Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hinduism - an inner gaze

Sanatana Dharma’s expression has been morphing with times. The great rishis of the yore have predicted the impact of yugas (time) over the values followed in each yuga. Bhagavatam gives a graphic description of Kali Yuga with a bull standing on one leg. Of the four aids available, Tapah-Soucham-Daya-Satyam “austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness”, we are now left with only Satyam. Only Truth is the remaining aid. We will use this to turn our gaze within.
The sad truth is Hinduism discussions begin and end with Casteism. Caste, as understood today, is not even an original Hindu idea. The Varna-Ashrama dharma is totally defunct and non-existent and the distorted caste representation is such a travesty. For this reason alone, we will not focus on it. (Read more about Varnas – a journey to its roots)
In Kali Yuga, the most effective path available is bhakthi. The modern man’s mind, colored heavily by commercialization and materialism, has reduced bhakthi to a transaction. The love for the para has been replaced it with the evil trinity - I, ME, and MYSELF. What can I get by this deal with this God of my imagination? If I cannot get it, maybe another idea of God (or even different God) may give this is the delusion. This fatal flaw has spawned an entire ecosystem of exploiters and fulfillers. This is the reason why there exist fake swamijis, proselytizers, and rabid hinduphobic bashers, not to forget the sepoys and left media.
Transactional bhakti is the biggest ego trip one can make, all the while hallucinating under the delusion that one is making spiritual (and materialistic progress). The worst cases are the new cults springing under new gurus, mystics, even godheads. The Sanatana Dharma allows an open framework to integrate all these, but real progress comes only when one does SADHANA.
Sanatana Dharma is embodied not in its culture, but the values the people lived by. There was a myriad of practices which have been reduced to the exact opposites, thereby making it difficult for such practices to be effective. The non Grihastashramites relied on bhiksha, today it is a dirty industry with lots of bad actors. Even one cannot go for Unchavritti for purifying one self. In the name of modernization, we are too busy writing epitaphs for many such wonderful practices.
This ecosystem loss, some self inflicted and others due to external factors, is one of the critical reasons why Hinduism is degenerating more rapidly as time marches. Varnashrama’s loss pales in comparison to the loss of values which defined each Varna. Kshatriyas were the traditional dharma rakshaks, but that role has been given up. We deliberated in detail about the loss of Kshatriyata in the Indian society and the ways to revive in the article – Kshatriya – Do you still exist? The late Sage of Kanchi, Chandrasekara Saraswati, observed that Brahmins are not on the back foot due to societal changes, but in their inability to follow the traditional wisdom and practices handed over to them for generations.  This has been echoed by numerous great mahatmas. The monikers of Varna may not be relevant, but certainly the values enshrined are.
From sheer common sense, we can translate these observations to the compromise of the two critical pillars of the four Purusharthas, namely Dharma and Moksha. The westernization is a merely this scenario, where Artha and Kama are the accepted foundations of human living. The level to which Dharma is accepted is based on the limited prism of culture. Taking this fatal short-sighted approach and transposing Hinduism is perhaps one of the biggest fatal flaws done by the current generations.
Thus in the absence of a community that constantly keeps reminding the “para” and a community that keeps fighting for upholding and reviving the values, the remainder of the Artha and Kama centered actions also gets corrupted. Just like a river that does not respect its banks; a society that has lost Dharma and Moksha loses its bearing at every step of the way causing untold miseries to its denizens. We see this pretty much every day all around us. The proliferation of selfish activities is also directly proportional to this vital flaw.
When such a call is given, it is immediately misconstrued to be supporting certain classes. This ridiculous polarized bent of mind is the first level of defense barrier one has to shatter, by reminding that the loss of values is not only to certain communities, but applies to every individual.
As we turn our gaze to a key stakeholder in the Sanatana Dharma ecosystem, namely Gurus, we have already noted about the fake ones. But there exist far more good ones who are totally ignorant of the Breaking India forces around. Many of them have no clue about other religions, yet claim all religions are same. To any monotheistic religion, even accepting others on the same level or even as another option is untenable. Yet the constant emphasis in trying to peddle a cheap secular line (all religions are same), instead of promoting dharma and values, makes Hindus very weak. We are pushed to a state where we are neither strong in our own heritage nor are we able to relate with other religions due to this pseudo idea of sameness that is marketed by our Gurus.
This pseudo secular idea layered over an already weak Hindu base supported by strong marketing like media, fickle politicians who are ready to even sell the nation to grab power, make us perfect target for the proselytizing forces. The huge population offers a big incentive for these Breaking India forces. We find shady characters like John Dayal who shamelessly go crying to US Congress to sell the nation. The same pseudo secular forces will be absent when it comes to the Christian inculturization tricks that are very evident in front of us like their copying Hindu temple’s dwajasthamba (kodimaram in tamil or temple flag mast), replacing hindu gods with Christ playing flute or veena, Christ replacing Krishna as charioteer or even their attempts to introduce OM Christu Namaha kind of junk to trick people.
