Indian Festivals based on the Concept of Yajña (Part-II)

Continued from Part-I

-Sh. Anand Gaikwad

Festivals based on the concept of Yajñā during Aświn and Kārtik :

Sh. Anand Gaikwad along with his wife performing Yajñā

Durgā Pūjā/ Navrātrī: During Durgā Pūjā, Mā Durgā i.e. Ādi Śakti is worshipped. Mā Durgā is worshipped in different forms starting with Śailputrī Devī on first day. The second day is Brahmachāriṇī Pūjā and subsequently Chandraghaṇṭā is worshipped for peace, tranquility and prosperity, Kuśmānḍā for cosmic energy, Skandamātā as a relationship between mother and son. She is also called as Padmāsīnī since she is seated on lotus flower. On day six she is worshipped as Kātyāyīnī, on seventh day as Kalvatri or Mā Kāli and on eighth day as Māhā Gourī the eighth form of Māhā Durgā.Durgā Saptaśati Japas and Havans are performed for “Nav Cadī”, “Śat CadiYajña. Durgā Pūjā is not considered complete without the performance of Havans. In these havans samidhās of Yajña-Vṛkśās are used and different types of havan samugrī are also used which is prepared from aromatic and medicinal herbs.

Daśherā: This day is celebrated as Vijayā Daśamī i.e. success of good over evil. It is considered as a very auspicious day as per Hindu calendar therefore new possessions are acquired. Some Naimittika Yajñas are performed for material well being, health, wealth, peace and prosperity. In agriculture sector, sugar factories worship and start boilers on this day for subsequent starting of new crushing season. This practice is prevalent in Maharashtra, which produces about 35% to 40% of the total sugar produced in the country.

Dīpāvalī:  Festival of lights celebrated by Indians all over the world. The first day of Dīpāvalī is called Vasubaras when, “Savatsā Dhenu“ i.e. lactating cow with young calf  or  entire cow family is worshipped. During ancient times the wealth and prosperity were measured in terms of or judged on the basis of number of cows one possessed. Therefore, ‘Godhan’ was first worshipped before worshipping any other type of ‘Dhan’. For establishing divine relationship and complete integrity with our Homa Farm and Family, we have started performing Havans on Rigveda 10.169, Atharvaveda 4.21 & 3.14 as a part of cow pūjā on Vasubaras day at our farm. Although no specific types of Yajñas are performed during Dīpāvalī days, the houses and surrounding premises are decorated with flowers, mango/ banana leaves, electrical lamps and oil/ ghee lamps are lit to celebrate it as a festival of lights. On Lakṣmī Pūjā Day and Kārtik Pratipadā, flowers, sweets and preparations made from new harvests, dryfruits etc. are offered to the deities as a part of pūjā.

Sh. Anand Gaikwad while worshiping cow

Sankrama Kāl Festivals: This is a transition period when the Sun starts entering Uttarāyaa and Sankrama. Festivals based on the concept of Yajña are celebrated throughout the country under different names.

Māgh Bihu and Meji Fires: Māgh bihu is celebrated in Assam during January to mark the end of harvesting season. It is a thanks-giving celebration to the nature’s bounty as the granaries are full after harvesting the first new crops of the year. On or before the day of Sankrāntī Bellaghars and Mejis are prepared by menfolk with Bamboo sticks and other wood / grass material. Beautiful make-shift cottages in the form of Bellaghars are prepared.People stay overnight in these Bellaghars, enjoys feasts and next day the Bellaghars are lit. The ashes are spread in the fields, rivers and trees for improving soil health and bringing luck for better harvesting next season. On the day of Sankrāntī people gather together in their fields at very early hours and do Meji fires. Meji fire is a ritual in which Agni is worshipped. All the offerings are placed in front of Meji and one of the elders of the community does the honour of lighting up the Meji. A thick cloud of smoke covers the area and the crackling sound of burning bamboos is heard. While the sacred Meji fires burn, people greet each other and enjoy the feasts. Womenfolk distribute the offerings placed before Meji fires as Prasādam.

Lohri: Every year on the previous day of Makar Sankrāntī in Punjab, Haryana and north-western region, the harvesting festival celebrated is known as “Lohri”. This commemorates the passing off of winter solistice and Lohri represents the largest night before the end of winter solistice followed by the shortest day of the year in Māgh as per Hindu calendar. Although Punjab is known for production of wheat, this festival is related to the sugarcane harvesting after the crop reaches the maturity. Sugarcane products such as jaggery and gachak are essential for Lohri along with groundnuts which are also harvested in the season. Traditionally people eat chikki, gajak, sarso dā sāg, makkai de roti, raddish, groundnuts and jaggery during the festival. Lohri celebrates fertility and joy of life. Harvested fields and farmyards are the central attraction. The farmyards are lit up with lights and bonfires. Folk dances are a part of the festival such as men perform Bhāngara whereas women perform graceful Giddā dance. People circle around the bonfires and offer sugarcane, puffed rice, popcorn etc. while performing folk dances with songs and prayers to Agni. The prayers to Agni Devatā are for his blessings for prosperity and fertility of land. The fire signifies the spark of life and prayers are said for goodwill and abundant crops. They also shout, “Ādar Āye Dilather Jāye” i.e.” Let the wealth, prosperity, honour come and poverty vanish.”

