“Tamaso Mā Jyotirgamaya”- Finding a Guru in Modern Times

– Dr. Aparna (Dhir) Khandelwal and Prof. Bal Ram Singh

Knowledge is a supreme reality that is not limited to experience, education, reasoning and practice. It is an awareness, or understanding of facts that helps in awakening the intellect of a person for making one wise, and use that wisdom (बुद्धि) to pursue naturally the purpose of life through चित्त, अहंकार (अस्तित्व), and महत (the supreme mind) according to the Sankhya Darśan. The mahat concept is the gateway to understanding the brahm (ब्रह्म), the ultimate seat of the knowledge. Thus, a journey of this kind requires training, practice, guidance, and ultimately the sākśātkār (साक्षात्कार) or darśan. An important individual who effectively guides in this journey is known as ‘Guru’. Since Vedic era the word ‘Guru’ is well recognised in various texts like Muṇdaka Upaniṣad (1.2.12), Śvetāśvetara Upaniṣad and Advayatāraka Upaniṣad.

Literally, ‘Guru’ word is constructed from two Sanskrit words, gu (गु) and ru (रु), gu (गु) means dark, ignorance, superficial, confusion, etc., depending on the context, and ru (रु) means to break, to remove, to end, deeper/heavier, or enlighten. Guru-Gītā, a Hindu scripture (Guru Gītā is a spiritual text originally constructed by Sage Vyasa, and narrated again in  the Sakanda Purāṇa where the nature of the guru and the guru/disciple relationship is described in the form of a dialogue between Śiva and Pārvatī). Śiva narrated the etymological derivation of the word ‘guru’ that is based on the syllables gu (गु) and ru (रु), and their meanings in different contexts. According to Wikipedia, there are different versions of Guru-Gita ranging in verses from 100 to 400. According to a Guru-Gita following verses are directly defining the term Guru. It is interesting to note that the primary meaning of the gu (गु) as dark and ru (रु) as the remover is retained to describe the concepts of the ślokas. –

गुकारश्चान्धकारो हि रुकारस्तेज उच्यते |

अज्ञानग्रासकं ब्रह्म गुरुरेव न संशयः||33||

‘गु’ शब्द का अर्थ है अंधकार (अज्ञान) और ‘रु’ शब्द का अर्थ है प्रकाश (ज्ञान) | अज्ञान को नष्ट करने वाला जो ब्रह्मरूप प्रकाश है, वह गुरु है | इसमें कोई संशय नहीं है |

 In this translation the physical reality of dark is removed by the physical element of light, and that is then metaphorically used to indicate that the guru removes the ignorance by eating it away (grāsakam), means destroying it permanently.

गुकारश्चान्धकारस्तु रुकारस्तन्निरोधकृत् | 

अन्धकारविनाशित्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते ||34||

‘गु’ कार अंधकार है और उसको दूर करनेवाल ‘रु’ कार है | अज्ञानरूपी अन्धकार को नष्ट करने के कारण ही गुरु कहलाते हैं |

Here the guru is presented as someone who does not allow the darkness to continue, in other words the guru destroys it. Implications are here that the guru is a dynamic personality who can spot, assess, and prevent the ignorance from continuing.

गुकारः प्रथमो वर्णो मायादि गुणभासकः |

रुकारोऽस्ति परं ब्रह्म मायाभ्रान्तिविमोचकम् ||36||

‘गुरु’ शब्द का प्रथम अक्षर ‘गु’ माया आदि गुणों का प्रकाशक है और दूसरा अक्षर ‘रु’ माया की भ्रान्ति से मुक्ति देनेवाला परब्रह्म है |

Here guru is projected as someone who removes confusion from the illusionary māyā. Two points worth noting are (1) gu (गु) here is presented as the promoter of illusion by highlighting its qualities or features; and (2) ru (रु) means not just a remover of the confusion from this illusion but doing this from the perspective of the parbrahm (परब्रह्म), meaning after attaining that status.

Thus, a guru is a very dynamic personality who can provide guidance to his/her disciple (शिष्य) under a variety of natural and artificial (illusionary) conditions of activities to develop wisdom and vivek in the pursuits of the ultimate goals of life.  

The attributes of guru have to be such that such a dynamism in developing the disciple is readily feasible. Some of those attributes are described under stanzas on ‘आचार्यलक्षणम्’ in Śukla Yajurveda’s Advayatāraka Upaniṣad (an ancient Sanskrit text on Yoga), as outlined below.

आचार्यो वेदसम्पन्नो विष्णुभक्तो विमत्सरः ।

योगज्ञो योगनिष्ठश्च सदा योगात्मकः शुचिः ॥14॥

A truly competent teacher is, armed with Vedic knowledge, a devotee of Viśṇu to mean that the guru has full knowledge of the causal world, free from envy/jealousy through the knowledge, devotion, and practice of yoga. This is important for a guru so that there is no envy with the disciple, providing total devotion to the guidance of the of the disciple.

गुरुभक्तिसमायुक्तः पुरुष्ज्ञो विशेषतः ।

एवं लक्षणसम्पन्नो गुरुरित्यभिधीयते ॥15॥

He should be devoted to his own guru, meaning continues to remain a śiṣya in practice, thus being able to develop the camaraderie with his own disciple, is particularly well versed with the knowledge of puruśa and prakriti, the source and expressive powers of the universe, He who possesses various types of  such virtues is designated as a guru.

गुशब्दस्त्वन्धकारः स्यात् रुशब्दस्तन्निरोधकः ।

अन्धकारनिरोधित्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते ॥16॥

The syllable gu (signifies) darkness. The syllable ru (signifies) the destroyer of the darkness. By the reason of the ability to destroy darkness he is called a guru.

