Children in Puranas

Great personalities have always their bright childhood as continuity of qualities is a fundamental truth-

 Dhruva

In some Purāṇas, we find story of a child Dhruva who was a symbol of firm determination and profound devotion towards God. Dhruva was son of King Uttānapāda  and his wife Sunīti . The king also had another son named Uttama, born to his second queen Suruchi, who was the preferred object of his affection. Once, five year old, Dhruva was sitting on his father’s lap at the King’s throne. Suruchi, the step-mother, who was jealous of the Dhruva, forcefully removed him from his father’s lap. When Dhruva protested and asked if he could not be allowed to sit on his father’s lap, Suruchi scolded him ruthlessly saying; ‘only God can allow you that privilege. Go ask him.’

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(Source of Image : Daily Bhaskar.com)

Sunīti, a lady of gentle nature but lesser favorite wife of king, tried to console her distressed son, but Dhruva was determined to hear about his fate from the Lord.  Seeing his firm determination, mother Sunīti allowed him to go to the forest. Dhruva was determined to seek for himself his rightful place. Noticing his resolution, the divine sage Nārada appeared before him and tried to abstain him from obtaining severe austerity at such an early age. But Dhruva was firm on his decision, and therefore, overwhelmed sage guided him towards his goal by teaching rituals and mantras to meditate and please the lord Viṣṇu. The one mantra, taught by Nārada which was effectively used by Dhruva, was Om Namo Bhagavate Vāsudevāya. Little Boy fixing his mind on Lord, started his meditation, and went without food and water for six months for the gratification of Viṣṇu. His tapasyā shook the heavens, and Lord appeared before him, but the child would not open his eyes being merged in the inner vision of Viṣṇu’s form described by Nārada. Lord Viṣṇu adopted a strategy to disappear that inner vision. Immediately Dhruva opened his eyes, and seeing outside what he had been seeing in his mental vision, prostrated himself before the Lord. He could not utter a single word. The Lord touched his right cheek by his divine conch and that sparked off his speech. He recited a beautiful poem of twelve powerful verses in the praise of the Lord which is called Dhruva-stuti. The Dhruva-stuti as mentioned in the ViṣṇuPurāṇa is quite different from the Dhruva-stuti of BhāgavataPurāṇa.

Having spent a long time in the Lord’s commemoration, he even forgot the objective of his tapasyā, and only asked for a life in memory of the Lord. Pleased by his tapasyā and by his stuti, Viṣṇu granted his wish and further decreed that the child would attain Dhruvapada – the state where he would become a celestial body which would not even be touched by the mahā-pralaya. Dhruva returned to his kingdom. Now he was warmly received by his family. He attained the crown at the age of six and ruled his kingdom for many decades in a fair manner. Today people highlight any fix position or firm decision, saying it as ‘dhruva.

 Prahlāda

Prahlāda, a young boy is known in the Purāṇas for his firm devotion towards Lord Viṣṇu. Demon king, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa was his father who had commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But his son, Prahlāda refused to worship his father and became an ardent devotee of Lord Nārāyaṇa. Hiraṇyakaṥyapa tried several ways to kill his son Prahlāda but Lord Viṣṇu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holikā to enter a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. For, Hiraṇyakaṥyapa knew that Holikā had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire untouched. Holikā took her seat in a blazing fire with Prahlāda in her lap. Holikā was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Prahlāda, who kept chanting the name of Lord Narāyaṇa, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.

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(Source of Image : http://www.padhokhelo.com)

Prahlāda was finally saved by Lord Narasiṁha (half-man half-lion), a prominent avatāra of Viṣṇu who killed his wicked father too. After the death of Hiraṇyakaṥyapa, Prahlāda took his father’s kingdom and ruled peacefully and virtuously. He was known for his generosity, kindness, determination and faith in God. In the story, we see that God saved his devotees and punished the evil. Therefore, Prahlāda is regarded as a symbol of goodness and divine faith.

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

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Children in Vedas

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

Great seers, thinkers, warriors, visionaries graced India from the very beginning. It can be assumed that they were bright from their childhood. It is true that narration of bright children is not done separately in abundance, but undoubtedly ancient Vedic literature is not without their mention.