Pongal: Pongal is celebrated as a harvesting festival with glory in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka and by Tamilians. This harvesting festival is dedicated to Sun God. In Tamilnadu it is a four-day festival called “Thai Pongal” usually celebrated every year from 14th to 17th January. It corresponds with Makar Sankrāntī which is celebrated throughout India. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation and gratitude to Sun God for bountiful crops and their successful harvesting. Part of the celebration is boiling of the first rice of the season as an offering to Sun God i.e. “Sūrya Mangalam”. The four day Pongal celebrations are Bhogi, Thai, Maatu and Kannuml. On “Bhogi” day, people discard old belongings and celebrate new possessions. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look and the farmers keep medicinal herbs, neem leaves etc in the north-east corner of each field to prevent crops from diseases and pests.

The main event, “Thai Pongal” takes place on the second day of four day celebrations. On this day, milk is cooked in a vessel and when it starts bubbling and overflowing, freshly harvested rice is added and cooked, as an offering to Sun God. The day marks the start of Uttarāyaṇa i.e. when the Sun enters the 10th house of Indian Zodiac viz. Makar or Capricorn. “Maatu Pongal” is celebrated to recognize and appreciate the cattle for providing dairy products to human beings and fertilizers, labour and transportation for agricultural operations. Cows, buffaloes, oxen are bathed, decorated and fed with mixture of Pongal, jaggery, honey, banana and other fruits. “Kannum Pongal”, the fourth day of the festival marks the end of Pongal. The word ‘Kannum’ in this context means ‘visit’. Many families hold reunions. Villagers visit relatives and friends while in the cities people gather on beaches, theme parks and gardens. The exchange of greetings and gifts take place and the joyful atmosphere prevails in all households.

Makar Sankrāntī: The sun’s entry  in Makar Rāshi and starting of Uttarāyaa is celebrated as Makar Sankrāntī or “Sankrama Parva” in Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, while it is celebrated as, ‘Uttarāyaa’ in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated for four days like Pongal in Tamilnadu. The fourth day here is celebrated as “Mukkanuma” for worshipping cattle. Some people also take non-vegetarian dishes on the fourth day while they do not take any non-vegetarian food during first three days of Makar Sankrāntī.

In Maharashtra, Makar Sankrāntī is celebrated not only for three days but as a Sankrama Parva it extends right up to Rathasaptamī, the 7th day of Śuklapaka of Māgh. The previous day of Makar Sankrāntī is called “Bhogi”. On this day, Bājrā rotī of Til (Bread of Pearl Millets with toppings of Sesame Seeds) is prepared and a bold dish of mix-vegetables consisting mainly of green bengal gram, carrots and various types of beans, which are the produce of new crops is prepared. On the day of Makar Sankrāntī a delicacy of “Gul Poli” (rolled Chapatti/Roti with inside stuffings of jaggery and sesame seeds) is prepared and offered in Pūjā.

During the period from Makar Sankrāntī to Rathasaptami (except the third day which is called, ‘Kinkrant’) “Haldi-Kumkum” programmes are organized and celebrated by ladies. People meet their relatives and friends and offer Laddoo made from Sesame Seeds and Jaggery with greetings for auspicious days of Uttarāyaa and for establishing re-unions and good relationships with each other. On Rathasaptami day Sun god is worshipped in the form of “Sun riding the Chariot of Seven Horses”. On this day milk is boiled in small earthen pots and allowed to overflow as an offering to Sun God. Thus, Makar Sankrāntī with extended period up to Rathsaptami is the largest festival celebrated during Sankrama Parva, while the Sun enters the Makar Rāshi.

In all these festivals the concept of Yajña is deeply rooted. The basic principle is expression of appreciation and gratitude to the nature, nature-spirits and deities for their benevolence and bounty. Sacrifice of something given by nature (Idam na mam!) for ‘Samaṣṭī Kalyān’ and ‘Mānav Kalyān’. The elements of, ‘competition’, ‘Brand building’ or ‘Conflict with Nature and others’; which are the basis of Western Approach to Agriculture or any Business activity , is totally absent here . On the contrary the concept of, ‘Sacrifice for Samddhī‘; i.e. overall prosperity, peace and happiness is very much ingrained in these festivals. Prayers for Bounty or Samddhī to Agni or Sun God are for the purpose of ‘plenty for all and sharing with all’. The concept of Yajñā in these festivals makes the fundamental difference in the Cultures.

to be continued….

