T. N. Dhar Kundan

T. N. Dhar Kundan

Triloki Nath Dhar Kundan

Sh. T. N. Dhar 'Kundan' has written exclusively on Kashmir, its political scenario and religious practices of its original inhabitants, the Kashmiri Pandits, and has authored several books on a variety of socio-cultural topics. For a number of years, he served as an editor to Koshur Samachar, a tri-lingual publication of Kashmir Samiti, New Delhi. We at KOA are indebted to him for sharing some of his articles with our readers.

List of books written by T.N. Dhar

1. A Portrait of Indian Culture published by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan.
2. A Window on Kashmir
3. Bhagavad Gita, the Elixir of Life
4. Exploring the Mysterious
5. Understanding Education
6. Philosophy of a Common Man
7. Saints and Sages of Kashmir
8. The Saint Extra-Ordinary, Bhagavaan Gopinath

9. Kashmiri Pandit Community- a Profile

10. On the Path of Spirituality

Serial No. 2, 3 and 4 published by Mittal Publishers, Ansari Road, Darya Gunj New Delhi. Serial No. 5 and 6 published by Rajat Publishers, Ansari Road, Darya Gunj, New Delhi. No.7 published by Bhagavaan Gopinath Trust and No 8 by A.P.H. Publishing Corporation, Ansari Road, New Delhi.

1. Main Pyasa Hun (I am Thirsty) - A collection of Hindi Poems
2. Main Samudra Hun (I am an Ocean) - A collection of Hindi Poems
3. Guru Se Samvad (Dialogue with a Preceptor)

1. Swapna ta Sonch (A Dream and a Thought) - A collection of Kashmiri Poems.



Falsehood and Reality

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes when I sit reflecting in the cozy corner of my room, I find myself entangled in a strange situation. First of all I am confronted by the notion ‘I’. This dominates my mind and my thinking. I relate everything to this ‘I’. I evaluate everything with reference to this ‘I’. This is my ego that makes me haughty and arrogant. Then I get the notion that I do this and I do that. I think that what all is happening through me is done by me, at my will and at my command. This gives me a false notion of doer-ship. I feel that I have the authority and the capability to do anything as I will and wish. Thereafter I am ridden with another notion that I enjoy this and that bounty of nature. I feel that I am enjoying various fruits, foods and dishes. I take pleasure in donning various types of dresses and clothes. I feel secure in palatial buildings with a variety of things around for me to use with pleasure. I enjoy music, various other arts, items of recreation and pleasure, the beautiful and bountiful nature and the company of fellowmen as also birds and pets that I like and keep. This gives me the notion of enjoyer-ship. Then I have the feeling that I own a vast number of things, family, friends, wealth, houses, vehicles, various gadgets and innumerable other items of usage. This gives me pride of the possession. Thus I am enveloped by the ego, by the false notions of doer-ship, enjoyer-ship and the sense of possession. I feel I am on the top of the world. I can create and produce. I can protect and preserve and I can destroy what I do not like.

Whenever someone comes to me for some help, I either blankly turn him back saying that he will not get any favour from me, or feel flattered that some needy person has approached me for help. I do the needful, feel proud of the same and want him to remain obliged ever after for this act of kindness on my part. Little do I realize that he had not approached me for help on his volition but had been directed by the Divine to do so, since the Divine wanted me to be the medium for the fulfillment of his desire and give me the credit for this act of kindness. I should know that the Divine executes everything but remains behind the screen, in the background. He creates a cause for every end result that He plans and accomplishes the desired objective as an effect of the same. This cycle of cause and effect continues in the entire cosmos and we become actors in this celestial drama and thereby get credit or discredit for these end results. Had I realized this fact of the nature I would have never claimed to be a doer of any act and consequently I would have escaped credit or discredit for the happenings.

My need is limited but my greed is enormous. Nature has provided me with sufficient means to meet and satisfy my needs but I am not satisfied with that. I strive incessantly to add more and more to all that I have access to. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I do not. When I fail I feel frustrated and disappointed. When I succeed I want to add still more to it. This syndrome of unfulfilled desires and constant endeavour to satiate my greed keeps me on tender hooks and never allows me to rest on my laurels. The greed, like a mirage, keeps on shifting its posts and I go on living with unrest and turbulence in my mind. Peace, satisfaction and contentment elude me. If only I remembered a verse written by Kabir I would be ever satisfied, contented and consequently happy. He has written, ‘Chah gayi chinta miti manuva beparvah, jisko kuchh nahin chahiye soyi sahansah  -  Desire is gone, the worry is gone. Those who want nothing are the real emperors in this world.’

Enjoyment is another area where I feel cheated. I taste something which I devour and feel happy. Once it goes down the gullet there is no trace of any taste. I wear something which attracts me and next moment it is torn and I feel sad. I indulge in anything that pleases me but the pleasure is transient and momentary. I still crave for a lasting pleasure. Little do I realize that it is not I who enjoys but some power which is within me and within everything else that actually enjoys. Or at least I should understand that I am trying to derive pleasure from transient things and acts with the result that the pleasure itself is momentary. If I seek pleasure in immortal things the pleasure will certainly be lasting and enduring.

I give something to someone or even offer some fruits, flowers or any other items of offering to my deity. I take pride in this but forget what the best of devotees say while making a similar offering. They say, ‘twadiyam vastu Govinda tubhyam-eva samarpaye  -  it is your thing, O Lord and I hand it over to you only.’ Similarly when an oblation is offered to the holy fire it is specifically uttered, ‘Idam na mama  -  It is not mine, it is not mine.’ Thus it is incumbent on me to understand that I do not own or possess anything and everything belongs to Him. This understanding will enable me not to rejoice on acquiring anything and not to grieve on losing something. In other words I shall implement in letter and in spirit what has been written in the Bhagavad Gita that we should remain balanced in the face of all opposites like loss and gain, defeat and victory, grief and happiness.

All this will be possible only if I realize the true essence of the ‘Self’. This needs vigorous spiritual exercises. I have either to take to the path of knowledge, ‘Jnana-marga’, or I have to adopt practicing contemplation and meditation, ‘Raja-yoga’ or take to ‘Nishkama karma, the path of actions without an eye on its fruits. All this, I must admit, seems to me very difficult, easier said than done. Not that I have not tried to tread on these paths. In the bygone years of my life I have tried all these prescriptions many a time. Every time I found these practices onorous and difficult. I feel my acumen and capacity are limited enough to continue these exercises up to their logical end. So there is only one opening left for me and that is the path of devotion and surrender, ‘Bhakti-marga/Sharanagati’. This path is easy, workable and satisfying for me. All that I have to do is to leave everything to Him, who is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He will take care of me, my needs and my ambitions and why not? Has he not promised this in so many words in this shloka, ‘Tesham satata-yukhtanam yogakshema vahami-aham – I take full responsibility of all those who are attached to me all the time; I protect what they have and provide them with what they do not have. Taking care of me and my needs is not at all complicated for all that I need is to remain fit and healthy bodily, mentally and intellectually and alert spiritually. As for my ambition it is simply to know Him and to take care of that should not be difficult for Him in the least. After all I am not asking for the moon. I am only asking Him to reveal Himself to me so that not only do I realize that we are one but also I become one with Him. My desire is that ‘I’ and ‘He’ should go and only ‘I’ should remain.     


by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Miracles happen and miracles are performed. These are performed by men of highest spiritual standing. Many of us may have read about many such miracles, many may have heard of them and many may have been witness to such miracles being performed. We have heard and read about innumerable miracles performed by great sages like Guru Nanak Devji Maharaj, Shri Rama Krishna Param hansa, Raman Maharshi, Swami Ram Tirtha and many others. This has not only enhanced their esteem in our eyes but also further strengthened our faith and belief in the Divine. I have not been very close to any of the contemporary saints to have been able to see these for myself. I have, however, heard and read about many such miracles performed by various saints and sages of Kashmir. Let me narrate some of these for ‘Vinoda, sukha, laabhaya’or entertainment, happiness and benefit of the readers.

Let me start with Alakheshwari Bhagavati Roop Bhawani. She was standing on the bank of a river and on the opposite bank was a Sufi Shah Qalandar. He called aloud to Bhawani in these words, ‘Ropi yor tar son karath’, Roopa! (literally silver), come to this shore and I will make you gold.’ Bhawani replied, ‘Tsuy tar yore mokhta krath’, better you come to this side I will make you a pearl (another meaning: I will liberate you.) Shah Qalandar was seen rowing a boat in which were seated Shiva and Parvati and crossing over to her side. Bhawani sent him back saying that that was not the desired way of crossing. Soon the Sufi saw a boat coming to his side, in which were seated Shiva and Parvati and he found that Parvati was none else than Bhawani herself.

Lalleshwari has the unique distinction of being not only the Valmiki of Kashmiri poetry but also a distinguished yogini of Shaiva order. Her sayings called ‘Vakhs’ are not only recited with reverence but are also sung in the beginning of various ragas of the classical music ‘Sufiana Kalam’ of Kashmir. Many miracles are narrated about her life. Once she went to visit the new born baby, who was later to become Nunda Rishi, the originator of Rishi order. His mother complained that the baby would not drink his mother’s milk. She held the new born in her lap and asked him this question: ‘Zena mandachhok na, chana kyaza Chhukh manda chhan – you were not ashamed to take birth, why are you ashamed of drinking your mother’s milk?’ The baby started sucking the mother’s breast instantaneously.

During the Pathan rule persecution of Kashmiri Pandits was at its peak. They would be tied, put into sacks along with heavy stones, carried to Dal lake at a place called ‘Batta Mazar’ or burial ground of Battas, and drowned there. A lady whose husband was taken for such drowning approached a saint known as Shakar Shah Mastana. She begged of him to save her husband. The saint wrote on a broken piece of earthenware this line: ‘gar chi hukme qaza ast, ba hukme Shakar Shah Mastana nav garaq shud, huma Brahman bar aayad. –Even if death sentence has been ordered, by the order of Shakar Shah the boat should sink and the Brahmin should be saved’. He asked her to drop this piece from the bridge into the river by which way the Pandit was being carried to the lake for drowning. She did the same and waited. When the boat reached the spot where the earthenware piece had been dropped, the boat capsized and her husband was thrown on to the bank. The same night the Pathan governor saw the saint riding a lion and he ordered him to stop this genocide or else he would meet a violent death. Next morning he ordered that this practice of drowning the Pandits be stopped.

Krishna Kar was walking on a footpath in a village when he found two bulls yoked with a ploughshare tilling the field without any person behind the ploughshare. He looked around and saw a young man sitting under the tree. He realized that it was a miracle being performed by him only. He took him away with the permission of his father and brought him to his locality, Rainawari. Later he came to be known as Meeshah. It is said that a huge boat laden with a load of food-grains was being towed up stream. The boatmen were singing a labour dirge, ‘Badshah padshah  -  Badshah Zainulabdeen is the King.’ Suddenly the boat got stuck up and would not move an inch. The boatmen approached Krishna Kar and asked his help. He came to know from them that a young man (Meeshah  Saheb) was at the bank at that time. According to his directions the boatmen changed the wording and started singing, ‘Meeshah Padshah  -  Meeshah is the king.’ And lo and behold the boat moved with ease.

There are three prominent shrines in Kashmir, where there are springs wherein water sprouts forth only on specified dates. These are ‘Tri-sandhya, Rudra-sandhya, Pawana-sandhya”. It is said that Peer Pandit Padshah along with his disciples reached Tri-sandhya on a date when the water was not expected to ooze out. But he wanted to take this opportunity to have a dip in the holy water. He asked one of his disciples to see if there was water there. When he reported that it was stone dry, he wrote these lines on a piece of paper, Chi qudran Sonda-brari ran a aayad ba isteqbali Shahanshahi Reshi –It is surprising that the Sandhya has not come to greet this emperor of sages!’ When the piece of paper was thrown in the dry spring, gushing came the water for Reshi Peer and his disciples to take a holy bath.   

Swami Shankar Razdan lived in Chattabal area of Srinagar. Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Pratap Singh used to visit him occasionally to pay their respects. One day Maharaja Pratap Singh suddenly came to his house when he was having fever. When the arrival of the Maharaja was reported to Swami ji, he removed his blanket and had it kept in the corner of his room. While talking to Swami ji the Maharaja observed that there was vibration in the blanket. When asked what it was Razdan Saheb replied that he was having fever, which was kept under the blanket because of the Maharaja’s visit.

Pandit Madhav joo Dhar, the father and preceptor of Roop Bhawani sent a vessel ‘Degchi’ containing rice pudding, ‘Kheer’ to her in laws. The mother in law found it insufficient to be distributed to the neighbours and relatives. On Bhawani’s insistence, the pudding was distributed freely but it did not exhaust till the last family was served. Then there was the problem of sending back the brass vessel to Dhars. Bhawani solved the problem by throwing the vessel early next morning, down the river and asking it to reach Pandit Madhav joo, who would be offering ‘Sandya’ at the bank. The vessel reached him all right and he took it home. It is said that a similar miracle was performed by Bhagavaan Gopinath ji when at a shrine his sister had prepared food for five persons and Bab invited dozens of pilgrims to have food. His sister was perplexed but Bab asked her not to worry and continue serving the food to all the invitees. The food lasted till every single person had his meal.

At least twice did Bhagavaan ji order the clouds to go away without causing any rains, once when they were travelling in a boat ‘Doonga’ to Tulamula and the second time when they were on their way to Swami Amarnath ji for pilgrimage. He is said to have ordered in these words: ‘Hupaer Aeva, yapaer gatshiv – you have come from that side, now you go away from this side. Bhagavaan ji was instrumental in showing Sharika Bhagavati in the form of a girl to one of his companions at Hari Parbat and Shiva and Parvati at the shrine of Swami Amar Nath. 

Reshi Peer’s mother was very old and one day when a neighbor was going for a pilgrimage to the holy Ganges, ‘Ganga-jatan’, she expressed a desire to her son that she would also like to go for a dip in the holy waters on the auspicious day. Reshi Peer asked her to give her gold bangle. She gave it to him and he in turn handed it over to the neighbor to be immersed in the water there. On the auspicious day of ‘Ganga-aetham’ he took her to the bank of the Vitasta and asked her to take a dip. While she was taking a dip her gold bangle came floating on the waters and she held it in her hand. The waters of the holy Ganges had thus been brought into the Vitasta by the miraculous powers of her son, a sage of very high order. Peer Pandit Padshah, as he was popularly known, was once invited by a Muslim cleric to have a non-vegetarian meal with him and a group of some distinguished persons. He agreed on the condition that nobody should have tasted a morsel out of the cooked dishes before the invitees. When the food and some choicest dishes were served and the guests were asked to uncover the plates, everything cooked assumed its pre-cooked state. The rice was raw, vegetables were green and the chickens were alive. To the amazement of everyone present they found that one chicken was limping. The cook had tasted one chicken leg and the condition laid by the sage had been violated.

One of the Pathan governors was named Jabbar. He was a tyrant and during his time Hindus were persecuted badly. He was once told that Hindus consider it auspicious if it snows on Shiva-ratri while they propitiate the deity. He scoffed at it and said that there was no point in it since the festival was celebrated in winter when it rains and snows in Kashmir. As a vengeance he ordered Hindus to celebrate the festival in summer. It is recorded that while the puja of Shivaratri was on, clouds gathered and it did snow briefly. The public ridiculed the governor for this folly in these popular songs, ‘Wuchhton yi Jabbar janday, haras banovun vanday – Look at this wretched Jabbar, due to him the summer was converted into winter.’

Strange are the ways of the Divine and strange are the ways of those who have become one with Him.

Need For A Guru - Importance of a Preceptor

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

There is a saying in Hindi ‘Guru bin gati nahin – Achievement is not possible without a guru’. This statement needs a detailed analysis and examination, particularly because there have been many great spiritual luminaries who were known to have achieved highest levels without the guidance of a preceptor. On the other hand there have been saints and sages like Swami Vivekananda, who were guided to spiritual heights by their preceptors. In Indian mythology and tradition mention is made of many such spiritual giants, who are said to have surpassed their preceptors. There are instances where some fortunate ones have got messages in their dreams or even otherwise, about the persons, who were going to be their preceptors. Also there are cases where some gurus have got the divine direction to guide a particular person. Thus there are illustrations supporting every possible situation. A seeker can find a suitable guru for himself, someone could be ordained to guide him, he can get an indication about whom he should approach for spiritual guidance or he can go on his own on the path of spirituality. 

Even in the case of mundane and worldly matters one may like to benefit from the advice of the seniors and the knowledgeable, take lessons from the experiences of others or use one’s own wisdom and judgment and experiment with life for one’s own self. In the day-to-day life we see that the so-called educated persons are not necessarily wise or well behaved. Similarly those who are unlettered are not, ipso facto, unwise and uncultured. Life is a great teacher and by its nature it is a series of experiences, which teach us the facts of life and guide us how to conduct ourselves. We are social animals and, therefore, form small groups, communities and societies within the framework of the country in which we live. Our country also models and remodels itself within the global compulsions in order to prove its credentials as a worthy member of the international family. A society learns from other societies, a country benefits from other countries and likewise an individual makes the best use of the experiences of other fellow individuals. Thus in mundane matters there are teachers who guide us either directly or indirectly, either knowingly or unknowingly. The question that arises is whether the same is the case in the spiritual world as well. Do we benefit from other’s experiences?

Spiritual experience and seeking are by the nature of these things strictly a private affair for every one of us. Those who are in the process of seeking may be able to roughly describe the methodology adopted by them but they are completely unable to describe their actual achievements, not even the interim milestones. Therefore our benefiting from the experience of others is absolutely out of the question. Even our preceptors give broad guidelines and tell us how to proceed with our spiritual experience. This is definitely based upon his or her own experience, for it is said that no one can lead us on a path, which he himself has not traversed. Thereafter we have to do the needful ourselves and benefit from our own experiences and experiments. This leaves us with one more question and that is in which cases do we need preceptors and their guidance.

According to the Indian tradition spiritual experience can be of four different types depending upon which of the four ways we adopt for achieving the goal, ‘Jnana’ or knowledge, ‘Karma’ or actions, ‘Bhakti’ or devotion and ‘Dhyana’ or contemplation. A teacher or a guru is definitely needed if we tread on the path of knowledge because there has to be some body knowledgeable, which can impart that knowledge to us. It is then up to us to assimilate that knowledge and also if possible and required, to improve upon it. Similarly a teacher is needed and indeed useful to guide us on the path of action. He can put us wise as to what should and what should not be done. Having selected the action he can again tell us how to go about executing it. Thereafter it is up to us how dexterously we undertake the action and how well we execute it in order to achieve the desired results expeditiously and in full. Likewise for contemplation a teacher is needed to teach us the technique and the methodology. Actual contemplation is for us to undertake. If we are able to perfect the technique we will surely achieve the target and get illumined in the shortest time possible. Of course all these things in these three areas can alternatively be learnt from an in depth study of the scriptures as well. Even when we do take refuge at the feet of a guru, the guidance received from him can further be supplemented by a detailed study of the scriptures. In fact the guru can be instrumental in helping us select and choose the useful passages and portions of the relevant literature from the vast treasure available to us.

Devotion, however, is a different cup of tea altogether. Once we are deep in love with our chosen beloved and have unflinching and unwavering faith and confidence in him, we really do not need any teacher. Meera and Surdas, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and their ilk did not need any Guru. In fact this chosen beloved can be our preceptor itself. Once we are madly in love like the Gopis were in love with Shri Krishna, where is the need for a teacher? Love is not a thing that can be taught, faith is not a thing that can be created and confidence is not a thing that can be dictated. All these traits either we have or we do not have. We may not have these but may imbibe in course of time. Devotion in fact is needed in all the different paths adopted by different seekers for their spiritual elevation. We have to be devoted to the knowledge that we seek in the path of ‘Jnana’ or knowledge. This devotion will take us nearer to the Supreme Truth. We have to be devoted and committed to the actions and deeds that we undertake. The devoted actions only will illumine our spiritual path. Devotion in contemplation will ensure concentration and hasten the entire process for the spiritual elevation. Without due devotion no path will lead us to our desired goal.

Devotion presupposes love, faith, confidence and complete surrender. Even those seekers, who take to other ways of seeking God, reach a point where they have to surrender. This surrender ensures the grace of God without which fructification of no effort is possible. Spiritual seekers treading on the path of knowledge and action use their faculties of reasoning and logic, which give them power of discriminating between transient and eternal and take them a long way towards their goal. Thereafter they have to take recourse to faith, which takes them to the goal itself. While in the first leg of their spiritual journey they may find taking someone as their guru useful and beneficial, in the second leg no guru would be needed. Guidance of a guru is needed in the first instance but later no guru is required. Love is actually in the nature of an instinct. It chooses its beloved itself and then sacrifices everything including personal comforts for his sake. A seeker walking on the path of devotion or ‘Bhakti’ surrenders before his beloved from the beginning of his spiritual journey, which travellers on other paths have to do in the end. Goal, however, is common for all of them as Pushpadanta says in his ‘Shiva Mahimnastotra’: ‘Riju kutila nana pathajusham nrinam-eko gamyah tvam-asi payasam-arnava-iva – For people treading different paths, straight or crooked, You (Shiva) only are the goal just as the ocean is the goal for all rivers flowing into it’.            

