अर्थ क्यों न ले लिया जाए? पूर्व के श्लोक में योग की परिभाषा से स्पष्ट है कि यहाँ योग ही विधेय है कर्मों की कुशलता नहीं फिर कर्म तो नाशवान हैं; नाशवान् के द्वारा अविनाशी की प्राप्ति नहीं हो सकती है। अत: महत्त्व योग का है, कर्मों का नहीं। अत: “योग: कर्मसु कौशलम्” का यही अर्थ – ‘योग ही कर्मों में कुशलता है’ उचित प्रतीत होता है।

(to be continued…)

डॉ. श्यामदेवमिश्र, सहायकाचार्य (ज्योतिष), राष्ट्रिय-संस्कृत-संस्थान, भोपाल परिसर, भोपाल, म.प्र.

Ethics of the Gita – lessons for individuals to work according to their nature

– Dr. Shakuntala, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy,  University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam

Dr. Shakuntala did M.A. and Ph.D. from North-Easter-Hill-University, Shillong, Meghalaya. She has authored the following books – Enquiry into Nature of Self (2009), Essays on Philosophy of JidduKrishnamurti (2010), ‘What Ought I to Do?’ The Gita’s Perspective (2014), Rethinking Philosophy of JidduKrishnamurti (2015), and Revisiting the Upanisads (2016).

In the ethics of the Gita svabhava or one’s own nature plays a very important role. It holds that everyone, including the man of knowledge acts according to his own nature. It further says that one is compelled to act as prescribed by his nature and it is simply futile to try otherwise. Krishna tells Arjuna that it is pointless on the part of Arjuna’s to say that he would not fight for nature will certainly induce him to fight. ‘That which, through delusion, thou wishest not to do, O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), that thou shalt do even against thy will, fettered by thy own acts born of thy nature.’ (XVIII.60). Arjuna is born Kshatriya and thus there is no escape but to fight: ‘Even the man of knowledge acts in accordance with his own nature. Beings follow their mature. What can repression accomplish?’ (III.33) Gita says that the karma or action prescribed by one’s nature or svabhava is one’s duty or dharma. What one ought to do is prescribed by what one’s nature is. ‘Heroism, vigour, steadiness, resourcefulness, not fleeing even in a battle, generosity and leadership, these are the duties of a Kshatriya born of his nature.’ (XVIII.43). In fact, there is no good other than performing one’s duty as prescribed by one’s nature: ‘Having regard for thine own duty, thou shouldst not falter, there exists no greater good for a Kshatriya than a battle enjoined by duty.’ (II.31).

Now, if one indeed realizes the truth of such a situation, that one cannot escape doing what one’s nature forces one to do, one automatically becomes happy. When one acts according to one’s nature there is no conflict between what one is and what one thinks one ought to be. The ‘is’ is the ‘ought’. In other words, there is nothing one is putting up as ideal in such a situation to achieve. There is no gap between what one is and what one is trying to be- action becomes niskama, that is, action is performed without desire for becoming.

bhagavat-gita

We further see that svadharma of the Gita as prescribed by one’s svabhava also dissolves the gap between individual and social duty. Arjuna by svabhava is a Kshatriya and thus is asked by Krishna to give up the thought of not-fighting and enter into the battle. But while performing his individual duty he also performs the social duty of a Kshatriya that demands from him generosity and lordly nature; demands that Arjuna does not get affected by personal preference while deciding an action that can change the fate of thousands of people. The Gita does not say that one is to perform two kinds of duties- individual and social. In the Gita in performing one’s individual duty one helps in smooth running of the society.

