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Prabuddha Bharata January 2016 Reflections on Tantra

Reflections on Tantra
January 2016
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68

PB
ISSN 0032-6178
R.N. 2585/57 REGISTERED Postal Registration No. Kol RMS/96/201618
Published on 1 February 2016
RABUDDHA
9 770032 617002

HARATA
or AWAKENED INDIA
A monthly journal of the Ramakrishna Order
started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896

February 2016
Vol. 121, No. 2
` 10.00
If undelivered, return to: ADVAITA ASHRAMA, 5 Dehi Entally Road, Kolkata 700 014, India
THE ROAD TO WISDOM
Swami Vivekananda on
Reason versus ReligionX
S imilarly, the sum-total of this universe
is immovable, we know, but everything
pertaining to this universe consists of
motion, everything is in a constant state of
ux, everything changing and moving. At
the same time, we see that the universe as
a whole is immovable, because motion is
a relative term. I move with regard to the
clay mouse ever be able to become the clay
chair, which does not move. There must
elephant? But put them both in water and
be at least two to make motion. If this
they are both clay; as clay they are both
whole universe is taken as a unit there is
one, but as mouse and elephant there will
no motion; with regard to what should it
be an eternal difference between them. The
move? Thus the Absolute is unchangeable
Innite, the Impersonal, is like the clay in the
and immovable, and all the movements and
example. We and the Ruler of the Universe
changes are only in the phenomenal world,
are one, but as manifested beings, men,
the limited. That whole is Impersonal, and
we are His eternal slaves, His worshippers.
within this Impersonal are all these various
Thus we see that the Personal God remains.
persons beginning with the lowest atom, up
Everything else in this relative world
to God, the Personal God, the Creator, the
remains, and religions is made to stand on a
Ruler of the Universe, to whom we pray,
better foundation. Prayers will remain, only
before whom we kneel, and so on. Such
they will get a better meaning. And indeed
a Personal God can be established with a
we shall be fools if we go the Father of all
great deal of reason. Such a Personal God
mercy, Father of all love, for trivial earthly
is explicable as the highest manifestation
things. Unto Him, therefore, we shall go for
of the Impersonal. You and I are very low
light, for strength and for love. strength and
manifestations, and the Personal God is the
for love. minds, perhaps, will have to go. And
highest of which we can conceive. Nor can
indeed we shall be fools if we go the Father
you or I become that Personal God. When the
of all mercy, Father of all love, for trivial
Vedanta says you and I are God, it does not
earthly things. Unto Him, therefore, we shall
mean the Personal God. To take an example.
go for light, for strength and for love.
Out of a mass of clay a huge elephant of

F
clay is manufactured, and out of the same rom The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda,
clay, a little clay mouse is made. Would the (Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 2013), 1.388-90.
Vol. 121, No. 2
February 2016 PB RABUDDHA
HARATA
or AWAKENED INDIA
A monthly journal of the Ramakrishna Order
started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896
Managing Editor
Swami Tattwavidananda
Editor
Swami Narasimhananda Contents
Associate Editor and Design
Swami Divyakripananda
Traditional Wisdom 295
Production Editor
Swami Chidekananda This Month 296
Cover Design
Subhabrata Chandra Editorial: Preserving Energy 297
General Assistance
Mandukya Upanishad 299
Swami Vimohananda
Swami Vibhatmananda Swami Ranganathananda
Circulation The Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Life 308
Indrajit Sinha
Swami Nityasthananda
Tapas Jana
Editorial Office Theory and Knowledge in the Indian Tradition 314
Prabuddha Bharata in the Light of Swami Vivekananda
Advaita Ashrama
PO Mayavati, Via Lohaghat Kapil Kumar Bhattacharyya
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Uttarakhand, India Swami Premanandas Teachings 321
Tel: 91 96909 98179 Swami Omkareshwarananda
prabuddhabharata@gmail.com
pb@advaitaashrama.org Of Films, Fantasy, and Faith 325
Printed and Published by
Pritha Lal
Swami Atmalokananda
Svarajya Siddhih of Gangadharendra Sarasvati 330
Publication Office
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Reviews 336
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Manana 339
Internet Edition
www.advaitaashrama.org Reports 341
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Traditional Wisdom
Wrt; std{; tg Jhtrtctut; >
Arise! Awake! And stop not till the goal is reached!

Maitrayaniya Upanishad February


Vol. , No.

cew$eeeCeereesHeefve<eled

les nesegYe&ieJeved eesJecemeelcevees ceefnceeveb meteemeerlevees Jee hej:keeseceelceeKees eeseb efmeleeefmelew:


kece&HeuewjefYeYeteceeve: meomeeesefveceeheelee FleJee_eesd&Jee Jee ieefle&vwjefYeYeteceeve: heefjYeceefle ~
~~3.1~~
Te hochur-bhagavan yady-evam-asya-atmano mahimanam suchayasity-anyo va parah
koyamatmakhyo yoyam sitasitaih karma-phalair-abhibhuyamanah sad-asad-yonim-apadyata
ity-avanchyorddhva va gatir-dvandvair-abhibhuyamanah paribhramati. (3.1)

They, the Vaikhilyas, said to Prajapati Kratu: Sir, if you thus describe the greatness of the
Atman, then there is another different one also called the Atman, who, overcome by the good
or bad fruits of actions, enters a good or bad womb and has a downward or upward course
and wanders around, overcome by the pairs of opposites like happiness and misery. (3.1)

Deefmle KeuJeveeshejes YetleelceeKees eeseb efmeleeefmelew: kece&HeuewjefYeYeteceeve: meomeeesefveceeheelee Fle-


Jee_eesd&Jee Jee ieefle&vwjefYeYeteceeve: heefjYeceleerlemeesheJeeKeeveced ~ ~~3.2~~
Asti khalvanyoparo bhutatmakhyo yoyam sitasitaih karma-phalair-abhibhuyamanah sad-asad-
yonim-apadyata ity-avanchyorddhva va gatir-dvandvair-abhibhuyamanah paribhramati-ity-
asyopavyakhanam. (3.2)

Prajapati Kratu said: Indeed, there is another different one called the elemental soul, who,
overcome by the good or bad fruits of actions, enters a good or bad womb and has a down-
ward or upward course and wanders around, overcome by the pairs of opposites like happi-
ness and misery. This is its explanation. (3.2)

PB February 2016 295


This Month

H
ow can one achieve the most with in Theory and Knowledge in the Indian Trad-
whatever resources one has seems to ition in the Light of Swami Vivekananda.
be the eternal and inevitable question Swami Premananda, a monastic disciple of Sri
of everyones life. However, in the pursuit of an Ramakrishna and a brother-disciple of Swami
answer to this question, we tend to drift farther Vivekananda, inspired countless to realise God
and farther away from our selves. Preserving in this very life. Swami Omkareshwarananda re-
Energy tries to bring back the focus on to us and counts some of Swami Premanandas Teachings
explores how we can conserve our resources and in its first instalment. This has been translated
channel them to achieve our goals. from the Bengali book Premananda.
Mandukya Upanishad has been accorded Films have frequently adopted Indian motifs.
great importance by scholars and spiritual The series of novels and their film adaptations
practitioners, both traditional and modern. It titled Divergent have taken ideas from the In-
holds the crucial key to unravel the mystery dian caste system. Pritha Lal, a systems thinker,
that is consciousness. This month we start a organisational specialist, author, blogger, and
new series of the transcription of a series of poet from Utah, usa discusses these similarities
lectures on Mandukya Upanishad given by in Of Films, Fantasy, and Faith.
Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj, who was In the nineteenth instalment of Svarajya Sid-
the thirteenth president of the Ramakrishna dhih of Gangadharendra SarasvatiAttain-
Math and Ramakrishna Mission. In the first ing Self-dominion, the Buddhist standpoint is
instalment of this series, the various states of quashed. This text has been translated and an-
consciousness are explained. notated by Swami Narasimhananda, editor of
Spiritual life is all about understanding and Prabuddha Bharata.
channelling our psyche. In the first instalment This month we start a new column, Traditional
of The Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Life, Tales. Here we will bring stories from the Indian
Swami Nityasthananda, acharya at the Proba- tradition. This month we bring the story of The
tioners Training Centre, Ramakrishna Math King and the Scholar. This story has been trans-
and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math, tells lated from the Tamil book Arulneri Kathaigal.
us how our inner emptiness leads us to identify What is the relation between God and reli-
with external objects and persons. gion? What is death and immortality? These and
Swami Vivekanandas thoughts on knowledge other questions have been explored by Ronald
has been analysed by Kapil Kumar Bhattachar- Dworkin, former Frank Henry Sommer profes-
yya, a research scholar of Indian communication sor of law and philosophy at the New York Uni-
perspectives at the Centre for Journalism and versity, in Religion Without God. From this
Mass Communication, Visva-Bharati University, book, we bring you this months Manana.

296 PB February 2016


EDITORIAL

Preserving Energy

T
his is not a discussion on conserv- like that which is expended while we blink our
ing energy resources given by Nature like eyes. The first step in preserving our energy is
oil and gas. This is a discussion on conserv- to preserve our physical energy, the energy that
ing the energy we human beings possess at the in- is produced by and contained in the body. It
dividual level so that we can make the optimum is surprising how much physical energy can be
use of the resources that are given to us: the body
and the mind. It is too common to miss the obvi- Brooding on the past and worrying about
ous and concentrate on things that sound glori- the future are the most common leaks of the
ous, all the while ignoring that which is nearer mental energy.
to us and that which can be accomplished easily.
It is a fad today to speak of conserving energy, of saved by just doing a rapid mental calculation
tapping non-conventional energy sources, and about the work and motion involved in any ac-
of decreasing our use of non-renewable energy tion. Yoga begins with the taming of the phys-
sources. In the momentum and intensity of such ical body. Only a body tethered in silence and
discussions, most of which do not find practical moving only on purpose is fit for yoga. Needless
solutions, we forget that each one of us has been swaying of heads and moving of limbs creates a
blessed with tremendous sources of energy in the strong disturbance that percolates to the deeper
mechanisms of our body and mind. We need to recesses of the mind.
focus on how to harness these sources that we Just like a camera consumes energy even if it
possess to excel in our endeavours. is just switched on, similarly our sense organs
Our body is a storehouse of energy but un- consume energy even if they just stay put on a
fortunately, we not only do not know how to particular object. The best way to conserve the
use it, but oftentimes we waste its energy with- energy of the sense organs is to restrain from
out bringing any good. Most people use their taking in any sensory input that one does not
limbs for purposeless actions. Abusing physical need. Then, the eyes would see only what has to
energy is so common that some people think it be seen, the ears would hear only what has to be
is the natural course to take. It is really ironical heard, the tongue would taste only what is to be
that most of the times people put their bodies to tasted, the skin would touch only what has to
severe stress and misuse its energy in the name be touched, and the nose would smell only what
of recreation or leisure. In the pretext of resting has to be smelled. Trained in such a fashion, not
their bodies, most people just torture it. The an- only would the distraction caused by the senses
cient sages of India were very particular about be reduced to a bare minimum, the sensory ex-
the energy of the human body and acknow- perience of such trained senses would be accen-
ledged even the minutest expenditure of energy tuated and superfine with a remarkable intensity.

PB February 2016 297


14 Prabuddha Bharata

We constantly blame the mind for distrac- has to be perfected in order to get the most of
tions and for losing focus. Our complaint is our brains. Precision of thought and a daring to
that the mind is wandering all the time. Im- do intellectually daunting tasks preserves and
agine a person who is served several plates also invigorates our intellectual energy. A thor-
of mouth-watering dishes at the same time, ough grounding in logic helps one to eventually
all dishes exuding mind-blowing scents, and transcend all linear thought. A trained intellect
served with royal dressings. How can that per- can ably rein the mind.
son concentrate on only one dish then? Such In the pursuit of the preservation of individ-
is the predicament of our mind. It is con- ual energy the biggest challenge is preserving the
stantly being simultaneously fed several sens- energy of the mind, mental energy. Thoughts
ory inputs. When the eyes see, all the other consume the mind. To preserve the mental en-
four senses do not shut down and so is the case ergy and also to preserve the mind itself, one
with the other sense-organs. Much like a per- needs to constantly question the need for a par-
son, who is aware of the usage of electricity, ticular thought to arise in the mind. Brooding on
would switch off the electrical appliances that the past and worrying about the future are the
are not needed; we should switch off our sense- most common leaks of the mental energy. When
organs that we are not using at that moment. our mind is drained of its energy, it goes into ill-
That would lead to an enormous energy surplus health commonly known as psychological ail-
in our body. ments that could range from a minor bout of
In preserving the physical energy the import- depression to an acute incidence of schizophre-
ance of sleep cannot be overemphasised. Nu- nia. Daydreaming and fantasising also rapidly
merous present-day ailments can be cured by a consume the mental energy.
regular and full dose of sleep. Conservation of To train the mind from abstaining from ac-
individual energy has to be done at the level of tivities that needlessly consume its energy, one
breathing also. Long and sustained breathing should root it on a theme of focus that the mind
cycles help the body to be calm and have better would hold on to when it does not have any pur-
reflexes. It is not for nothing that all traditions poseful activity to do. Too many attachments
of martial arts give tremendous importance to clutter the mind. A minimalist lifestyle and a
the control of breath. This also shows the im- detached attitude help the mind to focus its en-
portance of living in pure and unpolluted envir- ergy and prioritise its goals. Strong attachments
onments. To produce a good breathing cycle, we are like forgotten anchors that do not allow the
need to also eat nutritious and wholesome food. ship of the mind to move forward. Uncluttering
It is quite common to have ones body spend lot ones mind from attachments and unrealistic ex-
of energy on digesting unwanted or improper pectations helps the mind to behave in a trained
food that was supposed to give energy in the and disciplined manner. With less and less of
first place! garbage the mind would not have to suffer its
Human beings possess an exceptional intel- stench! If one can preserve the mental energy,
lectual capacity. Most of it is squandered in un- then it leads to the preservation of the intellec-
necessary ruminations on things that are of no tual and physical energy as well. Such conserv-
use either at the individual or the collective level. ing of energy is one of the first steps towards a
To focus our thinking and analysis is an art that spiritual life. P

298 PB February 2016


Mandukya Upanishad
Swami Ranganathananda

T
his upanishad is a very important
one with only twelve verses. It is the short-
est but an extremely philosophically signifi-
cant Upanishad which has been expounded by a
later commentator Gaudapada in his Mandukya
Upanishad Karika and that has been commented
upon by Shankaracharya. It is a highly philo-
sophical Upanishad. In one later Upanishad, it is
mentioned that for achieving spiritual liberation,
this single Upanishad is quite enoughthat is
referred to in the Muktika Upanishad.1 For the
attainment of the sole objectthe attainment
of highest truth, the supreme goal of existence
this single Upanishad of Mandukya is enough.
Shankaracharya says that the Upanishad Man-
dukya with Karika embodies in itself the quintes-
sence of the substance of the import of Vedanta.2
The foreword to a book on the Mandukya
Upanishad has been written by Mr V Subrah
manya Iyer, a great intellectual, philosopher. Swami Ranganathananda in Ramakrishna Mission, Karachi
We all studied under him in Mysore, includ-
ing the translator Swami Nikhilananda.3 He volume was Tattvajnana, philosophy of truth,
was an extraordinary person. By job, he was published ten years earlier than this book; his
only the registrar of the Mysore University but writings, correspondence with famous scientists
was a brilliant philosopher and an intellectual. and philosophers of the Westall these things.
He has written in the preface how he came to Subrahmanya Iyer passed away sometime in 1950.
this Upanishad through his scientific training, By that time a number of swamis of the Order
how he studied under a great spiritual teacher, had gone through his course of philosophy and
Shankaracharyas follower, one great Shringeri study in Mysore from 1932 including Swami
teacher. All these things are mentioned here Bhuteshananda, who was in the first batch with
in the beginning, in the foreword. One of his Subrahmanya Iyers studies. Iyer was a wonder-
books, has been published by his daughter: Wis- ful person and very devoted to Sri Ramakrishna,
dom. It has been published for free distribution: Swami Vivekananda, and the swamis of the
V Subrahmanya Iyers second volume. The first Order. He used to say: The greatest philosopher

