Thursday, October 29, 2015

Different faces of the modern Hindu

            Ever-changing is the nature of everything in the universe. Nothing has changed faster than the faces of Hindus in the last century. From a self sufficient, efficient system, Hinduism has been totally destroyed by our colonial past. From having a system which was dominating global economy, arts, science, philosophy, the society has degraded to a corrupt, self doubting, hypocritical, tamasic majority. 

It must be noted the only community that talks of Vasudaiva kutumbakam is Hinduism. We, Hindus, do not believe if people don’t follow our ideologies burn in hell forever.  Sandhyavandana mantra, chanted daily says, “akasat patitam toyam yada gachchati saagaram, sarva deva namaskara kesavam pratigachchati”.  Just like rain falling reaches the sea in different ways, devotion or prayers to any God or entity reaches the same Supreme Consciousness. This mindset is deeply ingrained in the various attributes of Hindu Society. One is able to see these traits orthodox Veeraraghava Iyengar1 training D.A. Joseph, despite the odds. Late APJ Kalam tells how the orthodox temple priest, father of his best friend, intervened strongly to restore Kalam’s friendship, when the teacher was using religion to separate them2.

We are going to explore the different faces of the modern Hindu. This is not comprehensive or definitive, but intended as a key to unmask the attitude behind the behavior of many of us. This definitely is not meant to be stereotypical or profiling. Besides merely identifying such behavior, we will also explore how such an attitude from each category is impacting the society. We will also venture to understand how each group can modify their attitude for the better good of Hinduism and humanity. The groupings are not in any particular order and may not follow any particular pattern. Some of the individuals will exhibit traits of more than one group and it is very difficult to label anyone forever.

            Orthodox: Traditionally, it used to be a significant majority. Today their influence is at best limited to real few situations and locations. One can see them in some small fraction of homes, temples, mutts. Their viewpoint is typically frozen in time.

            Their interactions with the modern world, makes them unable to relate. Many times, as traditions are passed as a culture, without many giving a thought to the why behind the traditions. It makes them very vulnerable in a world that demands explanation at the tip of their fingers. What makes the scenario bleaker is the fact many traditions have corrupted, stretched beyond the original purpose or time. 

            Their strength is hidden in their weakness. They can begin to dive deeper into our scriptures and increase their level of comprehension. They also must begin to exercise influence in their circles and raise their understanding of Hindu practices. The biggest stumbling block is not orthodoxy, but the lack of depth. Conviction is not their issue.

            Ritualist/Blind Follower: This used to be one of the largest groups. Today, bulk of the groups have spun off from this block as a reaction of failing to evolve. The difference from the above group is the further disconnect from the core Hindu values, but over emphasis on rituals. This will include right from our priests to many amongst us, especially the older generation. They maintained a grip by enforcing the rules without understanding. In  a modern world, this has hurt their relevance.

            They have been the reason behind many groups making fun. They have made the idol the ideal and not the other way around. Many times, blind following has given rise to hypocritic practices and a bigoted outlook. Hiding behind such practices, one makes neither spiritual growth nor an impact for the betterment of others. 

            This crème of this group, like priests of temples, must start understanding that they need to translate the ideas to the modern world. They need not give up all their rituals, but carefully explain their context by diving deep into scriptures and themselves. They also must get educated by reading about the forces in the world. There have been lots of writers like Kannadasan who wrote Arthamulla Indhumatham, meaning of traditions and rituals in Hinduism. Best will be Kanchi Shankaracharya’s Hindu Dharma or Deivathin Kural, talks given over decades compiled in the form of a priceless treasure.

            Convenient: These are people who follow Hinduism or hide behind some Hindu ideas for their convenience. These people are outright hypocrites. Selective practicing is not the issue with them as much as their selective interpretation. They will not hesitate to twist and bend the values to suit their convenience. A streak of this trait exists in most groups, as it is human nature. All fake swamis will be leaders in this category. Also will be the political manipulators who pit the different sections of the society.

            This group amplifies the darker side of human nature. When their hypocrisy gets exposed, it maligns the name of Hinduism. 

            It is harder to appeal to this group, but other groups can be vigilant and expose the double standards, be it the practitioner is famous or a lay man.

            Casteist: This is a very visible group due to some extreme actions. They can be behind politics and communal actions. The current Indian politicos have exploited the superficial differences amongst the socio-econo-political framework of the nation and engineered some deep fractures.

            Votebanks, communal politics have been the outcome. The slippery slope of votebank politics keep these fractures deep and do not allow reconciliation of the different factions.

