Words of wisdom

I was ploughing through my mails looking for something (to be precise, ‘Ram Swarup’. More on that later). I came across emails that some of us exchanged on the arrest of Swami Nithyananda some time ago. An email from a friend was rather wonderful. I am not naming him lest I embarrass him. I am reproducing his email:

I have to wonder if Viswamithra, ……………….., would have survived a sun-tv expose on Menaka. And he goes on to teach Rama and Laxmana, with the “moral” track record that he had (trying to steal Kamadhenu? tut tut) … which parent in today’s world would have selected him as a Guru? The point is he was allowed to evolve and overcome his failings.

Much of being a Hindu is just watching — without getting entangled or judging, if possible. Who knows what Nityananda is capable of? What if he were to have a son like Vyasa (another sordid episode). So let N evolve in the way he chooses to. And let his disciples decide if they benefit from him or not in their journey.

‘Much of being a Hindu is just watching’ – what an wonderful thought and attitude to adopt. Much to think over and to recall, over and over again.

This also gives me the opportunity to share with you the wonderful interview that Dr. Arun Shourie had recently given to Madhu Trehan of ‘News Laundry’. She used to be with ‘India Today’ in the 1990s. The interview covered a range of topics. It is 53 minutes long. Time well spent. Shourie’s remarks on almost everything was unexceptionable.

Towards the end of the interview, his advice to Hindu (or, all?) youngsters on how to genuinely appreciate and care for their religion focused on the following four aspects:

(a) Learn your tradition

(b) Live your tradition

(c) Be confident to reformulate (that is how the religion keeps re-generating)

(d) Be humble to learn from other masters

This was his advice to the Hindu youngsters who mindlessly lash out on the Internet at any one who simply does not share their worldview – on politics or otherwise. Wonderful words.

4 thoughts on “Words of wisdom

  1. Hi Ananth,
    Greetings. This is indeed an interesting and novel observation. A few thoughts and opinions in this regard, as requested.

    As far Viswamithra’s case, his life should be construed in two parts – an ordinary life as a king (Kaushika) with all human fortes/foibles and as a Brahma Rishi (Vishwamitra). They are poles apart and should not be construed as a natural evolution anyone would go through. This evidenced in the form of two Gothrams (Kaushika and Vishwamitra Gothrams) attributed to him.

    You might be aware of the story of his fight with Vasishta. He thought he could conquer Vasishta with his royal power as well as Divya Astras including Brahmastra – when Vasistha nullified everything because of his yogic power, it dawned on him that all these Astras/Shastras are useless in front of Brahma Jnana. And that’s when he turned 180 deg and he abdicated everything in pursuit of Brahma Jnana. How many ordinary mortals can do that?

    His achievements in his second life as Sage Vishwamitra has no parallel. He did not stop until Sage Vasishta himself accredited him as a Brahma Rishi. Who else had the power than him to create parallel Universe on par with Brahman and give the essence of Vedas viz. Gayatri to the mankind?

    So, it will be difficult to compare Sage Vishwamitra with even other Rishis – he is unique. That is evident from the respect he draws from Sage Vasishta when Sage Vishwamitra visits Ayodhya to request Rama to be sent with him – although he was the very same person he competed with. Further confirmation comes from Yoga Vasishta – a philosophical teaching to Rama by Vasishta in presence of Vishwamitra.

    Yes – he had his failings after that too – for example, Menaka. But he was not alone. It only proves that, as long as one remains in human form, it will be excruciatingly difficult to have absolute physical and mental purity. If Vishwamitra failed in lust, Sage Durvasa failed in anger – but these don’t make those Rishis any lesser in importance or make them ordinary.

    Further, a momentary indiscretion is completely different from double life – which the modern saffron-clad Swamis seem to practice. The Rishis immediately repented when they gave into momentary weaknesses and it has been openly given that they lose their spiritual power the moment they lost their balance and therefore they engage in severe Tapas to regain posture.

    Today, a majority of the saffron-clad swamis are running business – one form of the other – even if it means running Bhagavad Gita/Upanishad classes. Neither Color of the cloth nor oratory skills nor bookly knowledge make Swamis. Saffron cloth is more like a uniform for Upanyasa profession!

    This leads to the second point – can everyone evolve on their own?

    If everyone is allowed to evolve as they like, it may actually may lead to a situation where no one knows the purpose and where they are heading to. Though it is true that the evolutionary speed depends on one’s own efforts and Shraddha, prescription and leading are needed in the form of Vedas/Shastras and ‘real’ Gurus. Learn and Live your tradition essentially means that and it inherently implies a prescriptive approach.

    The ‘avatars’ become necessitated in spite of all these scriptures and Gurus become we as humans have repeatedly failed to evolve ourselves (though there may be exceptions) – paritrANAya sAdhUnAM vinAshAya ca duShkRRitAM dharma saMsthApanArthAya saMbhavAmi yuge yuge | (So, we are not very capable of maintaining Dharma and therefore divine intervention is required from time to time). If we had, world would have been such a wonderful place – not as messy as it is now.

    3. Be confident and reformulate – it is absolutely essential but it should be taken as an exercise borne out of humility and ‘let-me-learn-this’ and not as ‘know-all’ and condescending tone which many do. Honestly, we have been brainwashed to interpret our own culture/scriptures in light of Western thoughts and it still continues – though Westerners had a vested interest in proving to us that we were somehow inferior to their culture – to facilitate their ruling (Please refer to Lord Macaulay’s letter to British Parliament).

    Prof Vaidyanathan of IIM-Bangalore had written an article some time ago wherein he mentions that normally countries will be confused about their future but they are fairly clear of their past and legacy but Indians are confused of both past and future! Quite True, actually!

    Thanks & Regards,

  2. ‘Let N evolve the way he chooses to and let his disciples decide’ appear to be fair and neutral. My humble opinion is that this fits for the ‘aware’ people. But what about the gullible and simple lot?

  3. Great points, Murali. It is a stretch to compare present-day Swamis and the Rishis. Nonetheless, we do make several judgements implicit in warning against such comparison. It is that that my friend was willing to suspend. A rather interesting point of view.

  4. Good point. But, as long as the gullible and the simple folks are not being misled, he can be allowed to evolve? Of course, as my friend Murali points out, there is something called Sanyasa dharma which one should follow once one dons the saffron robe.

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