गुरुरेव परं ब्रह्म गुरुरेव परा गतिः ।

गुरुरेव परा विद्या गुरुरेव परायणं ॥17॥

The guru alone is the supreme absolute brahm. Guru alone is the supreme way. Guru alone is the master of parā (as opposed to only aparāvidyā. Guru alone is the supreme and last resort.

गुरुरेव परा काष्ठा गुरुरेव परं धनं ।

यस्मात्तदुपदेष्टाऽसौ तस्माद्गुरुतरो गुरुरिति ॥18॥

The guru alone is the limit of all knowledge. The guru alone is the ultimate wealth. He is the teacher of the non-dual reality. Therefore, he is the ultimate guru.

The tradition of spiritual relationship and mentoring, where teachings are transmitted from a guru to a disciple, is known as guruśiṣya paramparā. This guruśiṣya relationship has evolved in Indian tradition since Upaniṣad era where guru and śiṣya developed resonance of thoughts and then guru transmits his knowledge to the person who respectfully sits down near him with śraddhā, in the quest for knowledge. A guruśiṣya relationship are beyond age, gender, and battlefield, as the guru can be Yama to a teenage boy Naciketā, lord Kṛśṇa to warrier Arjuna, or sage Yājñavalkya to his own wife (Gārgī / Maitreyī).

The concept of guru and Guru Purṇimā is quite old, the oldest being celebrated as the birthday of Ved Vyāsa, on the day of Aṣāḍa Purṇimā. The latest revival of Guru Purṇimā festival was done by Mahatma Gandhi in honor of his spiritual guru, Rajchandra. In its true tradition a guru does not expect anything in return from a śiṣya, and performs the imparting of knowledge as a karmayoga.  

With time, people started observing guru as a mentor, counsellor, advisor, who inculcates values in his disciples by sharing knowledge and his own experiences, and who cares about the wellbeing of his disciples. A guru, however, in its true tradition will dedicate his/her life caring about disciples spiritually, and educating them in accordance with their nature. Thus, he is an inspirational source for the spiritual evolution of the disciple. The tradition of guru runs deep in India. The entire Sikhism concept is laid down based on the the teachings of Guru. Its main scripture is called Guru Granth Sahib and the words therein called Gurbaṇī.

In present society too, we have come across many such gurus. Like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekānanda, Swami Dayānanda Saraswatī, His Holiness Dalai Lama for Buddhism, ISKCON founder A. C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada for Bhakti Yoga, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for Art of living, Radha Swami, Swami Rāmdev Bābā for Yoga, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for Spirituality, and many others in such tradition. Their disciples usually refer to them as Gurudev! These spiritual leaders are kind of role models and sometimes preferred by people as an alternative to established religions to know more about divinity.

In olden days, the school or pāṭhśālā ran by guru was known as gurukula, later on in modern times they are called as āśrama, although the gurukula system of education is still in practice. Both of these are residential places of learning, without requiring any fees. Guru treats disciples or followers as part of their own family. In gurukula, students received complete knowledge of Vedic scriptures, philosophical-spiritual-medicinal-political, etc. along with various art forms, whereas in āśrama followers received spiritual preaching from their guru. Ultimately these are concentrated on such education that helps in revealing the purpose of life. While pursuing teaching or preaching, guru focuses on self-discipline among learners that result in inner perfection leading to liberation in the form of mokṣa.

Guruśiṣya tradition superficially still is observed in modern educational institutions, at least in traditional ones, where students in general pay respect to their teachers on occasions of Guru Purṇimā. Sometimes these occasions are observed in United States by Hindu groups, such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad America, and American teachers really appreciate such a devotion. The devotion to teachers, no matter where they are, is always beneficial to students, as śraddhā is critical for earning knowledge.

श्रद्धावान् लभते ज्ञानं तत्पर: संयतेन्द्रिय: |

ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति || Bhagvadgita 4.39||

Those who are devoted and who are ready willing to control their mind and senses attain knowledge. Through such knowledge, they quickly attain everlasting supreme peace.

Thus, in Indian tradition the position of Guru is more or less same as Deva, the lord. One should be devoted to his Guru just like he is devoted to his Deva.  

यस्य देवे परा भक्तिः यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । Śvetāśvetara Upaniṣad 6.23

Will this system ever return, is it the right time for its return, can this system adapt to the modern time, can it compete with modern educational system, and will it be allowed in a time when education itself has become an over $6 trillion business? Only time will tell, but one thing is clear with forced adaptation during the Corona time, that the bluff of traditional system of institutional classroom has largely been called out! With the cost of education spiraling out of control at all levels throughout the world, the educational practices adapted during the Corona lockdown may in fact have provided the needed pause for pondering.

A trillion dollar question is whether gurus are ready to take their place! Let’s hope the answer would be YES by the next Guru Purṇimā!!

Worthy Gurus are absolutely needed!

– Dr. Aparna (Dhir) Khandelwal, Assistant Professor and Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, School of Indic Studies, INADS, Dartmouth, USA

COVID-19 Induced Distress and Its Management through Vedic Sciences

Brig JS Rajpurohit, Ph.D.

Stress is a universal truth that afflicts one and all. Every living being; reptiles, birds or animals; everyone goes through pangs of stress. In case of reptiles and animals, stress is for the most basic necessities for their survival. Maslow’s Physiological and Security needs of hierarchy are primary needs of all and that includes humans as well. Reptiles and animals get anxious and go into stress whenever their survival is at stake i.e. whenever their requirement of food, safety and progenies are threatened, they will either submit to more powerful or fight with the competitor. Animals including human beings are affected by emotions for their family & friends and that is one of the major causes of stress. 

Whenever under pressure individuals perform and achieve targets and objectives, it is called Eustress and when one is unable to manage himself, unable to achieve targets and feels that he cannot fight it out, he resorts to running away from the situation. Soon he gets into severe depression followed by stress called Distress.

