Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
It was in school that I learnt the concept of Infinity. I was told that ∞/∞ = ∞. I never understood it at that time. Not a big deal given the fact that people in IEEE are still trying to figure it out. However, the concept of Infinity is one of the core foundations on which modern science is built – all the branches. Algebra, trigonometry and calculus don’t exist without infinity and without these, there is no other science as well.
It was much later that I read a book on Isha Upanishad.
Om. Purnam adha Purnam idham
Purnath Purnam udhachyate
Purnasya Purnam adhaya
This essentially means that:
That is the whole, This is the whole
Subtract the whole from the whole
When the whole is taken from the whole,
The whole still remains whole.
Funny isn’t it? I found it funny when I read it for the first time. How can it be? How can something when taken out from something still remain whole? It requires more than a logical mind to understand this. It requires creativity.
When we say Infinite, we mean that it is an endless matter of substance, a huge ocean of substance which is the whole universe that we are in today. This universe is all there is and there is nothing else. So, basically you can’t take anything out of it, it is indivisible, it is invincible, it is endless, no one knows its beginning.
This is true to this day and my opinion is that no matter how fast you spin the machine, you are not going to get to the beginning or the end. J All our Vedas, Shasstraas, Puranas, Upanishads, Sutras, epics describe God as Anadhi (no beginning), Anantha (no end), Akhand (cannot be divided), Ached (cannot be destroyed), Abhed (cannot be differentiated), etcetera, etcetera.
So, what is God? God is the Infinite. We have a bit of God in us and there is a bit of God in everything that we see, do not see and cannot see. They, in fact, only described the Infinite.
This is why the Hindus (meaning those who lived on the banks of the River Indus) worshipped everything they saw. They worshipped the trees, they worshipped the rivers, they worshipped the wind, the stars, the sky, the moon, the sun, the serpents, the dogs, the eagle, the owl, the rats, the dead, the living, the time, the planets, the women, the men, the books, the money, the medicine, the work they did, the food, the mountains, the known, the unknown, everything. They did this, for; this was the natural thing to do.
This was given the name Sanathana Dharma, or the way of nature. Now Dharma is a huge topic altogether. As Wendy Doniger, author of The English Translation of The Laws of Manu puts it; Dharma is the Sanskrit word that subsumes the English concepts of religion, duty, law, justice, truth, practice and principle. The duty of The Hindus was written down as upholding Dharma. For this, they worshipped nature. Nature was given primary importance.
Sage Narada is said to have blessed the Ramayana thus:
“So long as the rivers flow and so long as the mountains stand, so long shall the Ramayana be in the hearts of men.”
He chose to bless with river and mountain and not something else because he knew that nature was permanent.
Contemplating on nature and the characters of the Infinite was built into daily routine. People were named after nature – this made sure that the Infinite was remembered whenever anyone met anyone. The food that people ate was considered Annapurani, the money that they made was respected as Dhana Lakshmi and the books that read were worshipped as Saraswati. Stories were built around these concepts and told right from the time the child was conceived in the womb.
The learned devised means to convey the idea of the Infinite to the common man. The easiest way of conveying this idea was to give a form to the Infinite. When it came to giving form, there were many different schools of thought. Some gave the Infinite the form of Ganesha, some the form of Skanda, some the form of Vishnu, some the form of Shiva and some gave the form of Devi. The myriad God idols that exist in India today are the reflection of this symbolism. All the idols that were created depicted only one thing – victory of good over evil. Literature and art stemmed from this science and gained multiple forms and grew to a height that has not been hitherto matched. The temples of India stand testimony to this. All of the arts that grew then were fuelled by only one goal – realization of the supreme.
People lived a rich life guided by the right thoughts and correct principles and performed the proper actions. They realized that along with the body and the brain, the mind also had to be grown and mind training was given utmost importance. Controlling one’s senses was considered vital.
As Rajaji clearly points out in his introduction to the Bhaja Govindam song,
“The way of devotion is not different from the way of knowledge or gyaana. When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes bhakthi. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature, is bhakthi. If it does not get transformed into bhakthi, such knowledge is useless tinsel. To believe that gyaana and bhakthi, knowledge and devotion are different from each other is ignorance.”
