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

Connecting with Mā Gangā

Ms. Neera Misra

Introduction

Gangā! The very name creates a sense of sanctity, devotion and reverence. It is the only flowing body of sacred waters whose history of origin through superhuman efforts, has been immortalized in legendary films and arts, and termed Gangā Avtaraṇa or even as Bhāgiratha Prayathna. We get a detailed description of Gangā Avtaraṇa  in Srimad Vālmīki Ramāyana.

कथं गङ्गावतरणं कथं तेषां जलक्रिया….॥ (बालकाण्ड, द्विचत्वारिंश सर्ग ६)

भगीरथस्तु राजर्षिर्धार्मिको…..राज्यं गङ्गावतरणे रत:॥ (वही, ११-१२)

(Source of Image : ‘Gangā Avtaraṇa गङ्गावतरण ‘ – A famous painting by Sh. Raja Ravi Verma

The water deity, identified with ‘makara’ at her feet, brings with it unique power of salvation from sins. It is the spiritual river that has defined Bhārata’s culture and civilization since time immemorial.

The Gangā occupies an unrivalled position among the rivers of the world. No other river is so closely identified with a country as the Gangā is with India’, says Jagmohan Mahajan in Gangā Observed (Foreign accounts of the river). ‘Cities and pilgrimage centers teeming with temples and shrines have sprung up all along its course (milestones in the history of the land and the growth of Indian civilization). The Gangetic plain has indeed been the pole towards which the political, economic and religious life of the country has gravitated’.  Gangā is much more.

‘पतित पावनी जीवनदायनी’ Mā Gangā is integral to us from birth to death. Its water is used at every ceremony for purification, as a charm to ward off evil spirits, sprinkled at weddings over the bride and bridegroom, and dropped into the mouths of the dying, and also serving as a medium for oath taking. Geographer Strabo calls it ‘the largest river’. The English traveller Thomas Coryat, who visited India from 1612 to 1617, has called it ‘the captains of all rivers in the world’.

Yet this water of life and death is not just a naturally existing river as perceived by many. Descending from the heavens as rain, she was created as a channel for human salvation with the vision of Solar Dynasty King Sagara and his five generations of descendants, a task finally accomplished by Bhāgiratha with the blessings of Lord Shiva. Gangā is not just flowing waters but divine waters endowed with unique properties for our ‘mokṣa’. Some scholars believe that our current understanding and approach to ‘river’ is based on European ideas and very different from what ancient seers of Bhārata conceived. Dilip da Cunha, in his book ‘The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Gangā’s Descent‘, (published 2018 November by the University of Pennsylvania) attributes the colonial understanding of river and banks, the separation of land and water, to be derivative from Alexander’s concept and ancient Greek cartography. He explains ‘Although Alexander the Great never saw the Ganges, he conceived of it as a flowing body of water, with sources, destinations, and banks that marked the separation of land from water. This Alexandrine view of the river, as per Dilip da Cunha ‘has been pursued and adopted across time and around the world.

Dilip da Cunha, indirectly agrees with the Vedic view that Gangā descended from heavens, when he argues that ‘the articulation of the river Ganges has placed it at odds with Gangā, a “rain terrain that does not conform to the line of separation, containment, and calibration that are the formalities of a river’ He explains  that ‘What we take to be natural features of the earth’s surface, according to da Cunha, are products of human design’, thus again authenticating the ‘itihāsa’ of Sagar and Bhāgiratha.

In the 4th century BC, Megasthenes came from Greece as ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, leaving the first detailed account of India by a foreign visitor. He noted that the Indians worshipped the rain-bringing Zeus (Indra), the Gangā River and local deities. The Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions that ‘during drought shall Indra, the Gangā, mountains and Mahakachha (sea or ocean) be worshipped. Textual references prove that the Gangā is actually channeled rainwater (Ṛgveda 1.32.11-12).

इन्द्रो यद् वॄत्रमवधीन्नदी….| (ॠग्वेद १.५२.२)

Mysterious purifying powers

Gangā that we revere is the very special living divine liquid energy with mysterious purifying properties. This unique and mystifying trait of the Gangā has intrigued modern scientists for long but till date none have succeeded in decoding the Gangā’s spiritual powers.

Mark Twain notes that a scientist named Mr. Henkin, who was employee of the government of Agra, concluded experiments to examine the water. He went to Banāras for his tests and took water from the mouths of the sewers where they empty into the river at the bathing-ghāts; Tests revealed that a cubic centimeter of it contained millions of germs; but at the end of six hours they were all dead. He then also caught a floating corpse, towed it to shore, “ … and from beside it he dipped up water that was swarming with cholera germs; at the end of six hours they were all dead’ writes J Mahajan (Virgo Publication, 1994). Repeatedly, he took pure well-water which was barren of animal life, and put into it a few cholera germs, they always began to propagate at once, and always within six hours they swarmed- and were numerable by millions upon millions.