Covid-19 is a very unique situation the world is witnessing in first half of 2020 and it may prolong for longer duration. Today, survival of humans as a race is threatened and like all other animals, man is also prone to distress. Esteem and Self-actualization are appearing distant and difficult to achieve. Respect, recognition and feeling of accomplishment is essential part of human life is finding back seat when people are contracting Covid-19 in hundreds every day. Death of loved ones has stressed them out and it is affecting all countries, races, caste, creed and colour across the planet. Governments all over are attempting to find remedies to the deadly disease. Physical social distancing, isolation, lockdown and quarantine have been found to be reasonable means to prevent spread of the disease.

Type of job, place of work, indoor or outdoor etc. does not matter, he/she needs that space and recognition in one’s life. In the situation that we all are in today during Covid-19 crisis, both boredom and anxiety are affecting all of us and getting locked into house aggravates the status.

Lockdown was ordered across India on 25th March 2020; no one is permitted to move out and all offices have been closed down. Work from home is the new norm where there are no work place friends to share intimacies. Zoom conferences are formal digital spaces where intimacies and informal discussions are not possible. There is limited space in house in urban colonies to move around, limited number of people to interact with and limited time-consuming activity to fill the time gap. There are very limited number of people in the home with whom one can interact and share feelings. Even if there is a standard family of four with aged parents in the house, inter-personal relational issues amongst the members is a reality; ghar-ghar ki kahani is the order of the day (pun intended). Consequently, it is difficult to share one’s inner feeling with relations at home. At times, it is observed that sharing and caring with spouses are formal and dutiful relations. Very limited interaction takes place with aged parents and conversations are limited. Majority time is spent on mobile, television and computers and still lot of time is available where all sessions of Time Management seem ineffective. Since 25th March 2020, Entire India is going through this phase with intermittent speeches by PM Mr. Narendra Modi and respective state CMs and other dignitaries of the government. All efforts are made to keep the population aware of the latest situation and providing all possible help for safety.

However, stress is coming up as the next issue with stay indoors regulations. All efforts by the government and other agencies, there is limited positive impact and social relational structure is affected adversely.

Euronews has reported increased cases of domestic violence and divorces in France since lockdown was imposed in the country. Tablighi Jamaat has continued its central prayers and congregations despite lockdown and orders from the government. Nefarious elements have continued to assault police and medical and health workers. People connecting up with psychiatrists and psychologists has gone up since the lockdown has been affected. Who would not go crazy in such a sensitive environment where disease and death hangs all over?

Management way of looking at Stress

Over a period of time, both boredom and anxiety are visible in society. India Electronic Media is all full of shows to help us all overcome the isolation and attempts to bring smiles on our faces. Boredom on account of limited activity and anxiety on account of increasing number of infections and deaths due to the deadly disease. The reality of impact of Covid-19 is giving no respite; whopping 2,18,386 deaths have been reported so far as on 29th April, 2020 and end is nowhere in sight. India has suffered 1007 deaths.

More and more cluster is cropping every day and more and more teams are ushered into service of mankind. This is biggest humanitarian assistance ever organized in the history. Economic slump, china hiding the facts and President Trump threatening China of dire consequences is further adding fuel to the fore of increasing stress levels amongst all sections of society. Anxiety, depression and stress are natural outcomes that are of bound to impact most of us.

Management of Covid-19 Induced Stress

Covid-19 has been studied by experts and they opine that prevention is better than cure. Means to handle the disease are in three stages: –

  • Stage 1- Prevent contracting the disease by staying at home and not coming out in public.
  • Stage 2. Isolate and quarantine at home for those infected.
  • Stage 3. Medical treatment at designated hospitals for serious cases.

Stress in all stages of treatment may show some or more of following symptoms: –

  • Boredom, anxiety, fatigued and wear out
  • Lack of involvement and loss of interest in usual enjoyable activities
  • Physical symptoms like high blood pressure, indigestion and uneasiness
  • Short temper and anger
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Fear of unknown- fear of getting infected and if infected; fear of death.

Stress is outcome of psychological, biological and personality traits. Ability to handle mounting isolation and hopeless situation will decide if one will get into depression and stress. In order to come out of stress, we have to understand the corona virus and Covid-19 disease, its symptoms and how best we all can save people by efforts of individuals, elders in the family and following instructions given by the government from time to time. Some of the common measures are: –

  • Organise the day. Start the day with morning physical exercises at home, call it one mat exercises.  Limitation of space has to be taken into account and exercise for minimum of 30 minutes daily. Thereafter divide the individual and family time plan.
  • Plan and follow time table. It may include daily office chores, house hold jobs and hobbies. Family work plan will bring in variety and motivation to overcome boredom.
  • Set Objectives. Weekly/fortnightly or monthly objectives be planned for seeking satisfaction and constructive use of time.
  • Complement each other more often, laugh more than yesterday and find reasons to stay positive.
  • Be passionate about life with simple rule- This too shall pass.

Indian Vedic Sciences and Stress Management

The fact that covid-19 is likely to affect many of us and its impact worldwide is disastrous; can be considered from the Vedic perspective as well.  Indian Vedic sciences is ocean of knowledge on stress management; only a fraction is discussed here.

Breath is basic parameter of stress; it exists in our breath and if you are able to control your own breath, stress can be identified and remedial yogic and breathing exercises can be practised to overcome the same. Fear of Covid -19 infection or death is likely to change breath pattern, it will become fast, heavy and compulsive indicating higher stress levels. Thoughts of fear and death release certain stress causing toxins in human body that can be consumed by various yogic asanas and pranayama. Chanting of Oṃ (ॐ) and Prāṇāyāma like anulom-vilom and bhrāmari will help in normalising blood pressure, mitigate toxins and give a soothing feeling.