PB February 2016 299


16 Prabuddha Bharata

is Sri Ramakrishna. The knowledge of truth, Its clear exposition is being attempted here.
both external and internal, in the complete form What is that? Bhutam bhavadbhavishyaditi sar-
is found in Sri Ramakrishna. He often referred vamomkara. All that is past, all that is present, all
to Sri Ramakrishna in the class. that is future is verily Om. All time is compre-
In the introduction written by Swami hended: present, past, and future. That which is
Nikhilananda, some of the aspects of this great beyond the triple conception of time also is Om.
book are mentioned. The text begins with four Om is time; Om is eternity. What belongs to the
chapters by Gaudapada. The first is called Agama past, present, and future; what belongs to the
Prakarana. Prakarana means chapter or section, transcendentalbeyond time and space. That
dealing with Agama, which means the Shruti or is just the first mantra, first text.
the Veda. Merely depending upon the text of the Harih Aum. Aum, the word, is all this. A clear
Veda, the truth is expounded in the first section. explanation of it (is the following): All that is past,
That is the first section. The second section is present and future is verily Aum. That which is be-
very important: Vaitathya Prakarana, the sec- yond the triple conception of time is also verily
tion dealing with the unreality of all duality. Vai- Aum (9). That is why when you write Om, you
tathya means unreality and this section is based write Om and put a dot on the top. The dot rep-
on reason; by the exercise of human intelligence resents the transcendental, the bindu, the dot. The
and a penetrating study of experience, we realise A, U and M represent past, present, and future re-
the unreality of all duality. The third is Advaita spectively. That is explained in this treatise itself.
Prakarana, establishing the truth of non-duality Om: Shankaras commentary says in the be-
of pure consciousness of the Atman. The world is ginning itself. As all diversified objects that we
unreal. Then what is real? Pure consciousness see around us, indicated by names, are not dif-
the one and non-dual. That is the only reality. ferent from their (corresponding) names, and
That is the third section. And the last section: further as the different names are not different
Alatashanti Prakarana; various philosophical from Aum, therefore all these are verily Aum
objections to this great Advaitic truth are han- (10). The first sound is Om.
dled in a long chapter and discussed, finally es- As a thing is known through its name so the
tablishing the truth of Advaita, non-duality. This highest Brahman is known through Aum alone.
is the Mandukya Upanishad Karika. Therefore, the highest Brahman is verily Aum.
The Upanishad is expounded in the Agama This (treatise) is the explanation of that, that
Prakarana, the first section. One by one the is, of Aum which is of the same nature of the
verses are taken and expounded in a series of higher as well as the lower Brahman (ibid.).
verses by Gaudapada. We will get the original Brahman in manifestation and Brahman tran-
texts, Gaudapadas texts expounding the original scendent. Om represents Brahman in manifest-
text, in the first section. ation and Brahman that is transcendent.
Agama is a word for the Vedas. The first text
Upavykhynam means clear explanation, be-
is: Harih Om; Salutations to the supreme Lord,
cause Aum is the means to the knowledge of
Hari, the Self in the heart of all beingsthat is Brahman on account of its having the closest
the meaning of Hari. Omityetadaksharamidam proximity to Brahman. The word Prastutam
sarvam; All this universe is nothing but the syl- meaning commences That which is condi-
lable Om. Om is all this. Tasya-upavyakhyanam. tioned by the triple (conceptions of ) time, such

300 PB February 2016


Mandukya Upanishad 17

as past, present and future is also verily Aum for of four, four annas known as karshapana. They
reasons already explained. All that is beyond the were coins of the Vedic times. Knowledge of the
three (divisions of ) time, i.e., unconditioned by fourth state or the quarter is called turiya, the
time, and yet known by their effects, which is transcendental, which is attained by merging
called Avykta, the unmanifested etc., that
the previous three into one. All the first three
also is verily Aum (ibid.).
merge into the four. The fourth state is aparok-
In the next text, the Shruti says: Sarvam hy- sha. Karshapana is one fourth, a quarter. Quarter
etad brahma. First it was Om and now the word karshapana is merged in a half karshapana. Half
is changed to Atman. Sarvam hyetad brahma; all karshapana is merged in the three-fourth and all
this universe is Brahman. Ayam atma brahma; the four is merged in the full karshapana.
this Self of human being is Brahman. This is Now, this text is explained by Gaudapada in
considered to be a very great utterance: Ayam a series of verses. The Upanishad text continues:
atma brahma; this Atman in you is Brahman. Jagaritasthano bahishprajnah saptanga ekonavim-
Soyamatma chatushpat. This Brahman has four shatimukhah sthulabhugvaishvanarah prathamah
quarters just like one dollar has four twenty-five padah.4 What is the first quarter of this Atman?
cents; one is a quarter. The four quarters make He is called Vaishvanara, whose sphere of activ-
the whole dollar. Similarly, Atman has four quar- ity is the waking state. The self as expressed in the
ters. All this verily is Brahman (12). That is the waking state is given the name Vaishvanara. It is
first great utterance of the Upanishad: Every- the given name, that is all. Who is conscious of
thing is Brahman. We only change the words. If external objects. In the waking state, we are con-
I say now that everything is quantum field en- scious of external objects. Who has seven limbs
ergy, every physicist will accept it. But Brahman and nineteen mouths and whose experience con-
is more than quantum field energy because it is sists of gross material objects. These various div-
pure consciousness whereas field energy has no isions like five, seven, seventeen, and nineteen
consciousness; it is dull, dead matter. are all given in the Upanishads. So, that is jagari-
All that has been said to consist merely of tasthanah, one quarter. The Atman manifests in
Aum is Brahman. That Brahman which has you and me as jagrat-self.
been described is now pointed out, as being That is one quarter. But then that is not the
directly known, This Self is Brahman only thing. Svapnasthanontahprajnah. The sec-
(ibid.). Brahman is not far away. He is there in ond quarter is the Taijasa, whose sphere is dream.
you as your own Self. He is the closest to you, not Taijasa means light. In the light of the Atman,
far away. All through the Upanishads, they speak you see objects. There is no external light. No
of Brahman, then it is said that Brahman exists sun, no moon. Tejas means energy and light. The
in you as your consciousness, as your Self. This special quarter is the dream, which is conscious
is divided into four quarters. And pointing out of internal objects. We do not see any external
the inner Self through the gesture of the hand, objects, only internal objects. Again, seven limbs
the teacher says: This Brahman is this Atman and nineteen mouths experience the subtle ob-
in you. And this Atman has four quarters. Cow jects. The whole experience of dream is the ex-
has four feet. Pada means feet, but not exactly perience of subtle objects. Waking experience is
feet. We have four quarters of a coin known as gross and dream experience is subtle. Svapna
karshapana. In those days, one rupee consisted sthana means dream state.

PB February 2016 301


18 Prabuddha Bharata

we feel entire bliss. We experience bliss. It is a


path leading to the knowledge of the two other
states. Chetomukhah. If you want to come to the
dream and the waking states, you have to pass
through the sleep state. From the sleep state, you
can enter back into the dream and into the wak-
ing states. In todays analysis of brain waves in
eeg, you find that when there is a certain type of
waves, you are in the sleep state. When there is
certain other type of waves, you come to the wak-
ing state. Dream presentations are different in the
wave pattern. Then you come to the conscious
state; it is quite a different pattern. And some-
times you can see the waves moving from one
side to another when examining a sleeping per-
son. So many such studies have been made today.
Chetomukha is a very important word. It is
characterised by empirical consciousness. It is
the doorway leading to the experience of dreams.
Swami Nikhilananda (18951973) Therefore, it is called chetomukha. It is Prajna
Then comes the third stage. Yatra supto na because it is conscious of the past, present, and
kanchana kamam kamayate na kanchana svap- future as well as of all the objects. Prajna has got
nam pashyati tat sushuptam. That is called su- all these experiences. As soon as an object comes,
shupti, which means deep sleep, when the sleeper it experiences. If the object is not there, it keeps
does not desire any objects. There is no desire for quiet. It is like that. When the teacher is sitting in
food in sleep. There is no desire at all in sleep. the class, if students are there, he teaches; if not,
And one does not see any dreams. The third he keeps quiet. He will read a book, that is all!
quarter or the sushupti state is called Prajna, Prajna is undifferentiated consciousness. In the
whose sphere is deep sleep; the Self as Prajna. other states, consciousness exists but it is an ex-
Vaishvanara, Taijasa, and Prajnathree names perience of variety. Consciousness without dual-
are given, one for each state. The Atman mani- ity is sleep. Consciousness with duality is dream
festing in the waking state is Vaishvanara. The and waking. Today the subject of consciousness
Atman manifesting as the dream Self is called is so important. So many seminars, discussions,
Taijasa. The Atman manifesting in the sleep state and books are coming out on the nature of con-
is called Prajna. In sleep, that is, in the Prajna sciousness. On 1 January 1982 we had a seminar
manifestation of the Self, all experiences become in Bangalore in the National Institute of Mental
unified and undifferentiated, who is verily a mass Health and Neurosciences. I spoke there on The
of consciousness intact. Science of Consciousness in the Light of Vedanta
What is sleep? Just a mass of consciousness and Yoga.5 This subject is very important: the na-
without any object. Objectless consciousness is ture of consciousness. Prajna thus described is the
what you get in sleep. It is full of bliss. In sleep, third quarter. These are three quarters.

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Mandukya Upanishad 19

The sixth verse says: Esha sarveshvarah esha taijasah, ghanaprajnastatha prajna eka eva tridha
sarvajnah eshontaryami esha yonih sarvasya smritah. Vishva, the first quarter is he, who is
prabhavapyayau hi bhutanam. At that state all-pervading and who experiences the external
without referring to your dream or my dream, my gross objects in the waking state. Taijasa, the sec-
sleep or your sleepif you look at just that state ond quarter, is he who cognises the internal, the
without any of the individual association; what subtle objects, say for example our subconscious.
is that? Consciousness in that state is the lord of Who experiences the subconscious? Your Self.
all. This is the knower of all. This is the control- Your Self in that state is Taijasa. Who experi-
ler within. This is the source of all and this is that ences the conscious state? Your Self. Your Self in
from which all things originate in which they fi- that state is Vaishvanara. Finally, the state when
nally disappear. From Prajna, waking and dream all these disappear in sleep is the Prajna. Prajna is
come; into Prajna waking and dream go. That is he, who is a mass of consciousness, without any
the final state. Therefore it is called the god of all. object. It is one alone, who is thus known in the
This in its natural state is the Lord of all,6 says three states. The same Self is known in the three
Shankaras commentary. The entire physical and states by three different names. But the Self is
super-physical universe is called the all. one. That is the decision of this text.
He (vara) is not something separate from These subjects you will find in no book in
the universe as others hold (256) . Dualists hold the world. In the West, it started from Sigmund
that god and the universe are separate. Shankara Freuda little study of the mind, the uncon-
says no, the world has come from the Lord, it sub- scious, and the subconscious. Prajna is a mass of
sists in the Lord and goes back to the Lord. That consciousness. A portion of the mass becomes
state of consciousness from which two other states an object to see in the waking and in the dream
come and into which they both merge is the Lord. states. In Prajna, the whole thing is a mass; no
The Shruti says: O good one, Pra is that in separate cut-off as an object to see. Suppose the
which mind is bound. He is omniscient because whole solar system is a part of the sun and there
he is the knower of all beings in all their different is no planet at all and only the sun. But the sun
conditions (26). He is the antaryamin, the inner separates and reflects on the planet. Similarly, in
self. Therefore, he is called the origin. From him the waking and in the dream states, conscious-
proceeds the universe. Being so, he is verily that ness splits into the centre. But in this, it is ab-
from which all proceed and into which all things sorbed into itself. That is the deep sleep state.
disappear. If you carefully look at it purely as a The implication of the passage is this, says
scientific investigation, that state of sleep is called Shankaracharya: That tman is (as witness) dis-
Prajna from which all the universe came and into tinct from the three states (27). Witness, sakshi,
which all went in. Therefore, that is the character- distinct from the three states. Otherwise, how do
istic of Brahman from which the universe comes, you know all the three states have come unless
into which it returns, and in which it lives. you are separate and there in all the three states?
Now comes the Gaudapada Karika on these You cannot relate, no relation is possible, un-
verses. After this will come the fourth pada, less you are there to see all the three states. That
which is turiya. In the explanation of the fore- is the Atman: pure, unrelated, is established in
going texts there are these verses by Gaudapada: the three states in succession. The same Atman
Bahishprajno vibhurvishvo hyantahprajnastu moves in three states in succession.

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20 Prabuddha Bharata

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a famous in the one human body. It is only one Atman. Es-
passage comes. Just as a mighty fish goes in a pecially after a good sleep, you do not have any
river, sometimes from this bank to that bank, energy in the body when you are asleep. Even to
and from that bank to this bank, freely moves, open the eyelid, you do not have any strength.
so the Atman moves in the three states.7 That is Particularly when children wake up in the morn-
called the mahamatsya drishtanta, illustration ing, how difficult it is for them to open the eye-
of the big fish. Suppose you say, I dreamt. Cer- lids. What has happened to you? All energy is
tainly Vaishvanara cannot say that because Vaish- gone. It is all withdrawn. Nothing has gone. It
vanara never dreamt. It is Taijasa that dreamt. is withdrawn. Where is it withdrawn to? To the
Similarly, if you say I slept. No Vaishvanara, no innermost part of the system. From there, slowly
Taijasa can experience sleep. There is a witness it comes out. The return journey, you can see,
that experiences all the three states and func- going, coming. We treat it similar to cosmic evo-
tions as the subject of each of these states. That lution and involution, coming out and going in.
witness I am. That is the deduction from it; I am This verse is intended to show that the three-
that. This results from experience, which unites fold experience of Vishva, Taijasa, and Prajna is
through memory. The Shruti corroborates with realised in the waking state alone. It is a different
the illustration of the big fish in the Brihad waking state. There is one waking stage in which
aranyaka Upanishad. Vaishvanara is dominant. But the waking state
The next shloka says: Dakshinakshimukhe of your true Self that experiences all the three
vishvo manasyantastu taijasah, akashe cha hridi that is the real waking state. Dakshinakshi means
prajnastridha dehe vyavasthitah. Within the body, the means of perception of gross objects in the
we can locate these three selves. Vishva is he, who right eye. The presence of Vishva, the cogniser
cognises the world in the right eye. The right eye of gross objects is chiefly felt there. The Shruti
is considered to be the location for the Self in the also says that the person that is in the right eye
waking state. Taijasa is he, who cognises in the is known as Indha, the luminous one.
mind, within. Prajna is he, who constitutes the That exactly is the concept studied today. We
space, akasha, in the heart, in the innermost point have studied the brain and it is very interesting
of the system; the whole thing is withdrawn. to know that the right hand is controlled by the
When you go to sleep, you can see that. Your left half of the brain; right half of the brain con-
energy gets withdrawn from the tip of the fin- trols the left sidejust the opposite. All right
gers first. Then goes inward, inward, inward and side activities are controlled by the left brain.
inward, and finally it goes deep into yourself. One is logical and the other is emotional, intui-
The whole consciousness withdraws deep into tive. That is the present-day theory.
yourself and next morning, returns exactly like Though the presence of Viva is equally felt in
that. Slowly, slowly, coming out until the last all sense organs without distinction yet the right
point comes. You can say, touch a pin on the tip eye is particularly singled out (as the chief in-
of your finger, you will not be conscious. Later strument for its perception).8 Vishva is there all
on, you become conscious, when consciousness through the body, but especially in the right eye.
has reached all through like heat pervading an (The right eye is made here to represent all the
object. That is a very interesting experience. sense-organs). The one, who has his abode in
Thus the one Atman is conceived as threefold the right eye, having perceived (external) forms,

304 PB February 2016


closes the eye; and then recollecting them within
the mind, sees the very same (external objects)
as in a dream, as the manifestation of the (sub-
tle) impressions (of memory). As is the case here
(waking), so also is the case with dream. There-
fore, Taijasa, the perceiver in the mind within,
is verily the same as Viva. With the cessation of
the activity known as memory, the perceiver (in
the waking and the dream states) is unified with
Prja in the ka of the heart (ibid.).

Both Vishva and Taijasa become unified in


Prajna, which is a mass of consciousness, be-
cause there is, then, a cessation of mental activ-
ities (ibid.) in deep sleep. Both perception and
memory are forms of thought, in the absence of
which the seer remains indistinguishably in the
form of Pra in the heart alone (ibid.). Mere
seer is there, no seen, in that state. Shruti also
says, Pra alone withdraws all these within.
Taijasa is identical with Hiranyagarbhathat
is, the first product of cosmic evolution is called
Hiranyagarbha, cosmic mindon account of its
existence being realised in mind. It is purely the
cosmic mind. Mind is the characteristic indica-
tion (of both). This is supported by such scrip-
Werner Karl Heisenberg (190176)
tural passages as, This Purua (Hirayagarbha)
is all mind (ibid.). The seed of the universe can deep sleep. Causal condition, you can see there.
be destroyed only by knowledge alone. Therefore, it is said that the one Atman is per-
Brahman is sat, pure existence. Now we will ceived as threefold in this one body only. All
see what is the fourth pada. That which is des- the three are experienced in the same body. In
ignated as Prja (when it is viewed as the cause the West, scientists became very much excited
of the phenomenal world) will be described as when they knew that the Upanishads discussed
Turya separately when it is not viewed as the causality because it is a very important subject in
cause (31). When causality is taken away, then science. For instance, in the principle of indeter-
this Prajna itself is Turiya. When causality func- minism in Heisenbergs physics, causality is very
image: Bundesarchiv

tions, there is the cause of the waking and the important there. And it is highly described here;
dream, it turns back to Prajna and the like. The the whole subject is discussed in this Upanishad:
causal condition is also verily experienced in this causal standpoint.
body from such cognition of the man who is Then comes the third verse: Vishvo hi sthula
awakened from the deep sleep (32). What did bhungnityam taijasah praviviktabhuk, ananda
he say: I did not know anything at the time of bhuktatha prajnastridha bhogam nibodhata.

