“….The Ganges,above all is the river of India,which has held India’s heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history.The story of the Ganges,from her source to the sea,from old times to new,is the story of India’s civilization and culture,of the rise and fall of empires,of great and proud cities,of adventures of man….”
Discovery of India,Jawaharlal Nehru
JIS DESH MEIN GANGA BEHATI HAI (THE COUNTRY WHERE RIVER GANGES FLOWS)
Raj Kapoor won Filmfare’s Best Actor Award in 1961 for his portrayal of ‘Raju’,a song writer,in his film titled ‘ Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behati Hai ‘.The picture was released during 1960 when I was twelve years old and was studying in VI-Form at the DANAVAIPETA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL in the town of RAJAHMUNDRY,East Godavari District , Andhra Pradesh.We had a beautiful marble statue of Mahatma Gandhi right in front of our school.I had studied Indian History as part of my school curriculum.I used to score well in my History tests.It was not difficult for me to remember all those dates,names and other facts that constitute the subject matter of History.I have a deep sense of appreciation for all those leaders who orchestrated the political struggle against the British Rule.The freedom movement did indeed foster a sense of purpose and had united people to achieve a common goal. It could be true that the fight against the Colonial powers gave a sense of Identity and very often the freedom fighters were called ‘SATYAGRAHIS.’I have great admiration for their sense of patriotism and I am ever grateful for the sacrifices they made to win our independence.I saw this movie ‘ Jis Desh Mein ‘ just once and may have heard the title song on the radio on a few occasions.But the song ,” Hotoan pe sachhai rahati hai,jahan dil me safaai rahati hai,Hum us desh ke vaasi hai,Hum us desh ke vaasi hai,Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behati Hai “, never faded from my memory.
Ten years after seeing the movie,in the year 1970,at the age of 22 years ,I was granted President’s Commission and joined the Indian Armed Forces in the rank of Lieutenant.While joining Service,we accept the risks that naturally accompany such an occupation and reflect upon the motivation that shapes the decision.I understand that the Freedom Struggle was important but that Struggle does not define my sense of National Identity.I have known that the country that we call India has existed long before the invasion by the Mughals,the country that we call India has existed during centuries of British Rule and now the country that we call India exists in spite of the changes in the political landscape and the political fortunes of the Parties that we elect from time to time.My sense of National Identity is not dependent upon the political history of our country.My sense of National Identity does not depend upon the language that I speak at home and it is not related to the regional customs pertaining to food or dress.I have known my country from its Cultural Traditions.In 1970,I had joined Army to defend the country which lives in my mind as the Land where River Ganga flows.
In my opinion,the country that we call India is not a mere political entity.It is true that India gained its political freedom in 1947.The country is existing ever since the River Ganges had started flowing across its Land.
I am not surprised that the song ” Jis Desh Mein ” still plays and I still hear the golden voice of immortal Mukesh ,whenever my heart dreams about India. Most certainly,the Spirit of Nationalism is inspired by a history which reaches back to a period earlier than the British occupation of India.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
Deuteronomy, 5 th Book of Moses, The Old Testament, The Holy Bible:
Chapter 10, verse 16 : ” Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked “.
The word ” Namah ” means one that bends which implies obedience. The one word ” Namaskar ” represents the full spectrum of the legacy of India’s Culture.
NAMAH SHIVAYA :
Sree madaatmaney gunieka sindhavey Namah Shivaya,
Daamaleysa bhuuta loka bhandhiney Namah Shivaya
Naama soshitaa namadbhavaamdhasey Namah Shivaya,
Paamareytara pradhaana bhandhavey Namah Shivaya.
I shall begin this entry with a traditional greeting. As a kid I was trained to greet and acknowledge others.The greeting is called ‘NAMASKAR’ or ‘NAMASTE’. I would begin by greeting all of you who may read this entry with my ‘NAMASKAR’. Namaskar is the essence of our Culture and this single word can represent the full spectrum of our Cultural legacy. I had served in Uniform.The lesson I grasped is that to’ SALUTE ‘ is the foundation upon which the entire structure of military discipline is built.Service in the Armed Forces depends upon team work.The team structure depends upon the ability of team members to recognize and acknowledge each other at all times. I ‘ SALUTE ‘ to acknowledge the person as a member of my team. Army accomplishes great things only when the team members follow this ground rule for their conduct and behavior. Namaskar is the tool given to me by the Culture of my Land and this tool shapes my attitude and personal behavior and this tool helps me to attain my life’s goals.
DEFINING CULTURE :
Culture is defined as learned or acquired behavior in contrast to biological behavior which is genetically endowed. Human Culture is defined as learned behavior acquired by individuals as members of a social group.Culture denotes a people’s heritage of custom and belief. It is a system of ideas that has been transmitted down through the generations. It includes assumptions about the world, about life and existence, rules and ways to act, goals and ways of achieving them. People’s ideas about ways to live may shape the ways they actually do live.Beginning at birth,each individual is en cultured by a body of norms governing behavior and other knowledge that the society has.Thus Cultural heritage can be defined as the sum total of human knowledge and acquired behavior. Namaskar represents the essence of my Cultural heritage.Culture gives people a sense of personal identity.Defining that ‘identity’ helps in understanding the Culture.Namaskar is the behavior I learned and Namaskar defines my ‘identity’. It is a behavior transmitted to me through the generations.
