Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Wonderful Experience- Dr. Ravindra Kumar

At the invitation of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation located in the city of Medellin, Colombia [South America], I had the opportunity to visit the city on the first fortnight of September, 2011.
Particularly, to witness a week of celebrations organized by the Foundation. Mahatma Gandhi Foundation was established on October 2, 2002 by Mr. Harivadan Shah, a noble, enthusiastic and successful businessman from India. Mr. Shah from a young age had been impressed by the two fundamentals of Ahimsa-based Gandhian philosophy namely, the Trusteeship and the Sarvodaya they encouraged him to establish the Foundation. From its very beginning, the Foundation, not only provides assistance to the people of Columbia, youth in particular, with the purpose of making them self-reliant, is continuously conducting various programmes related to awareness in the field of education for people living in very remote areas of the country. Undoubtedly, the work and efforts of the Foundation is praiseworthy and commendable. In my opinion the establishment of this Foundation is important mainly for the following two reasons:

1.      In a country like Colombia that for decades has been severely affected by violence and war an attempt to introduce Columbians to a peace driven philosophy such as that of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. It will also require the help of other peace loving nations and their contributions will create an atmosphere of trust and harmony. Moreover, this type of effort will dramatically increase cooperation among people belonging to different communities, groups and ethnicities; and
2.      Universal principles like that of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, which emerged in India during ancient times and is now rapidly gaining popularity due to the continuously increasing process of globalization and thus rapidly converting the world into a global village becoming a reality, such kind of work plays the vital role.
Mrs. Hasita Shah, wife of Mr. Shah extends all cooperation and helps in any way that she can when it comes to the carrying out of the day-to-day activities of the Foundation, which is a subject of great satisfaction to her. The positive environment also leads to a happy and cooperative attitude of the subordinates and coworkers of Mr. Shah who participate with enthusiasm in all activities and events of the Foundation. I personally observed this during my participation in the weeklong festival in September, 2011 in which I had a wonderful experience.
It goes without saying, these types of efforts inspire unprecedentedly. Much can be learned from such excellent work particularly by those people of Indian origin who are living in other parts of the world.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Swami Vivekananda: Life and Views in Brief –Dr. Ravindra Kumar

“In Buddha we had the great, universal heart and infinite patience, making religion practical and bringing it to everyone’s door. In Shankaracharaya we saw tremendous intellectual power, throwing the scorching light of reason upon everything. We want today that bright sum of intellectuality joined with the heart of Buddha, the wonderful infinite heart of love and mercy. The union will give us the highest philosophy. Science and religion will meet and shake hands. Poetry and philosophy will become friends…” -Swami Vivekananda 