Having said that, we cannot deny that a guru may not necessarily be required to guide or lead on the path of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion, yet it cannot be completely ruled out that he can be a source of inspiration in this case also. There have been cases where a person, an ordinary worldly person, has reached a turning point in his life from where the direction of his life has taken an about-turn with the result that his life has changed altogether. At this point something or someone has definitely inspired him, visibly or invisibly. There has been change in the life of Valmiki, Tulsidas and host of other great men and they have taken to a life of highest spiritual character, after this change. We see, even in the contemporary times, great orators addressing gatherings of thousands of people and narrating the stories from Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagawat and other sacred texts. All the assembled persons, men and women, listen to these stories with devotion and many of them are inspired to take to the path of ‘Bhakti’ in all seriousness. If these noble men are able to inspire some people in these collective gatherings, certainly preceptors can influence and inspire individuals also in their private sittings to tread on the path of devotion.

Devotion is a straightforward affair. It needs no technique or methodology. It only needs unflinching love, dedication, trust and confidence coupled with complete surrender. On this path the ego, the notion of ‘I’ vanishes. The devotee realizes that the Divine only does whatever takes place and he remains devoid of the notion of doer-ship ‘Kartritva’. The devotee understands that the Divine only enjoys whatever he seems to be enjoying visibly and thereby he shuns the notion of enjoyer-ship, ‘Bhoktritva’. Similarly he believes that the Divine only possesses whatever he is seen to be possessing and thus he gives up the pride of possession and ownership, ‘Mamatva’. Whenever he offers anything to anyone he utters this statement in all humility, ‘Tvadiyam vastu Govinda tubhyam-eva samarpaye – O Lord, this is all yours and is being offered to you only’.

Guru is a Sanskrit word, which can mean a teacher, a guide, an elder, an enlightened one or a preceptor. Some scholars have interpreted it as a word combining two syllables, one meaning darkness and the other remover. They conclude that a Guru is one who removes all the darkness of ignorance. Be that as it may. A question is often asked whether a Guru is a must and whether every one of us needs a Guru. Our experience in both mundane and spiritual fields shows that there have been people, who were very knowledgeable but with the guidance of one or the other Guru. Also there have been equally enlightened persons without any Guru or what we call self-made persons. Thus to give a clear cut answer to this question about inevitability of having a Guru is well nigh impossible.

Arthur Osborne has observed in the biography of Raman Maharshi that ‘the term Guru is used in three senses. It can mean one who, although he has no spiritual attainment, has been invested (like the ordination of a priest) with the right to give initiation and upadesa. He is often hereditary and is not unlike a family doctor for spiritual health. Secondly, the Guru can be one who, in addition to the above, has some spiritual attainment and can guide his disciples by more potent upadesa (even though the actual practices enjoined may be the same) as far as he himself has gone. But in the highest and truest meaning of the word, the Guru is he who has realized Oneness with the Spirit that is the Self of all. This is the Sadguru.’ He has quoted the Maharshi as having described a Guru as follows:

“The Guru or Jnani (enlightened One) sees no difference between himself and others.     For him all are Jnanis, all are one with himself, so how can a Jnani say that such and such is his disciple? But the un-liberated one sees all as multiple, he sees all as different from himself, so to him the Guru-disciple relationship is a reality, and he needs the Grace of the Guru to waken him to reality. For him there are three ways of initiation, by touch, look and silence.”

In reply to a query whether he had a Guru or not, the Maharshi is reported to have said that ‘Guru is God or Self. First a man prays to God to fulfill his desires then a time comes when he does not pray for the fulfillment of a desire but for God Himself. So God appears to him in some form or other, human or non-human, to guide him as a Guru in answer to his prayer.’ On yet another occasion he is said to have clarified that ‘a Guru can be outside yourself or within yourself. Two things are to be done, first to find the Guruoutside yourself and then to find the Guru within.’ These statements assert that there can be a Guru, who may not be in any human form and yet may give initiation and Upadesa to his disciple. 

We know from the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita that three things are needed for us to benefit from a Guru. These are ‘Pranipata’ or submission, ‘Pariprashna’or enquiry and ‘Seva’ or service. As regards submission, Arthur says that ‘submission to this Guru is not submission to any outside oneself but to the Self manifested outwardly in order to help one discover the Self within.’ He has quoted the Maharshi as having remarked thus: ‘The Master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. If he were a stranger whom you were awaiting, he would be bound to disappear also. What would be the use of a transient being like that? But as long as you think that you are separate or are the body, so long is the outer Master also necessary and he will appear as if with a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases the Master is found to be none other than the Self.’

The philosophy behind all this discussion is that the Self, the Preceptor and the God are actually one. This stands to reason when one believes and perceives that God pervades everything and that everything is the manifestation of the God. This is the high point of ‘Advaita’ or non-dualism. We have a rich heritage of saints and sages. If we go through their lives on this planet earth we come across divergent situations and happenings. There are instances where some of them did not have a Guru as such in a human form. Those who had too present a variety of pictures. In some cases a Guruhas travelled miles in search of his disciple and having found him has initiated him and given him upadesa. In other cases a disciple has traversed long distances and has run from pillar to post in search of his Guru. After finding him he has surrendered and prostrated before him and sought spiritual guidance. Some luckier ones have chanced to come by a Guru, who has readily taken them into their tutelage. In many cases a Guru is reported to have tested the acumen, sincerity and resilience of the disciple before accepting him as his ‘Shishya’, or disciple. In some cases even the disciple has examined the competence and the spiritual level of his Guru before handing over the reins of his spiritual journey to him. There are a few odd cases where a disciple was refused acceptance by a reputed Guru and yet the disciple made him his preceptor in absentia and received initiation by connecting with him through his conscience.

The Guru gives upadesa and initiates the lucky one whom he takes into his tutelage. It is believed that there are three modes of initiation, by touch, by look and by silence. A bird that needs to sit on its eggs in order to hatch them denotes initiation by touch. A fish, which needs only to look at its eggs to thatch them, represents initiation by look. A tortoise typifies initiation by silence, as it needs only to think and the eggs get thatched. We have come across a variety of different ways of initiation by touch. A Guru may put his hand on the disciple’s head. He may touch his forehead or his cheek. He may strike him with his toes gently. He may touch an item and then make the disciple touch the same or cause him to touch the same item and the process of initiation is complete. The initiation by touch is also known as Shaktipat or descent of power. Initiation by look is a straight eye contact whereby theGuru transmits the spiritual light to his Shishya by looking into his eyes. In this case the latter is mesmerized as it were and for a moment goes into the state of trance. In the case of the initiation by silence what happens is that the Guru and the Shishya both come on to the same wave length of thought and a spiritual connection is formed.

Every one of us refers to himself as ‘I’. He has three aspects, being (Astitva), doing (Kartritva) and enjoying (Bhokhtritva). His being is called Sat in our scriptures. This is his existence, which he is required to recognize. His doing has to be for the good and benefit of all and for that his Chit or consciousness is there to guide him. Then there is his enjoying this has to be detached as has been rightly and explicitly stated in the Upanishad, ‘Tena tyekhtena bhunjeethah – thus you must enjoy everything with an attitude of ‘Tyaga’,which has been defined as not worrying about the fruit. This will give himAananda or bliss. The three together ‘Sat, Chit, Aananda’ form the description of the Supreme God. These three correspond to another set of three words describing Him, i.e. Satyam or certitude, Shivam or benevolence andSundaram or aesthetics. Certitude denotes existence (for only that which exists can be true and certain), benevolence refers to noble actions and deeds and aesthetics causes bliss. Now it is the guidance of a Guru that shapes these three aspects in us, viz. our personality, our deeds and our bliss.

It would be interesting to narrate some known facts here about various preceptors and how they approached or were approached by their disciples. Take the case of Pandit Krishna Kar. He was ordained by the goddess to guide Rishi Peer. He went to his house and not finding him there (he had gone to Hari Parvat), smoked from the hubble-bubble kept at his house. He left a word with his mother that Rishi Peer should smoke from the same smoking implement. When he came home, he did as was told and got theupadesa. Alakheswari Roopa Bhawani had her own father as her Guru, who not only gave her lessons in scriptures but also led her on the path of supreme enlightenment, which she has referred to as ‘Parama Gati).Similarly Shri Rama Krishna was approached by his would be Guru and initiated as ordained by the goddess. He, in his discourses, used to liken money with fire. In order to test his statement Narendra Nath, before he became Swami Vivekananda, hid a currency note under the seat of Shri Rama Krishna. When he came and took his seat, he immediately stood up shouting ‘fire, fire!’ Then smilingly, he revealed that this must be the handiwork of Narendra. Anandamayi Maa was initiated by her Guru and in due course after that she initiated her own husband. Shri Raman Maharshi said that a Guru could be impersonal as well since he believed that the Self, the Guru and God, all were one and the same. Bhagavaan Gopinath, when asked about his Guru, referred to the Bhagavad Gita and said any one of the seven hundred and odd Shlokas of it could be the Guru. Naturally, therefore, he was also referring to an impersonal Guru. 

After giving it a thought we feel that every seeker is a disciple in his own right and has a Guru, personal or impersonal. The guru evaluates his acumen, capacity and spiritual level and accordingly suggests a path for him to tread upon. The disciple also seeks a Guru as per his tastes, liking and inclination. It makes easier for him to chalk out a suitable path for himself. There have been cases where a disciple has changed the course of his journey midway after realising that the path he was on was not suitable for him, was difficult for him or was more time consuming. Some seekers progress step by step and rise by stages. For them Shri Gita says, ‘Aneka janma sansiddhah tato yanti paran-gatim – these people seek perfection life after life and then attain the supreme status.’ Others jump over many stages and reach the destination in lesser time. According to Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy there comes a stage when they realise that the seeker and the sought after are one and the same. Even then there is an element of dualism at that stage too since the seeker and the sought after are considered as two different entities. They raise themselves further up and get merged with the Supreme and then alone the stage of perfect non-dualism is reached.

Sons of Immortality

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Even a cursory look at the life and its reality shows that while the frame is mortal, the essence hidden inside is immortal. Perhaps, that is why the Vedas enjoin upon us to be the sons of immortality, ‘Amritasya Putrah’. While the ultimate aim for us should be, as Swami Vivekananda says, to rise from animality to divinity, it seems necessary for us to take the first step and try to become humans first. For this to achieve, it is necessary for us to imbibe certain qualities. Shri Gita has prescribed more than two dozens of specific qualities for a person to be of the divine nature. About half a dozen of these are basic qualities, which make us humane and civilized. The rest are perhaps on a higher level and can be aspired subsequently.

To be virtuous is a basic human trait, and perhaps a desirable duty too. Virtue is called ‘Guna’ in Hindi/Sanskrit. Our scriptures say that virtue is respected and worshipped everywhere, ‘Gunah sarvatra poojyante.’Therefore, it is enjoined upon us to earn virtues that will enable us justify our being human kind, ‘Tasmat gunani arjadhvam.’ It is not a debating point that we should be good human beings, good members of a society and good citizens of a nation. That makes it a paramount necessity for us to imbibe virtues and acquire qualities. Let us enumerate these qualities and identify the value that these impart to us. Our scriptures are replete with discussion on these virtues and the saints and sages, who have appeared on this planet Earth from time to time, have also thrown light on these qualities in their discourses, writings and sermons.   

In olden days when a student had completed his studies a ‘Dikshanta’ceremony was held, which may be viewed as the modern day convocation. On this day, before the student entered the fray of active life, he was administered certain oaths to guide him in the conduct of his life’s struggle and make him tread on the path of righteousness. The first lesson given to him was ‘Satyam vada’, or to be truthful and practise truth. The second direction given to him was ‘Dharmam chara’, or to do his duty and be righteous. The third one enjoined upon him to continue learning and teaching, ‘Swadhyaya-pravachanabhyam na pramaditavyam’, or do not show laziness in self-study and transmitting your knowledge to others. This was followed by a prescription for the code of conduct. ‘Matri devo bhava, pitri devo bhava, acharya devo bhava, atithi devo bhava – Show due regard and respect to your mother, father, teacher and the guests and treat them as gods.’ These qualities if imbibed in thought, word and deed, make us humans in right sense of the term. These lead us eventually to immortality and make us ‘Sons of Immortality’.

Let us examine the qualities prescribed by Shri Gita for us to be divine. We can cull out a few qualities out of this long list, which we think are essential for us to deserve being called humans. Once we adopt these, practise these and make these part and parcel of our life-styles, we can then proceed to adopt the remaining qualities in order to go higher and higher on the spiritual ladder. The basic qualities in the first batch could be listed as Truth, Compassion, Gentleness, Fearlessness, Uprightness, Non-violence, Modesty, Steadiness, forgiveness, Fortitude, and freedom from anger, malice and pride. Coming to think of it, these qualities are inclusive, interdependent and interlinked. The quality of truth is the foundation on which the edifice of all other qualities is built.

If we are true, we will, ipso facto, be fearless, upright and steadfast. The truth will give us fortitude and modesty. These in turn will make us non-violent, and free from anger, malice and pride. All this will help us develop an attitude of compassion towards our fellow men and other creatures and we shall be humane, understanding and loving towards one and all. Love, as we know, is the corner stone of human bondage and this binds us together and brings us closer to each other. Nature has given us humans a heart, which is the centre of love, a spring of compassion and kindness and an instrument of feeling and caring. Reaching this place where we are endowed with these basic qualities is not an end in itself. It is only a station en route. Many of us reach this place and knowingly or unknowingly treat it as the destination and feel satisfied. But there are blessed ones, who know the reality that there is still a long way to go. They keep their journey on and tread upon a higher plane of spiritual quest. They start imbibing the remaining qualities in order to become imbued with divine traits. This endears them to Almighty, who assures them in these words, ‘Sa me priyah –He is dear to Me.’   

The qualities that we have to acquire on the higher plane of spiritual quest are Self Control, Renunciation, Tranquility, Vigour, Self-study, Balanced demeanor, aversion to greed and fickleness, Absence of the habit of finding fault with others and a well planned ‘Jnana’ and ‘Yoga’. Let us take the last one first. This quality brings equilibrium in our Knowledge and Actions. ‘Jnana’is academic and theoretical science and ‘Yoga’ is its application. Once we create a balance in what we know and what we do, we rise further up in the ladder of spirituality. With all the qualities enumerated in the previous set, we are still living on the plane of ‘Gunas’ or the attributes. No doubt we are endowed with the attribute of light ‘Satva-guna’, and not those of passion and darkness, ‘Rajoguna, Tamoguna’ yet our goal has to be to rise to a plane devoid of all the three attributes. At this plane we are fully in control of our selves, we are firm and steadfast, we have no greed nor have we any habit of finding faults with others. Kabir has said about this situation in these words, ‘Bura khojana main gaya, bura mila na koi, jo man khoja aapno mujh sa bura na koi – I went in search of a bad person but could not find one. When I examined my own self I found that no one was as bad as me’. This gives a clear hint that we should engage in self-analysis and try to know the self. For this we must shun greed and fickleness, adopt a balanced attitude, enjoy with a sense of renunciation and be full of vigour and tranquility. ‘Jnana’ or knowledge enables us to experience the truth of existence or ‘Sat’.Yoga’ on the other hand enables us to merge with the universal consciousness or ‘Chit’. Having thus realized the subtle truth, we are prone to surrender before the Supreme. We become an embodiment of love and attain supreme bliss, ‘Aananda’, a position which has no antonym or opposite. That is the destination every seeker craves for and endeavours to attain. At this point the seeker says in the words of Kabir, ‘Jab main tha tab ve nahin, ab ve hain main nahin, prem gali ati sankari, ya mein do na samahin – When I was there, He was not; Now He is there I am not. This lane of love is too narrow to accommodate two at a time.’    

We are always advised to realize ourselves. We are told that our true self is not the body, mind and the intellect. Our essence is something beyond these and that is what we need to identify, seek after and realize. While this stipulation is completely true, yet we should not under-estimate the importance of these recognizable items of our existence. Our body is a vehicle, which has various senses of knowledge, deeds and perception. It is through these that we function, act and react. Our mind is a vehicle of thought. Our heart is a vehicle of feeling and compassion. Our intellect is a vehicle of discernment, discretion and discrimination. It is through these vehicles that we function and put into practice the faculties of virtues and qualities, which we are endowed with. It is because of this fact, perhaps, that there is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Shariram-aadyam khalu dharma-sadhanam –Body is the foundation stone of executing our duties.’

It is clear from the foregoing discussion that it is in the nature of things that we should be virtuous. Every one of us has an element of all the three attributes of truth, passion and darkness. The quality of a person depends upon which of the three elements is prominent and predominant in his personality. A person with the attributes of truth and light predominant in his nature can be taken as a true human being. Once a person rises above these attributes of lower plain and is endowed with the qualities of higher plain, he can be treated as a divine person. Once he transcends all the attributes, he realises his self, his individual consciousness gets merged with the universal consciousness and he attains a stature where he is called the son of immortality or ‘Amritasya Putrah.’


by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

Nobody can deny the fact that faith is one’s own private affair. Normally a person owns and adopts the faith of the parents who have given him birth. Of course in cases where the father and mother belong to two different faiths, it is open to their child to adopt either of the faiths. In later years a person may decide to get converted to a different religion and adopt a faith of his choice different from the one he was pursuing from his birth. How far this conversion is logically correct and justified is a matter of debate. But one thing is very important in this regard and that is the reason for conversion. If we take statistics of conversions in an area over a period of time we will see that the higher percentage of conversions is because of coercion, force, inducement, financial benefit by way of employment etc; and marriage. Cases of conversion on principle of religion and spiritual advancement are rare. A study of the history of the world will bear witness that the conversions have largely been the result of coercion, inducement and the threat to life and honour. Be that as it may.

In a recent case the High court of Delhi made some very important observations in this regard. It said that the primary reason for conversion ought to be spiritual advancement and to seek God from another platform. It went on to say that ‘unfortunately today proselytization is being done for reaping benefits and in some cases to manoeuvre the law.’ It follows that while it is the privilege of an individual and his right of freedom to profess any faith to get converted in order to be able to get spiritual advancement or to try and seek God from a different platform, no civilized society can allow conversion to reap benefit or to circumvent law of the land. Nor can conversion be allowed through coercion, inducement or threat to life and honour.

I was once directed by H.H. the Shankaracharya of Shringeri to translate a book titled ‘Dialogue with the Guru’ written by one Mr. Iyer, into Hindi. The book contains an anecdote, which goes like this: A European gentleman, Christian by birth, was so impressed by the discourses of the then Shankaracharya that he volunteered to get converted to Hinduism. He expressed this resolve to the Acharya, who was quick to enquire, ‘why?’ The gentleman replied, ‘in order to seek God’. His Holiness asked, ‘who has given you birth in a Christian family? The answer is, the same God, who you want to seek. That means you want to seek the same God, whose discretion of giving you birth as a Christian you are challenging. Is it not a paradox?’ The Swami went on to add, ‘there is no need for you to get converted since you are already a Hindu; the Hindu faith is all embracing with a world view. It is without a beginning, without an end and includes all shades of faiths.’ This raised a question in my mind whether we are entitled and justified in changing the faith of our birth for any reason whatsoever. I am still trying to find an answer to this question.

I am, however, aware of the social changes that have taken place over the centuries. At one time in India marriages between different castes, ‘Varna’were largely prohibited. The progeny of mixed marriages was called ‘Varna-sankara’ or cross breed and was looked down upon since he would ignore his ancestry and his ritualistic responsibilities towards the dead ancestors. Even so normally he would be counted in the caste of his father. In India, there was only one faith practiced throughout the length and breadth of the country and that was ‘Sanatana Dharma’ and, therefore, even in the case of the off-shoots of the mixed marriages, the faith was the same. The question of the change of faith did not arise. In due course of time two heterodox faiths developed in the form of Buddhism and Jainism but these were treated as only off-shoots and extensions of the mainstream faith ‘Sanatana Dharma’and following either of these faiths did not amount to conversion or change of faith. Buddha is regarded as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu. It is an open secret that the Buddhism, which originated from India, did influence first the faiths and doctrines prevalent in Burma, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China and Japan and in due course those in other countries of the East. It is equally known that the non-dualist philosophy of India also influenced the Sufi cult of the Middle East. Soon the two religions, Christianity and Islam which originated from there, began spreading in various continents and also spread Eastwards. This gave rise to changing of faiths, which is known as conversion. History is replete with the instances of mass conversions, systematic conversions over a period of time and forcible conversions after conquests of territories. There are also instances of religious intolerance, whereby people of one faith not only consider their faith as the only true faith but deny the people following other faiths even the right to live and to exist.

Times have changed. The countries of the world have come closer and the world has become a global village. There is so much inter-dependence and interaction socially, economically and politically that the differences of faiths practiced by various groups of people have gone into background. Practising a particular faith has been relegated to the privacy of one’s personal life. The need of the hour is not only co-existence but mutual respect and acceptance of the validity of all faiths. In the theocratic countries where one faith is given official recognition by the government, respect for other faiths has to be enforced. In secular polities the best tenets of all the major faiths of the world should be taught through the school curriculum. The ideologies may be different in the matter of spirituality, in relation to the Divine, His relationship with the creation and the ways and means of seeking Him and His position in our lives. Yet there are similarities in the mundane aspects and prescriptions in different faiths. These include the tenets of truth, morality, behaviour , ethics and the like. This similarity can and should be highlighted for the benefit of the mankind at large. Moreover, practice of a faith and adoption of a method of seeking spiritual advancement goes with personal qualities of the seeker, his capacity, tenacity, acumen, receptivity, inclination and his bent of mind as also likes and dislike. So no faith can be thrust upon him by coercion or compulsion.