CULTURE OF THE LAND :
The Land of India in our Culture and tradition is referred to as the land of BHARAT. My purpose is to learn the ideas and thoughts that have found their roots in this particular Land. Ideas and thoughts help in developing and defining our attitudes.Our attitudes are reflected in our behaviors.The behavior which springs from the seeds of ideas and thoughts that were planted in the soil could be described as the Culture of the Land. The ancient Hindu Scripture known as Rig Veda has recommended that we should keep our minds open to receive noble thoughts from all directions. I studied natural sciences and I gained much of my information from ideas and thoughts expressed in books that were published in the West.The basic idea and thought that I had received was that we need to carefully sort out the information that we gather. Assimilation of information would be possible only when facts are considered in a systematic manner. I learned about plants and animals as a part of my study called Biological Science. Living things are connected and are related to each other.This interconnectedness and the interrelatedness describes the ecological system.There is a great amount of diversity in nature.To understand living things, we need to group them and learn about them as a part of an ecological system. We can not understand existence if we look at individual creatures.The reactions between the players of a given geographical area gives a better understanding of life and existence. I would like to use this kind of scientific tool to identify ideas and thoughts.Some ideas and thoughts could be assigned to a particular land in the same manner that a natural scientist would identify some species are ‘ NATIVE ‘ and others as ‘NON-NATIVE ‘ in the description of an Ecological System.To prove that an idea is Culturally derived, we need to demonstrate that the idea is transmitted through generations.To arrive at ideas that originated in the Land of India, I would prefer to obtain a sense of direction from my great grand mother, my grand mothers and my mother. If an idea was not known to them, it may not be a part of my Cultural legacy. If they had known very little, I would deem it as my good fortune and that little is my whole inheritance. Namaskar thus represents the best of my acquired knowledge.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NAMASKAR :
The word Namaskar is usually accompanied with the action of joining hands and bringing them together in front of the body with the elbows flexed and the neck slightly bent forwards.The joining of hands symbolizes respect and the bending of the neck signifies obedience. A person with ‘stiff neck’ is generally considered to be disobedient, rude, arrogant or proud. Respect can not be shown if the person does not display an attitude of obedience.The very essence of Indian Culture can be stated as that of showing respect and obedience.This is the most important behavior that is expected of every one. It is not merely about showing respect and of obedience to the Gods that people worship. Even the Gods that people worship also implicitly observe the rule about showing respect and obedience.This social expectation rules every relationship and activity.It is the basic expectation, let it be parent-child relationship, husband-wife relationship, teacher-student relationship, employer-employee relationship, the Ruler and the subject relationship, the relationship between siblings and even between friends. Respectful conduct is expected while receiving guests, while dealing with any elderly person even though the person may not be related. In addition, several plants, trees, birds, animals, rivers, the sea and the the hills and mountains enjoy a special status and are treated with great respect.This social behavior is encouraged at all times and specially kids are trained and tutored to display this behavior. I grew up in India and my childhood is shaped by learning this behavior. Also my Culture has given the freedom of choice. I am free to worship several entities in addition to God. If I am not inclined to worship God, I may choose a living person, a plant, a tree, an animal, some element of nature or even a name and shapeless stone and I am free to worship that object with the same and similar amount of respect that one may give to God.The Gods of my Culture would not get angry or jealous if I am totally preoccupied with showing respect to an object of my choice. Most people of the Land of India get used to showing respect to a variety of objects.
Showing respect and obedience is considered as the most important learning tool to acquire humility.Through humility, the individual can subdue his ‘ego’. Ego is viewed as a great obstacle in the pursuit of self-knowledge. Self-Knowledge is the chisel that lets an individual to break the shackles of all attachments. Freedom from all attachments is described as ‘MOKSHA
‘ or LIBERATION and as ‘MUKTI’ or RELEASE.This Cultural norm of showing respect and obedience and the use of Namaskar would help us in attaining life’s goal or to realize man’s purpose in life.
Mahatma Gandhi had applied the principles of ‘AHIMSA’ to fight for India’s Freedom.
“Cow protection to me is not mere protection of the cow.It means protection of all that lives and is helpless and weak in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi.
In the ancient land of India,the tradition and practice of ‘Ahimsa'(non injury)has been well established.This entry is not intended to speak about the greatness of Lord Mahavira,Lord Gautama Buddha or Mahatma Gandhi.Their contributions are well-known and well-respected by all.As a beneficiary of this great tradition,I want to claim that Ahimsa helps humans as much as it promotes the well-being of animals.Animals give us a chance to learn and practice the habit of showing compassion.Animals may not be able to speak and communicate their fears,their pain and suffering.But they provide us with the skills to listen and know the emotion of fear.Animals give us the ability to discern pain when we are not in a position to speak for ourselves.I want to describe as to how a person,experienced in preventing cruelty to animals,is well equipped to rescue humans.
