Sunday, 29 November 2015

Why I love Bharatvarsh

Over the course of its earthly peregrinations from a unified state as Pangaea, to Jambudvipa, to its present state with its own identity, our Bharatvarsh has made many glorious contributions to humanity.  

The invention of zero, for example.  Also Sushruta’s pioneering efforts in surgery, Aryabhata’s contribution to early maths and astronomy, or Baudhayana’s discovery of the theorem, which came to be known as Pythagoras’ theorem later.

Or how about J C Bose’s discovery of life in plants, Raman’s experiment on light scattering, which is called Raman Effect, Sarabhai’s space project which ultimately led to the present day Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan, or Kalam’s work on developing the ballistic missile?

In the field of arts and literature too, there have been innumerable luminaries who have enriched our culture with their contributions.  Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Shakuntalam and Meghdoot, Chanakya’s Arthashastra, Bharata Muni’s treatise on dance, Natya Shastra that led to the dance form, Bharatanatyam, and Tagore’s Gitanjali and Rabindra Sangeet, to name a few.

Yes, we are filled with pride when we listen to the heroic tales of Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Bhagat Singh.  We are immediately satiated when we listen to a Lata-Rafi duet, A R Rahman’s music, or Amitabh Bachchan’s filmi dialogues in his rich baritone.  We cannot contain our joy when we witness a Sachin Tendulkar century, or for that matter, when Sania Mirza wins yet another world title.  We jump with joy when Sushmita Sen wins the Miss Universe, and Aishwarya Rai the Miss World title.

India today is home to one of the largest community of intellectuals; doctors, engineers, economists and scientists.  After years of subjugation, we are witnessing the growth of economy, and our clout among the nations of the world is growing by the day. 

All that is fine.  I am filled with happiness to note all these achievements. 

But for me, quite apart from any of these, there is another reason why I love this land. 

Its spiritual history. 

There simply cannot be another place on this planet or any other for that matter, where so many spiritually advanced adepts, yogis, sadhus, saints, seers, gurus took birth, breathed, lived, meditated, attained moksha, and showed others the light. 

I don’t think I can take all the names of the saints of our land; there isn’t enough time or space for that.  I can only quote a few shining examples that I have had the good fortune of reading about. 


In the south of Bharatvarsh, Adi Sankara took birth in Kalady, a quiet little town on the banks of the Poorna River.  He traversed the length and breadth of the land, took disciples, debated with scholars on philosophical systems, consecrated four mathas in four corners of India, and finally ascended the Throne of Omniscience in Kashmir.  By the time he had achieved all this – 32 years of age – he had firmly established the advaita school of thought, which clearly elucidates the oneness of the atma and the paramatma.


In much more recent times, another southern luminary, the Saint of Arunachala, Ramana Maharshi quietly went about practising and preaching his method of self-enquiry, and miraculously healing those who approached him of such conditions as tetanus, leprosy, terminal cancer, and in one instance, even death.  However, when he was afflicted with sarcoma towards the end of his earthly tenure, he refused to heal himself as his physical condition was a result of taking on his devotees’ karma. 


In the west of the country, around the 13th Century, scores of saints took birth in the holy land of Maharashtra.  Pandharpur became the epicentre of the bhakti movement started by these illustrious sons and daughters of the soil, many of whom were ordinary peasants.  The child-saint of Alandi, Jnaneshwar and his siblings were orphans and outcastes, but their life was full of miraculous achievements, and culminated in Jnaneshwari – the gift of Gita written in the colloquial language for the benefit of the masses. 


Namadeva, the son of a tailor made the Lord drink milk from his hands even when he was a little boy, while Gora Kumbhar, the potter, so lost himself in divine ecstasy that he once trampled his own child in a mound of clay (the child was eventually restored to him by the Lord Himself).  Sawata Mali sang his abhangs while tending his garden, and Chokhamela who was an untouchable was so close to the Lord that when a priest slapped him for transgressing a social norm, he was aghast to find that the Lord’s cheek was swollen.  It is said of Tukaram that he went away to Vaikuntha in a vimana of the Lord. 

Likewise, Eknath, Bhanudas, Kanhopatra, Santaji Pawar, Raka Kumbhar, Narhari Sonar, Janabai, and many, many more have sanctified our land with their holy presence.  Indeed, this is probably the real reason for epithet, ‘maha’ in Maharashtra. 