The Gita does not tire of saying that one cannot change the way nature behaves. Actually this has an important bearing on the whole issue of the ethics of Gita. On one hand we have seen that it helps one in performing action without desire, and on the other hand such a realization, the Gita shows, helps one in working out moral dilemmas.  According to Gita the realization that one cannot change the way nature behaves automatically brings in detachment. When one truly understands the futility of trying to change course of nature, one in a way resigns to it. This attitude, the Gita shows, helps one in solving moral dilemmas of life. In the Gita, Arjuna is shown not questioning the rightness or wrongness of the action of going to battle. But Arjuna is shown as not wanting to enter into battle having seen his friends and family as his opponent: ‘When I see my own people arrayed and eager to fight O Krishna, my limbs quail, my mouth goes dry, my body shakes and my hair stands on end.’ (I.29). The question for Arjuna is not rightness or wrongness of action of doing battle but whether he would incur evil by killing the people who are his relatives: ‘And I see evil omens, O Kesava (Krishna), nor do I foresee any good by slaying my own people in the fight.’ (I.32). Krishna is reprimanding Arjuna for his behaviour that is borne out of attachment for his loved ones: ‘Thou grievest for those whom thou should not grieve for, and yet thou speakest words about wisdom.’ (II.11). If Arjuna were detached, he would not have been affected by who is standing against him but would have performed his duty: ‘As the unlearned act from attachment to their work, so should the learned also act, O Bharata (Arjuna), but without any attachment, with the desire to maintain the world-order.’ (III.25). Again, if Arjuna were detached he would have seen the fact that the battle would not stop with him not-fighting and in fact his not-fighting would affect the fate of all those people who agreed to enter into the battle and are fighting for the Pandavas in a negative way.

*The translation of the verses are taken from The Bhagavadgita by S. Radhakrishnan, HarperCollins India, Impression 2008.

Rediscovering Rama (Part-II)

sita-with-luv-and-kush-CH85_l

Continued from Part-I

Even if, for the sake of argument, we do take into account the interpolation of the Uttara Kanda as part of the Ramayana, the story of Sita’s banishment cannot be read to be sexist or oppressive.  It is rather a tale of pathos, tragedy, and sympathy for the plight of both Sita and Rama.

Nowhere in the Ramayana do the main characters truly doubt Sita’s purity. What is being shown, however, is the fickleness of public perception, and the lesson being taught is the need to pay heed to the words and concerns of a king’s subjects, the duty to put the interests and desires of the subjects of one’s kingdom above the desires of the king and queen themselves. Lakshmana in many ways fills the role of everyman in the poem: his anger at the agni pariksha and banishment of Sita, his anger at Dasaratha for depriving Rama of his crown, his sense of despair when he must leave Sita at the forest, these are what we all feel upon reading the Ramayana.  This is indeed what the poet Valmiki intends us to feel.  The ability of Rama to, however, transcend these feelings, to put Dharma first, above his own heart and heartbreak—that is what makes him stand apart as the Maryada Puroshottam and what makes his reign forever hallowed as Rama Rajya.

Even in the worst moments of Uttara Kanda, the cruel, heartless Rama that others would have us believe hatefully cast away Sita simply does not exist.  There is a beautiful passage that describes the bliss shared by Sita and Rama during their time back in Ayodhya after Ravana was vanquished:

Rama and Sita would spend the second half of every day together in Rama’s Ashoka-grove, enjoying heavenly music and dance and partaking of gourmet food and intoxicating drinks.  It is said, Taking in his hand the pure nectar of flowers as intoxicating as the Maireyaka wine, Rama…made Sita drink it, just as Indra does Sachi…Seated in the company of the celebrated Sita, [Rama] shone with splendour like Vasishta seated along with Arundhati.  Rama, steeped in joy like gods, afforded delight thus day after day to…Sita, who resembled a divine damsel.’ (Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana (With Sanskrit Text and English Translation), Gita Press, Gorakhpur (Sixth Edition 2001), Book 7, Canto 42, Verses 19 and 24 (Volume 2, p. 819))

It is at such a moment that one day Sita informs Rama that she is pregnant.  Delighted at this revelation, Rama asks her to name a desire of hers that he will immediately fulfil.  Sita responds, O Raghava! I wish to visit the holy penance-groves and to stay, O Lord!, at the feet of sages…living on the banks of the Ganga … This is my greatest wish that I should stay even for one night in the penance-grove of those who live only on fruits and (edible) roots’ (Id., Verses 33-34, (Volume 2, p. 820).  Rama promises that she will be taken there for a visit the very next day.

Immediately afterwards, in the evening, Rama is informed by a spy of negative gossip surrounding Sita.  Rama is told that he is being rebuked by the people of Ayodhya as follows:  ‘Why does not Rama censure [Sita], who formerly had been forcibly carried away by Ravana? … Such conduct of our wives shall have to be suffered by us also, since whatever a king does, the subjects follow’ (Id., Canto 43, (Volume 2, p. 821).

