Maa Karma Phala hetur bhoor maate sangostwa Karmana.
THE TRADITION OF “GURU” WORSHIP(PUJA) :
Since Vedic times,in the Land of India ,teachers are held in high esteem and the reverence is reflected in the following verse.According to my uncle,Capt.R.R.Rao,”there is no ‘Mantra’ greater than this”:
Guru Brahma,Guru Vishnu,Guru Devo Maheswara
Guru Sakshaat ParaBrahmam,Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah.
MY GURU :
After joining Kurnool Medical College in 1965,I had started visualizing Lord Sri Krishna as my personal Guru.I had a pocket-size edition of BHAGAVAD GITA published in Gorakhpur,Uttar Pradesh.The book included the verses in Sanskrit with its literal meaning in English.That format had allowed me to read the verse in its original form and understand its purport through my own efforts.I had a hectic time at the School and was exposed to new information every day.Over four and half years time,I had studied Physics,Anatomy,Physiology,Biochemistry,Pharmacology,Microbiology, Pathology,
Forensic Medicine,Ear,Nose&Throat diseases,Ophthalmology,Social&Preventive Medicine,General Medicine,Surgery, and Obstetrics&Gynecology.Simultaneously,I was reading one or more chapters from Gita every day and was slowly incorporating Krishna as my Guru.I was more attracted to His teaching of ” KARMA YOGA ” and I would still consider Him as my Guru even if “GITA” is the only known contribution made by Him.My elder brother Pratap stressed about the importance of ” GURU KRUPA “( Master’s Compassion).My Guru’s Mercy is revealed to me in the fact that I am able to work seven days a week.I can very easily manage to work eighty or more hours per week on account of this Guru-Sishya relationship.I do not experience any stress or mental fatigue on account of sixteen hour work schedules.At the same time,I am mentally alert and could indulge in a bit of creative writing every now and then.Apart from this ability to work 365 days each year while I am 59 years old, the following verse shows that they are advantages in having Krishna as personal Guru :
Bhagavad Gitaa kimchi dhadheetaa,
Gangaa jala lava kanikaa peetaa
Sakrudapi yena Murari samarchaa,
Kriyatey tasya Yamena na charchaa.
Bhaja Govindam,Bhaja Govindam
Govindam Bhaja muuda matey.
MY OTHER GURU :
Fortunately,I did not spend any time and energy to search and discover the right Guru.The choice was made for me the moment I had arrived on this planet.I grew up in a family which followed the ” SMARTHA ” tradition established by Adi Sankaracharya.I had the freedom to designate SHIVA as my personal Protector.I am free to choose RAMA as my Benefactor.I seek favors from SARASWATHI in my pursuit of Pure Knowledge.I make the perilous journey across the ocean with encouragement from HANUMAN.GANESHA assures me of success in my personal endeavors.In my struggles and battle of life,Krishna guides me to find the winning strategy.If I have to defend my self,I draw courage from Bhavani.With the blessings from my other Guru,I had described my attitude about human existence as that of ” INDIVIDUALISM “. I love to read and memorize the beautiful verses composed by him.I would just quote a verse which my eldest brother,Prof.R.Subbarao had observed to be a very powerful thought:
Shadamgaadi Vedo mukhe sastra vidyaa
Kavitvaadi gadyam supadyam karoti
Guroramghri padme manachenna lagnam
Tatah kim, Tatah kim,Tatah kim,Tatah kim.
Even after learning every thing that is humanly possible,we still need to desire and focus upon the lotus feet of the Master,the giver of Knowledge.
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee composed India’s National Song ” BANDE MATARAM “(“Hail to thee,Mother”).’Vande Mataram’ became the mantra(“hymn”) and slogan of people of India in their struggle for independence.In this song, the Land of India is described as ” SU HASINI “, and ” SU MADHURA BHASINI “.’Suhasini’ refers to a person who can speak in a pleasant manner without being rude or offensive and provides a sense of cheer and humor to the listener.’Su madhura bhasini’ refers to a person who speaks good and sweet words which gives a sense of pleasure to the listener.
Speech is the oral, audible expression of human language while talking.Man became characteristically human when he learned to speak. All human Culture and its propagation appears to depend on some form of language to serve as the vehicle for teaching, persuasion and tradition.Speech is a very important aspect of human personality.Culture plays a significant role in the development of speech behavior.Particularly, in the Indian society, there are social expectations in the use of speech, speech mannerisms and in the observation of speech etiquette.The manner of speech is predictive of human behavior. Indians are expected to speak softly, in a sweet and pleasant manner.A loud mouthed person is generally viewed as disrespectful, disobedient and disruptive.In the following poem,the famous Telugu Poet VEMANA had described the importance of speech behavior.
