Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rise and fall of Civilizations…

Many civilizations arose in the world, played their part for a few centuries and then decline started and they died. We now study them only in books and museums. Whereas our civilization has continuity every now and then it gets refreshed and a new youthfulness comes to it, tremendous energy comes, and things begin to improve. A new Yuga begins and the people develop high moral awareness, humanistic impulse and spirit of service.

When we read Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and fall of The Roman Empire” we come to know, how extensive, powerful and prosperous it was. But love for pleasures and decline in moral value and hard work made them hollow. With a single foreign invasion, whole roman society was shattered, never to rise again. The same story is repeated in Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria. West – particularly America and Europe have to guard against such decline.

The Indian civilization went through it again and again. It decayed, lost vitality, strength and values declined, creativity disappeared, vigour vanished, and we were half dead. But then every time it happened a new awakening took place. Not only had a great spiritual teacher appeared on the scene and corrected the course, but some time we got the benefit of cross fertilization of other cultures. Like western culture helped to destroy many of our foolish notions. It showed us new paths and made us more energetic. It was not western intention, but that was the result – a new awakening and a new strength and youthfulness.

--adopted from Swami Ranganathanadaji’s writings.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Indian concept of Sruti and Smrti – Sanatana Dharma

When you study old books like the upnishads, you will find how much they harmonize with the thinking of the great souls, which we produced in the modern period. There is a historical continuity. This new adjustment is the same an adjustment, but in terms of the modern conditions. This is what India has been taught again and again. Circumstances change we need a new formulation of the ancient truth. Truth remains the same, only the dressing is changed. This is what we understand from our ancient and continuing tradition. There are two words Sruti and Smriti- Sruti means Vedas specially in its Upnishad portion, which deals with eternal verities, where as smritis deal with contemporary social rules and regulations, smruti is secondary to sruti, Indian tradition emphasizes this – where ever there is conflict, sruti will prevail as greater authority. Sruti is eternal, what you call - Sanatan Dharma refers to Sruti – the nature of Man , nature of God, how we achieve spiritual realization, they are eternal truths, they are same for India, America, Europe or any other country. They are universal. Just as any scientific truths are universal, so also sruti truths are universal, because they are products of a science of human beings in depth, this is what we call Sanatana Dharma, this Dharma is Sanatan or eternal. Along with this comes Yuga Dharma, Dharma for a particular period, for a particular age of history, a particular group of people. That is called smriti.

Smritis come and go. How many smritis were promulgated and set aside in India. Today all old smritis are abrogated, if they go against our national democratic constitution. We have courage to change our smritis and develop a smriti in tune with contemporary thinking. This is great idea in india – social change. And the teachings, which are eternal, are reformulated according to the change circumstances. For that you need great teachers. For they have the spiritual knowledge and authority to do it. That authority does not come from the status like bishop or a pope or priest or any traditional religious authority. It comes from spiritual realization; it comes from the infinite compassion in the heart of a spiritual teacher, that’s how new smiriti come into being. India held fast to this ideal and the result is that from the vedic age up to this modern age many changes have taken place in religion, in society, in our country and yet we are the same. We are eternal and yet changing all the time. That is the very gist of Sanatana Dharma.

India is ever ageing , but never old. This courage to change a Smriti and that also peacefully is purely a Hindu heritage. No other religion has shown that courage. In all other religion Smritis are all in all. They can not be touched. If any reformer attempts to change them he is persecuted and killed. But we say change the outdated and form a new smriti. Sri Ramakrishan used to say “Mugal coins have no currency in East india Company rule” that means old smritis have no current value. A new currency was needed under East India company and another in Republic of India. – from the writings of Swami Rangnathanandaji.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Misconception about Gita and its true purpose-

- an incident narrated by Swami Ranganathananda.

Travelling in various parts of India, I noticed this wide-spread misunderstanding among our people, but it was forcibly brought to my mind, when I was in Hyderabad for a five day programme, just after the Police Action in 1949, during my extensive tour of Andhra Pradesh en-route to New Delhi, to take charge of Rama Krishana Mission there. A friend suggested that I pay a visit to General Chowdhury, the military Governor of the state. So, I went to meet him along with my host there. General Chowdhary received us and did all the talking for the first half an hour and I listened, there was communist insurrection in some part of the state and he had to attend telephone quite often; but the conversation was going on. Then I noticed a copy of the Gita on his table that gave me opportunity to do the talking, General Chowdhary do you read The Gita? I see the book on your table. I asked. In a very tired way he replied, ‘of course, when I am tired and want to find some peace of mind, I read a few lines from The Gita. I said firmly that is not its purpose that remark took him by surprise and he asked ‘do you mean to say that this book has other values than merely giving us a little peace of mind? ‘Yes that book is not meant merely to give peace of mind. It is meant to give you strength to serve the people, to make you responsible citizen. It contains a comprehensive philosophy of life and work.’ He was amazed and asked me again and again, ‘do you mean to say that this book has relevance to me as Governor of the state? I said exactly so, we must realize that man and women of responsibility have need for a philosophy of life and action. The Gita provides that philosophy calling it by the simple word Yoga. We never understood it till now. Take the opening verses of the 4th chapter, Shri Krishna tells us there, I gave this philosophy of Yoga to the man of responsibility so that through this philosophy, they will become strong to serve the people, to nourish the people, this is the purpose of this great book. I stressed it again and again and he asked repeatedly, ‘Can I, the Governor of this state learn any lesson from this book to become more efficient person? Yes that is the purpose, to inspire all the man and women of responsibility to work for the good of all. That is the nature of this book, it is not meant for putting you to sleep. It is meant to wake you up. It is not merely to give you peace of mind. It gives you tremendous humanistic impulse and resolve, to work for the good of all in society.