            Raising the social consciousness and incessant drive to our core values and educating the constituents of the group to be charitable to a larger group will hold the key to turning the impact to positive.

Masses: The vast majority are perhaps social hindus and not religious hindus. They follow customs, celebrate festivals like Holi, Dussehra, Diwali, Sankaranti. The fabric of past connections keeps the unity of India on certain counts. Diversity which is the hallmark of Hindu Pluralism gets amplified by regional and linguistic diversities. This group is today under the sway of the media, which tries to sensationalize and politicize every aspect of the Hindu society. The media twists even core aspects of Hinduism like Itihasas and puranas to fit their marketing of soaps. The gullible masses even learn Itihasas not by reading or listening to pravachans, but by watching TV or cinema. To make it worse, media and twisted educational policies have resulted in the rapid erosion of core Hindu values and in turn replaced by materialistic, non-indigenous values.

The Masses today under the sway of the media, in turn affect the market due to their size. This vicious cycle of downward spiral has accelerated with the passage of every single day. The masses today are constantly fed with pseudo secular, pseudo rational, leftist or ideas ejected from the West. Wallowing in this mire, the masses are not only vulnerable to proselytizing forces, but also have given birth to a more desensitized generation.

The greatest weakness can become the greatest strength. This group has always been led by leaders, be it spiritual or political. Lack of value based leadership has been hurting this group the most. Correcting the narrative, taming the unruly wild media can all aid. But to do that without ruffling more feathers will be a task for the leadership.

Materialist: This group may not have been privy to the Charvaka philosophy that could not hold theological ground in ancient India, but they literally follow the motto of Eat, drink, be merry and they seem to have added don’t worry about anybody except the three most important individuals in the world – I, ME, MYSELF. They are more like the materialistic west, except the finesse or the progressive western values. Needless to say that Hinduism is a casuality. They believe “the end justifies the means”.

They act like quicksand in the society, especially for the value. Selfishness becomes magnified due to the limited successes in some realms by this group. This false sense of achievement gets promoted as a model in the society. 

The entry point into this group is when they need spirituality to either calm their tense nerves that is excited with the never ending pursuit of material trinkets or when they realize the vanity of living without values. The biggest advantage with such group is that they can support the larger causes either for their fame to boost their ego or when they realize the vanity.

Atheist: In some sections of society, this group is very strong. They dominate the left controlled media. They usually end up with lots of literary power due to their strong influence with the pen.

They usually amplify only the negatives in the hindu society. Their idea is to replace the pluralism with a sort of artificial homogeneity. They can understand neither the diversity nor the unity.

This group can be very useful. If one were to utilize their criticisms as a field of improvement. Today, atheists are a growing group across the world. As long as they can be grounded in Dharma, they can provide a useful framework to revive Hinduism.

Basher/Shredder: This is a very boisterous group. They facilitate the Breaking India3 forces. They dig all the negatives in the society and put the spotlight on them. They have such a serious poor self-image, they derive pleasure only by bashing anything Indian. To them the colonial masters should come back to rule then it will be better. They feel anything Hindu is outdated, useless, backward thinking. In a sense, their actions mirror Mohammad Ghazni, plunder and pillage the Hinduism by attacking the fabric of the society. They are energized by the Sepoys. They encourage Fakers to neutralize anything in Hinduism.

They align with all the negative elements that threaten Hinduism, like the atheists, fakers, proselytizers, pseudo seculars.

This tamasic element is a representation of this Yuga dharma – Kali. Not easy for normal people to handle. We will talk of a special breed of people to counter towards the end of the article.

Cultural Hindu: To this group, Bollywood represents Hinduism. They will argue, Hinduism is a way of life. Don’t ever try reasoning even Hitler and Osama bin Laden had a way of life. They think culture changes all the time, so trying to revive anything old is waste of time. So Sanskrit was our culture, a bygone one. They cannot discern the deteriorating state. If one were to point out even how the movies has changed in the last hundred years, they will rush to point out it is evolution.

They are much influenced group.

An altering landscape can bring more sense. If more of society follow a dharmic pattern, they will follow this new trend.

         Self-appointed Fixer/Social activist: These people believe my way is the right way. They value their intellect over traditions or even better explanations. 

            They are influential, as they do not hesitate to put work behind their ideas.

           Most of them are ego driven and not principle driven. When their energies can be redirected with a better rationale or yoked with the wisdom of the rishis, they can provide a very powerful impetus in fixing the ailing aspects of the society. 