PB February 2016 305


22 Prabuddha Bharata

Vishva always experiences the gross object, that of subject and objects of experience, though enjoy-
is, the waking state; Taijasa always experiences ing them, is not affected thereby (ibid.). You know
the subtle aspect; and Prajna is the blissful. Know your detachment: I am not the Vaishva. I am not
these to be the threefold experiences. Real bliss is the Taijasa. I am the one that exists in all the three.
when there is no object. Just see! In sleep, you get With this knowledge you wont get caught in any
real bliss. In waking state, you dont get real bliss, particular experience. It is called detachment. Be-
in spite of eating and drinking; so many experi- cause all objects of experience are experienced by
ences you have. Whereas in your own statewhen one subject alone. As (the heat of the) fire does not
you live in that state, you are all bliss. Everybody increase or decrease by consuming wood so also
goes to sleep. You deprive a man of food, he wont nothing is added to or taken away (from the know-
mind. Deprive a man of sleep, he is very bad. You ingness or awareness of the tman) by its experi-
are a mass of real bliss. It is your nature. Vedanta ence of that which is its object (ibid.). The Atman
also comes to this conclusion. The external objects does not become extra by experiencing external ob-
do not give you that joy as when you realise your jects, internal objects; it is always the sameunity
own form without any external connection. of the experiencer in the three states.
Then: Trishu dhamasu yadbhojyam bhokta Then: Prabhavah sarvabhavanam satamiti vin-
yashcha prakirtitah, vedaitadubhayam yastu sa ishchayah, sarvam janayati pranashchetomshun pu-
bhunjano na lipyate. He who knows both the rushah prithak. It is thoroughly established that
experiencer and the objects of experience that coming into effect can be predicated only of all
have been described, associated with the three positive entities that exist. You can speak of cause
states, is not affected through experiencing the and effect connection only of positive entities.
objects. Those who know this truth, they wont If something exists, you can say, it was this and
get attached to the one or the other. It is like the it became this. And about non-positive entities,
Taoist sage who said: I dreamt I was a butterfly. you cannot say that. The Prana manifests all. It
Whether the butterfly dreams it is I or I dream is the energy that manifests all. Purusha creates
I am the butterfly, I do not know which is the the conscious beings, jivas, in their manifold form
correct position.9 separately. Self manifests as the three. And Prana
In the three states, Shankara says, namely wak- manifests all the objects of perception. Waking,
ing, dream, and sleep, one and the same object of dream, and taking the Self back from all these,
experience appears in threefold forms as the gross, into the deep sleep state. Manifestation can be
the subtle, and the blissful. the experiencer (of predicated of positive entities comprehended as
the three states) known (differently) as Viva, Tai- the different forms of Viva, Taijasa and Prja
jasa and Prja has been described as one on ac- Neither in reality nor in illusion can the son of a
count of unity of consciousness implied in such barren woman be said to be born (378). It is an
cognition as, I am that;10 I am common to all example in all Sanskrit Vedantic literature. It is a
the three states. There is the absence of very distinc- contradiction in terms. How can there be a son
tion in respect to the perceiver. When you correl- of a barren woman? Impossible. Neither in real-
ate three experiences in one form, that means, you ity nor in illusion is it possible. It is a fact. For, if
are the one experiencer of all the three experiences. things could come out of non-entity, Brahman
He who knows the two (experiencer and the ob- whose existence is inferred from experience will
jects of experience), appearing as many in the form itself be rendered a non-entity (38).

306 PB February 2016


Mandukya Upanishad 23

From nothing, nothing can come. Only 3. The Mkya Upaniad With Gauapdas
from something, something can come. That is Krik and akaras Commentary, trans.
the logic. The Purua manifests all these entities Swami Nikhilananda (Calcutta: Advaita
Ashrama, 1995).
called as living beings, which are different from
4. Mandukya Upanishad, 1.3.
inanimate objects, but of the same nature as it- 5. See Swami Ranganathananda, The Science
self (Purua), like fire and its sparks and like the of Consciousness in the Light of Vedanta and
sun with its reflection in water. Pra, the causal Yoga, Prabuddha Bharata, 87/6 ( June 1982),
self, manifests all other entities just as the spider 25765; 87/7 ( July 1982), 294301; and 87/8
(August 1982), 3417.
producing the web (ibid.). These are all referred 6. The Mkya Upaniad With Gauapdas
to from various passages in the Vedas. Krik and akaras Commentary, 25.
Vibhutim prasavam tvanye manyante 7. See Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4.3.18.
srishtichintakah, svapnamayasarupeti srishtir 8. The Mkya Upaniad With Gauapdas
anyairvikalpita. What is the nature of creation? Krik and akaras Commentary, 29.
9. See Zhuang Zhou, Zhuangzi, Chapter 2.
Several thinkers have several opinions. Those 10. The Mkya Upaniad With Gauapdas
who think of the process of creation believe it to Krik and akaras Commentary, 36.
be the manifestation of the super human power
of god. They are dualists. God by super human
power created this world, while others look Acharya Shankara in Debate
upon it as of the same nature as dream and illu-
sion. We create just like that from the mind and
withdraw. There is no real entity there. Juggler
throws the thread up: one of the ancient juggler-
ies in India. Many Western people write about
it. Nobody can show it now; that jugglery. They
throw a thread up. Some foreign writers have
said that they saw once: A juggler comes and
throws a thread up and the thread goes up, on
and on. After sometime, two boys come. One by
one they climb this thread and disappear. Later
on there is a fight and limbs begin to fall down.
Blood falls down. And after sometime, the boys
come out as if nothing has happened. This is the
famous jugglery, the thread jugglery.
(To be continued)
References
1. See Muktika Upanishad, 26.
painting: S Rajam

2. Acharya Shankaras introduction to his com-


mentary on the Mandukya Upanishad; The
Mkya Upaniad With Gauapdas
Krik and akaras Commentary, trans.
Swami Nikhilananda (Calcutta: Advaita
Ashrama, 1995), 2.

PB February 2016
The Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Life
Swami Nityasthananda

T
he whole universe is a mystery and accentuating research in life sciences, opening
everything within it is mysterious. We can- many areas of knowledge in that field. Similarly,
not claimrather it is presumptuous to research in neurology is taking long strides and
do sothat we know fully about anything in digging deep into the brain, and presenting be-
this world. As we go on discovering, the mystery fore us the most mysterious world of neurons.
deepens. As we go on gaining knowledge, we Going still further, psychologists are ever striv-
become more and more aware of our ignorance. ing to measure the depth of the human mind,
Perhaps, it is not unreasonable, though para- giving rise to many branches of psychology. Now
doxical, to say that knowledge also increases our scientists are even entering into the domain of re-
ignorance, and knowledge means progressive ligion and spirituality and undertaking number
awareness of our ignorance. The ignorance prior of researches in the field of consciousness also. In
to knowledge is tamas, like darkness due to a low this way the human being is moving towards the
vibration of light, and the ignorance that follows very origin of knowledge, and this is spirituality.
knowledge is sattva, like darkness due to a high Real spirituality means an attempt to go be-
vibration of light. yond the mind. The scriptures declare that the
Though we cannot know anything com- spiritual experience is beyond the limits of mind
pletely, still it is not wise to stop learning. The and speech. Therefore the question arises as to
very attempt to know itself is immensely bene- the relation between spiritual practice and the
ficial. Even though we cannot know fire in its mind. The fact is we have to go beyond the mind
totality, the knowledge that it burns is of great through the mind. The scriptures also declare:
advantage to us. Unprecedented changes brought The Atman is to be attained only through the
by modern scientific discoveries and the revolu- mind.1 It is somewhat like going beyond the
tionary changes taking place due to advancement river by swimming across it. If a person is tied to
in information technology are too obvious to be a pole with a rope, one will untie the rope with
mentioned. For whom are all these enormous great difficulty, throw away the rope, and become
wealth of knowledge and its consequent mater- free. Similarly groping the mind alone we have to
ial development meant? Who is reaping these go beyond the mind. Spiritual aspiration, know-
fruits? Is it not necessary to know something ledge, devotion, spirit of dispassion, and related
about that entity, the human being? If we start ideas are within the domain of the mind. Both
knowing the human being, we confront yet an- the spiritual and the secular life depend upon the
other vast world of unfathomable depth. After mind. It is said that the human being is the mind
wandering so much in the search of knowledge with a body, not the body with a mind.
in the objective world, it seems, we are turning In all matters, mind only matters. Our happi-
our attention more towards the subjective world, ness and miseries, our relationship with others,

308 PB February 2016


The Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Life 25

our decisions and determination, all our attitudes Maintaining inner poise is indispensable in spir-
and even the thought of Godall these depend itual life. Sri Aurobindo says:
upon the mind. The Yogavasishta says: In all The first thing to do in the sadhana is to get a
kinds of happiness and misery and in all modes settled peace and silence in the mind. Other-
of activities, mind is the only doer and enjoyer. wise you may have experiences, but nothing will
Know for certain that man is nothing but mind.2 be permanent. It is in the silent mind that the
It is further said in the same text: O Rama, mind true consciousness can be built. A quiet mind
does not mean that there will be no thoughts or
is everything. If that is treated within, the whole
mental movements at all, but that these will be
world will be rectified (4.4.5). Depending upon on the surface and you will feel your true being
our mental conditions, the world outside appears within separate from them, observing but not
sometimes pleasant and sometimes unpleasant; carried away, able to watch and judge them and
sometimes good and sometimes evil; sometimes reject all that has to be rejected and to accept
friendly and sometimes inimical; and some- and keep to all that is true consciousness and
times wholesome and sometimes loathsome. true experience.5
The following are the words of the Brahma Pu- Ken Wilber says: You will find that people
rana: That which makes one happy now can be and events dont cause you to be upset, but are
a source of misery next moment. Something that merely the occasions for you to upset yourself.6
annoys one can also be pleasing to him. There- It is our emotional reactions to external
fore there is nothing miserable and pleasurable things that upset us. It is not external noise itself
in this world.3 Lord Buddha also said that it is Swami Yatiswarananda (18891966)
the mind that rules and moves the world and
that the good and evil of the world are due to the
mind alone. Swami Yatiswarananda says: One
may read no end of books. One may listen to
no end of lectures. But if ones mind is not in-
clined to the spiritual ideal, everything has been
in vain. So, in India the spiritual teachers tell us:
you must win the grace of your own mind. It
is not enough if you have the grace of God and
the grace of a teacher. We might have been for-
tunate in receiving many spiritual instructions.
But unless we have the grace of our own mind
everything comes to nothing.4

Inner Change
In spiritual life one important thing to be noted
is not to get upset by external factors. We are
prone to get affected by the words and behaviour
of people, and by different events, which acti-
vate in us different feelings like attachment, aver-
sion, and fear that disturb our spiritual practices.

PB February 2016
26 Prabuddha Bharata

but the negative feelings about it that disturb our across this following passage: Identifying oneself
sleep. Same is the case in various other situations with seen and unseen objects, one rejoices feel-
also; it is our inner reaction that troubles us and ing ones self enhanced by possessing them, and
impedes our spiritual practice. The thought no by losing them one grieves feeling that he himself
one can make me miserable without my consent, is lost. This is quite natural for the unawakened.7
substantiates this idea. If something grieves us, There must be spiritual awakening in us .We
we as Vedantins, have to look within ourselves must constantly contemplate on our true na-
to find the cause for it. If there is a subjective ture, the Atman, beyond body, mind, and the
change, the object is bound to change. When a senses. This will weaken our identification with
snake bites us we do not run after the snake to the body and thereby with external objects also.
kill it, rather our immediate concern is to pre- During meditation, we must feel our separate
vent the effect of the poison, perhaps forget- existence dissociating ourselves from the mental
ting the snake altogether. Similarly, if somebody states. Two birds of golden plumage are sitting
hurts us and if we go on blaming that person on the tree of our personality. One among them
for that, it only aggravates the pain, instead of is constantly flying here and there eating the
curing it. What we have to do is to increase our fruits, both sweet and bitter, and experiencing
mental strength to withstand the external blows. pain and happiness alternately. While the other
Internal transformation involves three things: at- one is simply sitting on the upper branch calmly
titudinal change, control of negative reactions, without eating anything, without any move-
and turning our attention to a higher ideal. ment, enjoying its own bliss. These two birds
represent two aspects of the human soul. The
Identification with External Things lower bird represents the embodied soul identi-
Why do external factors disturb us so much? fying itself with the body and experiencing both
Because of our identification with them. Some happiness and misery. The upper bird is the epit-
objects, persons, power, or positions become ome of higher self, not one with the body, ex-
part of our personality, rather sometimes, the periencing nothing, witnessing everything, and
centres of our personality. We feel that we are not swayed by anything.8 The upper bird is our
lost when they are lost. We get alienated from real nature, and we have to imagine ourselves to
our personality. We become slave to the wealth be that. If we remain like the lower bird, we get
we have created; we get imprisoned in the house caught in the whirlwind of worldly influences.
we have built; we sell ourselves to the institution If we are like the lower bird, we get alienated
we have originated; the book we have written from our real being, and we become others, and,
becomes our very soul; similarly, power becomes consequently, any rise and fall of other things
the centre of our personality. We alienate from will have their deep impact on us. While com-
ourselves by identification with something other menting on the word sneha, attachment, oc-
than ourselves. This is called self-alienation. The curring in the fifty-seventh verse of the second
things we identify ourselves with are always sub- chapter of the Bhagavadgita, Madhusudana Sar-
ject to change, because they are part of the chang- asvati makes a striking remark: When this sneha
ing environment, and these changes will enkindle is there, the loss and gain of other things will be
different kinds of feelings within us. In Vyasas attributed to oneself.9 The loss and gain are re-
commentary on Patanjalis Yoga Sutra we come lated to external things other than the self, not to

310 PB February 2016


The Psychological Aspects of Spiritual Life 27

the self at all, who never loses or gains anything. in so many ways, as we waste valueless objects.
If wealth is lost, if it could, it is wealth that has There are several ways of wasting ones life. Aim-
to grieve over the loss, not us. Similarly, if power less wandering without apparent purpose is one
is curtailed or deprived, it is powers business to such thing. Taking some work as a pretext, that
despair, not ours. We need not get elated even by may not be unavoidable, people move about.
their acquisition. This is applicable to all matters. Some people undertake travelling in the name of
We feel happy or suffer attributing to ourselves pilgrimage. Some waste their life by extravagant
the gain or loss related to external matter. We talk. Some remain always busy with some work
have to mourn for loss of ourselves in matter. We being unable to sit quiet. And yet others waste
are lost in the current of different thoughts, emo- their life being addicted to something. Now-
tions, external activities, and events. Loss of self adays, because of the television, the Internet, mo-
is the real loss. As we observe the current of river bile phones, and the like; there are a number of
standing on its shore, we have to observe with alluring opportunities to waste ones life. There
detachment the life-current, constantly flowing are some people who, finding no fulfilment in
in its own way, standing rooted in our inner self. spiritual life, spend their time in preaching others
what they could not accomplish themselves.
Inner Emptiness The search for meaning is the most import-
The main reason for inordinate desire for enjoy- ant urge in man, says Victor E Frankl. And he
ing and possessing external things is the inner avers that if this urge is not given a right expres-
emptiness we feel. We somehow try to ignore sion, it gets perverted into lust for power, pleas-
this inner emptiness by outer possessions. We ure, or wealth. It is from this perspective that Sri
substitute the inner loss by outer gains. The main Ramakrishna repeatedly tells us that the very
cause for this inner emptiness is the want of ful- purpose of human existence is to realise God. As
filment. If our inner being is suffused with the an illustration he tells the story of some friends
sense of fulfilment, we do not hanker for external going to the mango orchard and counting the
things; for name, fame, power, and position. In trees, branches, and leaves, except the one among
fact, it is unwise to think that the inner emptiness them who started eating the mangoes. He says:
can be filled by the possession of external things. You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes.
Spiritual resources alone can do this. When we Do that and be happy.11 As mango is the very
are in touch with this resource, inner emptiness essence of the tree and for the sake of that alone
will take to its heels. Then the loss and gain of the trees are reared, so also God or divinity is the
external matters will not unsettle us. To give an very essence of our personality, and the very pur-
illustration, a reservoir remains full always, if the pose of human life is to attain that, which alone,
springs at the bottom are open and discharging in fact, makes life meaningful. A sincere attempt
water unceasingly. We cannot expect it to be full to attain that also makes life worth living.
always by feeding it with water from outside. When life becomes meaningful, everything
To make our life fulfilled, we have to live a related to it also becomes meaningful and in
meaningful life, an ideal life, going beyond the violable, all the experiences of happiness, misery,
sense-bound existence. According to Victor E and so on, also will appear in a different colour.
Frankl, a meaningful life is imperative for men- If the real meaning of a painting is not known
tal health.10 If life loses its meaning we waste it to us, we may think that some of the peripheral

PB February 2016 311


28 Prabuddha Bharata

lines and patches of painting are not necessary Erich Fromm says: Man has to be related, he has
at all. However, every line and colour of that to find union with others, in order to be sane.
painting assumes value when the central theme This need to be one with others is his strongest
of the painting is known. The part is meaningful passion, stronger than sex and often even stronger
only as a part of the whole. All the limbs of the than his wish to live.12 Some are even prepared
body are meaningful only as parts of the whole to die associating themselves with some terror-
body. Similarly, our individual life becomes ist organisation. We must reach out to develop
meaningful only when we relate ourselves with a good human relationship with others in the
the Whole, the universal Being. Instead, if we family or institution in which we are, and engage
relate ourselves with fragmentary things of the ourselves in meaningful activities. This is essential
world, our life also will get fragmented. As Sri for effective spiritual practice. It is a basic fact that
Ramakrishna says, our ego remains unripe being it is good human relationship that gives us hap-
related to the things of the world (819), and it piness, not comforts and luxuries, and all sorts
becomes ripe associated with the Whole. A bird of entertainment, because we are human beings.
sitting on a branch does not get frightened by There are only two relationships which can make
the shaking branch because the bird trusts not us happy: human and divine. Relationship with
the branch but its own wings, and the wings are machines, gadgets, and other material objects,
dependent on the vast atmosphere. Similarly we however grand they may be, will not make us
must remain in the world but not of it. happy sans good human relationship. Discarding
all human relationship with the spirit of detach-
Five Basic Needs ment and seeking only divine relationship, one
According to Erich Fromm, there are five higher will attain everlasting happiness and this will en-
basic needs, and with the fulfilment of these, life noble our human relationships also.
becomes meaningful. Need for transcendence The human being
Need for Relatedness The human being must has to transcend the animal nature. Instead of
be related to something; there must be a sense of simply being a creature one must be creative. Cre-
belongingness. One must be a part of a family, an ativity is not just confined to the field of differ-
institution, or a group. If one has no role to play ent kinds of art alone; one can be creative in any
in the family, institution, or in ones workplace; field, even in ordinary activities also. This will not
if no one notices a person, that person would feel only prevent our life from becoming mechanical,
rejected and will have an agonising sense of lone- but will also give us a sense of fulfilment. Other-
liness. Such socially rejected persons sometimes wise, we will be like helpless creatures tossed by
join some anti-social group or institution and the dualities of life. To lead an effective spiritual
thereby find some meaning in this life. In the pre- life, transcending the dualities of life is very es-
sent-day society, there is an unnatural tendency of sential. Sri Aurobindo says: One who has not
talking to distant people through technology, yet the courage to face patiently and firmly life and
not being in talking terms with the family mem- its difficulties will never be able to go through the
bersfeeling near to distant ones and distanc- still greater inner difficulties of the sadhana. The
ing from the near ones! The great hero, Karna of very first lesson in this Yoga is to face life and its
Mahabharata, joins hands with the wicked Kau- trials with a quiet mind, a firm courage and an
ravas being rejected by his mother and others. entire reliance on the Divine Shakti.13