Knowledge of Triguṇas  i.e. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas can help change own prakṛti from tāmsic to sāttvic. There is a predominant Guṇa in each one of us and the Guṇas change with the time of the day, kind of activities, and thought process.  Every time there is a thought of fear or death or isolation, they reflect one getting into Tamas or stress due to negative thoughts and belief. That will result into change in behaviour of person, severe depression and stress. One has to act immediately to come out of Tamas and enter the state of Rajas. The activity will use the toxins of the body and one starts feeling better and will now think of better days in times to come. The process will take one from Rajas to state of Sattva where ultimate relief from stress is felt. It is easier said than done but support of friends and family members can take one out of depression or the stress.

‘Stay home stay happy’ is the soul’s answer to stress management. Primarily, if we are able to consume the enzymes released in the body due to psycho-social conditions created in the Covid-19 rich environment, we shall be able to convert distress into eustress. Gainful use of time available is the call we need to take and shall be able to not only save ourselves and family members but also will be able to enjoy the time of togetherness gifted by the God Almighty.

Brig JS Rajpurohit, Ph.D. Group Commander, Group HQ NCC, Gorakhpur (UP)

Challenges of Overcoming Religions to Advance India’s Traditions for the Global Welfare

-Prof. Bal Ram Singh

अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते |

जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी ||

Api Swarnamayī Lankā na me Lakshmaṇa rochate
Jananī Janmabhumiścha Swargādapi Garīyasī 

These words are believed to have been uttered by Śri Rām towards end of his exile, after he had killed Rāvaṇa, and when he was told that Rāvaṇa’s brother, Vibhīṣaṇa, offered Rāma to enter the Lankā of golden structures and buildings and rule from there.

Not that he could not have said the same while in Ayodhyā, his utterance in Lankā, away from home assumes significance as he had in effect had become a non-resident Indian (NRI) who in modern times are away from the place of their birth, away from parents and families, and away from their culture.”

Much to be learned from following all faiths

In modern times, religion has become an instrument of utility, available to people of different interests and agenda to appropriate and exploit. Far from its actual meaning and intent, human beings are being denigrated, subjugated, and manipulated all in the name of religion. Religion originates from Re + legion, meaning re-association with the Supreme or God. That meaning establishes a spiritual journey as the purpose of religion. However, most religions, especially organized religions are nothing more than management of people. No wonder politicians and other power structures have been taxing religions to their purpose for the past two thousand years. After crusade, inquisition, and forced conversion by marching armies, proselytization through inducement, bluff, and exploitation of circumstances such as tsunami has come to the fore in recent years, especially in the Third World. During my recent trip to my village in Uttar Pradesh in India, I learned of conversion of eight Harijan families in a nearby village after orchestrated diagnosis and cure of ‘cancer’ with the prayer of Ishu (Jesus). This incident reminded me of my own encounter with an evangelist in my university who used to deliver goods from receivables. Francis was always hanging around with international graduate students trying to give them a Bible or entice them to a Church visit. One day I walked into the laboratory even as Francis was talking to students. As I entered the lab, a student told Francis jokingly “why don’t you convert Dr. Singh and we will all follow?” “So, Dr. Singh, what do you think of Jesus Christ?” asked Francis turning towards me. “Jesus Christ was a great man, I am his ardent follower,” I replied. “So, you are a Christian?” Francis uttered hesitatingly. I said, “Sure, following Jesus Christ does make me a Christian, as much as following Newton makes me Newtonian.” Not convinced of my assertion, Francis continued with his inquiries further. “What church do you go to?” asked Francis. “What church did Jesus Christ go to?” I shot back, and Francis looked quite puzzled at this but continued his query by saying, “O, so you read Bible on your own.” “What Bible did Jesus Christ read?” I asked Francis. He was completely at a loss. “How can you be a Christian without going to Church or reading a Bible?” he muttered shaking his head in exasperation. “Francis, I am not a Churchian or Biblian, I am a Christian.” By then Francis seemed to be in a daze, simply gazing at me. Acting professorial and assuring him of my genuine intentions I began. “Look, Jesus Christ was concerned about others passionately. He stood up for his principles against all odds. He was willing to die for his principle of serving others. He did not hate even those who killed him, and wished them well.” Francis nodded at each of my statements about Jesus Christ. “I think those principles are worth following for anybody,” I added. “Why do I need a Church or Bible to follow them?” By then Francis seemed accepting, albeit reluctantly. Similarly, I am asked many times about religions in India, my own religion, and my opinion of Islam, especially after 9/11. At the Center for Indic Studies, we have much emphasis on Indic traditions, some ancient, some modern, and occasionally discussions about other traditions within India. About six months ago, after a bit of contentious panel discussion at our campus, I had to formulate my thoughts of my understanding of and relationship with Islam within the Indic tradition. I told a Muslim student on my campus that I am really trying to be a Musalmaan, the word commonly used for Muslims in India. He was quite puzzled, but curious to know my view further. “See, Musalmaan word is made of two words – Musallum + Imaan,” I continued. “Musallum means total and Imaan means honest. So, I really see the fundamental point of being a Musalmaan is to be totally honest, and I find that concept to be very attractive.” “However, the problem is that there is no true Musalmaan in the whole world,” I continued. The student asked me, “What about Hindus? What are they supposed to be and do?” “Oh, yes. I am a Hindu by birth. But it is equally hard to find a Hindu.” He seemed quite perplexed, and ready to hear my views on Hinduism. “You see, Hindus are supposed to see Iśwara or God in everyone and everything, and thus love them all equally and infinitely. Unfortunately, I have not met even one Hindu in my life.” Religious tension and tyranny seen now throughout the world, and in fact throughout history, have almost nothing to do with true meanings of religion. The discrimination, destruction, oppression, and atrocities in the name different religions originate in ignorance, greed, and ego. There is much to be learned by following Jesus Christ, trying to be a Musalmaan, and in being a Hindu, and these are not mutually exclusive concepts. This idea must be asserted in the world by young and old alike, and that is a challenge for the 21st century.