Swami Vivekananda [1863, 12 January–1902, 4 July], was a great Vedic-Hindu thinker-philosopher, reformer and revolutionary saint of contemporary-modern times, who dedicated his entire life to the spiritual and social upliftment of the common man. His socio-religious approach and ideas were quite clear and universal as is evident from his own short statement quoted at commencement of this discussion. Moreover, he worked till his last breath for the welfare of the masses according to his approach and ideas. This distinctiveness of Swami Vivekananda makes him matchless on the one hand and to a large extent it becomes a mammoth task to analyze his works and views.
As already mentioned, Swami Vivekananda was a great Vedic-Hindu thinker, scholar and saint; he was one of the best elucidators and propagators of the Vedanta. In his lifetime he was true and the best representative and exponent of the Vedanta that speaks of the Divyata [divinity] of the self to remind us of the potential of man.* In a nutshell, Swami Vivekananda was the leading messenger and ambassador of the Vedanta in contemporary India. To quote one of his noteworthy statements on the Vedanta:
“The Vedanta recognizes no sin, it only recognizes error. And the greatest error, says the Vedanta, is to say that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature, and that you have no power and you cannot do this and that.”
The Vedanta believes in a Supreme Authority [Power], who is the Creator and all-pervading [universal]. He is the Supreme Soul having universal consciousness, and is called by different names including Brahman, Parbrahman, Ishwara, Isam, Parmatama, Prabhu and Purushottama by the Vedic people or the Hindus. Swami Vivekananda himself admitted:
“As different streams having different sources all mingle their waters in the sea, so different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to God.”
Further, he accepted Him as the ever gold. He called on each and every human being to fully develop self-confidence in him and through this to recognize God. He desired man to realize and grow from inside, to identify the self and its power**, and to make constant efforts to become the gold accepting it be the goal of life. This is the glorification of the Supreme Authority –God in one way or the other.
All the Vedantic concepts, or in other words the basics of the Vedanta, and particularly pertaining to God, soul [self], Jagata [world],Karma, and simultaneously the great Vedantic ideas like human-unity, the highest sense of harmony among people or the responsibilities and duties of man, became the basis of Swami Vivekananda’s ideas. He put forth these ideas before all and called for their adoption in day-to-day practices to make life worthy and meaningful.
While doing so, he, quite interestingly, stressed on accepting and adopting love and mercy, i.e., Karuna [in wider sense the union of pity and friendliness] of Gautama Buddha. In fact, this is the real and concrete message of the Vedanta itself. The broadness, practicability and straightforwardness like that of Gautama Buddha and intellectual power like that of the great expounder of the Vedanta, Shankaracharaya, could convey the true message of the Dharma [duty-bound righteousness]. According to Swami Vivekananda this was the way to overcome the wary and weary world. This is still the need of the hour to make man realize self, be conscious and self-reliant.
The Atman [self]*** emerges as the most important concept in the philosophy of the Vedanta. In the Kothopnishad [hymn-20] is has been glorified as the greatest of the great. The purpose behind this glorification is for humans to acquire ability and power, to encompass and realize his duties and responsibilities to achieve the most important goal in life; to make him perceive clarity and truth, and through this to develop the spirit of universalism in him so that the pathway of universal welfare could transform into reality. Isavasya Upanishad’s stress that “the person who indeed clearly perceives all creatures and objects in the Atman [soul] only, and accepts in all creatures and objects the [presence of] Atman [soul], he does not wish or want concealment”, could be observed in this very perspective.
It has been mentioned there:
“Yastu Sarvani Bhutanyatmanyevanupasyati
Sarvabhutesu Catmanam Tato Na Vijugupsate”
            To realize and identify the self and to move forward for universal welfare in fact is the essence of the message of the Vedanta. For its proper understanding and also grasping this in life, the way shown by Gautama Buddha, which is full of Karuna [compassion], immeasurable patience and practicability [imbued by the law of change] is inevitable. Simultaneously, tremendous intellectual power found in Shankaracharaya is required to overcome all suspicions and superstitions.
Hence, the goal of life could be achieved by self-realization and soul-force. Further, dedication to the welfare of humanity could be ascertained. This is the message of the Vedanta, which Swami Vivekananda put forth beautifully in the prevailing circumstances in his lifetime. He practiced these till his last breath, which is itself the best introduction of his approximately thirty-nine years’ of worldly life and views. Swami Vivekananda also emphasized the need of refinement of ideas in prevailing situation of space and their adoption as per the demand of time, which distinguish his message and vision.      
*Swami Vivekananda himself admitted, Vedanta says that within man is all knowledge even in a boy it is so and it requires only an awakening and that much is the work of a teacher.” 
**In this regard he said, “You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.”
***Ä€tman is in fact a Sanskrit word which means self' [soul in general]. In the Vedic- Hindu philosophy, in the Vedanta school of thought in particular denotes to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena. In order to attain Moksha [liberation] a human being must acquire self-knowledge [atma-jnana], is to say realize experientially that one's true self is identical with the transcendent permanent -self [God], Brahman