Sh. Anand GaikwadKrishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary

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Indian Festivals based on the Concept of Yajña (Part -I)

Sh. Anand Gaikwad

Introduction

While I was studying Varāh Mihir’s “Brihat Samhitā” and participating in the exercise of validation of his Rain conception and Rain Delivery (RCRD) theory for Monsoon -2016; the basis of Yajña concept being incorporated in some of the Indian Festivals came to my mind as a realisation. I have been thinking about it ever since the publication of the report about this validation exercise in Asian Agri-History Journal 2018 Vol.22 (2), the International Quarterly Journal of Asian Agri- History Foundation. My association with late Ashwamedhayaji Shri Nanaji Kale for  validation of Suvrushti  Project and RCRD Theory for Monsoon 2016, was a wonderful experience for me; particularly for understanding the greatness of our Ṛśis in theorizing their observations  of nature, environment, atmospheric order and the  Cosmological  System consisting of Sun, Moon, Planets and Nakṣatras. One marvels at the wisdom and expertise in interweaving these theories in social and cultural life for the common benefit of mankind.

All of us are familiar with the Indian Monsoon. The word Monsoon has its origin in Arabic word, ‘Mausam’ which means ‘season’. The word which was originally referred to wind reversals in the Arabian sea, has come to mean the whole range of the phenomena associated with the annual weather cycles in tropical and sub-tropical Asia, Australia and Africa. Therefore, the study of Monsoon weather patterns is of great importance for every Indian farmer, every student of Environmental Science and for that matter every Indian citizen, because Monsoon is the life-line of India. According to world climate patterns and regional geography of Asia and India, Monsoon climate patterns are characterized by large scale seasonal reversals of winds, giving very distinct seasons, ’Summer’ and ‘Winter’. In summer moist air is carried northwards from the Indian Ocean over the Indian sub-continent bringing rains. In winter, cool dry weather is carried southwards. Thus, the year gets divided into wet and dry seasons. In addition a short North-East Monsoon affects the south-east coastal states of India due to winds bringing moisture from Bay of Bengal. The Summer Monsoon arrives in southern India in late May or early June and gradually advances northwards and westwards reaching Jammu-Kashmir, Pakistan by early July. It begins to retreat from north western regions and Pakistan by September and withdraws from south India by November. This pattern of advancement and withdrawal gives Indian sub-continent its characteristic seasonal rainfall pattern which is called Indian Monsoon.

Our great Ṛśis and seers during Vedic Period and Post Vedic Period had studied these weather patterns and encapsulated their findings in scriptures like , “ Brihat Samhitā“ of  Varāh Mihir, “Arthaśastra“ of Kautilya  and “Kṛśi Parashar“ of  Parashar. In addition to these examples of the Science of Rainfall Prediction and Rain Conception Signals, there are many ancient texts of Astrometerology of Vedic traditions like –Parashar Samhitā, Garg Samhitā, Kashyap Samhitā, Maghmala Samhitā, Narad Samhitā etc. which have been mentioned in the reports/ books published by Shri Yogiraj Ved Vidnyan Aśram, Barshi, Dist. Solapur Maharashtra, (Vedaśram) founded by late Ashwamedhayaji Shri Nanaji Kale mentioned above. Vedaśram carried out various experiments of, Suvrushti Projects and Validation of Varāh Mihir’s RCRD Theory by performing Somyāgas, Parjanya Yāgas for establishing scientifically the relationship between Yajñas, Agriculture, Environment and Rainfall.

Varāh Mihir’s Theory of Rain Conception and Rain Delivery ( RCRD):

Varāh Mihir in his, “Brihat Samhitā” gives his theory of Vṛśṭi Garbhadhārana (Rain conception) and Vṛśṭi Prasav (Rain delivery). Chapters 21 to 28 of this book are devoted to this subject-matter. Before laying down his theory, Varāh Mihir explains the importance of the knowledge of Rainfall Prediction, Rain Conception Signals and Rain Delivery at the beginning of chapter 21 entitled “Garbh Lakṣaṇam” (Pregnancy of clouds) in the first verse as follows:

अन्नम् जगत: प्राणा: प्रावृट्कालस्य चान्नमायत्तम् |

यस्मादत: परीक्ष्य: प्रावृट्काल: प्रयत्नेन् ||१||

Annam Jagataḥ Prāṇāḥ Prāvṛṭkālasya Chānnamāyattam  I

Yasmādataḥ Parīkṣyaḥ Prāvṛṭkālaḥ Prayatnen  II1II

It means that as the food is life-giving and life-sustaining force to all living beings and the food is dependent on rainfall (Monsoon) it should be observed, investigated and studied carefully. In India only 35% of the cultivated land is an irrigated land, which means that almost 65% is rain-fed area, which is entirely dependent upon Monsoon. Hence farmer’s knowledge about Rain Conception Signals and Rainfall Prediction is of great significance.