 Economic situations have played havoc in the societies. These days, the faiths and castes, which used to be of paramount importance in the past, have lost much of their sheen. Class-distinction has taken the place of caste and faith distinctions. In Hindu societies there was anger in the so called lower castes because of the treatment meted out to them by the so called upper castes. (The division was supposed to be on the basis of characteristics and deeds, ‘Guna-karma vibhagashah’ and not on the basis of birth). This resulted in large scale conversion from Hindu faith to other faiths. To their chagrin, however, the neo converts found that the discrimination still persisted even after their change of faith. The people of higher economic class in the society of the adopted faith looked down upon them in the same manner as they were looked down upon in the society of the previous original faith. Many of them wanted to get re-converted because of this bad experience but the religious rigidity and conservatism prevalent in Hinduism did not allow this to happen with the result that they got alienated and inter-society and intra-society conflicts increased.

There is no doubt that conversions world over were most successful among the tribes, who were primitive yet had their own form of rituals, set of beliefs and ways of religious celebrations. They were lured into conversions because of the glamour and economic advantages. In the process they lost their distinct character as tribes. The simplicity and straightforwardness of their life style were replaced by greed, ostentation and duplicity. No doubt economic packages for them were needed that would give them the comforts and facilities of the modern times. But all the same there was also a need to safeguard their distinct character and cultural uniqueness, which includes their faith. Large scale conversions played havoc with them and they lost their roots and moorings. There are certain organizations active in the field working for restoration of their original faiths, character of their culture and pristine purity of their faith while simultaneously ensuring that the fruits of advancement of the modern times are not denied to them. These efforts are laudable if these are without any political motive or sectarian aggrandizement, and are purely on anthropological considerations. There is also a need for enactment of laws to put a full stop to un-ethical and fraudulent conversions by coercion and threat to lives. 


by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

The nomenclature ‘Hinduism’ is a misnomer because there is no religion as Hindu religion. Since, however, people who have visited India or read about it call our faith as Hinduism, we are obliged to use this term. It appears that when the foreign travelers, tradesmen and invaders came to India they reached the shores of the mighty Indus called by us ‘Sindhu’. They called us by this name, which corrupted from Sindhu to Hindu and they called our faith and religious practices as Hinduism.  The correct nomenclature for our faith is ‘Sanatana Dharma’ or the set of beliefs that are eternal in character. The foundation of our faith is the Vedas, which we call ‘Apaurusheya’ or the doctrine not formulated by any human being. This is obvious because every principle, every doctrine, every canon and every law emanates from the Divine. These laws are perceived by enlightened people referred to as ‘Rishis’ or sages, who were both men and women.

These laws were revealed to these sages from time to time, mostly in the form of ‘Mantras’. It is because of this that the sages were called ‘Matra-drashta’ or seers of these laws and canons. A stage came, when it was found necessary to arrangthese laws in a proper order and compile them on the basis of their purport. This job was done by a sage who came to be known as Vyasa or the one who arranged these revelations in an order. He put them in three volumes and named them as ‘Rig Veda Samhita’, ‘Yajur Veda Samhita’and ‘Sama Veda samhita’. The three together are called ‘Veda Trayi’. Another sage by the name ‘Atharvana’ compiled the canons and principles relating to the mundane aspect of human life and this became the fourth Veda named as ‘Atharva Veda’.

Now what is this religion (if we may call it so) all about? Since it is without a beginning and without an end, it has evolved over many millennia. Naturally, therefore, it comprises many view-points, many shades of opinions and a variety of prescriptions of ways and means to attain the Supreme Truth. Even so there are certain fundamental principles of this faith and some interesting features, which are noteworthy. It is not confined to one revealed or holy book. There is no human being who may be said to have originated this faith. It respects all opinions and holds them as valid and relevant. It does not consider one path of seeking the truth as superior to another nor does it consider only one way as correct and the rest as false. It believes in only one God but worships Him in different forms and with different names.

There are four important routes to attain the Supreme. The first is through knowledge or ‘Jnana-marga’. When we take this route we have to acquire knowledge of the self and everything around us, determine the relationship between the two and thereby attain the Supreme Truth, which some identify as God realization. The second route is through action or ‘Karma-marga’.While taking this route a seeker has to execute all his actions and deeds with a detached mind, without an eye on the fruits. The seeker has not to get attached and has not to worry about the fruit of the actions. He has to have a balanced attitude to success and failure, gain and loss, pleasure and grief and other opposites. This attitude leaves him unscathed like a lotus in a pond and helps him reach the pinnacle of spirituality. The third route is perhaps the most popular route of all, that of devotion or ‘Bhakti-marga’. Here the devotee is madly in love with his deity and, therefore, surrenders unto him completely. He leaves the boat of his life in his charge and has no worries. The Almighty according to His own promise, takes care of such seekers, He provides them with what they do not possess and also protects all that they do possess. The fourth route is more sophisticated, complex and consequently practiced by a chosen few. It is called ‘Raja- Yoga’. This route involves contemplation of the highest order that leads to God realization or Self realization, depending on whichever way one looks at it. For, ultimately the seeker and the sought do get merged into one and the principle of non-dualism is experienced. 

This religion is vast and varied. The Divine is viewed, perceived and worshipped in different forms as also formless, ‘Saakaara/Niraakaara’, with attributes and without attributes, ‘Saguna/Nirguna’ and in absolute form as Shiva as also His Energy aspect as Shakti. Different aspects of the Divine are conceived as different deities and worshipped as such in different forms and propitiated for the grant of different boons. Saraswati is worshipped as goddess of knowledge. Laxmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth. Kali is the goddess of eternal time. Brahma is regarded as the creator, Vishnu as sustainer and Rudra as the destroyer. They are not different gods but different aspects of the one and only Supreme Divine. Those who consider Him as formless perceive Him in a variety of ways, as Truth, Universal Consciousness, Infinite Existence, boundless Bliss or dazzling Beauty and the like. Those who see Him with form give Him a form of their liking and then worship Him and his ‘Murti’. They sometimes put a bow and arrow in His hands, sometimes a mighty mace or a trident and some other times a loving flute.

Apart from the basic beliefs in one God, virtue and righteousness, purity and piety a Hindu believes in spirituality, transmigration of soul and detached actions. Transmigration of soul and rebirth is universally accepted except by the religions that have emanated from the Middle-east. Even philosophers like Pythagorus (whose name incidentally means ‘a person who knows his previous birth) have conceded that there is this phenomenon in this world wherein a soul is embodied time and again. The other important tenet of Hindus is their belief in ‘Karma’ or action. They believe that the actions of the previous births shape our destiny in this birth but one can reshape one’s destiny for good or for bad by the actions of the present birth. And it is further believed that detached actions can liberate a person and he will attain emancipation.     

Hindus believe in one God but multiple ways to reach Him. The seekers are likened to small rivulets and God to an ocean. These rivulets take different routes, straight or zigzag but ultimately find their way to the mighty ocean. Likewise the seekers adopt different routes, indirect or direct according to their respective tastes, but attain the same Divine, who pervades everything in this universe. So far as Hindu’s relationship to other human beings and other species is concerned, they believe the whole universe to be one family, ‘Vasudaiva kutumbakam’. This is further clear by their daily prayers like, ‘Sarve Bhavantu sukhinah – Let everyone be happy’, ‘Ma vidvishavahaiy – Let us not hate anyone’, ‘Tan-me manah shiva sankalpam-astu – Let my mind be full of noble resolve’ and ‘Yatra vishvam bhavati eka needam – The whole world should become a nest to give shelter equally to everyone’.

Truth, righteousness and respect for elders are the corner stone of this religion so far as the mundane aspect is concerned. It is clear from these vows taken by a student at the time of the convocation called ‘Dikshanta samaroha’ or celebrations at the culmination of the studies. ‘Satyam vada’, ‘Dharmam chara’, Matri devo bhava’, ‘Pitri devo bhava’, ‘aacharya devo bhava’ and ‘Atithi devo bhava’ meaning, ‘Speak the truth’, ‘Be righteous and do your duty’ and ‘treat your mother, father, teacher and the guests with reverence.’ There is thus no coercion and no conversion in this religion. It is believed that apart from humans and animal world even the vegetable world has life. This religion is all embracing and believes in plurality. No wonder Hindus include all shades of thinking, materialists (Chaarvaaks), atheists (Jains), agnostics (Buddhists), Shaivaites (worshipping Siva), Vaishnavaites (worshipping Vishnu and His incarnations), dualists, non-dualists and qualified monists, et al.

Batanya, an Apostle of Womanhood

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Whenever I hear the epithet ‘Batanya’ for a Kashmir Pandit lady two different pictures emerge on the canvas of my vision. I shall try to describe both but before I do, let me trace the origin of this word. In Sanskrit dramas the king is always addressed as ‘Bhatta’ and the queen as ‘Bhattini’, both meaning exalted and honoured ones. These two titles are used for Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Pandit ladies in the modified form of ‘Bata’ and ‘Batanya’, respectively. These titles show the respect and reverence they have been commanding all these centuries not because of their wealth or riches, which in any case they did not possess in any substantial measure, but because of their scholarship, piety, character, wisdom and compassion and concern for every one.  

The first picture of the ‘Batanya’ that I imagine is of an affectionate mother, ‘Bhawani’ of fair complexion wearing the traditional Kashmiri dress. She is wearing a coloured ‘Pheran’ with a snow-white ‘Potsh’ inside. The pheran is laced with a red border called ‘dur’ on the neckline and the bottom-line. It has a printed attachment on both the sleeves known as ‘Naervar’. She has a woolen muffler like belt round her waist. This is called ‘Loongya’, a corruption from Hindi ‘Loongi’. The headgear is a complex item. It comprises a cap on the head known as ‘Kalapush’ round which is tied a white folded cloth in four or five layers, called ‘Taranga’. Thereafter there is a plastic sheet either milky white, when it is called ‘Doda-lath’ or transparent like glass, when it is called ‘Sheeshi-lath’. Damsels, young in age would sometimes use a shining sheet with sparkles. This was known as ‘Zitni-lath’ – all the three names were true to their type and quality. On the back of this headgear there is a beautiful decorated covering of muslin called ‘Zoojya’ about one foot long tugged inside the cloth-folds. On the top of it is another white covering with a long twisted tail dangling down the back almost touching the heels. This is called ‘Poots’. When she goes out she puts on a cotton cloth, ‘Dupatta’ or a woolen cloth, ‘Voda Pallav’, depending on the weather, tastefully placed over the head and firmly held in front below the chin with the help of a black-headed pin called ‘Kaladar saetsan’. Incidentally the Malay women in Southeast Asia wear a similar headgear, which they call ‘Tudung’ not very different from Kashmiri ‘Taranga’. 

A gold-chain in her neck, gold ornaments ‘Ath, Atahore and Dejhore’ dangling from both ears is a must for this gracious lady, a mark of her being married and a loving respected mother. On festive occasions and when attending marriages or feasts in relationship she adds some more gold ornaments to her beautiful get up. A necklace or ‘Honzur’ in the neck, earrings or ‘Kana dur’ in her ears, ‘Matshaband’, ‘Katshakar’, ‘Gunus’ on her wrists, ‘Talaraz’, ‘Chaphkael’, ‘Tolsi’, ‘Kantha-maal’ and umpteen different types of typically Kashmiri decorations adorn her personality. 

This mother figure ‘Batanya’ gets up early in the morning. After the usual morning-chores and personal cleaning she cleans the front porch with stairs as also the three sides of the front door with a white clay paste. This is called ‘Brand-fash ta Dar livun’. Then she sweeps and cleans with the same paste the main gallery called ‘Vuz’ and the main stairs leading to the upper floors. Thereafter she goes to the Mohalla temple and performs pooja, does circumambulation and brings home some vermilion tilaka and holy water for other members of the family. On reaching home she sprinkles some water on all sides of the front door; this is considered auspicious. On her return journey from the temple, she sometimes purchases ‘Hak’ (Sanskrit – Shaka) also. On the riverbank and in the temple she prays for the welfare, longevity and peace and prosperity of every one. ‘Raja swasthi praja swasthi desha swasthi tathaivacha….’  Then she cleans the floor of the ‘Thokur Kuth’ and places a pot, filled with fresh water there for the elder male member of the family to perform the daily pooja.   

Now she enters her theatre of activities, the kitchen. She lights fire in the traditional ‘daan’ with two or three cooking ranges. On one she cooks rice in a ‘Degchi’ and on the remaining two choicest dishes of ‘Hak’, ‘Monja’, ‘Nadaer’, ‘Oluv’, ‘Gogji’ and the like. While cooking, stirring the vessels and putting the firewood in order, she goes on chanting holy hymns like ‘Indrakhi Namsa Devi’ or a hymn from Panchastavi like ‘Maya Kunadalini kriya Madhumati’ or the favourite ‘Bhawani Sahasranam’ and I get the echo, ‘Madhur madhu pibanti, kantakan bhakshyanti’ and so on and so forth. These hymns, stotras and mantras sung in the accompaniment of these daily chores add taste and flavour to these dishes and the food. This ensures longevity, health and prosperity of the members of her family. In between she prepares ‘Mogael chai’, the typical Kashmiri black tea with cardamom, cinnamon, a couple of times and ‘Sheerye chai’, tea with milk, salt and common soda in the afternoon. After a brief siesta in the afternoon, when the men folk are away at work, she cleans rice, washes clothes, grinds wheat and pounds chillies. 

Spare time is utilized in interacting with neighbours and keeping abreast with the happenings in the families living in the vicinity. She lends a helping hand where it is needed and gives her advice where it is sought. She is a source of encouragement and a key figure in ensuring moral make-up in those that are in distress or faced with some problem. Her words, ‘Narayan kari raetsrai – God will be kind and favorable’ lift many a depressed person. Come guest and she will not leave him unfed or un-served. ‘Ti banya, nyebokhui ma drakh – How can it be that you will leave without having something to eat’? In the true spirit of Vedic dictum, ‘Atithi Devo bhava – treat a guest like a god’, she serves every guest, known and unknown, with respect, love and care. Her philosophy is ‘Daan to’t ta bar vo’th – kitchen range always hot and ready to prepare food for the guest and the door wide open to welcome him’. If the guest is an elderly person she treats him or her like her father or mother. If he or she is of the same age as she, he gets the treatment of a brother or sister. If the guest is a youngster he is treated like a child with soothing love and a bundle of blessings. ‘Tse aay ta thadan paay – may you live long and ever prosper’ is the oft repeated blessing on her lips. 

She puts up with the carefree nature of her husband and careless attitude of her children smilingly. She will put their personal effects, books, papers, clothes and other such items at their proper places. Sometimes she will scold the youngsters but these utterances will either mean nothing or be in the nature of good wishes. She will burst out, ‘Tse zeer gatshan’, ‘Tse paha lara phutani’, ‘Yi kyah sedyoy’, which amount to nothing as literally they mean ‘may you get a push’, ‘may your borrowed ribs break’ and ‘what has straightened in you’, respectively. On being wished and saluted she will shower basketful of blessings, to not only the person saluting but also to the entire world. To her own children she will wish, ‘Gatsh kulakyan gulan saan phol ta nav –May you blossom and prosper along with the children world over (literally, flowers)’. Sometimes she adopts another pious routine. She gets up early in the morning at wee hours and goes to Hari Parbat for circumambulation and offering prayers at ‘Devi-aangan’. Here also she prays for the welfare of the entire mankind, even for the plants and animals, skies and waters, ‘Sarve bhavantu sukhenah sarve santu niramaya sarve bhadrani pashyantu, ma kaschid dukhabhag bhavet – Let all be happy, let no one be worried, let every one be faced with good things and let no one be grief-stricken’. 

This Bhawani- Maa is a pillar of strength. She has earthlike patience, ocean-like depth and sky-like vastness. She lends support and good counseling to the men-folk in the hour of crisis. She gives manners and imparts values, ethical and moral, to her children. She is at hand for relations, friends and neighbours to suggest solutions to their problems whenever they are faced with any, be it domestic, social or otherwise. She has advised many a daughter-in-law to try and adjust to the changed environment of her new home and try to endear herself to her in-laws. She has counseled many mothers-in-law to handle their new daughters-in-law with love, compassion and consideration and thus has contributed to the peace and harmony in their household. She is kind to the maid, the servant and the sweeper, who do all odd jobs for their family. She will feed them occasionally, serve them a hot cup of tea when it is cold and give them odd woolen items, clothing and other things of day to day use and thus subscribe to their comfort and fulfill their small needs. 

Her compassion is exemplary. Whatever she cooks for the family a portion of it is earmarked for the birds. This she puts on the shelf outside in a corner of the window frame, called ‘Kaw paet’ or the shelf for the crow. A portion of the cooked rice she puts in two small brass pots called ‘Sanivaer’ and this eventually goes for the consumption of various insects when it is emptied every morning before being filled with fresh water. Before eating her food she keeps a portion outside her plate for the stray dog in the lane. This portion carefully shaped is rightly called ‘Hunya Myet’ or a portion for the dog. On Tuesdays, Saturdays and other holy days she prepares yellow rice with turmeric and distributes it among her neighbours. She shares everything brought by her daughter-in-law from her father’s house with her neighbours and relations. This includes walnuts on Shiva Ratri, yogurt on being in a family way, ‘Tsochi’ or pancakes whenever she comes back after a longer stay there and so on. 

The second picture of the ‘Batanya’ that emerges on the horizon of my imagination is that of a daring and daunting ‘Lakshami’. She is beautiful and charming. She wears a sari with necessary paraphernalia of blouse, petticoat etc., a salwar-kameez or even a bell-bottom with top. She may or may not have the traditional Kashmiri ornaments like ‘Dejhor’ and ‘Atahor’ but she would certainly adorn a chain, a pair of ear rings, a couple of gold bangles and a ring. She is agile, quick and sharp. She may be dressed simply but she would be elegant and graceful. She would have don a little make up as well commensurate with the need of her environment as also social and official circle she moves in. Even in the attire common to the ladies of many other communities in our country, she would be conspicuous as a Kashmiri damsel because of her typically Kashmiri demeanour, mannerism and accent. 

She is ‘Lakshmi’ and adds to the family income by her earnings. She may be a Doctor, a Lawyer, a Banker or an Officer. She could be a Teacher, an employee in some government or private office, a Media person, an Engineer, an Architect or in any other profession. She gets up early in the morning. After usual cleaning and a bath, she attends to her kitchen. In a short period at her disposal she has served bed tea to all, given breakfast to young and old, packed lunch boxes for office going males and school going children, prepared children for school and left a couple of dishes in the refrigerator for senior members of the family to consume at lunch time. If she owns a car she drives up to her workplace. Otherwise she rushes to catch a chartered bus and reaches in time at her desk. Whatever her profession she is well versed, efficient and an accomplished expert in her field. She is popular among her co-workers. She is respected by juniors, loved by seniors and held in high esteem because of her expertise and usefulness to the establishment and the organization. She is quick to grasp, fast in taking a decision and lucid and firm in expressing her views. Her compassion and consideration stands her in good stead here also. She is soft and well mannered and careful about her respect, prestige and dignity. 

In the evening when she comes back from her work she again attends to household chores. Often she has to retire for the day late in the night. She looks after the needs of the elders, ensures that the children have done their homework, makes advance preparation for the following day and takes care of other household requirements. She not only adds to the family income and supplements the earnings of her husband but also manages the finances of the house efficiently. She does not like extravagance, wasteful expenditure and spending on un-necessary items. She saves money for the rainy day, for bigger social events and for more pressing and desirable items of expenditure. Her efficient management of the household and family earnings makes it possible that sufficient funds are available for the higher education and professional training of children. She foresees the requirements for their marriage and goes on making due preparations round the year. Her kitchen store, pantry, wardrobe and the storeroom are always full with various items of need. If the guests arrive, neat and nice bedding, sheets and towels are ready for him in the guest room. Her refrigerator and the freezer therein are always full with items that may be needed should an unexpected guest come and stay for the dinner. She is a perfect host and knows the relative importance of each guest. She entertains him as per the norms set by the family tradition and social custom. 

Her role in maintaining relationship is very vital. She has to keep good relationship with people on her father’s side, people related to her husband, friends and neighbours as also those who come in their contact in the office, family business or otherwise. This good relationship gives the family happiness in celebrating important happy occasions and provides help and assistance in times of sorrow and grief. Why I call this picture of a ‘Batanya’as ‘Lakshmi’ and not a ‘Saraswati’ or a ‘Durga’ is after giving a serious thought to her role in this form. ‘Saraswati’ is the goddess of knowledge but only theoretical knowledge. She represents Pure Science. ‘Lakshmi’ on the other hand is Applied Science and Knowledge in practice. She represents Technology. That is what a ‘Batanya’ is. She applies her wisdom, her knowledge and her discriminating abilities to the family matters as also in the official business in her workplace. As ‘Durga’ her looks would be fierce and scaring but she is soft, loving and mild. She can be a ‘Durga’ at times, and that is when her prestige and self-respect are threatened and she is forced to change her stance and adopt a different role to assert herself. In her normal posture she is a ‘Lakshmi’ and a ‘Griha-lakshmi’ at that. She brings fortune and good luck to her family. In Kashmiri idiom when a girl is born in a family she is always referred to as a ‘Lakshmi’ or a harbinger of good fortune. Likewise when a son in the family is married his bride is called ‘Branda kaen’or the foundation stone of the main entrance porch of the house. In other words she is considered to be the pillar on which the entire edifice of the family is resting. 