CHILD ABDUCTION AND A STORY OF MIRACULOUS RESCUE :
I am narrating my personal story to recall an event and express my gratitude to a person whose name is not known to me but whom I remember for his timely intervention to rescue me.Otherwise,my life’s journey would have proceeded on an altogether different track.This very simple,down to earth,unassuming person acted in a manner that had made a lasting impression on my mind and I am able to recollect the incident without any effort.In 1951,that is 56 years ago,I lived in the town of Rajahmundry,East Godavari district of the present State of Andhra Pradesh.The town is on the left bank of river Godavari which enters the town from north and flows towards south.I lived in a residential neighborhood known by the name Innispet and it is located next to the river bank.Those days,many of the streets had no given names and the houses had no designated house numbers.The part of the street where I had lived was later named as ‘KALABARGI VARI’ street.Our house was built by my grandfather (Late)Shri.R.Subbarao who had earlier worked as the District Public Prosecutor.I lived with my grandmother Smt.Lakshmi Narasamma, my parents and two elder brothers. My great-grandmother and my grandmother’s sister had also lived in this mansion.My younger brother and sister are not yet born.I may also mention that my father had chosen my personal name to be Rudra Narasimham and he had made this choice to please and honor my grandmother.For this reason,I had also enjoyed her affectionate treatment.At the age of three and half years,I was able to walk and move freely. My elder brothers had already joined schools.I whined about it and my father got me enrolled at King George Elementary School which was on the same street at a short distance from my home.The name King George reminds us of our colonial past.The School had a very modest structure.There was no kindergarten class and hence I had joined the grade 1 class.A little while after the monsoon season had finished,the School was temporarily closed because of a panic created by a string of child abduction incidents.My father was in the habit of going out for an evening walk.That day,the evening was cool and pleasant and the sky was clear.I had insisted that I would accompany my father during his evening walk.He had tried to talk me out of it and more so out of concern about the child lifting incidents.He left for his walk leaving me at home.I slipped out of the house and I thought I would be able to follow him from behind while he walked ahead of me.I was walking towards north on the street and very soon lost sight of him.I kept walking,went past an intersection and at the next intersection,the street had ended.I made a right turn as I had noticed that a lot of people were walking in that direction towards the ‘Main Street’ of our town.The streets had no side walks and the pedestrians walk all over the street and there was not much of vehicular traffic.Soon after I had made the right turn,I was suddenly lifted up by a stranger and was handed over to a woman who had accompanied him.I had instantaneously recognized that I was in some big trouble.I had started crying loudly but was not able to express my sense of fear in words.The pedestrian crowd around me had paid no attention and my crying aroused no particular concern.This terrible situation had suddenly changed when a man wearing simple,white, hand spun garments(‘KHADI’) came by riding on a bike.He had spontaneously reacted to my crying.In my speechless voice,like any other dumb animal,I could communicate to him that I was very apprehensive and that I was gripped with a sense of fear and pain.He read my emotions correctly and he lost no time and had decided to intervene.He stopped the pair and started grilling them with questions and had insisted that I was not their child.They had initially argued that I was their child.My rescuer did not relent a bit and eventually he demanded that the pair should accompany him to the Police Station to verify my identity.I remained a silent spectator and the sense of fear would not let me speak up the fact that I was not their child and that woman was not my mother.As the heat of the argument built up,the pair had decided to get away and the woman dropped me down leaving me with the man on the bike.I was at ease in the company of this unknown man and the sense of fear had vanished and I had stopped crying.He had placed me on the front bar of his bike.He inquired about my address.The only information that I could provide was that my house was located near a doctor’s clinic.Meantime,the evening had already turned into night.He had decided to return me at my home.Before doing so,he took me to a street vendor selling sweets and snacks. He had asked me to pick an item of my choice.He paid the merchant. After I had finished eating my snack,I felt a lot more relaxed and was ready for the bike ride through the neighborhood. After spending some time conversing with me,he began his search at the south end of the street where I lived. The street was fairly long and had several houses on either side. Those were the days when we had no television; before retiring for sleep, people were in the habit of relaxing in front of their homes after it gets dark. House after house, he was checking with people and was inquiring about any missing child. Finally,we had arrived at the intersection where my house stood on the street corner. At that point, to recognize my house was very easy for me. I saw my grandmother and my mother standing on the front porch with a very worried expression on their faces. The search was over and I had simply jumped out from the bike and literally ran into my home. I was not around when my mother and grandmother thanked him for bringing me back home safely and they were shocked to know that I was briefly got abducted. Later, my mother tried to gently admonish me and asked if I would ever go out alone all by myself. By then, I had lost the fear that gripped my mind and I was happy with my experience of meeting this man who got me back home and very boldly I had answered my mother that I am not afraid of going out on my own.
This unknown man worked for a charitable organization by the name ” Sri Gowthami Jeeva Karunya Sangham”. This organization provides animal shelters, and a variety of humanitarian services. The employees patrol the streets on bikes to detect and to prevent cruelty to animals. His belief in Ahimsa or Non-Injury, his personal experience in dealing with the pain and suffering of dumb animals had also given him the insight to recognize my plight when I was lifted up from the street. On a crowded street, while I was snatched, no one had paid attention to my cries and but for this person, the abduction would have proceeded unnoticed. I would describe that, this person has the Indian Identity that I cherish and value. This Identity springs from our long-established Cultural tradition of Ahimsa. I would consider him to be a true practitioner of AHIMSA. I have not personally known or seen Sri. Karunyananda( 1894- 1997 ) who had established Sri Gowthami Jeeva Karunya Sangham in Rajahmundry during the year 1940. Karunyananda was at Swami Sivananda’s Ashram at Rishikesh in northern India. Mahatma Gandhi had visited Rishikesh and had addressed the group of young ‘sanyasins’ at the Ashram. He had encouraged them to render humanitarian service and serve others to practice the principle of ‘Ahimsa’ which involves treating all living entities with a sense of respect and dignity. This concept of ‘Ahimsa’ had reached me through the service rendered by a man who had also practiced the principle of ‘Ahimsa’ and gained the ability to recognize pain and suffering even when there is no verbal communication to express that condition.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Danavaipeta Municipal High School, Rajahmundry, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, India,
This entry is dedicated to the memory of those brave men who gave their precious lives fighting the massive Chinese aggression in 1962.I experienced the traditional Indian hospitality at a forward Company location in Arunachal Pradesh(North East Frontier Agency) and my memories are fresh after a lapse of nearly 35 years and the reason is that I still feel the same passion to serve our men who fight for our country.