केजिद्वदन्ती कार्तिक शुक्लान्तमतीत्य गर्भदिवसा: स्यु: |

न च तन्मतं बहुनां गर्गादीनां मतं वक्ष्ये II II

Kejidvadantī Kārtika Śuklāntamatītya Garbhadivasāḥ Syuḥ  I

Na Cha Tanmataṁ Bahunāṁ Gargādināṁ  Mataṁ Vakṣye II5II

Thus, some sages say that the days of pregnancy of clouds begins after the full moon of Kārtika month but the opinion is not shared by the majority. Therefore he further says:

मार्गशिर: सितपक्षप्रतिपत्प्रभृति क्षपाकरेआषाढाम् |

पूर्वा वा समुपगते गर्भाणां लक्षणं ज्ञेयम् ||||

Mārgśiraḥ Sitpakṣapratipatbhṛti Kṣapākareāṣāḍhām I

Pūrvā Vā Samupagate Garbhāṇāṁ Lakṣaṇaṁ Jñeyam II 6 II

The symptoms of pregnancy of clouds are to be detected / observed when Moon transits Purvāśāḍha asterism commencing from the first day of Mārgaśirsya. Varāh Mihir’s prime RCRD Theory is stated in verse 7 :

यन्नक्षत्रमुपगते गर्भश्चंद्रे भावेत्स चन्द्रवशात् |

पन्चनवते दिनशते तत्रैव प्रसवमायाति || ||  

Yannakṣatramupagate Garbhaśchandre Bhāvetsa Chandravaśāt I

Panchanavate Dinśate Tatraiva Prasavmāyāti  II7II

The rain-foetus formed during the Moon stay in a particular asterism (Nakṣatra) will be born 195 days (192 calendar days  + or – one day ) later at the time when the Moon will be again in the same asterism according to the laws of her revolution (Moon Cycle). Thus, the RCRD Theory of Varāh Mihir in simple words is that rain conception takes place during dry period (Mārgaśir to Chaitra).The rain conception signals can be observed from the first day of Mārgaśir till Chaitra Māsa. The rain-foetus conceived during this period will give rain delivery after the gestation period of 195 days (approx. six and half months later) at the time of same asterism when the foetus was conceived. The various rain conception signals to be observed are given in other verses and depending on the rain conception signals observed the rain delivery after the gestation period of 195 days  can be predicted . One can prepare a local calendar of rainfall prediction and validate the same with actual rainfall on those days. A farmer can plan his agricultural operations based on this local Agro-climatic calendar.

The relationship of Yajña with Agriculture and Environment :

When one reads the RCRD Theory of Varāh Mihir along with the gospel truth given in Bhagavadagītā Chapter 3 Śloka 14:

अन्नाद् भवन्ति भूतानि पर्ज्यन्यात् अन्नसंभव: |

यज्ञात् भवन्ति भूतानि पर्ज्यन्या: यज्ञ: कर्मसमुद्भव: ||३.१४|| 

Annād bhavanti bhutāni parjanyāt Annasambhavaḥ I

Yajñāt Bhavanti Bhutāni Parjyanyāḥ Yajñaḥ Karmasamudbhavaḥ  II3.14 II

One leads to logical conclusion that Yajñas be performed during the dry period to facilitate rain conception and rain-foetus nourishment during the gestation period. This very concept has been incorporated in our festivals which are based on Yajña/ Havans starting from Durgā Navrātri in Aświn to Rāma Navmī in Chaitra and Akaya-Ttīyā in Vaiśākha. The deities worshipped are Ādi Śakti, Puruśa, Śiva, Agnī and Surya and the offerings are preparations of cereals and pulses of newly harvested crops. Our Ṛśis have interwoven these festivals which are based on ’Suryōpasana’ and ‘Agniupasana’ in our cultural system for celebration / participation by masses.

(to be continued…..)

Sh. Anand GaikwadKrishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary

Can we improve Indian education by using technology and going back to tradition?

Rajeev Srinivasan

Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan, IIM Bangalore

Education everywhere is going through trying times. India’s education system has demonstrated particularly poor learning outcomes in primary (India ranked 43rd out of 45th in the last PISA test it took part in. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a standard global test for 15 year olds. In 2013, India debuted, and ranked so close to the bottom of the rankings that it withdrew from the PISA study thereafter. In contrast, China, another debutant in 2013, zoomed right to the top position. In regards to university education, there has not been a single globally lauded invention or discovery from India since 1947.) and tertiary (Dr. Gangan Prathap, a former VC, in 2017: “India has a presence in fifteen of twenty-two subject areas in which there at least 50 institutes globally that have published more than 500 papers. It has no institution which can be counted at this level of size and excellence in seven areas: Arts & Humanities; Business, Management and Accounting; Health Professions; Neuroscience; Nursing; Psychology; and Social Sciences. India’s research base is completely skewed towards the Physical Sciences and Engineering with very little for Biological Sciences and Medicine and virtually none in Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities when excellence at the highest level is considered. Its performance is also bench marked against three nations, namely Australia, the Netherlands and Taiwan which are of similar size in terms of GDP and scientific output… It is seen that although India has the highest GDP among the four countries, its performance lags considerably behind due to the very low expenditure on R&D.”) education. In this context, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s statement of April 23rd is noteworthy: “Serious discussions on how to include the ancient Indian traditions in educational system should begin. India has the capability to combine modern education with its ancient traditions to help solve problems in the world”, said the pontiff.