It is this knowledge towards which the society was shepherded by the great saints, rulers and other elders. All moves were taken towards the formation of a spiritual knowledge society. The ancient people of the Indus did succeed in this – Nalanda and Taxila were the world’s first universities. People from across the seas came to study here (the earliest student exchange programs) and the entrance tests of those days were far superior to the GRE and GMAT. They tested the mind and not just the intellect. Plus there were no recos. Those who were fit were taught. The Gurukula system gained its peak and it is no coincidence that societal life was at its best then. Civilization was at its peak. Many a traveler to India wrote of its rich spirituality which gave it its other wealth. Faith elsewhere of the Indus lacked (lacks) such depth.
History had never before witnessed such a congruence of goodness. Perhaps this is what prompted Kamban to write:
VaNmay illai Or varumai inmayaal (There is no philanthropy because there is no one to accept)
ThiNmai illai Or serunar inmayaal (There is no heroism because there are no enemies)
UNmai illai Poi uray ilaamayaal (There is no truth because no one utters lies)
VeNmai illai Pala kelvi mevalaal (There is no ignorance because all are knowledgeable)
To imagine that such a society existed itself is marvelous. That it existed in the land where I come from makes me feel the meaning of the word ecstasy.
The travelogues of riches inspired plenty of foreign rulers to amass their armies and invade this land. [This land was invaded even before Alexander set foot here in 326 B.C. The early recorded invasions date 1500 B.C.] The invasions took a toll on the civilization of the people of Indus. Materialism gained more importance. The value of the castes was mislaid, only to be replaced by a harsh and baseless system that fuelled hatred and jealousy. Centuries of subjugation lead to ruining of culture. The richness was lost, never to be regained.
But the faith on the Infinite lived on in the hearts of the normal common people. It was only natural that the common man followed the way of nature once the invasions died down. Time and again the philosophy of the Indus civilization has been put to scorching tests and time and again it has proved to be better.
The most beautiful character of the Infinite is its simplicity and soulabhya – ease of access. It is this character that has drawn people to it from time immemorial. It is this character that The Ramayana and The Mahabharata seek to portray. They created God incarnate and made him appear as a man – as a noble ruler in Ramayana and as a cowherd in Mahabharata. They lived amongst us showing the right way to live. They erred, they forgave, they underwent hardships and because they stood steadfast by dharma, they won in the end.
These epics and all others were written with the sole aim of creating a permanent lodging for the divine or the Infinite in the hearts of men and to instill the belief that we are part of the supreme. The thought that we are a part of the whole makes me feel scared sometimes, small sometimes, proud sometimes.
In essence, what I got from the Ramayana and Mahabharata is that if you really want to reach God, and you set out to try, He will reach you before you can. It is only the belief that the Infinite will take charge [srishta rakshaka] when Adharma declares itself supreme and the faith that He will manifest himself amongst us and lead in the right direction [srishta paripalana] that keeps millions in my land going.
Time and again, history has seen men bow before this concept and those who carried this message with them. The lives of Adi Shankara, Guru Raghavendra and Kanchi’s Chandrashekhara Saraswathi are few examples. It is a pity that despite such people, religion has lost its meaning and worse has become a tool for politicians to fuel animosity among men. Shame that it has become a cause of human destruction in this world!
The world is in a pitiable state, because of the way religion has been manipulated. Irony is, devotion to the Infinite is the only way out. What can we as common folk, do? We should first and foremost believe, nay, surrender unto the Infinite, then teach our younger generation to embrace a way of life rather than try to force religion down their throats. Practice of Sanathana Dharma and meditating on the Infinite should be built into daily chores. Children need to be taught the importance of having spiritual goals. A knowledge society should be formed and resources pooled into it. Again, young ones need to be inducted into this society and minds should be developed with superior thoughts. This will make a generation divine.
Further from there this divinity should be held and carried forward using nothing but the same guiding principles. I agree that it is easier said than done, but I also feel that a single step, a single thought towards a bigger vision is always worth it. Like numerous little droplets of water combining to form a river and then a mighty ocean, human thoughts have the capacity to gel together and flow to form a phenomenal civilization. A strong mind is stronger than the iceberg that broke the titanic. It has ability enough to break free from all the shackles that mankind has got itself into. This potential needs to be tapped into and put into good use carefully avoiding misuse.
I , for one, will teach my children all this.