When the gossip has been confirmed by others, Rama summons his brothers and tells them of the news.  He attests to his own certainty of Sita’s purity:  ‘To convince me Sita at that time entered the fire:  before you, O Lakshmana (son of Sumitra), Fire-god, the bearer of oblations to gods declared that Sita was free from sins, so also Vayu, who dwells in the sky, (so also) proclaimed the two—sun and moon, before the gods, Sita free from sins, before all the Rishis.  In Lanka, Sita, (Pure of conduct), has been handed over to me by Mahendra (the lord of gods), in the presence of the gods and the Gandharvas and my inner conscience bears testimony to her purity and nobility’ (Id., Canto 45, (Volume 2, p. 824).

However, it is the danger of infamy and the risk it poses to his ability to rule effectively that causes Rama to drive away Sita.  He tells his brothers, ‘O heroes among men, afraid of ill-report, I can even give up my life or all of you together, O bull among men, how much it is incumbent to leave Sita.  All of you see me submerged in the ocean of sorrow.  I do not see any greater misfortune than this’ (Id., Canto 45, Verses 13-16 (Volume 2, p. 825).

It is not doubt about Sita’s chastity that drives Rama towards this terrible deed but rather the dread realization that in order to safeguard his kingdom and his reputation among his subjects, he must go against what he knows to be true in the depths of his inner conscience.  The takeaway here is not that wives are easily discarded but rather the terrible price Dharma often exacts upon us, and more specifically, how beholden even the most powerful of kings are to the most humble of subjects.  It is after all in Rama Rajya that even a dog has a voice in court.  (Once, a dog appeared in Rama’s court to complain of being beaten by a man, and Rama duly gave the dog justice and punished the perpetrator).

One may also speculate that in accordance with the ancient principles of Garbhasamskar (prenatal education), Rama may have wanted to protect Sita from the distress of being surrounded by such poisonous rumours.  Stress and anxiety is not desirable during pregnancy, as every thought, feeling, emotion, action of the mother has tremendous impact on the child in the womb.  It may be that the ashram of Vasishtha was the best place for her during this part of Sita’s life and the best environment in which to raise Lava and Kusha to become the great heroes they grew up to be.

The Ramayana shows us that the king is beholden to the lowest of his subjects, even a crass, gossip-mongering person.  The cost of infamy, of earning a bad name before his subjects no matter how unfairly, is too dear to pay for a sovereign whose first duty must be to safeguard the interests of his kingdom and to preserve his reign.  A celebrated Sanskrit shloka proclaims, yatha bhumis tatha toyam, yatha bijam tathankurah / yatha deshas tatha bhasha, yatha raja tatha praja (As the land so the [ground] water; as the seed so the sprout; as the region [country] so the language; as the king so the people).  This is the entire theme of the Ramayana.  Rama must always hold himself to the highest standards, to be above reproach (even unfair reproach), to serve as the role model that the king is meant to be.

As  Sri Aurobindo advises in his writings on the Epics of India, while dealing with the human personality of Rama, one must take into account the  spirit  of his age and race:  I  consider myself  under  an obligation to enter into the  spirit,  significance, atmosphere  of  the Mahabharata, Iliad, Ramayana and  identify  myself with  their  time-spirit before I can feel what their heroes  were  in themselves apart from the details of their outer action’ (Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga), 419).  It is of utmost importance that we must have a thorough knowledge of the yugadharma of the age of Ramayana and interpret the events accordingly.  We create needless confusion and conflicts when we interpret ancient texts in the context of present times and present yugadharma.  When interpreted in light of the yugadharma of the age of the Ramayana, it is clear that every action of Rama was flawless and he followed the maryada of the yugadharma.

Indeed, Rama’s life is meant to exemplify that of Maryada Purushottom.  He is the best among men who scrupulously observed and honoured the relevant ethics, customs and mores of the society in which he lived.  He is the one worthy of emulating—an ideal son, an ideal husband, an ideal brother, an ideal king, an ideal protector of Dharma, an ideal friend, who placed Dharma and honour above all else.  In this, Rama is different from Krishna.  Rama is Maryada Purushottom, whereas Krishna is the Sampoorna Avatar who often had to break the strictures of Dharma in order to protect Dharma.  Both are Vishnu, but their roles are different.  It is said that to approach Krishna, one must first worship and follow Rama.  Only then is one qualified to worship Krishna.