education-technology

(Source of image : https://edexec.co.uk/technology-vs-tradition-creating-the-perfect-learning-environment/)

It is remarkable that technological progress has made it possible to take in elements of traditional systems including gurukulas. What we have used over the last couple of centuries is a system imposed by British imperialists, driven by their needs at the time. That colonial education system was a product of the (First) Industrial Revolution. Their factories required masses of people who were literate, and able to follow instructions. That’s it: no creativity, please.

There is a contrast between this system and what is generally believed to have existed earlier: a broad, humanistic educational system with significant customization as well as practical problem-solving. The emphasis in India has traditionally been in the practical application of theoretical ideas: eg. in the creation of Vedic fire altars with precise mathematical properties.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, and especially the proliferation of computing power and Artificial Intelligence, negates the requirements of the First. We no longer need armies of drone workers toiling away. We need creative individuals.

Furthermore, the nature of work is changing. Earlier, people used to change jobs, but now they change careers, often pursuing three or four in sequence. Besides, the very idea of the lifetime job is looking shaky: we may instead have a ‘gig economy’ where free agent workers come together for a specific task, complete it, and move on. A large number of people may become permanently unemployable, too. The trick for each individual is to avoid that fate through choosing education wisely.

Fortunately, we can now envision truly customized education. A curriculum, lesson plans, tests, and self-paced learning that are appropriate for a specific individual are now possible through the application of AI techniques.

In addition, there is learning material out there, available to all via MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses) and others: Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, TED, Wikipedia, edX, YouTube and also Indian equivalents. Much of the content is free.

There is also the tyranny of English, that is to say that English is considered the sina qua non for a person to be deemed ‘educated’ in India. Even if you are a highly-trained and skilled pundit in traditional knowledge, you will be viewed with derision by English-speakers (Ananda K Coomaraswamy on 1908: “Speak to the ordinary graduate of an Indian University, or a student from Ceylon, of the ideals in the Mahabharata—he will hasten to display his knowledge of Shakespeare; talk to him of religious philosophy—you find that he is an atheist of the crude type common in Europe a generation ago, and that not only has he no religion, but is as lacking in philosophy as the average Englishman; talk of him of Indian music—he will produce a gramophone or a harmonium and inflict upon you one or both; talk to him of Indian dress or jewelry—he will tell you that they are uncivilized and barbaric; talk to him of Indian art—it is news to him that such a thing exists; ask him to translate for you a letter written in his mother-tongue—he does not know it. He is indeed a stranger in his own land.”). There was a time when it was believed that English was an advantage for Indians; now it is apparent that it is stunting the development of independent research, not to mention killing off Indian languages.

Here too, technology can be the savior. For the first time, we can see a future where real-time translation enables people to learn in their mother tongue. If automatic translation becomes routine, then it becomes easy for our mother-tongue-speaking students to understand all the material out there in MOOCs: it will be delivered to them in their mother tongues, thanks to machine learning.

What might be useful in traditional education? The curricula documented by Dharampal as prevailing in pre-colonial India included vyakarana, tarka, ganita, rasa, darsana, arthashastra, and pramana. If you step away from the current STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focus, these subjects would appear to help in the development of fully engaged and innovative  citizens.

Can we move to such a system overnight? Of course not. But the gradual introduction of such subjects into the curriculum will be useful for Indian students to have a competitive advantage in the future.

 

Prof. Rajeev Srinivasan, Adjunct Faculty, Strategy Area, IIM Bangalore

 

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 

 

India: A Concept of Nationhood (Part-II)

Continued from Part-I

Dr. Raj Kumar

The Vedic phase is very significant and influential in the evolution of Indian society. It affects its cultural, socio-economic and social-political tradition. Although, there is a prolonged debate on the Aryan influence on Indian society, nothing conclusive could be presented. Some social activists view Aryans as a native of India, whereas several scholars and academic historians’ opinions are opposite. Whatever the view, Aryans evolved the tribal society to a well-developed civilization. Development of civilization provides the people a cohesive environment for discussion, and the people start looking for the answer of the fundamental questions. Every other civilization of the world meditated upon some fundamental questions for a long time; a) how to live life, b) what is the goal of life, and c) what is the way to find happiness. The idea of India provided a unique path to get the answer to these fundamental questions. As an Indian, our traditional goal of life is a virtue (Dharma), live with success and wealth (Artha), to live with pleasure (Kama), but in the end seek enlightenment (Moksha). Vedic philosophy also discussed several ideas; idea of consciousness, idea of humanity, idea of ethics in social life, idea of spirituality, and more importantly the idea of individuality (for example, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita tells your interpretation of life is different from others, but it doesn’t mean you are wrong or others are wrong. Similarly, Ayurveda treats a person based on their personal traits and habits, instead of using any generalization). These ideas influenced the thought process of the people of the region and shaped the idea of India.