Postscript

Whatever is even left over culture of India, with connection of people with nature (Vāsudhaiva kuṭumbakam), accepting people for whatever they are (Ekam sat viprah bahudhā vadanti), following the truth of deeds rather than that of creeds (Satyameva jayate), embracing death rather than avoiding it (Mokṣa, or Sallekhana in Jainism), the world is manifestation of self (Ekoaham bahushyāmi), the entire universe is within us (Yad pinde tad brahmāṇde), etc. is perhaps the only hope to solve multifarious problems the world is facing today. India needs to expand its ideas, practice, and propagate in the world, through education, economics, and healthcare, the basic needs of people. No need to become parochial because other exclusive traditions have been like that. The new generation of India needs to bold and go where its immediate past generations have not gone before. In other words, become NRI!!

Indian culture was rampant throughout the world when even Europeans worshiped trees, a tradition to celebrate winter solstice, was adopted by Christian missionaries Christmas tree to falsely celebrate birth of Jesus (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/christ-is-born).

Editor’s note – Above write up is an excerpt from the book ‘A Different Take – An NRI View of India in the Tradition of Ram, Krishn, and Gandhi

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, President, Institute of Advances Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA and Editor-in-Chief, Vedic Blog

Democracy turns into DemoNOcracy!!

Prof.Bal Ram Singh

There have much talk about the demonization of republicans and democrats in the United States especially since Donald Trump became candidate for the position of President. He called his opponent as crooked Hillary, and Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters as basket of deplorables.

But Indian leaders, perhaps taking some cue from the politicians of the oldest democracy, yet certainly adding their own ugly flavors to it.

“There are remarkable parallels in terms of this kind of highly prejudicial and extremely parochial nationalism that both Modi and Trump have promoted and have sought to demonize minorities.”, said Sumit Ganguly, a leftist and Tagore Chair Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Indiana University at Bloomington in an interview on April 9, 2019 with Council of Foreign Relations).

Some examples of low level stench are given below:

Modi while campaigning in Himachal Pradesh for Assembly Election, branded the main opposition party Congress as termites and called the electorates to wipe them out: “There should not be one polling booth where this termite called Congress be allowed to thrive.”

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Kejriwal had recently called Modi “a Coward and a psychopath” (Outlook India, 06 November 2017)

In 2007 campaign for the Gujarat assembly election, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had indirectly accused Modi and his government as “merchants of death” (Oulook India, 06 NOVEMBER 2017)

In an article on May 20, 2019 The New York Times wrote several disturbing statements on democracy in view of the Indian elections.

“In Hungary, Viktor Orban demonized immigrants and secured an expansion of his power. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan purged his enemies and won a new term. In Australia, Scott Morrison shrugged off calls for tougher carbon-emissions rules and was unexpectedly kept on as leader.

And in India, where the world’s biggest parliamentary election appears to be boiling down to a binary choice — Yes or No on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “

“Trump and Modi are twins separated by continents,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a well-known political commentator, and dalit activist. “Both are against knowledge, they consider the past as the golden period, they consider themselves the center of gravity.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April, 2019 – credit Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Observers are looking at this people polarizing trend with disdain. 

“…the social media cells of the BJP and the INC seem to be projecting their star campaigners as populist leaders, demonising each other’s parties and supporters, and polarising the voters along religious lines.”, wrote Dr. Sangeeta Mahapatra, LSE Blog, January 11, 2019

“He can’t take care of his wife, he will take care of Indians?,” Mamata Banerjee said during a rally in Bishnupur. (India Today, New Delhi, May 6, 2019). She refused to even take a call from the Prime Minister to discuss the relief work on the cyclone, saying she did not recognize him as the Prime Minister of India!

“Who knew you (Modi) before you became the Prime Minister? Even now, nobody knows the name of your father. (Former Union minister Vilasrao Muttemwar, November 25, 2018).

At one time a BJP MLA, Heeralal Regar, declared his intention to “strip” Sonia and Rahul and transport them to Italy

BJP minister “Sadhvi” Niranjan Jyoti asked a gathering to choose between “Ramzaadon (followers of Lord Ram)” and “haramzaadon (illegitimately born)”

Mani Shankar Aiyar discovered Modi to be a “neech kism ka aadmi (a lowly person)”.

In 2014, a video of Trinamool Congress MP Tapas Pal went viral, where he could be seen openly threatening to rape women members of the opposition (India Today, July 20, 2016).

“I am from Chandannagar. Leaders are created by workers. I am also a goonda. I will shoot you guys if a Trinamool Congress worker is ever attacked. If you have the guts, then stop me… If you insult the mothers and daughters of Trinamool workers, I won’t spare you. I will let loose my boys in your homes and they will commit rape,” Pal said.

SP leader Mualayam Singh Yadav had shocked the nation’s conscience when he wondered aloud (about BSP leader Mayawati): “Is she so beautiful that anyone should want to rape her?

“Smriti Irani sits beside leaders like Nitin Gadkari and talks about changing the Constitution. Let me tell you a thing about Smriti Irani. She wears a big ‘bindi’ on her forehead and someone told me that when a woman changes her husbands frequently, the size of her ‘bindi’ keeps growing,” (Jaydeep Kawade, a leader from Maharashtra-based People’s Republican Party).

Insey bada kayar, insey kamjor Pradhan Mantri main jeevan me nahi dekha, (I haven’t seen a more coward and weaker PM than him in my life).” (Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, May 9, 2019)

Chowkidar (Modi) chor hai”  a phrase invented by Rahul Gandhi for 2019 elections, with nearly no truth in it as asserted by the Supreme Court of India when it made Rahul Gandhi apologize for justifying the phrase by attributing it to the honorable court.