In 1962 while the Chinese attacked India, I was a first year student studying for a Bachelor of Science degree(3 year degree course) at Government Giriraj Arts College, Nizamabad, Andhra Pradesh. India was taken aback by this unprovoked and unexpected invasion across the Himalayan Frontier.There was a spontaneous reaction from people across our nation. Nizamabad was no exception and the Giriraj students took out a procession to condemn the enemy. I was not a student leader but I was the son of the Principal of the College. That placed me in the very first row of students who led the procession. At that time, I did not visualize myself that I would be wearing the Olive Green Indian Army Uniform. By year 1972, I had completed two years of service in Indian Army and the great moment in my life arrived when I stood before the War Memorial in WALONG. The following verses were inscribed on it:
The sentinel hills that round us stand
bear witness that we loved our land.
Amidst shattered rocks and flaming pine
We fought and died on Namti Plain.
O Lohit, gently by us glide
pale stars above us softly shine
as we sleep here in sun and rain.
Let us keep our collective memory afresh and pay tribute to these loyal sons of our land.
Hospitality is a fairly popular tradition for a variety of cultures across our globe. In India the tradition was well established a long time ago and we elevated it to a degree which may not be seen anywhere else in this world. The Vedic statement ” Athiti Devo Bhava ” is a thought that was expressed only in our land. The word ‘Athiti’ defines the guest as a person who could show up at your home without a prior notice or formal invitation and on a day and time of his own choice. Our literature is full of stories about this great tradition of hospitality and the episode described in the story of MAHA BHARATA shows the importance of preserving this tradition. Princess Draupadi was overwhelmed by the arrival of a large number of guests , while she and the Pandava brothers lost their kingdom and were living in the forest. She did not want to fail in her duty of being a good hostess. She was desperate and she met this challenge by earnestly praying to Lord Krishna. Upholding the principle of hospitality is very important to Lord Krishna and He gracefully provided the help Draupadi needed to serve her guests in accordance with our DHARMA(Right Conduct). Her adherence to the tradition of hospitality truly defines the Indian Identity.
Most of you would have experienced some act of hospitality or the other and I want to narrate a simple act of hospitality that I had experienced at CHINGAWANTY ( or CHIGWINTI ) in Arunachal Pradesh and would take this opportunity to speak of my memorable experience at this forward Company location and describe this as our Indian Identity.
THE TRADITION OF HOSPITALITY AT CHINGAWANTY ( CHIGWINTI ) :
The Company Commander Major.G B Valenkar was the recipient of VIR CHAKRA award for his role in the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and at that time we had worked together in the same Unit. He had briefed me about the traditional hospitality of the men of his Company. Before the dinner was served, he told me that the men would continue to serve food till such time I would announce that I am fully satiated and that I need no further servings. Then,they would bring one more final serving to ensure that I am truly satiated and well fed. I wanted to test them and find out for myself their devotion to their hospitality tradition. After dinner was announced, I mentioned my preference for bread. Instead of ‘chapatis’, I told them that I would like to be served with ‘purees’to go with my meal. The dishes were served piping hot and the purees were made one after the other and a fresh serving would arrive just before I would finish the previous serving. The food was delicious and the mountain weather was cool and refreshing and I was young and had a healthy appetite. I continued eating while having a pleasant conversation with Major.Valenkar and after several servings, the man stood before me respectfully and had asked me to grant him some additional time before he could bring forth the next serving. He mentioned that the cook had run out of the dough he had prepared for the evening meal. I responded saying that I really need no further servings and asked him not to bother about preparing more dough. The man submitted that it would not be fair on my part to stop him at that juncture and stated that I could only stop him from serving only at a time when he is able to provide more servings. In Indian tradition, the guest is also expected to give his host a reasonable opportunity to fulfill his obligation and the host has also a right to derive a sense of satisfaction by observing the rules of hospitality. I had to concede and in a little while, he resumed his service. After eating to my heart’s content, I had told him that I am really satiated. He agreed to bring in the final serving and he passed in the test and he did not give up until he made sure that I am fed till such time that I am fully fed.
I am speaking of this hearty meal to just give you a chance to taste the passion that keeps us united and we relished the opportunity to serve our land and defend its traditions.
Firstly,I want to give my thanks to Mr.Thomas Alva Edison,the great American inventor.He is most famous for his development of the first commercially practical incandescent lamp(1879).Perhaps his greatest contribution,however, was the development of the world’s first central-electric-light-power station.We owe him thanks for making the human existence pleasant and comfortable. I also give my thanks to Nikola Tesla who is indeed the Genius Who Lit the World.