Europeans wondered, as many of us still do, ‘how did they find out the water’s secret in those ancient ages? Had they germ-scientists then? We do not know. We only know that they had a civilization long before we emerged from savagery’ (Mark Twain: Following the Equator, 1897).

(Source of image : ‘Devprayāg’ where the Bhāgirathi joins Alakhnandā to form Gangā. Image courtsey by Sh. Abhay Mishra)

This most telling image from Devprayāg distinctly shows here two flowing water bodies of very different colors. It is pertinent to note that this is the sacred place of the ‘divine confluence’ (Devprayāg) of two rivers that join together, creating Gangā’s emergence as the single flow towards the plains. Also, that the chemical properties of such contrasting waters will be different is clear to even an ordinary person.

How does the mixture of two or more variant waters, flowing through mineral rich pristine areas, affect the final properties of the Gangā waters that have mysterious purifying qualities? Was this confluence natural or man-made? We know of Panchprayāg (five confluences) at Uttarākhand. Waters descend crossing through Vishnuprayāg (DhauliGangā-Alakhnandā), Nandprayāg (Alakhnandā-Nandākinī), Karnaprayāg (Alakhnandā-Pindar) and Rudraprayāg where Alakhnandā meets Mandakinī.

What is the significance of the name ‘Devprayāg’ as ancient seers named people or places with certain symbolic identifications? Where or what is the initial source of the mystical properties of Gangā waters? We know that – Gangā water is always sacred as germs do not develop in it. Gangā water is always pure. It has medicinal properties in it. This drinking water has divine traits as stated in ancient texts –

शं नो देवीरभिष्टय आपो भवन्तु पीतये शं योरभि स्रवन्तु न:। (ॠग्वेद १.९.४)

Germ free pure water is also mentioned –

यथोदकं शुद्धे शुद्धमासिक्तं तादृगेव भवति। (कठोपनिषद् २.१.१५)

It is notable that where the Gangā waters fall on Hemkunt as spring,  gold particles are found there. In several places in the Gangā valley there is a tradition to strain gold particles. This gold is called ‘Gangāye’ Periplus mentions this.

Gangā is called the ‘Das Pāpa Hara Devī’ as she provides solution for ten problems. Gangā Daśera is festival celebrated in recognition of Gangā’s power of washing away ten ‘Pāpa’ or sins (sin means problems). It is also mentioned by Bhojrāj (Rajmartand) [quoted in गङ्गा नदी : उद्भव एवं देवत्व – एक सांस्कृतिक यात्रा, presented by Prof. Deen Bandhu Pande, at Draupadi Dream Trust Gangā Conference, 6th Dec 2018, Delhi]. Was course of waters having divergent properties chartered to form the miracle water?

Rajnīkānt describes the ten traits of Gangā, by which it helps us keep away problems. These ten natural qualities of Gangā are –

1. शीतत्वम्, 2. स्वादुत्वम्,  3. स्वच्छत्वम् ,  4.  अत्यन्तरुचत्वम् , 5. पत्थ्यत्वम्, 6. पावनत्वम्  7. पापहारित्वम्,  8. तृष्णामोहध्वंसनत्वम् 9. दीपत्वम्, 10. प्रज्ञाधारित्वम्.

As the British interests in India increased, they also started exploring its natural resources. Gangā, Yamuna, Brahmaputra and other rivers originating from the Himalayas attracted their attention, during 1800s and early part of 1900s. British surveyors surveyed these rivers comprehensively, and Sir William Willcox, the Director General of Irrigation of India has, in his book, shows his understanding of high standards of ancient documentations. He writes that Indian ancient writers wrote about physical facts in a spiritual manner. Regarding the rivers he states that every flow which went southwards whether, big as the Bhagirathi or not, originally started as a canal and that these canals were lined out, dug and placed just at the distance that canals should be placed. Sir William Willcox reasons that Gangā or the River Bhāgirathī was a canal constructed by our ancient visionaries. The bringing of the Gangā from the heights of Meru to the plains of India would be the greatest accomplishment of engineering in India, or even in human history.

Divine water

What is the mystery of this Divine water?

Modern scientists are gradually realising the science of Ayurveda, Meditation, Yoga and even ‘ritual fasting, but will take many decades, if not centuries, to unlock all the secrets unearthed by our ancient seers. Knowledge of our Rishi’s came through centuries of penance by understanding and connecting with nature. They unravelled the depths of ‘vijñāna’ and planned for welfare of humanity.

