Monday, May 29, 2017

Question & Answers - 5 - Why being good is not good enough

Q5a: I am a good person, so am assured of a place in the heaven.

Q5b: In this highly competitive world, all I can do is be good and I know that the Universe/God will take care of the rest.

Q5c: I am a good person, never do anything bad, but why is my spiritual growth not happening rapidly.

Ans: To these and the variations of the questions with a similar theme, the answer is simple -  Being good alone is not good enough. Why? Won’t my philanthropy and charitability come and save me? Yes it will. This question is very deceptively simple, but the response is very subtle. Let us dive in.

            We will begin by understanding what is good. Most of us are trained to parrot the same response, irrespective of the religions we follow. We come with a litany of moral characteristics like speaking the truth, not cheating, not do bad things to others like steal or kill. The Abrahamics have taken this idea even further with their Ten Commandments which must be followed. The Islamists have pushed this list of ten bullet points to include their entire medieval Arab tribal societal law and call it the Sharia.

            Sanatana Dharma has many scriptures as the light is cast from different angles in Dharma Shastras, Neeti Shastras and many stellar works like Thirukkural which offer moral guidelines. One must note a huge difference between Dharmic ideas and Abrahamic one – the former is focused on taking the individual in an evolutionary path, whilst the latter offers the promise of heaven, threat of hell – both here and after death.
            Goodness is understood to be inherent in every aspect of our life. Manifesting, exercising or perceiving it depends on our Gunas and Karma, which are both guided by our vasanas. How often we have experienced that though we will be doing the very best with pure intentions, there is someone around always suspecting it or finding fault? This is the proof that our vasanas are guiding the interpretations all the time.

            The challenge with most of our interpretation is it is not based on Dharma, but only on our Kama and Artha aspirations. Since the reference point is shifted, the perception of goodness or badness is highly skewed and discolored, leading to each one of us having varied interpretations of our perceptions. To solve this, mankind has invented laws that are suitable to the existing society. They get amended with time and space. What is lawful in one part of the world may be a grave sin in another. Ignoring the current context in entirety can lead to disastrous consequences.

            Some New Age ideologues keep parroting a limited good response - Follow the Golden Rule – Do unto others what you want them to do unto you. This can be very handy for many common scenarios like do you want someone to steal from you or hit you. But again the limitation in this formula, based on Abrahamic idea, is its lack of attention to DHARMA. 

            The great sages who discovered the Sanatana Dharma emphasized DHARMA as the bedrock and as the first step. The four purusharthas or ideal aspirations for every individual are DHARMA-ARTHA-KAMA-MOKSHA. In a simpler version Dharma (has numerous other interepretations) implies Order, be it social or cosmic. Kama refers to the psychological pressures, artha refers to the resources needed to manifest Kama and Moksha is a state where one is liberated from the above three conditioning. NOTE: this is a highly simplified version to keep us on this discussion.

            As we can easily confirm from our daily lives, we have cleaved the idea of Moksha as it is more esoteric and subtler. The idea of Dharma has again been bundled up with age old Hindu superstition, thanks to the relentless Breaking India forces. We equate Dharma all the time with Manu Smriti, which has been highly maligned by the ignorant masses for the lack of proper understanding. Having removed the ideas of Dharma and Moksha, the modern materialistic man wants to operate only on Kama and Artha. This leads to not only chaos in the society but also a fractured individual living far below one’s potential.

            Just like the understanding of gravity and the other laws of Physics have preceded the development of technology of flying, a proper understanding of Dharma is a prerequisite to manifest the higher human potential. We already noticed that our awareness of Dharma is a factor of our Gunas – the more Sattva one has, the easier it becomes to grasp these ideas and the more Rajas or Tamas one has, one is shrouded in a dark veil of ignorance and perceiving dharma becomes an almost impossibility.

            Dharma is so subtle that we find illustrious characters like Yudhishtra spent a lifetime trying to go to its depths.  Now it may be clear why the common man’s perspective good and bad appear different than from Dharma point of view. Please refer to an in-depth case study on the Subtle Dharma behind Vaali Vadam.