It is very important to note that this ‘Batanya’ in the form of a ‘Lakshmi’ is multi-faceted. She is an obedient and caring daughter to the elders. She is a loving mother who makes the life of her children, gives them the basic teaching and lays a firm foundation of their future life. She is an active life partner to her husband and remains with him in thick and thin, against all odds. She is a cementing force who keeps the bonds of relationship in tact under all circumstances. With all these multifarious activities she attends to other social calls as well. She will be at hand in mourning or marriage. She will participate in all rituals, private or collective. If there is a cultural programme she will be there. If there is a common ‘Yajna’ she will be present at the ‘Purna-aahuti’ if not earlier. If there is a demonstration against any atrocity on the community she is in the vanguard. Her contribution to the family, the community and indeed to the country is enormous, invaluable and indispensable. 

This ‘Batanya’ has tolerated the proverbial ‘neelavath’ under the cooked rice in her plate when she appeared in the form of Lal Ded. She has withstood smilingly the taunts of her mother-in-law on finding the rice pudding insufficient when she came as Roop Bhawani. She bore the cruelty and infidelity of her husband when she was born as Arni Maal and asserted in no uncertain terms, ‘Shayi yaar aestan ta tuthitan pardyan, toti chham ardyan vondasaey sath – Let him be kind to others, so long as I have the belief that he is mine I couldn’t care less’. When she appeared as Raets Ded she compared harsh words with lashing of a whip in these words, ‘Kamcha prath chhu maazas laha kharan, mokha prath chhu karan aedjyan soor – lashing of a whip leaves scars on the flesh whereas scolding breaks the very bones’. As Bhawani Pandit Bhagyavan Ded she again lamented, ‘Pananyan rudukh dur pardyan hovuth noor- You kept distance from your own people but showered light on strangers’. Unmindful of the treatment she received from her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and others in the new home she has adapted and adjusted to the changed environment and new atmosphere. She has contributed to the prosperity, well-being, honour and prestige of the family. Service and sacrifice have remained her motto always and she has given her best in recognizing and fulfilling her duties. There is hardly any work that she has shirked to do. If need arises she does shopping of daily items. If the servant is not available she cooks, washes, irons and attends to cleaning. All this she does smilingly, carefully and willingly. For this role that she performs and for the contribution she makes to her family, the society and the country at large she deserves accolades, praise and appreciation. 

Her role on important occasions like marriages, yajnopavits is full of affection, love and delicate emotions. She draws the ‘Vyug’ , a type of drawing resembling ‘rangoli’ for his brother and his bride on their marriage and on the occasion of the former’s upanayana. She is prominent in dancing on this circular drawing on the ground called ‘Veegya natsun’ and sings ‘Mye chham bailalaen satha ratha vanday malinyo I have full faith in my brother, I give my blood for my father’s house’. She has to decorate the front gate on these happy occasions. This is called ‘Krul kharun’. She has to light a special cooking range on yajnopavit with multiple outlets and cook rice in small earthen pots for the auspicious pooja, ‘Varidaan’. She applies ‘Mehndi’, henna to her brothers and sisters on the occasion of yajnopavit and their marriage. She is the first to welcome the bride and the groom at the front door. She ties ‘Rakhi’ on the wrist of his brother on ‘Raksha Bandan’ and applies ‘Tilaka’ on his forehead on ‘Bhaiduj’. On the death of his father or mother the daughter has to perform a special ritual called ‘Noona-shrada- shraddha performed using salt in the ritual’.     

Professionally also she is exemplary. In the medical profession she excels in both diagnosis and treatment. In teaching she is a patient instructor, facilitator and inspirer. In legal field she is forceful in her arguments and specific in details. As an engineer she is innovative. As a poetess and writer she is lyrical, musical and full of human emotions. As a journalist she is investigative and unfolds news behind news. In every walk of life she is a bold leader and a faithful follower. She lends a delicate touch to anything she undertakes, handles everything with care and concern and ensures finesse, charm and beauty in the end result. She uses her head all right but the element of heart in all her activities is more prominent and pronounced. And why not, after all that is what womanhood is all about. We must appreciate and acclaim the role being played by her and the contribution made by her as a continuing process. Let us not forget what Manu Smriti says about women, ‘Yatra naryastu poojyante ramante tatra devata- gods like to stay at those places where women folk are given due respect and regard’.  

The Story of an ‘Infidel’

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

I am a Kashmiri Pandit and my faith is ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the eternal law. I have been living in this land, Kashmir for so many millennia. In spite of the fact that lofty mountains kissing the sky surround the valley, I had regular and sustained contact with the people of the neighbouring areas and also interaction with the inhabitants of the far off places. I have been culturally close to rest of the country, which has been a living example of unity in diversity. The Vedas, the Upanishads and the Epics have been sacred to my people as to the people living elsewhere in the country. When the Buddhist thought developed in this sub-continent my area could not remain unaffected. The result was that my land produced a number of scholars preaching this doctrine, contributed significantly to the rise of the ‘Mahayana’ branch of this theology and was instrumental in its spread to far off places including Tibet, China, Japan and Cambodia. Around the 8th century the scholars and sages of this place conceived a unique non-dualistic philosophy, which in due course influenced the life of a common man here. This philosophy prevailed and grew even though many other ideologies, disciplines and ways of worship originated from here, notably ‘Vaishnav-agamas’ and ‘Shaiv-agamas’. 

It was in the 14th century that Islam came to Kashmir and this brought a number of Sufis to this place from Middle East because of the persecution there. They were attracted to the philosophy prevailing here and the result was that an attractive and popular ‘Rishi cult’ came into existence that suited the Muslims and Hindus alike. These Hindu Rishis and Muslim Sufis preached a life of piety, purity, contentment, love and firm belief in God, attainable by love, devotion and penance. I am a Hindu by faith but I love, respect and adore all these sages and Sufis in equal measure. I believe in the existence of God and worship Him in my own way. I go to the temple and pray in front of an idol as a symbol that helps me in concentration and contemplation. I know that truth is not in these symbols but in the universe but I also believe that if through these symbols I am able to see the truth it will only strengthen my faith. I offer prayers to various deities like the Sun, whom I call ‘Devatas’, or the shining ones, knowing fully well that they are only the visible forces of God, who is unborn, beginning-less, eternal, formless un-paralleled unique supreme entity – a Universal Consciousness, Being and Bliss. I put oblations in the fire to purify the atmosphere polluted by my fellow beings and me. I follow certain rituals, which helps me manifest the divinity in me. I celebrate the death anniversaries of my ancestors and offer oblations to them, only to remind myself of the debt I owe to them, which needs to be paid back by perpetuating the nobility shown by them in thought, word and deed. The intention behind all these activities of mine is to go from exoteric to esoteric, from mundane to spiritual, from gross to subtle and from a part to the whole. 

Unfortunately I was branded an infidel, a ‘Kafir’, hated, persecuted troubled and discriminated against. Infidel means one who has no belief in a faith, an unbeliever. That is not the case with me. I am a firm believer in my faith. In my view religion deals with two aspects of our existence, one our relationship with the Divine and two our relationship with fellow beings. I believe in God and also in multiple ways of attaining Him. I respect all faiths as valid and relevant and am a staunch advocate of universal brotherhood, peace, non-violence and co-operation. ‘Kafir’ is an Arabic word, which means one who hides truth as opposed to ‘Mumin’, one who disseminates truth. I give supreme importance to Truth, both at mundane and spiritual levels. I am no votary of falsehood. My scriptures advise me, Satyam vada na-nritam –speak the truth and not untruth’, ‘Satyam-eva jayate – Truth alone triumphs’,‘Setuns-tara, satyena asatyam – cross the ocean of falsehood by truth’ and so on. This being so it is unfair to brand me a ‘Kafir’. There can be three reasons why I am branded as such. Either these people, who call me so do not know the correct meaning of the term ‘Kafir’ and are ignorant about the basic tenets of my faith, or by ‘Kafir’ they mean all those who do not follow their faith. Or they know all these facts fully well but call me a ‘Kafir’ deliberately as a matter of some political expediency and part of a bigger global game plan. Let me make it clear to them that if they believe in one God as the Supreme Divine, so do I. If they believe in worshipping Him, so do I. If their faith preaches piety and purity, so does my faith. There may be some differences in perception, rituals and attitudes but that does not mean I stand for falsehood and untruth and can, therefore, be labeled as a ‘Kafir’. I do not subscribe to the doctrine of exclusiveness of faith for the Vedas proclaim,‘Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti – Truth is one and the wise describe it in many ways’. Had I stated that my faith alone is valid, I would have been a fundamentalist. Had I subscribed to a view that my faith alone being valid, persons holding different views and belonging to different faiths have no right to exist on this planet, I would have been an extremist. I am neither. I respect all faiths as valid and relevant for different people at different times and at different stages of spiritual quest. 

According to Wilfred Cantwell Smith ‘nowadays religion is spoken of as the human search for God. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, rejects this view. God takes the initiative. Humanity’s business is not a quest but a response’. Comparing the scriptures of different religions, Huston Smith has observed, ‘Koran, unlike the Upanishads, is not explicitly metaphysical. It does not ground its theology in dramatic narratives as the Indian epics do, nor is God revealed in Human form as in the Bhagavad Gita. Old and new testaments are directly historical and indirectly doctrinal. Koran is directly doctrinal and indirectly historical’. These observations may point to some basic differences between the content of my faith and their religion, yet I cannot be called a ‘Kafir’ for I do not hide truth but the very aim of my life is quest for truth. And then does not the holy Koran say unequivocally, ‘Lakum dinka wa li ad Din – to you your religion, to me mine’. Besides, God neither belongs exclusively to any group nor needs defence from anyone. He is unaffected even if someone questions His very existence. How then is it justified to treat me a ‘Kafir’ and deny me the right to exist when I am a believer in God, seeker of Truth and respectful to all faiths?  

I embrace persons of all faiths and respect them. I have accepted even heterodox philosophies of Buddhists and Jains and have held both Gautama Buddha and Vardhaman Mahavira in high esteem and reverence. I have equal regard for Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. I have been taught to treat the entire world as one family, ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’. I am in the habit of praying for the welfare of all, ‘Sarve bhavantu sukhinah’. I beg of the Divine to fill my mind with noble resolves, ‘Tanme manah shiva sankalpam-astu’. I always desire peace on earth, in the sky and in the elements, ‘Om dhyou shantih, antarikhshagun shantih, prithivi shantih, aapah shantih…’. It is, therefore, unfortunate and unjustified that I am referred to as a ‘Kafir’. If at all I am to be faulted it should be for my reluctance to thrust my faith and views on others. I have never believed in coercion, conversion or confrontation. I made my land an abode for every one to live in peace and harmony in the true Vedic sense, ‘Yatra vishvam bhavati eke needam – a situation where the entire world becomes a nest giving shelter to all’. My doors have always remained open for people of all faiths. I have welcomed everyone and given equal treatment to all. Tagore has beautifully expressed this fact in these lines: ‘Hethaya arjo hethaya anarjo hethaya dravida cheen, eka deha halo leen – whether it was Aryan or non-Aryan, Dravidian or a Chinese, all became one in this land’. My Lal Ded has said, ‘Shiv chhui thali thali rozan, mozan Bhatta ta Musalman – Shiva pervades everything and, therefore, do not discriminate between a Pandit and a Muslim’. She gave the essence of our faith when she said, ‘Asi aesi tai asi aasav asi dore kaeri patavath – we only were in the past and we only shall be in the future. It is we only who have been coming and going from time immemorial’. My Gita tells me, ‘Vidya vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini, shuni chaiva shvapake cha panditah samadarshinah – men of knowledge view all alike, a Brahmin endowed with learning and demeanour, a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcaste eating dog meat’. 

Firm believer in the Divine dispensation as I am, I am convinced that very soon people of all faiths shall not only respect each other’s view point but also hold all faiths valid and relevant. They will learn to co-exist with fellow humans and contribute their mite in creating an atmosphere of love, harmony and brotherhood. There will be no ethnic cleansing of the type Jews faced or my own community was prey to only a decade back. They will realize that if peace and tranquility is ensured, the result will be prosperity and progress. They will accept the love preached by Christ, surrender unto God prescribed by Prophet Mohammed, non-violence taught by Mahavira, good conduct enjoined upon by Buddha, God-remembrance underscored by Guru Nanak, self-less service praised by the saints and sages and the world-view established by Sanatana Dharma. No body will then dare call anyone else an infidel or a ‘Kafir’ and I, the unfortunate Kashmiri Pandit, forcibly evicted from my home, may find congenial atmosphere to return to my roots to the land of Vasugupta, Abhinavgupta, Lal Ded, Nunda Reshi, Roop Bhawani, Reshi Peer, Paramananda, Shams Faqir, Ahad Zargar, Swami Laxman Joo, Bhagavaan Gopi Nath and a galaxy of other saints and savants, who have guided and shaped my life over the centuries.   

The Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy is basically a non-dualistic philosophy wherein such a Supreme Truth has been conceived which is at once non-changeable, in-divisible, infinite, endless and transcending time, space and form, which is all pervading, yet above everything.  This truth has been variedly referred to as Chaitanya, Parasamvit, Parameshvara, or Param-Shiva.  This school of thought explains the creation as the manifestation of Param-Shiva through His energy (Shakti) aspect, which again is not different from Him.  It says that Param-Shiva is ‘I’ and the creation is ‘It’, and the process of creation is a journey from ‘I’ to ‘It’.  Conversely, the process of emancipation and self realisation is the journey from ‘It’ to ‘I’. 

Shiva has five faculties, those of Consciousness, Bliss, Desire, Knowledge and Action.  The entire Universe is an extension of these faculties of the Param-Shiva.  The opening and closing of his eyes cause creation  and destruction constantly and makes Shiva omniscient and all pervading.   

The creation according to this philosophy is a summation of thirty six elements which are briefly dealt with hereunder : 

The first group comprises five physical elements which are solid but distanced from the ultimate reality.  These are Earth, representing firmness or foundation, Water, representing fluidity, Fire, representing form, Air, representing flexibility and Ether, representing leisure.   

The second category is the five sense organs :  Organ of creation/generation, organ of ejection/evacuation, feet, the organs of movement/locomotion, arms, the organs for handling and mouth, the organ for speech. 

The third group is that of sense objects i.e. Smell, Taste, Sight, Touch, and Sound.  These are technically called ‘Tanmatras’.   

The fourth group is that of organs of perception or motor-organs, which in effect are the tools of enjoying ‘Tanmatras’.  These are the nose, the tongue, the eyes, the skin and the ears. 

The fifth group consists of the mind, the ego and the wisdom.  These are related to the intellect and therefore are referred to as internal organs of perception. 

The sixth group is represented by the duo of ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha’.  Prakriti or nature is at the root of feeling and compassion, and therefore causes action.  Purusha or the self is the one who experiences and is touched and moved.  Purusha is that state of Paramshiva which is circumscribed by art, knowledge, attachment, time and destiny.  Whereas time denotes a period, destiny refers to place, attachment shows affection and knowledge indicates limited vision and art the limited creativity.  These five elements cover this Purusha and renders him restricted and limited.  Along with these five elements, there is yet another element of Maya (a distinction has to be made between Maya in Kashmir Shaiva Darshan and that conceived by Adi-Shankaracharya).  This element causes forgetfulness, in-discrimination, and differentiation.  At this stage the Param Shiva shuns his Shiva-ness and adopts, of his own free will, the form of a worldly being and then gets engaged in the search for Shiva-hood. 

Thus far we have detailed thirty one elements.  The next two elements are peculiar to Kashmir Shaiva philosophy and unique in conception.  These are ‘Shuddha Vidya’ or pure knowledge and ‘Aishwarya’ the lordship.  The state of differentiating in non-different is also the state of pure knowledge.  In this state one perceives both “This is I” and “I am This” explained differently, the pure knowledge is a means to relate one with universal experience, and the Lordship is the state of perception of this universal experience.  These add up to thirty three elements. 

The thirty fourth element has been identified in this philosophy as Sada-Shiva Tatva.  By this element and in this state one is conscious of ones existence. In other words, one feels “I am”.  Thus the pure non-dualism still remains distant at this stage because the knower, the knowledge and the object of knowledge, all the three have their existence.  This brings us to the thirty fifth called Shakti, or the energy, the power and the capacity.  This element helps in perceiving the universe. According to Kashmir Shaiva philosophy, the ultimate element (thirty sixth), that of Param-Shiva, is in effect the Supreme light and the universe is that which comes to light.  The power that converts the light into the object of light is the Shakti aspect of the Divine. 

This Param-Shiva is the perceiver and at this state, the object, the knower and the knowledge, all vanish and what remains is pure ‘I’.  This is the ultimate non-dualistic state in its purest form, conceived by the protagonists of this school of thought. 

What Vedanta terms as ‘Vivrita’ is considered unreal because it is in the nature of name-form (nama-roopa).  Kashmir Shaiva philosophy on the other hand, maintains that the entire creation is the manifestation and the perception of Param-Shiva and therefore, real.  Perception and manifestation of the real has necessarily to be real.  Param-Shiva is the embodiment of Bliss, Perfection and Freedom.  The creation exists in Him, in the form of thought and experience.  These elements are experienced by all of us knowingly or unknowingly as they are constantly in action.  We are in these elements and are formed by these elements.  This can be experienced through Yoga - the sum total of mental, ethical, spiritual and physical practices.  In His divided form the Param-Shiva is an Atom.  Human beings with their limitations are also atoms.  The actions and reactions of atoms make this universe.  The collectivity of these atoms forms a unit, and maybe called the master of elements.  To constantly experience this phenomena Yoga is helpful and essential because it is through Yoga that we can perceive integration and also dis-integration.   

To sum up, this school of thought believes that the Divine, which is pure light, of His own free will and by his own powers, appears in the form of the creation because the universe is nothing but a play of His own freedom.  The creation gives an indication of the mundane, the spiritual and the ethereal existence, whereas , the Divine indicates the light in the form of knowledge and manifestation in the form of action. 

It is believed that this knowledge, also referred to as ‘Trika Philosophy’ has emanated from Param-Shiva itself.  It was revealed originally by Durvasa Rishi and subsequently by Shaiva scholar Vasugupta, who observed the tenets of this philosophy, inscribed on a rock in Kashmir.  Later these were explained in a condensed form by another Acharya, Utpal Deva in his famous work called Spandakarika.  This established a thought process which was eventually named as Spanda school of Kashmir Shaiva Darshan.  Many a great scholar and Acharya followed who wrote commentaries and treatises like Shivadrishti, expounding this philosophy.  Then came the great Abhinavaguptapada on the scene.  He wrote several monumental works including ‘Tantralok’, ‘Paramarthasara’, Pratibhijna darshan’ etc..  A  new direction was given to this philosophy and this stream was called Pratibhijna school of thought.  Kashmir Shaiva Darshan is a unique blend of Bhakti and Jnana, which would be clear from a study of another great work called Shivastotravali. 

Let us bow in reverence to that Param-Shiva of whom Spandakarika says 

Yasyonmeshanimeshabhyam, Jagatah pralayodayav, 
Tam, shakti - chakravibhava prabhavam Shankaram stumah.  

Lyricism in Nadim’s Poetry

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

At the outset let me make it clear that I am not a critic. I did not aspire to be one for fear of inviting the comment of Alexander Pope that ‘those who fail as poets become critics’. I am a poet and, therefore, I shall make my observations about Nadim’s poetry as a poet only. Pt. Dina Nath Koul ‘Nadim’ was born on March 18, 1916. His father, Pt. Shankar Kaul passed away when he was only six year old. His revered mother, Smt. Sukh Mali, who lived another two decades to give Nadim a firm base for writing poetry full of music and melody, brought him up. Initially he wrote in Urdu and Hindi but later he switched over to his mother tongue, Kashmiri, which augured well for him and for the language as well. Nadim struggled from his younger days and had to give tuitions to students in order to augment the earnings of his mother from her spinning wheel. His mother, a lady of great determination, would sing in the accompaniment of the spinning wheel that left an indelible mark on his young and fertile mind. 


Pt. Dina Nath Koul ‘Nadim’

In one of his interviews Nadim has revealed to Shri Zafar Ahmad that initially Ghalib as also Iqbal influenced him. Later he was impressed by the poetry of Chakbast. In his youth Josh, Ahsan Danish and a local poet Mastana, who incidentally was an ascetic, influenced him a lot. Ideologically the writings of Nehru, Bertrand Russell, Mychovasky, Chekhov and the Neo-romantic writers of the English Classics affected him. In the same interview he has referred to his maternal grand father Pt. Vishnu Bhatt and his mother Smt. Sukh Mali both of whom used to write poetry in Kashmiri. This interview brings to light three very important areas of influence that shaped Nadim’s creativity, Mastana, Neo-romantic English poets and his mother. Once he told me that his mother used to sing the poems written by the great 18th century poetess Arnimal and a poem composed by a contemporary poet Dina Nath Almast, which had appeared in an issue of the ‘Pratap’ the college magazine of Shri Pratap College Srinagar. Arnimal was not only a poetess of repute but was well versed in Kashmiri Classical Music. According to the well known classical singer of Kashmir, Mohammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal, it was Arnimal who rearranged the ragas of Kashmiri Sufiana Kalam called Maqam, which are in vogue even to date. No wonder that her compositions are melodious and musical. 