The gospel of preventive medicine and science of life ‘Ayurveda’ is the ‘Charak Samhitā’ which means research by travelling to various parts of the land. It was not commercial exploitation as Vedic dharma is based on the principles of

सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद् दुःख भाग्भवेत्।।

Gangā too was channeled from heavenly waters for the welfare of mankind. It is the perfect blend of nature and culture for social engineering the welfare of a civilization that believed in divine nature of man, nature and all earthy beings.

Gangā Mā is a marvelous gift of visionary King Sagara, dedicated efforts of his 60,000 population and sons Anshumān, Dilipa and especially Bhāgiratha, who is immortalized through Bhāgirathī river which joins Alakhnandā at Devprayāg, to finally form the Gangā we know.

Since time immemorial Mother Gangā is flowing through our heartlands and we use her pure waters for all our holy rituals. But in this auspicious Śrāvan māsa we pay special tribute to the heavenly Divine Gangā. People travel for days, covering thousands of miles up the mountains to bring the freshest waters of Gangā river to pour on Lord Shiva, thanking him for blessing us by bringing Mā Gangā to us mortals. It is like a thanksgiving celebration, so integral to our sanskriti.

Jai Mā Gange!

Om Namay Shivāye!

Ms. Neera Misra, Independent scholar on Vedic and Mahābhārata Heritage, Chairperson-Trustee Draupadi Dream Trust

Hanumān Approach after Overcoming the Hanumān Syndrome

Prof. Bal Ram Singh

[Editor’s noteA version of this article had appeared in MyIndMakers ( www.myind.net)]

hanuman sun

(Source of Image: https://sites.google.com/site/hanumanlivestoday/hanuman-s-birth)

People have heard many miraculous and not so miraculous things about Shri Hanumān, many times erroneously referred to as Monkey God, including by the former President of America, Barrack Obama, who kept a statuette of Hanumān as part of his lucky charm collections in his pocket.

ob

Whether Hanumān was a monkey or vānara, which mean people who lived with nature in forests, there are numerous stories of Hanumān which could inspire or at least provide learning lessons. As a young boy I had chosen Hanumān as my personal deva or ishtadeva to whom I used to offer sweets after my annual exam results were announced. I started wearing dhoti-kurta on the days I went to offer sweets. That skill of wearing dhoti kurta has remained with me even today. Many a time it is not as important what one believes when one performs particular action, rather the lessons one learns in performing the action. The lessons are for the life where the beliefs are for the moment.

Hanumān Background

Hanumān was son of Kesari, a vānar king of Sumerū, for which there are several claimants in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, and Anjana, a wise woman with divine background. It is known that Hanumān was born with blessings from Shiva and Pārvati, and also was helped by Vāyu devatā. All of them are well grounded in mountain, forest, and air. In other words Hanumān was influenced mostly by the nature and was connected to native people with wisdom from nature.

Hanumān State

Hanumān state of mind is that of someone who is bereft of ego and arrogance. “Hanu” means to kill and “mān” means the ego. That is why one sees and hears about Hanumān being very powerful yet always seen with folded hands and humble in service. There are stories about him getting a curse so that he would forget his power. However, given the Hanumān state of mind it will in fact be considered a boon. Certainly going by his great accomplishments and virtues, and the following even today, his traits can easily be considered as footsteps of success.

Hanumān Syndrome

Hanumān ji’s humility and determination are considered part of his real character that led him to win any mission he embarked upon. In the infinite states of consciousness, most people are focused on only limited tracks of the consciousness, and are in fact not aware of the existence (ego) of the other domains of their consciousness until they are reminded of by someone they believe and trust, such as parents, teachers, guru, etc.

Children and students are particularly vulnerable to the hidden capacity and potential unknown to them. This is the Hanumān syndrome that the whole humanity suffers from. This syndrome is treated by only wise and caring teachers or elders, who remove the syndrome with inspiration and infusion of courage through a series of steps to build confidence via knowledge and practice. This is what was done by Jāmvant, represented by as a Rikshraj and mānsputra of Brahmā, the creator of the universe. Jāmvant is not an ordinary bear, rather an individual with power and adaptability of a bear. He along with Hanumān and Paraśurām has distinction of being present in both Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata time. In other words, for Hanumān syndrome to be removed, an extraordinary teacher or guru is needed, by awakening the hidden consciousness.