While these utterances may have been said in the heat of political campaigns, the fact that one has to come down to this level reveals the true nature of democracy which can in fact be very dangerous in places like India with unparallel history, philosophy, continuing culture, diversity of nature, humans, languages, and freedom of thoughts.

On the other hand, when Sadhvi Pragya Singh said that she had cursed Hemant Karkare, the police officer who had supervised her torture in jail, she was banned from campaigning for three days by India’s Election Commission. This is the situation in so called free India where a person is not allowed to even moan for the extreme torture meted out to her physically and mentally!

Such a deterioration in discourses can (and perhaps meant to) be divisive and destructive to a society. In other words, democracy has become demonocracy!!

As a silver lining, it may in fact provide a pause to think of an alternative system of governance, at least for India, if not the entire world.  

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA & Board Member, WAVES-International

Relevance of Gandhi in Today’s World

AS

Dr. Anju Seth

Looking at the present state of affairs in India, the birthplace of Gandhi, one would probably surmise that Gandhism, whatever the term may mean, cannot have any relevance in this twenty-first century. Gandhi is rightly called the Father of the Nation because he single handedly stood up against the mighty British Empire, without any arms, and brought her independence. However, today, Gandhi is mostly forgotten and his relevance questioned even by his ardent devotees. Today Gandhi is remembered in India mostly on his birthday which is celebrated as a national holiday rather as a ritual.

Gandhiji Line Drawings (1)

(Source of Image : http://devang-home.blogspot.com/2011/08/sketches-of-mahatma-gandhi.html)

As a matter of fact, India is not following any of Gandhi’s teachings which are mostly confined to text books. In fact, since independence, the country has witnessed many violent communal riots in this multi communal country. Gandhi’s message of ‘swābalambī’, self-sufficiency with home spun ‘khādī’ cloth is not used now-a-days even as a social slogan. Statistics shows that the country is definitely not following ‘sarvodaya’, a broad Gandhian term meaning ‘universal upliftment’ or ‘progress of all’ reaching the masses. On the contrary, India today has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world which has the richest man in the world while at the same time more than 30 per cent of its population lives in dire poverty.

The above shows that today, Gandhism is a very confused ‘ism’ in India. Today many politicians in India use the term merely as a slogan and the common man make Gandhi almost out of reach of the younger groups by making Gandhi an unwilling ‘avatāra’. That may be one reason why the only photo we see of Gandhi in India is always that of an old man which brings the image of a very simple and pious man who was meek and mild like Jesus Christ. While Gandhi was not a simple man to say the least, the above does not gives the right image of Gandhi and does not bring any inspiration to the younger group, the group most relevant for Gandhi.

But Mahatma Gandhi, in this twentieth century, produced a very sophisticated approach because he implemented that very noble philosophy of ahimsā in modern politics, and he succeeded. That is a very great thing.”

And that is precisely the greatness of Gandhi and that is the message of Gandhi to the modern world. In the past century many places in the world have been drastically changed through the use of brute force, by the power of guns the Soviet Union, China, Tibet, Burma, many communist countries in Africa and South America. But eventually the power of guns will have to be changed by the will of the ordinary people. If we try to analyze the secrets of Gandhi’s success, we would probably find Faith and Action and Populism, the three most important aspects of his life. Gandhi’s extra ordinary communion with the masses of ordinary people was another of his secrets. In contrast to many of our present day leaders of this highly democratic world, Gandhi was a true leader and friend of the people. Disaku Ikeda, the Japanese Buddhist leader who takes great inspiration from Gandhi has this to say about him. “His activism is not mere action but contains many aspects of a spiritual practice that is inspired by the inner urging of the conscience”.

The phenomenal success Gandhi registered in far-away South Africa fighting for human rights and civil liberties has great significance when we find that later his teachings were adopted not only by Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter, but it was also subsequently revealed that the former South African president De Klerk was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s principles. In fact, from Dalai Lama to Desmond Tutu and from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, many world leaders were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, all in their own different ways.

Gandhi left many valuable sayings for the modern man to fight for goodness in society in a non-violent way. “Good” Gandhi said “travels at a snails pace.” “Non-violence” Gandhi said “is a tree of slow growth. It grows imperceptibly but surely.” And then “Mere goodness is not of much use.” Gandhi stated. “Goodness must be joined with knowledge, courage and conviction. One must cultivate the fine discriminating quality which goes with spiritual courage and character.” The modern man can also take great wisdom from what Gandhi said the seven social sins: Politics without principles; Wealth without work; Commerce without morality; Education without character; Pleasure without conscience; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice.

It was the unique non-violent movement under his leadership that earned for India freedom from the colonial rule. In spearheading the campaign against the alien rule, Gandhiji adopted the innovative techniques of civil disobedience and social transformation, which had several exemplary features.

The Gandhian technique of mobilizing people has been successfully employed by many oppressed societies around the world under the leadership of people like Martin Luther King in the United States, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and now Aung Saan Sun Kyi in Myanmar, which is an eloquent testimony to the continuing relevance of Mahatma Gandhi.

In India, economic development has been mostly confined to the urban conglomerates. In the process, the rural India that comprises 700 million people has been given short shrift. Gandhiji’s philosophy of inclusive growth is fundamental to the building of a resurgent rural India. He believed in “production by the masses” rather than in mass production, a distinctive feature of the industrial revolution. It is surprising, even paradoxical, that these days Gandhian philosophy should find increasing expression through the most modern technology! Now, it is possible to establish small-scale and medium-scale factories in smaller towns and remote corners of the country, thanks to the phenomenal innovations in communication and information technologies. New technologies have brought in widespread and low-cost electronic connectivity that enables instantaneous contact between industrial units and the sellers and consumers of their products. Location and logistics are no more a limitation or constraint for industrial development.