All these will not be even an issue if we go back to the root of the problem in Hindu Society – Loss of Values and fix it. Unless the revival of DHARMIC VALUES happen, the declining trend will only accelerate with Breaking India forces coupled with native self defeating forces, read sepoys.
Another key aspect that ails the Hindu society has been evident for the past few centuries. We are mentally colonized. We need approval of an external society. Though the colonial slave masters have left, we have not left their mental slavery. We can see the desperation we show to celebrate a totally unrelated concept like Halloween in India, while we are ready to argue why we need to celebrate Diwali or Holi. We rush to teach our kids about Santa Claus, yet we ourselves do not know complete Ramayana or Mahabharata. We believe the doctored TV shows which have reduced the itihasas to mere soaps as an authentic source. We do not even know what the original author said. This creates a perfect troubled environment for sepoys like Devadutt Pattanaik, sepoy and famed child of Wendy (one who is desperate to paint everything Hinduism with a perverted sexist angle) to spin their own myths and do justice to their own self given titles.
We must get out of this approval syndrome; the trappings of this debilitating disorder are deep. One way to overcome is the classic recipe – Light dispels darkness. Get more educated by reading original dharmic sources. If the vasana baggage is too heavy, persevere and work on it. Challenge your paradigm by reading great mahatmas like Swami Sivananda, Swami Chinmayananda. One may even keep it more at a laukika plane by reading authors like Rajiv Malhotra.  If one has a family guru parampara, it may be advisable to start there. Needless to say breaking this mental slavery will be one of the key symptoms on the road to recovery of dharma.
While we are looking at the Breaking India forces, it is imperative to count one among the top sepoys – very biased and well grown left leaning media. Many media houses have blatantly hinduphobic editors whose daily job is to dish some garbage, hiding under the freedom of speech. The disorganized Hindu masses are confused about not confronting it, as they are trained to be docile. The half line Ahimsa Paramo Dharma is often repeated by the gurus, media and even our pathiri who wants to convert and harvest the nearest neighboring soul. Hindus can get liberated when they pick the same scripture and read the other half of the sloka which says Dharma himsa thathaiva cha. Most of the Manu baiters and haters keep quoting many times statements not even in Manu Smriti. Yet they go unchallenged as we do not even know what is in it and what is not.
Can we change the situation where we can know at least as much about Hinduism like these Breaking India forces, if not more? Is it too much to expect an average Hindu to be just Hindu? The media has reduced it to such a level that a non Hindu can claim his religion. If a terrorist is doing violence in the name of religion the same idiotic media claims terrorism knows no religion and hence they do not even mention such an individual as an Islamic or Christian terrorist. Yet the same substandard media with lots of venom rushes and labels the person as communal, because they claim to be Hindu. The worst standard followed by the media is their definition of being hinduphobic means being secular.
Why should we tolerate this pathetic attitude of the few biased characters who are running the media houses? Unless we raise our voices in protest, this mental beating will continue to weaken us and it will shape our future which is already getting bleaker by these very forces.
Another aspect is the reimport of our own ideas which we have divorced. Cleanliness is a very central concept as expounded in Bhagavad Gita numerous times. We see tons of evidence starting from Saraswati Valley Civilization. Today’s practice is such a travesty and downright hypocritical to say the least. The same ideas are true when it comes to treating women, environmental awareness and respect. Our practice is such a farce. These loopholes become perfect opportunities to half baked ideas imported from West like feminism, environmentalism, imported indology which is too busy imposing liberation philology. We are only too glad because we are getting these diluted digested ideas instead of understanding that we have more powerful originals which are part of our culture and heritage.
Not enough voices seem to exist to protect dharma. Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha (Dharma protects those who protect it) says Sanatana Dharma. The majority of even the ones who are interested in fighting for it seem to be covered by Tamas. Tamas takes either the shape of selfishness or ego. We can see how the different sects of Hinduism still fight with each other, rather than putting a unified front on these destructive forces. The best example of Tamasic demonstration can be from the ones who argue, all is God’s Will; what good is going to happen if I act. The same person will not stop chasing other desires.
The lack of inner fortitude to stay steadfast in Dharma and be unappreciative of our legacy is the sole reason why we find ourselves in this sorry state. To get out of this hole, we have dug ourselves; we have to realize we have to turn the problem on its head for a solution. Finding a grand narrative to unify our past, present and future with all its diversity is crucial for healing the fissures that are deepened by the Breaking India forces.