Hanumān Approach

Once the Hanumān syndrome is treated, a person can achieve extraordinary feats. There is nothing that such an individual cannot do. Their approach becomes that of in improvisation rather than strategic and tactical. Since they are capable of doing anything they do not sit down to plan and process the goals. They actually begin to do what needs to be done, notwithstanding what may seem impossible to others. This is what Hanumān did when Lakśmana was hit with Shakti weapon of Meghnād. With Suśen (an Ayurvedic Vaidya) suggesting a prescription requiring Sanjīvanī from Himalayas in less than 12 hours, everyone is Ramā’s army had given up, except for the Hanumān free of his syndrome. He was the only one who could leap forward to Himalayas without any forethoughts, driven only by what needed to be done. He did not spend a semester learning the geography of Himalayas, asked for a GPS to reach there, or a long lesson on different types of plants, shrubs, and herbs.

r16

(Source of Image: https://ramleela.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/ramayana-viii-the-vanar-sena-to-the-rescue/)

He reached Himalayas after overcoming intentional hurdles thrown in his way represented by Kālanemī, which also means the perimeter of the time. Symbolically it means that Hanumān had to cross the limit of time to reach Himalayas and return. One there, he could not identify Sanjīvanī from many other medicinal herbs. He decided right then and there to bring the entire mountain so that Suśen can pick what was rightly needed. This is the Hanumān approach. Once awakened of one’s hidden capabilities, one does not look for everything favorable and in place to do one’s duty. In Hanumān approach, you do whatever is needed to accomplish the goal. If the world’s system does not allow one to do right things, then begin changing the world, whether it is for peace, food, health, equality, education, or the planet.

So, go ahead try the Hanumān approach, and let the world know the results! The Hanumān principle lives in all of us.

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, School of Indic Studies, INADS, Dartmouth, USA

Ram’s Dharma: Leadership Secrets of the Ultimate Warrior~Sage~Prince

michael sternfeld head shot

-Michael Sternfeld

[Excerpted from the audio-bookRam’s Dharma: Leadership Secrets of the Ultimate Warrior~Sage~Prince— published by Vedic Audio Knowledge (VAK). VAK created by  author, an independent scholar has made a tradition of preserving the essential oral tradition of the Vedic literature with dramatic productions in English. ]

Introduction

Now begins the inquiry into Dharma.  This one line, expressive of much of the potency within all Vedic knowledge, is an apt beginning in our exploration of the epic Ramayana.  The Ramayana can be seen as one grand heroic quest into all the power and subtlety of Dharma.  Dharma means more than just duty, as it is often understood in the West.  At its most comprehensive level, Dharma is the inexorable movement of evolution in the universe. All activity in the universe is orderly because of that inexorable flow of Dharma.

Alignment of Our Dharma With the Big Picture

To the degree that we align our own nature with this grand vision of Dharma, the more we align ourselves with the natural flow of all that was meant to be.  This seems to be the true quest—to move our own consciousness, our own deepening awareness–to become more and more in-tune with Dharma at every step of our evolution.  There is not one “be-all, end-all” state that captures this, because Dharma, as structured in consciousness, is a sequential process of unfolding deeper and deeper levels of order or Dharma in the fabric of our own awareness.

Hierarchies of Dharma

Dharma is structured in layers, or in hierarchies, which reveal more and more comprehensive levels of intelligence in nature.  On one level, we could experience our personal career Dharma–expressive of the work we do to earn a living.  At a deeper level, we can own our soul level Dharma–expressive of our own fundamental nature and the development of higher states of consciousness.  On a more expanded level, there can be a Dharma of a country or civilization, which may express the unique design or “chosen-ness” for a group of people to serve and enrich the world in a particular way.  The Dharma of a star is to spread life-giving light into the world, while the Dharma of the universe may reach to the fields of unfathomable infinity.

Evolution of Dharma

Every level of life has a Dharma that is woven together with all the other streams to create a majestic tapestry reflecting the never-ending flow of life from lesser states to more and more fullness of life and evolution.  From this perspective, all of our growth can be seen as an opportunity to continually deepen our understanding of our own Dharma and how it fits into the larger Dharma of the world.  As we grow and evolve, we find that those values that seemed so significant when we were younger fall away and new doorways open to greater and greater levels of service, authenticity and an expanding sphere of influence to enrich the world.

Ram’s Dharma and the Ramayana

Now this is where the power of Ram and the Ramayana enter the picture.  Ram is an embodiment of the total potential of Dharma.  All different levels and streams of Dharma seem to converge into his comprehensive personality. This power is first expressed on the human level, the level of heroic action. Like all the great heroic figures that have preceded us, we gain so much from following in his epic footsteps.  Ram’s heroic quests become our own; and his journey—imbued with near-impossible challenges as well as great victories and blessed boons–become the cherished guideposts in the journey of our own lives.