Nadim has, it seems, acquired the delicacy of mysticism from the poetry of the ascetic poet Mastana, the scintillating musicality from the rich lyrics of Arnimal and sensitivity and emotional finesse from the writings of the Neo-romantic English poets. He has got the melody from the songs sung by his revered mother, which must have been resounding in his ears all the time. I am not discussing here the ideological influence that he absorbed from the writings of the great thinkers and writers mentioned by him, as my only intention is to highlight the beauty of form and the lyricism in his compositions and not the richness of thought and content, which no doubt they have. Any creative art has two aspects to it, its content and its form. The form invariably goes after the content and in case the form is not suitable to the content the poetry becomes weak and tasteless. An attractive form with a weak or shallow content may still attract for the sheer music of it soothing to the ears, as most of present day film songs, but even a meaningful content loses its effect and charm if the form is inappropriate. Nadim has been conscious of this fact and has invariably used a form best suited to the content of his composition. It is said in Sanskrit poetics that a tasteful sentence from which we derive pleasure is poetry, ‘Vakyam rasatmakam kavyam’. There is no doubt that a musical and lyrical composition does give us a pleasure in a great measure. 

Once during a conversation with me he said that his mother used to sing Arnimal’s lyrics like ‘Gaen gaen mo kar ranga yandro, kanaryan ti phalilay malayo bo’, ‘Arni rang gome shrawaen hiye kar yiye darshun me diye’ and othersHe also said that she liked the poem written by Almast in his college days, ‘Vyesiye tsala hai tsala hai tsala hai, sur panas mala hai, malith ti tsala hai vana naey’. Listening to his mother sing such powerful and musical lyrics brought home to him the importance of musicality and lyricism in poetry. Even when he wrote revolutionary poems like ‘Ba gyava na az’ he made a rich use of repetition of words and phrases to give it a musical effect. ‘Ba gyava na, gyava na, gyava na zanh’. The internal rhyming of the words made this powerful song attractive and smooth like a running brook, ‘Gulan ta Bulbulan’ ‘Khumara ho’t ta mara mo’t’. The effect got redoubled when it came to be used in pure lyrics like ‘Vegetable vendor’s song, ‘Dal Hanzyeni hund gyavun’, ‘Kyah vanay paetmi brasvari pyayas, zor aesim na laeth zora drayas, do’da hyadur trovum pharitalai hai, hai volay hai, volay hai, volay hai’ or the song ‘My motherland’, ‘Myon Vatan’. Here he describes the motherland in this rich expression and rhyming similes: ‘Gama pyatha yatskael vo’thmut trela hyath zan mam hyu, Adanuk badam hyu’. Nadim was accused of using unsuitable similes at times. He has taken more care about the musical qualities of his compositions and for this he has used musical and lyrical rhymes even if the simile may not have been appropriate. He writes in his famous sonnet, ‘Zoon khaets tso’t hish, pana pana gaemaets pompaer po’t hish’. Again in that remarkable poem describing moles on the face of a damsel he says, ‘Lakhchi chhu lakhchun, taph prazalvun’. Many more such examples can be quoted where he has preferred melodious and musical expressions in spite of similes not fully appropriate. 

Arnimal has used internal rhyming with a great aplomb. Take for example this couplet of her: ‘Qanda naabada aerada mutui, phanda karith tsolum kotui, khanda kaernam lookan thiye, kar yiye darshun me diye’. Nadim follows suit in a number of his compositions. As an illustration let us take these excerpts from one of his poems: ‘Achhidari vonum vatnaech doluth,Sonahari dopum pazi hubi mehanath, Vanhari thovum rut naav, divath. Na chha shaha khasavas, na chha kuni Vosa dros’In another song titled ‘The first Bloom’ ‘Adanuk Posh’ he writes, ‘Mo’t yavun zan po’t aam phirith’, ‘Zan drav buji kuji dedi kun zenani go’brah tankhahdara hyu’, ‘Mudai gandith me thali thali vuchhmasdo’pmas naevnai kunsaey bag’.  He does not give up this beautiful technique even when he writes a free verse. This gives his free verse compositions an effective smooth flow of a waterfall or a mountain brook. Take the case of a poem like ‘The thief’, ‘Tsoor’. He writes, ‘Doh dyanguzrovum zonum lo’b myay lo’b’ and ‘Asavun shokhah vasavaen mai’.     

Conservative writers have always emphasized the importance of the meter and the rhyme scheme in poetry. Nadim was a revolutionary. How could he afford not to revolt against the rigidity of the rules prescribed in various treatises on Poetics? He was head on in the political arena and a forerunner in the fight for the downtrodden. He was a committed writer who was opposed to all forms of exploitation, colonization and subjugation. He could not be cowed down to the restrictions of the meter and rhyme scheme as such. That is the reason perhaps that he did not write too many Ghazals. He wrote a lot in free verse. Yet he made it sure that the compositions did not lose on music or melody. Words in melodious arrangement came to him naturally and that too in a perfect order as if a fountain of water gushing forth from its source unhindered. I give here two examples to bring home this fact. ‘Gulan ta bulbulan ta so’mblan hundui, khumara ho’t ta mara mo’t, mo’dur mo’dur ta nyandri ho’t su nagma kanh, bo gyava na az’ and‘Vushun vo’zul, vushun vushun, vushun vo’zul, vo’zul vo’zul, yi khoon myon.jawan chhus tuphan hyu janoon myon’. He has written a monumental masterpiece in defence of world peace called ‘Mye chham aash pagahaech’, ‘I have hope for tomorrow’. He read it in the Biscoe Memorial Hall in a conference of young writers presided over by the great legendary poet Master Zinda Kaul and Professor Jay Lal Kaul, the well-known connoisseur of literature raised his hat and gave him a standing ovation. The melody of this poem is marvelous, a treat to listen. ‘Do’has gash huri gul ta gulzar prazalan, zaminas saesar lagi ta sabzar prazalan, vachhas manz humis lola phamvar prazalan’ ‘Kazul laganay me gatshan aechh kazali, diyamtsaeh ta babityend gatshan me vo’zali, ta dahi vahaer dashahar yi son saeli’ – ‘Dapan jang chhu vo’thvun pagah gotsh na sapdun. 

Nadim excels in his diction. His use of words and phrases is unparalleled. True, the Kashmiri language cannot be dismissed as a dialect. It has a rich source in the Vedic Sanskrit from which it has originally been derived when it was called ‘Lok Bhasha’ or the common man’s lingua. It is enriched by the vocabulary drawn from so many languages, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and so on. Yet when we read masters of this language we find that they have heavily borrowed from other languages, Sanskrit and Persian in particular. Mehmood Gami, Maqbool Kralawari and even Mehjoor have used Persian words in abundance. Paramanand, Krishna Razdan and many others have drawn from Sanskrit. Nadim has discovered an ocean-like depth in his mother tongue. He has found vast scope in ordinary day-to-day usages and has used them with a remarkable deftness, finesse and artistry. He writes, ‘Martsa vangan ta vangan chhi byon byon, mas malaer hiv ruvangan chhi byon byon, navi manz chhi karan tho’la tho’lay, hay vo’lay hay vo’lay hay’ and again ‘Taza muji baed chhi hili tshayi zotan, demba go’gjah vo’zaej beeba khotan, phula vangan ta paerimi alay hay, hay vo’lay hay, vo’lay hay, vo’lay hay’. No wonder, therefore, that the song ‘Bo’mbro bo’mbro shama ranga bo’mbro’ from his famous opera, ‘Bombaer ta yambaerzal’ should have become so popular throughout the country when it was used in a Hindi film sequence. Arjan Dev Majboor calls him ‘Monarch of Words’ and remarks that ‘when he picks his words they touch the loftiness of the sky’. His son Shantiveer has observed that ‘Nadim has superb control over the phonetics of his language and his lexical repertoire is phenomenal. His imagery is breathtaking and his lyricism intimate’. Ravinder Ravi has this to say: ‘He coined new words, created new imageries and symbols to enrich Kashmiri language. He extricated and excavated words, scanned and chiseled them and used them artistically in his couplets’. In his book ‘Kashmiri Sahitya Ka Itihaas’ Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani has stated that ‘Nadim not only exploited the strength and scope of the language to its full but also expanded it enormously. He was particularly conscious about the musicality of his compositions in addition to the usage of words. The originality that he possessed in the matter of symbols and imageries is unsurpassed and unparalleled’.  

Nadim has been a trendsetter. He has for the first time written free verse, sonnet and opera in Kashmiri language. He has also used traditional forms of Geet, Ghazal, Rubai, Vatsun, and Nazm. He used to draw a plan for his compositions, determine an outline best suited to the message that he wanted to convey and then write using choicest words, superb technique and delicate phrases. He would give new meaning to ordinary words and play with his vocabulary as a master artist and craftsman that he was. He had a unique capacity to accommodate an ocean of idea in a small pot of verse. Once he told me about a four-liner called ‘Tukh’ written by him that he had originally planned to write a long poem on that topic. Then he decided to condense it into a ‘Nazm’ but eventually he settled on a four-liner. Reading his poems one wonders wherefrom he gets all these words and expressions and how he weaves them into an effective verse. One can site examples galore but suffice it to give a few of them here. ‘Vo’thi bagaech kukli koo koo kaer kaer baga babaer vuzunavane’, or ‘Aechharvalav daenan dits aesh pheryan do’n, pathar pyayi kagadas pyath mo’khta lar zan’ or ‘Un samrajuk pal vurkaevith chhamba din daerith – Allah ho’ or ‘Samayichi honji zan lakhchun prazlyav chamnan zan raet sontas sai, chilai kalanuk tapa do’ha hyu magas basyom hara hyu’ or ‘Tsa nar chhuk alav chhuk, tsa yavanuk jalav chhuk’.  

A poet observes what an ordinary person also observes but he sees through it and perceives the underlying essence of the object of observation. He then describes it in the backdrop of the life’s philosophy that he has evolved over the years. Nadim had an uncanny capacity to observe and then present it in a melodious composition. He would, on the one hand, write a powerful poem like ‘Trivanzah’ lamenting the plight of the hungry masses in these words: ‘Trivanzah trivanzah, khyemav kyah, khyemav kyah’. On the other hand he could take up an insignificant topic like ‘Haersath’ and drive home a message of unfulfilled aspiration with the help of the symbol of a torn shoe thrown on a wayside. ‘Boota kho’rah akh vati pyath pyomut, aesa vahrith tsharan tresh, hoonah akh aav lamuna ko’rnas, phuchi matsi buthi khanji dyutnas phesh, dakah dith nyun nali akis kun, treshi hatis ma az phut tresh?         

I have had the privilege of meeting Nadim Ji many a time, almost every time I went to Kashmir on a holiday. During my student days also I not only met him quite often but also participated in many Mushairas along with him and many contemporary senior poets. In his later years also I met him at the house of his brother-in-law Shri J.N.Kaul. In these private meetings and conversations I had the occasions to recite my own poems to him. He was a great listener. He would listen to other poets, young and old, with rapt attention. He would seldom hasten to clap or applaud but whenever he heard some poet recite a truly good piece he would say ‘Vah Vah’ and express his appreciation. He was a source of inspiration for many a young and budding poets. I used to write in Hindi those days and it was at his instance that I switched over to Kashmiri. I know from my own experience with him that he would appreciate musical and melodious compositions written in chaste Kashmiri with a powerful humanistic theme. Since he was associated with the political movement and concerned about scourges of war, exploitation, slavery and subjugation, his initial poems did sometime appear propagandist and bordering on slogan-ism e.g. ‘Jangbaaz khabardar’, ‘Mye chum taza yavun’, ‘Ba gyavana az’ etc. With the passage of time he matured into a serious poet of great merit and mettle. He wrote delicate poems on human emotions and feelings as also values of universal appeal e.g. Mye chham ash pagahaech’, ‘Dalhanznihund gyevun’, ‘Lakhchun’, ‘Baran coat, ‘Nabad tyethvyen’, ‘Adnuk Posh’ etc. In either case, however, his compositions were musical, melodious and lyrical. His diction, selection and usage of words and phrases, the flow in his poetry and the smoothness verse after verse, all were superb.    

It was perhaps the quality of lyricism in his poetry that prompted Nadim to write his famous operas, particularly because he found this medium very powerful to bring home his message for the emancipation of the downtrodden, spread of love and brotherhood and to strengthen the forces fighting for justice and peace. These operas include ‘Bomber ta yamberzal’, ‘Heemal Naegrai’, ‘Neeki badi’ ‘Safar ta Shehjar’ ‘Madanvar ta Zuvalmaal’ and many others written for Radio and then staged by various schools and institutions. Lyricism was in his blood perhaps because his soul was attuned to the singing and humming of his mother. He was ‘Rasa-siddha’, full of music and melody and his compositions are nectar to the ears.  

From Grief to Renunciation

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes I wonder why Shri Krishna had to give to Arjuna, after a long discourse running into eighteen chapters of the Geeta, what all was available to the Gopis right from the beginning. For an answer to this question, again I turn to the Geeta itself. I find that Arjuna does not accept any thing blindly. He reasons out, argues, puts questions and being an intellectual, has his own philosophy which makes him evaluate everything before accepting it. He grieves sometimes and sometimes he is perplexed and he is always in doubt about what should or what should not be done. The first chapter of the Geeta is, therefore, appropriately named as ‘Despondency or grief of Arjuna’. Because of this grief he drops down his famous bow, the ‘Gandiva’ and declares that he is not going to fight. It takes a long discourse running into nine chapters of the Geeta, from the second to the tenth, to dispel his doubt and remove his illusion. This admission of his illusion having been wiped off he makes for the first time at the beginning of chapter eleventh. He says that he has begun seeing the truth. The only thing that remained for him to see was the grandeur of the Lord and to fathom his vastness. After getting a taste of all this and on knowing some more important and salient secrets, he fully realises that he is on the right track as his memory is back and the veil of delusion is removed. He admits at the end that all his doubts have been cleared and, therefore he was prepared to act according to the directions of the Lord. In other words he surrenders completely before Sri Krishna and resigns unto Him just as the Gopis had from day one. One would like to recall that when Udhava approaches Gopis, at the instance of Shri Krishna, to educate them with spiritual knowledge, the Gopis tell him, ‘Nobody is endowed with multiple hearts, we too had only one each and that has been taken away by our Beloved. Now bereft of any heart how are we to follow what you are trying to preach?’

Well Arjuna cannot be faulted for the way he behaved or for the position he took on various matters, spiritual and mundane, that came up under consideration during his dialogue with the Lord. He was a man of intellect and wisdom and such a person is bound to weigh the pros and cons of his actions as also the advice he gets from any quarter. It takes a full study of Shastras, the guidance of a self-realised preceptor and a lifetime of experience to be convinced about the fact that reason and logic lead one up to a point only. Even Dharma as a means is essential up to a point and up to a stage, just as a boat is to ferry across the waters. But once the shore is reached, even the boat has to be abandoned. Thereafter, it is the Divine grace alone that helps to experience the unexplainable, the indescribable and the unknown. In order to bring home this fact the discourse of the Geeta, the quintessence of the Upanishads, was necessary for Arjuna. The culmination is in the last chapter when the Lord reveals the secret of secrets which is ‘complete resignation unto Him.’ In short Arjuna is advised to become a Gopi.

During the entire discourse at every step it has been stated that Brahman is the whole and sole of the universe as also its soul and seed. This point has been explained in chapter 4 with the help of a beautiful metaphor, ‘ I am the sacrificial fire, the oblation, the giver and taker of the oblation and indeed the act itself.’ Elsewhere in chapter 7 it has been stated that rare are those knowledgeable persons who see God in everything. Again in chapter 9 the Lord makes it clear that He is the father, the mother, the Vedas, the sacred syllable Pranava, the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer of the entire universe. In the next chapter He describes himself as the fountainhead of everything created.

In a beautiful and an appropriate simile the Lord likens Himself, in relation to the universe, to a string running through the beads of a rosary. In the last chapter He again emphasises that He is seated in everybody’s heart. Arjuna gets a glimpse of all this when he sees the Majestic Universal Form of Vasudeva, seeing which he trembles and shivers. In the end a spontaneous resolve is made by him when he says, ‘I shall do as You command.’ Thus he gives up actions for desired objects and undertakes only detached ones to be presented to the Lord as an offering, which corresponds to the definition of renunciation given in the last chapter. Thus the study of the Geeta, in effect, covers a journey of the mind from the position of grief to the position of renunciation.

Each one of us has to and must undertake this journey. Many a milestone is reached during this journey where we get answers to our questions, clarification to our doubts and thereby our blurred vision gets cleared and we reach a stage where we also say, ‘everything here, verily is the Divine only,’ and then we surrender unto Him. Now let us examine some of these milestones met by all of us during this journey. The important most of these is the detailed analysis of the ‘body and its in-dweller,’ the former is liable to decay and death but the latter is immortal. The death itself is only a stage in one’s life after the three stages of childhood, youth and old- age. The in-dweller can; therefore, neither kill nor get killed.

Another important topic is that relating to poise and equanimity that one should maintain in one’s life. In fact one of the two definitions of Yoga given in the Geeta is poise, ‘Samatvam yoga uchyate.’ The other definition is excellence in one’s deeds, ‘yogah karmasu kaushalam.’ We are advised to be unruffled in grief and detached from pleasure. We are required to maintain equilibrium in opposite situations of gain and loss, victory and defeat, respect and disrespect and joy and sorrow.

Of the different types of yogas, the yoga of action has been given prominence in the Geeta. Yoga of action is nothing but doing one’s deeds without an eye on the reward or the result. In fact it has been explicitly made clear that doing a deed alone is within our authority and the reward or result is outside our jurisdiction. Care should, however, be taken to distinguish between a reward and a purpose. A detached action does not constitute a purpose-less action committed like a mad man. When a mother breast-feeds her baby, she has a purpose - health and well being of the baby. She does not have any reward in view, which she may expect from the baby. So as true ‘karma yogis’ we should do our deeds efficiently with noble purpose and leave the reward in the hands of the Lord. The Lord has said that those who have unflinching faith in Him need not worry either for their ‘yoga’, i.e.; the things they lack, or for their ‘kshema’, i.e.; security for what they already have.

In reply to a query from Arjuna about the attributes of a steadfast person, Shri Krishna says that such a person should have a number of qualities. He should shun all desires and be ever satisfied in himself. He should have poise, detachment and should be devoid of anger and fear. He should neither get elated nor depressed in favourable and unfavourable circumstances. Just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs, a person with firm intellect withdraws his senses from all sense objects. The Geeta says that if the senses are not so withdrawn from their objects, one is bound to think of these objects all the time. This leads to attachment with the objects, which in turn creates desires. Desires give rise to anger. Anger generates stupefaction, which causes loss of memory. The loss of memory about the truth blurs the vision of wisdom. Once the wisdom is gone, it spells doom. Thus the root cause of the spiritual disaster is constant thinking about the sense objects and that is why we are advised to withdraw our senses from these objects. This necessitates our becoming a yogi in the true sense. In other words we have to transcend the three characters of Sattva, the light, Rajas, the fire and Tamas, the darkness. We have to see the Divine in every one and every one in the Divine. We have to see everything in ourselves and ourselves in everything. This makes us immortal and able to perceive the Immortal.

The question what these three characters are and how one is to rise above these to transcend them has been lucidly explained in chapter 14. The Geeta says that the three have three different results. Sattva gives light, Rajas rouses fire of passion and Tamas envelops one in darkness. One who is unmindful about these results, whose mind does not dwindle and who has the same attitude be it comfort or discomfort, love or hatred, friend or foe, respect or disrespect, is said to have transcended these characters. Such a state of mind is essential for emancipation and liberation. Even if one is not fully successful in rising above these yet one must guard against falling into their trap. Even the moderate character of Rajas leads to sin for according to the Geeta both desire and anger are the progeny of the rajoguna only. These can never be satisfied or curbed and they induce us to commit sins. They should, therefore, be viewed as our enemies. They thrive in our senses, our mind and our intellect, put a veil around our wisdom and knowledge, bewitch us and thus hinder our spiritual advancement.

The Geeta has shown us the way to attain an exalted position. The first step is the control of ‘manas’, loosely translated as the mind. To control the mind is indeed difficult but the constant practice and a detached attitude make it possible to control it. But then there is another way, easier and faster and that is ‘resignation before the Lord.’ Shri Krishna says in chapter 9; ‘whatever you give and all your austerity should be an offering unto Me. You should concentrate on Me, be my devout, worship Me and salute Me. Thus getting attached to Me, you shall certainly attain Me.’ Chapter after chapter important and relevant questions are raised, sometimes by Arjuna, and sometimes by Shri Krishna. Clear, convincing and cogent answers are provided to these questions in simple words that carry a depth of meaning and connotation. A thorough study of all these chapters, not once but repeatedly, helps us undertake this journey from brief to renunciation, as did Arjuna. It enables us to transform the Arjuna in us to a Gopi, bathed in the nectar of the eternal love for Shri Krishna.

Before concluding, however, let us also consider the qualities we need to imbibe in order to endear ourselves to the Lord. These are enumerated in chapter 12 as under: ‘no hatred towards any one, friendship and goodwill for everyone, compassion, detachment, no ego, equanimity in pleasure and pain, satisfied always, firm resolve, concentrating mind and intellect on the Divine, conducting one’s self in such a way that one is not a cause for grief for others and others are not a cause for grief to him, devoid of happiness and sorrow, fear or favour, satisfied in whatever one gets, pure, efficient, neutral neither grieving nor rejoicing, worrying not about the result or reward, no covet, balanced attitude towards friend and foe, respect and disrespect, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. These qualities lead us to drink deep in the nectar of this sacred discourse of the Lord, act as He dictates, and develop an unflinching faith in Him. Let us imbibe these qualities to justify our existence and our faith in the Lord, as also our firm trust in the scriptures.