Alpu depudu balku naadambaramu gaanu
Sajjanundu baluku jalla gaanu
Kanchu mrogu natlu Kanakambu mrogunaa
Viswadhabhi Rama venara Vema.
Brass metal can produce a high volume sound as compared to Gold metal but we would only consider Gold to be a precious metal and value its high quality in spite of its lack of ability to generate loud sound. People who are mean-spirited and low in virtue speak in tones that reflects a sense of arrogance and self-importance. People of high virtue and good character would speak in a gentle and pleasant manner that reflects a sense of humility and the listeners would be pleased by listening to the words spoken. While speaking,the pitch and the volume of the sound is less important and we need to focus on the contents of our speech.
SPEECH ETIQUETTE AND INDIAN CULTURE :
Indian Culture describes “SARASWATI” as the Goddess of speech or “VAK”. She is known as ” VAG DEVI “. Indians worship her to obtain fluency and to become talented speakers. Our identity is related to the quality and content of our speech. Speech mannerisms, speech etiquette and speech discipline are an part of the grooming process of the children in our homes.Children are generally counseled to use some restraint in their speech. There are several words and phrases that identify an Indian speaker according to their speech quality and content.The phrase ‘ Su Bhasini ‘ directs us to use good and pleasing words. The phrase ‘ Mita Bhasini ‘ directs us to speak to the point using only a few appropriate words. The phrase ‘ Manjula Vani ‘ directs us to speak in a beautiful and elegant manner. Our traditional greeting “NAMASKAR” represents our devotion to showing respect and displaying an attitude of obedience in our public conduct. We can only meet this Cultural expectation by using a manner of speech which would convey the qualities of respect and obedience.
Dr.Martin Luther King,the famous Civil Rights Leader of the United States had wished for that day when his son would not be judged by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. Similarly, a person’s identity should not be assumed by the person’s physical attributes but by his attitude and behavior. As an Indian, I wish to be identified not by the color of my skin. ” SU MADHURA BHASINI ” is the Cultural standard of our speech behavior. If you care enough, listen to me, my speech would reveal to you the country of my origin.
Please also view a related blog post titled ‘Defining Indian Identity – The Pursuit of Pure and Perfect Knowledge’.
Worship of idols and images is an part of daily life in many Indian homes. Long before its birth as a political entity, the Land of India was recognized by the outside world as a Land where people worship idols. The plurality of gods in daily worship is a way of life. Indian people worship idols and images of one or another of the innumerable gods in their homes, in public places as well as in temples.
Childhood is a time of great learning experiences. A child imbibes Cultural values and learns Cultural traditions mainly at home while the child is dependent on and is educated by parents and other adults. Children acquire the Culture of the society they live in through a gradual learning process.
My childhood learning experience of idol worship occurred in two places. While I was in MYLAPORE(Madras city), the day would generally begin with a small errand. Myself and my elder brother Pratap would go out with a basket and gather flowers by just walking around in the neighborhood. Every home would keep some flowering plants which are traditionally used in daily worship. We were fond of gathering a variety of flowers for my maternal grandmother’s morning worship. It was a pleasant task and the fragrance of ‘Parijatham’ flowers that we gathered still lingers in my memory. I also spent my early childhood in RAJAHMUNDRY at my paternal grandfather’s home in Innispeta. My grandmother would also worship the morning rising ‘SUN’ before starting her idol worship. Very often, we wait in the courtyard and alert our grandmother when ‘SUN’ shows up in the sky. During the monsoon season, one has to patiently wait for the rain clouds to drift and let the ‘SUN’ come out. At the end of her worship, we were always ready to receive the offerings(PRASAD)and there was always a sense of pleasure while waiting for these daily morning treats. Childhood was spent in observing the adults and on special occasions, the children at home participate in the worship while the elders give directions. The worship at temples was done in the company of parents and elders.
