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Hand in hand for eternity

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dad's Diary 8 - The Vedanta – As I Understand It

Man-robot relationship is virtually a mirror image of Nature-man kinship. A robot is programmed by man to undertake certain specific chores just as a man is equipped with a congenital agenda to undertake certain functions. This agenda, the Karma of the scriptures, makes appropriate adjustment to suit the situations and circumstances at birth, but is infallible.

A man thinks that he thinks. Actually he does not. Thoughts are planted in his mind by Nature with three forces as its instruments known as Sattvas, Rajas, and Tamas, respectively meaning illumination, action and inertia. These three forces (Gunas) are always present in Nature. By an inter-play among themselves, they combine in varying proportions, decisively influencing the man's ego and thereby his thought and action. Man's mind gropes for a line of thought on this or that matter, and grabs the one closest to his attitudinal nature, never really thinking it out for himself.

Swami Vivekananda
 (Picture from
Swami Vivekananda who espoused and popularized the Vedanta and Yoga in the USA and Europe in the1890s once put it succinctly when he remarked, “Every thought is extracted out of you.” Sri Aurobindo mentioned (The Synthesis of Yoga), “All conduct and action are part of the movement of a Power, a force infinite and divine in its origin---(leading towards)--- the fulfillment of the divine intention in the world and of the larger universal Self of which each being is a portion – a portion that has come down with it from the Transcendence.”

The mixing of proportions of Gunas is responsible for the result of an action – good, bad or ugly – depending on the preponderance of one or the other Gunas. There is nothing in the world which is not a combination of all three Gunas, their superior or interior manifestation depending on their proportions. The preponderance of any of the sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic Guna will make any work either illumined, or egoistically acted, or afflicted by inertia.

Sri Aurobindo
(Picture from
We feel responsible for our own thought and action, and we want others to accept the  responsibility for theirs, because of our attaching undue importance to the illusion of our names and forms, triggered by our ego and desire. Remove the names and forms, get rid of ego and desire, what is left? It is variously called the Soul/the Self/ the Spirit. And that makes all of us in this world mates, soul-mates.

There is still a persisting problem. Why am I held accountable for the very thoughts and actions that were imposed on me by a Primal Force which is seemingly beyond my grasp? That is the point that the Vedanta philosophy deals explicitly in its depth and totality. A seeker is required to undertake the most perilous journey ever – search out the Purusha or the Soul in his/her heart through meditation and yoga.

The Vedanta also adds that 'just thought and right action' is possible to perceive and execute once the Soul takes over the administration of the being from a level of higher consciousness. The puny 'egoistic I' gets the beating it deserves and consents to follow the soul in its evolutionary process. After all it's not the evolution of Tapas Mukherjee as a name assigned to the form of a human body, but that of the Soul that embodies it.

Action-less Purusha is the cognitive principle and Prakriti or Nature, revered as the universal Mother Shakti, his dynamic aspect. These two aspects together emerge through evolution as the ultimate One reality, Brahman, the Trinity that is Sachchidananda – the Absolute Knowledge, the Absolute Existence, and the Absolute Bliss. And the seeker realizes the ultimate Vedantic truth – 'He am I.'


Monday, February 28, 2011

Dad's Diary 6 - Teachers and Discipline

In my school days in the 1950s parents used to be in close liaison with the teachers to maintain a uniform standard of discipline for the kids. The adage -'Spare the rod and spoil the child'- was sometimes stretched to an unpleasant extent. But Dr. Himadri was an exception.

The doctor's daughter, Lila, returned home one day from the school pathetically crying her heart out. She had been grounded within the confines of the classroom as a punishment. Her hand-writing and neatness had to improve, the teacher had warned, or worse would follow. “Either you write neatly in Class III, or never ever write in your life,” was the urgency.

The doctor took it up with the school authorities, and made unnerving statements on the possible psychological repercussions of such distressing action. This was the first case of hitherto unheard of parental interference in school affairs. It ended in the daughter getting exiled to the last bench permanently. “It is even more fun,” she confided to me, leaving me jealous to the core.

My ardent endeavor to get a passport to the last bench to join Lila bore fruit quicker than expected. I was charged with not only having used a dirty eraser, but also spit to smear the hand-writing book. I also qualified for and suffered from detention in the classroom during play time without, however, consigned to the back bench.

At home I waited till my father appeared settled and relaxed after having come back from work. Then I placed my trump card. I related the whole event with well rehearsed anguish, adding the Dr. Himadri part with as much excitement as I could master. But my tears failed to match my wailing.

He held my hands fondly. “Where did you learn to complain against your teachers at home? Don't ever do that again,” he said in a menacingly quiet tone, crushing all my hopes and expectations.

My next stop was Dr. Himadri himself. He gave me a patient hearing. But that was all. “But my father doesn't want to take it up with the school,” I lobbied. He shrugged off dismissively. My morale was at the lowest ebb when I returned home.

All connections got wired up the next day. Apparently, my father met both the teacher and the doctor during his evening walk that enabled him to tie up all the loose ends of the episode.

A day later the teacher caught me in the school, “How dare you complain against me at home? I am going to make an exemplary case out of you,” she roared. I was made to stand up so that the whole class  could see my dismayed face. “That's nothing,” she roared again, “your father has permitted me to do anything I want to teach you neatness and discipline. All fathers are not the same.” Lila, particularly for whose benefit all this teacher-power was beings exhibited, now sat bolt upright with baleful eyes at the disgraceful comparison of fathers.

At home my father made his point, “I am surprised at your audacity; you had the nerve to complain against me to Dr. Himadri!” Was there an edge in his menacingly quiet voice? By that time I was past caring about my welfare. “Why doesn't anybody care about me?” I asked in amazement.

My father seemed to pause and ponder. “We all care about you. But you must treat elders and teachers respectfully,” he said soothingly, and promised to take me to my first ever cinema – Tarzan – as an incentive to remember the lesson.

The back bench along with its reigning queen, Lila, paled into insignificance as the wilderness of Africa galloped into my mind's firmament. But as I look back on those days, while wishing all children trouble free schooling, I know that I for one would not have made it without the rod.