The founding concept of India was not just an abstract idea of a plurality or an idea of a common interest. It is an idea of practical understanding of the compulsion and constraints, yet accommodative, between differing ideas and views. Now, let’s examine the characteristics of India as a nation.

Let’s define nation first. In my view, the best definition is provided by Ernest Renan’s. According to him, “A nation is not formed on the basis of dynasty, language, religion, geography or shared interests. Rather, a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. A spiritual principle is a combination of two things, which in truth are one. One lies in the past i.e. the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories. Other lies in the present, which reflects the desire to live together, and perpetuate the value system and continue the heritage that one has received in an undivided form.” The idea of India exactly fits this definition. So many people of different value system, cultural system, belief system, and interests are coming together to develop an Idea of India. Probably only place in the world where we have preserved the traditions which were practiced thousands of years ago (rich legacy), yet all Indian together try to compete with the modern world (perpetuate the value system and desire to live together). Like any other nation, India also has gone through turbulent times. Even in those turbulent times, instead of hankering for purity, India gave some very powerful ideas to this world….. the idea of accommodation, the idea of incorporation, the idea of inclusion, the idea of embracing, and the idea of mixing without losing the basic character. She sees the moment of mixing as the most creative and imaginative one. She sees the moment of mixing as an opportunity to create the culture of give and take, and ultimately become one. So, the idea of India is not an abstract idea of just cultural pluralism and democracy, it is an idea of amalgamation of different ideas.

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This amalgamation gave diversity to Indian system. Scientifically speaking this process increases the entropy/randomness, which all the thermodynamic systems aspire to. Energy is constant in an entropy-driven process. So, we need to know how to utilize this energy in a useful way. That is why increasing entropy can be advantageous and disadvantageous, too. Advantageous when you know how to utilize this excess entropy and balance the system, and disadvantageous when you don’t know how to control the randomness. I will use an example to simplify the above statement. Protein folding, a biological process, is a very important event when the linear sequence of amino acid organizes different interactions to devise a biologically functional shape. In this process, entropy is decreasing to create a useful structure. While acquiring a biological function from linear sequence, protein has two very important intermediate stages, molten globule and intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). These two states are very flexible (higher randomness) and when needed can acquire a biologically functional state (entropically low structure). In another way, randomness is a necessary requirement but to perform function system needs to be organized. Randomness provides flexibility and fluidity, which is a necessary trait of our existence, and the idea of India already have this naturally.

You must have heard this statement ….. India is a very diverse country and its diversity is an asset. But nobody explains what is the meaning of this statement. Diversity means randomness, which is natural tendencies of anything in this world. It brings freedom; freedom of thought, freedom of action, and freedom of expression. Freedom is not the one-way road, it is a two-way path; one way is freedom, and another concurrent way is responsibility/onus/liability. Diversity in scientific terms is a degree of freedom, more degree of freedom more available options. More options mean more ways of doing things. In other words, different things can be done in a coordinated way to achieve the same goal. Therefore, in this sense diversity of India is an asset, but we need to know how to utilize it, we need to know how and where to direct this diversity, and we need to know how to fulfill our responsibilities and contribute to advancing the idea of India. One successful example of focusing diversity is the United State of America (USA). The USA has accepted people from all over the world, which gave her an asset of diversity. She utilized this diversity very smartly and focused to build a strong nation. India needs to do the same.

Thus, the idea of India is not a hypothetical one, it is a geographically, socially, philosophically, and scientifically proven idea. India’s diversity needs to be crystalized, so that the nation can move forward together in a constructive way. We did this very successfully in the past on several occasions, we need to do it again now to solve our current problems.

We are all pieces of the same puzzle.

References

  1. The Vedic Core of Human History by M. K. Agarwal, 2013.
  2. Indian Foreign Policy: Challenges and Opportunities by Atish Sinha, Madhup Mohta and Foreign Service Institute, 2007.
  3. ArunKumar, G., Soria-Hernanz, D. F., Kavitha, V. J., Arun, V. S., Syama, A., Ashokan, K. S., … The Genographic Consortium. (2012). Population Differentiation of Southern Indian Male Lineages Correlates with Agricultural Expansions Predating the Caste System. PLoS ONE7(11), e50269. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050269.
  4. https://www.ibm.com/solutions/genographic/us/en/geno_story.html

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

A Narration of Experiences of a Wife in Gurukul Life as Per Vedas in Contemporary Times

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– Mrs. Suvrata Vinod

I had been living a life of a modern career woman with a flourishing profession as a management consultant to many MNCs way back in 1990s. I got introduced to spirituality as a tool of Behavioual Science as is prevalent in our society today. I had a traumatic personal life with much confusion about customs and values. Destiny led me to a situation where I could jump to a new challenge of a ‘Life for Yajna’ (यज्ञार्थात् कर्मणोन्यत्र लोकोयं कर्मबन्धनः….Gita 3.9) rather than ‘Spirituality for Material progress’. Suddenly, I found myself learning and practising Vedic Life far removed from our familiar city life. A flood of some latent memories of Achara (Customary practices) came to me and I started understanding Spirituality not as a distant learning but something which I had left incomplete in some previous attempt due to some mischief or loss of patience (पूर्वाभ्यासेन तेनैव ह्रियते ह्यवशोपि सः…..Gita 6.44).