            PseudoSickular: This group is ascendant in their visibility and very opportunistic in their outlook. Due to the polarized nature of Indian politics, they are very active currently.  Their attitude is to bash Hinduism to prove their secular nature. They take extra precaution to always take side with some minority to showcase their neutrality but only take potshots at some dysfunctional aspect of Hinduism. They will not care to note the difference between Varna and Caste, for instance. If one brings the proselytization efforts, hindu fakers, digesters, they retort survival of the fittest, but they won’t acknowledge the Hindu response to protect themselves. This clearly exposes their pseudo interests. 

            They amplify only Hinduism negatives to maintain a wrong one-sided narrative. They are very effective in eroding the masses faith. They are almost like cancer in their attitude and effect.

            We will talk about addressing this group later. Their ridicules and impact must be challenged by reviving the good elements in Hinduism.

PseudoRationalist: Very common in circles influenced by EVR Periyar and followers. They believe that they can explain everything through science, but their science is very shallow. They are also PseudoSickular, except in their self description. They need to be dealt in the same way as PseudoSickular. 

PseudoScientist: This group is the exact opposite of the above. They are enamored with anything Hinduism. They are the ones who propagate ideas of flying vimana technology or other underexplained concepts as lost treasures.

Their actions most of the time only act as fodder for other groups, as they unwittingly dwell on unrealistic aspects.

This group, if they finetune their approach can start with more low hanging fruits like popularizing Ayurveda and Siddha traditions. They can propagate the research on science and technology in ancient India. Rajiv Malhotra’s Infinity foundation has done phenomenal work and efforts like these can be propagated as they alter the narrative. Michel Danino is another example of bringing out our treasures from Indus Valley Civilization. The attitude of this group can alter the ridicule of lesser known practices to the brighter jewels in Hinduism. Not all what was practiced in a distant era may be valid; hence it must be understood in correct perspective.

ApprovalSeeker: This group looks to the West as their salvation. They believe Hindus were and are a bunch of distorted entities. They believe the ones that are vetted by the West are fine to continue. So if there is a ayurvedic drug included as a part of some marketed product, it becomes kosher for them. Yoga is acceptable because the west also follows it. Basically, they are suffering from serious identity crisis.  

This group is very vulnerable to proselytizing forces. This is a support group for the Sepoys which relies on groups like these to get their message across. They are also very sympathetic to PseudoSickular or PseudoRationalist forces as they appeal to their mindset. Basically this group has weak connection to the roots.

Increasing awareness of the richness in Hinduism and creating a more positive narrative, not an artificial one, but one based on practices is critical to break the spell on these ApprovalSeekers. 

NRI Masses: In many cases, one can witness the dramatic change in majority of the Indians who land abroad, especially the ones who have decided to relocate. The NRI masses usually limit their displays and affinities to popularly accepted practices. Bollywood is still their emblem of Indian culture. Some sporadic numbers live in a bygone era talking of yoga or temple or cultural activities. For the majority it is “Dollaraya Namaha”, very selfish unlike the roots of Sanatana Dharma.

Most of the first generation migrants seek connection to mainland at later stages in life. They get disenchanted at the rapid changes that have already taken place in the interim. 

Educating themselves with the roots, raising awareness by reading Breaking India, by Rajiv Malhotra, reengaging them in the nation building process can be some of the simple steps one can take in leveraging the enormous power this group wields by the power of the purse. Since most of them are elite export of India, they can also counter the divisive forces operating from outside.

Hindu Faker/Digesters: Fake Christian copycats, missionaries have now taken this to a very high level. Orange robes for Christian followers, churches modeled after south Indian temples, even jesus replacing Krishna in chariot and efforts at every level to erase the Hindu identity. This article is one such exposure. We have Christian Yoga, Jewish Yoga and now even Muslim Yoga. We have all our traditional practices like Thoppukaranam for Ganesha, a practice very common in South India, now being re-exported to India and elsewhere as Super Brain Yoga. While the fakers and digesters try to steal every idea, pseudosecularists, sepoys and other divisive elements keep cheering this as a welcome measure. All the efforts are either to discredit Hinduism of its identity or steal ideas for their proselytization efforts. Here is a sample website which claims Vedas and Christ - The Vedic Bridge. The entire effort is fake, and aimed at gullible, poor self image Hindus who can be converted. One of the biggest negatives is the enormous energies associated with a neo convert, who is already having an identity crisis and poor self image, makes his priority to dent his former roots to gain some acceptance in the new circles.