            Sanatana Dharma wants every Jiva to realize that it is the same Brahmanda, which is in the Pindananda. Whatever is in the Cosmos is also found in the individual. A sincere scientist will agree to this fact without any hesitation. Once this realization dawn, the individual Jiva is no longer under the delusion of EGO, which causes it to perceive itself as a separate entity. This Self arrogation is nullified, paving way to Moksha. This was the reason why our ancestors constantly emphasized Dharma. We see it in Avvaiyar (a great Tamil female sage) in her Athichoodi begins by advising us to அறம் செய விரும்பு (Aram seiyya Virumbu). This is usually translated as Intend on doing right deeds. But the more appropriate word for Aram is Dharma, rather than good acts or charity. We should interpret it as Remain Steadfast in Dharma. Her advice is more succinct and terse that if we only paid heed to her we can make rapid strides in the path of Spirituality.

            An interesting aspect comes from Science to aid us here. When we break down all matter into atomic level and below we suddenly find ourselves immersed in the Cosmos seamlessly. If we add to this, the understanding that we have from genetics which tells us all of Life that is known to mankind be it in the past or present, be it the plants or animals have evolved from the same stock. When one realizes this common root of life, basal thoughts automatically get shredded and replaced with noble ones. This understanding comes to us automatically without the need to know the science behind.

            This emphasis on an inbuilt path to progress spiritually while living a normal life exists only in Sanatana Dharma. Dharma allows the expansion of Consciousness, as it is not constricted by human laws or understanding. To follow dharma, one needs to merely follow the examples of our great ancestors and the wondrous lives of great rishis and sages that have adorned this great civilization. The dizzy heights scaled by them using the apparently different paths like Bhakti, Jnana or Karma margas have set us great examples to emulate. 

Since Dharma is the foundation of all these different paths and Moksha the end result, they are unified. Dharma provides a platform for cultivating these esoteric values which are basically expressions of the Universe, not a mere set of rules. These cannot be cultivated without a philosophical foundation. Why does one have to be good? Why does following dharma lead to betterment? These questions will never occur in religions that are fear based. Thou shall obey the Laws or else face the consequence is a sure recipe for curbed human or spiritual evolution. History has showcased this during the Dark Ages of Europe and until science bubbled up to break the shackles of such dogmas, no progress was possible. We still see such irrational nonsense in the Islamic world – See how to beat a wife – advice by Islamic clerics and judge yourself about the hypocritical religion of Peace or is it Piece? Dharma allows actual Self Realization and it need not be a mere acceptance of someone else’s experience removed in space and time, centuries ago.

            Conformity to being good (a factor of space and time) may lead to accumulation of societally acceptable or tolerated, values yet need not be a framework for spiritual evolution. It may be good enough for peddling miracles and proselytizing more or to coerce by force, the following of a set of prescribed ideas. On the other hand, following Dharma, these good qualities, good under all conditions, express themselves. It can definitely be done by starting with good habits, but it does not rule out the polar opposites to cultivate them either. Ratnakar, a feared bandit, got some good advice from Narada’s Satsang and transformed into Valmiki. We have the example of Angulimaal, during the lifetime of Buddha.

            The philosophical foundation offered by Sanatana Dharma and its six darshanas and its various schools of thought offer different interpretations of Jiva-Jagat-Ishvara (Individual-World-Bhagvan). Abrahamics view the first was created by the last entity, which created the world for the enjoyment of the Jiva. Unfortunately they do not see the continuity in all the three. This is one of the key differences with Sanatana Dharma. Having this deep philosophical understanding provides us with the necessary tools to be steadfast in the path of Dharma which leads to rapid spiritual growth. 

            Kathopanishad gives us a very important clue. All our thoughts, words and actions result in a mere directional change of the Jiva. The Jiva is constantly given freewill and free choice at every step. The choice it can exert is categorized as two – Preyas – the path of the pleasant and Shreyas – the path of the good. It is common understanding to realize what is pleasant need not be good and vice versa. If we layer our current topic we can reinterpret Preyas – the path that allows distortion of dharma and Shreyas – the path that warrants one to conform to dharma. Conformity to Dharma merely aligns the individual Jiva to make rapid strides in the Spiritual Journey, everyone already are.

            Swami Sivananda put this very succinctly and simply as BE GOOD, DO GOOD. Note the order of appearance. Unless one is GOOD, it is hard for one to do good. This again reiterates the foundational nature of Dharma.