This is the worldview of Dharma that underpins Hindu thought and literature.  It is in stark contrast to Western individualistic romanticism that valorises the story of King Edward VIII of England who abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee.  In Hindu Dharma, a kingdom is not a toy or privilege to be thrown away at whim.  The totality of a king’s life must be devoted to his kingdom above all else; that is his svadharma that he must perform at all costs.

While the plight of Sita is truly terrible—she is perhaps Hinduism’s most famous and revered single mother—Rama is no less a victim.  He never takes another wife, so devoted is he to Sita.  Rather than take a second wife, he has an image of her constructed to be placed next to him during yajnas (because yajnas can only be performed by a man in the company of his wife).  Nor is his action in any way misogynistic.  It is not that Sita is badly treated because she is a woman and therefore inferior; in fact, later on in the Uttara Kanda, even Lakshmana is banished for the sake of preserving Rama’s honour and Dharma.  His entire life, Rama had to sacrifice that which was most beloved to him for the sake of Dharma—in order to protect his father’s word, he gave up the kingdom; similarly, when taking into account the Uttara Kanda, Rama has to sacrifice Sita and Lakshmana, those who were the closest to him.  As the Mahabharata instructs us, “For the sake of the family, the individual may have to be renounced; for the sake of the community, the family may have to be renounced; for the sake of the country, the community may have to be renounced; for the sake of the Self, the whole world may have to be renounced.”

My reading of the Valmiki Ramayana transformed my life.  I now turn to Rama for comfort, solace and peace, and always find it in his tender, compassionate gaze.  To know the love of Rama, simply chant the divinely powerful mantra, ‘Om Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram’.  This is one of the most powerful mantras, and the reason it is so often recited at the time of death is because of the ultimate peace it bestows upon the atman.

Do not just take my word for it.  Rediscover Rama on your own.  Dive into the ocean of the primary sources of the Ramayana.  It is a travesty that today the publication of our primary source texts and their authentic translations are languishing, while popular but unauthoritative interpretations or retellings are proliferating, leading to confusion and misperceptions of the truths of our shastras and Hindu tradition.  We must learn the Ramayana from the lips of Valmiki himself; the likes of Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi cannot suffice or substitute.  We must go back to the source texts and traditions of Dharma to rediscover the glories of our Itihaasas and our deities.  With respect to Valmiki Ramayana, I would recommend the following as English sources (much better sources are available in Hindi and other vernacular languages; unfortunately, the choice in English is still rather limited): the Gita Press, Gorakhpur English translation of the unabridged text; the verse-by-verse translation provided on www.valmikiramayan.net; Kamala Subramaniam’s English translation (which although abridged is quite comprehensive) of the text; and Lectures on the Ramayana by V.S. Srinivasa Sastri.

– Ms. Aditi Banerjee, Board of Directors, World Association for Vedic Studies

Rediscovering Rama (Part-I)

– Ms. Aditi Banerjee, Board of Directors, World Association for Vedic Studies

Aditi 2Ms. Banerjee is a practicing attorney at a Fortune 500 financial services company.  She specializes in corporate tax law and worked in the New York and London offices of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.  She co-edited the book, Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America.  She has published several essays on Hinduism and the Hindu-American experience in publications such as Outlook India and Swarajya, including “Hindu-Americans: An Emerging Identity in an Increasingly Hyphenated World”, which was included in The Columbia Documentary History of Religion in America since 1945 and “Hindu Pride”, which was included in Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America: A Short History (Religion in American Life). She earned her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and received B.A. in International Relations, magna cum laude, from Tufts University.

Rama is one of the most exalted figures in all of Hinduism, yet we find him very much maligned today.  Scholars like Wendy Doniger accuse Rama of abandoning Sita because he was afraid of becoming a ‘sex addict’.  Movies like Sita Sings the Blues and Fire reinforce this stereotype of Rama as a patriarchal misogynist who oppressed and abused Sita.  Such interpretations have skewed public perceptions into thinking of Rama as a woman-hating, stuffy, self-righteous, sexist god-king.