If we want to cross the ocean of grief we have to know ourselves, our true nature and the subtle elements in us beyond our gross body. The Veda says that one who knows one’s self only is able to cross the ocean of grief, ‘tarati shokam atmavit.’ Let us cross this ocean with the help of the message given by the Geeta, the Divine Song of the Lord.

Shiva the Multi-Faceted Lord

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes I wonder why Shri Krishna had to give to Arjuna, after a long discourse running into eighteen chapters of the Geeta, what all was available to the Gopis right from the beginning. For an answer to this question, again I turn to the Geeta itself. I find that Arjuna does not accept any thing blindly. He reasons out, argues, puts questions and being an intellectual, has his own philosophy which makes him evaluate everything before accepting it. He grieves sometimes and sometimes he is perplexed and he is always in doubt about what should or what should not be done. The first chapter of the Geeta is, therefore, appropriately named as ‘Despondency or grief of Arjuna’. Because of this grief he drops down his famous bow, the ‘Gandiva’ and declares that he is not going to fight. It takes a long discourse running into nine chapters of the Geeta, from the second to the tenth, to dispel his doubt and remove his illusion. This admission of his illusion having been wiped off he makes for the first time at the beginning of chapter eleventh. He says that he has begun seeing the truth. The only thing that remained for him to see was the grandeur of the Lord and to fathom his vastness. After getting a taste of all this and on knowing some more important and salient secrets, he fully realises that he is on the right track as his memory is back and the veil of delusion is removed. He admits at the end that all his doubts have been cleared and, therefore he was prepared to act according to the directions of the Lord. In other words he surrenders completely before Sri Krishna and resigns unto Him just as the Gopis had from day one. One would like to recall that when Udhava approaches Gopis, at the instance of Shri Krishna, to educate them with spiritual knowledge, the Gopis tell him, ‘Nobody is endowed with multiple hearts, we too had only one each and that has been taken away by our Beloved. Now bereft of any heart how are we to follow what you are trying to preach?’

Well Arjuna cannot be faulted for the way he behaved or for the position he took on various matters, spiritual and mundane, that came up under consideration during his dialogue with the Lord. He was a man of intellect and wisdom and such a person is bound to weigh the pros and cons of his actions as also the advice he gets from any quarter. It takes a full study of Shastras, the guidance of a self-realised preceptor and a lifetime of experience to be convinced about the fact that reason and logic lead one up to a point only. Even Dharma as a means is essential up to a point and up to a stage, just as a boat is to ferry across the waters. But once the shore is reached, even the boat has to be abandoned. Thereafter, it is the Divine grace alone that helps to experience the unexplainable, the indescribable and the unknown. In order to bring home this fact the discourse of the Geeta, the quintessence of the Upanishads, was necessary for Arjuna. The culmination is in the last chapter when the Lord reveals the secret of secrets which is ‘complete resignation unto Him.’ In short Arjuna is advised to become a Gopi.

During the entire discourse at every step it has been stated that Brahman is the whole and sole of the universe as also its soul and seed. This point has been explained in chapter 4 with the help of a beautiful metaphor, ‘ I am the sacrificial fire, the oblation, the giver and taker of the oblation and indeed the act itself.’ Elsewhere in chapter 7 it has been stated that rare are those knowledgeable persons who see God in everything. Again in chapter 9 the Lord makes it clear that He is the father, the mother, the Vedas, the sacred syllable Pranava, the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer of the entire universe. In the next chapter He describes himself as the fountainhead of everything created.

In a beautiful and an appropriate simile the Lord likens Himself, in relation to the universe, to a string running through the beads of a rosary. In the last chapter He again emphasises that He is seated in everybody’s heart. Arjuna gets a glimpse of all this when he sees the Majestic Universal Form of Vasudeva, seeing which he trembles and shivers. In the end a spontaneous resolve is made by him when he says, ‘I shall do as You command.’ Thus he gives up actions for desired objects and undertakes only detached ones to be presented to the Lord as an offering, which corresponds to the definition of renunciation given in the last chapter. Thus the study of the Geeta, in effect, covers a journey of the mind from the position of grief to the position of renunciation.

Each one of us has to and must undertake this journey. Many a milestone is reached during this journey where we get answers to our questions, clarification to our doubts and thereby our blurred vision gets cleared and we reach a stage where we also say, ‘everything here, verily is the Divine only,’ and then we surrender unto Him. Now let us examine some of these milestones met by all of us during this journey. The important most of these is the detailed analysis of the ‘body and its in-dweller,’ the former is liable to decay and death but the latter is immortal. The death itself is only a stage in one’s life after the three stages of childhood, youth and old- age. The in-dweller can; therefore, neither kill nor get killed.

Another important topic is that relating to poise and equanimity that one should maintain in one’s life. In fact one of the two definitions of Yoga given in the Geeta is poise, ‘Samatvam yoga uchyate.’ The other definition is excellence in one’s deeds, ‘yogah karmasu kaushalam.’ We are advised to be unruffled in grief and detached from pleasure. We are required to maintain equilibrium in opposite situations of gain and loss, victory and defeat, respect and disrespect and joy and sorrow.

Of the different types of yogas, the yoga of action has been given prominence in the Geeta. Yoga of action is nothing but doing one’s deeds without an eye on the reward or the result. In fact it has been explicitly made clear that doing a deed alone is within our authority and the reward or result is outside our jurisdiction. Care should, however, be taken to distinguish between a reward and a purpose. A detached action does not constitute a purpose-less action committed like a mad man. When a mother breast-feeds her baby, she has a purpose - health and well being of the baby. She does not have any reward in view, which she may expect from the baby. So as true ‘karma yogis’ we should do our deeds efficiently with noble purpose and leave the reward in the hands of the Lord. The Lord has said that those who have unflinching faith in Him need not worry either for their ‘yoga’, i.e.; the things they lack, or for their ‘kshema’, i.e.; security for what they already have.

In reply to a query from Arjuna about the attributes of a steadfast person, Shri Krishna says that such a person should have a number of qualities. He should shun all desires and be ever satisfied in himself. He should have poise, detachment and should be devoid of anger and fear. He should neither get elated nor depressed in favourable and unfavourable circumstances. Just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs, a person with firm intellect withdraws his senses from all sense objects. The Geeta says that if the senses are not so withdrawn from their objects, one is bound to think of these objects all the time. This leads to attachment with the objects, which in turn creates desires. Desires give rise to anger. Anger generates stupefaction, which causes loss of memory. The loss of memory about the truth blurs the vision of wisdom. Once the wisdom is gone, it spells doom. Thus the root cause of the spiritual disaster is constant thinking about the sense objects and that is why we are advised to withdraw our senses from these objects. This necessitates our becoming a yogi in the true sense. In other words we have to transcend the three characters of Sattva, the light, Rajas, the fire and Tamas, the darkness. We have to see the Divine in every one and every one in the Divine. We have to see everything in ourselves and ourselves in everything. This makes us immortal and able to perceive the Immortal.

The question what these three characters are and how one is to rise above these to transcend them has been lucidly explained in chapter 14. The Geeta says that the three have three different results. Sattva gives light, Rajas rouses fire of passion and Tamas envelops one in darkness. One who is unmindful about these results, whose mind does not dwindle and who has the same attitude be it comfort or discomfort, love or hatred, friend or foe, respect or disrespect, is said to have transcended these characters. Such a state of mind is essential for emancipation and liberation. Even if one is not fully successful in rising above these yet one must guard against falling into their trap. Even the moderate character of Rajas leads to sin for according to the Geeta both desire and anger are the progeny of the rajoguna only. These can never be satisfied or curbed and they induce us to commit sins. They should, therefore, be viewed as our enemies. They thrive in our senses, our mind and our intellect, put a veil around our wisdom and knowledge, bewitch us and thus hinder our spiritual advancement.

The Geeta has shown us the way to attain an exalted position. The first step is the control of ‘manas’, loosely translated as the mind. To control the mind is indeed difficult but the constant practice and a detached attitude make it possible to control it. But then there is another way, easier and faster and that is ‘resignation before the Lord.’ Shri Krishna says in chapter 9; ‘whatever you give and all your austerity should be an offering unto Me. You should concentrate on Me, be my devout, worship Me and salute Me. Thus getting attached to Me, you shall certainly attain Me.’ Chapter after chapter important and relevant questions are raised, sometimes by Arjuna, and sometimes by Shri Krishna. Clear, convincing and cogent answers are provided to these questions in simple words that carry a depth of meaning and connotation. A thorough study of all these chapters, not once but repeatedly, helps us undertake this journey from brief to renunciation, as did Arjuna. It enables us to transform the Arjuna in us to a Gopi, bathed in the nectar of the eternal love for Shri Krishna.

Before concluding, however, let us also consider the qualities we need to imbibe in order to endear ourselves to the Lord. These are enumerated in chapter 12 as under: ‘no hatred towards any one, friendship and goodwill for everyone, compassion, detachment, no ego, equanimity in pleasure and pain, satisfied always, firm resolve, concentrating mind and intellect on the Divine, conducting one’s self in such a way that one is not a cause for grief for others and others are not a cause for grief to him, devoid of happiness and sorrow, fear or favour, satisfied in whatever one gets, pure, efficient, neutral neither grieving nor rejoicing, worrying not about the result or reward, no covet, balanced attitude towards friend and foe, respect and disrespect, heat and cold, pleasure and pain. These qualities lead us to drink deep in the nectar of this sacred discourse of the Lord, act as He dictates, and develop an unflinching faith in Him. Let us imbibe these qualities to justify our existence and our faith in the Lord, as also our firm trust in the scriptures.

If we want to cross the ocean of grief we have to know ourselves, our true nature and the subtle elements in us beyond our gross body. The Veda says that one who knows one’s self only is able to cross the ocean of grief, ‘tarati shokam atmavit.’ Let us cross this ocean with the help of the message given by the Geeta, the Divine Song of the Lord.

The Steadfast and the Loved One

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

A divine poetry, as the Bhagwad Gita is, it is interesting to note, that it is written in conversational form. Conversation between Sri Krishna andArjuna, which forms the core content and conversation between Sanjayand Dhritrashtra that narrates and reproduces the whole dialogue. Obviously, therefore, there are questions and answers, counter questions and detailed explanations. Out of the many important, inquisitive and interesting questions posed by Arjuna and replied by SriKrishna, two questions stand out in as much as they sum up the message of the Geeta in respect of the conduct of the mankind. The first one asked towards the last quarter of Chapter 2, is to know the distinguishing features of a steadfast person; his gait, his posture and his speech (Sthittaprajnasya Ka Bhasha….BG 2.54). The second question asked in the beginning of Chapter 12 seeks to know which of the two is superior, one who is a devout with unhindered concentration on the beautiful form of the lord with attributes and the other who is a devotee of the formless and attribute-less Lord (Saguna &Nirguna……..tesham ke yogavittama BG 12.1). In reply to this questionSri Krishna lists out the characteristics of a devout loved by Him the most. Earlier, in Chapter 7, the devotees have been classified into four categories (I) one who is drawn to Ishwara Bhakti (Devotion) because of his troubles and tribulations, (ii) one who is inquisitive to know, (iii) one who seeks wealth and (iv) one who is full of knowledge (Chaturvidha Bhajantey Mam….BG 7.16) and the lord says that the fourth type of devotee is endowed with unflinching, constant, and undivided devotion and therefore is distinguished. He loves the Lord and is loved by Him.

These two questions are inter related because the distinguishing features listed out in respect of a steadfast person are the same as the qualities required of a devotee to be the loved one of the Lord Himself. In other words it is the steadfast person who is the favoured and loved one of the Lord.

Let us first see what the qualities of a steadfast person are. Sthitaprajna, shuns all the desires arising in the mind and is satisfied in himself, by himself. He is undisturbed in grief, unattached to pleasures. He is devoid of love, fear, and anger and has a firm intellect. Un-lured all the time, he neither revels on receiving anything good nor hates anything bad. He withdraws his senses from sense objects like the tortoise withdraws his limbs. He drinks deep the nectar of the supreme vision and feels satiated even without actually enjoying worldly pleasures. He controls all his senses, which would otherwise lead his mind astray, trusts in the supreme and diverts all his energy to realising Him with all the concentration. Unattached with the sense objects, he is in full control of himself and is ever happy. Because of this everlasting happiness, all his grief is gone. He is at peace with himself which leads to firmness of the intellect. He is aware that the sense objects divert the senses and thus create disharmony. Therefore he keeps his senses in check and absorbs all the desires in himself without losing his poise and peace. He conducts himself without any attachment, has no attraction, no ego and no affection (Bhagwat Gita 2.55 to 71). This steadfastness is a divine state of mind and leads one to liberation and realisation of the Supreme (BG 2.72).

In reply to the other question, Sri Krishna praises both types of devotees; those worshipping Saguna and those worshipping Nirguna Parmeshwara (Lord with form and without form, with attributes and without attributes) He underlines the fact that both in effect worship one and the same lord and what is important is unflinching faith in Him and undivided concentration on Him. In this context, He enumerates the qualities of a devotee most loved by Him (BG 12.13 to 20). These qualities are that such a devotee bears no ill will towards anyone. He is friendly and compassionate. He is unattached, without any ego and poised in pain and pleasure. He is ever satisfied, his mind fixed on the Lord, his senses under his full command and firm in his resolve. His mind and intellect are placed at the feet of the lord. He is a source of grief to none and no one is a source of grief to him. He is free from joy, envy, fear and grief. Contended, he is pious, efficient, neutral, without any remorse and performs his duties unmindful of the fruit. He is neither pleased nor hateful, neither grieves nor covets. For him nothing is favourable or unfavourable, auspicious or un-auspicious. For him there is no difference between a friend and a foe, respect and disrespect. Be it cold or hot, be it pleasure or pain, he is unattached. His reaction is the same when praised and when criticised. He remains calm and gets satisfaction in whatever he has. He is not attached to any one place but is devoted to the Lord all the time and has a firm intellect. He has unflinching faith in the Lord, acts as ordained with supreme faith in Him.

Now if one were to compare the two sets of qualities, one set prescribed for a steadfast person, and the other set for the devout loved one by the Lord, one would find that these are by and large identical. In order to endear ourselves to the Lord, we have to be steadfast and if the Lord loves us it ipso-facto means that we are endowed with a firm intellect.

Apart from the qualities of unflinching faith in the Lord and supreme devotion, what is needed is harmony, poise, and equilibrium, both in body and mind, i.e. Samatwa. It is this poise that has been likened with Yoga (BG 2.48). Yoga in effect means final merger with the Divine and this can be brought about by adopting a balanced attitude towards life in all circumstances and in divergent situations of gain and loss, pleasure and pain, honour and dishonour and bouquets and brick bats.

These qualities and this state of mind can be developed and acquired by constant practice about which the Geeta says that it takes so many lives to attain such a state where one sees everything in the Divine (Vasudevah Sarvamiti Sa Mahatma Sudurlabhah… BG 7.19). Having attained this position and after complete surrender before the Lord, one deserves the Divine grace. The Lord takes note of the fact that the devout is all the time wedded to His love and as stated in Chapter 10,Slokas 10 and 11, He lights the lamp of his wisdom, removes the dark veil of ignorance from his eyes and grants him ways and means to attain Him. This transforms the devout from the position of Dasoham (I am His servant) to that of Soham (I am He). For this he has to (Da) i.e give (up) himself, his ego, and merge with the Ultimate Truth (param Sat). This is the goal that a steadfast and a loved one has set for himself.

Terrorism and Kashmiri Pandits

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Once we were having a seminar on Kashmiri Language and Literature in New Delhi. As was expected, various aspects of the language, its development, present position and future prospects were discussed. This seminar was of tremendous importance because of the large-scale dispersal of the Kashmiri speaking populace, in view of which the future of this beloved mother tongue of ours was seen as bleak. The participants laid stress on the point that we should find ways and means by which this language continues to be spoken and used by our younger generation. It was, however, recognized that because of the diaspora our children must per necessity learn and use other languages, national and international. During this seminar one of the delegates, a writer friend, raised a very significant question. He asked whether by propagating the cause of our language we were not being language-fundamentalists. He posed a feeler why we should not allow our children to learn and use the language that they have to use in their new environments and not insist on learning their mother tongue. Many delegates reacted to this poser, some even with anger. Intervening in the debate I preferred first to define both fundamentalism and terrorism and then react to his observations.

I pointed out that ever since the man came on this earth, he started living in close-knit tribes, communities, societies and communes. These sectors came to be organized in course of time, administratively, financially, culturally and so on. Over so many millennia with the development and growth of the human society a number of faiths and beliefs, languages and dialects, cultures and civilizations came into existences. As with the species so with these things also, many got extinct and many new came on the horizon. A time came when things started getting institutionalized. What ensued was mutual rivalry, with claims and counter claims for superiority. Conflicts and confrontations brought devastation, distrust, strife and wars. Human being was caught in the vicious circle of his own making. In every sector of human society when a particular group professed that his ideology, faith, language or culture was superior, fundamentalism was born. Specific to the seminar in question I made a point that advocating the cause of the Kashmiri language was in no way a fundamentalist approach unless we claim that our language is superior to all other languages of India and the world at large. We do not propose to claim that even though we love our language and find it sweet, rich and unique in character.

This is true of the faiths as well. If we respect all faiths while adhering to our own, if we profess and propagate our faith without throwing a net of coercion, temptation, compulsion and baits, there will be no fundamentalism in this area either. Fundamentalism is basically a notion of superiority, whereby we feel that our religion and faith, our culture and civilization, our ideology and beliefs and our language and literature are superior to those of the rest. This notion creates a complex in our mind. We become possessive and protective and what ensue are regimentation, groupings, separatism and cessation. These feelings create fear and hatred, fear of getting subsumed by more vibrant civilizations and hatred towards the adherents of different faiths and beliefs. Naturally, therefore, need is felt to put on guards, close all ventilators to external influences and create close-door communities. People are forbidden to challenge, question or try to evaluate the tenets of their faith. They are advised to accept everything prescribed in their own faith as gospel truth and disregard the views of other faiths, considering them as false and untrue. This attitude breeds hatred and malice. We get suspicious of other groups and our mind is enveloped in a threat perception. A strange paradox gets underway. On the one hand we profess that our faith is the only true faith and on the other hand we are afraid that our faith may not be able to stand before other faiths.

There are some sections that not only consider their own faiths and beliefs superior genuine and relevant, but also firmly believe that the adherents of other faiths have no business to be around. They want them either to cross over to their side or get annihilated. They take the views that are contrary to their own views as affront to themselves and to their faith. They believe that God belongs to them alone and no body can be allowed to have any other view of God or worship Him in a different way than the one prescribed in their faith. Therefore they take to arms against them. In the past this situation took the form of inter-faith wars and in the contemporary scene this has taken the shape of terrorism. This is aimed to cause large-scale conversions out of fear and due to the danger to life and existence. Unfortunately due to their own political considerations and self-interests various groups and nations exploit these fascist trends and vulnerable sections of a society get trapped in their net. Right from the 14th century Kashmiri Pandits have become hapless victims to this inhuman phenomenon time and again. They have often been given an ultimatum in three crisp Kashmiri words of ‘Raliv, tsaliv ya galiv’ meaning get converted, leave the place or face death. Consequently a large number of Hindus were forcibly converted in Kashmir and this changed the very demography of the valley. Those who did not succumb to the pressure withstood the tyranny for some time. They were subjected to torture. The sacred thread ‘Yajnopavit’ worn by them was forcibly removed and many many quintals of the sacred thread were burnt in front of them. Bones of slaughtered animals were thrust into their mouths. Even then they did not agree to get converted. They were put into sacs, stones were tied to these sacs and then they were drowned in the Dal Lake. The spot is to this day called ‘Bata mazar’ or the burial ground of Kashmiri Pandits. In this atmosphere of tyranny, fear and cruelty large-scale exodus ensued. This all is the ‘glorious’ history of Kashmir, the Aden of the East.

Kashmiri Pandits fell victim to this gruesome situation time and again during the past seven centuries resulting in large-scale exodus every time. The situation that developed in the year 1989-90 was somewhat different from the previous such occurrences. During the cruel rule of the Pathan and Moghul governors the tyranny was state sponsored and perpetuated by the rulers and sometimes abetted by religious zealots. This time the entire operation was carried out by the people although it was instigated, aided, abetted and organized by the neighbouring state. Kashmiri Pandits were alarmed and dismayed to find their own neighbours, friends and comrades threatening them of dire consequences should they not leave their hearth and home within hours of the threats announced from mosques and through printed bills. Hit lists were drawn earmarking the persons who should be put to death for choosing to stay back in Kashmir. This was an organized and well thought of ethnic cleansing and denying a community the right to live in a place, which was their abode for many a millennium and which belonged to them. The result was an en mass exodus to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country. Even so some people did stay back, though a negligible minority, for one reason or the other. There was a selective killing of intellectuals and prominent persons like Tika Lal Taploo, a public man, Shri Ganju, a jurist, Shri Sarwanand Premi, a literateur and an educationist, Shri Lassa Kaul, a broadcaster, Shri Wanchoo, a social worker and a human rights activist.