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FROM 1954 :
I was six years old and was a fourth class student at King George Elementary School, in Innispeta of Rajahmundry. One evening, just after it became dark, my father experienced sudden abdominal pain. The intensity of his pain was very severe and he was alarmed by his condition. As the pain persisted, he started pressing people to notify others about his predicament and I remember that he had wanted that his younger brother( a doctor ) who was living in NAGPUR, should be alerted with a telegram. At one point of this painful state, my father had even asked that he should be laid on the floor in anticipation of an impending death. My two elder brothers, Hari and Pratap and myself watched this scene and were moved into action. At my eldest brother Hari’s initiative, the three of us proceeded to “RAMALAYAM”, Lord Sri Rama‘s temple which is located near the Godavari river bank, a short walking distance from our home. The temple was still open and had only a very few worshipers as night had set in. We stood before the idols in total silence and paid our respects with the traditional greeting of ‘NAMASKAR’. Temple worship is a simple act. You just need to come before the idol and you are not really required to speak out your concerns and spell out the reasons for seeking the ‘DARSHAN'(viewing the idol). It took a couple of minutes and the priest graciously gave us a mango fruit as ‘PRASAD’. Those few minutes that I had spent standing mutely before RAMA’s idol at night-time, is the reason that I would still remember and recall my father’s abdominal pain after a lapse of about fifty-three years. I had reached the temple with a sense of anxiety and with a sense of expectation that visiting the idol of RAMA would somehow help my father to get rid of that terrible pain. I had silently communicated my concern to the idol and I had received a response. The response that I had received was that of reassurance and comfort. I felt immediately relieved of a burden and felt upbeat and the feeling was one of instant gratification. Myself and my brothers returned home from the temple. I wanted to tell my father about our visiting the temple and I wanted to assure him that he would be alright if he would take a few drops of the juice from the mango fruit that we received from the priest. When we got back, the scene had changed. I did not get a chance to speak to my father and offer him the mango fruit. He had a large vomiting and threw up the food that he ate before. It helped him, his pain started to subside and he could rest without further problems. We retired for the night and the next day was just a routine day at the school. We had never discussed that painful episode again and the communication that I had received from RAMA’s idol got preserved in my memory and my family had no chance to know about it.
The rest of the world would call my visiting RAMA’s idol as an act of ‘SUPERSTITION’. My mind knows and my heart remembers that the idol had given me a sense of relief and comfort and my experience was real and genuine. Every one is welcome to take the place of that idol and if they are willing to be a source of comfort, I am willing to have their ‘DARSHAN’ and worship them just like the idols that I would like to worship.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
The name ‘ Indian ‘ is related to the great river SINDHU which is also known as Indus. In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed westwards towards setting sun to reach the shores of India. He had discovered people living on islands whom he had mistakenly named as Indians. Apart from those island dwellers, the natives of the entire American continent, the so-called ‘ NEW WORLD ‘, were named Indians. In spite of concerted efforts to rename them as ” Native Americans “, the name Indian is still in use.Name is a very important tool to describe personal identity. The word name as a noun, describes a person, place or thing. It is also a word or words by which an object of thought is known. Indians did not choose the name India or Indian. However, the people of our Land of BHARAT, are extremely fond of choosing names. This fondness for selecting, using and remembering names is an important Cultural attribute which defines our identity.
THE TRADITION OF GIVING NAMES :
The name ” RUDRA ” is one of the earliest names known to humanity. According to legend, the Vedic God Rudra acquired His name from His Creator Brahma. As per the story, a boy was seen ‘crying’ and ‘wandering’. The father had asked the boy the reason for his ‘howling’. The boy had answered that he was ‘weeping’ for he was not given a name. So, the father created a name by bringing together two Sanskrit words which mean ‘crying’ and ‘wandering’. Thus the name Rudra was born. This legend is an example of our emotional dependence upon the need for names. The major Deities such as VISHNU and SHIVA that Indians worship are known by thousands of names and remembering those names is deemed as an act of devoted worship. The use of these names is a fundamental right and I understand the term religious freedom in the context of my freedom to choose the name that I would worship. The religious experience that I had gained while growing up in India relates to the use of names as an act of worship. Worship would have no meaning or purpose and would not give me a sense of direction if I do not remember the beautiful names that I have come to know.