If we say that the twenty-first century is the century of the common man, then we see that Gandhism has even more relevance in this age, and Gandhi will inspire generations of individuals fighting for goodness of the society. If today we find that Gandhism is in severe test in countries like India, it is not because there is certain inherent weakness in Gandhism, but it is because we have not seen in India strong leaders with the required courage and conviction to fight the evils in society. We may borrow Gandhi’s own words on Ahimsā, and say that Gandhism is only for the courageous people.

-Dr. Anju Seth, Associate Professor, Department of Sanskrit, Satyawati College (Day), University of Delhi, Delhi, India

स्वतंत्रता की भारतीय शैली

-प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

Independence का वास्तविक अर्थ आत्मनिर्भरता है। In का अर्थ है inside अर्थात् आत्मा के स्तर तक पहुँचना और फिर उसी पर निर्भर होना अथवा dependent हो जाना। जब व्यक्ति आत्मश: कार्यरत होता है तो उसका आत्मबल सदैव पुष्टित होता रहता है। उसके लिए सारा जग आत्मीय बन जाता है। वह ‘अयम निज: परोवेति’ की गणना लघुचेतीय समझता है। उसके अंत:करण में चिरक़ालीन उदारता झकोरे लेने लगती है, तथा ‘वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम’ के सम्मत भाव जागृत हो जाते हैं। यहाँ तक कि उनके यहाँ ‘संताने तनय व तनया’ तक न सीमित रहकर आत्मज और आत्मजा के रूप उत्पन्न होने लगती हैं अर्थात् आत्मबीज ही अंकुरित, पल्लवित, पुष्पित. व फलित होता है। ‘अहम् ब्रह्म अस्मि’ की अनुभूति सार्थक हो जाती है। ये है independence की वास्तविक महिमा! ये एक दिन में सीमित नहीं हो सकता, ये तो कल्पों का माजरा है जनाब!!

bharat

Independence का दूसरा अर्थ है है स्वाधीनता, अर्थात् अपने को पूरी तरह से पहचान कर उसके आधीन हो जाना अथवा उसी की सत्ता के आधीन कार्यरत हो जाना। अपने को पहचानने का अभिप्राय है अपने धर्म को पहचानना, और उसी आधार पर गुण और कर्म निर्धारित करना। स्वधर्म की पहचान का तात्पर्य है अपनी प्रकृति को गहराई से समझना, बूझना, और परखना। जब व्यक्ति इस स्तर पर पहुँच जाता है तब अपनी प्रकृति को ही आधार बनाकर उसी में श्रद्धा एवं भक्ति से संलग्न होकर कर्म करता है। उसके अतिरिक्त कुछ नहीं करता। श्रीकृष्ण ने भगवद्गीता में इसका उद्धरण इस प्रकार किया है- ‘स्वधर्मे निधनम श्रेय: परधर्मों भयावह’, अर्थात् अपने धर्म के अनुसार आचरण में सबकुछ मिट जाना भी श्रेयस्कर है। यही नहीं किसी अन्य के धर्म अर्थात् प्रकृति का आचरण भयावह होता है इसलिए स्वाधीनता अत्यंत आवश्यक मानवीय दशा है जो मानव ही नहीं बल्कि पूरी समष्टि के लिए कल्याणकारी है।

Independence का तीसरा अर्थ है स्वतंत्रता अर्थात् अपना ही तंत्र होना चाहिए चाहे वो पारिवारिक हो, सामाजिक हो, आर्थिक हो, शैक्षिक हो, अथवा राजनीतिक हो। दूसरों की व्यवस्था यद्यपि उनके लिए कितनी भी उच्च एवं सराहनीय क्यों न हो किसी और के लिए तनावपूर्ण, बलाघाती, भयंकर कलह का कारण बन सकती है। अतः किसी भी देश को एक ऐसी व्यवस्था का सृजन करना चाहिए जिसके अंतर्गत हर एक व्यक्ति को सम्पूर्ण मुक्ति रहे कि वह व्यक्तिगत, पारिवारिक, तथा सामाजिक स्तरों पर अपने ही तंत्र के अनुकूल जीवन यापन कर सके। यह व्यवस्था बाह्य रूप से प्रारम्भ में अनेकता के सिद्धांत पर ही आधारित हो सकती है, अर्थात् कोई uniform civil code नहीं, कोई संविधान नहीं, कोई अधिवक्ता या न्यूनतवक़्ता नहीं, कोई AC में विराजित न्यायाधीश नहीं। मात्र धरातलीय प्रबुद्धजनो की आवश्यकता होती है जिनमे आचार विचार से आत्मबोध झलकता हो। वही सर्वभूतानाम की स्वतंत्रता सुनियोजित व  सुनिश्चित कर सकते है इसीलिए भारत ऋषियों का देश रहा है, स्वतंत्रता के लिए। आधुनिक स्वतंत्रता दिवस  को प्रेरणा का आधार मानकर स्वतंत्रता को शाश्वत बनाने के लिए संकल्पित हों, और इसी का पर्व मनायें आज and forever!! शुभम्

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

योग का तत्कालीन क्रियात्मक बोध

– प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

योग: सत्तस्य पर्याय: तस्य सार्थकेव मानव जीवनस्य लक्ष्य:।

योग सत्य का पर्याय है, उसी को सार्थक बनाना जीवन का उद्देश्य है।

वैसे तो सत्य एक सरल सी धारणा है पर अधिकतर व्यक्तियों को इसका बोध नहीं हो पाता है। इसका मुख्य कारण है कि व्यक्ति कुछ विशेष वस्तुओं, स्थानों, लोगों, अथवा बातों से ही जुड़ता है और उसी को मानक बनाकर अपना दृष्टिकोण निर्धारित कर लेता है।