What is this ‘Light Bulb‘ connection that may define the Indian Identity?
I grew up in India. People visit a variety of temples to worship and to seek the presence of God.They do that at homes as well.When I was a boy, one of my early observations was that, in the evening hours as it gets dark after the sunset, when I flip the switch to turn the light on, my mother would pay respects to the light bulb. It is almost like a reflex behavior. I had asked my mother about it.The instant the light bulb comes to life, it becomes a source of light and being a source of light, it would represent God. My mother had told me that she would be reminded of God’s presence when the light bulb is switched on. My grandmother had also done the same thing.We worship the light bulb as it gives us the awareness and makes us conscious of the reality of God.
All living entities are ‘CONSCIOUS’ and are aware of their existence and their living environment. Living Entities are also ‘CONSCIOUS’ of the Creator. The legend at Sri Kalahasti establishes the awareness of creatures like a spider, a snake, and an elephant and their desire to seek the LORD.
LIGHT AND CONSCIOUSNESS :
Light or JYOTI in Sanskrit language represents the ETERNAL REALITY. Jyoti is our conscious, its our awareness and it connects us to the Creator.This consciousness permeates all entities that are created and it includes all the five elements of Mother Nature. Consciousness is a function which enables a living organism to be aware of its own state of existence and to maintain that state of existence. Living organisms are aware of their need for an external source of energy to sustain their state of existence. Living organisms exist as ‘Energy Seekers’ and to exist they need connection with a ‘Energy Provider’. Consciousness is a biological function which establishes the connection between ‘Energy Seeker’ and ‘Energy Provider’. Because of this awareness, all entities would recognize and respond to their Creator, the Prime Source of Energy and the Controller of Energy. In the Old Testament Book of Exodus, Chapter 14 narrates the story of Moses leading children of Israel on dry ground in the midst of Red Sea.
Water one of the five elements of Nature has ‘awareness’, or ‘conscious’ of its Creator. Otherwise, how could Moses lead his people to ‘The Promised Land’ across the Sea?. It is not just humans who possess the awareness of God. In India, in the State of Andhra Pradesh, there is a beautiful town known as SRI KALA HASTI. According to legend, at this place, a spider, a snake, an elephant, and a man had worshiped Lord Shiva with an excellent sense of devotion.
Indians light up a lamp as a ritual to worship a deity of their choice. In several parts of the world and in various cultural traditions, the use of light is prevalent and is a part of ritualistic worship. In the Land of India, light is not only used as part of a ritual but also is directly worshiped with the belief that light represents God. Light is also worshiped in a personal form known as JYOTI, the sister of SKANDA and the daughter of Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati.
Asato maa sadgamaya
Tamaso maa Jyotirgamaya
Mrutyor maa Amrutamgamaya
The above is a prayer to lead us towards Right Conduct,to lead us from darkness towards LIGHT(ETERNAL REALITY) and to lead us from death towards Eternal Life.
It is easy and simple to know the Indian Identity. Flip that light switch and let the ‘Light Bulb’ connect you to the Reality. The First Book of Moses called GENESIS, Chapter 1, verses 2, and 3 describe the creation of Light : Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. If light was not created, the physical matter could have simply existed as dark matter. I describe luminosity, the quality of giving off light as an event of creation.
ESSENCE AND EXISTENCE :
Man, the multicellular human organism exists as a physical, mental, social, moral, and spiritual being. Man’s existence is conditioned by the subjective reality called alternating periods of light and darkness known as day and night, and the unconditioned reality is that of Sun who shines with the same brightness all the time while man experiences Sun rise and Sunset.
Please view the related blog post titled ‘The Creation of Day and Night – A Synchronized Existence’
The word individual is derived from Latin, ‘Individualis’-that which is not divided-an individual. Individualism can be defined as follows:1. a belief that stresses the primary importance and worth of each person and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence, 2. the principle or practice of maintaining individuality or independence of the individual, 3. the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action, 4. the conception that all values, rights and duties originate in individuals, 5. a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount, and 6. the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests. The doctrine of Individualism may support a view that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the State or Social Group.
Indian Culture views human existence in absolute individualistic terms and the legacy of Indian Culture could be described as ‘INDIVIDUALISM’.
THE FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUALISM:
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II, Sankhya Yoga, verse 39, claims that the analytical knowledge derived from Samkhya philosophy gives the description of the nature of individual and individuality. Chapter II, of the Bhagavad Gita explains this philosophy in several verses.Verse 11 claims that those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. In verse 12, Lord Krishna states that there was never a time when He did not exist, nor Arjuna, nor all others in the battle field, and in the future there will never be a time when any of them cease to exist. Lord Krishna(The Supreme Individual Person) and also all other individuals are eternal persons.They existed as individuals in the past and they will continue to exist as individuals in the future.Their individuality existed in the past and their individuality will continue in the future without interruption. Lord Krishna clearly states that the individuality of all others will continue eternally. Hence, Indians do not accept the bodily conception of the living entities. Living entity is an individual soul and even though the body changes every moment, the soul does not undergo any change.Verse 13, claims that the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth, and then to old age; similarly, the soul also passes into another body at death. By nature the human body is ever changing, and the soul is eternal.Verse 24 states that this individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble. He is everlasting, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same. Finally, verse 27 establishes the foundation for ‘Individualism’ by stressing that ” For one who has taken his birth,death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain.”