Satchitananda’s prescription
You water the roots, if you want results. In the same way, if one wants changes in society, it starts with the individual. For the individual it begins with values. Rapid degeneration of values is not merely altering the ethic ecosystem of the society, but also creating serious imbalances for its denizens. We try to do the opposite with a top down approach. This approach will work only as long as the agent of change persists. If we want lasting change, we need to emulate our ancestors in reviving the emphasis on values.
Let each individual commit to working on them. This is not a comparative evaluation amongst others, but rather with one’s own current actions against their true potential.

Om Tat Sat

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to communicate effectively - Rama's insights on Hanuman

Rama and Lakshmana, after defeating Kabandha, set out in the direction of Pampa Lake with the hope of finding Sugreeva, per Kabandha's advice. They meet Shabari. After her ascent to heaven, they sighted the Pampa Lake. Rama's memories and sorrows get stirred at every step of the way. From the Rishyamukha peak meanwhile Sugreeva spots Rama and Lakshmana. Sugreeva is confined to Mount Rishyamukha due to fear of his brother, Vaali. He lived there with Hanuman and few other loyal companions. 
Seeing two strange men in a forest evokes deep fear in Sugreeva, despite hanuman's efforts. Sugreeva asks Hanuman to confront the strangers in disguise and learn more about their aspirations.
Hanuman assumed the persona of an ascetic. Approaching them, in a soft, pleasing voice greeted and praised the two valiant ones. Hanuman praised, "You two look like Rajarishis with the best of features. What brought you to this forest filled with animals?  Despite wearing hermit clothes, you both are brandishing very powerful weapons. Hanuman makes multiple verses of geuine praise, with no trace of flattery. Despite Hanuman's best efforts, he could not pry a single syllable from Rama-Lakshmana.
Let us take a moment to see Rama's masterclass in communication as described by Valmiki. Rama's speech pattern is described as Srutha Bhashi (One who spoke TRUTH at all times), Hitha Bhashi (One who speaks pleasant things to hear), Mitha Bhashi (Spoke very limited, as per the need) and Purva Bhashi (One who initiates the conversation, without waiting for others to begin a dialogue). We can see evidences throughout Ramayana in support of these traits of Rama. For instance, when Ravana was defeated on day one, Rama very briefly asked Ravana to go back that day and come back the next.  In another case when Soorpanaka comes in and abruptly asks who he was, Rama gives a very brief, yet completely accurate autobiography, thereby eliminating the need for a second question. So we have Rama, who already is well versed in the art of communication, simply smiling at Hanuman. The psyche of this silence is revealed in the upcoming slokas where Rama shares his deep insight about Hanuman's monologue.
Unable to make a dent in the silence maintained by Rama-Lakshmana, Hanuman mentions that Sugreeva, the virtuous monkey banished by Vaali lives on the mountain and has been delegated by him to seek the hand of friendship and that his name was Hanuman. Though it was a failure on part of Hanuman's plan, he was left with no other choice but inform his mission to Rama-Lakshmana.
It appears that the revelation of Hanuman's identity aids in Rama getting off the wonderment of Hanuman's speech. Following the Royal protocol of having a delegate talk to an ambassador, he directs Lakshmana to give a briefing to Hanuman. But before he lets Lakshmana get started, he shares some of his deep, insightful analysis of Hanuman to him (and us).
We may be finding it hard to find Rama, anywhere else in Ramayana, launching into an uncontainable, vivacious praising as highly as he does Hanuman. This is despite the fact that Rama is a good finder in everyone. We see this aspect when he instructs Vibhishana to cremate his fallen brother.