A PERSONAL NAME AND A PERSONAL STORY :
My personal name is very much a part of my personal story. The name is chosen entirely due to the circumstances of my birth and I remain connected to the persons and the places for the rest of my life. I describe MYLAPORE of MADRAS city(CHENNAI) as my birth place and I describe RAJAHMUNDRY of East Godavari District as my native place. My mother had given birth to me at my maternal grandfather’s residence on KUTCHERY road in Mylapore. I spent the years of my early childhood at my paternal grandfather’s mansion in INNISPETA of Rajahmundry. As per the traditional belief and the practice of Vedic Astrology known as ‘ JYOTISH ‘(Science of Light), my birth star predicted and warned about some forthcoming inauspicious events. The astrological calculations suggested that remedial action is needed to counter the negative aspects of the birth star. Accordingly, my father had performed a ritualistic worship popularly known as ” RUDRA ABHISHEKAM ” and worshiped SHIVA at the beautiful KAPALEESWARAR temple of Mylapore. To ensure that I would always enjoy the blessings from SHIVA, my father had decided to name me as RUDRA. Hence,this name of Rudra instantly connects me to my birth place of Mylapore and to KAPALEESWARAR as my personal protector. The birth star also had forewarned about consequences that would impact my paternal grandfather. There was no easy escape from the influences and the second part of my personal name was carefully chosen to please my paternal grandmother, Srimati. Lakshmi Narasamma. Because of the gender variation, the name Narasamma had become Narasimham. This name immediately connects me to the ” LAWS OF KARMA “. These names are well-known and particularly in the southern States of India, the name Narasimham or variations of that name are frequently used. As long as I remain a conscious entity, my grandparents live in my consciousness. Astrology or Jyotish may not be a perfect Science. Horoscopes may not predict the future course of events in a person’s life. I exist in this world and I am known by a name which was specifically selected for me because of the predictions cast by my horoscope and the prediction came true and I find enough justification for this Indian Cultural Tradition called Jyotish.
A UNIQUE NAME AND A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE :
In 1965, I had joined Kurnool Medical College after I had obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Osmania University, Hyderabad. A batch of students were directly admitted into the second year of the medical education program that awards the M.B.B.S degree. Professor Rama Murthy of the Anatomy Department was very fond of knowing and recognizing each of his students by their personal names. On the first day of our Anatomy class, the attendance register was not ready and Professor Rama Murthy had decided to call out names from the list of selected candidates. He had very solemnly announced to the class that he had to begin with a very angry and fiery name. We were intently listening to know what that name could be. Apparently, the list of selected students was prepared according to merit and my name was placed at the top of the list. He called my name and expressed his sense of disbelief. He had asked me to verify my name and told the class that it was the first time in his life that he encountered a person with the personal name of Rudra Narasimham. His statement appears to be right and I have not known any other person who may have the same name. It is one of its own kind and is unique and special.
The name Rudra is related to SHIVA who is recognized as the God of Learning. Shiva is like Socrates. Socrates of 5th century B.C. is claimed to be the father of western thought. He had implored people to “know thy self”.Socrates had stated that the ‘ unexamined life is not worth living ‘. Shiva guides me to reflect upon life. Shiva encourages introspection, reflecting upon your own mind and thoughts. Shiva defines that the purpose of learning is to acquire the ability to think for oneself. The name Narasimham represents to me a person who defends the right to choose the name for my worship. The story about PRAHLADA represents the Cultural importance attached to personal choice in matters of religious worship. Names of persons, places and the legends form a part of Cultural legacy of our Land and define Indian Identity.
CULTURAL UNIFICATION OF INDIA – THE PRACTICE OF TIRTHA SNAAN ( BATHING IN HOLY RIVERS )
Water plays an important role in a variety of Cultures and religious practices prevalent in this world.The role of water constitutes one of the most remarkable aspects of Indian religious life.Hindu religion is often described as ” SANATANA DHARMA “.The practice of bathing in a river is an unusual example of the continuance of an ancient tradition and hence I can refer to the practice of ‘ TIRTHA SNAAN ‘ as “SANATANA” in its origin.Simply touching water is a purifying gesture in the Vedas.Pilgrimages(TIRTHA YATRAS) to holy rivers(TIRTHA) was already known in Vedic and Epic times and it remains extremely popular up to the present day.In fact,my impression is that the practice has become more popular and a far greater number of people are participating due to the availability of modern time conveniences for travel and lodging.The news media consistently report that our river festivals such as “KUMBH MELA” and “PUSHKARAMS”have established world records as the largest gathering of human beings upon this earth in one single day and for one single purpose.The sacredness of a place is often due to the sanctity it derives from its location on the bank of a holy river(TIRTHA STHAN or TIRTHA KSHETRA).The following verse is an example of such belief.The simple act of remembering the various places that River Ganges traverses through,would be equivalent to the worship of all Gods and would bestow great blessings(PUNYA).