Friday, November 18, 2011

Essentialism of Spirituality to Blossom Individual and the World- Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Spiritualism [of which spirituality is a prime attribute] is in fact the science of self-realization. It is also known as self spiritual science. Vyasa from India, along with other great scholars, also defined it minutely in the Shanti-Parva [book of peace] of the Mahabharata.* Analyzing the state and action of mind, heart and senses, he has particularly mentioned about the superiority of self [soul or atman]. Besides illuminating its importance and role in life, he has scrutinized its effect on human deeds or practices.  
From the word meaning viewpoint, we clearly observe spiritualism to originate from the word spiritual, which again is made of spirit. Spirit is derived from Latin spiritus, which generally relates to self or soul; it is the atmatatva. Moreover, if there is a wish to define spiritual and spiritualism in brief, that too having the atmatatva in the centre, it is the search or realization of self and thus grows to being familiar with the reality of life.
In the Eastern World, India has been for centuries, and still is, the spiritual mentor [Guru] of the world. Spirituality, as mentioned in the context of Vyasa, from ancient times has been the most important aspect of Indian philosophical tradition. It is the main subject in the teachings of the Vedas. This aspect is found in other Vedic-Hindu treatises, the Upanishads in particular. Indian seers and saints, scholars and thinkers of repute from ancient, medieval, contemporary and modern periods including Vardhamana Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Guru Nanak Dev and Swami Vivekananda spoke at length on this.
In the Vedic–Hindu tradition spirituality is generally associated with the monotheistic belief system –“Ekam Sad Viprah Bahuda Vadanti Agni Yama Matarishvanam Aahum”**, which is further connected to Dharma. Dharma is duty-bound righteousness. The concept of Dharma is quite broad. It is worth adopting –Yatoabhyudaya Nihshreyasa Siddhi Sa Dharmah!*** For, it has also been said, “Dharmo Dharayate Prajah.” It does not matter if different methods of meditation, yoga, prayer and worship are linked with it. Dharma is above a religious community.**** It is the means to bring harmony in life. It is the pathway to connect the self with God –ataman with Paramatma. Spirituality, categorically calls for identifying and realizing the self and detaching it from the body. Thereafter, the first stage is to proceed with righteous acts and efforts to attain self development and then to dedicate to the welfare of humanity as a whole.
Spirituality is, thus, the treasure house of Dharma [righteousness, duty-bound deeds], self-identification and self-realization. Thereby, it is above the Dharma as Dharma itself is above a religious-community. Even the first step towards spirituality, or in other words experiencing or processing towards this goal, paves the way to self-progress, and simultaneously it harmonizes with the idea of universal welfare. Not only this, it inspires for concrete action. Further, if the highest state of spirituality is achieved, its result will not only be astonishing, but definitely matchless. The examples of Tirthankara Mahavira, Shakyamuni Gautama and Aadi Shankaracharya are well before us. Therefore, raising any question about the necessity and importance of spirituality in man’s life, as a whole, is needless or useless since spirituality associates simultaneously to human welfare.
Ramakrishna Paramahansa has rightly pointed out that spirituality stops all former feelings and, thus, brings the mind into the state of rest that is necessary, because a restless mind cannot think uninterruptedly. Making the mind free of outer sensory emotions [indriya-vishyak], spirituality fills the brain with fresh and virtuous [full of sadaguna] feelings [sanskaras], which are undoubtedly the basis of self-development; they help pave the way to ascertain the wellbeing of the world.
Further, having spirituality as the nuclei, Paramahansa has also said, “In the state of solitude [which is itself an important and the best point in the process of spirituality], a human being makes himself free from hundreds of those desires or lusts, which continuously try to surround him…***** It makes him alert, gets realized of his hidden personality and leads him to self identification... It calls for performing noble and righteous acts, and thus, paves the way for self-progress, and ascertains man’s indulgence in the wellbeing, progress and liberation of others.”
This is the reality of spiritualism to prove its own significance in the rise of individual and the universe!                     

*The Shanti Parva is the twelfth among the eighteen Parvas of the Mahabharata. It consists of three sub-Parvas and the whole Parva is regarded as the most important and timely as it brings one hundred messages from four interrelated sources –the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Mahabharata. Moreover, it deals with world peace; how peace in the world could prevail.          
**Meaning there by, “There is, but only one Truth [God] –Sages however call it by different names such as Agni, Yama, Vayu…”
***As Rishi Kanaad has rightly expounded in the Vaisheshik philosophy.
****As Hinduism of today, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism etc. 
*****In this regard it has been pointed out, “Kshudh Trirt Aashah Kutumbinya Mayi Jeevati Na Anyagaah! Taasaam Aasha Mahasaadhvi Kadaachit Man Na Munchati!! Meaning thereby, “Hunger, Thirst [Trut] and desire [Aasha] are like man's three wives. Until he is alive these three will never leave him or go elsewhere. In comparison of the three, desire [Aasha] is a Mahasaadhvi, because it never ever leaves the man. Unlike hunger and thirst, which disappear for some time after eating drinking, desire is the thing, which never disappears from man's mind!”