312 PB February 2016


Need for being rooted It is very essential for
us to be firmly rooted in our higher ideal. A tree
firmly rooted in the ground will not be toppled
by a storm. If we are not firmly rooted, we will
be overwhelmed by the tempest of various in-
fluences, adversities, and temptations; and our
life will become rudderless. The childs life is
rooted in the mother. As one grows one has to
find new grounds for ones roots, and the par-
ents must help one in this regard. A seedling is
first reared in a pot and then it is transplanted
on the ground. There it grows by itself into a
huge tree.
Need for identity It is necessary to retain
the uniqueness of our personality, not trying
Erich Fromm (19001980)
to become somebody else by blindly imitating
others. In this regard we must have the courage
References
to be alone not only physically but also intel-
lectually, ideologically, and emotionally. Many 1. Katha Upanishad, 2.1.11.
2. Yoga Vasishta, 3.115.24.
act like a mirror reflecting different personal-
3. Brahma Purana, 22.467.
ities. Identifying oneself as a spiritual aspirant 4. Swami Yatiswarananda, Meditation and Spirit
one has to shape ones personality accordingly, ual Life (Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama, 2009), 110.
reflecting the ideal in everything one does. Most 5. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, 2 vols (Pondi-
of the people behave differently in different situ- cherry: Aurobindo Ashram, 2013), 2.14950.
6. Ken Wilber, No Boundary: Eastern and West
ations. In temples they are devotees, in their own ern Approaches to Personal Growth (Boulder:
homes they are like demons, and in business they Shambhala, 1985), 101.
indulge in cut-throat competitions demanding 7. Vyasa, Commentary on Patanjalis Yoga Sutra
their pound of flesh. With some they remain on Sutra 2.5: Vyaktamavyaktam va sattva
like slaves and try to enslave some others. In this matmatvenabhipretya tasya sampadamanu
nandati atmasampadam manvamanastasya
manner, their personality changes according to vyapadamanushochati atmavyapadam manya
the situation. manah sa sarvoprabuddhah.
Need for orientation We need to also observe 8. See Mundaka Upanishad, 3.1.1.
the world and its happenings with some def- 9. Madhusudana Sarasvati, Gudartha Dipika, 2.57:
Yasmin sati anyadiye hanivriddhi svasmin aro
inite perspective, and bring everything within
pyate.
the framework of that perspective. Otherwise 10. See Victor E Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning
everything remains unrelated and confusing. (Boston: Beacon, 2000).
The scientist looks at the Himalayas in a scien- 11. M., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami
tific perspective, the artist looks at it through Nikhilananda (Chennai: Ramakrishna Math,
2002), 463.
the aesthetic sense, and for a yogi it is as an 12. Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusion
abode of spirituality. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), 119.
(To be continued) 13. Letters on Yoga, 2.111.

PB February 2016 313


Theory and Knowledge in the
Indian Tradition in the
Light of Swami Vivekananda
Kapil Kumar Bhattacharyya

Introduction theorising in India, the antiquity of the same


remains beyond doubt as is evident from the
The Hindus have received their religion through
revelation, the Vedas. They hold that the Vedas Vedas, which deal in considerable detail on the
are without beginning and without end. It may laws of nature.2 Thus, we have to concede that
sound ludicrous to this audience, how a book the concept of theorising is nothing new in the
can be without beginning or end. But by the Indian perspective.
Vedas no books are meant. They mean the accu- Not much is yet known about the research
mulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by traditions developed in ancient Indian universi-
different persons in different times. Just as the ties such as Taxila and Nalanda. However, gen-
law of gravitation existed before its discovery,
eralisations offered in a huge number of treatises
and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is
it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. of ancient India on different subjects could not
The moral, ethical, and spiritual relations be- possibly have been shaped without elaborate
tween soul and soul and between individual research processes. These need to be explored
spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there further.3 The present work is a humble endeav-
before their discovery, and would remain even our to understand the concepts of theory and
if we forgot them. The discoverers of these laws knowledge in the Indian tradition, stringing
are called Rishis, and we honour them as per- together the various thoughts of the great monk
fected beings. ... Here it may be said that these
of India, Swami Vivekananda, on the subject of
laws as laws may be without end, but they must
have had a beginning.1 theory, knowledge, and practical application
of the same.

A n understanding of any concept


must begin from theorising and be val-
idated through proper conceptualisa-
tion, understanding, and acceptance of the same.
When such concepts pass the test of general-
The Vedic Mind
The minds of the people from whom the Vedas
came were intent upon following principles, dis-
covering principles. They had no time to work
upon details or to wait for them; they wanted to
isation, what we have before us are known as
go deep into the heart of things. Something be-
laws. These laws are what comprise the subject yond was calling them, as it were, and they could
of human knowledge and our ancient scriptures not wait. Scattered through the Upanishads, we
have an abundance of them. And, while it is hard find that the details of subjects which we now
to precisely determine the earliest attempts of call modern sciences are often very erroneous,

314 PB February 2016


Theory and Knowledge in the Indian Tradition in the Light of Swami Vivekananda 31

but, at the same time, their principles are cor- not with the eyes and the senses that we per-
rect. For instance, the idea of ether, which is one ceive that external world, and know anything
of the latest theories of modern science, is to be about religion; the first idea, therefore, was to
found in our ancient literature in forms much find the deficiency, and that deficiency was both
more developed than is the modern scientific physical and moral, as we shall see. You do not
theory of ether today, but it was in principle. know, says one of these sages, the cause of this
When they tried to demonstrate the workings universe; there has arisen a tremendous differ-
of that principle, they made many mistakes. ence between you and mewhy? Because you
Coming to the principles, we find these Vedic have been talking sense things and are satisfied
thinkers very courageous and wonderfully bold with sense-objects and with the mere ceremoni-
in propounding large and generalised theories. als of religion, while I have known the Purusha
Their solution of the mystery of the universe, beyond (1.3534).
from the external world, was as satisfactory as it People seem to forget that about ninety per
could be. The detailed workings of modern sci- cent of all our knowledge cannot, in the very
ence do not bring the question one step nearer nature of things, be applied in a practical way
to solution, because the principles have failed. to add to our material happiness or to lessen
What I mean is that in their inquiry into the our misery. Only the smallest fraction of our
principle, the Hindu thinkers were as bold, and scientific knowledge can have any such practical
in some cases, much bolder than the moderns. application to our daily lives. This is so because
They made some of the grandest generaliza- only an infinitely small percentage of our con-
tions that have yet been reached, and some still scious mind is on the sensuous plane. We have
remain as theories, which modern science has just a little bit of sensuous consciousness and
yet to get even as theories.4 imagine that to be our entire mind and life; but,
The Aryan mind had so long been seeking as a matter of fact, it is but a drop in the mighty
an answer to the question [of the beginning of ocean of subconscious mind. If all there is of us
life on earth] from outside. They questioned were a bundle of sense perceptions, all the know-
everything they could find, the sun, the moon, ledge we could gain could be utilised in the grat-
and stars, and they found all they could in this ification of our sense-pleasures. But fortunately
way. The whole of nature at best could teach such is not the case. As we get further and fur-
them only of a personal Being who is the Ruler ther away from the animal state, our sense-pleas-
of the universe; it could teach nothing fur- ures become less and less; and our enjoyment, in
ther. In short, out of the external world we can a rapidly increasing consciousness of scientific
only get the idea of an architect, that which is and psychological knowledge, becomes more
called the Design Theory. ... That much they and more intense; and knowledge for the sake
had found out already, and many other minds of knowledge, regardless of the amount of sense
would have rested at that. In other countries the pleasures it may conduce to, becomes the su-
same thing happened; the human mind could preme pleasure of the mind (6.28).
not rest there; the thinking, grasping minds
wanted to go further, but those that were back- Theory and Knowledge
ward got hold of them and did not allow them All knowledge that the world has ever received
to grow. But fortunately these Hindu sages were comes from the mind; the infinite library of
not the people to be knocked on the head; they the universe is in your own mind. The external
wanted to get a solution, and now we find that world is simply the suggestion, the occasion,
they were leaving the external for the internal. which sets you to study your own mind, but the
The first thing that struck them was, that it is object of your study is always your own mind.

PB February 2016 315


32 Prabuddha Bharata

The falling of an apple gave the suggestion to body. Various theories have been propounded,
Newton, and he studied his own mind. He re- system after system has been brought forward
arranged all the previous links of thought in his to suggest explanations. Some have been re-
mind and discovered a new link among them, jected, while others have been accepted, and
which we call the law of gravitation. It was not thus it will go on, so long as man is here, so long
in the apple nor in anything in the centre of as man thinks (2.263).
the earth. All knowledge, therefore, secular or Nowadays men think this or that and write
spiritual, is in the human mind. In many cases many volumes, which are entirely misleading,
it is not discovered, but remains covered, and because they have not the power to analyse their
when the covering is being slowly taken off, we own minds and are talking of things they have
say, We are learning, and the advance of know- never known, but only theorised about. All sci-
ledge is made by the advance of this process ence must be based on facts, and these facts
of uncovering. The man from whom this veil must be observed and generalised. Until you
is being lifted is the more knowing man, the have some facts to generalise upon, what are
man upon whom it lies thick is ignorant, and you going to do? So all these attempts at gener-
the man from whom it has entirely gone is all- alising are based upon knowing the things we
knowing, omniscient (1.28). generalise. A man proposes a theory, and adds
The mind attains to powers of finer per- theory to theory, until the whole book is patch-
ception which no instrument will ever be able work of theories, not one of them with the least
to attain. To attain to this power of superfine meaning (8.194).
perception we have to begin from the gross. In acquiring knowledge we make use of gen-
And as the power becomes finer and finer, we eralisations, and generalisation is based upon
go deeper and deeper inside our own nature; observation. We first observe facts, then gener-
and all the gross movements will first be tan- alise, and then draw conclusions or principles.
gible to us, and then the finer movements of the The knowledge of the mind, of the internal na-
thought; we will be able to trace the thought ture of man, of thought, can never be had until
before its beginning, trace it where it goes we have first the power of observing the facts
and where it ends. For instance, in the ordin- that are going on within. It is comparatively
ary mind a thought arises. The mind does not easy to observe facts in the external world, for
know how it began or whence it comes. The many instruments have been invented for the
mind is like the ocean in which a wave rises, purpose, but in the internal world we have no
but although the man sees the wave, he does instrument to help us. Yet we know we must
not know how the wave came there, whence its observe in order to have a real science. With-
birth, or whither it melts down again; he can- out a proper analysis, any science will be hope-
not trace it any further. But when the percep- lessmere theorising. And that is why all the
tion becomes finer, we can trace this wave long, psychologists have been quarrelling among
long before it comes to the surface; and we will themselves since the beginning of time, except
be able to trace it for a long distance after it those few who found out the means of obser-
has disappeared, and then we can understand vation (1.129).
psychology as it truly is (8.1934).
Here we stand, and our eyes look forward Knowledge and Practical Application
sometimes miles ahead. Man has been doing For practical purposes, let us talk in the lan-
that since he began to think. He is always look- guage of modern science. But I must ask you to
ing forward, looking ahead. He wants to know bear in mind that, as there is religious supersti-
where he goes even after the dissolution of his tion, so also there is a superstition in the matter

316 PB February 2016


Theory and Knowledge in the Indian Tradition in the Light of Swami Vivekananda 33

of science. There are priests who take up reli- books which declare again and again: The
gious work as their speciality; so also there are Lord is to be seen. Bold, brave words indeed,
priests of physical law, scientists. As soon as a but true to their very core; every sound, every
great scientists name, like Darwin or Huxley, is vibration is true (3.3778). Verification is the
cited, we follow blindly. It is the fashion of the perfect proof of a theory (1.9). Any amount
day. Ninety-nine per cent of what we call scien- of theoretical knowledge one may have; but
tific knowledge is mere theories. And many of unless one does the thing actually, nothing is
them are no better than the old superstitions learnt (8.456).
of ghosts with many heads and hands, but with Theory is very good indeed, but how are we
this difference that the latter differentiated man to carry it into practice? If it be absolutely im-
a little from stocks and stones. True science asks practicable, no theory is of any value whatever,
us to be cautious. Just as we should be careful except as intellectual gymnastics (2.291). Prac-
with the priests, so we should be with the scien- tice is absolutely necessary. You may sit down
tists. Begin with disbelief. Analyse, test, prove and listen to me by the hour every day, but if
everything, and then take it. Some of the most you do not practise, you will not get one step
current beliefs of modern science have not been further. It all depends on practice. We never
proved. Even in such a science as mathematics, understand these things until we experience
the vast majority of its theories are only work- them. We will have to see and feel them for
ing hypotheses. With the advent of greater ourselves. Simply listening to explanations and
knowledge they will be thrown away (2.289). theories will not do (1.139).
It is man-making theories that we want
(3.224). That theory ought to be taken
which explains most of the facts, if not
all, and that without contradicting
painting: C apil a / Patna, india / c. early 19th century / The British Museum

other existing theories (2.76). Any the-


ory which can fit itself to facts which it
wants to explain, by first cutting as many
of them as prevents its fitting itself into
them, is on the face of it wrong (4.383). It
is much better to confess ignorance than
to try to evade the question by the al-
lurements of future enjoyments in pro-
portion to the evil here, or by posing
mysteries. Not only undeserved suffer-
ing forced upon us by any agent is im-
moralnot to say unjustbut even the
future-making up theory has no legs to
stand upon (4.269).
But theory and idea is one thing and
actual working is another thing (3.534).
Mere believing in certain theories and
doctrines will not help you much. The
mighty word that came out from the
sky of spirituality in India was Anub-
huti, realisation, and ours are the only

PB February 2016 317


34 Prabuddha Bharata

In this regard, Swamijis observation on Sri All our knowledge is based upon experience.
Ramakrishnas approach is worth recalling: What we call inferential knowledge, in which
we go from the less to the more general, or from
Whenever he wanted to do anything he never the general to the particular, has experience as
confined himself to fine theories, but would its basis. In what are called the exact sciences,
enter into the practice immediately; We see people easily find the truth, because it appeals
many persons talking the most wonderfully to the particular experiences of every human
fine things about charity and about equality being. The scientist does not tell you to believe
and the rights of other people and all that, but in anything, but he has certain results which
it is only in theory. I was so fortunate as to find come from his own experiences, and reasoning
one who was able to carry theory into practice. on them when he asks us to believe in his con-
He had the most wonderful faculty of carrying clusions, he appeals to some universal experi-
everything into practice which he thought was ence of humanity. In every exact science there
right (4.174). is a basis which is common to all humanity, so
that we can at once see the truth or the fallacy
The Right Approach to Knowledge of the conclusions drawn therefrom.6

It is evident from the assertions so far that The quest of any knowledge essentially
Swamiji emphasised a good combination of begins from the plane of disbelief regarding any
theory and practice and not mere conjec- idea. It may be an assertion, an observation, a
tures and guesses. Lame-duck theories that prior phenomenon, or even a law. The disbelief
are limited only to academic relish are no may give rise to a new idea or a new dimension
good. Equally worthless are theories that can- to the existing idea which has to be processed
not find application and utility in the cause of further. The idea then has to be analysed from
the furtherance of human welfare both in the multiple angles and accordingly different sup-
physical world and beyond. That research in positions are likely to come up. These suppo-
ancient India was seen as an act of knowledge- sitions will then have to be put to the test of
enhancement, which was expected to contrib- practicability through verifiable methods so as
ute to the betterment of humanity has already to assess their validity. The validity, however,
been established. needs to be in totality and not selective in na-
The text Sankhya Karika of Ishvara Krishna ture. Only when the idea has been put to test
begins thus: Duhkhatrayabhighatat jijnasa in every possible manner and its validity estab-
tadapaghatake hetau; Drishte sapartha chet lished in its entirety beyond doubt, the idea
naikantatyantatobhavat. Loosely translated to needs to be accepted. However, mere accept-
English,5 it means: In this world, three kinds ance of an idea is not good enough. The idea
of miseries exist. Since these miseries exist, they must be put to proper application for the wel-
need to be addressed. From this need, there fare of the world.
arises a desire for initiating an inquiry into the Thus, we find that knowledge flows from dis-
means of solving them. Such an inquiry is super- belief to realisation and acceptance and ultim-
fluous if visible means of solution already exist. ately application. As Swamiji used to say: Do
However, if the means are not absolute and the not believe a thing because you read it in a book!
miseries remain unsolved, the inquiry certainly Do not believe a thing because another has said
warrants validity. it is so! Find out the truth for yourself ! That is