Rama's Observations on Hanuman

For this discussion, we will highlight the traits we want to dive deeper in these slokas.

तमभ्यभाष सौमित्रे सुग्रीवसचिवं कपिम्।
वाक्यज्ञं मधुरैर्वाक्यैस्स्नेहयुक्तमरिन्दम।।4.3.27।।
'O Saumitri, conqueror of enemies this monkey, Sugriva's minister, is skilled in friendly communication. Reply to him in words gentle and sweet.
वाक्यज्ञम् - vaakya j~nam - sententious one; good wordsmith
स्नेह युक्तम् - sneha yuktam – friendliness

 नानृग्वेदविनीतस्य नायजुर्वेद्धारिणः।
नासामवेदविदुषश्शक्यमेवं विभाषितुम् ।।4.3.28।।
Unless well versed in Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda, for sure, it is not possible for anyone to articulate so well.

नूनं व्याकरणं कृत्स्नमनेन बहुधा श्रुतम्।
बहु व्याहरताऽनेन किञ्चिदपशब्दितम् ।।4.3.29।।
Surely, he seems to have studied well the whole of grammar, for there is not a single mispronunciation in his entire speech.
कृत्स्नम्  व्याकरणम्  - vyaakaraNam kR^istsnam - grammar, comprehensively
बहुधा श्रुतम् - bahudhaa shrutam - Studied in many ways
बहु व्याहरताऽनेन किञ्चिदपशब्दितम्
bahu vyaaharataa anena  na kimchit  apa shabditam - In his long speech, there is not a single mispronounciation or wrong choice of words
मुखे नेत्रयोर्वापि ललाटे भ्रुवोस्तथा।
अन्येष्वपि गात्रेषु दोषस्संविदितः क्वचित् ।।4.3.30।।
No fault can be found in his face, eyes, forehead, between the eyebrows or any other part of his body (during his expression).
मुखे in his face, नेत्रयोर्वापि in the eyes or, ललाटे on the forehead, तथा likewise, भ्रुवो between the eyebrows, अन्येष्वपि or anywhere, गात्रेषु parts of body, क्वचित् even a little, दोषः fault, संविदितः not found

उरस्थं कण्ठगं वाक्यं वर्तते मध्यमे स्वरे ।।4.3.31।।
His sentences are not too elaborate, not ambiguous, not dragging, not fast, raised in the chest or throat, in a medium tone.
वाक्यम् sentences, अविस्तरम् not too elaborate, असन्दिग्धम् not ambiguous, अविलम्भितम् not dragging, अद्रुतम् not fast, उरस्थम् raised in his chest, कण्ठगम् from the throat, मध्यमे medium, स्वरे tone
उच्चारयति कल्याणीं वाचं हृदयहारिणीम् ।।4.3.32।।
His words are auspicious. They are refined. Neither fast nor slow, his utterances captivate the heart.
संस्कारक्रमसम्पन्नाम् refined, अद्रुताम् not too fast, अविलम्बिताम् not too slow, कल्याणीम् auspicious, हृदयहारिणीम् captivating the heart, वाचम् language, उच्चारयति speaks
अनया चित्रया वाचा त्रिस्थानव्यञ्जनस्थया।
कस्य नाराध्यते चित्तमुद्यतासेररेरपि।।4.3.33।।
His speech raises from the three places (chest, head and throat, indicating it is not a weak lip generated one) His words are so enchanting that even an enemy with a drawn sword will be captivated.