In the northern part of Bharatvarsh, Tulsidas retold the timeless story of Ram and Sita in his Ramcharitmanas, whereas Surdas preferred to become blind again after he beheld the vision of his ishtadevta, Lord Krishna just once.  Another great devotee of Krishna, Meera gave us many bhajans that are soaked with devotional fervour and longing for union with her Lord. 


Many more adepts and yogis of the north have made the places of pilgrimage touched by the Ganga and the mystical loftiness of the Himalayas their home, and have inspired others through their tapas and sadhana.  Even today, the ageless Guru Babaji is said to be present in the Himalayas, showering his grace on those worthy of it. 

As Diana L. Eck has said about the tirthasthals of Bharatvarsh,

…what is clear from the study of Hindu India is that its geographical features – its rivers, mountains, hills, and coastlands – no matter how precisely rendered, mapped, or measured, are also charged with stories of gods and heroes.  It is a resonant, sacred geography.    
Moving to the eastern part of this sacred geography, one is touched by the story of the Saint of Dakshineshwar, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, who answered his would-be student, Naren’s query about whether he has seen God, with ‘Yes, I have seen God.  I see Him as I see you here, only more clearly..!’  



In the same sacred geography, about a hundred years before the time of the Paramahansa, Baba Lokenath Brahmachari attained such a level of oneness with the universal spirit, that he chastised an untamed lion for wandering into his ashram’s premises, patted it affectionately, and sent it along its way back into the forest! 

It is not just the seers of one faith that lit up the path of their followers in Bharatvarsh.  Guru Nanak spoke against blind beliefs and superstitions, while Kabir, Sai Baba of Shirdi and Shishunala Sharif, unified people of all castes and religions.  Buddha advised followers to find their own way in attaining liberation from pain and suffering, while Mahavira gave the five ethical principles for his followers to achieve emancipation.  Dargahs of Sufi peers dot the landscape, and Velankanni in the south is a blessed place of pilgrimage for many.


Madhvacharya (who propounded dvaita), Ramanujacharya (vishishtadvaita), Guru Raghavendra, Nammalvar, Kanakadasa, Purandaradasa, Basaveshwara, Akkamahadevi, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Akkalkot Maharaj, Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar Giri, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maheshwarnath Babaji, Bengali Baba, Swami Rama, Mahayogi Gambhirnath, Swami Sivananda Saraswati, Anandamayi Ma, Paramahansa Ram Mangal Das…  One could go on and on; the list is endless.

This phenomenon is not confined to the glorious past of Bharatvarsh.  Even today, genuine saints are quietly carrying on with their sadhana, unseen, unheard, and away from the bustle of daily life.    
Truly we are blessed to have been born on this holy land.  For me, these stories provide the real meaning to that song by Iqbal, Saare jahan se achcha…

Unfortunately, the current educational system of Bharatvarsh is western in its outlook, and worldly and phenomenal in what it imparts, leaving our children vulnerable to deculturation and narrow minded religious influences.  I feel that we would be failing in our duty if we do not inculcate a sense of respect and a spirit of inquiry towards our spiritual heritage in our children, by teaching them life lessons from the experiences of the spiritual masters.  

Many works have been consulted in writing this panegyric on the spiritual preeminence of Bharatvarsh.  Indeed, these can be recommended – from an inexhaustive list of resources – for further reading if one is interested in learning from the lives of these saints and about spirituality in Bharatvarsh:
  • Sankara Digvijaya: Madhav Vidyaranya
  • Saints of Maharashtra: Savitribai Khanolkar
  • Autobiography of a Yogi: Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Yogis of India: Sivarupa
  • Vivekananda A Biography: Swami Nikhilananda
  • Bhakti Schools of Vedanta: Swami Tapasyananda
  • India A Sacred Geography: Diana L. Eck
  • Apprenticed to a HimalayanMaster: Sri M
  • Living with the Himalayan Masters: Swami Rama






Image sources:
http://www.awaken.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ramana-and-money-300x300.jpg
http://www.mukteshwartemple.com/media/gallery/saint-chokhamela.jpg
https://media.zenfs.com/en_IN/News/Astroyogi/Tulsidas-JAyanti.jpg
http://www.chittorgarh.com/picturegallery/images/Mira-Bai-3.jpg?autoplay=1
http://www.ramakrishna.org/images/ramakrishna_seated_midsizencdas.jpg
http://www.loknathbaba.com/english/images/ph-9.jpg
https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2950/15453284916_f7e9c0d91d_b.jpg
http://samadhiyoga.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/gautam_buddha_large.gif