Gurus - World Guru
There is a particular poignance about seeing the beauty hidden behind India’s surface degradation. It is like kicking a pile of rags on the road, only to have it open up to reveal a sublime
Our ability to tolerate religious differences and to respect
spiritual freedom is unparalleled. Nowhere else in the world would it be possible for members of the same family to worship
A poem by Paramahansa Yogananda Not where the musk of happiness blows,
Nor where darkness and fears never tread;
Not in the homes of perpetual smiles,
What makes India unique is that even in these days it can produce God-realised souls. These people know that the purpose of human life is not money, nor fame or name. All that is passing. What
India mission of spiritualising the world is realising itself. India's greatness lies in this, and not in supremacy in the economic or political arenas
Having created man and given him his mission to know and be God, the Almighty was faced with a conundrum. Where could he hide so that man would not be able to find him easily—up on a mountain, deep in the sea, floating on a cloud somewhere? At last he hit upon the perfect solution. “I shall live in the soul of man,” he said. “For that is the one place man will never think of looking for me.”
In the same vein, one can conjecture that God created the world, filled it with continents and people and pondered as to where he should place its soul. And then he had an idea. “I will place it in India, hidden among its heat and dust and noise and dirt. No one will think of looking for it there.”
Can you imagine it? Mingling with the stinking garbage piles in dark and dirty alleys, one with the festering wounds of beggars and the unwashed bottoms of their children, shimmering among the grinding poverty of the masses and the cupidity of the ruling classes, oblivious to India’s lowly status as a third world country embroiled in corruption and chaos, reposes the soul of the world.
It’s like a morality tale or Biblical prediction—the last shall be first, the modest miss gets the guy, the naïve Fool carries the day.
So where exactly is this soul to be found? Ah, for that you need a special vision. To be able to see the soul of India is like being able to see into one of those trick pictures. Look at it one way and you will see a meaningless jumble—a chaos so extreme that it sends many foreigners screaming back to their more orderly lands and caused V.S. Naipaul to denounce it as ‘an area of darkness’. Look at it another way, and you will see the most beautiful and noble vision of human possibility. A vision so charged with wisdom, profundity, ideals and love, that a higher perspective is impossible. Hidden in the soul of India is the ultimate vision of life and human purpose.
All those who see this elusive soul are forever transformed in their view and opinion of India. Foreigner or Indian alike, he cannot stop raving about it or getting hopelessly emotional about it. One foreign writer, I recall, confessed that India was the only country in the world whose soil he kissed the moment he set foot on the airport tarmac. There is a particular poignance about seeing the beauty hidden behind India’s surface degradation. It is like kicking a pile of rags on the road, only to have it open up to reveal a sublime human being. You are both awed with wonder at the sight and full of regret and sorrow that she has fallen upon such bad times. And you throw yourself ardently into the task of restoring her to her innate glory.
Sage after sage from Swami Vivekananda to Sri Aurobindo, to S. Radhakrishnan to Mahatma Gandhi, to Osho, have been alive to India’s hidden splendour and dedicated themselves to burnishing it, polishing it and bringing it up to the fore. Their mission is to fire the soul spark in each of us so that we all may know the land in which we are born, truly be its children, and go down on our knees in gratitude for the privilege of having been born here.
For we are indescribably lucky to be born in India and to live in India. Tell that to the yuppie pining for a green card and he will think you are a basket case. Lucky to live in a country where nothing moves without a bribe, where systems are routinely bucked and loopholes found, where quality standards are so low that everything falls apart, where poverty creeps over the land so insidiously that you have to run to stay out of its grasp, where honest officers like Satyendra Dubey (the recent case of the government officer who blew the whistle on the rampant corruption in his department, only to have his identity exposed, making him the victim of a murderous attack) get killed? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! These things exist and we would be foolish to ignore them but they do not constitute the whole of India. To be able to understand and appreciate India truly, we need a perspective far deeper and broader than one shaped by the daily newspaper.
The real India, when you discover her, has never really changed too much from her ancient avatar, shaped by the truths enshrined in the Vedas and Upanishads. These truths were proclaimed by anonymous sages and seers bent upon an unutterably audacious project—to explore the inner world of the mind, the personality, the intellect and consciousness and never to stop until the end was reached. What possessed them to undertake such an unprecedented enterprise? What caused them to shift the beams of their awareness from the outer world and move it within? Who can say from where the original inspiration came? It could just as well have come from the whisper of leaves as the wind caressed them, the babble of brooks on their way to the sea, from the still serene Indian sky, and the forgiving earth. Perhaps the genius of the land lay abroad in nature and whispered her commands to receptive ears.
Whatever the cause, this inversion of our normal use of consciousness is the single most important determinant of our national philosophy, culture, character and identity. For the sages found untold truth hidden within us and they told the world about it. In passages of matchless beauty and nobility, they revealed that the Universe is One without a second, that the Creator and creation are one, that all is divine and all is interconnected. God was within us, not outside us—and that the same God was within the humblest twig and pebble. We are God. Aham brahmasmi. Astonishing! Unbelievable. Even today, so many thousands of years since they were first proclaimed, these insights are so little known that they raise eyebrows, hackles and doubts, not just in the foreigner but in ourselves too.
Writes Osho, whose book, India My Love, a compilation of his references to India, is one long, passionate ode to the country: “God has been talked about in every corner of the world, but God has always remained far away, beyond the stars. Only India has established that God is within man… Aham brahmasmi is perhaps the boldest statement ever made by any human being in any age in any part of the world, and I don’t think it can be improved upon in the future, ever. Its courage is so absolute and perfect that you cannot refine it, you cannot polish it… ‘I am the Ultimate.’ Beyond me there is nothing, there is no height that is not within me and there is no depth which is not within me. If I can explore myself I have explored the whole mystery of existence.”
Are these truths the prerogative only of the Indian sages? Have no other civilisation been privy to their glory? Most ancient civilisations intuited this wisdom and oriented their lives around it to a lesser or greater degree but it would be true to say that it has never been articulated with as much clarity and certainty as is available in Indian spiritual literature, and the means to realise this purpose have seldom been more lofty or more numerous. They range from recitation of the holy name, to mantras, tantras, yantras, to the paths of devotion, action, knowledge, to yoga and meditation, and millions more, besides.
What makes India truly unique is that it is the only civilisation in the world that oriented its entire existence around the purpose of self-realisation. Its every system is devised to take us further within ourselves. Right from music, dance, art and sculpture to architecture, healing systems like Ayurveda and Siddha, divination sciences like astrology, transcendental paths like yoga and meditation, our daily ways of living, all emphasised the interconnection of life, and the primacy of spirit over matter. Eschewing the path of technology and the creation of a material society, Indian civilisation stood for a harmonious self-sustaining way of life based on the laws of nature. Housing, clothing and food were provided by nature and in turn, returned to nature after use. Self-sustaining cycles of agriculture ensured that whatever was taken from the soil in terms of minerals was returned in terms of manure and compost. Rooted in nature, with plenty of fresh air and clean water, our ancestors lived a life of intelligent thrift, treading lightly on the earth, using as little of her resources as possible, and keeping steadily in front of them the goal of self-realisation and the transcendence of desires.
Because everything was divine and therefore sacred, everything was worshipped right from rivers like the Ganga to mountains like the mighty Himalayas in the north and Mount Arunachala in the South, to trees, animals and shrubs. Even today, the land is steeped in God consciousness, a fact that the foreigner realises more easily than us, for we have nothing to compare it to.
As a people too, it affected our national character, making us more peaceable, tolerant and accomodative. Despite the surface communal flare-ups, India’s ability to tolerate religious differences and to respect spiritual freedom is unparalleled. Nowhere else in the world would it be possible for members of the same family to worship different gurus and deities. In India, however, each has his own isht-devta (favourite deity) and each is free to find his own spiritual mentor.
But what nourished this civilisation more than any single factor and kept it steadily on the path of self-realisation is the presence of living masters who realised the truth within themselves and kept it alive.
Says Osho in India My Love: “The mystic is India’s monopoly… India is the only land in the whole world, strangely, which has devoted all its talents in a concentrated effort to see the truth and to be the truth… for ten thousand years millions of people persistently making a single effort, sacrificing everything for it—science, technological development, riches—accepting poverty, sickness, disease, death, but not dropping the search at any cost… it has created a certain noosphere, a certain ocean of vibrations around you.”
Says Dada Vaswani: “What makes India unique is that even in these days it can produce God-realised souls. These people know that the purpose of human life is not money, nor fame or name. All that is passing. What abides is the spirit.” He adds: “Spirituality is not taught, it is caught: through fellowship and association of men of spirit. Our guru-shishya parampara is nowhere else in the world.”
While other nations experimented with life on the material plane, India remained loyal to her self-appointed goal to transcend this plane and achieve the bliss of divine union.
What a mission! What a journey. While other nations saw only part of the human purpose for existence, our sages saw it all. And they told us all they knew—both the destination and the path. India, therefore, since the dawn of civilisation, has always been privy to the final step of mankind. She holds the secret of our future evolution in her hands. Little wonder then, that all sages concur in calling her the guru of the world, whose task is to spiritualise the world and to lead all men towards their destiny to know God. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Young India (12.8.’20): “I feel that India’s mission is different from that of others. India is fitted for the religious supremacy of the world. There is no parallel in the world for the process of purification that this country has voluntarily undergone.”
Wrote Sri Aurobindo: “India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great. I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her; I worship Her as the Mother.”
Says Dada Vaswani: “Of the many civilisations that have appeared on the globe, India alone has survived. Why? Because she has a mission to fulfil. She must reveal to all nations that there can be no true freedom without spirituality.”
Again and again they make reference to her heritage, her duty to the world.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote this well before the Independence. “India is in danger of losing her soul… She must not, therefore lazily and helplessly say, ‘I cannot escape the onrush from the West.’ She must be strong enough to resist it for her own sake and that of the world.” How much truer is this statement today as we are sucked into the maelstrom of consumerism.
Osho writes: “I want to remind those who have forgotten, awaken those who have fallen asleep, so that India can regain its inner dignity, its pride, its snow-capped peaks—because the destiny of the whole of humanity is linked with the destiny of India.”
This then is our mission. This is what we stand for as a people. Other countries have their philosophies and ideals. The British have their sense of honour, their stiff upper lip and their concern for the underdog. The Americans have their Dream, which is about making a million dollars. This is our dream: To liberate ourselves from the maya of existence and to help the rest of the world in doing so. When it comes to missions and dreams, we’ve got the jackpot—the ultimate dream. Should we not feel awed by this privilege, and humbled by the enormousness of it? Is this not reason to feel good about ourselves? The Almighty has chosen us for the greatest job of all, because he has faith in us. Should we not have faith in ourselves too?
Currently there is much brouhaha in the country over being the preferred source for BPO projects and because we are good at IT. We are aglow with the feel-good factor. But this is to evaluate ourselves from the point of view of others. From our own point of view, all this is irrelevant, for it is not part of our goal. It may well be an offshoot but it is not the end.
We as Indians, therefore, need to take back our own perspective, our own criteria for evaluation, our own unique way of being. As long as we remain enslaved to the Western way of being, we will not only struggle to master an ethos alien to our nature, but we will be blind to our own inclinations, nature, mission. Lord Krishna has admonished us in the Bhagavad Gita to be true to our own dharma no matter how inferior, and not to assume another’s dharma no matter how attractive. It is time therefore to take back our heritage.
But what does it mean in today’s times to be part of a nation committed to self-realisation? Is it even relevant when poverty and unemployment have us in their stranglehold? When capitalism and consumerism are running riot and the world is chasing material goods like never before? When you have to work 24 hours a day to hold down a job?
Extreme times call for extreme measures. It is because we are living in such turbulent times that there is great need for us to know who or what we are as a nation so that we can stand on firm ground. As long as we live on borrowed ideals and worldviews, we can never operate from strength or even evaluate these ideas. Understanding the country and therefore ourselves, helps us to evaluate the present civilisation that we are embroiled in and look at it in the proper perspective.
Knowing who we are also helps us understand our own present situation. There is no denying that we are in pretty bad shape today. How do we explain the fact that a nation with such transcendental values and ideals can at the same time be so indifferent to human life and welfare as to allow thousands to perish and millions to live in poverty without so much as lifting a finger? Or that we are so incredibly corrupt as a nation that our political leaders invariably become billionaires after a stint in office? Or that our standards of cleanliness are so low? Or that our streets are so chaotic? Or that our legal system is a mess? Or that there is periodic blood-letting within communities?
Dada Vaswani has the best answer to this: “For over 12 centuries, India has remained a slave nation. Now that we have been given freedom, the baser elements in our personality are rising up. What has been suppressed will come up. That is the law of nature.”
Even the excesses of consumerism and capitalism and the rule of money culture can be understood from this perspective. In order to transcend it, we must go through it. The socialist regime created an atmosphere of scarcity. Telephones were scarce, gas connections were scarce, even food articles were often scarce. No wonder then that we have fallen upon the consumerist jubilee with such glee. But as the Buddha so wisely said: “This too shall pass.”
With its frenzied levels of competition, soaring stress levels, damaging effect on family and relationships, and destruction of the environment, the consumerist culture is forcing many to awaken to the possibility of a new way of life. V. Srinivas (39) took the fast track to success as an IIT and IIM graduate, who later started his own company. Today, he has sold the company and has started a new one called Illumini, whose purpose is to persuade companies to operate through a more spiritual format. He writes in an article on India: “Do not try and learn the tricks of another race. Do not seek to imitate the ways of those who have lived differently from you and understand the world differently from you. Instead, be yourself.”
But above all, the reason why it is imperative to know who we are is that our only hope of restoring the country’s former glory is through these very values and ideals that we stand for. Writes S. Radhakrishnan, the great philosopher and former President of India: “To improve the present condition of Indian society, to reshape its life in a fashion equal to the magnitude of the times, we must rediscover its soul, what we have in our blood by inheritance, those wordless ideals, the things that lie in the depth of our being as permanent potentialities.”
When we begin to evaluate the country from the point of view of these ideals and potentialities, there is so much that we see that makes us truly unique and that we can be proud of. For me, one of the definitive images of the India that I love and am fiercely proud of came from a tiny newspaper report I read some years ago. It referred to an old impoverished woman in Tamil Nadu, who was brought to court to give testimony against an auto rickshaw driver who had killed her husband during a heated altercation. However, the lady told the court that she had no wish to prosecute the man because it had been an accident. She herself wanted no money from him, and though she had never seen a hundred rupees in her life, she had her sons who looked after her and she was not in want.
This lady is in all of us. She is us. Let the West keep its Bill Gates and its Fortune 500 companies. We have this anonymous old lady who has placed money where it belongs, well below compassion, self-reliance and self-respect.
Stories there are aplenty of this side of India. Indeed, India is stories and myths, and legend.
Research scholar Vidya Kamath discovered this in the course of her research on those who set up and worship at roadside shrines. Says she: “I’ve understood that this country gives us myths that we can live by, that gives us hope and a greater meaning in life. A sense of the sacred runs through the veins of this country and our people, which I find beautiful.”
She recounts the case of a municipal worker who lived by violence until the day when in a skirmish he lost the sensation in his lower legs. His life came to a grinding halt. One day, he went to a Shirdi Sai Baba temple and experienced a vision that transformed him. Today, he is custodian of his own Sai Baba shrine and leads an exemplary life.
Says she: “We in India are programmed to embark on a search in a way that maybe other countries are not yet.”
Activist and writer Dilip D’Sousa is also attracted to India’s boundless stories. “After 10 years in the US, I chose to return to India because it is the most fascinating country in the world. It can be perverse and frustrating but it is so very interesting. As a writer, there are stories here that I would never find anywhere else.”
Rooshikumar Pandya, a well-known personal growth consultant, returned to India after 20 years in Canada, drawn by the lure of the sitar of which he is a passionate student. But even he is aware of that mysterious something that pervades the atmosphere. Says he: “The evenings in India are very different. There is some sort of serenity, something transcendental and supportive about them, as if everything is going to be all right.”
The fact of having been born into this land has invested us with traits and characteristics that we are often quite unconscious of.
As a people we are not aggressive. Conquering the other is abhorrent to us for our focus is on conquering ourselves. That results in the lack of the killer instinct that sports commentators so abhor, but it also gives us an inclination for non-violence
Says Mahatma Gandhi: “The Rishis who discovered the law of non-violence in the midst of violence, were greater geniuses than Newton… Having themselves known the use of arms they realised their uselessness and taught a weary world that its salvation lay not through violence but through non-violence.”
India’s heroes are people like Ashoka the Great, the emperor who turned his back on warfare and became an advocate of peace; and Bhishma, the grandsire of Mahabharata, who sacrificed his right to the throne so that his father could marry the woman he wanted; and Dandini, the yogi who was approached by an emissary of Alexander the Great with the following words: “Alexander wants to see and will reward you richly if you come with me. However, if you refuse, I will have to kill you.”
“Dandini neither covets gold nor fears death,” was the yogi’s calm reply. “Go you to Alexander and tell him that if he wants to see me, he must come to me.”
Writes V. Srinivas: “India has always sought for itself peace instead of war, satisfaction instead of greed, gentleness instead of pride and anger. This India is within each of us.”
Osho adds: “If the West learns something about the East, the most important thing will be that all that is great comes out of non-doing, non-aggressiveness.”
As a people, we are overwhelmingly heart-oriented, not head-oriented. For us, relationships matter. Says architect Rohit Ganatra: “We have a humanistic approach to people. We are warm and hospitable even with strangers. We also respect elders and value family.” Agrees radiologist-cartoonist Hemant Morparia: “There’s a high level of empathy in the way we behave with each other. We also have a high level of interiority as compared to the West.”
Archana Pai Kulkarni, executive editor of New Woman magazine concurs: “Whenever I think of India, I see the image of a yogi, someone with vast experience and wisdom, unfazed by any test of fire and always returning to the middle path.”
Just as our character has been shaped by this land, so too has our mind. Says V. Srinivas: “The Indian mind looks at the whole system. For instance, Ayurveda looks at the whole human system and not only at the illness. Whole system thought is actually structured at a higher level than fragmentary systems.”
The Indian mind has a talent for synthesis, for finding the unity in diversity, for seeing the big picture. It is this that makes us visionaries and particularly talented for the task of self-realisation. Says Osho: “In Greece, the search for the truth through thinking is what they call logic. In India, what we call experience, intuition, reveals all things simultaneously, like a flash of lightning. Hence truth is seen in its totality, as it is…”
India has valuable, even priceless, things to give the world. Why then has she been so low on the totem pole of the world’s nations? The current civilisation, with its emphasis on the external and pre-occupation with the material world has worked against it. Says Osho: “India is a female country and has remained a female country. The whole psyche of India is female, completely opposite to countries like Germany or America—they are male countries... This is why India has never been able to be aggressive… The only other possibility is that now the wheel of history should turn, the story of the male civilisation close and a new chapter begin. This will be the chapter of a civilisation of the female mind.”
India’s time is fast approaching. Indeed many would say that it has already arrived. Seldom has there been more interest in spirituality. “Today, the wave is in favour of spirituality,” says Dada Vaswani. Yoga and meditation are straddling the world rapidly and the New Age culture that is slowly gathering pace is based on the premises of the Vedas—of inborn divinity and interconnection.
And there have seldom been more seekers coming to India in search of God. For them India holds a deathless fascination. Writes Anne Cushman, who authored From Here to Eternity, a guide book to India’s ashrams, along with Jerry Jones: “India will bend your mind, assault your body, flood your senses and shred your nerves, from the moment you step off the plane into its smoky unforgettable perfume of burning cow dung, diesel fumes and a few thousand years of accumulated human sweat. And ultimately, if you’re lucky, your old identity will break down like one of the decrepit smog-belching autorickshaws that clog the Indian streets—and you’ll have to walk on without it… It’s this breakdown and the attendant possibilities for transformation—more than a specific teacher or spiritual site—that’s the real blessing India has to offer.”
Across the world, systems are gradually shifting and changing and accommodating the holistic viewpoint. Spirituality and spiritual viewpoints are gradually informing the practice of psychology and therapy. Instead of identifying the spiritual crises of seekers as an episode of schizophrenia, there is room now for spiritual growth in psychiatry’s lexicon. Ayurveda and other Eastern holistic systems are posing a serious challenge to allopathy, whose side-effects and crippling expenses have punctured its popularity. Alternative education that emphasises the all-round development of the child may not be the norm but is getting increasingly popular. There are also worldwide movements toward preserving bio-diversity and organic farming that place emphasis on a harmonious relationship with nature.
India’s mission is gradually realising itself. India’s greatness lies in this, and not in supremacy in the economic or political arenas. We may never be another America or Japan. We may never have countries fawning over us, or become the richest nation in the world. Our greatness will lie in our humility, our respect for others, our sense of service and above all, in our determination to win self-realisation for ourselves and others. And the wise among us will never trade our sort of greatness for any other.
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Subject: TRUE MENTOR .. REAL WORLD GURU - 19 February 2012
Every single thing consists and explained mindlessly in Vedas. You will not find any script anywhere across the world, simply because it had been taught by Lord HIMSELF. Human imagination is limited but Lord‘s unlimited. So the western scholar first learn, the grammar
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