Church that is a copy of a south Indian Hindu temple

Christ depicted as Yogi. Even Surya Namaskar copied

Copying Orange robes and even prayer postures of Hinduism

Thanks to Rajiv Malhotra, these cases are increasingly getting documented. It is a shame that more people are not in the bandwagon exposing these charlatans. It is critical that the Hindu society wakes up to not just document, but also fight back. It is not only a question of identity, but also a form of colonialism.

It is high time to spread the Hindu Good News to counter other so called Good News that is spread.
Sepoy: The best one can do is to listen to these two brief videos from Rajiv Malhotra. Some sepoys like Mihir Sharma, who know their roles very clearly and also many of Wendy’s children (a term coined by Rajiv Malhotra to identify with the followers of Wendy Doninger’s ideas who believe in absurd illogical interpretations of Hinduism, with the sole purpose of demeaning it). Some of the sepoys have no clue that they are busy advancing the vested interests of the West. Either case, they do lots of deliberate damage.

Rajiv Malhotra explains Western Civilization
Rajiv Malhotra explains Sepoy nature

Sepoys have now become the primary mode of the Western forces that want to fracture the Hindu society. They also are trained in concepts of Universalism to quell the difference in the identity. Once the Hindu Identity is lost, digestion and destruction of this fabric of Hindu civilization becomes a by product. Sepoys must be countered by the solution referred towards the end of the article.
Activist/Aggressive: This group displays their affinity for Hinduism too strongly, sometimes rubbing the wrong side. There are too numerous organizations which believe in this kinda of response. I truly believe this is due to the extreme pressure exerted by the other groups we discussed above that pushes some to the extreme.

This extreme display not only polarizes but many times feeds right into the hands of the divisive elements.

Care must be taken to channelize the energies in a proper way. In the name of Hindu revival, it should not engineer more communal fractures. Plurality and tolerance are the hallmark of Hindu civilization and it must not be replaced by non indigenous traits. 

Non_Indian Hindu: Many eminent contributors like David Frawley (Pt. Vamadeva Shastri), Stephen Knapp, Ram Dass and Michael Cremo represent this group. Incredible contributions from such stalwarts, first in absorbing and later in transmitting the orthodox traditions with scientific analysis have enriched Hinduism. They also add credible defense to sepoys and Wendy’s children. They are not playing the role due to their love for Hinduism alone, but, because once a person starts thinking Dharma at the foundation of his thoughts; they have no other choice to act in defence of Dharma.

As a community that looks for acknowledgement from West a lot, these westerners typically bring a surge of energy, but it is upto the subcontinent Hindus to catch that spark and realize their potential.

TruthSeeker: This has always been a minority even during Krishna’s time. The energy levels locked up in this group can shake the universe. Personally, I feel, these powerhouses must take some time to impact the society. Their power comes from following Dharma and other spiritual practices.

Realization of the responsibilities one has to play to the society is critical. Even Swami Vivekananda put the priority on impacting the society first, rather than his personal emancipation. Acharya Ramanuja led by a stellar example of raising the spiritual consciousness of the masses and not only his personal one.
            Revivers/LoneVoicers: Every time Dharma gets under stress, Krishna says HE will appear to tame the evil and revive Dharma. Countless such great souls have appeared. Here is a short list Adi Shankara, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Swami Chinmayananda. These men of dynamic action breathed life into Sanatana Dharma. But waiting for such great souls to appear is very immature. Instead we must be focused on preparing ourselves to this great MAHABHARATA happening now.  


        Ahimsa Soldier / Intellectual Kshatriya: Kanchi Shankaracharya Chandrasekara Saraswathi called for Ahimsa Soldiers to play the vanguard role in this modern Kurukshetra. Rajiv Malhotra has coined the term Intellectual Kshatriya for the ones who are ready to expand their knowledge about these divisive forces and who are willing to confront them. These are two flavors of the same idea. One must be ready to understand Hinduism in the correct perspective of the great Rishis. One must also have enough intelligence to do Purva Paksha to understand more about these forces. Without a proper Purva Paksha, there is no possibility to launch a suitable counter attack on these forces. Just like a soldier will fight for every inch of the land he is fighting for, just like a kshatriya will lay his life for the defence of Dharma, the Ahimsa Soldier / Intellectual Kshatriya holds the ground and take the attack to the opposite camp. Determined to expose the true identity behind the mask of these forces, an Ahimsa Soldier understands the value of joining forces with like minded Intellectual Kshatriyas.