318 PB February 2016


Theory and Knowledge in the Indian Tradition in the Light of Swami Vivekananda 35

realization!7 Now that we have seen the right Keeping in mind the tenets of research and
approach to knowledge, we also need to realise knowledge in the Indian tradition and drawing
the means to attaining knowledge. on insights from the assertions of Swamiji put
forth so far, we may broadly map the right ap-
How To Attain Knowledge proach to knowledge as may be envisaged from
It is true that all knowledge is within ourselves, the rich legacy of the Indian antiquity in the fol-
but this has to be called forth by another know- lowing order: Finding the ideal person or the
ledge. Although the capacity to know is inside right teacher, beginning with disbelief regarding
us, it must be called out, and that calling out an idea, analysing the idea adequately, testing the
of knowledge can only be done, a Yogi main- idea practically, proving everything regarding
tains, through another knowledge. Dead, in-
the idea, accepting the idea wholeheartedly, and
sentient matter never calls out knowledge, it is
the action of knowledge that brings out know- putting the idea into application for the welfare
ledge. Knowing beings must be with us to call of the world.
forth what is in us, so these teachers were al- This, then, is the broad framework which has
ways necessary. The world was never without ably facilitated the smooth transfer of knowledge
them, and no knowledge can come without in the Indian tradition. A student goes to the
them (1.2167). ideal person with some abstract idea often ini-
We talk of principles, we think of theories, tiated by a sense of inquisitiveness accompanied
and that is all right; but every thought and every by the inability to comprehend the truth. The
movement, every one of our actions, shows that teacher takes the student through the right path
we can only understand the principle when it of knowledge accomplishment guided by the
comes to us through a person. We can grasp an
idea only when it comes to us through a mate-
sense of love and responsibility towards both the
rialised ideal person. We can understand the student and humanity at large. Once the student
precept only through the example (4.121). It is understands the truth and firmly accepts the idea
true, as the modern philosophers say, that there from ones heart, the student carries forward
is something in man which evolves out of him; the baton of knowledge and passes the same to
all knowledge is in man, but certain environ- the subsequent generations in the true spirit of
ments are necessary to call it out. We cannot knowledge utility for human welfare. This very
find any knowledge without teachers (1.217). view has been emphasised by Vachaspati Mishra
It is worth mentioning here that though in his Sankhya Tattva Kaumudi, where he gives
Swamiji was fortunate to have received know- us a list of five siddhis: Tara, sutara, taratara,
ledge from Sri Ramakrishna, he did not ac- ramyaka, and sadamudita, which are mandatory
cept his masters words on face value. When for the realisation of any research work aimed at
Swamiji first met Sri Ramakrishna, he had the welfare of human beings.8
many reservations regarding the latters views.
He then listened to what his master had to say, Concluding Remarks
deeply contemplated on the assertions, and It is no secret that Swamiji was an extremely
only when he was firmly convinced, accepted well-read man. Just as he knew the ancient In-
his masters ideas. Thus, we find that Swamiji dian scriptures like the back of his hand, he was
himself practised the approach to knowledge equally well-acquainted with the modern sci-
asserted by him. ences. More importantly, he could connect the

PB February 2016 319


36 Prabuddha Bharata

knowledge of ancient India with the latest dis- from Indian Perspective, The Visva-Bharati
coveries of science, a quality which has been, by Quarterly, 23/1 (2014), 10216 <https://ar-
and large, missing in the present age. The present chive.org/details/TracingTheRootsOf Re-
searchFromIndianPerspective_2014> accessed
work has been a modest attempt to understand
23 December 2015.
the secret of the desired knowledge transfer in 4. Complete Works, 2.8990.
the Indian tradition and shed some light on the 5. Mo r e a c c u rat e t ra n s l at i o n s a r e :
concepts of theory and knowledge from the Duhkhatraybhightt, From the torment by
Indian perspective. the three-fold (causes of ) pain (there arises);
jijs, a desire for inquiry; tadapaghtake
This work is essentially inspired by the hetau, into the means of terminating it; Drste,
thoughts of Swamiji on theory, knowledge, and (there existing) visible means; s, it (i.e., the in-
practical application which the present author quiry); aprth, superfluous; cet, if it be said; na,
feels are adequate to render an understanding of (we reply) not so; eknta-atyantatah-abhvt,
the concepts in question on their own. Hence, (since in them) there is the absence of certainty
and permanency. (Smkhya Krika of vara
the author has deliberately stayed shy of insert- Krsna with the Tattva Kaumudi of r Vcaspati
ing his views unless absolutely necessary. The Mra, trans. Swami Virupakshananda (Madras:
present work, thus, is not original in the strictest Ramakrishna Math, 1995), 12). A part of the
sense of the term. But then, no attempt has been Sankhya Tattva Kaumudi of Vachaspati Mishra,
a commentary on this Karika, is translated thus:
made to project the same as one. The authors
The three kinds of pain constitute (what is or-
only aim has been to string together Swamijis dinarily called) the triad of pain. And these
views on the concerned subject from different are: (1) The naturo-intrinsic (dhytmika), (2)
sources in a logical order and outline the broad The naturo-extrinsic (dhibhautika), and (3)
framework connecting the concerned links in The super-natural (Adhidaivika). Of these the
naturo-intrinsic is two-fold, bodily and men
the Indian tradition and whether the author has tal. Bodily pain is caused by the disorder of
been able to do some justice to the same remains the various humours, wind, bile, and phlegm;
to be seen. P and mental pain is due to desire, wrath, ava-
rice, affection, fear, envy, grief, and the non-
Notes and References perception of particular objects. All these are
called intrinsic on account of their admitting
1. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, of internal remedies. Pains submitting to ex-
9 vols (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 18, 1989; ternal remedies are two-fold: extrinsic, and su
9, 1997), 1.7. per-human. The extrinsic are caused by men,
2. Dr Nirmala Mani Adhikary in a paper, has beasts, birds, reptiles and inanimate things;
traced back the concept of theory and theo- and the superhuman ones owe their existence
risation to the Charaka Samhita from Indian to the evil influence of planets and the various
antiquity, thereby, disproving the prevalent no- class of elementals. (Gangntha Jh, An Eng
tion of theory being a Western construct. For a lish Translation, with the Sanskrit Text of the
detailed understanding of the concept of theory Tattva-Kaumud (Snkhya) of Vchaspati Mira
and theorisation given in the Charaka Samhita, (Bombay: Theosophical, 1896), 2).
see Dr Nirmala Mani Adhikary, Theory Build- 6. Complete Works, 1.126.
ing Through Research: An Exposition From A 7. His Eastern and Western Disciples, The Life of
Classical Sanskrit Text, China Media Research, Swami Vivekananda, 2 vols (Kolkata: Advaita
9/3 (July 2013), 2832. Ashrama, 2008), 1.31.
3. Kapil Kumar Bhattacharyya and Biplab Loho- 8. See Tattva-Kaumud (Snkhya) of Vchaspati
Choudhury, Tracing the Roots of Research Mira, 95.

320 PB February 2016


Swami Premanandas
Teachings
Swami Omkareshwarananda

T
oday is krishna navami, Wednesday,
15 Agrahayan, the star is Uttara-Phalguni,
and the date is 1 December 1915. Just a few
moments ago the sun has set, withdrawing its net.
The evening vesper service to Sri Ramakrishna
has begun at Belur Math. Become god and wor-
ship godthe worshipper is god himself, ever-
perfect, Ishvarakoti, one of the inner-circle of Sri
Ramakrishnas disciples, and the embodiment of
sacrifice, love, and bliss: Swami Premananda. His Swami Premananda (18611918)
body shines gloriously like that of Sri Chaitanya
Mahaprabhu. He is wearing an ochre dhoti and One. After that everyone saluted Sri Rama-
has an ochre wrapper over his upper body. He is krishna by prostrating on the ground, saying:
holding a bell in his left hand, a lighted five-faced Om sthapakaya cha dharmasya sarvadharma
lamp in his right hand, and his mind is indrawn. svarupine avataravarishtaya ramakrishnaya te
The devotees are fulfilling the purpose of their namah, Om namo bhagavate Sri Ramakrishnaya
eyes and lives, seeing the vesper service of this namo namah; I bow down to Ramakrishna, who
godman, standing in the corridor with folded established the religion, embodying in himself
hands in front of Sri Ramakrishnas shrine. the reality of all religions and being thus the fore-
The vespers have ended. Now, there will be most of divine incarnations, Om I bow down to
the singing of hymns. The brahmacharis and de- Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna.
votees of Belur Math are seated in their allot-
ted seats. Swami Premananda too has sat facing The Importance of Experience
north on the seat reserved for him in the corridor Anubhutim vina mudha
in front of Sri Ramakrishnas shrine. Now began vritha brahmani modate
the group singing of the song Khandana bhava- Pratibimbita-shakhagra-
bandhana, jaga-vandana vandi tomay; we salute phalasvadana modavat.
Thee! Lord! Adored of the world, Samsaras In vain does the fool take delight in Brahman,
bondage breaker, composed by Swami Viveka- without experience, just like one takes delight
in the eating of a fruit in the reflection of a trees
nanda. This was followed by the singing of the
branch seen in ones front.1
hymn, Om hrim ritam gunajit gunedyah; Om!
Hrim! Thou art the True, the Imperturbable Malaria is rampant during the months of August

PB February 2016 321


38 Prabuddha Bharata

to November. The number of monks staying in Renunciation


Belur Math used to reduce during this period. Tyagenaike amritattvamanashuh.
During the winter, monks from various places By renunciation alone can one attain
used to come to Belur Math. Swami Girijananda, immortality.2
Swami Shyamananda, Brahmachaitanya, Swami Today some devotees had come. They were
Achyutananda, and some other monks of the repeatedly saying: Our guru has asked to read
Belur Math had returned one after another after the Gita often. I asked them: What good
performing spiritual austerities in places like Ut- would come of mere reading? One has to be-
tarkashi, Lakshmanjhula, and Rishikesh. come what has been told in the Gita. One has
It was around seven to eight p.m. in the to show it through ones life. Nothing will hap-
evening. Many monks and brahmacharis of the pen if that is not done. Sri Ramakrishna used to
Math were assembled in the visitors room after say: The meaning of Gita is what comes by re-
the singing of hymns and after doing japa and peating the word Gita ten times. That is, if you
meditation. Revered Baburam Maharaj [Swami say Gita, Gita, Gitait becomes tyagi, tyagi,
Premananda] used to encourage those present, tyagi. If one does not become a tyagi, renunciate,
sometimes to sing bhajans, sometimes to read nothing will happen. Renunciation alone is the
from books, and sometimes he used to hold main mantra. And renunciation alone can lead
everyone spellbound by his nectarine words. to peace. There is no other path.
Swami Premananda told to the monks who Let all of you become the Gita! That is, be-
had returned from Rishikesh: All of you have come renunciates, not just from the outside, but
become like the monks of Rishikesh! They say: from the depths of your mind. Of what avail is it
The world does not exist in the past, present, if you do not become a renunciate and just mem-
and the future. Everyone wears ochre robes of orise the Gita? Nowadays, the Gita is there in
different hues and wanders about begging alms every home and many have read it. Yet, why is it
and learns by rote some verses of the Bhagavad- that they are not getting God-realisation? How
gita or Vedanta to dupe the householders. Can would they get it? Their minds are attached to
one become a monk just by doing these? All of sense-objects, to lust and greed. How can one
that will not work here. This is the kingdom of attain God-realisation then? It is just a waste of
Sri Ramakrishna! One has to make him ones energy to oar a boat that is anchored in lust and
ideal and strive for increasing ones renun- greed. If you wish to cross the ocean of samsara;
ciation, dispassion, love, devotion, and faith. if you wish to put an end to all suffering, cut off
One has to mould ones life through all these all mental attachments, mental knots.
qualities; only then can one attain fulfilment Saying this, Swami Premananda sang in his
in life. Instead, if one just wears an ochre robe usual melodious voice:
and rattles off verses like a sadhu of Rishikesh,
can that make one a monk? It would not do if Taras boat has come into bay.
O Mind, come running,
one just parrots verses. It should be reflected if you wish to go to the shore.
in ones life; life burning with renunciation! Oar fast and move on,
One has to show it through ones life. Instead, hoisting the sail in Taras name.
just wearing the ochre cloth and memorising If you reach the shore, all sufferings will go,
verseschhi-chhi! you will cut all the knots of the mind.

322 PB February 2016


Swami Premanandas Teachings 39

O Mind, you shop in the bazaar, But, a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and a mem-
why do you run around in vain? ber of the Society, Kalipada Babu came to the
The day of samsara is past, Math, and repeatedly requested Maharaj, and
evening has come, accompanied him to the meeting place. Kalipada
what more will you do in samsaras market?
Babu is the son of the renowned Gangadhar
Says Sri Ramprasad, tighten your chest belts,
Now, I run cutting the bonds of maya. Bandyopadhyay and the grandson of the great
Sri Shambhuchandra. Baburam Maharaj went
After a while Baburam Maharaj said: Renun- to Calcutta that day and spoke at that meeting;
ciation is needed, austerity is needed, detach- he is recounting it today.
ment is neededonly then can one understand Baburam Maharaj: Just see, I was not at all
the import of the Gita. Renunciation, renunci- interested to go that Saturday; I went because
ation, renunciation. Just see Sri Ramakrishna, of being requested persistently. A pandit gave a
what a great renunciate he was! He could not wonderful lecture. His language was good and
touch money; his hands would get twisted. Why he is a great scholar, but what of it? I intently
dont you mould your lives keeping him as the observed that his words did not penetrate the
ideal? To mould ones life according to an ideal audience, they were not impressed. But, [point-
is dharma. If you do not do thisit is immaterial ing to himself ] I am not a scholar. Sri Rama-
whether you are a householder or a monkyour krishna made me speak something. All listened
life would go waste. You would only go round to it with rapt attention and eagerness. I told:
and round in samsara. Do you understand? Nothing comes out of lecturing, you have to
Saying this, he started singing in that mood: show it through your life, only then will you get
Mother, how long will you wheel me around? permanent results, cant you see?
Like the blind ox of the oil-machine.
Purity is ReligionJesus Christ
Having tied me to samsaras tree,
you are going in endless rounds. One has to be pure, purity alone is religion. One
For what fault of mine has to align ones speech and actions. I saw Sri
have you made me a slave of six oxes? Ramakrishna, the embodiment of purity. One
The word Mother brims with love, person used to accept bribes and thus have some
you take to your lap the crying child. additional income. This person once touched Sri
I see this is the universes norm, Ramakrishnas feet when he was in samadhi. Upon
then am I alone, not of this universe? this Sri Ramakrishna cried out aloud in pain.
Repeating Durgas name,
When he was in samadhi, one had to hold Sri
countless have sinners been saved.
For once open the blinds on your eyes, Ramakrishna to prevent him from falling down.
I seek refuge in your feet. We also used to fear lest he cry out in pain at our
There are many bad sons, touch. There was a divine love among us brother-
but never a bad mother. disciples. People used to say: We have never
This is the hope of Ramprasad, seen such love among brother-disciples before.
Till the end, I bow to thee, Mother. Usually, brother-disciples are after one anothers
Last 21 November, Saturday, Baburam Maha- lives. This is a unique thing that we see. Develop
raj was invited to speak at a meeting of the Cal- that kind of divine love among you. When we
cutta Vivekananda Society. He refused at first. would be no more, even if you build hospitals

PB February 2016 323


40 Prabuddha Bharata

in every city, give lectures on Vedanta, start Partha, do not yield to impotence.3 Give up
ashramasnothing would come out of it unless impotence! Be human and enjoy this earth.
there is purity, deep love, and amity among you. You have to also preach to people, the ideal life
Maintain deep love and affection among of Hanuman.
yourselves. Do you consider yourselves any less? If one is a devotee, has one to just meditate
Are the disciples of Sri Sarada Devi any less than upon the form of Sri Krishna with flute in his
those of Sri Ramakrishna? I am not exaggerating hand and see his dance? Ah! What is this? Sri
but telling the truth. Sri Ramakrishnas mood Ramakrishna never liked a straitjacketed ap-
was visible externally as bhava, mahabhava, and proachhe used to talk of the devotion of a
samadhi. On the other hand, Sri Sarada Devi is robber. Do you know that story that Sri Rama-
the embodiment of Divine Mother, but is keep- krishna used to tell?
ing her real form hidden and is doing household There was a great Vaishnava who lived eating
chores like cooking just like any ordinary woman. the leaves and fruits that had fallen from the tree,
[To Matilal, later Swami Mahadevananda] You and used to spend his time repeating the name
are coming from Jayrambati today; how is she? of and contemplating on God. But he carried a
I heard a talk on rasalila in Kashi. I liked it sharpened sword on his hip. One day, seeing this
very much the first day: a good speaker, a good non-violent great Vaishnava carry a sharpened
singer, there was some scholarship. I heard the sword on his hip, Sage Narada asked him: Sir,
same talk on the second and third day too. The I see that you are a great Vaishnava; you spare
audience was full of tainted householders at- even the leaves on the tree, lest you harm any
tached to lust and greed. If I could see them again, living being. You sustain yourself by eating the
I would give them a piece of my mind. Just see, leaves and fruits that have fallen from the tree.
how would these impure householders under- Yet, why do you have on your hip, a sword, the
stand the import of rasalila? Only those who are very symbol of violence? The Vaishnava replied:
completely pure are qualified to hear all that. If I carry the sword for killing Arjuna, Prahlada,
an impure person hears it, it would bring that and Draupadi. Surprised, Sage Narada asked:
person ill luck. And that talk was being given to These three are great devotees. Why would you
just those who are not qualified to hear it: house- kill them? The Vaishnava replied: What! Ar-
holders attached to lust and greed. Chhi-chhi! juna has so much courage that he made the lord
Do you think Sri Krishna did nothing in of the universe his charioteer! And for protect-
his life but dance tap-tap with gopis, flute in his ing his life, Prahlada made the lord, having a ten-
hand? Is this your ideal? der and soft body, come out of a rock pillar! And
People of your nation are starving, have Draupadi, took refuge in Sri Krishna for protect-
nothing to wear, have no physical strength, no ing her grace, while the lord was taking food and
brahmacharya, and have been weakened by dis- deprived him of his meal! That is why I will kill
eases, and to top it all, there is no stopping them these three people!
from producing children, year after year. Instead (To be continued)
of telling them about rasalila, you have to preach References
the great message of Sri Krishna, the chariot- 1. Maitreyi Upanishad, 2.22.
eer of Partha, who propounded the path of self- 2. Kaivalya Upanishad, 1.3.
less work. Klaibyam masma gamah partha; O 3. Gita, 2.3.