In the face of such anti-Rama propaganda, it is hardly surprising that Rama has become unpopular in some pockets of the Hindu community.  As soon as his name is but uttered, modern Hindus immediately denounce him for his cruelty towards Sita.  But it is time that we start the process of rediscovering his glories, his true, effulgent nature, the sweetness and nobility of his personality and the manifold reasons why he is Maryada Purushottom.

A strange twist of events led me to Rama.  I have always been a devotee of Krishna, and up until several years ago, I thought of Rama as a stern, overly serious prince who could never laugh, sing or dance—in short, as a sad contrast to my ever mischievous and world-delighting Krishna.

Then, one day, my spiritual preceptor suggested that I add a particular picture of Rama to my puja room.  As I started worshiping that image, my heart began to soften towards Rama.  At the same time, I was reading a biography of a powerful siddha yogi who was a devout follower of Rama, and something interesting happened.  My iPod used to be on shuffle mode and I had thousands of songs to cycle through so that no one song repeated very frequently, but while I was reading that book, a particular kirtan on Rama (the Sri Ranamana Sankirtan as sung by monks of the Ramakrishna Mission) kept repeating on the shuffle mode, at least once a day and sometimes even more often.  That kirtan entranced me and made me love Rama and feel close to him.  I took it as a benediction from that great yogi.

Finally, I felt that I should read the Valmiki Ramayana.  I was determined to not rely on commentaries or popular retellings or heavily abridged versions, but to instead go for the most authentic translation that I could find in English of the unabridged text.  In delight, I discovered the Gita Press Gorakhpur translation.  I started reading it, and I was amazed.  Reading the Valmiki Ramayana is unlike reading any other book in the universe.  It fills you with tremendous peace and serenity.  The poetry of it is so pretty and poignant; the characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman, and so many others, shine forth with their idealism and nobility.  Most of all, the depiction of Rama is so utterly different from the vilified version of Rama fed to us by mainstream culture and media.

Valmiki’s Rama is tender, full of valour and noble idealism, deeply loving towards all of his family, a kind, compassionate, gentle young prince.  At the end of the war, when Indra grants him a boon, Rama asks that all the vanaras (members of the monkey army) who selflessly gave their lives for him in the war against the rakshasas be brought back to life.  That is the kindness of Rama.

lord_rama_and_mata_sita_beautiful-other

The love and adoration Rama has for Sita is unparalleled.  In their time together, he is ever solicitous of her comfort.  One of the most renowned commentators of the Valmiki Ramayana, the eloquent orator, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, describes the time they spent together in Ayodhya immediately after their wedding as follows:

‘The Poet has no words good enough to describe the closeness of the union, of the ways in which husband pleased wife and wife pleased husband. …  They read each other’s thoughts readily; in fact these told each other what they wanted.  The tongue and the lips did not play any part nor perhaps did the eyes; heart spoke to heart.  Hridaya and hridaya commingled.  The desire of each was known to the other.  It is difficult to say who loved whom the more’ (Lectures on the Ramayana, The Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, Madras Samskrit Academy, 2006 (pp. 23-24).

One of my favourite stories from the Ramayana is the story of the crow.  Once, in Chitrakuta, Rama was sleeping with his head in Sita’s lap.  A crow appeared and pecked at Sita’s chest with its beak, causing her discomfort.  When Rama saw the suffering of Sita, although it was not serious, he became as enraged as a hissing snake, and with eyes rolling in anger, he took a blade of grass and charged it with the power of the Brahmastra missile, making that blade of grass blaze forth like the fire of universal dissolution, and hurled it at the crow.  Such was Rama’s devotion to Sita.

When Rama learns of Sita’s abduction by Ravana, he is so distraught and devastated, so utterly lost without her, that he can hardly function for his grief.  It is Lakshmana who has to rouse him to anger, to fight, to take action to win her back.  Sastri again describes this beautifully:

‘We have seen already that the love that drew Rama and Sita together was most remarkable.  When she was lost to him there was no limit to the grief that he bore … He could not find any rest being away from her.  He nearly went mad.  He wandered from place to place in the forest.  He raved.  He implored the trees and hills and rivers.  He threatened the gods with destruction of the world.  He threatened to take his own life.  Lakshmana was hard put to it to comfort him in this extreme sorrow’ (Id., p. 26). 