Rama goes on to praise what a king can not achieve with such a wonderful ambassador.
Satchitananda’s Microscope

Rama in a few sargas before claims that he is the worst sinner and had to undergo so many traumas, unlike anyone before. A fact unknown to Hanuman is that Rama in clearly at the abyss of sorrow. Yet Hanuman’s words (One must go and enjoy the original slokas) bring such joy to Rama’s troubled heart that his enchantment makes him temporarily forget all his sorrows.

           Hanuman displays incredible wisdom. He earlier tried to dispel Sugreeva out of his baseless fear. When it failed, he donned the role of an emissary to assuage Sugreeva’s mental turmoil. His conduct and words place Sugreeva at a very high position in Rama’s minds. Rama was already in search of Sugreeva, per Kabandha’s advice. Yet it is Hanuman’s talk that swings heavily in favor of Sugreeva. In Bhakti tradition, Hanuman is playing the role of a Guru. Only a Guru can introduce a normal Jeevatma to the Paramatma. Hanuman dispels the darkness of vasanas in the jeeva that is ignorant of Paramatma’s leela. The Guru also aids in bridging the huge intellectual, bhakti gap that exists between the Karuna sagara and the alpa buddhi.
  • Being friendly in approach is the first trait of good communication.  Hanuman’s first impression on Rama is that of being friendly. All doubts and barriers even as strangers in a forest are removed. Hanuman proves to be an epitome of these traits elaborated in Bhagavad Gita in his next avatara.  
  •  Being a good wordsmith is at the heart of communication. Use of correct choice of words, which means having a better command of the vocabulary, is critical. The varying degrees of emotions may be captured better. This not only aids the listener as the communicator is able to capture his/her moods more accurately, but also builds a subtle connection and respect for the communicator.
  • Read our scriptures. The sad truth is communists, atheists and proselytizers are reading more of our scriptures than an average Hindu. Of course if one were to call Hindu one is considered communal, whilst others claiming their religion are minorities, even if they are extreme. This sad state has to change.
  • Adishankara sang Vedo nityam adiyatam. Even if it is not cryptic Vedas and Upanishads, atleast Puranas and Itihasas. Make sure one does not read cheap mistranslations from characters like Devadutt Patanaik, who is a sepoy of Wendy’s clan. NEVER READ A NON SPIRITUAL PERSON’S TRANSLATIONS OF OUR SCRIPTURES OR FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE IN SPIRITUALITY. Daily reading little of a good Bhagavad Gita commentary can not only sharpen our intellect but also work on our personality. Our old vasanas that are detrimental to our spiritual progress get replaced by good ones. Unlike abrahamic religions, there is no talk of infidels or kafirs. Sanatana Dharma talks of Universal Love and Brotherhood. Even a simple prayer is for the good of everyone.
  • What is in our thoughts and character only gets expressed in our words. Hence, the emphasis is placed in Sanatana Dharma to constantly work on oneself and purify the individual. This being an individual’s effort, our progress. A good example is that of Duryodhana who refused the good words of Krishna or that of Ravana who refused to pay heed to Hanuman or Angada. So it goes without further emphasis to communicate or to receive communication properly, one must be constantly be working on oneself.
  • The traditional Indian way of learning involves Tarka, where different points of view of different acharyas as learnt. Thus standing on the shoulders of giants, it allows the freedom to extend. Unlike Abrahamic cults which believe ideas should be frozen in time as understood by one person in remote past, this open architecture allows for a constant improvement. Unless one is well read, one may not be effective in proper communication. Ability to relate to different diverse ideas is of prime importance. This is very evident when great orators of different times have given great speeches. The size of audience does not matter as much as the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes, especially well learned ones.
  • We see a new generation who use internet and chat slangs. As these replace proper communication as pop culture, we already witness difficulties in communicating and etiquette issues amongst others. Hanuman’s emphasis on proper grammar, sentence structure enabled him to put across his thoughts and emotions clearly to the listener. The lack of ambiguity facilitates a proper response. It forces the listener to act in your best interests.
