What is spiritual excellence – its nature, scope and potency? Normally, the coveted aim before an earnest spiritual seeker is to know the Supreme Truth himself, to actualize it as a personal living experience, and thereby to become ‘fulfilled’. The path followed is essentially of self-absorption and withdrawal from world involvements to transcend the dwandwaas (dualities) posed by the mind and to reach a state of oneness of vision and experience. Samyak darsana or comprehensive vision is the zenith to which he reaches through Brahma-jijnaasaa. The only function, if at all, he will take up thereafter is the dissemination of spiritual wisdom for the benefit of seekers and the afflicted. But, this does not mean that spirituality has its application only to this field.
By the might and grace of spirituality, the external common causes like immediate and long term social and national needs, as well as evolutionary needs of mankind to move towards a greater and lasting harmony, can also be met. It is a strong motivational force, and when provided by noble teachers and leaders, it can inspire an individual, a society, or mankind as a whole; it can deliver people from fear and corruption – strengthen their minds for winning any moral or noble cause. The moralizing and harmonizing effect of true spiritual leadership is most sublime and long-living.
In-depth analysis of this dynamic aspect of spirituality is particularly relevant in the light of recent Hindu resurgence in Kerala, in which some Sannyasins are participating as leaders. Normally, Sannyasins are given exclusively to jnaana-nishthaa and the imparting of spiritual wisdom to the seekers who come to them. So, this kind of participation strikes a departure, if not a contrast, to the set ideas of people.
In fact, the subject is of an eternal nature, relevant as much to the ancient past as to the immediate present. This is a theme you can find in Ramayana, Mahabharata, Shrimad Bhagavata and other allied spiritual texts. Therefore, I shall discuss it at some length.
Krishna – the warfield Guru
Look at Kurukshetra. The stage is set for the great moral war. Proud Arjuna arrives – he has a Great One to hold the reins. Arjuna orders, Krishna obeys. The chariot is taken to the front to enable the great warrior survey the enemy lines. Alas, there were Bhisma and Drona – his own grandfather and preceptor – standing in front!
The moral war starts, but within. The invincible hero crumbles in utter distress, affliction and repentance. Suddenly he begins to speak words of retreat.
What is to be done at such a juncture? Arjuna knew only one side of the human glory and the factors contributing to it. To be a full victor in oneself, the outer expanse cannot alone be the adequate trainer. The other half is the one that verily transcends and excels!
When the external circumstances overpower the mind, it must be turned inward to search for the subject source and arrive at the remedy. Infinite grace, immeasurable profundity, is stored in one’s own inner reservoir. Even the very external fright and confusion subsist on this inner causal source alone.
“Get to this internal source; sink and reflect upon deeply, till you find the clarity, resolve and inspiration you need to withstand the crisis and march forward” – was the process administered by Krishna.
Krishna’s spiritual help was great and timely. It marked a striking contrast to the spiritual lore. The Upanishads discuss the Supreme Self. But what for? To inspire the mind to retreat from the world and seek contentment in quietitude; to merge with the soul and become extinct thereafter. The Upanishadic teacher generally sits quiet in his hermitage, at most, with a few devoted disciples. Is that what happened with Krishna in Kurukshetra? The scene differed, the purpose also; but the subject source of the teaching remained the same.
This can and will transpire even today, particularly in our blessed land of Bharat. Our culture is capable of enabling the transmission, with even more complex benefits. For the present causes of Dharma, the immortal wisdom of the Upanishads can be made to speak afresh. The knowledge of the undying Self will deliver its wonder and magic wherever it is applied. As it leads one to the quietness of nirvikalpa samaadhi, it will empower another to radiate with brilliance, courage, and enthusiasm to meet all outward challenges.
Hanuman – The magic of devotion
Now think of Hanuman, the embodiment of devotion. The monkey king Sugriva engaged his entire team in the task of finding Sita. Hanuman was in the group that went southward. Having failed in the mission, the entire southbound group found no meaning in coming back, and decided to fast unto death remaining where they were. It was then that the island of Lanka was spotted by Sampaati, the eagle king, and the news conveyed to the group.
The discovery instilled new hope in them. But, how to cross the wide expanse of sea in between? Who will dare to make the attempt and by what means? Who is that ‘chosen’ one? The monkeys started recounting their physical strength and the memorable feats performed by each other. But none of these glorious records could inspire them to rise up to the present need. Finally, the quiet and mighty Hanuman, whose strength lay more in his exclusive devotion and surrender to Rama, came out as the ‘chosen’ one, determined to undertake the feat for the sake of his beloved Lord. He was a Raama-bhakta whose entire being was soaked in devotion and surrendered to Rama. He was a Raama-daasa, given to the service of Rama in all possible and ‘impossible’ ways.
Hanuman, determined to succeed in his mission, in any circumstances, climbed up to a suitable point on the Mahendra hill, to take the fateful leap. Every cell of his body was glowing and reverberating with the power of Raama mantra. Strong faith and supreme devotional current rendered his body light, flexible and expanding like air, then subtle, powerful, and radiate like fire. Fixing his mind on Rama and exercising his will exclusively for the mission, he could easily perform the ‘impossible’ feat.
Not only did he complete successfully the mission of meeting Sita and getting her message back, but all alone in the land of powerful enemies, he sang the glory of Rama in thunderous voice and demonstrated the power of Raama-bhakti in a devastating manner. He met Ravana like an ambassador, and finally set fire to the Lanka city.