Nachiketā

There is an inspirational story in the Kaṭha Upaniṣad about a little boy named Nachiketā. He was the son of Vājaśravā Uddālaka Ṛṣi who once organized a great sacrifice ‘yajn᷈a’ called ‘Sarvamedha’ to please the deities for accumulating good deeds. He announced that after the sacrifice, he would be donating the bulk of his wealth including cattle to learned Brāhmaṇas as dakṣiṇā. The sacrifice was duly performed, but when time came for the donation, Vājaśravā kept some healthy cattle for himself and his son; and in place of them tried to donate those that were old, infirm and yielded no milk. Nachiketā was observing this. He got disturbed to see the unholy act of his father. He realized that these gifts would have the opposite effect on his future goal. Being adolescent son, he was not able to stop him. So he asked his father with the intention to remind him the law of complete and pure charity. He said, “O Father! To whom you would gift me in charity?” This made Ṛṣi very angry, but he decided not to say anything. When Naciketā repeated the question thrice, Uddālaka lost his temper and said, “I give you to Yama, the Lord of Death.” Yama is the king of death and resides in yamapurī. Hearing this, Nachiketā went to Yama’s kingdom. He decided to obey his father’s command.  He firmly said to himself, ‘I should fulfill my father’s wish, even if it means leaving my home’. When Ṛṣi realized his mistake and tried to stop Naciketā, he did not stop. He reached Yama’s kingdom and was told by Yama’s guards that he had gone out for three days. Naciketā decided to wait at his doorstep till he returned. He waited for three days without food, water and shelter. When Yama returned and saw little Naciketā at his doorstep, he felt sorry for keeping a Brāhmaṇa boy waiting without any welcome or rest. Not welcoming a guest means just like committing a sin in Indian tradition.Yama was very pleased with the clear thinking and honesty of the young boy. He served Nachiketā with all honour and food, but even then he was not completely satisfied, so he said, “Dear child, I have offended you by keeping you waiting for three days. To wash my sin, I request you to ask for three boons.

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Naciketā declared, “My first wish is, when I return home, may my father welcome me lovingly. My second wish is to get that knowledge by which I can be worthy of living in the heaven. My third and last wish is to achieve Atmajn᷈ānam- knowledge of the ātman from you.” Yama granted the first two boons immediately and tried to convince Naciketā to give up his third desire for higher knowledge. Instead of that, he offered him long life, gold, pearls, coins, horses, elephants and even the happiness of Swarga – heaven.  “No, I do not wish for anything else,” replied Naciketā firmly. He described all worldly objects as perishable until Lord of Death is the ruler. Finally, Yama granted him the third boon too, and the courageous boy was enlightened with the knowledge of the ātman. Naciketā came to know about the soul, life and death in his early age. Finally, he went back to his father’s house and imparted the knowledge, he obtained from Yama, to many disciples.

Naciketā as a brightest child of Vedic era inspires us to be kind to all creatures, to respect parents, to be strong-willed, to cross all obstacles with firm determination, to avoid worldly temptations, and to strive for eternal happiness.

 Satyakāma

Satyakāma Jābāla is mentioned in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad. Satyakāma in his childhood used to live in a small hut with his mother Jābālā. He had a strong wish to study, so, he desired to go out in search of a teacher ‘guru’ who would guide him in the path of self-realization, to achieve the goal of mystic life. He enquired about his Gotra from his mother. In fact he wanted to know the name of his father as in those days generally teachers accepted students only after knowing their family’s introduction.

So upon learning about her son’s wish to study, Jābālā told him, “O my Son! I don’t know your family name. I used to work earlier in many houses of different persons. I don’t know when I got pregnant. When asked by the Guru, tell him what I have told you”. Later Satyakāma left with her mother’s blessings. He reached to the āśrama of sage Gautama and requested him to make him his pupil. On seeing the boy, Ṛṣi Gautama asked him,Before I make you my pupil, I need to know about your family.” Satyakāma had no idea about his family except his mother. He said, “I asked it to my mother. She said: ‘Child, when you were born, I used to be very busy serving guests. I had no idea about your father. My name is Jābālā and your’s is Satyakāma. So call yourself Satyakāma Jābāla.” On hearing it, the Ṛṣi said with smile, “I admire you for saying the truth. I am sure you must be born of a noble gotra. I shall accept you as my student. Go and get me some samidhā. I shall initiate you in brahmacharya”. He then initiated him in meditation to calm down his mind and to experience his inner self which was like the vast ocean.The sage was pleased with his love for truth.