This is not the mark of a misogynistic man; this is the story of a man who deeply loved his wife but who simply loved honour (Dharma) more.

And that brings us to the event that has become the stick with which modernists so gleefully beat and defame Rama today—the banishment of Sita to the forest after their return to Ayodhya.  The main point to be made here is that the entire section of the story in which this incident takes place, the Uttara Kanda, is not accepted by experts of the Ramayana as part of the original Valmiki Ramayana.  In other words, the main crime of which Rama is accused is not even part of the original tale!  It is held to be a later interpolation.

The original version of Valmiki Ramayana ends after the Yuddha Kanda, upon Rama’s victory over Ravana and his and Sita’s triumphant return to Ayodhya.  The phala shruti of the Ramayana is also included at the end of the Yuddha Kanda, making it the logical ending point of the story since the phala shruti must occur at the end of a text and not in the middle of it.  Further, in the summary retelling of the Ramayana that is included in the Mahabharata, no mention is made of the incidents (including the banishment of Sita) that take place in the Uttara Kanda.  Finally, there are references to certain kingdoms and peoples in the Uttara Kanda that identify the verses as being of later origin than the original Ramayana.

Part 2 of this blog will examine the events of the Uttara Kanda and show how, even taking into account that later interpolation, Rama cannot be accused of being a misogynist or in any way evil or oppressive.

to be continued…..

 

DIWALI – The Festival of Light

                       index  – Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India

Festivals and festivities have played very important role in the formation, organization and development of cultural traditions of India. If one studies the inner meaning and background of any Indian festival, one will notice that there are tremendous values hidden behind the related stories and celebrations. They are merry-making occasions depicting Indian cultural thoughts envisaged by sages and great men of our land. Side by side climate, occupations and attitudes of Indian people have also helped in shaping the current form of these festivals.

Diwali, originally known as Dipawali, is the most popular festival celebrated throughout India with great enthusiasm, joy and gaiety. It expresses the aspiration of Indian consciousness for achieving purity, prosperity and progress. The term ‘Dipawali’ is a compound word made from ‘dipa’ and ‘avali’ denoting the meaning ‘chain of lights’. Light is the absence of darkness. Darkness prevents the ability to discern hence light symbolizes knowledge in its spiritual sense and cheerfulness in its worldly sense. Tamso ma jyotir gamay – ‘lead us from darkness to light’ is a famous Vedic prayer. Indian philosophy of life aims knowledge as ultimate means to obtain supreme Bliss, while cheerfulness is essential for obtaining all sorts of worldly objects.  Diwali as a festival points out importance of ‘light’ in human life.

Diwali is not a celebration of one day only like other festivals, but it brings a series of festivals with itself – Dhanteras, Narak Chaturdasi, Badi Diwali, Govardhan Puja and Bhai Duja. All these festivals have one or the other epic based or mythological story about their origin or popularity. The celebration of the five-day festival commences on Kartika Krishna Triyodashi and ends on Kartika Shukla Dvitiya.  Main festival of Diwali is celebrated after about twenty days of Dashahara at the dark night of the Amavasya of Kartika month. It has two festivals before its celebration and two festivals after its celebration, so it seems itself fully illuminated in all aspects.

Diwali comes in India every year after rainy season and in the beginning of autumn season. This is a happy period full of activities especially for potters, farmers and gardeners. These festivals are related with Indian agriculture and other rural economic growth as new harvest is almost ready in the fields and potter is busy in pottery work due to clear weather. Thus making and colouring of earthen pots, lamps (Diya), statues of gods and goddesses are easily possible for potter families. In simple sense, these festivities are associated with our social structure and its general requirement.