We were staying on the banks of River Narmada in Gujarat at that time. We had an Ashrama away from any village leave aside any town. We started with a purifying performance called ‘सर्वप्रायश्चित्तं’ in the presence of learned Brahmins of all the four Vedas. Our Guruji had taught my Pati our ancestral Shakha called Taittiriya Yajurveda. We now wanted to practise Karma Yoga as the Chosen Path.(लोकेस्मिन् द्विविधा निष्ठा पुरा प्रोक्ता मयानघ। ज्ञानयोगेन सांख्यानां कर्मयोगेन योगिनाम्। Gita 3.3) We decided to undertake a life of Grihastha with mandatory Panch Mahayajnya.(पंच वा एते महायज्ञाः..) Besides, we decided to share our learnings with whomsoever wishes to but in the prescribed fashion.

Two brahmacharins came to us for learning Veda. We had a small piece of land to cultivate and we bought a cow to complete our duties of fire worship etc. Narmada was 150 steps below and we chose not to have electricity, water-supply, road or telephone. We did keep a scooter to do a fortnightly visit to the nearest town Rajpipla.

Surya Argya

(Source of Image : http://gurukul.ashram.org/Home/A-Day-In-Gurukul)

The day starts early in the dark hours of pre-dawn. I would get up even before Acharya and Shishyas. I started with putting on the oil-lamp. Then I would visit the cow-shed to cleanup the cowdung. We will require this cowdung for making round-balls for preserving the household sacred-fire (गृह्याग्नि) incessantly. This practice is prevalent throughout the present day Vedics but I am told that this is just an Apad-dharma or contingency. They say, unknown to many practising Vedics, Vedas have no mention of using cowdung as fuel. [Footnote 1: Anyways, this is what we used till we shifted to Garhwal Himalayas. This part of the story will come in due course. But in short, over there we had an access to abundant dry firewood in the forest and a practise of keeping perpetual fire on logs of wood, without depleting the forest, by judicious cyclic usage.] After cleaning the cowshed, I would throw a bundle of dry fodder or green grass cut the previous evening from the fields to the cow as was the practise in Gujarat and come back to the hermitage. Meanwhile, Acharya would be sitting in the verandah surrounded by yawning young shishyas. They would be doing Pratah-smaranam. I also know the chants by everyday use but I never needed to learn them. प्रातरग्निं प्रातरिन्द्रँ हवामहे। प्रातर्मित्रावरुणा प्रातरश्विना। प्रातर्भगं पूषणं ब्रह्मणस्पतिम्। प्रातः सोममुत रुद्रँ हुवेम। They would be chanting this Sukta after their Apam-upasparshanam, splashing water on the face and sipping. He would ask them to drink cool water kept in the night in copper-vessel. And even I would drink some warm water. We used to go for bowels in woods at a distance and nearby for urination. [Footnote 2: Smritis have a detailed description of this मलनिर्मोचन. We admit that with the ever-shrinking space for human inhabitation, this is almost irrelevant now. But, Acharya tried to practise the prescribed way and he observes that the texts are very careful in maintaining hygiene and also respect the Mother Earth, Wind, Waters, Fire, Directions and Sun, all as Devata. This leads to a very healthy nature-friendly life, though we may find it cumbersome. We may envy their extravagant natural resources, the luxury of wild country-space.] This शौचमाचमनं is going on along with morning class of Veda-Avritti. This used to be hilarious or sometimes painful also for the young ones with all their sleepiness. They would be reciting with the Acharya doing Dhyanam or contemplation. This is the time which gives the best of insights into Past, Present and Future. Acharya would sit peacefully while I would dust the rooms and sprinkle water in the court-yard. I would draw Rangoli unless I am unfit in my natural menstrual cycle. Acharya told me an anecdote of how stupid and arrogant we are as the children of modern age. He once read a shloka ‘वैश्वदेवस्य यः कर्ता तस्य भार्या रजस्वला। भिक्षा तत्र न कर्तव्या यतिना हितमिच्छता।।‘ He construed it to mean: ‘He who is doing Vaishvadeva Homa, means his wife is unfit due to menses and hence Yati should avoid his house for Bhiksha, as it is certainly impure.’ He assumed due to unexposure to real practise that Vaishvadeva is to be done by the person who cooks. So naturally the wife would be ordinarily doing Vaishvadeva everyday. The day she is out, husband would cook and also perform Vaishvadeva. Now, along comes a Yati for Bhiksha and when he sees the husband doing Vaishvadeva, he understands the situation and walks away without having to be told the inside story! The readers are invited to share their interpretation as an exercise-problem to explain the importance of actual exposure to practises to interpret texts faithfully to the intention of the composer. We will answer the correct interpretation in the next issue. Acharya says, his Guruji in Kashi was ammused with this brilliant interpretation which was just false! Ofcourse he was crest-fallen and enlightened simultaneousely when the simple and elegant actual meaning was told by his Guruji.