But this outer value of Ram is only a projection and expression of the deeper, absolute level of life, from which the full potential of being fully-human emerges—a divine being in human form. Ram is an extraordinary personage in that he is both an ideal man and an avatar. Human and divine. The juxtaposition of these two values stretches our comprehension to span its gulf.

Rama

Why is Ram So Special?

In the pantheon of all great epic heroes, Ram seems to hold a special status. On a human level, his entire life and story are based upon explicitly discriminating and integrating finer and finer levels of Dharma.  Our behavior can be refined at each step of this journey by integrating these deeper values into our lives. But the deepest level of Dharma reveals Ram’s full potential as an embodiment of the Absolute level of life–Ram Brahm Paramarath Rupa.

The great modern-day Vedic sage Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explains this mahavakya by describing Ram as the embodiment of Brahman, the supreme Totality of life. This Totality is not just outside of us as some ruling power, but inside us as well. In this view, Ram represents the essential nature of ourselves and the whole creation, governing and sustaining it from the transcendental level.  Maharishi clarifies: “Ram is the embodiment of pure spirituality, of pure being–totality in its absolute unity. All activity in the universe is orderly because of that eternal law of life, the administration of Ram, which establishes and maintains harmony in all relationships; which harmonizes everything with every other thing in the universe.”

This quote underscores why experiencing the Ramayana yields such profound results. If Ram embodies all the diverse relationships in the universe, then the study of his story is essentially the study of our Self and our evolving relationship with creation—the full potential of Dharma. In this view, the impulses of the Ramayana are the structures of our own consciousness, our own Self, and challenge us to grow towards our own divine status as humans.

This vision may sound quite cosmic, but we must remember that this divine story unfolds on a completely human level, as Ram was born a mortal man–the son of the illustrious King Dasharata in Ayodhya.  The story begins as the wise sage Valmiki pondered the question he had often reflected upon: “Is there a perfect man among us?”.

We now begin our journey following the footsteps of Ram—along with Sita and all the characters of the Ramayana–on an epic quest to discover Ram’s Dharma on all its levels.  Our ultimate goal: to emerge with a profound ownership of that full potential of Dharma that animates the entire universe.

Audio Sample Link:  http://www.ramayanaudio.com/otherproducts.html#ramsd

Michael Sternfeld, MA, is an independent scholar and  a producer/director, USA 

 

Children in Epics

Children of ancient intellectual traditions that are remembered time to time in reference to spiritually, strength, determination and firmness:-

Lava and Kusha

Kuṥa and his twin brother Lava were the children of Lord Rāma and his wife Sītā, whose story is recounted in the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa written by Valmīki. According to Uttara Kāṇḍa of this great epic, pregnant Sītā was banished from the kingdom of Ayodhyā by Rāma due to the gossip of general folk of kingdom. She then took refuge in the ramof the sage Valmīki located on the banks of the Tamasā river. According to Rāmāyaṇa, Sītā gave birth to both Lava and Kuṥa at the same time in the support of Valmīki’s disciples. Kuṥa was the elder of the two and is said to have whitish complexion like their mother, while Lava had blue complexion like their father. Names to both kids were given by sage Valmīki. They were educated and trained in military skills and given many natural powers under the tutelage of Valmikī. When Rāma performed the Ashvamedha Yajn᷈a, Lava and Kuṥa attended it with their fatherly sage. At that occasion, they sang the story of Rāmāyaṇa in the presence of king Rāma and his vast audience. When Lava and Kuṥa recited about Sītā’s exile, Rāma became grief-stricken and Valmīki produced Sītā. Sit̄ā called upon the earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opened, she vanished into it. Rāma then learnt that Lava and Kuṥa were his children.  Launandan-3

Some poetic works have depicted poetically that Lava and Kuṥa caught the horse of Yajn᷈a during the phase of Aṥvamedha Yajn᷈a, and for that they also gave a good fight to Rāma. Brave sons of Rāma, Lava and Kuṥa became rulers after their father and founded the cities Lavapurī and Kasur respectively. These children are known today for their amity, fearlessness and charm.