324 PB February 2016


Of Films, Fantasy, and Faith
Pritha Lal

Cinema: Thoughts Behind A Silver Screen Faith is definitely in the frame, so to speak.

F
or the longest time, across countries, But what I find more interesting is the evolution
cultures, and communities, cinema has of thought across the globe that causes us to look
been a very potent means of communica- at faith and its tenets in very diametrically op-
tion of thoughts and ideas. Of course for many posite contexts of the silver screen. And maybe
Indians, the word cinema almost instinctively in some trite terms, find some profound truths
conjures up stereotypical images of Bollywood, in a movie hall amidst popcorn and soft drinks.
which may or may not appeal to the sensibilities Of all the movies related directly or indirectly
of many readers of this journal. In making that to the concepts of Hindu faith and culture, I was
statement, I do not mean to demean or discount particularly amazed by a series of books that I
the role the Indian film industry plays in the por- read by an author recently and then watched the
trayal of India across the globe, but just state an movies made on the same by Hollywood. The
assumed preference and also set the expectations universality of the ancient tenets of Hinduism
of this article at the very outset. have never been so starkly clear to me as they
The world of cinema has been a very inter- were through this most unexpected and unlikely
esting one as far as religion and spirituality are of media. My attempt in this article is to take
concerned. Most Indian films, no matter what you down that path I traversed as I relearned
the language they are made in, typically show a some concepts of the Hindu varnashrama that
scene or two where there is a shrine of some faith my history books taught eons ago, in the light of
where the devout offer prayers. One can go fur- the present world.
ther and say that there are films that have been
made across the continents that have talked of A Quick Lesson in History
the lives of gods and their renowned devotees. Wisdom, itself, is often an abstraction associ-
There have been television serials on Sri Krishna ated not with fact or reality but with the man
and movies on Meerabai. There have been films who asserts it and the manner of its assertion.2
on Christ and various elements of Christianity, This wonderful quote by the famous economist
in English and many other languages. Islam and John Kenneth Galbraith is probably at the crux
its misconceptions and perceptions have often of what I would like to share with you in this
been dealt with very sensitively in some well- article. Gathering data to create information,
known movies that have come out of Bollywood followed by generation of knowledge, that en-
and have made us pause and think. The world re- ables one to assimilate wisdom, is the typical se-
nowned film-maker Martin Scorsese aptly says: quence with which the human brain processes
Cinema is a matter of whats in the frame and various elements of its environment, and makes
whats out.1 it a part and parcel of its being. This then reflects

PB February 2016 325


42 Prabuddha Bharata

in human behaviour and distinct patterns find characterised by individuals, who dislike strife
their way into our books on history, sociology, and discord of any kind and believe in contribut-
and other relevant arts and sciences. ing to the society by farming and growing crops,
Ancient Indian texts, historical treatises, and and value peace, above all else. 2. Abnegation,
other evidence of social anthropology talk cat- the selfless: They believe selflessness to be the
egorically about the concept of the Hindu varna pinnacle of all virtues and the ultimate means
shrama or the categorisation of society based on of attaining peace in society. This trait makes
varnas or divisions in conjunction with the four this faction ideal for the role of administrators
ashramas or stages of life. As a quick recap the and political leaders of this futuristic world. 3.
four varnas are: brahmanaspriests, teachers, Candour, the honest: This faction is formed by
and intellectuals; Kshatriyaspolice, army, and those who believe that dishonesty is the key
administration; Vaishyasfarmers, merchants, fault in human nature and the sole cause of war
and business people; and Shudrasartisans and and all evil. They believe in being honest under
workers. The four ashramas are: brahmacharya, all circumstances and feel that is what will ul-
student; Grihastha, householder; Vanaprastha, timately bring peace and justice. 4. Dauntless,
retirement; and sannyasa, renunciation. the brave: This faction is formed by those who
blame cowardice for societys problems. They
The Future of an Ancient Thought value the virtue of bravery over any other, and
After that quick history lesson let us now fast emphasise the idea of freedom from fear. They
forward from the Vedic age spanning (1750500 are in some sense the peacekeepers in society
bce) to 2011. Veronica Roth, a twenty-six year and protect it by the sheer prowess of physical
old American novelist and short story writer, strength and the mental tenacity to endure pain
published the Divergent Trilogy that is now of all forms. 5. Erudite, the intelligent: This fac-
being made into movies. The books have been tion believes ignorance is the root of all evil and
on the New York Times bestselling lists and the they value intelligence and wisdom over all else.
movies are running just as successfully. For those They believe pursuit of knowledge will lead to a
unfamiliar with the books, reading my introduc- far more evolved and progressive society. They
tion to this article is going to seem extremely dis- are the learners, scientists, doctors, and teachers
jointed, but I ask for your patience as I attempt in this social order.
to explain a bit more. Individuals are born into factions but at six-
Without giving away the climax of the books teen years of age, they are required to take an
or the movies, the storyline of Divergent has the aptitude test that describes the faction they
most interesting analogy to the varnashrama are best suited for. Upon receiving the test re-
concepts I referred to earlier. The novel is set sults, they may choose to remain in the faction
in a post-apocalyptic futuristic Chicago, where of their families or move to a different fac-
the world has limited inhabitants, and the social tion based on their aptitude and preference.
order has taken on a much regulated, regimented A transfer into a new faction involves a rigor-
forum and form. There are five factions that are ous initiation process. Those who are unable to
based on the innate dispositions of the inhabit- complete this initiation are termed as faction-
ants and are categorised thus: less. They are not allowed to go back to the fac-
1. Amity, the peaceful: This faction is tion of their birth and remain literally in the

326 PB February 2016


Of Films, Fantasy, and Faith 43

Martin Scorsese (b. 1942)

outskirts of society and survive amidst poverty most Pollyanna among us will agree, there are
and depravation on the streets. factions. It is immaterial of what we call them
It is against this interesting societal backdrop or how we choose to ignore stark naked truths.
that the main protagonist of this story makes her The world is not without inequalities or the in-
appearance, the sixteen-year old Beatrice Prior. adequacies in all of us that make the disequilib-
Born into an Abnegation family, she is at the rium a living reality. One is not in a position to
crossroads about which faction to choose having judge these discrepancies but can at best find
completed her aptitude test. The only difference ones way around them. So when I am in a sub-
in her case is that her results were inconclusive way in New York City and a disabled man plays
and she is what the social order terms as diver- the violin, I listen for a while and move on to
gent. Just like the meaning of the word, those my train dropping a few coins on the violin case
with divergent traits show mastery over more open in front of him. The reaction is very similar
than one quality that makes it hard to assign when I visit India and see a begging bowl outside
them to a single faction. The rest of the novel the car window while in a traffic jam on Sarat
deals with Beatrices choice to join the Daunt- Bose Road, Kolkata. Sometimes a part of very
less faction, and her story of consequent trials fast moving little hands come, clean the glass,
and tribulations. She learns to adhere to norms sometimes a few packets of fragrant incense are
imposed by society and balance those with her thrust through the partially open window; each
own unique callings in life and motivators that time there is an exchange, one between two very
guide her to make her own decisions. different factions in our society.
As I was watching the movie and following
Where Do We Fit? Beatrices travails in this futuristic world, her pre-
If we look at our own society today, even the dicament of being divergent rang various bells

PB February 2016 327


44 Prabuddha Bharata

in my mind. Havent we all traversed our own smile fondly is an example of candour that he
journeys socially, sociologically, and maybe even demonstrated at an early age where he showed
spiritually to accept that we may be divergent us all to look for truth and assess it for ourselves.
too in our existence? I delve into another film This incident is particularly ironic given that I
for an example of a real life. Stephen Hawking started this article talking about the Indian class
is not unknown to us. In 2014, the movie The system that was later deformed into the much
Theory of Everything was made based on real life abused caste system.
incidents that Dr Hawking has faced in his epic There used to come to Narens house many of
life that has attempted to solve the mysteries of his fathers clients. They would sit together
the Universe from the confines of a wheelchair. chatting until their turn for consultation came.
If I were to go by the Divergent terminology, They were of various castes; there was even a
he would be what one would call an Erudite, of Mohammedan, with whom Naren was particu-
larly friendly, and each was provided with his
course. But in this movie that won an Oscar for
own hookah. Caste was a mystery to the boy.
the best actor playing Dr Hawking, we see very Why should not a member of one caste eat with
different facets to his personality and persona a member of another or smoke his hookah?
that are not fictional at all. He is a husband, a What would happen if one did? Would the roof
father, and a friend. He is a citizen of the world. fall in on him? Would he suddenly die? He de-
He lives with his physical and emotional frailties cided to see for himself. Boldly he went round
that make him a very real human being as op- the hookahs and took a whiff from each and
posed to a scientist par excellence and exception. every one. No, he was not dead! Just then his
He is dauntless in his courage in facing his phys- father entered. What are you doing, my boy?
he questioned. Oh, father! why, I was trying to
ical infirmities, while being in abnegation on
see what would happen if I broke caste! Noth-
many indulgences given those very same reasons. ing has happened! The father laughed heartily
As a friend and father there is a side to him that and with a knowing look on his face walked
displays amity and his unfailing candour in into his private study.3
challenging the laws of Physics and Mathematics
is not unknown to anyone. Stephen Hawking is Swamiji was fearless. His spirit was dauntless
divergent. So are some of the greatest scholars in ways that anthologies could and have been
of our time, some of the weakest in our society, written on him. For me personally, the fact that
as are the rest of mere mortals like me who dwell an unknown Hindoo Monk travelled half way
happily in mediocrity. across the world, against tremendous odds and
withstood every challenge of every form that
Swamiji and His Divergence presented itself, and delivered his resounding
As I kept going back to this book and movie, speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chi-
the one face that kept coming to my mind time cago in 1893 is an example beyond debate. And
and time again as the most exemplary diver- on that very same note, could there have been
gent there ever lived was that of Swami Viveka- a more apt phrase than Sisters and brothers of
nandas. His life offers stellar examples of all America, to exemplify amity of the highest
these factions in a way that is so unique, beau- order? I think not. The amity he extended to
tiful, and so very inspirational. There is no dearth thousands of perfect strangers in that auditor-
of instances of his erudition. But what makes me ium, lives on to this day. It lives as a road sign in

328 PB February 2016


Of Films, Fantasy, and Faith 45

the midst of the busy metropolis of the Windy your family and once told me: Keep India in
City that reads Honorary Swami Vivekananda your heart always. Today as I think back on those
Way. His amity lives in the form of the twenty words, in the context of this Hollywood film, I
monks and nuns of the Ramakrishna Order am convinced that I need to be more divergent
from across the world, who in 2015 attended than I have ever been in the past. I need to move
the Parliament of Religions in Salt Lake City, out of the comfort zones that have begun to de-
Utah, a place known for its predominant Mor- fine me. I need to study more, be fearless about
mon faith and culture. Swami Vivekananda was my insecurities, and be more honest in my spirit-
the greatest divergent that ever lived. His spirit ual pursuits. I need to be a little bit like Beatrice
of abnegation and selflessness need no intro- Prior. I need to learn a little more from Swamiji.
duction or explanation. Arguably, his greatest Find your divergence, for as Sri Ramakrishna
treatise, Karma Yoga, is the shining example that showed through his own life, there are so many
will continue to inspire generations in the path ways to reach the Almighty as there are so many
of selfless and resolute action. views. If we believe in Swamijis philosophy on
education being the manifestation of the divin-
What Does It All Mean To Us? ity already in man, then isnt it logical to assume
I do believe beyond reasonable doubt that most that being divergent may actually take us a step
of us lead ordinary lives that offer us ample op- closer to that innate divinity? P
portunities to live in various factions. It is im-
possible not to. If one tried to isolate oneself to References
just one, one would lead a very solitary existence. 1. Peter Archer, The Quotable Intellectual (Avon:
That is fine in itself but somewhere through his- Adams Media, 2010), 29.
2. John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash (New
tory, as the Indian class system, merged sadly
York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997), 75.
to become a rigorous caste system; men and 3. His Eastern and Western Disciples, The Life of
women of divergent dispositions took on key Swami Vivekananda, 2 vols (Kolkata: Advaita
roles to set examples to enable us to make the Ashrama, 2008), 1.234.
right choices for the right reasons. We so often A Poster of Divergent
sit in judgement on the rights and wrongs of so-
ciety. We play our own roles in keeping each fac-
tion alive and moving conveniently from one to
another as the situation demands. We are diver-
gent, either by choice or by compulsion. There is
no struggle. It is effortless to traverse these labels
as one goes about making choices and decisions
in life, be they personal, professional, or spiritual.
Think about it, how far will one have travelled
spiritually as an erudite if they were constrained
by the absence of a selfless mother heart?
My spiritual guru, the late Revered Swami
Ranganathanandaji Maharaj, often used the
phrase vasudhaiva kutumbakam; this world is

PB February 2016 329


Svarajya Siddhih of
Gangadharendra Sarasvati
Attaining Self-dominion
Swami Narasimhananda
(Continued from the December 2013 issue)

T
he sautrantikas believe that the seen as one because the stand of both these
inner perception or knowledge of objects schools is one in that they do not give an abso-
like pot and cloth are brought about by the lute reality to the external sense-objects. Taking
varied external experiences in the form of the these two schools as one, they are being quashed
sense perception of these objects and are non-dif- and uprooted in the following three verses:
ferent from the contact of the senses with these yeeeb Yeesieb epeuhev#eefCekeceCegeeb Yeeskele= mebIeelecevle:
objects. If these external objects were absent, a mkebOeeveeb hebeke_eso=Meefceefle megiele: he=eleeb Jesoyeee:~
corresponding knowledge of these objects would efkevles ceeveevlejsCe eefceleefceocegle eewef{js<ee lJeoeree
be impossible and so, we would have to infer that eEke Jee ceesneleueehe: efkeceLe
the cause of the knowledge of these objects is the pe[ peieefeefuehmee kegyegs~~ 1.22 ~~
variety of external objects and this is not direct Bahyam bhogyam prajalpan-kshanikam-
perception. And hence, the existence of the ex- anuchayam bhoktri sanghatamantah
ternal world is established only by inference. The Skandhanam panchakanchedrishamiti sugatah
Vaibhashikaswhose philosophy is also called pricchhyatam vedabahyah.
bahya-pratyakshavada, the school of external-di- Kinte manantarena pramitamidamuta
rect perceptionhold that if the external objects praudhiresha tvadiya
did not exist, there would be no relation with Kim va mohatpralapah kimatha jada jagad-
vipralipsa kubuddhe. (1.22)
them of the inner organs and there would be no
possibility of inferring them. To infer fire from We ask the agnostic Buddhists, who denounce
smoke, there should have been a prior experience the Vedas: O dull and evil-minded ones, you
of the direct perception of fire where there was blabber that all the material objects outside
smoke. Therefore, though absolutely speaking, the the bodyproduced out of earth and the
sense perceptions are false; on the relative plane, other elements, form and other perceptions,
the external world of objects is not established and eyes and other sense-organshaving only
a momentary existence and the atoms of earth
just by inference but also by direct perception. So, and the other elements are the things that are
for inferring fire from smoke, one cannot do away experienced. You call the five skandhas in the
with the external fire. Hence, to infer the external body, which are momentary like the external
sense objects their external presence is also a must. objects, the group of experiencers. You have
The opinions of these two schools is being inferred the momentariness of these objects