  • As a personal testimonial, I can attest to the numerous instances where I had chosen the wrong choice of words leading to unnecessary acrimony. I am sure many of us have a similar experience. Rama is so much enthralled with Hanuman’s choice of words. He also admires his pronunciation. In Samaskrita a single syllable, stressed or dropped can have completely different meaning. Hanuman’s long speech had no such defects.
  • One entire sloka is dedicated by Valmiki to the importance of body language. Modern science also informs us of the same. Most of the communication happens through non-verbal means. The sad thing is, we do not know the value of these scriptures or following them till we accrue these western evidences. By the time, we as a society have followed these practices and it becomes very difficult to re-create the ecosystem.
  • Rama opines that sentence delivery is as important as the content. The words must be paced according to the situation. Imagine if one were to express love in an angry tone of voice. The words must be delivered at a nice pace - neither too fast nor too slow. There must be no ambiguity caused with the words used. The words need not be so detailed that the audience has already lost the connection. Rama’s thoughts on the origin of words like chest and throat are more relevant when speaking in Sanskrit or ones who are focused on Vedas. Perhaps something we must start reviving more.
  • Hanuman’s choice of words is always auspicious. Interestingly modern new age has been popularizing this idea as do not speak negative. Of course just like in any digestion, the original concept is only half absorbed like in other digestions from Hinduism we have seen like Yoga, Vegetarianism, and Environmental Consciousness. NOT SPEAKING NEGATIVE IS NOT THE SAME AS SPEAKING AUSPICIOUS.
  • The language used must be refined. We do see in pretty much every language there is a difference between written and spoken language. Furthermore there exists slang in every language. A choice of refined language not only separates from others, but also makes the listener add a shade of respect more. This may not be confused with the modern idea of mirroring the listener for effective communication. Though the mannerisms may be mirrored for being relatable, one need not lower the standards in the choice of words.
  • We already noted speaking auspicious gets the speaker closer to the listener’s heart. When keeping the listener’s best interests in mind, if the words are delivered, it captivates the listener. Of course there are exceptions like Duryodhana or Ravana. But under normal circumstances when the listener understands that the speaker is expressing words of their interest, the listener is spell bound and gravitates more towards the speaker and the message.
  • When someone masters these skills like Hanuman, one achieves a level where even the enemy with a drawn sword is stopped on their tracks. Note it is important to stay grounded in DHARMA for being effective. We know Hitler was an outstanding communicator, yet not being grounded in dharma; he caused extreme suffering to millions. So being grounded in dharma is imperative.

When one studies just few slokas with an objective to absorb, the wealth of information given in our itihasas and puranas, they have the ability to transform us. It is very important to have a spiritual connection when reading scriptures. There are too many negative forces who cleave the spirituality part and try to doctor a socio-political spin on Ramayana or Mahabharata like ones of Sheldon Pollock. There are weird characters like Wendy Doninger who use a distorted Freudian lens to paint everything with a hypersexed idea. There are the likes of Wendy’s children like Devadutt Pattanaik who are popular writing books and serial episodes. These characters deliberately twist the meaning and easily influence the masses that have lost the tradition of learning directly from the source or spiritual masters. To top all these there are digestion forces like proselytizers who imitate and aid in further twisting our understanding.

      To counter these negative forces, please read these scriptures directly from spiritual sources. Read the originals if possible. Listen to the commentary from great spiritual gurus from your respective guru paramparas. Educate yourselves about these forces by reading books and watching videos of Shri Rajiv Malhotra.
Om Tat Sat