Tatra tatra sthitaa Gangaa,Sarva Punya Phala pradaa
Bhaveth smarana maatrena,Sarva Deva namaskrutaa.
Apart from bathing(SNAAN),holy waters are used in the ritualistic worship of deities,and the water used in the worship is used to sprinkle upon the heads of the devotees and also consumed by the devotee in acceptance of the blessings from the Deity.The devotee hopes for deliverance from sin or pollution(“PAAP”),seeks preservation or enrichment of his religious merit(“PUNYA”),hopes for a reward such as rebirth in a heaven(“SWARG LOK”)and even total emancipation(“MOKSHA or MUKTI”).There are instances when people had actually traveled to the holy city of VARANASI to die near the Ganges.More often,the cremated remains,the ashes are carried by the loved ones and are physically sprinkled and immersed in the holy rivers such as Ganges to help the onward journey of the departed soul.The worship of rivers and the practice of bathing is a belief that is connected with the traditional Indian views of earthly life.Indians believe in the theory of “KARMA”.They believe that the acts of their present lives and their past lives would be a factor that determines the condition into which a being is reborn.The “KARMA” binds the soul and compels it to go through an endless series of births and deaths.The cycle of birth,death and rebirth is called “SAMSARA”.In my previous entry,I had written about the fear of “SAMSARA”.The practice of bathing in a holy river is an example of “INDIVIDUALISM”.Even when millions of people travel and gather together to bathe in a river on one day,each is acting strictly to earn his own merit and to reap his own benefit and the community does not expect any share of the rewards that the bather may be granted.I could bathe and wash my own sins and I can not be of any help to others if they carry the burden of their own sins.Each person has to accept responsibility for their own actions and if necessary they can seek help from others to get to the river and ask for assistance to bathe in the river.River worship appears to be a communal event but its usefulness is strictly individualistic in nature.Bathing is not viewed as a simple act of personal hygiene,it constantly reminds us of the need to seek purification and makes us aware of our responsibility for own actions and challenges us to face the consequences in our future lives.People are encouraged to seek the blessings that bathing in holy rivers would contribute even while they may be showering at home.The following verse is an example of our connection to the rivers that flow across our Land.
Gangecha Yamunechiva,Godavari, Saraswathi
Narmade, Sindhu,Kaveri,Jalesmin sannidhim kuru.
MY INTRODUCTION TO RIVER WORSHIP :
I had described in my previous entry on traditional greeting,that Culture represents ideas and thoughts transmitted by one generation to the next.It indeed gives me a great pleasure to recall my learning of this unique Cultural Tradition while I lived at my Grandfather’s mansion in Innispeta of Rajahmundry town in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh.During 1950s,I lived with my parents,two brothers,grand mother,her sister and my great grand mother.The house had bath rooms and we had regular water supply from the municipality.We would generally shower at home and on important festival days,we would bathe in River Godavari.My great grand mother was an exception to this bathing practice.She firmly believed in the practice of river worship and adhered to it every single day and almost till her final days of earthly existence.She was of short stature and she was already in her ninety’s and due to her age,her spine curved and made her even smaller.Her vision had deteriorated and she was able to see only a few feet ahead of her.Our house was located at the corner of “KALABARGI VARI” street and the “RAMALAYAM” street.The Lord Sri Rama Temple of Innispeta is a well known land mark and it stands next to the protective river embankment.The river bank is fairly wide,it included railway tracks and a motor-able road.Much later,the second rail cum road bridge was built across Godavari river using these railway tracks.My great grand mother would walk to the river all by herself and used a walking stick to support herself.The journey to the river is short but she faced a lot of dangers on the street.Those days,vehicular traffic was not a problem and crossing the railway tracks was not a problem.The biggest threat was posed by the stray animals such as goats and cows that roam freely on the streets.She was practically defenseless.As young boys at home,myself and my elder brother were often given the chore of escorting my great grand mother during her walk to the river.When we followed her as her escort,the animals always behaved better and would not come to attack her.The reward myself and my brother Pratap reaped was that of getting into the emerald green,crystal clear,cool waters of GODAVARI and frolic in the shallow waters as my great grand mother did her worship.But for my great grand mother’s tenacity and perseverance,myself and my brother would never have ventured to make a trip to the river in the morning.It was a joyful experience and the Tradition of River Worship gave us some very fond memories of our life in Rajahmundry.The following verse speaks of the importance that we attach to rivers of India and they are treated with great respect as they are deemed to be the same as Ganges:
“….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’