330 PB February 2016


Svarajya Siddhih of Gangadharendra Sarasvati 47

and skandhas through some other means of consists of different emotions like attachment,
knowledge like direct perception. Or could it aversion, delusion, righteousness, pride, and self-
also be said that this imagination of momen- conceit. The subject of all experience is alaya-vij-
tariness of objects is the greatness of your in- nana, which is self-revealing and of the nature of
tellect? Or is it just your babble caused out of
a changeless knowledge, which is also called chitta
delusion? Or is it to dupe people?
or Atman. Anything that can be understood by the
The Buddhists believe that one hetu, cause, intellect, anything that can be spoken, and every-
leads to another cause. One cause produces an ef- thing other than that which has all three kinds of
fect, which becomes the next cause. So, depend- non-existenceprag-abhava, prior non-existence;
ing on one cause, pratita, another cause is born, pradhvamsa-abhava, posterior non-existence; and
samutpada. This is called pratitya-samutpada. The atyanta-abhava, absolute non-existenceis all
relation within a group of causes is called pratyay momentary. The dictum, Whatever exists is mo-
opanibandha. Every object has the characteristics mentary like the lightningall that exists, estab-
of the four elements like the earth leading to the lishes the momentariness of everything.
qualities of hardness, softness, heat, and motion. Here the question is: O dull and evil-minded
For instance, a seed gives birth to the sprout. The Buddhists, is all this baseless imagination of yours
hardness of the sprout is derived from the element meant to turn away simple spiritual aspirants
earth in the seed. The softness of the seed comes from the Vedic path or is it for the entertainment
from the element water. The assimilation necessary of the stupid? Here the question is indirect, to
for the birth of the sprout comes from the element show that the ridiculous standpoint does not
fire. The element air gives the motion necessary even warrant a direct confrontation. People with
for the sprout to come out of the seed. The group arguments that are completely against the Vedas
of these elements is the group of the experienced. are not worthy of being directly addressed to. It
There are five skandhas or aggregates that form has been said: One should not honour, even by
the experience of a conscious being with the ex- a greeting, heretics, men who follow forbidden
ternal objects. The rupa-skandha or the form-ag- occupations, men who live like cats, rogues, logi-
gregate is the sense-objects and the sense-organs cians (arguing against the Veda), and those who
taken together, that produce the cause for actions. live like herons.1 Utterances that have no proof
The vijnana-skandha or the consciousness-aggre- or base and are made out of delusion should al-
gate is the identification of the experience of the ways be looked down upon. That is why this verse
sense-objects through the sense-organs with I-con- is in a derogatory tone. The implication is that
sciousness due to the influence of alaya-vijnana the Buddhists here do not understand their own
or the storage-consciousness. The experience of good and yet they denounce others viewpoints.
happiness and misery forms the vedana-skandha The contention raised against the Buddhists
or the feeling-aggregate. When the experience of here is: what is the means of knowledge that led
the sense-organs gets identified with a particular them to form their conclusions? It cannot be
name or form and gets related thus to a particular direct perception since this method of know-
sense-organ, like the eye sees a wooden elephant, ledge accepts the reality of the sense-objects but
the ears hear a drum, and the like; it is called sam- the transient atoms are not permanent in sense-
jna-skandha or the perception-aggregate. The sam- objects. The method of knowledge adopted by
skara-skandha or mental-formations-aggregate the Buddhists cannot be inference also because

PB February 2016 331


48 Prabuddha Bharata

inference needs invariable concomitance. How- of the elements? How will the grouping of
ever, since both the objects perceived and the the skandhas be done? Which skandhas can
senses cannot be attributed anything more than a experience? What is the nature of your vij-
momentary existence, their invariable concomi- nana-dhara, a continuous flow of momentary
discrete units of knowledge connected with
tance becomes impossible. Similar is the case
the ego? Who would experience and who
with other means of knowledge like presump- would get moksha? O stupid, tell me how can
tion, and so on, because these are not accepted your philosophy be successful?
by the Buddhists. Then by what uncommon, un-
heard of, thoughtful proof, by what imagined Refuting the Vaisheshikas, we held that action-
seventh sense-organ has this conclusion been less atoms cannot form dyads and triads. Here too,
arrived at? Or has such conclusion been made how can actionless atoms form a group like the
just to prove that one is separate and unique; body, as such formation would be causeless. The
just to assert ones ego? Is it like saying: Though Buddhists say that even if atoms were permanent,
it is against all means of knowledge, since I have they would be actionless, more so since they are
independence to think, so I assert my opinion momentary. Further, is this Buddhists grouping
thus? This is like the blabbering of fools. of atoms, different from or similar to grouping of
Till now the baselessness of the arguments of atoms in objects like a pot? If it is different, then
the Buddhists has been established. Now, the de- it would be an erroneous conclusion against their
fects in their arguments are being shown. own stand. And if it is similar, then such coming
mebIeerYeeJe: keLebJee eueveefJejefnCeeb YejeCeeceCetveeb together would be imperceptible by the senses.
mebIeesveve: keLebJee efJe<eeheoefceeelkeMe mebIeb efJeOees~ Objection: Individual strands of hair are not
mkebOeeveeb meefVeheele: keLeefceJe efkeeleeb Yeeskele=lee keee Oeeje seen from a distance but the entire group of hairs
keme mleeb Yeesiecees#eew Jeo pe[ is seen, similarly it could be held that the individ-
meHeueb kesve Jee oMe&veb les~~ 1.23 ~~ ual atoms cannot be perceived by the senses but
Sanghibhavah kathamva chalanavirahinam the entire group of atoms can be perceived.
bhanguranamanunam Reply: No, that is not a plausible argument. In
Sanghonanyah kathamva vishayapadamiyat the case of hairs, the individual strands are also
kashcha sangham vidhatte. visible from close proximity. An object does not
Skandhanam sannipatah kathamiva kiyatam become imperceptible because of defects like
bhoktrita kacha dhara improper eyesight or distance. However, the ob-
Kasya stam bhogamokshau vada jada saphalam
jects in question are held to be naturally imper-
kena va darshanam te. (1.23)
ceptible even as a group, just like one cannot see
How can the atomsthat are without ac- a group of air molecules. Further, the insenti-
tion because of the impossibility of a cause ent atoms can come together only under a sen-
and have actions that destroy in a moment tient being just like a bundle of grass or a heap
because they are momentarycome together of grains can be created only by a sentient being.
in a group in the body and the like? How can
this body, that is just a group of atoms ac-
Since you do not accept a sentient doer, the com-
cording to you, be perceived by the senses? ing together of atoms can also be not accepted.
And since you do not accept any conscious (To be continued)
principle other than this mass of atoms, who References
would bring about the different combinations 1. Manusmriti, 4.30.

332 PB February 2016


TRADITIONAL TALES
The King and the Scholar

T
here lived a highly capable king the eagerness of the king, the minister remem-
named Sadhakavarman. He ruled his king- bered about a famous scholar. He said: O Lord!
dom with the welfare of his subjects as the There is a renowned scholar in Vivekapuri itself.
foremost aim and had his capital at Vivekapuri. All, even the gods, know about him. He is Brah-
The subjects lived in prosperity, without any masri Raju Sharma, who is an expert in many
wants and thus, the fame of the king spread far sciences, master of the Puranas, a great historian,
and wide. philosopher, and the lion of Vedanta. He knows
Since his birth into the royal family, Sadhaka- the Bhagavata like the back of his hand. One
varman enjoyed the royal life of a king. After his could say that there is no one who has studied
coronation, he performed wonders and became the Bhagavata so thoroughly. People lose them-
famous. After living the life of an emperor for selves while hearing to his exposition of the
many years, he got tired of worldly life. Bhagavata. He is the scholar best suited to fulfil
Since he had ruled righteously, the kings your wish. People are unanimous that he is the
mind had attained great maturity. Having best exponent of the Bhagavata. People attend
enjoyed worldly pleasures all his life, they had his discourses in thousands irrespective of the
lost their charm and attraction to him and he time and place. This great scholars expositions
craved to remain absorbed in the thought of attract huge crowds and there is not even an inch
God. His evolved mind had understood that of space in the audience. People who attend his
God realisation alone was the true goal of human discourses bring enormous gifts. Many societies
life. He started reading and contemplating on re- of scholars honour him by granting him titles
ligious scriptures. They gave a taste of peace to and awards. He is the most capable scholar in
the king, who had till then lived a life of great all respects and would be the most appropriate
hustle and bustle. person to carry out your command.
Once the king was reading the Bhagavata King Sadhakavarman decided to hear the
and learned how Shukadeva had expounded the Bhagavata from this great scholar according to
Bhagavata to King Parikshit for seven days and the counsel of his minister. He commanded the
how King Parikshit had attained self-realisation. minister: What you say is absolutely true. Let
This account gave an idea to Sadhakavarman and this scholar teach me the Bhagavata. Arrange
he thought: Aha! I did not know that there is to give him from our treasury, remuneration for
such an easy way to attain self-realisation! I too each day of his teaching, which should be more
will listen to the exposition of the Bhagavata just than what he has received in a day till now.
as King Parikshit did. The minister carried out the commands of
He called his minister immediately and said his king. The great scholar Raju Sharma was in-
to him: Please arrange for a well-read scholar vited, whose joy knew no bounds on receiving
who can explain the Bhagavata to me. Hearing the invitation. He had not imagined even in his

PB February 2016 333


50 Prabuddha Bharata

Shukadeva Reciting the Bhagavata Purana

wildest dreams that he would get such an hon- You have to tell me the reason tomorrow morn-
our. His close friends congratulated him and said ing, else I will stop all the royal honours you are
to him repeatedly: It is no ordinary thing to be being given.
the teacher of the king who rules the country. Unable to reply to the kings question, the
The scholar started expounding the Bhagavata scholar desolately returned to his house. He had
to the king in his palace. He put all his scholar- a young daughter named Mahamedha, mean-
ship to work and explained all the aspects of the ing great intelligence. She had a great intellect,
text, citing numerous references from the scrip- true to her name. Noticing her fathers unusually
tures. Thus the classes on the Bhagavata went gloomy face after his return from the palace, she
on for two months. The kingwho expected asked him: Father, why are you worried so much?
that listening to the Bhagavata would lead to Did something bad happen in the palace?
self-realisationrealised that no such thing was The scholar replied: My dear daughter, why
painting: Savant Singh

happening. Hence, he asked the scholar one day: are you concerned with the worries of the elders?
Sir, King Parikshit listened to the Bhagavata for Let my worries be with me alone. What good
just seven days and attained self-realisation. I, would come by your knowing of them? Please
on the other hand, am listening to the Bhaga- take care of your own affairs, dear child.
vata from you for the last two months and have But Mahamedha was not the one to give up
not yet attained self-realisation. Why is that so? so easily; she said: Just share your worries with

334 PB February 2016


The King and the Scholar 51

me. Even children have some intelligence, dont I myself am bound to this pillar. You know this
they? Even a small piece of wood can become a very well. How can I, who am in bondage, free
toothpick; tender roots can penetrate rocks that you from bondage?
even an iron axe cannot break. How can we deny On this Mahamedha burst into peals of
the fact that a small thorn can accomplish what laughter and said: O King! You yourself have
a strong and big spear cannot? given the correct answer to your question.
The scholar was indeed aware of his daugh- Shukadeva, who explained the Bhagavata to
ters intelligence. However, he was doubtful of King Parikshit, was a great soul who had attained
how she could help him. Nonetheless, because of self-realisation. It is no surprise that hearing the
her insistence, he told everything to her. Hear- Bhagavata from him, King Parikshit attained
ing attentively to all that her father said, Maha self-realisation in just seven days. However, my
medha said: Father! When you go to the palace father is still in ignorance and full of worldly at-
tomorrow, please take me along with you. I will tachments. He is in bondage, not yet free from
give the proper reply to the kings question. maya. He expounded the Bhagavata to you for
Though the scholar thought that his daughter getting all the wealth you give him. How can you
was speaking playfully, he could not brush aside attain self-realisation, listening to the Bhagavata
her words. from him, who taught it to you because of his
The next day, Raju Sharma went to the palace desire for wealth?
with his daughter. The king was anxiously wait- Mere scriptural knowledge is of no use.
ing for the scholars reply. He did not expect in Scholars might have great knowledge of the
the least that the scholar would bring his daugh- scriptures, but what good will come of just re-
ter or that she would reply to his question. And peating them like parrots? If one has to truly
so, he asked Mahamedha with wonder: Dear progress in spiritual life, one has to practise the
child, what reply are you going to give me? O truths spoken of in the scriptures, in ones daily
great King! I will reply to your question. But be- life. Mere scriptural studies will not lead to self-
fore that, I humbly pray to you to kindly act as realisation till one has worldly attachments like
I say for some time, said Mahamedha. The king lust and wealth in ones mind. Such a person can-
agreed to this. not attain moksha.
Mahamedha continued: O Lord! Here are I repeat. Only a lighted lamp can light an-
two pillars. Kindly command your servants to other lamp. Similarly, only an illumined per-
tie me tightly to one pillar. Similarly, ask them son, who is free from bondage, can free another
to tie your highness to the other pillar. The royal from bondage and help one attain self-realisa-
servants tied Mahamedha and the king to differ- tion. The girl concluded her words spoken with
ent pillars. Then the girl asked everyone else to high respect.
leave the room. All others left the room leaving The king understood the truth told by the
the king and the girl alone, each tied to a pillar. girl. The royal servants were called and they re-
Now, Mahamedha beseeched the king: O moved the bonds of the king and Mahamedha.
King! I am now caught up here, having been The king left the palace that night and set on a
tied to this pillar. Kindly free me from this journey to meet a self-realised yogi in the Him-
bondage. Hearing these words, the king said: alayas and get the knowledge of the ultimate
O girl! Have you gone mad? You talk stupid. Truth from him. P

PB February 2016 335


REVIEWS
For review in P rabuddha B harata,
publishers need to send two copies of their latest publications

Alasinga Perumal: This text serves two primary purposes: first, it


A Rare Disciple of Swami provides context and background to the letters
Vivekananda which Swamiji had written to Alasinga during this
Swami Tathagatananda five year period, elucidating upon the struggles
which Swamiji faced as well as the relatively un-
The Vedanta Society of New York, known responses. For example, it is well known that
34, West 71st Street, New York, nyc
100 23. 2015. iii + 136 pp. ` 50. pb. when Swamiji was nearly out of money and starving
in the West, he wrote to Alasinga for help. A few

B ehind the contributions of every great soul who


changed the thought currents of the world,
there were some silent and unknown workers who
days later he wrote: I am so sorry that a moments
weakness on my part should cause you so much
trouble; I was out of pocket at that time. Since then
selflessly supported and sacrificed their very breath the Lord has sent me friends (29). But what neither
and life for that work. In the case of Swami Viveka- Swamijis letters or his biography perhaps explained
nanda, it may be said that Alasinga Perumal was one was Alasingas swift reaction: He borrowed a thou-
such worker. In this short yet delightful biography, sand rupees from a merchant friend and added
the author, a senior monk and distinguished author his small salary of 70 or 80 rupees to that. He re-
and research scholar, explores the intimate relation- quested his wife to part with many of her gold or-
ship between Swami Vivekananda and Alasinga Pe- naments which she gladly did (27). Secondly, the
rumal, primarily between their first meeting in 1892 text beautifully captures Swamijis relationship with
and Swamijis return from the West in 1897. Alasinga, as that of a guru towards his disciple and a
This book, written as a chronological narrative, father towards his son. As one goes through the text,
comprises fifteen short sections, each four to eight one cannot help but feel that Swamiji is not only ad-
pages long. The author briefly explores Alasinga dressing Alasinga, but the Indian youth for eternity.
Perumals spiritual foundations and family back- The author has concisely presented in an en-
ground, patriotic and spiritual tendencies, and a tertaining narrative, the close relationship be-
strong yearning to serve his country. The next chap- tween Swamiji and Alasinga Perumal. This is a
ter describes Alasingas first meetings with Swamiji, wonderful book, and it is hoped that the Indian
Swamijis possibility of attending the World Parlia- youth shall read it and get inspired by the spirit of
ment of Religions, the hardships Swamiji faced in Swamiji and Alasinga.
1894, and Swamijis and Alasingas strong and fear- Swami Chidekananda
less response to the obstacles. This is followed by Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata
separate sections on the Ramabai Circle, the The-
osophists, and their attempts to vilify Swamiji, and
Swamijis concern of the Theosophists influence Be In The Drivers Seat
on Alasinga. The concluding chapters focus mainly J P Vaswani
on Alasingas contributions to Swamijis work, in-
cluding his organisational skills, his struggles in Gita Publishing House, Sadhu Vas-
wani Mission, 10, Sadhu Vaswani
starting two English journals of the Ramakrishna Path, Pune 411 001. Email: gph@
OrderBrahmavadin and Prabuddha Bharata sadhuvaswani.org. 2013. 136 pp. For
and his impact in spreading Swamijis philosophy private circulation only. hb. isbn
of Practical Vedanta in South India. 9789380743790.