            The task ahead is humongous. No one person can take all these forces. So it is paramount to collect and organize on multiple fronts just like these forces are working on numerous angles with the sole purpose of breaking the greatest civilization that ever existed. Every Hindu must identify by introspection what mask they are wearing and how it is impacting. This cannot be expected from the fakers, sepoys, pseudosicuklarists, pseudorationalists or even the masses. So the sensible must understand the value of this great erosion that is happening and the great divisive forces that are operating with the sole intention of decimating this civilization.

             May Paramatma give the right buddhi to discern and guide us on the right path in this great Kurukshetra that we are all in. There is no choice of staying neutral as we observed. Sitting on the fence in the name of pseudosickularism hurts Hinduism more. Let  us all become Intellectual Kshatriyas, Ahimsa Soldiers in this great battle. To be effective at that one must devote time to learn, engage with others on multiple modes, sharpening the intellect, do our own tapasya, yet at the same time learn to work in groups and learning from other's tapasya.

Om Tat Sat


Suggested Reading:
·         Rajiv Malhotra

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Question & Answers - 3 - Are you a Sinner?

Q3a: What is Sin? What is the Hindu view of Sin?

Q3b: We are all sinners, claimed a Christian friend. Don’t you realize how many times you have sinned, so realize that you are a sinner? As humans we are all having a tendency to always sin, retorted another.

Q3c: I came across many who have been burdened by the sin of the past. Depressed by their repenting mind, they feel they are totally unfit for any good thing or misguided by this baggage feel like a ticking time bomb about to explode on them any time.

Ans: We will have to take a slightly deeper dive into Hinduism, if we need a more satisfactory answer. There are two frames of reference, a more earthly plane, where we transact daily business – Vyavaharika state and a plane of consciousness where we identify God in every state to begin with and then realize that there is nothing except God – Paramarthika state. To a modernized mind, step out and see the blue sky outside. This is Vyavaharika state. For all that matters the blueness is as real as anything else we come in contact with in our daily lives. But a deeper mind, can peer through this blueness and find it nothing more than scattering of a portion of the light spectrum. This is Paramarthika state. As evident from this analogy, the viewpoint will be different in both cases. A proper balance in Vyavaharika state, functional Dvaita, is critical for us to go to Paramarthika, Advaita realization. Vyavaharika is relative; Paramarthika is absolute.

             With the above framework in place, let us look at SIN, a central idea for many religions to provide a boundary and structure to its practice. In Indian parlance, Paapa is usually equated with sin and Punya with virtue. Simply put, sin is any action that hurts others or one self. We typically equate morality with sin by examples of stealing, telling lies, killing others, violence. We usually give the opposite qualities of sin or vice as virtue as in non-stealing, truth, ahimsa.

            That which takes us Godward is virtue and that which pulls us down is sin. But the modern idea, as most of us have, is not one based on scriptures or great rishis. It is an admixture, based on confusing ideas usually from media – TV serials, movies or books. Add to this the proselytization junkies who seed wrong information to weaken the hindu masses as most of them never read any scriptures. This makes it a perfect recipe for more mental confusion.

            Before we dive into Hindu idea of sin, let us take a quick peek into the Abrahamic religions to gain some perspective. The oldest of all Abrahamic outlook is Judaism. Judaism views any violation of the 613 commandments1 as a sin. Broadly they view sins against God, which can be atoned during Yom Kippur, annual day of atonement and the more severe sins against humanity2.

            Christianity is the second version of Abrahamic religion. Sin is the most central theme, unlike any religion. Most of us have heard Adam and Eve, the first bibilical man and woman created. They disobeyed God’s word not to eat the forbidden fruit, as they got tempted by the serpent. As they violated, God cursed that them and all their progeny to be sinners. This concept of Original Sin, is very central to Christianity, as everybody is a born sinner. As if God was either repentant or extremely kind, he decided to release humanity from this curse of sin. He wanted to be born to liberate the masses. Only HE could liberate as all of creation was accursed. If HE is born the usual way of marital conjugation, even HE will be a sinner. Hence the birth of Jesus Christ had to be one of virgin birth. Since HE was the only non sinner, he was the only one qualified to atone for all the sins, including the original one. So he suffers on the Cross and atoned on your behalf. If you accept this theology, you are saved, else you are doomed and roasted in hell forever. 

The best undistorted version of their viewpoint, can be had from Rajiv Malhotra’s video on the difference between Christianity and Hinduism.