THE SUPREMACY OF INDIVIDUAL:
The primary importance of the individual is established by the Vedic statement “AHAM BRAHMASMI” which describes the True Identity of the Individual as that of Ultimate Reality known as Brahman. The following verse supports the idea that the individual is totally identical with the perfect, Supreme Being:
Om, purna mada, purna midam, purnaat purna mudachyate
Purnasya purna maadaya, purna meva vasishtyate.
“That”( is an indefinite term to designate the Invisible Absolute ) is Whole( Perfect Substance with Perfect Nature and Quality ); “This” ( the visible, the phenomenal embodied Soul ) is Whole, from the ( invisible ) Whole comes forth the ( visible ) Whole. Though the visible Whole is derived or deducted from that invisible Whole, yet the Whole remains unaltered and both retain their Perfect Condition called Whole. The human entity is virtually trapped in a repeated cycle of birth, death and rebirth.The ultimate purpose of human existence is to achieve ‘MOKSHA'( LIBERATION ) or MUKTI( RELEASE ) from this cycle that is referred to as ‘SAMSARA’.
THE PRACTICE OF INDIVIDUALISM:
Individualism is built upon the value attached to knowing oneself. We are encouraged to look inwards and to reflect upon the nature of ‘SELF’. Self-Knowledge is considered to be more valuable than gaining knowledge of the material world.The following prayer which is known as ‘GAYATRI MANTRA’ is one such example of motivating individuals to look inwards. Similarly, Socrates had suggested, “Know thyself, and you will know the universe and the gods.”
Om Bhur Bhuva Suvah, Om tatsa vitur vareynyam
Bhargo Devasya dhee mahi dheeyo yo nah prachodayaat.
The individual while firmly establishing his individuality also takes complete responsibility for his actions.The individual bears the burden for his own actions.
THE JOURNEY TO ULTIMATE INDIVIDUALISM:
The individual strives for self-reliance, learns to minimize the importance of all external relationships and concentrates upon developing an intimate relationship with his personal God.The following prayer is one such example of an individual’s journey on the path of devotion( BHAKTI ).
Tva meva maata cha pitaa tva meva, Tva meva bandhu cha sakha tva meva,
Tva meva vidya, dravinam tva meva, Tva meva sarvam mama Deva Deva.
Devotion to God practically takes over, replaces and consumes the need for any other kind of external relationship such as man’s relationship to his mother, father, relatives, friends, and educational and material status.
THE GOAL OF ABSOLUTE INDIVIDUALISM:
For the individual to win the battle of ‘SAMSARA’, to gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death, to declare victory over death and to finally reach the shore and complete the long and tiresome swim across the uncharted ocean, he is required to disentangle himself from the cobweb of relationships and set himself free. The following prayer known as ‘MAHA MRITYUN JAYA MANTRAM’ illustrates the point:
Such liberated individual who had freed himself from all external relationships would be able to proclaim his True Identity and the following verse written by Shri Shankaracharya is an example of an individual who had reached the Goal Of Absolute Individualism:
Na Mrityur, na Shankaa, na me Jaati bheydaH,
Pitaa naiva, me naiva Maataa, na Janma,
Na Bandhur,na Mitram, Gurur naiva SishyaH,
Chidaananda RupaH ShivO aHam, ShivO aHam.
Thus Indian Identity is none other than the identity of “SHIVA” whose Individualistic Identity is described as Sat+Chit+Ananda.
In the Epic Poem of Ramayana, the concept of Individualism is vividly portrayed. Rama alone was required to live in the forest. He could have just refused to do so. No force upon earth could have moved Him but He made His own choice. Lakshmana made His own choice and had accompanied His brother for a life in the forest.Rama made no decision about Seeta. He did not want that She must accompany Him into the forest. Seeta had made Her own decision. All of them express their own personal independence in unique manners.
PADA VANDANAM,PADA NAMASKARAM,PADA ARCHANAM,PADA SEVANAM, PADA PUJA OR WORSHIP OF FEET :
The land of India is a very unique place on this planet where people are culturally endowed with an ardent desire to worship feet.No other society or social community has openly exhibited this behavioral trait and feet worship could be described as the hall-mark of Indian Identity.This tradition and literal practice of feet worship was well established by the time the epic poem of Ramayana was composed.In AYODHYA KANDA,we read the very moving account of Rama touching the feet of His father Dasaratha and queen mother Kaikeyi after having received the orders for his banishment to live in the forest for fourteen years.Later in ARANYA KANDA,we read about the younger brother Bharata who literally clung to the feet of Rama seeking His refuge.Eventually,Bharata carried Rama’s sandals keeping them on his head and installs them on the throne( PADUKA PATTABHISHEKAM ) and served them with great devotion for fourteen long years during Rama’s exile.
India is the land where you witness people touching the feet of living persons as an act of worship.This is a fairly common event and sometimes the remembrance of such worship lingers in your mind.I would like to narrate one such event that I had witnessed in the past and my act of remembrance may add-on to the blessings these feet worshipers may be receiving even today.