Few Dharmic tips for practical Implementation

  • Try to see the dharmic connection when following the most common Dos and Don’ts – Yama, Niyama or any law.
  • Explain it to your children, rather than giving mere instructions or good habits – this will make their foundation very strong.
  • DO NOT brush aside all ancestral advice as nonsense. It is very difficult to understand Dharma, unless one is committed to its practice in parallel.
  • Don’t undertake good practices with the expectation of results, Krishna has repeatedly warned about its pitfalls in Bhagavad Gita.
  • Try to re-live the wondrous advice given by the various instructions and advice given by great rishis and sages. Fight and defend Dharma at every level. That Dharma we fight for will in turn protect us. Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha.

            Now that we are clear that without a proper understanding of DHARMA, rather more importantly its practice, spiritual progress is hard to come by. Mere adherence of a current civil code of conduct need not be a factor in our internal spiritual journey. May we all strive hard on a daily basis to remain steadfast in the path of DHARMA and Shreyas.

Om Tat Sat

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why Rama's and Krishna's first kill was a woman?

Why is Rama’s killing of Tataka justified? Is this not proof Rama was a misogynist?

Why did Krishna begin his lilas in the world with the killing of a woman?

Is a Kshatriya not honor bound to protect a woman?

Of course this is an example of misogyny scream the ignorant, yet, very motivated western scholars. The Breaking India forces will be glad to showcase Tataka as a dalit woman also, to sell their baseless point. Sheldon Pollock will not hesitate to declare Yakshas as a different race and that is how the Aryans ill-treated other races and we, as Indian society today, are busy reconstructing it. The bigoted Dravidian parties and their clan will lap every such theory and flesh it with their own and claim Yakshas as dark skinned Dravidians. Add to this list feminists of today who have no sense of how woman was respected in the past.

All 100% certified bunkum. 100% mischievous untruths.
Since most of us in this generation never get even the stories from the original sources like Valmiki for Ramayana and Vyasa for Bhagavata or Mahabharata, it becomes necessary to give the story in a synopsis.

Rama’s encounter with Tataka

Vishwamitra manages to convince Dasaratha, to part with Rama and Lakshmana. The trio proceed towards Vishwamitra's ashram. Vishwamitra imparted Bala and Atibala mantras to Rama and Lakshmana, which conferred them, the ability never to fatigue or get sick or change in appearance. Also gave them protection from rakshasas when asleep. As they walk along Sarayu's confluence with the Ganga, Vishwamitra narrated the history of the region. The holy place was special as it was where Indra got cleansed of his sins by slaying Vrittasura. He blessed the region to be extremely fertile and the place became renowned as Malada and Karusha.
Currently these two townships have been overpowered by a terrible Yakshini, in the form of a Rakshasi. Tataka was her name and she was capable of changing forms at will and possessed the strength of a thousand elephants. Tataka was Sunda's wife and had a rakshasa son, Maricha, together they terrorised the region. Vishwamitra informed that they were in the proximity of Tataka and she needs to be killed. Rama wondered how a woman could possess such enormous strength and cruelty at the same time. 
The childless, powerful Yaksha, Suketu propitiated Brahma who blessed him with a girl child, Tataka, endowed with a thousand elephant strength. She married Sunda, son of Jharjha and gave birth to powerful Maricha. When Sunda died due to a curse by Sage Agastya, she rushed to attack Sage Agastya along with Maricha and wanted to devour him. Agastya, the most venerable one, cursed her to transform into an ugly rakshasi and condemned her to live as a cannibal. Enraged by the curse, she ravages the land where Agastya once lived.
Vishwamitra reminds Rama that it is his duty as a Kshatriya to slay this powerful rakshasi, so people can be safe. He observed that his likes, discomfort in confronting a woman take backseat as his primary duty is to protect.
The hesitant Rama gets clear clarification from Vishwamitra. (We will see later how these clarifications nullify the questions raised earlier).  Rama would have followed Vishwamitra’s instructions even without these, as he had given a word to his father that he will be obedient in serving the sage.
न ह्येनामुत्सहे हन्तुं स्त्रीस्वभावेन रक्षिताम्।