One day Gautama told him that before he could teach him, Satyakāma should take the herd of 400 weak cows of the āśrama and return only when it had multiplied to 1000. After that Gautama would impart him higher knowledge. Without uttering a single word, Satyakāma left with the cows. He took them to the forest. Satyakāma built an āśrama for himself in the forest and looked after the cows with loving care. All the time he carefully practiced the duties of a brahmacharī. He was no longer lonely and became friends with nature; every living creature became part of his family.

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After many years, the herd grew to 1000. Every cow was strong and healthy. It was time for Satyakāma to return to Gautama’s āśrama. All the gods and deities were happy with Satyakāma’s obedience and dedication to his guru. Along the way, he was blessed with knowledge by fire, a bull, a swan and a Sun bird. Now enlightened, Satyakāma reached the āśrama. Gautama saw the glow of enlightenment on his face. He was also very happy that Satyakāma had looked after the cows very well. He then accepted Satyakāma as his pupil and blessed him with Brahmavidyā. Guru said, “Brahmaivedamsarvam’ (Brahman is in everything). Brahman is realized by knowing yourself, at everywhere, in everything, and in every being. You are eternal and radiant because he is in you. This is Brahma-vidyā”. Satyakāma is regarded as an ideal of truth, dedication, obedience and true service to the guru in Vedic traditions.

Thus, Vedic ideals should be implanted in the early age to get strong foundation of character and intelligence for all human beings.

 

 

 

 

How to Integrate the Ancient Educational System with the Modern Educational System

– Dr. Raj Kumar, Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA.

The most important aspect of the ancient educational system was the “teacher” or “Guru”. The role and definition of Guru in ancient days was different from modern day spiritual Guru. The Guru was one who not only imparted his experimental and theoretical knowledge to his students; he was also responsible for spiritual and astral development of his students. Place of “Guru” is higher than God in ancient texts. According to Advyatarka Upaniśad (16th Verse) the definition of guru is as follows:

गुशब्दस्त्वन्धकारःस्यात्‌  रुशब्दस्तन्निरोधकः।
अन्धकारनिरोधित्वात्‌गुरुरित्यभिधीयते॥

Guśabdastvandhakāraḥ syāt ruśabdastannirodhakaḥ

Andhakāranirodhitvāt gururityabhidhῑyate।।

 Meaning: ‘Guru’ word is a mixture of two syllables – “Gu” means ignorance (andhakar or dark) and “Ru” (nirodh, or to remove) means to dispel or to restrict or to obstruct. The guru is seen as the one who “dispels the darkness of ignorance”. One must have faith in his Guru. No one can get happiness or achievements without having faith in his Guru. Ramcharitmānas also put “Guru” as a person who holds high esteem.

Guru ke vacana pratῑti na jehῑ  Sapanehu sugama na sukha sidhi tehῑ

māta pitā guru prabhu ke vāṇῑ  vinahi vichār kariha subh jāṇῑ।।

(Bālakānda)

Ancient Indian education is also to be understood as being ultimately the outcome of the Indian theory of knowledge as part of the corresponding scheme of life and values. Moral education was a perennial aim of Vedic education. The principles of Vedic education have been a source of inspiration to all the educational system of the world.

The modern education system in India is established by British, primarily introduced by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1830s, and later by Wood’s Magna Carta of Indian education in 1854. Teaching was confined to the class rooms and connection with the nature was broken, and also the close relationship between student and teacher was lost. Modern education is based on western system of text books and examination. There are primarily two motives of introducing textbooks culture in India; a) to stop producing new knowledge and make students think that they are mere consumers of the knowledge which the textbook writer wants to convey, b) reducing teacher’s authority on knowledge. Teachers lost the right of deciding what to teach and how to teach. They also follow the matter given in a text books. Examination was introduced to our education system so that students are limited to learn only those things which are supposed to be covered in the exam, not the complete things. This practice eventually narrows the area of knowledge. To pass exam students just memorize the content, without understanding, just to clear the exam.

National leaders, social reformers, and educated people alarmed by the erosion of educational system which also leads to the erosion of Indian culture. Organizations like Brahma Samaj (Raja Ram Mohan Roy), Prarthana Samaj (Atmaram Panduranga), Arya Samaj (Swami Dayanand), and Ram Krishna Mission (Swami Vivekanand), interpreted rationally and advised people to remain firmly rooted to the Indian culture and not get swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. Swami Vivekanand said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its centre, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, nation dies.