I was traveling by train from Rajahmundry to Lucknow City to serve in the Indian Army Medical Corps. I was motivated by a desire to see the land of India with my own eyes and know its people.For the first time, I was traveling in a first class compartment and was the sole occupant. Later in the night, a lady entered the compartment and was apparently traveling alone. She was elegantly attired, looked modest and the picture of an upper middle class house wife. Early morning, when the train had halted at a station, I did not realize that she had reached her destination. She was quietly seated, was not gathering her belongings and was not even looking outside to check if some one had arrived to receive her. After a little while, I had noticed three young men, well- dressed and well-groomed, all of them little older than me, checking the list of passenger names on the door of the train compartment and entered the compartment. They did not pay any attention to my presence. One after the other, they went forward to bend and touch her feet and paid their respects. The behavior of the young men that I was keenly observing was natural, spontaneous and unpretentious. That early morning hour, they were not putting up an act in a public place to impress any one. They acted in a deliberate, purposeful and reverential manner and I am very sure that they grew up in that manner and clearly they were not inhibited in displaying their respect in front of strangers. I was a silent spectator of this scene wherein an unassuming woman suddenly got transformed into a living deity. I can assure you that you would witness such a scene only in the Land of India. Hence, I would claim that the desire to worship the feet of a living person would define Indian Identity.
Every deity that Indians seek to worship are better pleased when we worship their feet. PRAHLADA had described ” PADA SEVANAM ” as one of the nine ways to worship VISHNU. Indians worship feet not only as a sign of humility but also as a mark of submission, total surrender to the will of God. They touch feet as a plea for protection. This is not a mere religious rite or ritual and it actually shapes the attitudes and behavior of people. The final resting place for the individual souls(‘ JEEVATMA ‘)has been described as the Lotus Feet of the Lord. This is described as ‘CHARANAM'( Feet of the Lord ) ‘SARANAM’ ( Ultimate Refuge ).
Please also view a related blog post titled ‘Defining Indian identity – The Land of Karma’
In one great leap of faith,Hanuman jumps over the sea with utmost ease,whereas crossing the sea evokes only a sense of fear in my heart.I derive some hope from the legend about the land bridge built by the army of monkeys.The Sea God had promised that the rocks and boulders used for the construction of the bridge will be held in place and stay afloat.He did that to please Lord Rama.During my journey across the ocean of ‘ SAMSARA ‘,I could use the name “RAMA” and remain afloat.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom” says the Holy Bible,in The Book of Proverbs,Chapter1,verse7.For the religious traditions that originated outside of India such as Judaism,Christianity and Islam,the fear of the Lord could be a primary motivating factor to seek worship of the Lord.On the contrary,the religious traditions that originated in the land of India,do not encourage their adherents to entertain any such fear of the Lord.In the Indian traditions,the Lord or deity that Indians choose to worship would receive them with a sign that proclaims ” BE FEARLESS “.The Lord reassures them with a sign that is popularly described as ” ABHAYA HASTA “or ” ABHAYA MUDRA “.In Indian literature,countless number of images,idols,paintings and drawings,there are invariable references to a consistent message of ” ABHAYA “and naturally Indians are less concerned with ” The fear of the Lord “.
The cultural traditions that originated in India motivate people to seek refuge or shelter at the Feet of the Lord by evoking a sense of fear and this fear is described as the fear of ” SAMSARA “.Samsara or Bhava describes the viewpoint about the human condition and deals with the problems of human existence.It contributes to a sense of apprehension and anxiety and the attitude it generates is one of intense fear and helplessness.Samsara portrays the picture of life’s journey as a tedious,difficult and challenging swim across an unknown,uncharted and treacherous ocean.Samsara is also depicted as a serious disease entity afflicting a person’s health and is referred to as ” BHAVA ROGA “.Others view Samsara as existence in a bottomless deep pit(“AGHADHA”)or that of being trapped in a deep well from where an escape would not be easy.The fear of Samsara/Bhava,the human condition,has nothing to do with physical courage.The powerful idea of Samsara inspires a sense of fear in the hearts of even the most courageous of all people.Cultural traditions that have their roots in the other parts of this planet may not be aware of this kind of fear and hence the fear of Samsara could be viewed as a feature that defines and molds the Indian Identity.Indians chant the Lord’s name as a medicine to cure this terrible disease and they seek Lord’s protection to reach the shore and complete the journey across the ocean.There are numerous references in Indian literature and some verses could be quoted to illustrate the point.
1.SRI RAMA MANTRAM:
Samsara sagara bhayaapaha viswa mantram
Sakshaanmu mukshu jana sevita siddhi mantram
Saranga hasta mukha hasta nivasa mantram
Kaivalya mantra manesam bhaja Rama mantram.
This verse would banish the fear generated by the ocean like Samsara.
The prayer would destroy the fear of bhava/Samsara.
3.THE PRAYER TO LORD LAKSHMI NARASIMHA SWAMY:
Samsara koopa mati ghoramaghadha mulam,
Samprapya dukha sata sarpa samaa kulasya
Deenasya Deva krupayaa saranaagatasya
Laksmi Nrusimha mama deeht karaavalambam.
The verse pleads the Lord to extend His hand and physically lift the worshiper from the horrible bottomless well of Samsara.