As humans we tend to commit mistakes, be it getting angry or jumping the stoplight or in extreme cases horrible crimes against humanity and nature. As easily observed, Christianity appeals easily to the confused mind, which transposes human non compliance of morality with the idea of Original Sin. Since humans are incapable of even finding their own way out, Christ is the Savior. One can easily observe all the limitations and fallacies in this concept with a simple question, If God were to be so kind, why did he place such a curse on unborn generations? Now that is outside our scope of understanding Sin.

            The third flavor of Abrahamism is Islam. Here again there is a strict injunction to follow the scripture. Islam doesn’t believe in the concept of Original Sin, as their narration believes God excused mankind after the initial transgression by Adam and Eve. Islam has gradations of sin3. Dhanb, heinous crimes against God; Ithm, willing violation of unlawful deed; Khati’ah, a moral lapse. There are other terms used like Jurm, similar to Dhanb (The violater is mujrim, a word used in hindi) and Junah/Haraj, similar to Ithm. Atonement is available and is not mediated like in Catholics through a priest. There, in my opinion are two major groupings of Sin in Islam. The one that revolves around the morality of man which prohibits stealing, drinking etc. The other which revolves around Allah. If any other religion is even accepted as a possibility it is the greatest sin, Shirk, which explains the uncharitable violence witnessed around Islamic influences from its first Caliph till the modern terrorism.

            Judaism made it very difficult to proselytize as its rulebook was too long. But Christianity and Islam are evangelistic at their heart. This was the only way they could cover their theological loopholes. Christianity’s appeal to connect with the psychology of moral sins, coupled with a strong evangelistic code in built in their scripture when it met the equally powerful evangelistic and intolerant to other religions resulted in the crusades of middle ages and the echoes of their interactions are evident even today in the various skirmishes in Middle East.

            The non-dharmic Abrahamic religions offer a certain perspective central to keeping their history centric outlook that certain individuals born in certain times alone had the connection to God. One can have that connection only through the acceptance of that flavor of monotheism, which by definition is based on their exclusivity.

            The reasoning behind such a big preface to the concept of sin according to Sanatana Dharma is to enable us teasing out media and missionary infused bias and the wrong ideas that are deliberately perpetuated to weaken the more accommodative Hindu framework, which is inclusive.

Vyavaharika view:

            Hinduism offers a very practical scientific mindset. Just like the physical world, the psychological world also follows the Law of action and reaction. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, states Newton’s Law.  This Law also guides the Law of Karma. But unlike the immediate equal and opposite reaction, in the non physical world, the reaction need not be always immediate, equal or even exactly opposite. It is evident that for many of our actions, we may get results matching our expectations, exceeding it, falling short of it and even opposite to it.

            Our every action impinges on the universe and sets up a reaction. This echo of the universe can hit the individual and provide some dividends. If the reaction is acting like a tailwind on an airplane, we refer it as Punya and if it is akin to the headwinds, we refer it as Paapa. Kathopanishad refers the same as Shreyas and Preyas, the path of good and path of pleasant.

            The moral injunctions given in Sanatana Dharma like Ahimsa(non-violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Satya (Truth), Dhana (Giving), Daya (Compassion) and many more, were aids to make the individual to achieve a vibrational match with Universe. If we can tune our mind to the cosmic mind and maintain a congruent alignment with the Universe, with a simultaneous elimination of our vasanas, the Universe actions and powers are expressed through that individual. We see thoughts manifesting as actions in case of these individuals. We see impossible expressed as realities.

            We have seen many scientists practice this technique. We see numerous examples in Napolean Hill books. But the most evident one was the way Mahatma Gandhi rallied the masses to overthrow the most powerful empire that ever existed through non-violence. A constant self correctional, ahimsa based approach.

            Punya or virtue, is nothing but a affirmative nod of the universe that we are on the right directional alignment. On the other hand, it is very obvious to see if a reaction from universe is against a single individual can be. When the Allied forces narrowed the noose against Hitler, all the horror and terror he let loose came back to haunt him that he could not even face the music, so he committed suicide. If paltry Allied forces can set such a reactionary force, imagine the power of Universe. This is what we call it as Paapa or Sin.

            Unlike other religions, dharma is very contextual and very subjective. It doesn’t mean that one can bend it to selfish ends, but the line drawn to demarcate dharma and adharma is very subtle. While killing is generally a Paapa, not all killing can be viewed in the same light. Killing of enemy soldiers or insurgents is not a sin, but also venerated as a great act. While traditional culture holds disobeying father as a sin, the world worships Rama for him being obedient to his father’s wishes; we also find Prahlad, whom we like to emulate for not following his father. Classical Indian society viewed husband as a God form and Sita is the best example for living according to her husband, Rama’s words. The same society also adores Meera Bai as she refused to be bound by her husband’s rules.