At present, we have lost the root of morality in modern education. There is no sense of discipline, behavior is irresponsible, less decision making ability and too much influence of materialistic mode of life among the students and teachers of our time. Alienation of modern generations from their roots and culture alarmed Gandhiji and he said, “My real education began after I had forgotten all that I had learned at school”. There is no doubt that modern education has given to India the key to the treasures of scientific and modern democratic thought. It is the west that has led the world in advancement in technology and science. It also opened the doors for liberal and rational thinking. It widened the mental horizons of the Indian intelligentsia during last two centuries. But somehow it got derailed and makes mind just a store-house of knowledge and discourage creative thinking. For building an ideal education system for today, we need an amalgamation of eastern culture and western methods which promotes liberal thinking and advancement in science and technology for the future.

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Although there is wide gap of education between ancient Indian education and modern education system, there is enough room where both can be integrated in theory and practice. Some prime elements are as follows: a) more preference should be given to character, truth, non-violence, spiritualism rather than wealth and materialism. b) The sense of discipline and cordial relation between teacher and students. For this, the teacher should enforce fair practices, presenting themselves as a respectful, create a culture of integrity in their classrooms, and show genuine interests in their students. Students should impart discipline, preservance, honesty, and good social values. c) Manan (meditation) and Nididhyananna (realization) techinques should be imparted in education to helps student in self motivation and concentration. d) “Simple living and High Thinking” should be the motive of student life. e) Education should be given to make student self sufficient. Education should include project based natural learning, individual and group accountability, challenging environment, collaborative learning, critical thinking, communication and research skills. After education students should be able to lead a sustainable life and encourage their neighbourhood and friends to have the same. f) Education system should be such that it not only preserves but spreads the culture, which should be amalgamation of social practices, traditional beliefs, and daily activities (should not include karamkānda or superstitious beliefs and traditions). g) It should infuse a sense of responsibility and social values. And h) the teacher should encourage self motivation in their students to inculcate responsibility and focus towards getting true knowledge, not to just become literate.

The ultimate aim of education should not be to fulfill the desires of life in the world, but for complete realization of self to achieve complete liberation, and Vedic education trained students to be truthful. It is important to remember that those who pursue the path of truth are never defeated.

सत्यमेवजयतेनानृतं सत्येनपन्थाविततोदेवयानः।
येनाक्रमन्त्यृषयोह्याप्तकामा यत्रतत्सत्यस्यपरमंनिधानम्॥

Satyameva jayate nānṛtaṁ Satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ

yenākramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam।।  

(Mundaka Upaniśad 3-1-6 )

‘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.

Rediscovering Indian Culture : The Imperatives of Progress

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.

Another key factor which has to be kept in mind is that culture, like any other human organism, is also capable of evolution and progress. The cultural vision of a nation can undergo expansion and enlargement, constantly enriched by new insights from the succeeding generations of seers, prophets and thinkers from within itself or from a cross-cultural fertilization. This fact applies not only to art, science, philosophy and literature but also to religion and spirituality.

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Spiritual experience and spiritual thought are also capable of progressive evolution in the form of new discoveries and revelations in the realm of the Spirit and new forms of creative self-expression and synthesis in spiritual thought. So the spiritual intuitions, revelations and discoveries of our modern seers like Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Swami Vivekananda are also as much a part of our priceless cultural heritage as the revelations of our past seers. This is something which the orthodox exponent of Indian culture still refuses to acknowledge. He is ready to accept a new spiritual teaching if it does not cross the boundaries of the ancient teaching. He is also ready to accept innovations within these boundaries. But when the new revelations go beyond the ancient revelations and enter into unexplored vistas of the Spirit, he becomes suspicious and protests and complains. But is it wise to set such limits to the possibilities of the spiritual quest which is a quest for the Infinite? As Sri Aurobindo points out in one of his letters:

“Truly, this shocked reverence for the past is a wonderful and fearful thing! After all the Divine is infinite and the unrolling of the Truth may be an infinite process . . . not a thing in a nutshell cracked and its contents exhausted once for all by the first seer or sage, while the others must religiously crack the nutshell all over again, each tremblingly fearful not to give the lie to the ‘past’ seers and sages (Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL), Vol. 26, On Himself, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, p.135).

Swami Vivekananda also said something similar in one of his lectures:

“Is God’s book closed? Or is it still a continuous revelation going on? The Bible, the Vedas, the Quran and all other sacred books are but so many pages, and an infinite number of pages remain yet to be unfolded.  I would leave it open for all of them. We stand in the present but open ourselves to the infinite future. We take in all that has been in the past; enjoy the light of the present and open every window of the heart for all that will come in the future. Salutations to all the prophets of the past, great ones of the present and to all that are to come in the future (Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 2, Adwaita, Ashrama, Mayavathi, p. 374).

The above inspiring words of Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda reveal the right attitude in dealing with the past and future of Indian Culture. Spirituality is the essence of our national genius: it is the “distinctive compe­tence” of our nation and the source of our national vitality. If the vitality of Western culture lies in its creative and progressive endeavour in secular sciences and the application of science to social progress, the vitality of Indian culture and civilization lies in its creative and progressive endeavour in spiritual science, thought and practice. The future of Indian civilization and culture depends on maintaining this creative and progressive attitude to our unique national genius and harnessing its potential for the progress and development of our own nation and humanity as a whole.

Rediscovering Indian Culture : The Universal, Temporal and The Specific

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.

There are two aspects of Indian culture which we have to study carefully and understand thoroughly in order to harness fully its creative potential: first is the element of universality in its essential insights which gives it a global validity, and second is the element of uniqueness of its essential temperament and genius which distinguishes it from other cultures and is therefore of special importance to India. The founders of Indian culture were not ordinary people or mere intellectual thinkers but spiritual seers, Rishis, who lived in constant communion with a universal and eternal consciousness beyond Mind and observed and knew from it the deepest truth of Man, Life and Nature. They tried to build human society on the foundations of some universal spiritual and psychological principles which govern human life in the individual and the collectivity. The values and ideals of Indian culture are based on and evolved from these deeper spiritual discoveries of our Rishis.

But the orthodox exponent of Indian culture asks us to accept this fact on the basis of a blind belief in the greatness of our ancient Rishis and wants to revive the old ideals and values as they were without any remoulding and modification. Such a static and inert approach to Indian culture can never be progressive and creative. If the insights of our ancient Rishis are to be brought back to life and made creative for the present, they have to become our own insights. We have to rediscover them through spiritual experience, vision, intuition or reasoning and make them our own. And if these insights have to become live and creative for shaping the future, we have to re-examine their applica­bility to the contemporary and emerging society.

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The insights of our ancient Rishis may have a universal and eternal relevance, but the way and the form in which they were applied or expressed in ancient Indian society have only a limited and temporary validity. The master­-builders of Indian culture may have seen the truth of things in its essence and wholeness, but the evolutionary condition or consciousness of the society in which they lived may not have been ready or prepared to receive, express and manifest the entire truth they had experienced. That the Vedic sages were well aware of this fact is clear from their description of humanity as a year-old infant. They might have revealed only that much of truth which the infant humanity of their times was able to assimilate and express. So there could be a considerable dilution of the original insights of the Rishis when these insights took a final form in society―a partial step down from the spiritual truth experienced by the seer to the truth revealed or sought to be realised in society; then there was further dilution in the mental ideal through which it was expressed in thought; and again a still further degeneration in the process of practical compromises which the ideal had to make in order to acquire a vital or material form in society. So one of the first tasks in revitalising Indian Culture is to recover the original spiritual and psychological insights behind its past ideals and forms and re-examine their relevance and applicability to the present society. The other task is to examine how best these insights can be re-applied to the progress and evolution of modern society by giving them new and greater forms of self-expression suited to the present evolutionary conditions of humanity.

The other aspect of Indian culture is its uniqueness, its special temperament and genius which distinguishes it from other cultures. The main features of this uniqueness are an inborn spirituality and passion for the Infinite,  a scientific and pragmatic turn of mind in the field of religion and psychology―or, in other words, in the field of spiritual and psychological self-exploration and self­-development,―its tendency to create the exterior from within; its primary stress on inner progress; its repeated emphasis on renunciation and sacrifice as the means for this inner progress; and finally, the great respect it has for the spiritual person who has attained inner realisation. There are many others, but these are the major features of the special temperament and genius of Indian culture.  We have to understand deeply and with clarity these different aspects of our national temperament and genius; make them the basis of our motivational strategies and try to manifest them in every area of our national life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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