Abhimanyu

Abhimanyu, mentioned in the great epic Mahābhārata, was the courageous son of the great Arjuna and Subhadrā, and the nephew of Lord Kṛṣṇa. His story begins just before he was born. When Abhimanyu was in his mother’s womb, Ṥri Kṛṣṇa used to take his sister Subhadrā on excursions. Kṛṣṇa used to relate many of his adventures to the pregnant Subhadrā for her delight. Once he was narrating his experience with the technique of Cakra-vyūha, a military formation which was an effective form of defense. The army would be arranged in the form of a circular grid and would then challenge the enemy to break that grid. It seems that Subhadrā did not find this topic interesting and therefore, after some time she felt asleep. However, someone else was interested in Kṛṣṇa’s narration and he was Abhimanyu in his mother womb. He was carefully following all steps of this vyūha. When Kṛṣṇa noticed that Subhadrā was not responding and she was indeep sleep, he gave up his narration and returned to the palace. Thus, Abhimanyu could only obtain the technique of entering into the circles of the cakra-vyūha. Whatever he had heard from Kṛṣṇa, he carefully preserved in his memory.Unfortunately, he could not know the technique of breaking its circles. He grew up to be a brave, handsome adolescent young man. Many years later, during the Mahābhārata war at Kurukṣetra, the Kauravas set up a cakravyūha and challenged Pāṇḍavas to break it. Only Arjuna knew the technique of doing so, but he was fighting elsewhere at that time. To meet the challenge, Abhimanyu came forward and offered his services for the task of breaking the cakra-vyūha. Despite his incomplete knowledge of the technique, he entered the grid and overcame one circle after another, until he come to the seventh one, the breaking of which he had no knowledge. Brave and ambitious Abhimanyu fought heroically in the unequal struggle but finally met his end.

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This story highlights the importance of the childhood saṁskāras and mental growth of a child. Abhimanyu is always remembered for sharp memory, intelligence, courage and bravery.

Dr. Shashi Tiwari, President, WAVES–India & Former Prof. of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

Day of Rama-Janma : Chaitra Shukla Navami (29 November 12240 BCE)

Nilesh during debate in New Delhi

– Mr. Nilesh Nilkanth Oak

As we celebrate the birth day of Shri Rama, we will ponder on various aspects of Maryada-Purushottma Rama and of our Adi-kavya – Valmiki’s Ramayana. One of the significant and curious aspects, for many, is the history and chronology of Shri Rama and thus Ramayana.

Valmiki Ramayana presents us with more than 500 specific astronomy and chronology references. Some of the specific references from this list allow us to determine broad timeline for the chronology of the Ramayana while some other allow us to nail down timing for the specific instances of Ramayana, and the remaining references allow us to check if our assertions are correct.

Four references from four different kanda of Valmiki Ramayana (Ayodhya 3:34, Aryanya 16:12, Kishkindha 53:9 and Yuddha 4:48) place lower limit of 10,000 BCE as the boundary for the chronology of Ramayana, i.e., the incidents of Ramayana did not occur even a day later than 10,000 BCE. These four independent observations of seasons and astronomy phenomenon also create upper boundary of 17,000 BCE, for the chronology of Ramayana.

A solitary observation of a comet afflicting nakshatra Mula was key to determine 12209 BCE as the year of Rama-Ravana yuddha. This year (12209 BCE) as the year when Shri Rama went to Lanka, along with Laxman, Sugriva, Hanuman and other Vanara warriors and Vanara army, can be combined with chronological narrations of Valmiki Ramayana to determine timing for numerous instances of Ramayana, such as 12240 BCE being the year of Rama-Janma, 12223 BCE as the year when Rama left Ayodhya, along with Laxman and Sita, for 14 year-long Vanavas. These dates were further corroborated by hundreds of additional seasonal and astronomy observations of Valmiki Ramayana.

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(Source of Image : http://yepindia.com)

A question may be raised that if Rama was born in the month of November as per Julian/Gregorian calendar computations, how come we celebrate it in the month of March/April (Gregorian calendar) in our times? The answer to this important question is the astronomy phenomenon known as ‘Precession of Equinoxes’. One of the key consequences of this phenomenon is that seasons shift by about one lunar month every 2000 years. Thus, while Valmiki Ramayana descriptions of lunar month of Chaitra are that of Sharad rutu (season); after about 14,000 years, lunar month of Chaitra falls during the second half of Vasanta rutu (season) and thus during end of March and beginning of April.

In fact, this fact was lost on dozen plus Ramayana researchers who were curious to determine the timing of Ramayana and this resulted in their proposing a timeline that cannot match with the descriptions of Valmiki Ramayana. For example, Late Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar proposed 10 January 5114 BCE as the day of Rama-Janma. This day falls during the peak of winter and thus the problem with this day is that it neither agrees with descriptions of Valmiki Ramayana nor it agrees with mistakenly assumed time of Vasanata rutu by Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar. And this wrong starting point resulted in erroneous chronology.