            So who can decide what is Paapa and Punya. The obvious answer can be observed in the fruit of action – Karmaphala. While man’s laws can be skirted around, twisted and misinterpreted, God’s Laws are unerring. We have seen many despots, tyrants seemingly escape the laws of Karma, but if we understand reincarnation, many of the questions get answered. Some modern scientists have started doing an objective research into reincarnation and have started uncovering interesting evidence4.

            Atonement is pretty much common prescription across many religions. Hinduism also offers it as Prayaschita. Unlike other religions, which prescribe, acceptance of their faith or their God is sufficient reinforcement for atonement, Hinduism emphasizes that the effects of Karma cannot be shaken off. Even Avatars or Devas are not shown as exempt for their actions. For taking some bad food, an emetic is prescribed. Both the bad food and the emetic have some lingering effects. But the emetic begins the recovery process. In the same way, Paapa will have some bad effects and even the process of atonement will have some bad after taste. This is unavoidable.

            Swami Chinmayananda gave a wonderful example. If a traveler comes to a fork at the road and ends taking the wrong turn, the journey at some point is going to show its signs of wrong choice. At the point of realization that one perceives the effects of the choice (or even at the time of choice itself) it becomes a sin. Just because one realizes it as a sin, the effects do not alter. The traveler has to traverse in the opposite direction till he hits the fork. Prayaschita, is this process when one starts this turn around process. It may so happen due to divine grace or due to Guru’s grace or do to the choices of other Karma, a shortcut can take us back to the original direction, without revisiting the fork. Irrespective of the future choice(s), the effects of Paapa are felt. No amount of Punya offsets Paapa, unless the purgation happens within. The inner balance has to be restored. This can happen by an elevated consciousness than the ones that led to Paapa actions or its reactions, Guru or God’s grace. If our Paapa makes us walk bare foot in the hot desert sand, our good punya doesn’t cancel this trip; instead comes to our rescue as a sandal, an umbrella.

            The best insight comes from Swami Chinmayananada’s quote
Sin is never in action, it is always in reaction.
            Not only does it reemphasize the Karma theory, but also the way out of it.

Paramarthika View:

            The following conversation as recorded with Ramana Maharishi, one of the greatest saints of recent times4.

            Question: Is it possible to sin?

Ramana Maharshi: Having a body, which creates illusion, is the only sin, and the body is our only hell.

But it is right that we observe moral laws.

            Swami Sivananda calls Sin is a only a mistake5. It must be understood that viewing the world in the normal human way is what he refers as the mistake, we all commit. Just take a simpler example, do we realize we are nothing but a bundle of energy and information. Going further deeper, we are nothing more than beyond the cosmic Self, Narayana. Interestingly, sin is all EVIL. But the secret to this EVIL lies in rearranging the letters, VEIL. EVIL is that VEILs GOD consciousness.

            From a realized soul’s perspective (not the aspirants), the one who can see the ocean in every wave, clay in all the pots, gold in all the (gold) ornaments, the vision is extremely different. They view both Paapa and Punya as bondages, one is an iron chain, whilst the other is a golden chain. We need to unshackle both to raise above, in the view of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

            The realized person is not bound by body consciousness or attached to the karmas or their fruits. They remain detached, absorbed in higher consciousness. They are not concerned with the Prarabhda Karma coming to them, as they do not associate or identify with it.

            How is it possible that Karma won’t have an effect on JivanMuktas, the ones who are liberated even while living amongst us? Just as a mountain of straw can be reduced to ashes with one spark of fire, so does our Karma when realization dawns. While the Sanchita and Agami Karmas are roasted, the Prarabhda Karma, the reason behind our very existence still remains. Just like a rope binding some object, when burnt, gives the impression of an ash rope, which doesn’t bind, so does Prarabhda Karma not have the ability to bind the realized person.

            But how does all these Karma ideas line up with the Abrahamic concepts, especially with the idea of Original Sin. Rajiv Malhotra, one of the pioneers and leader in understanding the multiple aspects involved in these analysis has coined the Hindu Good News6 to counter the proselytization bassed on the Original Sin.