336 PB February 2016


Reviews 53

N owadays both parents and teachers complain


that young people do not listen to them.
They say that even if the mother attempts to dis-
W e are awfully surprised if someone tells
us that printing press equipment initially
meant to keep the ink from smearing in the humid
cipline the young child, there is the fear that the summer months (76) would eventually turn into
child will talk back, or in extreme cases, call the an air conditioner now used in millions of homes
police! Young people, on the other hand, com- and that the invention of printing press led to the
plain that there are no mentors to guide them invention of reading glasses. This book comes with
through life; on the contrary, they find that sen- such abundant surprises and presents to us some of
iors simply want to boss over them. the most striking and seemingly impossible innov-
In this book, the well-known author J P Vas- ations through a network of events for which the
wani provides wonderful suggestions to the youth author uses the phrase adjacent possible from the
on how to live a happier and purposeful life. As the complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman (64).
title suggests, he provides thirty-one different ideas Many a time it is simply out of our scope to
and each idea constitutes a separate chapter. Each understand the interrelations between apparently
chapter is about two to four pages long. The sug- unrelated events, the undercurrent that feeds vari-
gestions for leading a fuller life range include both ous surface activities, and yet, this book has done
avoiding destructive behaviours, such as stress and exactly that. It seldom contains math formulas,
anger which sap our energy and also practising af- equations proving a hypothesis, algorithms, or
firmative, positive habits such as proper breath- flow charts. Instead, it has captivating stories tell-
ing and speaking the truth. Vaswanis method of ing historical facts of how a scientific endeavour
presentation is simple yet effective. Rather than or business adventure that happened in one con-
speaking down to the audience, for each idea, he tinent in one century can affect directly or indi-
first begins with a story to illustrate the utility of rectly a vast array of events in another continent
the suggestion, and then applies logic, humour, in another century, defining the very way of life
and tact to explore how the opposite behaviour of people across the globe. What surprises us is
may harm us. Though the ideas will be useful for that we hardly think about these fascinating facts
young people, the method of communication in behind the actualising of our everyday appliances
this book should be studied closely by both parents and equipment from the imaginations of various
and teachers to learn how to effectively communi- seemingly ordinary people in history.
cate to and inspire values into our young people. The author uses the term, The Hummingbird
Though the ideas have been nicely presented Effect (5), that is, unexpected consequences of
in each chapter, the order of presentation of ideas, new innovations as they ripple through society.
from one idea to the next, is a bit random and He reflects, for example, on how the invention of
scattered. Individually, each chapter is nice, but air conditioning modified the political map of
the relationship between ideas in a systematic America in the twentieth century through the vast
manner, could have been better presented. None- migrations of people to the hotter southern states.
theless, there are many jewels of wisdom in this Taking such sample events, the author portrays
concise book for people of all ages. the unimaginable influences of an innovation, or
Swami Chidekananda a cluster of innovations, from one field that end
up triggering changes that seem to belong to a dif-
How We Got To Now: ferent domain altogether. The author selects six
Six Innovations That Made fields of our everyday life and science, classified
the Modern World mainly as glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light.
Steven Johnson One by one, he takes on the journey of each one
Riverhead Books, Penguin Group of these fields and exemplifies through systematic
(usa) llc, 375 Hudson Street, New correlation the evolution of some remarkably suc-
York 100 014. 2014. 293 pp. $30. hb. cessful technologies. For instance, he elaborates
isbn 9781594632969. how at the back of the innovation of refrigeration

PB February 2016 337


54 Prabuddha Bharata

is a young mans dream of untold riches and how Edison and how his technique of cross-disciplinary
the story of artificial cold began with a more ur- research-and-development lab was later adopted
gent and humanitarian need: a doctor trying to by Bell Labs and Xerox-parc. He says: Edison
keep his patients alive (62); and how gradually didnt just invent technology; he invented an entire
decreasing the size of initially huge refrigeration system for inventing, a system that would come to
systems, ultimately, small refrigerators for home dominate twentieth-century industry (211).
were born. Here the author adds: But the smaller A video documentary based on this book was
footprint of artificial cold would, ironically, end broadcast on pbs television, presented by the
up triggering changes in human society that were author himself. Though the context of this book
so massive you could see them from space (68). is limited to the history of selected innovations
Here it is wonderfully pointed out how original only from Europe and America, we should first
inventors of many important technologies made get to this book for knowing how we got to now.
silly mistakes, that notwithstanding, eventually Associate Editor
things came out right. For example, the inven- Prabuddha Bharata
tor of the phonautograph (92), the self-writing
sound, had invented the first sound recording Pages from the Past:
device in history. But the idea to include play- Part 1
back never occurred to him. So what is the use of Rameshwar Tantia
a sound recorded but without the ability to hear it Ramakrishna Sarada Mission,
again? Of course, his idea must have been an impe- Dakshineswar, Kolkata 700 076.
tus for later inventors of sound recorders. This and Website: www.srismath.org. 2014.
many such amusing tales, this book is replete with. 104 pp. ` 5. pb.
Many innovations, like ultrasound devices, had
to wait for their time to come. The device that was
originally intended for detecting U-boats during
O rdinary people and ordinary places often
leave extraordinarily indelible marks on our
minds. These daily-life accounts from our neigh-
World War I was finally proven more useful some- bourhood remain untold. Rameshwar Tantia has
time after World War II in determining the health through this book, originally in Hindi, tried to
of a baby early in a pregnancy and many other set right this lacuna by recounting incidents and
diagnostic purposes. In this context, the author people, some from the ancient times and some
importantly adds: from his life, who by their acts of kindness and
No technological advance is purely positive in grace, increase our faith in humanity.
its effects: for every ship saved from an iceberg, This slim yet elegant volume begins with ac-
there are countless pregnancies terminated be- counts of Cicero and Alexander, and continues
cause of missing Y chromosome. The march of with the story of a millionaire who wanted to save
technology has its own internal logic, but the for the next six generations, a rich man who broke
moral application of that technology is up to us. caste barriers through a meal, a farmer who pro-
We can decide to use ultrasound to save lives or tected his cows transcending religious boundaries,
terminate them. (Even more challenging, we can a widow who lived frugally to save for digging a
use ultrasound to blur the very boundaries of well in her village, dacoits who were more con-
life, detecting a heartbeat in a fetus that is only scious of their reputation than others, a simpleton
weeks old.) (123). but generous person who gave up his family share
Tracking the history of incandescent lights, we to avoid disputes, and a boy who is compelled to
have Edison, who was just one of those inventors steal to feed his ailing mother; and ends with le-
struggling throughout the last century develop- gendary accounts of Dronacharya and Tansen.
ing the filament lights in very much the same way Easily readable and highly inexpensive, this book
as Edison did. But the credit went to Edison as is a thought-provoking pleasure.
he knew how to market his invention. The author Editor
here explains the remarkable organising abilities of Prabuddha Bharata

338 PB February 2016


Manana
Exploring thought-currents from around the world.
Extracts from a thought-provoking book every month.

Religion Without God


Ronald M Dworkin
Harvard University Press, 79 Garden Street, Cam-
bridge, MA 02138, USA. 2013. ix + 180 pp. $ 17.95. hb.
isbn 9780674726826.

T
he theme of this book is that reli- They feel an inescapable responsibility to live their
gion is deeper than God. Religion is a deep, lives well, with due respect for the lives of others;
distinct, and comprehensive worldview: it they take pride in a life they think well lived and
holds that inherent, objective value permeates suffer sometimes inconsolable regret at a life they
everything, that the universe and its creatures are think, in retrospect, wasted. They find the Grand
awe-inspiring, that human life has purpose and Canyon not just arresting but breathtakingly and
the universe order. A belief in a god is only one eerily wonderful. They are not simply interested
possible manifestation or consequence of that in the latest discoveries about vast space but en-
deeper worldview. Of course, gods have served thralled by them. These are not, for them, just a
many human purposes: they have promised an matter of immediate sensuous and otherwise in-
afterlife, explained storms, and taken sides against explicable response. They express a conviction that
enemies. But a central part of their appeal has the force and wonder they sense are real, just as real
been their supposed achievement of filling the as planets or pain, that moral truth and natural
world with value and purpose. The conviction wonder do not simply evoke awe but call for it.
that a god underwrites value, however, as I will Judges often have to decide what religion
argue, presupposes a prior commitment to the means for legal purposes. For example, the US
independent reality of that value. That commit- Supreme Court had to decide whether, when
ment is available to nonbelievers as well. So the- Congress provided a conscientious objection
ists share a commitment with some atheists that exemption from military service for men whose
is more fundamental than what divides them, and religion would not allow them to serve, an athe-
that shared faith might therefore furnish a basis ist whose moral convictions also prohibited ser-
for improved communication between them. vice qualified for the objection. It decided that he
The familiar stark divide between people of did qualify. The Court, called upon to interpret
religion and without religion is too crude. Many the Constitutions guarantee of free exercise of
millions of people who count themselves as athe- religion in another case, declared that many re-
ists have convictions and experiences similar to ligions flourish in the United States that do not
and just as profound as those that believers count recognize a god, including something the Court
as religious. They say that though they do not be- called secular humanism. Ordinary people,
lieve in a personal god, they nevertheless believe moreover, have come to use religion in contexts
in a force in the universe greater than we are. having nothing to do with either gods or ineffable

PB February 2016 339


56 Prabuddha Bharata

forces. They say that Americans make a religion places like America they fight mainly in politics,
of their Constitution, and that for some people at every level from national elections to local
baseball is a religion. These latter uses of the term school board meetings. The fiercest battles are
religion are only metaphorical, to be sure, but then not between different sects of godly reli-
they seem parasitic not on beliefs about God but gion but between zealous believers and those
rather on deep commitments more generally. atheists they regard as immoral heathens who
So the phrase religious atheism, however sur- cannot be trusted and whose growing numbers
prising, is not an oxymoron; religion is not re- threaten the moral health and integrity of the
stricted to theism just as a matter of what words political community.
mean. But the phrase might still be thought con- Books ridiculing God were once, decades ago,
fusing. Would it not be better, for the sake of rare. Religion meant a Bible, and no one thought
clarity, to reserve religion for theism and then it worth the trouble to point out the endless er-
to say that Einstein, Shelley, and the others are rors of the biblical account of creation. No more.
sensitive or spiritual atheists? But on a second Scholars devote careers to refuting what once
look, expanding the territory of religion im- seemed, among those who enthusiastically buy
proves clarity by making plain the importance their books, too silly to refute.
of what is shared across that territory. If we can separate God from religionif
Religion, we should say, does not necessarily we can come to understand what the religious
mean a belief in God. But then, granted that some- point of view really is and why it does not re-
one can be religious without believing in a god, quire or assume a supernatural personthen
what does being religious mean? What is the dif- we may be able to lower, at least, the tempera-
ference between a religious attitude to the world ture of these battles by separating questions of
and a nonreligious attitude? That is hard to an- science from questions of value. The new reli-
swer, because religion is an interpretive concept. gious wars are now really culture wars. They
That is, people who use the concept do not agree are not just about scientific historyabout
about precisely what it means: when they use it, what best accounts for the development of the
they are taking a stand about what it should mean. human species, for instancebut more funda-
When he called himself religious, Einstein may mentally about the meaning of human life and
well have had in mind something different from what living well means. As we shall see, logic
what William James did when he classified cer- requires a separation between the scientific and
tain experiences as religious or what the Supreme value parts of orthodox godly religion. When
Court justices did when they said that atheistic we separate these properly, we discover that
beliefs could qualify as religious. So we should they are fully independent: the value part does
consider our question in that spirit. What account not dependcannot dependon any gods ex-
of religion would it be most revealing to adopt? istence or history. If we accept this, then we
We must turn to this challenge almost im- formidably shrink both the size and the im-
mediately. But we should pause to notice the portance of the wars. They would no longer be
background against which we consider the issue. culture wars. This ambition is utopian: violent
Religious war is, like cancer, a curse of our spe- and nonviolent religious wars reflect hatreds
cies. People kill each other, around the world, be- deeper than philosophy can address. But a little
cause they hate each others gods. In less violent philosophy might help. P

340 PB February 2016


Reports

New Math Centre


Ramakrishna Swargashrama, Lalgarh, which was Flood Relief in Chennai

till now a retreat centre under the supervision of Swami Suhitananda, General Secretary, Rama-
the Headquarters, has been made a full-fledged krishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, in-
branch centre of Ramakrishna Math. Its address augurated a bookshop of Ramakrishna Math,
is Ramakrishna Math, Lalgarh, Dist. Paschim Baghbazar at Beniatola Lane, near College Street,
Medinipur, West Bengal 721516. Kolkata, on 25 November, in the presence of sev-
eral monastics, dignitaries, and devotees. The
News of Branch Centres building also has a shrine and a small lecture hall.
Sri Tathagata Roy, Governor of Tripura, visited Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, Coim-
Ramakrishna Mission Swami Vivekanandas batore conducted a state-level residential camp
Ancestral House and Cultural Centre, Kol- for youths from 26 to 28 November in which
kata on 28 September 2015. 1,198 youths took part.
The guest house, Swami Vijnanananda Swami Gautamananda, Adhyaksha, Rama-
Bhavan, at Ramakrishna Math, Ghatshila was krishna Math, Chennai, inaugurated the exten-
inaugurated on 6 October, the sacred birthday sion to the kitchen building at Ramakrishna
of Swami Abhedanandaji Maharaj. Math, Kanchipuram on 27 November.
The newly set-up bookstall of Ramakrishna At Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna
Math and Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Mission, Kamarpukur Swami Suhitananda in-
Medinipur was inaugurated on 10 November. augurated the building for the food processing
Ramakrishna Mission, Vijayawada con- unit of their Pallimangal wing on 28 November.
ducted conventions for school students, youths,
and teachers on 13, 14, and 15 November. In all, Relief
about 2,200 people participated in the events. Flood ReliefTamil Nadu: Torrential rains
Srimat Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj, Vice in many parts of Tamil Nadu in November caused
President, Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna heavy floods in several areas of the state, affect-
Mission, laid the foundation stone for the pro- ing thousands of families. Three of our centres in
Tamil Nadu conducted the following relief opera-
posed building for educational activities at
tions: (a) Chennai Math distributed 15,000 kg
Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi on 20 November. rice, 500 kg dal, 200 kg biscuits, 30 kg milk pow-
Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mis- der, 1,500 blankets, 500 towels, 1,000 saris, 1,000
sion, Kadapa conducted a youth convention lungis, 1,500 mats, and 100 sets of utensils (each set
on 20 and 21 November in which 1,300 students containing 2 cooking pots, 3 plates, and 2 spoons)
from 24 colleges participated. among 1,693 families in Cuddalore district from
14 to 18 November. The centre also served cooked
The renovated Old Temple of Sri Ramakrishna
food to nearly 5,000 affected people at Foreshore
at Ramakrishna Math, Chennai was rededi- Estate in Chennai on 17 November. Medical re-
cated on 25 November. In all, 115 monastics and lief was provided to 1,860 flood-affected patients.
about 3,000 devotees attended the programme. (b) Chennai Students Home served 15,485 food

PB February 2016 341


58 Prabuddha Bharata

packets (each packet containing rice, pickles, and jackets were distributed to poor people through
water sachets) and 5,000 loaves of bread to 11,680 the following centres: Barasat: 300 blankets on
affected families in Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram, 7 and 8 November; Belgharia: 80 blankets on 17
and Chennai districts from 15 to 25 November. October; Chapra: 100 jackets from 20 to 23 No-
(c) Chengalpattu centre served cooked food to vember; Cossipore: 300 blankets on 19 Septem-
1,700 victims on 17 and 18 November and distrib- ber and 13 November; Ghatshila: 370 blankets
uted 790 kg rice, 90 kg dal, biscuits, and 3 kg milk and 60 jackets from 25 September to 21 Novem-
powder among 84 families of 3 interior villages ber; Khetri: 50 blankets on 22 November; Ram-
in Chengalpattu district from 21 to 23 November. haripur: 300 blankets and 100 jackets from 4
West Bengal: Three of our centres in West Bengal October to 2 November. P
conducted the following relief operations among
Correction January 2016, p. 276: The review article Sri
the flood-affected people in the state: (a) Antpur
Sarada Devi and Her Divine Play was written by Prof.
centre distributed 1,185 saris, 372 dhotis, and 1,476
M Sivaramkrishna.
assorted garments among 1,491 families of 17 vil-
lages in Hooghly district from 16 September to 31 Flood Relief in Tamil Nadu
October. (b) Ichapur centre distributed 300 saris,
300 dhotis, 100 childrens garments, 100 jackets,
and 20 mats among 686 families of 14 villages in
Hooghly and Paschim Medinipur districts from
15 October to 8 November. (c) Sikra Kulingram
centre distributed 300 saris, 200 lungis, 100 dho-
tis, and 200 childrens garments among 600 fam-
ilies of 5 villages in North 24 Parganas district
from 26 September to 8 October.
Distress Relief The following centres distrib-
uted various items, as shown against their names,
to needy people: India: (a) Belgharia: 300 saris,
253 dhotis, 200 lungis, 1,600 assorted garments, and
40,000 halogen tablets from 17 to 26 October. (b)
Chandipur: 300 saris and 200 dhotis from 13 to 16
October. (c) Chapra: 100 lungis from 20 to 23 No-
vember. (d) Coimbatore Math: Clothes to 130 chil-
dren from 6 to 10 November. (e) Ghatshila: 400 saris,
200 dhotis, 100 lungis, 86 childrens garments, and 79
assorted garments from 25 September to 21 November.
(f ) Malda: 650 saris and 200 childrens garments in
October and November. (g) Patna: 400 saris and 200
dhotis from 13 to 26 November. (h) Ramharipur: 600
saris, 200 dhotis, 200 childrens garments, and 100
pants from 4 October to 2 November. (i) Vrindaban:
1,000 kg rice, 1,000 kg atta (flour), 200 kg dal, 200 kg
mustard oil, 200 kg salt, 100 kg sugar, 200 bathing
soap bars, 200 washing soap bars, 40 kg washing pow-
der, 20 kg tea leaves, and 40 kg milk powder among
200 old women on 20 November. Bangladesh: My-
mensingh: 100 saris and 332 dhotis on 20 November.
Winter Relief 1,400 blankets and 260

342 PB February 2016


59
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We want to lead mankind to the place


where there is neither the Vedas, nor
the Bible, nor the Koran; yet this has
to be done by harmonising the Vedas,
the Bible and the Koran.
Mankind ought to be taught
that religions are but the varied
expressions of THE RELIGION,
which is Oneness, so that each may
choose the path that suits him best.
Swami Vivekananda

ABP
65

Each soul is potentially divine.


The goal is to manifest this
Divinity within.

Strength is life, weakness is


death.

Fear nothing, stop at nothing.


You will be like lions. We must
rouse India and the whole
world.

Never say, No, never say, I


cannot, for you are infinite.

Swami Vivekananda

10, Dr Sarat Banerjee Road Kolkata 700029


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