This Rangoli is different for different clans. It also shows lots of innovations and adaptations. But the idea of fresh and pure household, fit for a ‘Life for Yajnya’ is what is common to all of them. This is our cultural unity in diversity in external form. We will keep sharing these little pieces, if the readers like it.

To be continued….

– Mrs. Suvrata Vinod, Anandavan Bhakta Samudaya, Institute of Advanced Studies in Veda and Science.

Understanding The Tradition of Vedic Recitation (Part-II)

(Continued from Part-I)

-Dr. Soma Basu

1.4. The necessity of oral transmission –

We can see that the tradition of oral transmission from teacher to pupil, from early times to the present day is most important, since it is the only method recognized as authentic and authoritative as far as the preservation of the sacred texts is concerned. The breadth of outlook of the Vedic sages, our ancestors, was truly remarkable. Great care was taken to preserve the proper accentuation of the Vedic texts.

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(Source of Image : https://indroyc.com/2014/11/08/the-tradition-of-vedic-chanting/)

The practice of different modes of recitation or the method of instruction is emphatically necessary for the proper understanding and transmission of any kind of Vedic texts and ritual practices. Some peculiar but very useful devices have been applied from time immemorial, which is now practised even today by following traditional system of education.  Fortunately, a growing interest has been felt in recent years in the study of the Vedic recitation in the traditional manner particularly in some parts of India.

1.5  The importance of the ancillary texts – 

The texts (or lakṣaṇa granthas) which define the characteristics and describe the special features of Vedic texts are generally termed Veda-lakṣaṇa. These ancillary texts, the highly interesting field of traditional Indian learning, are of multifaceted importance. They are of ancillary nature and generally classified under Vedāṅga, a few of them more precisely under the Śikṣā, i.e., the texts on Phonetics or Śikṣā. They relate to the method of instruction and the practice of different modes of recitation, which are most important for a proper understanding and the study of the tradition of Vedic recitation. Such texts are not only interesting from the point of view of the preservation of Vedic texts but are also very instructive for an understanding of the various devices or methods of learning that were exclusively developed for this purpose and also for knowledge of the various aspects of the history of their proper transmission.  A mere performance in the proper way is believed to produce a spiritual effect irrespective of understanding the meaning of the texts recited.

Attempting for preservation of the sacred texts in a strictly oral tradition, not only the words but also their correct articulation led to an inquiry into the production of the sounds of speech. To attain the goal of perfect preservation of the sacred texts, a sound knowledge of pronunciation techniques is required. Towards the end of the Vedic period there were three branches of linguistic study, – phonetics (Śikṣā), etymology (Nirukta) and grammar (Vyākaraṇa), but their oldest systematical works have not survived. Phonetics was the basis for the other two branches namely, Nirukta and Vyākaraṇa. Grammar was linked up with the ritual duties of the priests.

The earliest mention of the Sūtra texts of Phonetics or Śikṣā is found in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad (1.2). They are as old as the Kalpa Sūtras and connected closely with the Saṃhitās of the Vedas, the R̥gveda Prātiśākhya being the oldest textbook of Vedic phonetics. The six chapters of Śikṣā are enumerated there as lessons on letters and their intonation, syllabic measures, i.e., quantity of the syllables and volume, melody and word combination.

1.6. Conclusion

The sources of Indian phonetics, the Śikṣā and Prātiśākhya

The history of the study of Indian grammatical traditions begins with the Śikṣā and Prātiśākhya. They are two main categories that constitute the sources of Indian phonetics. Śikṣā dealing with the science of phonetics of the Vedas occupies a very important position in the Lakṣaṇa for facilitating easy learning and memorization. They contain instructions on pronunciation, intonation, euphonic changes of sounds in word combinations, elongation of vowels etc. The holistic manner of recitation of the Saṃhitās is not itself actual works of grammar still they deal with subjects which belong to grammar. They bear the testimony to the fact that the texts of the Saṃhitās have been preserved without any change throughout all these centuries since the time of the Prātiśākhyas, the oldest being the R̥gveda Prātiśākhya, the most important text book of Vedic phonetics. The Vedic Saṃhitās are the work of phoneticians or grammarians as we get the stanzas in a complete grammatically analytic form.

– Dr. Soma Basu, Associate Professor, School of Vedic Studies, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata