Tag Archives: bhakti

Uprooting sins

Source : The Hindu

The discussion between Parikshit and Sage Suka in the Bhagavata Purana on how the force of sin can be expiated by ritualistic karma also known as prayaschitta karma brings to the fore many interesting issues in this regard, pointed out Sri Kesava Dikshitar in a discourse.

Parikshit wonders about the efficacy of such expiatory karmas since people continue to commit the same sins in spite of themselves. The analogy of the elephant that throws up mud on itself even after it has been washed and bathed is quoted to show how it is difficult to eradicate habits that are ingrained in each one. Suka says that ignorance is the source of all karma including acts of expiation. Expiation can certainly wash off the effects of a particular karma but not the tendency to commit the acts again as long as one remains ignorant of one’s self.

By practising austerities, cultivating virtues such as kindness, truth and compassion, and engaging in disciplines like meditation and worship, a man of righteousness and faith can overcome even great sins committed by thought word and deed.

The comparison of a forest fire that can easily destroy all the reeds in a trice is pertinent here since it also implies that the vasanas are not eradicated in toto just as the roots of reeds can sprout again with the advent of rains.

So Suka refers to the more appropriate illustration of the sun that removes the mist totally without any trace to show that the practice of devotion to the Lord as most efficacious in uprooting evil tendencies.

Krishna’s advice also focuses on the urgent need for each one to unravel the mystery surrounding one’s existence. This exercise alone can lead to an understanding of the purpose of one’s life and of what is eternal and permanent and turn one’s mind to remain devoted to God at all times.

Kinds of devotion / Bhakti

Source : http://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/kinds-of-devotion/article18788328.ece

There are different kinds of devotion to God and we see examples of both Seshatva and Paratantriya in the Ramayana. Seshatva is to not let anything stand in the way of the desire to serve God. Lakshmana wanted to accompany Lord Rama to the forest. Rama tried His best to make Lakshmana stay back in Ayodhya. But Lakshmana refused to be dissuaded by the Lord.

Lakshmana was keen to be with Rama and serve Him at all times. So he was prepared to refuse to obey the Lord’s request. This is an example of Seshatva, said Kidambi Narayanan in a discourse. Nammazhvar too wanted only to serve the Lord and prayed for this.

But Bharata was in a different category. No doubt he too wanted certain things, namely the return of Rama to Ayodhya and the assumption of kingship by Rama. But when Rama said He would not come back to Ayodhya and ordered Bharata to go back to the city and rule as king, Bharata implicitly obeyed his brother. He did not think of himself. He did not insist that Rama go along with what he (Bharata) wanted. This is an example of Paratantriya.

While other Azhvars prayed for being rid of repeated births and for the chance to serve the Lord, Periazhvar only sang for the Lord’s welfare, thereby demonstrating bhakti, which asks for nothing.

Paratantriya is when a person simply obeys the Lord and does not act on his own or for his pleasure.

Suppose a person possesses a doll, decorates it and looks at it thinking how beautiful it looks. Does this act of decorating give any joy to the doll? If a man who has grown saplings in his field transplants them, it is because they are under his control.

So being controlled by another superior being and not acting volitionally is Paratantriya.

The end and the means

Source : http://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/the-end-and-the-means/article18490302.ece

Bhakti in its highest form is itself a Purushartha, a fifth one added on to the four usually accepted values of Dharma, righteousness, Artha, wealth, Kama, pleasure and Moksha, liberation.

This is the crux of the teaching in the Bhagavata Purana and it is shown how a devotee’s entire being is filled with intense love for God and with a desire to serve Him at all times. This in itself becomes the highest delight for him, and is extolled as Prema Bhakti, pointed out Sri B. Damodhara Dikshitar in a discourse.

Prema bhakti is often compared to a mother’s selfless love for a child when her entire concentration governs the way she takes care of the child at all times.

Great devotees such as Narada and Uddhava see the Gopis’ love for Krishna as an expression of the highest form of devotion. It is a state of mind that even yogis and sages steeped in meditation find it hard to attain. Each one has to work his way in this effort. Devotional practices such as offering worship in temples, or engaging in prayer in one’s home, or singing the names of the Lord, individually or in a group, are means towards cultivating intense and selfless love for God. There is no room for ostentation or outward show in this path where bhakti is an end in itself and is also the means. The only criterion is sincerity and genuine love to the Lord.

None can know the mind of a devotee better than the Lord for He is the in-dweller in each and every aspect of creation. Unique are the ways in which He responds to each one of them.

Is not Vidhura overwhelmed when Krishna chooses to have food in his humble abode in preference to the hospitality of Duryodhana and others? What a divine vision is granted to the devout Akrura?

Staunch devotion, the key

Source : http://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/staunch-devotion-the-key/article18475184.ece

Immediately after the revelation of His cosmic form, Krishna explains to Arjuna that only through unswerving devotion to Him can He be known and realised. “He who does work for Me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships Me free from attachment, who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to Me.”

Adi Sankara, in his commentary on the Gita, shows that this statement reflects the essence of the entire Gita teaching, pointed out Sri K. Ramasubramania Sarma in a discourse. It clearly teaches whatever one has to imbibe and practise in life, namely, that one who leads life with his mind fixed on God at all times and remains devoted to Him automatically reaches the goal.

The answer to Arjuna’s doubt regarding the relative merits of jnana and karma is provided here. The two paths are not mutually exclusive and intersect very often and only when being practised one realises this truth. Spiritual knowledge has nothing to do with theoretical or empirical learning or intellectual attainments. It is the direct and intuitive experience or vision of the Absolute Reality. For some it is felt as a moment of illumination in the inner recesses of one’s understanding which soon gets submerged in the rising waves of worldly experiences.

In the case of Arjuna, the vision of the cosmic form of the Lord confers an understanding of the grand design of creation in which all beings subsist in the cycle of birth, growth and death in a somewhat endless manner. But the Lord makes it clear that beholding the vision, which is itself a divine gift, is not attainment of the goal. This vision should help one to gain a permanent experience of the divine truth. Such an awareness that forms the backbone of one’s existence is possible only to one who has staunch devotion to the Lord.

Five Benefits Of Disciplinary Action In Bhakti-Yoga

Krishna's Mercy

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.7)

Due to duality in a material existence, there is constant conflict among various forces. Happiness goes against sadness. Heat contrasts with cold. Light dissipates darkness. As far as the way to enjoyment, there is both pravritti and nivritti.

In a verse from the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna mentions both. Pravritti is translated as “what should be done” and nivritti as “what should not be done.” In comparing the different religions of the world, the focus is often on the latter.

Imagine the scene of attending a fair. The various religions each have their own booth at the venue. You can visit any one that you like. The person interested in religion goes up to the…

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India’s diverse cultural pluralistic society

Source : Press Information Bureau, Government of India >> http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=145847

Challenge for the modern world is to accept diversity as an existential reality and to configure attitudes and methodologies for dealing with it: Vice President

Addresses Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that the challenge for the modern world is to accept diversity as an existential reality and to configure attitudes and methodologies for dealing with it. He was delivering a lecture at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, today on the topic ‘Accommodating Diversity in a Globalising World: The Indian Experience’. The Moroccan University later conferred an honoris causa degree on the Vice President.

The Vice President said that Indian Muslims have lived in India’s religiously plural society for over a thousand years and that has impacted on modern India and its existential reality of a plural society on the basis of which a democratic polity and a secular state structure was put in place.  He further said that the framers of our Constitution had the objective of securing civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights as essential ingredients of citizenship with particular emphasis on rights of religious minorities.

The Vice President said that the Muslim experience in modern India is that its citizens professing Islamic faith are citizens, consider themselves as such, are beneficiaries of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, participate fully in the civic processes of the polity and seek correctives for their grievances within the system. There is no inclination in their ranks to resort to ideologies and practices of violence, he added. He further said that in countries having complex societal makeup, accommodation of diversity in political structures and socio-economic policies is not an option but an imperative necessity ignoring which can have unpleasant consequences.

The Vice President said that the Indian model was of relevance to our globalizing world because in India, an attempt was being made to look beyond the traditional virtue of tolerance and seek acceptance of diversity and adopt it as a civic virtue.

Following is the text of Vice President’s address:

Accommodating Diversity in a Globalising World: The Indian Experience

 A traveller from a distant land in mashriq-al-aqsa comes to Maghrib-al Aqsa and marvels at his good fortune. His sense of history quickly reminds him that centuries earlier a great name from this land had travelled to India and recorded in some detail his impressions about the governance, manner and customs of Indians. He attained high office and also had his share of minor misfortunes.

I refer, of course, to Sheikh Abdullah Mohammad ibn Abdullah ibn Mohammad ibn Ibralim al Lawati, better known as Ibn Batuta of Tanja.

I thank the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco, and His Excellency the President of the University, for inviting me to address the Mohammad V University today.

Even in distant India, the contribution of Moroccan intellectuals to modern thought and challenges is known and acknowledged. Names like Abdullah Al-Arui and Abid al-Jabri readily come to mind; so do the contributions of feminist writers like Fatima Mernisi and Fatima Sadiqi. The challenge in each case was that of modernity and the contemporary responses to it. Each addressed a specific aspect of the problem; the general question was posed aptly by al-Jabri: ‘How can contemporary Arab thought retrieve and absorb the most rational and critical dimensions of its tradition and employ them in the same rationalist directions as before – the direction of fighting feudalism, Gnosticism, and dependency?’

This is a rich field, amply and productively explored by contemporary thinkers in Arab lands. This included the debates on Arabism, nationalism, democracy and Islam. Much has also been written about the trauma, self or externally inflicted, experienced individually and collectively by Arab societies in the past seven decades. The misfortunes visited on Arab lands since the 19th century was in good measure a result of their proximity to Europe in the age of imperialism.

I would like to pause here and take up a related matter to draw the attention of the audience to some terminological questions. In current discussions in many places, the terms ‘Arab’ and ‘Islam’ are used together or interchangeably. But are the two synonymous? Is Arab thought synonymous with Islamic thought? Is all Arab thought Islamic or visa versa? Above all, can all Islamic thinking be attributed to Arabs?

I raise these questions because for a variety of reasons and motivations the contemporary world, particularly the West, tends to create this impression of ‘a powerful, irrational force that, from Morocco to Indonesia, moves whole societies into cultural assertiveness, political intransigence and economic influence.’ The underlying basis for this, as Aziz Al-Azmeh put it, are ‘presumptions of Muslim cultural homogeneity and continuity that do not correspond to social reality.’

Allow me to amplify. Islam is a global faith, and its adherents are in all parts of the world. The history of Islam as a faith, and of Muslims as its adherents, is rich and diversified. In different ages and in different regions the Muslim contribution to civilisation has been note worthy. In cultural terms, the history of Islam ‘is the history of a dialogue between the realm of religious symbols and the world of everyday reality, a history of the interaction between Islamic values and the historical experiences of Muslim people that has shaped the formation of a number of different but interrelated Muslim societies.’

This audience is in no need of being reminded of the truism that reasoning should proceed from facts to conclusions and should eschew a priori pronouncements.

What then are facts?

The Wikipedia indicates the world’s Muslim population in 2015 as 1.7 billion. The Pew Research Center of the United States has published country-wise and region-wise religious composition and projections for 198 countries for the period 2010 to 2050. It indicates that in 2010 Muslims numbered 1.59 billion out of which 986 million were in Asia-Pacific. It projects that four years from now, in 2020, the corresponding figures would be 1.9 billion out of which 1.13 billion (around 60 percent) would be in Asia-Pacific. The comparative figures for West Asia–North Africa would be 317 and 381 million (19.9% and 20.52%) and for Sub-Saharan Africa 248 and 329 million (15.59% and 17.31%) respectively. Within the Asia-Pacific region Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey together would account for 830 million in 2010 and 954 million in 2020.

These numbers underline the fact that an overwhelming number of Muslims of the world are non-Arabs and live in societies that are not Arab. Equally relevant is the historical fact they contributed to and benefited from the civilisation of Islam in full measure. This trend continues to this day.

The one conclusion I draw from this is that in ascertaining Islamic and Muslim perceptions on contemporary happenings, the experiences and trends of thinking of the non-Arab segments of large Muslim populations in the world assume an importance that cannot be ignored. These segments include countries with Muslim majorities (principally Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey) as also those where followers of the Islamic faith do not constitute a majority of the population (India, China, and Philippines).

Amongst both categories, India is sui generis. India counts amongst its citizens the second largest Muslim population in the world. It numbers 180 million and accounts for 14.2 percent of the country’s total population of 1.3 billion. Furthermore, religious minorities as a whole (Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis or Zoroastrians) constitute 19.4 percent of the population of India.

India’s interaction with Islam and Muslims began early and bears the imprint of history. Indian Muslims have lived in India’s religiously plural society for over a thousand years, at times as rulers, at others as subjects and now as citizens. They are not homogenous in racial or linguistic terms and bear the impact of local cultural surroundings, in manners and customs, in varying degrees.

Through extensive trading ties before the advent of Islam, India was a known land to the people of the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and western Asia and was sought after for its prosperity and trading skills and respected for its attainments in different branches of knowledge. Thus Baghdad became the seeker, and dispenser, of Indian numerals and sciences. ThePanchatantra was translated and became Kalila wa Dimna. Long before the advent of Muslim conquerors, the works of Al-Jahiz, Ibn Khurdadbeh, Al-Kindi, Yaqubi and Al-Masudi testify to it in ample measure. Alberuni, who studied India and Indians more thoroughly than most, produced a virtual encyclopedia on religion, rituals, manners and customs, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. He commenced his great work by highlighting differences, but was careful enough ‘to relate, not criticize’.

Over centuries of intermingling and interaction, an Indo-Islamic culture developed in India. Many years back, an eminent Indian historian summed it up in a classic passage:

 ‘It is hardly possible to exaggerate the extent of Muslim influence over Indian life in all departments. But nowhere else is it shown so vividly and so picturesquely, as in customs, in intimate details of domestic life, in music, in the fashion of dress, in the ways of cooking, in the ceremonial of marriage, in the celebration of festivals and fairs, and in the courtly institutions and etiquette’.

Belief, consciousness and practice became a particularly rich area of interaction. Within the Muslim segment of the populace, there was a running tussle between advocates of orthodoxy and those who felt that living in a non-homogenous social milieu, the pious could communicate values through personal practice. In this manner the values of faith, though not its theological content, reached a wider circle of the public. This accounted for the reach and popularity of different Sufi personalities in different periods of history and justifies an eminent scholar’s observation that ‘Sufism took Islam to the masses and in doing so it took over the enormous and delicate responsibility of dealing at a personal level with a baffling variety of problems.’

It also produced a convergence or parallelism; the Sufi trends sought commonalities in spiritual thinking and some Islamic precepts and many Muslim practices seeped into the interstices of the Indian society and gave expression to a broader and deeper unity of minds expressive of the Indian spiritual tradition. The cultural interaction was mutually beneficial and an Islamic scholar of our times has acknowledged ‘an incontrovertible fact that Muslims have benefited immensely from the ancient cultural heritage of India.’

I mention this because I am aware, but dimly, about the role of Sufi movements and ‘zawiyas’ in the history of Morocco. There is, in my view, room for comparative studies of Sufi practices in Morocco and India.

It is this backdrop that has impacted on modern India and its existential reality of a plural society on the basis of which a democratic polity and a secular state structure was put in place.

The framers of our Constitution had the objective of securing civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights as essential ingredients of citizenship. Particular emphasis was placed on rights of religious minorities.  Thus in the section on Fundamental Rights ‘all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.’ In addition, every religious denomination shall have the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, to manage its own affairs in matters of religion, and to acquire and administer movable and immovable property. Furthermore, all religious or linguistic minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. A separate section on Fundamental Duties of citizens enjoins every citizen ‘to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities’ and also ‘to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.’

Given the segmented nature of society and unequal economy, the quest for substantive equality, and justice, remains work in progress and concerns have been expressed from time to time about its shortfalls and pace of implementation. The corrective lies in our functioning democracy, its accountability mechanisms including regularity of elections at all levels from village and district councils to regional and national levels, the Rule of Law, and heightened levels of public awareness of public issues.

The one incontrovertible fact about the Muslim experience in modern India is that its citizens professing Islamic faith are citizens, consider themselves as such, are beneficiaries of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, participate fully in the civic processes of the polity and seek correctives for their grievances within the system. There is no inclination in their ranks to resort to ideologies and practices of violence.

The same diversity of historical experience, and the perceptions emanating from it, is to be found in Indonesia that has the world’s largest population of Muslims and where two Islamist parties – Nahdatul Ulema and Muhammadiyah function legally, have large memberships, and participate in political activities including local and national elections. On a visit to Jakarta a few months back, I had occasion to solicit their views on contemporary debates on Political Islam. They said Islam in Indonesia has united with the culture of the people and their Islamic traditions have adapted themselves to local conditions. They felt Indonesian Muslims are moderate in their outlook, that Islam does not advocate extremism, and that radicalization of Islam is harmful and does not benefit the community.

Both instances cited above indicate that in countries having complex societal makeup, accommodation of diversity in political structures and socio-economic policies is not an option but an imperative necessity ignoring which can have unpleasant consequences.

 I come back to the principal theme of this talk. Why is the Indian model of relevance to our globalizing world?

Globalization has many facets – economic, political and cultural. All necessitate the emergence of a set of norms, values and practices that are universally accepted. A sociologist has defined it as ‘the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole.’ An obvious implication of this would be assimilation and homogenization. In a world of intrinsically diverse societies at different levels of development, this could only result in denial of their diversity and imposition of uniformity. Such an approach can only result in conflict.

The challenge for the modern world is to accept diversity as an existential reality and to configure attitudes and methodologies for dealing with it. In developing such an approach, the traditional virtue of tolerance is desirable but insufficient; our effort, thinking and practices have to look beyond it and seek acceptance of diversity and adopt it as a civic virtue.

We in India are attempting it, cannot yet say that we have succeeded, but are committed to continue the effort. We invite all right-minded people to join us in this endeavour.

Thank you.”