जैसे कि वस्तुतः व्यक्ति परिवार से या माँ से जुड़ता है और उसे प्रेम करता है। यदि उस माँ के प्रेम को सीमित न करके उसे प्रेम के अभ्यास की प्रक्रिया मान ले तो उसी प्रेम भाव को औरों के साथ जोड़ सकता है। तभी माँ के प्रेम की सार्थकता हो सकती है ठीक उसी तरह जैसे कि स्कूल में गणित सीख कर हम उसका जीवन के अन्य पहलुओं में उपयोग करते हैं।

IMG-20180621-WA0008

इस अवधारणा को प्रथम स्तर पर हम योग अभ्यास से समझ सकते हैं। स्थूल रूप से आसन एवं मुद्राएँ हमारे मन को शरीर के उन भागों पर केंद्रित करते हैं जहाँ आसन के कारण ज़ोर पड़ता है। इसका अभ्यास करते-करते हम अपने मन को इस तरह अपने वश में कर पाने में ऐसे सफल हो जाते हैं कि आसन के बिना भी अँगो और प्रत्यंगो पर ध्यान दे लेते हैं। यही प्रक्रिया हमें जुड़ने की वास्तविक विद्या प्रदान करती है। इस विद्या को ही सूक्ष्म रूप में प्राणायाम के द्वारा शरीर के उन कोशिकाओं और अणुओं परमाणुओं तक जोड़ा जा सकता है जो की हमारी ज्ञानेंद्रियों से परे होते हैं। यही शारीरिक आसन और प्राणायाम के अभ्यास हमें हर किसी से जुड़ने की योग विधि बताते हैं।

उपर्युक्त अभ्यास से जो ज्ञान प्राप्त होता है उसके उपयोग से जब हम संसार में बिना किसी भेद भाव (प्रत्याहार अभ्यास के अंतर्गत) समस्त प्राणियों से जुड़ते हैं तभी उनके जीवन सत्यार्थ से परिचित हो पाते हैं।

IMG-20180621-WA0011

(Source of Image : Prof. Singh with his younger daughter)

अथ योग: सत्यार्थ परिचायक:। ॐ!!

माता की अवधारणा

मदर्स डे पर विशेषविमर्श

-डॉ. शशि तिवारी

 

यह संसार भगवान् की अद्भुत रचना है। भगवान् के इस सृजन का हम सब प्राणी उपभोग करते हैं। रचयिता होने से ही ईश्वर को ‘माता’ कहते हैं – त्वमेव माता च पिता त्वमेव । माना गया है कि हम सब ईश्वर के अंश हैं। तो जो गुण ईश्वर में हैं वे प्राणियों में भी हो सकते हैं या कि प्राकृतिक रूप से होने चाहिए। मातृत्व एक ऐसा ही गुण है। केवल मनुष्य ही नहीं पशु-पक्षी भी किसी न किसी प्रकार के सर्जन और निर्मिति की कला में निपुण देखे जाते हैं। हर किसी में रचनाधर्मिता होती है- कभी कम कभी अधिक। तभी देवी की स्तुति में कहा गया है –

            “या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मातॄरूपेण संस्थिता। 

            नम: तस्यै नम: तस्यै नम: तस्यै नमो नम:॥”

वेद में माता-पिता के युग्म को ‘मातरा’ या ‘मातरौ’ कहते हैं यानी माता और पिता दोनों माता ही हैं। इसी तरह द्यावापृथ्वी का नाम ‘मातरा’ है; पृथ्वी हमारी माता है और आकाश पिता। सांसारिक माता और पिता के जोडे के लिए ‘पितरौ’ या ‘पितरा’ शब्द भी प्रयोग में आए हैं; यानी दोनों ही पिता हैं। यह ठीक वैसे ही है जैसे पति-पत्नी के युग्म को ‘दम्पती’ कहते हैं। भारतीय मनीषा ने शब्दों में ही जीवन-मूल्यों को सूत्र में मणियों कि भांति पिरोया हुआ है। तात्पर्य है कि महत्व की दृष्टि से माता और पिता लगभग समान ही हैं। इसीलिए कहते हैं – ‘मातृ देवो भव, पितृ देवो भव’। परंतु जब बात जनन की होती है तो जनि, जनी, जनयित्री आदि नामों से मां को जाना जाता है क्योंकि वह उत्पन्न करने वाली है। केवल उत्पन्न ही नहीं उसके बाद जो लालन-पालन की आवश्यकता है वह भी वही करती है। एतदर्थ उसमें स्नेह और ममता की आवश्यकता है और इसके वाचक अंबा, अम्बि, अम्बी आदि शब्द मां के लिए वेद में प्राप्त होते हैं। इन सब नामों से माता जननी, स्नेहमयी, पूजनी्य़ा, आत्मीया बतायी गयी है। उत्पन्न करने वाली का साक्षात् स्वरूप ‘माता’ पद में दिखाई दे्ता है, इसलिए उसे इस सम्मान से विभूषित किया गया है कि वह जननी है और ईश्वर के समकक्ष है।

5f1515b7fc93c2e205cdf3362b404c92

(Source of image : https://www.pinterest.com/pin/31806741093104880/)

सतत् स्मरणीय है कि साक्षात् माताएं हमारी सम्माननीय हैं; क्योंकि ‘मातृत्व’ मानवीय गुणों में सर्वोपरि है। रचना करना तथा पालन करना – प्रत्येक मनुष्य का धर्म कर्म होना चाहिए, तभी सामजिक संतुलन बना रह सकता है। जब हम मातृ-दिवस मनाये तो ये याद रखें कि यह अपने दायित्वों को वहन करने की शिक्षा देने वाला दिन है। यह रचनाधर्मिता का दिन है या फिर रचनाधर्मिता के अभिनंदन का दिन!

– डॉ. शशि तिवारी,अध्यक्ष, वेव्सभारत 

Bases of Dharma in the Gita

– Dr. Shakuntala

454295-bhagavad-gita

(Source of Image: http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/and-more/what-bhagavad-gita-teaches-us-top-10-lessons-we-must-remember_1849199.html)

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