A significant contrast
This Hanuman episode strikes a significant contrast to Valmiki’s own life – his conversion from vicious Ratnakara to sage Valmiki through Raama-naama-japa. In his case, it was to set the devotee whole-heartedly to a formidable objective task. In both instances, it is the same devotion, to the same Lord, and the magic worked through the same mantra! One is subjective, a purely inward application of devotion and spirituality; the other is an external, objective manifestation of the same devotional and spiritual excellence.
In truth, the object does not stand apart from the subject. It exists within the subject. Both together make the Supreme Indescribable Truth. So, the inward spiritual pursuit and the merits it begets have always a full outward bearing and application. These can be harnessed whenever needed – as was done by Hanuman.
Epics message eternal
Our epics are replete with similar examples – amply demonstrating the invincible power of spiritual excellence in the subjective as well as objective spheres. The question is: Do the sages’ narrations have an eternal import, relevant to all situations and challenges of the world, irrespective of the prevailing social order? Or, should we have to wait for a more fortunate period of time, a situation far different from the prevailing one, to think of such moral excellences as we find displayed in Prahlada, Harishchandra, Rama, Sita, Yudhisthira, Draupadi, Sudama, and the rest? We must know whether the epics were a sheer pursuit of leisure and pastime for the Sages, or these are as material and earthly a proposition – a course of action and a conduct for the humans to take up with fate and fidelity and pursue with determination as any modern adventures of science!
The message and exhortations of the seers are clear and final. They do want the seeker to know that the invisible cause is as sure as a friend, benefactor, and protector, as its visible agencies existing around; they are in fact, even more resourceful and timely. Let there be colossal opposition from the sentient and insentient sources alike; the Great Womb of Creation can and will save the seeker of truth and reward his venture. The heavens have to follow his resolve.
The question merely is: Do you look to that Infinite Source dearly, confidently, as you towards the external world? Nay, do you depend on IT EXCLUSIVELY?
Spirit superior to matter
The mighty literature of our land is pivoted on this unique concept of The Power within, which is also the Power behind the entire creation. All the scriptures sing in unison, the supremacy of this Invisible Presence.
The first mass of matter, or the space in which it entered or say, vice-versa, cannot be a creation of either. The ‘ultimate substance’ could not have sprung from another similar to itself. The material universe conceals a spiritual sovereignty. So too our material body hosts within it a transcendental core, capable of infinite expansion.
Does not our brain, though small, generate and preserve ‘reflective magnitudes’ of infinite dimensions, which our eyes see outside? What must then be ‘infinitude’ of the power and being, which shapes the amazing brain mass? The brain is not designed and formed by an outside source or power. The growing process is an act, a display, from within the growing entity itself. The Supreme Power, therefore, lurks within. The sage looks to this inner power alone, exclusively, for doing and achieving whatever he sets himself to.
The present crisis
As weeds grow on the soil, if left uncared, so too human minds breed unwelcome tendencies, which tend to destroy the individual life as well as the social harmony and well-being, constant vigilance, discipline and austerity, all tended by the most painstaking effort, are a must to keep the minds healthy and growing. Every generation has to discern well and strive hard to ensure that, by its own practices and pursuits, only the healthy inheritances are preserved while some new harmonious acquisitions are added to them. It is in this field of social growth that Knower of Truth has a unique role of leadership to play - by virtue of his love for mankind, and the wisdom, experience and equipoise he has gained by long painstaking pursuit of enquiry and austerity.
Ours is a blessed land empowered by a great culture. A mighty wealth of literature and culture, built around the ultimate quest of human mind has been handed down to us through the ages. Revolving on this eternal pivot, a society has manifested highest levels of moral and spiritual virtues as well as exemplary instances of social harmony based on reason, propriety, equality and awareness. Yet this society is now suffocating under the clutches of reckless greed and tyranny of power holders, power seekers and power brokers. Vested interests are ruling triumphantly over all public affairs including the field of religion – as a moral righteous citizen is denied his fundamental rights in every walk of life, so also is a true devotee denied his fundamental right to worship in a temple. The lofty ideals and the noble promises of our constitution are being mocked at everyday in an increasing measure.
But, do we have the right to blame the vested interests and sit indifferently waiting for a more opportune moment to come? Are not the public – their apathy, lack of enquiry and wisdom, and above all myopic selfishness – to be blamed equally for this state of affairs? If men of character, reason and integrity do not come forward to know and to protect this great culture form the stench and filth the vested interests have thrown on it, then who will our society look forward to?
The standards of ethics and decency in a society are always best enforced by public opinion. Democracy can be safe and smooth only when people refuse to accept anything substandard. On the other hand, nothing is so dangerous in democracy as the unshakeable apathy of a docile citizen.
The call before us
The post-independence period is too short in the long history of our Nation. Let not anyone be unduly haunted by its seeming disorder. There is enough time to mend and immortalize ourselves again. The sons and daughters of our land can and will accomplish the task, as did their forefathers.
If we ourselves do not resist the evil tendencies of our Society, then who will? The question is ‘social’, not ‘personal’. Do we not have a love, consideration and responsibility towards the society to which we belong, from which we are born, and by whose favour and gifts we enjoy our living? The call before us is to herald the krita yuga now, out of our own option, using for the purpose, the purity of our thoughts, the sublimity of our motives and wholesome commitment of our will. The challenge comes from the world. The inspiration is to emerge from within, from the culture and association provided by our epics, scriptures and their immortal authors.