This terrorism has political and humanistic ramifications no doubt. The question is whether in this twenty-first century a situation can be allowed to exist wherein some misguided people hold an entire nation to ransom, whether they can be permitted to thrust their opinion and views on others, whether tolerance, mutual trust, brotherhood and co-existence can be sacrificed at the altar of fundamentalism, exclusive-ism and extremism. The question today is not one of tolerance alone because tolerance is fragile unless backed up by acceptance. The question today is not also one of co-existence only because co-existence can be short-lived unless there is mutual respect. We have to accept plurality of faiths, beliefs and approaches and subscribe to the view that all these are valid and, therefore, have every right to exist. Freedom has to be treated as a sacrosanct basic right but it should not be at the cost of other basic rights and should in no way infringe upon the freedom of others.

Some vested interests try to justify or rationalize the gun culture of the terrorists by attributing it to frustration due to unemployment and poverty. Some refer to it as a struggle for freedom. Had that been the case there would be a struggle against the establishment only. History stands testimony that wherever and whenever there has been a struggle for economic reasons it has been non-violent and peaceful, at least in the initial stages. The establishments involved have been forced to generate employment. There have been large-scale migrations on this account. A case in point again is that of our community. When the ‘popular’ rule was established in Kashmir after the Maharaja’s exit, the doors for professional training and employment were closed on them. They had to fan out to other parts of the country to find admissions in professional institutions and employment. They struggled but did not take to arms. As regards the mischievous explanation of categorizing it as ‘freedom struggle’ It has to be observed that Kashmir is ruled by Kashmiri citizens only after due process of election. The question of freedom, therefore, does not arise. The question that does, however, arise is that of making the democratic institutions broad-based by extending the jurisdiction of Vigilance Commission, Human Rights Commission and the like to this state also. This will ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the governance. Thus the terrorism in Kashmir cannot be justified in that part of our country, it cannot be justified anywhere for that matter. By all accounts in Kashmir it is a clear case of ethnic cleansing and terrorism caused by religious fundamentalists in the name of ‘Jehad’. The economy, the infrastructure, trade and commerce have been badly affected making the majority community suffer no doubt but by far the worst sufferers are we the Kashmiri Pandits, who have become refugees in their own country, lost all their properties and whose very identity is in danger of getting extinct. This has to be realized and remedied before it is too late.

The Upanishads

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

“Jnani Twatmaiva Me Matam, B.G.7.18- A knowledgeable one is my very soul,” proclaims Shri Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita. In order to become knowledgeable one has to acquire knowledge. Vedas are the store house of knowledge, but then there is a lot of other matter in the Vedas; mantras relating to actions and deeds, mantras relating to devotion and worship, mantras relating to Yajna, the sacrifice and mantras relating to knowledge relevant to body, mind and soul, the creator and the creation. It is this knowledge content of the Vedas which has been culled out and put forward in the form of various Upanishads, sometimes as a narrative, sometimes in question and answer form, and sometimes in the form of a fable or two. There are a lot many Upanishads, some named after the Rishi who has compiled them, like Kathopanishad, some named after the initial word of the first Mantra, like Ishavasya Upanishad, and others named with reference to their distinguishing features, like Prashnopanishad. Since these Upanishads are the core of Vedanta and contain the wisdom of ancient India, it is the duty of every one of us who claims to be an Indian, to have at least a basic knowledge of this rich and invaluable heritage of ours. Since their number is large, it would suffice if some of the more important and prominent Upanishads are explained.

An inquisitive mind wants to know the reality of what he sees around him. He wants to unravel the secrets of the nature. He looks to this whole universe with awe, surprise and astonishment, as stated in the Gita, ‘Aashchariyavat Pashyati Kashchitenam….B.G. 2.29’. It is therefore of paramount importance for him to see, hear, think, analyse, discern and experience with utmost concentration in order to know and gain knowledge, “….drashtavyah shrotavyo mantavyo nididhyasitavyah atmasakhshatkarah kartavyah”. The Upanishads help him, show him the way and guide him. The Gita also says in very clear terms, “tatvidhi pranipaten pariprashnen sevaya B.G. 4.34”. One has to approach, enquire and serve in order to gain knowledge.

The vivid most questions that arise in the mind of a seeker are about the creation as such, the origin of this universe, the nature of life and death, the evolution and the management and the administration of the cosmos. For an answer to these questions, for a detailed discussion on these points and for an explanation to this phenomena, one has to turn to five important Upanishads viz. Aitreya, Brihadaranyaka, Shwetashwatar, Prashna and Chhandogya.

1. Aitreyopnishad is the work of Mahidas. He was born of a maid named Itera, hence was known as Aitreya and his work also gets his name. This Upanishad has three chapters. The first one deals with the creation of the cosmos and the universe. The second narrates the creation of a human being, transmigration of soul and the liberation. The third deals with the nature of the soul and the Divine. Two statements made in this Upanishad would be noteworthy. It says. “ Atma va idameka evagre aasit nanyatkim chinmishat, sa eekshat lokan nu srijai iti”. Prior to creation only Parmatma the supreme soul existed. He saw and desired to create. The Upanishad explains this statement and goes on to add, “Atma vai jayate santatih, it is the self, the procreator who is re-born in the form of his progeny”.

2. Brihadaaranyak, In size, it is voluminous (Brihad) and has been narrated in a jungle (Aranya) and thus its name. This Upanishad has six chapters and starts with the description of Ashwamedha Yajna. It contains some fables and all important dialogues of Yagyavalka with Janaka, with Maitreyee and with Gargi and that between Gargya and Ajatshatru, Through the medium of these interesting conversations the intricate secrets have been explained, the origin of Time and Speech and the life essence (Prana) have been revealed. Three important statements made in this Upanishad are I). Paranchikani vyatrinat swayambhu - the Lord has made the senses extrovert because of which these are drawn towards sense objects. II) Ekamevaadwitiyam Brahma. - the creator is one and unmatched, without any second. III) aatmaivedam sarvam - the entire creation is self incarnate.

3. Shwetashwatar. This important work of a Rishi by the same name is a very important treatise on the creation of atoms, electrons, protons, and the structure of cells. It also discusses the role of time, nature, destiny and other elements like positive and negative charges of a magnet. It explains the relationship between the Divine, the man, and the nature. It has been stated that ‘Maya tu prakritim vidyat Mayinam tu Maheshwaram. - in other words, the nature is an illusion created by the Lord who said in the beginning ‘Ekohum bahusyam - I am single and let me become multiple.

4. Prashnopanishad. As the name itself suggests, this Upanishad is based on the answers given to six questions put by Sukesh, Satyakam, Gargya, Kaushalya, Vaidarbhi and Kabandhi. Acharya Pippalad takes up the last question first and from the answer to that question derives answers to the remaining five. The last question was, how did the creation take place ? The answer given is by the combination of matter and force, positive and negative, active and passive called Prana and Rayi, symbolised in male and female. The importance of the life essence Prana, has been established in this Upanishad and the life after death has been described.

5. Chhandogya. This is one of the voluminous Upanishads divided into eight sections with 154 sub sections. This is said to have been compiled by Angirus, and starts with a detailed account of the worship of ‘OM’. There are quite a few illustrative fables in this Upanishad relating to Jana Shruti - Raikva Rishi, Jabala-Satyakam, Shwetaketu-Jaibali, Ashwapati-Uddalak Rishi and Sanat Kumar-Narada. A very important scientific fact has been established in this Upanishad, that the physical elements like water, light etc. are necessary to sustain the mental and psychological elements like mind, speech, resolution, attention etc. The Upanishad narrates the gradual development of spirituality. It says, “Chatushkalah padah Brahmanah prakashawan nama’. The supreme shines on all sides and “Bhuma eva parmam sukham” i.e the search for the eternal and endless only is supreme bliss.

All the Upanishads have proclaimed and established the omnipresence of the God. Yet Ishavasyopanishad and Mandukyopanishad have special significance in regard to this subject. Shwetashwataropansihad says ‘Eko devah sarvabhuteshu gudah sarva vyapi sarvabhutantratma’ - there is one supreme pervading everything which is the soul of everything.

6. Ishavasyopanishad. This Upanishad has a distinct place in as much as it forms the last fortieth chapter of Shuklayajurveda. It begins with the words ‘Ishawasyam’ and thus gets its name. After stating the established truth of the omnipresence of the Divine it says ‘Tyekhtena bhunjithah’ - enjoy, but with an attitude of sacrificing and not that of attachment. It further enjoins ‘Ma gridhah Kasyachit dhanam’ - covet not others wealth. The life span in ancient times was hundred years and above. Referring to that, the Upanishad says ‘Kurvannevaha Karmani jijivishet shatam samah’ - desire to live a hundred years but utilise this span of life in doing good deeds.

7. Mandukya. This Upanishad was compiled by Rishi Mandukya whence it gets its name. Running into only twelve mantras, it explains the all pervading Brahman in the form of ‘OM’. It analyses its four components, a, o, m and the silent ‘n’, and connects them to the four aspects of the Supreme and the human being viz. Wakefulness, sleeping state, dreaming state, and the fourth one beyond these three. It also gives an account of the five constituents of a human being i.e. body structure made of food (anna), the ability to perform due to the life essence (prana), the aspect of desire in human mind (mana), knowledge and ego of the intellect (vijnan) and the ability of deriving pleasure (ananda) from both desire and action. This Upanishad has in effect said that the Divine is all pervading in the form of ‘OM’ and can be known either as ‘He’ or as ‘I’. In the former case one becomes a devotee (Bhakta) and in the latter a knowledgeable soul (Jnani).

Kena, Katha and Mundaka are the three Upanishads in which again vital questions about the secrets of this universe, knowledge and liberation have been explained. Let us start with Mundakopanishad.

8. Mundaka. It has an interesting beginning. Shaunaka Rishi approaches Acharya Angira, the perceiver of this Upanishad and asks ‘Pray ! teach me some such subject by knowing which all the branches of Knowledge become known. In reply the Acharya says that knowledge is of two types, Para (higher) and Apara (lower). It is the former which leads to liberation and self realisation. A quotable quote of this Upanishad is ‘Sa vidya ya vimuktaye’ - education is that which has liberation as its aim.

It is interesting to note that each Upanishad has something or the other to it which has become axiomatic. Ishavasya has brought out (Vidya and Avidya), experienced knowledge and acquired knowledge. Prashnopanishad has established two elements, Prana and Rayi, the active and the passive , necessary for creation. Mundak describes two types of education, Para, the hidden and superior one and Apara, the mundane. Similarly, Kenopanishad has mentioned the two driving forces as Jivatma, the individual soul and Parmatma, the collective supreme soul. Kathopanishad has referred to two important factors, Shreya, the beneficial and Preya, the attractive one.

9. Kenopanishad gets its name by the first word of the question raised in the beginning itself. Kena, by whom. The full question is ‘Keneshitam patati preshitam manah ?’ - by whom is the mind diverted towards sense objects ? In other words, who is the driving force behind all activities, physical, mental etc. There is a detailed discussion on this subject in this Upanishad which establishes the existence of the supreme power that pervades, guides and controls the entire universe. There is a tale relating to Vritrasur through the medium of which this has been explained. The power has been described as unimaginable, indescribable, yet existing in the form of Jeevatma, the individual soul and Parmatma, the collective supreme soul.

10. Kathopanishad. This Upanishad perceived by Rishi Katha is famous because of the dialogue between Nachiketa and Yama. Because of the insistence of Nachiketa, the Yama is forced to divulge the secrets of self realisation for which he says one has to peep inside one’s self with due discipline and yogic practices.

Let us before concluding, take up yet another important Upanishad viz. Taittirya.

11. Taittirya. This Upanishad, in three parts, is unique as it throws light on the ancient educational system. The first part is called Shikshadhyay Balli., or the chapter on education. The second part is Brahmanand Balli, or the chapter on supreme bliss, and the third part is Bhrigu Balli, the chapter explaining the worship of the Supreme. This Upanishad is a treatise on learning process, pronunciation, recitation, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, etymology etc. It gives the duties of the teacher and the taught, the essence of education, self study, study of scriptures and the development of the spirit of a student. There is also an account of Gurukula, campus of the preceptor and the Deekshanta, the present day convocation after which a Brahmachari, i.e. a celibate used to start Grihasta, the family life.

The study of all these Upanishads is fascinating, illuminating, informative and educative. Let us conclude this brief account of this important treasure of Upanishads with an Upanishadic quotation - ‘ Swadhyaya Pravachanabhyam na pramaditavyam’ - one should shirk neither from learning nor from teaching.

Five Millennia Old Culture & Literature of Kashmir

T. N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

(Lecture delivered at RP Memorial Foundation Society on 16th December, 2000)

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Please bear with me; I am no scholar. I am simply a student of literature.Writing poetry is my hobby. My only qualification for delivering a lecture on the subject of culture and literature of Kashmir, before this learned audience, is that I am a Kashmiri. You may not, therefore, find any thing revealing or new in my talk but I assure you that you will get the fragrance of saffron and the soothing breeze of the valley, while I share my views with you. You may not be any wiser over what you already know but you will surely feel the bubbling life represented by the Lotus grown in the Dal Lake and elsewhere. 

T.N.Dhar 'Kundan'

Culture Defined

It is in the fitness of things that today when the twenty-first century is knocking at our doors and when our beloved Kashmir is undergoing an unprecedented turmoil for more than a decade now, we should be sitting back and reflecting on the five millennia old culture and literature of Kashmir, the land of our birth. Before doing so let us first try to figure out what the word Culture connotes. According to Professor Terry Eagleton, ‘Culture, etymologically speaking, is a concept derived from nature. One of its original meanings is husbandry. At first the term denoted a material process, which was then metaphorically transposed to the affairs of the spirit. The Latin root for this word is ‘colere’, which can mean anything from cultivating and inhabiting to worshipping and protecting. But ‘colere’ also ends up via the ‘cultus’ as the religious term ‘cult’. The idea of culture signifies double refusal: of organic determinism and of the anatomy of spirit. It is a rebuff to both naturalism and idealism. The very word culture contains a tension between making and being made, rationality and spontaneity’. S.T.Coleridge says that ‘culture is what comes naturally, bred in the bone rather than conceived by the brain’. Raymond Williams is of the opinion that ‘culture is the organization of the production, the structure of the family, the structure of institutions which govern social relationships, the characteristic form through which members of the society communicate and a structure of feeling’. T.S.Eliot, on the other hand, has defined culture as ‘the way of life of a particular people living together in one place; that which makes life worth living; that which makes it a society – it includes Arts, Manners, Religion and Ideas.’ After the mid twentieth century culture has come to mean the affirmation of a specific identity – national, ethnic, regional rather than the transcendence of it. All these definitions make culture overlap civilization. In order to differentiate between the two, one could say that culture is the manner of our thinking and civilization the manner of our living. The former has a definite and telling effect on the latter and the two together give us our distinct identity. In effect culture of a society manifests itself in the form of its civilisation.

Ancient Hindu Period

If there is a single terminology that sums up the entire gamut of our culture as Kashmiris, it is the name ‘Ryeshi Vaer’ given to our land. ‘Ryeshi Vaer’literally means a garden of sages. This land has produced an innumerable number of saints and savants, sages and Sufis, who have always stood for the durable human goods of truth, freedom, wisdom, humility, simplicity, compassion, contemplation, worship and the like. The common Kashmiri has adopted these qualities and infused them in his thinking and actions. If I borrow the idiom of Mary Pat Fisher I would say that the map of our Kashmir cannot be colour-coded as to its Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist identity; each of its parts is marbled with the colours and textures of the whole. We have had Buddhist view of life and cosmos thrive in this land for many many years in the past. We have had a distinct non-dualistic ideology called the ‘Trika’ Philosophy shape the metaphysical thinking of this land. We have had the Vedic rituals of the Sanatana Dharma as the basis of our very existence. There used to be an admixture of ‘Shakta’ and ‘Tantra’ in our way of worshipping and then, with the advent of Islam in fourteenth century we witnessed the rise of Sufi order in this land. All these in course of time got merged and produced a blend of culture, which is humanistic, pious and pure, yet very simple and straightforward. It has taught us to t urn from the fragmentary to the ‘total’, from the superficial to the profound, and from the mundane material to the spiritual. Religion has never been an obstacle to this unique culture. I am reminded of a Sufi, Mohd. Sheikh, who lived in our neighbourhood at Chattabal in down town Srinagar. He used to say that the religion is ‘Gaev gudom’, the rope with which we tie a cow lest it should stray into the fields and eat the crop. Once the cow knows that it has to eat only the grass and walk only along the periphery of the field, there is no need for the rope any more. Similarly a man needs the religion only so long as he does not develop wisdom to discriminate between right and wrong and reality and falsehood.

Professor Timothy Miller, a specialist in new religious movements, has rightly observed that, ‘Human culture is always evolving and reinventing its own past and present. There is no cultural vacuum from which anything truly new under the Sun could arise.’ We call our way of life ‘Sanatana Dharma’ or the eternal norms of Do’s and Don’ts of life. Our belief is that God, Universe and the Vedas are eternal and co-existent. Strict adherence to the prescribed norms ensures cosmic harmony, order in the society and the welfare of mankind. Due to this belief Hindus, the original inhabitants of this land, were neither interested in recording their history nor inclined to force their way of thinking on any one. The basic ideology has been twofold. One, ‘Ekam Sat Viprah bahudhah vadanti – the Truth is one and the learned describe it in many different ways’ and the second, ‘Aano bhadra kratavo yantu vishvatah – let noble and beneficial thoughts come to us from all sides of the world’. John Renard, Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University, USA has said about Sanatana Dharma, ‘I have been intrigued by the tradition’s flexibility – some call it ability to subsume every religious idea. The larger Hindu tradition represents an extra-ordinary rich gallery of imagery of the Divine. It has encouraged visual Arts to match the Verbal. There is complete religious tolerance and it is free of large scale proselytizing.’ This eternal way of life, this age-old culture of ours is said to be five millennia old on the basis of the Saptarishi Samvat adopted by us from time immemorial. Ours is perhaps the only almanac in the country, that gives this Samvat and the running year is 5076. It is a fact that the only recorded History in India, the ‘Raja Tarangini’ has been written by a Kashmirian, Kalhana. Yet ironically we do not have any record of our cultural heritage and historical events of the prior period and, therefore, we are unable to paint a correct picture of the life and faith of our ancestors who lived in this pious land. As in the rest of the country, we have to draw upon legends, fables and other types of literature, verbal or written, in order to visualize the picture of our ancient heritage. It is very significant that in the Indian tradition the two great epics, ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ along with the ‘Puranas’ form the corpus of our history, from which we have to figure out what our past has been like. Kashmir also has its own ‘Purana’ called the ‘Nilamat Purana’, which throws some light on our heritage. This ‘Purana’ vouches for the fact that after the water was dried from the vast area of Sati Sar, sages were invited to settle in the valley and do their penance in the calm and peaceful environment of this sacred valley surrounded by the western Himalayan ranges. The aborigines, Nagas, Pishachas, shvapakas etc. were assimilated and as tribes became extinct in course of time. During this period the rituals and the injunctions of the Vedas only were followed. The inhabitants today in effect are, therefore, the progeny of the sages who settled here for penance and eventual emancipation with a sprinkling of immigrant population.

Buddhist Period

The fact that an important congregation of Buddhists was held in Kashmir, during the reign of the King Kanishka, shows that this ideology had found favour with the peace loving citizens of Kashmir in course of time. It is from here that the ideology travelled as far as Japan via Tibet and China. This ideology had Tantrik philosophy as its background and focussed on ‘Mantras’ or recitation, ‘Mudras’ or physical gestures and ‘Mandalas’ or meditation. The Sanskrit word for meditation, ‘Dhyana’ became ‘Gom’ in Tibet, got mixed with ‘Jen’ of China’s Confucius and eventually became ‘Zen’ of Japan. In Kashmir, however, a strong non-dualistic philosophy, called Kashmir Shaiva Darshan, drove out this ideology but not before it had left an indellible mark on our culture. There are a number of places, which are named after the ‘Bauddha Viharas’ and are called in local language as ‘Yar’. In Srinagar itself we have a locality named as ‘Bodager’ a corruption from ‘Buddha Giri’ or the Buddha’s hillock. These together with the non-violent passivity of Kashmiris and their life style imbued with the tenets of Buddhism stand testimony to the fact that this ideology had sway on our thinking for a long time. Buddhism accommodated itself to the local ideas while revaluing them by changing the spiritual centre of gravity. Tantra was given the meaning of extension and interpenetration. The eightfold path of this theology, right view, right aspiration, right speech, right behaviour, right livelihood, right effort, right thoughts and right contemplation permeated into the life of the common man.

Period of the Trika Philosophy

It appears that while the Buddhist thought did shape the lives of the inhabitants, it did not quench their thirst for knowing the reality nor did it satisfy their spiritual quest. The genius of Kashmir evolved its own version of non-dualistic philosophy, which was an improvement on the philosophy of Shankara in as much as it did not accept the creation to be an illusion. This philosophy branched into two, the ‘Spanda’ or the vibration system and the ‘Pratyabhijna’ or the cognition system. This unique school of thought espoused that the Divine, which is pure light, of His own free will and by His own inherent powers, appears in the form of His creation and this is nothing but a play of His own free will. The creation gives an indication of the mundane, the spiritual and the ethereal existence, whereas the Divine indicates the light in the form of knowledge and manifestation in the form of action. This was the knowledge aspect of the Kashmir culture then and the ritualistic aspect was governed by the Vedic injunctions. Of course these rituals also were modified to suit the local conditions. The ‘Sanskaras’ codified by Rishi Katyayana were in vogue in the rest of the country whereas in Kashmir those codified by Rishi Logaksha were implemented. It was the effect of this philosophy that spirituality and divinity was manifest in the life style of the common man. Although many Hindu holy places and temples were destroyed by Sikander But Shikan, who ruled from 1389 to 1413, yet the ruins of these temples at many places including that of Martand Temple stand testimony to the Sun worship also being prevalent here. There is a hill feature named as ‘Aeta gaej’ a corrupt form of Sanskrit ‘Aaditya Guha’ meaning the cave of the Sun. This corroborates the fact further.