Two festivals which come before Diwali day are related with cleanliness, hygiene and health. As season is changing one has to take care of one’s health and houses too need maintenance. Legend of Dhanteras tells that on this day Lord Dhanvantari, the Physician of Devas appeared from ocean with Amrita kalsha (a pot full with nectar) for the welfare of mankind. Amrita is known as a symbol of happiness and health. Symbolically people buy pots this day.  Narak Chaturdasi which is also called Choti Diwali is connected mainly with the story of Narkasura, a demon king of Pragjyotish who was killed by Shri Krishna. After killing him Shri Krishna took a special bath for the purity of body. Thus, Narak refers to untidiness, dirtiness and diseases. The legend hints that these should be removed initially, if one wishes to welcome Diwali i.e. light, prosperity, and delight in one’s life, family and society. So on this day people clean and wash their houses and buy new things to decorate them.

diwali

The day of Diwali is full of activities. People greet each other, exchange gifts and sweets and wear new clothes. Main celebration is done in the late evening and night when people light small oil lamps called diyas and place them around their homes, in courtyards, gardens, verandahs, on the walls and also on the roof tops. In cities, candles and fashionable lights are substituted among the riches. The celebration of the festival is customarily accompanied by the lighting of crackers. On the night of Diwali, all the shops and offices are decorated with electric bulbs of various colours. It is believed that on Diwali, Devi Lakshmi, goddess of wealth visits Earth and goes to lightened and clean houses of her devotees. People, therefore, perform Lakshmi Pujan for Her welcome with great honour and faith, and pray for the prosperity and peace of family members. On Diwali, Deva Ganesh is also worshiped along with Devi Lakshmi. As Ganesh is god of intelligence, the tradition indicates that prosperity should be combined with intelligence for the fulfillment of life. Wealth and knowledge desired jointly make life more meaningful and contented.      

The most famous legend behind the celebration of Diwali is about Sri Rama’s homecoming to Ayodhya with wife Sita and brother Lakshman after fourteen years of exile. The people of Ayodhya decorated their homes as well as the city of Ayodhya by lighting tiny diyas all over in order to welcome their beloved prince Shri Ram  and Devi Sita, turned the black night luminous and delightful, and  celebrated the victory of Shri Ram  over the King of Lanka, Ravan.  Shri Ram is symbol of good while Ravan represents the evils. Therefore, Diwali is considered the festival, which establishes the victory of good over the evil spirits.  There are other stories also about the importance of Diwali. Some say that Diwali marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya who started Vikram Samvat . According to the story of Narkasura , next day was celebrated as Diwali to  felicitate victory of Shri Krishna over  the demon.   

In Gujarat, the festival is celebrated to honour goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. In Bengal, Durga Puja is performed on nine days of Navratas but on Diwali Dipanvita Lakshmi is worshiped with great honour.  Decorations are done with Rangoli and Alpana. In Maharashtra, return of King Bali is praised in the songs and prayers chanted on Diwali day. In short, throughout India this festival is enjoyed with faith and delight but with some different rituals based on the regional traditions. Diwali is also popular among Indians living in Britain, U.S.A., Guyana, Fiji, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Srilanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, and so on. Whatever may be the legend behind the festival but Indian people celebrate it with great enthusiasm everywhere. Furthermore, the festival of Diwali is quite popular among the Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists living in India, because light symbolizes discriminatory power and understanding in their faiths too, and is related to legends of these rich traditions as well.

Next Day of Diwali is commencement of new year for business class. It is also celebrated as Govardhan Puja to remember the lifting   up of the Govardhan Mountain by Shri Krishna. This day is also observed as Annakuta when different types of food are offered to Lord Krishna and prayers are performed. On this occasion   people of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar build a shape of mountain with the help of cow dung and decorate them with flowers and then worship it.

Diwali festival is concluded with Bhai Duja festival which is observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It is believed that on this day Yamraja, the god of death visited his sister Yami and she put the auspicious tilak on his forehead. Brother and sister enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other.  Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will be blessed. The spirit found in the latter two festivals may be analyzed as goals of agricultural prosperity, and happiness in family which are sure to come after worship of Lakshmi and Ganesha.

Finally, it may be mentioned that five festivals on Diwali represent lots of cultural traditions laid down in ancient scriptures. Celebrations make occasion happy and convey ideals of life indirectly but Diwali festival is to be known as a symbol of accumulated Indian Values. It symbolizes unity in diversity and shows the victory of light over darkness and victory of goodness over evil.