We can learn from Valmiki Ramayana that star Brahmarashi, also known as Abhijit or Vega, was the north pole star at the time of Ramayana as described by Laxman, or the lunar month of Ashwin occurred during the Vasanta rutu. Thus, if we compare the timing of seasons and Indian lunar months of our time, we realize that the seasons have shifted with respect to lunar month by about 6 months, i.e. exactly halfway through 26000 years long cycle of the precession of equinoxes.  This means we have documented records of Indian civilization going back to about 14000 years.

Further, we can combine narration of King Trishanku from Valmiki Ramayana and from Mahabharata and combine it with knowledge of astronomy to determine 13000 BCE as the timing of King Trishanku.  This means our Indian history has documented chronology of at least 15,000 years.

Of course, one may wonder if it is reasonable to make such claims, based on one stream of evidence, i.e., chronology of Ramayana. Fortunately, this is not the case.  We can combine evidence from various branches of scientific disciplines – geology, hydrology, anthropology, genetics, genealogies of Kings and genealogies of Rishis that are responsible for various ‘suktas’ and ‘mandalas’ of Rigveda to present additional clues to this deep antiquity of Indian civilization.

For example, descriptions of river Sarasvati from Rigveda, Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata allow us to trace the changes in the condition of river Sarasvati that matches very well from what we know today via geology, hydrology and climatology. Geology evidence tells us that river Yamuna separated from river Sarasvati as early as 50,000 BCE and before 9000 BCE, and this evidence is consistent with descriptions of rivers not only for Yamuna, but also for river Sarasvati and river Sutlej (Shatudri).  Modern discoveries in genetics also tell us that the Indian gene pool is very old and practically unchanged for last 20,000 plus years. Indian civilization and its narrative tradition has cleverly amalgamated science, history, art, adhyatma, medicine and peaceful living in a single tradition without any strains among its various pursuits.

Indian civilization combined these multifaceted aspects of civilization around numerous festivals it celebrates. We glean from even stray references of Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata of a tradition of Indra-dhwaja festival that was celebrated during the Vasanta rutu (season) and during the lunar month of Ashwin in Ramayana times (13th millennium BCE) and that was continued to be celebrated through Mahabharata times and it is also celebrated in our times with both its old and new names. Whether it is Tamil Sangam literature or the living ‘natha’ tradition of Nepal, both refer to it as Indra-dhwaja (Indra Viza) festival. And, while tradition of Nepal continues to celebrate it during the lunar month of Ashwin, as was done in Ramayana times, state of Maharashtra celebrates it on the first day of lunar month of Chaitra with ‘Gudhi (Dhwaja) Padava’. The times and style may change with changing times; however, the age-old tradition is preserved and celebrated throughout this land of Bharata-varsha.

It is in this very spirit, let’s celebrate 5 April 2017 CE, as the birth day of our dear Shri Rama.  Jai Sri Rama!

– Mr. Nilesh Nilkanth Oak, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA.

 

‘Why Rama killed Vali?’ Valmiki Ramayana Answers…

Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India 

Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa is a regarded as a Dharmaś́āstra which exemplifies the Vedic Values. Vālmīki lays great emphasis on Dharma or righteousness, the principle that upholds society and country. To serve mankind is the greatest virtue for a king or administrator, according to Rāmāyaṇa. Rāma is called Puruṣaṛṣ̣abha (best human being) whose inspiration was truthful moral life.Sarva-bhūta-hite rataḥ’ (always busy in the welfare of all) was his social ideal. The Rāmāyaṇa consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (kāṇḍas). The fourth book, Kiṣkindhā Kāṇḍa, describes the meeting of Hanum̄an with Rāma, the destruction of the vānara king Vālī and the coronation of his younger brother Sugrīva to the throne of the kingdom of Kiṣkindhā.

Rāma was an exiled prince but was still behaving as a king because Bharata had not accepted kingship officially and moreover he was not sitting on the royal throne (Raja-siṁhāsana) of Ayodhyā.  Rāma was performing all political duties related to the welfare and protection of his subjects while he was in kingdom or in forest during exile. At the time, when Sri Rāma was preparing himself for Vanavāsa, he left all decorative ornaments and dresses to be dressed in Munivastra Valkala. Without fail he kept his Dhanuṣa, and tarakasa for the protection of state and its people, living in the city or  forest.  After accepting the appeal of Lakṣmaṇa to accompany him in the exile, Rāma ordered him immediately to bring his divine weapons, preserved by  Guru Vasiṣṭha.