वीर्यं चास्यां गतिं चापि हनिष्यामीति मे मति:।।1.26.12।।
Despite the clarifications, Rama was inclined to only incapacitate her or shame her by chopping her ears and nose. He twanged the bowstring which enraged the unsuspecting rakshasi to come out rushing and showering boulders at the trio. Rama greeted her boulders with his volley of arrows. He chopped her hands. Lakshmana joined Rama by chopping her ears and nose, according to Rama's prior direction.
She vanished out of sight and kept showering rocks from all directions. Vishwamitra cautioned Rama that she will regain all her strength through the power of her maya and her strength will increase manifold after the impending dusk. Rama immediately heeded to his words and exhibited his archery skills by sending arrows in the direction of the sound which prevented further rock volley. The shower of arrows eventually saw her fall dead with her chest pierced.
Delighted at this wonderful feat, Vishwamitra blesses Rama and Lakshmana all the celestial weapons. Later, he further sweetens the deal with their marriage. A very important fact is brought out by this episode of listening to Guru's words even if we are not sure of dharma behind. 
            They reach Siddhashrama, a place where Vamana was born as a boon to the tapas of Sage Kashyapa and Aditi. Vamana also did lots of tapas in the area before overpowering Bali. Rama and Lakshmana set out to protect the sacrifice for the next six days and nights without sleep. Six days passed in tranquility. Suddenly the sky was filled with noises from the two rakshasas - Maricha and Subahu. Along with their followers, they rained streams of blood on the homakunda (sacrificial altar). Rama attacked them with Manavastra at Maricha, who got unconscious and hurled a hundred yojanas away. He next killed Subahu with Agneyastra. He killed the remaining followers with Vayavastra.

Putana’s moksha at the hands of infant Krishna

Kamsa, after killing the swapped baby girl, overwhelmed by hypocritical Vedanta releases Devaki and Vasudeva. But the very next day he changes colors thanks to the advice of his asuric ministers. His mission and obsession was to eliminate all the new born in the region. He sent out a terrible demoness, a specialist in infanticide, Putana, who could assume any form at will. She assumed a very attractive form, wandered in Gokula and per chance found Krishna. Vyasa says just like a man picking a sleeping snake thinking it as a rope, she took Krishna, that Infinite Being, as a mere infant. Again, contrary to TV serials, Vyasa gives an account that is very different. Yashoda and Rohini, seeing this strange lady in the house were stunned and immobilised by the hypnotic powers of Putana.
            Without wasting a second, Putana took the infant Krishna, few days old on her lap and applied him to her breast. Her primary infant killing weapon was the highly potent toxic poison she applied on her breast. The baby, annoyed at being rudely awakened, pressed her breast and began to suck her life energy out of her. She started screaming and howling in pain. Her loud cries reverberated in the area and shocked the ones who heard. As she fell dead she assumed her real form pulverizing everything in six krosas.
The Gopas and Gopis saw the infant fearlessly kicking his limbs on the dead body of the demoness. They did purifactory rites and invoked the name of Hari again and again to provide protection to the child. Yasoda breast fed the baby and laid him down for sleep.
Nanda had gone to pay his taxes to Kamsa in Mathura. He also had a brief visit with his friend Vasudeva, who rushed him to return to Gokula without any delay. Upon his return found Putana's huge body and felt thankful for Vasudeva's premonition. The Gopas cut Putana's body into pieces and began to cremate it on a firewood pyre. As they burnt her, the entire place smelled sweetly of sandalwood.
            Even though, she had only evil intentions, but the act of serving ParaBrahman, Krishna under the guise of a fake mother liberated her. Bhagavatam refers this to as Putana Moksha

            What lens do we need to study dharma shastras? – DHARMIC one
            The way we look at things, things you look at change. - Wayne Dyer.
This is very evident when it comes to Indology. Western scholars and sepoys come trained with special skewed lenses. On one end of the spectrum we have scholars like Sheldon Pollock with a modern social lens, Wendy Doniger with a sexist Freudian lens to self certified mythologist, Devdutt Pattnaik, who believes Vyasa must have copied from his notes, thereby giving himself a stamp of authentication. On the other hand we have forces like the Dravidian parties, missionaries, flat out lying tongues like Zakir Naik, who believe they know more about Hinduism than even the most devout practitioner based on shastras.
Lucky for us, all these liars can be proved false in one stroke. Pick our shastras, itihasas. Do some reading yourself. So what do these originals talk about.
            Vishwamitra gives a strong defense why such rakshasis can be killed.
नृशंसमनृशंसं वा प्रजारक्षणकारणात्।

पातकं वा सदोषं वा कर्तव्यं रक्षता सता।।1.25.17।।
Whether cruel or kind, sinful or wrong whatever contributes to the protection of the subjects, should be done by the righteous (king).
राज्यभारनियुक्तानामेष धर्मस्सनातन:

अधर्म्यां जहि काकुत्स्थ धर्मोह्यस्या विद्यते।।1.25.18।।
The ones who are burdened with the administration, it is their primary dharma to protect their subjects. She knows no dharma and follows none, so she deserves to be killed.
To support  his arguments Vishwamitra quotes the killing of Manthara by Indra and also the mother of Kavya, the wife of Sage Bhrigu by Vishnu.
            We get lots of wonderful pointers here:
First we see there is so much adharma. One of the definitions of dharma is Order – be it cosmic or social.  English proverb says, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. Here we see Tataka, a very powerful woman, instead of showing a motherly feminine side, is a cannibal, terrorizing anything in sight, the exact antithesis of motherliness. This gross demonstration of ADHARMA is the number one qualifier for her getting killed. Rama is not able to shake her veneer of being a woman, till his Guru constantly reminds what DHARMA is.
Second, it is wrong to portray woman as weaker sex. This was not the case in the historic past in India, but today the situation has degraded. (read Ailing Hinduism – Inversion of Values) There is an injunction in dharma shastras when there is a conflict between samanya dharma (normal day to day dharma) and visesha dharma (exceptional situation dharma), visesha dharma has to be upheld. In this case the conflict is protecting woman as a kshatriya or to put an end to the rakshasi menace, following Guru’s directive, being obedient to the promise he had made to his father.
Thirdly, Rama was trying his best to be lenient by letting her go after chopping her limbs, ears and nose. But her persistent attack through her maya powers and the danger of her gaining strength as dusk approached, besides his Guru’s repeated reminder not to waste any more time, makes it obvious Tataka only accelerated her own end. Dharma is gender neutral.
            In Krishna’s case, the situation is simpler. The infant killing rakshasi was trying to kill the infant Krishna. There can be no excuse given by the experts of twisted interpretations.

            In both the cases, there is a much deeper dharmic reasoning. Every avatar happens, according to Sanatana Dharma for three reasons, which are more like three facets of the same action – Dushta nigraha, Sishta Paripalana, Dharma Samsthapana -  Of these three Sishta Paripalana (protecting the good) is the chief aim. To achieve this end Paramatma has to do dushta nigraha (eliminate evil). When these two happen, there is an automatic safe environment for Dharma to flourish which is dharma samsthapana.

            Woman to be loving and caring is dharma, but when she turns to be a cannibal and heartless towards infants, adharma prevails. Adharma cannot be covered by any façade, as it rears its ugly head through every mask. To reestablish Dharma, adharma has to be removed and in these two cases, they represent the most extreme form of adharma. It is like water flowing up a mountain. This is very unnatural. So it is the first warning shot Paramatma chooses to tackle in these two avatars – to go after the most extreme adharmic characters. Putana’s loss did not frighten the adharma filled Kamsa, nor did it send the message to Ravana whose outposts were Tataka and her sons. We see this thick veil of ignorance on the part of adharmic people.

What lessons can be imbibed from this?

  • It is important for us to familiarize with our own itihasas, puranas and shastras. Some lingering practices from some pockets provide us with the opportunity to learn this first hand. Unless we know dharma - both samanya and visesha, we cannot understand the subtleties. Dharma cannot be understood from books alone, it comes more from acharan - practice. That is why Yudhishtra was never satiated with listening about Dharma from innumerable Sages. 

  • Before we start falling for the western manipulated interpretations, popular sepoys, media based religious soaps, let us crack open the real scriptures and read them often. There are still plenty of traditional practitioners, who give wonderful pravachans we can learn from, based on our vasana baggage. But let us be toleratnt to the other traditional variations in the narrative, as Sanatana Dharma is a framework that allows numerous interpretations. Just be wary of the bogus adharmic ones.

  • Trust in your Guru and there is no better place to be than under his (her) feet. Rama-Lakshmana's obedience yielded rich dividends at the end of Tataka vads. Vishwamitra showered upon them countless powerful astras and shastras, without even being asked for a blessing. Rama merely followed dharma and Guru's words. The dividends he received were almost disproportional as Guru's Grace is unlimited.

  • Dharma can be practiced only when there is sattvic mind. The same is true for one to understand dharma also. So what can one infer from this about the folks who deliberately misinterpret or exploit, the proportion of sattva is less. This is not a character analysis of these people, instead this is a warning to the practitioners, that if they do not consistently focus on increasing their sattva, this is the state what one can end up as. So before banding to criticize them, let us increase our focus in our own adhyatmic progress by doing more svadhyaya and cultivating sattva by increased sadhana.

Om Tat Sat