            Irrespective of the Paramarthika or Vyavaharika views, Sanatana Dharma views a human as a divine creation. Whether it is Dvaita or Advaita, the divinity of Jeeva (individual) is at the core Hinduism. We are born divine, not sinner, unlike Christian doctrine. Due to the choice of our Karmas, we can either go closer or away from God consciousness. The actions that take us closer are Punya and the ones we throw as obstacles, distancing us conceptually is Paapa. God is not a far off entity unlike in Abrahamic idea, living in heaven. Though it is depicted Vishnu is in Vaikunta, Shiva in Kailasa, when it comes to the idea of God’s presence, it is always expressed as Omnipotent and Imminent.

            We do not need a special way of acceptance, as Krishna guarantees that all forms of approaching him is acceptable, though some may be more easier, depending on the mental make up of the Jeeva.

Bhagavad Gita’s View:

            Krishna handles this topic deftly amongst the various questions Arjuna poses in Bhagavad Gita. We will take a limited peep into his nectarine wisdom. This is essential to understand the spirit of response, Hinduism provides in response to these related questions.

            Krishna highlights that KNOWLEDGE of the ABSOLUTE is able to liberate the most sinful of all sinners. The following three verses give ample evidence into Krishna’s recipe for getting rid of even the biggest sin burden. Note that Krishna is prescribing simple process of atonement alone, as the vasanas are still ready to sprout whenever there is an opportunity. But when the fire of Knowledge roasts the seeds, they can never sprout again.

अपि चेदसि पापेभ्यः सर्वेभ्यः पापकृत्तमः।
सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं सन्तरिष्यसि॥३६॥
Api cedasi pāpebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ pāpakṛttamaḥ|
Sarvaṁ jñānaplavenaiva vṛjinaṁ santariṣyasi|| BG 4.36

Even if thou art the most sinful of all sinners, yet thou shalt verily cross all sins by the raft of knowledge. (One can overcome sin through Self-knowledge)

यथैधांसि समिद्धोऽग्निर्भस्मसात्कुरुतेऽर्जुन।
ज्ञानाग्निः सर्वकर्माणि भस्मसात्कुरुते तथा॥३७॥
Yathaidhāṁsi samiddho'gnirbhasmasātkurute'rjuna|
Jñānāgniḥ sarvakarmāṇi bhasmasātkurute tathā|| BG 4.37

As the blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes!

न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते।
तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति॥३८॥

Na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ pavitramiha vidyate|
Tatsvayaṁ yogasaṁsiddhaḥ kālenātmani vindati|| BG 4.38

Verily there is no purifier in this world like knowledge. He who is perfected in Yoga finds it in the Self in time.

            To the devotee, whose intellect may not yet have ripened to track the path of Jnana, Krishna offers another solace. The devotee absorbed in HIS Grace, the path is made easier. Ratnakar, an infamous robber, turned inward, Godward, to become Sage Valmiki. There is no sin haunting him. Buddha was not haunted by the sin of leaving his young wife, Yasodhara or his son, Rahula. Nor was Swami Raghavendra tainted by his wife committing suicide, on account of separation from him. We see innumerable instances in our culture throughout Indian history. We see Ramana Maharishi’s mother who tried her best to emotionally blackmail a 17 year old boy into submission, eventually become his biggest devotee and disciple.

अपि चेत्सुदुराचारो भजते मामनन्यभाक् |
साधुरेव स मन्तव्य: सम्यग्व्यवसितो हि स: || 9.30||

api chet su-durāchāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ samyag vyavasito hi saḥ

Even if the most sinful worships Me, with devotion to none else, he too should indeed be regarded as righteous, for he has rightly resolved.

            A careful study of the Bhagavad Gita reveals that though the path of Jnana, Yoga, Bhakti, Karma, may all seem to be different, they are all intertwined and beyond a certain point, it becomes hard to discern the difference.

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य माम् एकम् शरणं व्रज ।
अहं त्वा सर्व-पापेभ्यो मोक्ष-यिष्यामि मा शुचः॥18.66
sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekam śaraṇaṁ vraja.
ahaṁ tvā sarva-pāpebhyo mokṣa-yiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ ||

Abandoning all duties, take refuge in Me alone; I will liberate thee from all sins; grieve not.

            Krishna’s message cannot be used as a crutch to discard our daily responsibilities and duties, but to the one who is driven by Mumukshtva, intense desire for liberation, this guarantee that Krishna will liberate that person from all Sins is very powerful.

            Our journey through this article should stress only one message, we are born divine; divinity is our birth right. We need to lift the VEIL of EVIL (vasanas) to peer through and this will happen only by our own individual Purushartha, self-exertion and by Guru and God’s Grace.

Om Tat Sat