4.THE PRAYER TO LORD SHIVA:
Praatarnamaami girisam girijaardha deham
Sarga sthiti pralaya kaarana maadi Devam
Visweswaram vijita viswa manobhiraamam
Samsaara roga haranoushadha madviteeyam.
The verse describes Lord Shiva as the root cause of creation,sustenance and eventual destruction and the Lord’s name is the matchless medicine to wipe out the disease of Samsara.
5.A PRAYER FROM BHAJA GOVINDAM:
Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam
Punarapi jananee jatare sayanam
Eha samsaare bahu dustaare
Krupayaa paare paahi Murare.
This verse seeks the compassion of Vishnu to reach the shore and to get over the problem of this difficult existence which involves repeated cycles of birth,death and rebirth.
6.KALI KALMASHA NAASANA MAHAA MANTRAM:
Hare Rama Hare Rama-Rama Rama Hare Hare
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna-Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.
This Mantra is composed with sixteen words and hence is also known as Shodasa Naama
Mahaa Mantram.Amongst all Vedas,there is no better device than this Mantra to seek
deliverance from the trappings of Samsara.The following verse from Kali Samtaranopanishad
proves the efficacy of this Mantra.
Eti Shodasam Naamnam,Kali kalmasha naasanam;
NaaTha parataropayaH, Sarva Vedeshu drusyatey.
Human existence is beset with countless uncertainties and difficulties which may arrive without any prior warning from different directions in an unpredictable manner.It is rational to approach life with a sense of apprehension and seek the help of the Lord who graciously held His right hand in a show of compassion and receives with a greeting of “ABHAYA” and is willing to banish the fear of Samsara.
Please also view a related blog post titled ‘Defining Indian Identity – The Land of Karma’
Sri Vakra tunda mahaa kaaya,koti Surya sama prabha
Nirvighnam Kuru me Deva subha karyeshu sarvada.
Lord Ganesha is unique amongst all deities. He has a human form with the head of an asian elephant. Like the elephant which can grasp objects with its trunk, the entire realm of knowledge is in His grasp. In brilliance, He outshines Sun(Surya) and His radiant appearance can illuminate the entire universe. His body is so huge, it can accommodate the entire creation. He is worshiped to remove obstacles. He removes obstacles when we contemplate actions that promote our well-being and brings us the good will of others and the actions should have no evil design or purpose. Lord Ganesha removes obstacles and paves the way for accomplishment and success in human endeavors.The notion that success is the result of divine
sanction rather than being entirely due to personal effort, would let us reach
our goals with a sense of modesty and humility.The primary goals for man have been described as Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Dharma(right conduct)is not only a goal but also is the way.The other three goals should only be reached following the way of Dharma.To prepare for the journey on the path of Dharma, the traveler finds direction from a sense of humility.The radiant and immense personality of Ganesha endows us with humility. Having reached the goals of Artha(personal wealth ,social status and position), and Kama(fulfilment of desires,progeny and family), we inevitably encounter with the consequences of the powerful effects of time.The following verse from ‘ Bhaja Govindam’ sets us on a mission to seek the fourth goal of human existence.
Maa kuru dhana jana yauvvana garvam, Harati nimeshaa tkaala sarvam Maya mida makhilam hitvaa, Brahma padam tvam bravisa viditvaa.
The fear that time would dissolve every thing we possess would help us to overcome arrogance that may be associated with acquiring wealth, family and being youthful in age. Sooner or later, we set our sights for the fourth goal and it will not be very easy to visualize the final destination.To achieve Moksha or Mukti, to reach the shore of liberation and conclude the journey across the ocean of Samsara, a person endowed with humility would be able to say the following prayer and get the needed help. Human existence is permanently bound to illusionary sensory experience of Sunrise and Sunset. Sun shines with all His radiance all the time. The living entities exist in an illusionary state which helps them to mark their existence by the alternating periods of light and darkness. We do not have the biological ability to detect the spin of the Earth and we have synchronized our existence with Sunrise and Sunset and this biological rhythm, known as Solar Rhythm, Circadian Rhythm, or Diurnal Rhythm, manages several of our biological functions. It is not easy to comprehend the Ultimate Reality when the existence is synchronized with an illusion. Time’s Power of Dissolution would eventually compel us to investigate and to explore the concept of Absolute and Unchanging Reality. A prayer to Lord Ganesha would endow us with humility that we need to achieve the four primary goals and gives us success in life.
Bammera Potana, the well-known Telugu poet while translating the epic poem of Bhagavatam from Sanskrit language into Telugu had stated that he would narrate the story of Bhagavatam using imagination and inspiration entirely provided by Lord Rama:
“Palikedithe Bhaagavata ma ta, Palikinchu Vibhundu Ramabhadrun da ta, ne
Balikina bhava hara magu na ta,Palikeda verundu gadha balukaga nela?”
I would like to narrate my story, describe my ideas, and share my thoughts drawing inspiration from Lord Rama and it would be my endeavor to destroy the state of conditioned existence called ‘Bhava’, and get over the fear of ‘Samsara’, a journey of the embodied soul across uncharted sea which constantly evokes a sense of fear of the unknown.
Anya dhaa saranam naasti,Tvaa meva saranam mama Ta smaat karunya bhaavena,kshamasva Parameshvara.
Please also read related blog post titled ‘A prayer to Ganesha’