One question is often raised – why did Rāma choose the weaker of the two brothers as his ally? Kabandha advised Rāma to seek the friendship of Sugrīva, who knew the geography and the topography of the world and who was in trouble like Rāma. Sugrīva will be a proper ally because he needed Rāma’s help and Rāma needed his help. Between the two placed in similar situations there will be a subtle bond of friendship. Further, Shri Rāma offered friendship to Sugrīva, and not to king Vālī, because he found him careless as a king who could not notice the evil act of Rāvaṇa taking away Sītā all the way through sky, while Sugrīva and Hanumān observed that carefully.

Later Rāma killed Vālī from behind a tree, and that too when Vālī was engaged in battle with other man. Vālī called this action of Rāma as immoral deed which is not supported by dharma (Ram. IV.17.52). Śri Rāma replied and consoled Vālī with words that contain the essence of righteousness ‘dharma’. He scolded him, ‘you don’t know the true meaning of Dharma. You know no law, no restraint’. It is important to see how Rāma tried to refute the allegations brought against him by Vālī.

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The first argument against Vālī’s accusation is: ‘this earth, with its mountains, woods, and forests are under the sway of Ikṣavākus. They take it upon themselves to protect or punish the beasts, birds and men within their empire.  Truthful and righteous Bharata sits on their throne at present. He is the soul of truth and honor. He himself has assumed the charge of protecting this land. He puts forth his strength and valour against his foes even as the shatras would have it.  He always acts in the right time and place. We and some other kings rule under him according to kingly tradition and roam the earth to bring law and order among his subjects. Who would dare to defy dharma when that noble king rules the earth? We shall consider how we shall punish them who go astray’ (Ram.IV.18.6).

It means in exile also Rāma was with delegation of royal powers. On the basis of Tilaka’s commentary we may say that though Bharata did not give such authority to Rāma at Citrakūṭa, implication may be drawn here about such authority. When Bharata was king his power spread to his relations and naturally Rāma had a share of it. After the debate it was arranged that Rāma should in law be king and that Bharata should be his regent.  The person who delegated the authority certainly could act for him or resume back the authority. Vālī may be an independent king of Kiṣkindhā, but what Rāma enunciated, was the law in Āryāvarta.

Ram’s second justification to Vālī was on moral grounds. Vālī has ravished the spouse of his younger brother called Rumā, and it is Kṣatriya dharma to punish all those who violate moral rules and commit sins. Rāma said, ‘You blinded with lust has done this crime which could not be ignored. I know of no other punishment than this for you.’

The third argument was that he has made a promise to friend Sugrīva to protect him. Rama explained, ‘Sugrīva is dear friend to me even as Lakṣmaṇa, and in consequence, he should be restored to his crown and wife. He even seeks my welfare. Further, you are the foe of Sugrīva that has won my friendship, then according to the rules of kingly polity, you are my enemy too. To help a friend in distress is also considered dharma. So view it from any point; I have given you this punishment according to dharma. We, kings, have to act according to Shāstra. Moreover, if a person, after doing sinful act, accepts and enjoys punishment given by a king, then he becomes pure and goes to Swarga’ (Ram.18.29-32).

Further, on the objection ‘why he was killed from behind’ Rāma pointed out, ‘Kings used to do hunting of animals with all tactics. They don’t view it as a fault. Similarly, it is no crime to kill you whether you attack me or not.’ Hearing these words of R̄ama, V̄alī proclaimed with deep repentance, ‘Noble Sir! You speak about dharma and beyond the shadow of a doubt. I confess that I went back upon dharma and allied myself with vice and injustice. Please extend your forgiveness and protection unto me.’

Here we may see that Rāma explained that his action is not a crime at all.  In this reference, another good reason of Rama’s action is well-known. Sītā was abducted by Rāvaṇa, a powerful king of South. This abduction was an insult which had to be avenged.  To accomplish this purpose, Rāma needed powerful allies who could help him in this great task and therefore, he was constrained to enter into negotiations with those chiefs who were desirous of kingdom but were driven away, or who wished to join Rāma in the hope of securing a kingdom in return.  Killing of Vālī was thus a means to get huge support of vānara army to fulfill objective of the welfare of the subjects.

Thus, Śri Rāma did the service of nation following the morals of Rājadharma for being a designated forthcoming king and a Kṣatriya during his exile.  We know that he was not fighting for the expansion of his kingdom; and hence he crowned noble Sugrīva on the throne of Kiṣkindhā after killing Vālī. Till today Rama is regarded as the embodiment of Dharma and a famous quote says, Rāmadivat pravartitavyam na rāvaṇādivat’ i.e., ‘one should act like Rāma and not like Rāvaṇa.