Sufi Influence

Towards the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth century Islam came to Kashmir. On the one hand the invaders came to conquer and rule the land and on the other hand this place attracted the Muslim Sufis also. These Sufis believed in ‘Khalwa’ or spiritual retreat and propagated going from the outer exoteric to the inner esoteric. This coincided with the prevailing tradition of ‘seeking to refine deeper realization of the Divine within one’s consciousness rather than engaging in critical theological discussions; realizing the possibilities of the soul in solitude and silence, and to transform the flashing and fading moments of vision into a steady light which could illumine the long years of life’. Thus came into existence a synthesized cultural framework that we proudly call ‘The Rishi Cult’. Glimpses of this blended culture could be seen in the day to day life of an ordinary Kashmiri. My father used to swear by ‘Dastagir Sahib’, a revered Muslim Sufi saint. Any Muslim passing by a Hindu shrine would bow in reverence and any Hindu passing by a Muslim holy place would fold his hands in obeisance. There are innumerable holy places and shrines where both Hindus and Muslims would go to offer prayers. Hindus and Muslims equally revered Lal Ded and Peer Pandit Padshah, and other Hindu sages. Both the communities likewise held Nunda Rishi, Bata Mol Sahib, Dastagir Sahib and other Muslim saints in high esteem. A Muslim lady, after washing her face at the river Vitasta called ‘Vyath’ in Kashmiri,

would join her palms and pray thus, ‘Afu Khodaya fazal kar, badas ta janas, Hyandis taMusalmanas – God shower your grace on good and bad people alike, both on Hindus and on Muslims.’ A Hindu woman, after pouring milk and water on the Shiva Lingam in the temple would pray thus: ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhenah sarve santu niramayah sarve bhadrani pashyantu ma kaschit dukh bhag bhavet – Let all be happy, free of worries. Let all be met with beneficial and pleasant things and let no body meet with grief and unhappiness’. Salutations would be offered to Muslim elders by the Hindu youngsters and to Hindu elders of the area by the Muslim youngsters whenever and wherever they met. In return they would receive blessings in abundance.

The Other Facets of Culture

To sum up we can safely say that the origin of the cultural stream of Kashmir is Vedic. It has absorbed the influences from Buddhism. It has been shaped by the Trika philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism and it has drawn from the Muslim Sufism and in turn influenced it deeply. The enormous literature that has been produced by the sages and savants of this land portrays a picture of ‘Jnana’ or Knowledge dressed in ‘Bhakti’ or Devotion. The message has all along been one of humanism, simple living, high thinking, altruism, contentment, purity and piety. The other facets of our culture are shrouded in mystery. Take the case of the Arts. The old Sanskrit and Sharada manuscripts are full of beautiful paintings and pictures of gods and goddesses. Picturesque flowers and petals are drawn on the margin of the pages and the text is written in beautiful hand in the centre. The colours used in drawing them have been made indigenously from natural material like leaves, herbs etc. They are so prepared and mixed that even the passage of time running into centuries has neither damaged nor faded them. The art is so prolific and profound that it indicates the existence of a well-developed system. Even today one can see samples of these paintings on the top of the horoscopes and on the margin of the manuscripts written on hand-made paper. The portraits and the figures are exquisite and amazing and a well-organised research will throw light on its origin and gradual development. No wonder that the artisans of Kashmir have made a name in embroidery, papier machie and the patterns woven on carpets. In modern times Kashmir has produced a good number of artists, who have experimented with traditional and modern techniques but have distinct styles of their own. Sarva Shri K.N.Dhar, Dina Nath Almast, Ghulam Rasool Santosh, P.N. Kachroo, Manohar Kaul, Bansi Parimoo and many other luminaries fall in this category.

Music is another area where very little is known of its past. Today we have almost identical marriage songs for Hindu and Muslim marriages. The difference is that whereas the Hindus sing them in ‘vilambit’ or elongated tune, the Muslims sing them in ‘Drut’ or fast tune. The effect of SamaVedic recitation is apparent from the former. If you listen to these songs from a distance you will mistake them for ‘Sama gana’. Kashmir has a tradition of very rich folk songs which depict the emotions, feelings and sensibilities of a common man as also troubles and tribulations faced by him from time to time. Floods and famines have been vividly described in these songs. Then we have a well-organized classical music called ‘Sufiana Kalam’ or the sayings of the Sufi saints. It has different ‘Ragas’ and usually the sayings of ‘Lal Ded’ the great poetess of Kashmiri language are sung in the beginning of each ‘Raga’. In recent times we have had many a great exponent of Sufiana Kalam, Mohd Abdullah Tibbetbaqual and Ghulam Mohd. Qalinbaf being among the prominent ones. The former told me once that all these ragas which are in vogue these days have been formalized by Arni Mal, another great poetess of Kashmiri language. I have also heard Ustaad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan state in one of his interviews on the All India Radio about the origin of Ragas that the ‘Rag Khammach’ has originated in Kashmir and was derived from the voice of a parrot. While the ‘Tumbakh Naer’ and the ‘Not’ or the pitcher form important instruments of the popular folk music ‘Chhakri’ – a chorus, the multi stringed ‘Santoor’ is the soul of the Sufiana Kalam. It is well known that Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma has successfully introduced Santoor into the film-music. Other musical instruments are also in vogue in Kashmir and a well-known name in Sitar recital is that of Pandit Shambhu Nath Sopori. Chhakri was given a new direction and lustre by the late Mohan Lal Aima.

As regards the festivals and the rituals, these are primarily religious in character and therefore, different in different religious groups. But there are some commonalties. Distribution of ‘Tahar’, the cooked yellow rice on festive occasions is common between Hindus and Muslims. Night long singing of hymns in praise of the Divine is another common feature. The annual ‘Urs’ or commemorative days of various saints are also celebrated jointly by all the ethnic groups with due reverence. The Hindus of the valley are called Kashmiri Pandits or ‘Bhattas’ meaning in Sanskrit the honoured one. The important festival that has become their identity is the celebration of Shiva Ratri in the month of February. Unlike elsewhere in the country, here the festivities are fortnight-long and this festival has the same importance for us as the Ganesh Puja has for Maharashtrians and the Durga Puja has for the Bengalis.

Not much is known about the tradition of dramas and dance of Kashmir. Many dramas have been written in Sanskrit. Obviously these must have been staged because Sanskrit plays have always been written for being staged on various festive occasions like the advent of the spring season. It is said that King Zainulabdin had patronized drama writing and theatre. He was himself fond of witnessing plays being staged and would encourage stage artists and actors. During his time, Yodh Bhat and Som Pandit had written some plays with serious themes. The existence of folk dance called ‘Banda Paether’ with a strong satirical accent and the melodious group dance called ‘Rouf’ as also ‘Veegya Natsun’ on the occasion of marriages and yajnopavit ceremonies, indicates that there must have been a very well knit dance tradition in the valley. A unique and well-developed dance pattern with rhythm and synchronized steps accompanied by lively music is prevalent in Ladakh. It is, therefore, certain that there must have been a dance system in vogue during the Buddhist period in the valley also, if not earlier. This is a matter for future researchers to remove the veil of ignorance from this facet of our culture.

Our Language

The inhabitants of Kashmir have a distinct language called ‘Kaeshur’ or Kashmiri. Although there are two different views about its origin, yet a dispassionate and scientific analysis will show that it has developed from the language of the Vedas. Thereafter the syntax, vocabulary and idiom of Sanskrit enriched it. During the Pathan and Mughal rule, when Persian became the court language, it adopted a number of Persian words. During the rule of the Sikhs, the language of the Punjab also influenced this language and later, with the adoption of Urdu as the official language by the Dogra rulers, it had to borrow from Urdu language as well as from English. There are references in various chronicles that during the Buddhist period some religious books were written in local Prakrit, which has to be Kashmiri but these books are extinct although their translations are available. The initial glimpse of this language is had from the verses written about the love life of the queen of Raja Jayapeed during 8th century and in the Sanskrit work, ‘Setu Bandh’ of King Praversen, who incidentally established Srinagar as the capital of the valley for the first time. This language was then referred to as ‘Sarva gochar Bhasha’ or the language of the masses. The Sanskrit writers used to write in this language side by side with Sanskrit. But a systematic literature in Kashmiri starts from ‘Mahanay Prakash’ written in thirteenth century by Shitikanth in the same Vakh form, which was used later by Lal Ded. Kashmiris had evolved a script of their own and this is called Sharada script. It largely follows the pattern of the Devanagari script in the matter of the alphabets and combination of vowel sounds with consonants and appears to have been developed from the old Brahmi script. Unfortunately this script did not get official recognition for obvious reasons and has gone in disuse. It may not be out of place that even Ghulam Mohd. Mehjoor, the eminent poet was in favour of retaining the Sharada script. The official script is based on Persian script with some modifications. Because of a large number of vowel sounds and shades in this language this script hardly meets the requirement. It is time that the alternative script based on Devanagari alphabets, with two or three modifications is also given recognition. It may be mentioned that such a script is currently used by all the publications and journals issued from Jammu and Delhi.


It is the rule of nature that a change in thinking results in the change in action, which in turn changes the environment. All these changes are reflected in the literature produced from time to time. The literature is the mirror of the culture and the civilization of a society. Kashmir was a seat of learning because of which it is called ‘Sharada Peetha’ or the seat of the Goddess of Learning. Just as the name ‘Ryeshi Vaer’ denotes the culture of this land, the name ‘Sharada Peeth’ indicates the greatness and vastness of the literature produced by the Kashmiris. Up to the time of Sultan Zainulabidin, known as ‘Badshah’, who ruled from 1420 to 1470, Sanskrit was the language of the elite. No wonder, therefore, that a galaxy of Sanskrit scholars hailed from Kashmir and their contribution to the Sanskrit literature is monumental.

Sanskrit Literature

The literature in Sanskrit of this land can be divided into two groups. The first group relates to the Kashmir Shaiva Darshan. The prominent authors in this group are Utpala Deva, Somananda, Vasu Gupta, Abhinav Gupta and Khema Raja. The scholarly works include Spanda Karika, Shiva Drishti, Shivastotravali, Parmartha Sara, Pratyabhjna Darshan, Tantra Sara, Malini Vijaya, Rudrayamal and the monumental work, Tantralok of Abhinava Gupta Acharya. A number of treatises and commentaries have been written on these works in order to bring to light the true purport of this unique philosophy. It is a matter of concern that there is no effort on the part of the state government to preserve and develop this important and world acclaimed school of philosophy. It has been preserved by individual effort of largely those individual scholars who are ‘Sadhakas’ or the disciples of Swami Lakkshman Joo. However, there is an ‘Abhinava Gupta’ centre at Lucknow established by Dr. Pandey where this philosophy is studied by young scholars. Dr. Baljinnath Pandita and Dr. Neelkanth Gurtoo as also late Dr. Dwivedi of Rajasthan University, Jaipur have edited and translated some of the selected works of Shaiva Acharyas.

The second group comprises books on subjects other than Philosophy. The most distinguished name in this group is that of Kalhana Pandit, the author of the famous ‘Raja Tarangini’, the only book of chronicle written in Sanskrit. This book gives an account of the Rulers and the events from the 8th century to the 12th century. It was later extended and supplemented by Jona Raja, Shrivara and Prajna Bhatta and brought up to date till the reign of Zainul-Ab-din. There are a number of books in Sanskrit written by Kashmiris on a variety of subjects like Linguistics, Aesthetics, Poetics, Sexology and the fiction. Mammtacharya is a great name because of his work, ‘Kavya Prakash’. It is said that the scholars would accept no work in Sanskrit unless it had the seal of approval from Kashmir. A very prominent poet brought his book to Mammata for approval after it had already gained recognition in the Sanskrit world. The Acharya said, "The book is very good but alas I wish you had brought it earlier. I have recently completed the chapter of my book on ‘Kavya doshani’ or the faults and flaws in poetry writing. I had to strive hard to find examples for different flaws but here in your work I could have got the examples for all the flaws at one place and it would have saved me a lot of effort." Such was the scholarship of Kashmiri Sanskrit luminaries. ‘Dhvanyalok’ of ‘Anandavardhan’ added a new dimension to linguistics and poetics. Earlier the definition of a ‘Kavya’ was ‘Vakyam rasatmakam kavyam – any composition which gives tasteful pleasure is poetry’. With this work scholars were forced to change their opinion and define poetry as ‘Vakyam dhvanyatmakam kavyam – a piece of writing that gives a message by inference and suggestion is poetry.’ The scholars of Sanskrit from Kashmir had always something novel to say and propound. They were multi-disciplinary scholars and respected in the entire country as geniuses. Kshemendra, the author of ‘Kalavilasa’, was another great writer who dazzled scholars with his writings full of wit and satire. Then there were host of others including Bilhana, Kaiyata, Udbhatta, Hayata, Koka Pandit, Jagaddhara whose literary, philosophical, devotional and authoritative works have made them immortal in Sanskrit world. The eleventh century poet, Bilhana wrote ‘Vikramanka Deva Charitam’ in praise of the Karnataka king who honoured him. Manakha wrote ‘Shrikantha Charitam’ in 12th century. Bharata’s ‘Natya Shastra’ is an authoritative treatise on dramaturgy. During the reign of Badshah Bhatta Avatara wrote ‘Banasur Katha’ and ‘Zaina villas’ and Yodha Bhatta wrote ‘Zaina Prakash’. Another big name in Sanskrit literature from Kashmir is Gunadya, who wrote ‘Brihat-katha Manjari. It is felt that many of the stories from this book have been included in the great storybook, ‘Katha Sarit Sagar’. A Russian scholar of Sanskrit revealed during the World Sanskrit Conference at Varanasi in 1981 that the story of their famous ballet ‘Swan Lake’ also has been taken from this collection. There are modern scholars like Pandit Lakshmidhar Kalla, who have opined on the basis of the internal evidence that even Kalidasa hailed from Kashmir. However, let that be as it may.

Contribution to other Languages

When Persian replaced Sanskrit as the court language, the local Kashmiris faced a serious problem of learning the language in the shortest of time. It is said that by-lingual and tri-lingual verses were composed, committed to memory and thus an effort was made to learn the new language. Two samples will show the ingenuity of the people. (1) Roni lagani Zongla bastan, Natsun hao raqsidan ast, banda paether murdami raqas sonth amad bahar. - Tying the jingles is called ‘Zongla bastan’, dancing is called ‘Raqsidan’, male folk dance is ‘Murdami Raqas and the advent of spring is called Bahar amad. (2) The second is in the form of question and answer and runs thus: kuja budi, kahan tha, kati osukh? Dere tha, khana boodam, gari osus, Chi khordi, kya tse khyotho, kya khaya? Du nano, do rotiyan, tsochi jorah. The questions are in three languages about where the person was and what did he eat, and the answer also is in three languages that he was at his home and had eaten two loaves. In the absence of any authentic information with me I am unable to give an account of the prominent Persian scholars of Kashmir of the olden times. I would, however, make a mention of two very important names. The first is about a great poet Ghani, who lived during Aurangzeb’s time. He is reported to have declined the invitation of the king to visit his court. His habit was to close all the doors and windows when he was in and leave them ajar when he was out. His explanation was that the most precious item in his house was he himself. The inscription on his tombstone is ‘Chu Shama Manzile Ma ba Payi Ma’. It means that ‘like a burning candle my destination is under my very feet’. This shows that he was a spiritual poet, who was unconcerned with worldly affairs. The second name that I wish to mention is that of Pandit Bhawani Das Kachroo. He is known for his long poem ‘Bahar-I-taweel’ or a long meter. This poem is written in praise of the Divine and shows an extra ordinary control on Persian vocabulary that the poet had. His wife, Arnimal too was a great poetess of Kashmiri language in her own right. There are many devotional poems written in Persian with an admixture of Sanskrit. A great saint Krishna Kar has written in praise of Goddess Sharika in these words: ‘Avval tui aakhir tui, batin tui zahir tui, hazir tui nazir tui, Shri Sharika Devi namah. Man az tu nadi chakri man, pran az tu pranayami man, Dhyan az tu japa malayi man Shri Sharika devi namah.’

Kashmiris within and outside Kashmir have written in Urdu also. The well known names include Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar, Pandit Brij Narayana Chakbast, who wrote Ramayana in Urdu, Pandit Daya Shankar Naseem, Pandit Dattatreya Kaifi, Pandit Anand Narayan Mula etc. More recently we have had poets and writers like Prem Nath Dar, Prem Nath Pardesi, Ghulam Rasul Nazki, Ali Mohd. Lone, Shorida Kashmiri, Dina Nath Mast, Pushkar Nath, and others who have made a rich contribution to literature both in prose and poetry. Writers have not lagged behind in Hindi either. Dr. Toshkhani, Ratan Lal Shant, Mohan Lal Nirash, Madhup, Dr. Agnishekhar, Khema Kaul, Dr. Krishna Razdan, Haleem, Maharaj Krishna Bharat and many eminent scholars have contributed both in prose and poetry. Their language is Hindi but the aspirations and feelings projected are those of Kashmiris. I have also given two books, "Main Samudra Hun’ and ‘Main Pyasa Hun’, both collections of my Hindi poems.

Kashmiri Literature

I am proud to say that my mother tongue is very rich in literature, particularly in poetry. The prominent forms in which poetry has been written have been taken from Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian and English. From Sanskrit we have adopted Vakh and Shruk or ‘Vakya and Shloka’ as also Vatsun or ‘Vachan’. Hindi has given us Geet and Urdu Ghazal, Qita, Nazm and Rubai. From English we have taken sonnet and free verse. Lal Ded and Nunda Rishi of the fourteenth century are two great names who have written mystic and spiritual quatrains. Our poetry starts systematically from Lal Ded whose Vakhs were first translated into Sanskrit by Bhaskaracharya and then into English and many other languages. These Vakhs are dipped in Shaiva philosophy and enjoin upon us to go inwards in order to attain the reality. ‘Gorun dopnam kunuy vatsun, nebra dopnam ander atsun – my preceptor advised me in nutshell to go from without to within’. Nunda Rishi wrote Shruk, which are replete with Sufi mysticism. He has praised Lal Ded in these words; ‘Tas Padman Porechi Lale, Yem gale amreth chyev, Shiv Tshorun thali thale, tyuth me var ditam Deevo – Lala of Padmanpura drank the nectar and perceived Shiva in everything. O God, give me a similar boon (so that I see the Divine in the similar way).’ These two poets are great names in our spiritual and mystic poetry. Whereas Lal Ded has propounded jnana and Shaiva philosophy in her Vakhs, Nunda Rishi has put forth the Sufi ideology in his Shrukhs. All the Kashmiris hold both in high esteem. During his itinerary, Nunda Rishi reached village Tsrar. He is reported to have spontaneously uttered these words there, rhyming with the name of the place, ‘Vola zuva yati prar – let me wait here till the last,’ and it is here that he left his mortal frame.

While this spiritual writing must have continued as a sub-stream, in the sixteenth century we suddenly see emergence of a new theme in the poetry of Zoon, later known as Habba Khatoon. She has sung songs of love, separation, and ill treatment at the hands of the in laws and other human feelings. The Kashmiri poetry thus came down from the spiritual heights to the mundane human level. Her lament was, ‘Varivyan saet vara chhasno chara kar myon malino ho – I am not at peace with my in-laws, would somebody come to my rescue from my father’s side?’ Arnimal further strengthens this human romantic and love poetry in 18th century. Her diction and selection of words and the musical meters used by her are exquisitely beautiful. She had profound knowledge of classical music and is believed to have rearranged the Ragas in use for the ‘Sufiana Kalam’. For the first time she uses what in Sanskrit are called ‘Shabda-alankaras’ or decoration of the words, like alliteration and internal rhyming. An example would show her master craftsmanship. ‘Matshi thap ditsnam nyandri hatsi matsi, matshi matsha-band sanith gom, vanta vyas vony kus kas patsi, vunyub karith gom– I was in deep slumber when he caught hold of my wrist. The gold wristband cut into the very flesh of my wrist. Friend! Tell me who is to be trusted in these circumstances. He has left me crust fallen’. Rupa Bhawani is another great name in the spiritual poetry. Her Vakhs are full of Shaiva philosophy and the language is sanskritized. She lived a hundred years in 17th century and is regarded as an incarnation of Goddess Sharika. There are a number of anecdotes about her interaction with Muslim Sufi saints. In one such encounter with ‘Shah Qalandar’ it is narrated that the two were on the opposite banks of a river. The Sufi called her, ‘Rupa (literally Silver) come over to my side, I shall make you Son (literally Gold). She replied, ‘Why don’t you come over so that I make you Mokhta (literally a pearl as also emancipated).

By this time the Persian influence had gone deep into our literature. Poets started writing ‘Masnavis’ or long fables in verse. The prominent poet of this period has been Mohmud Gami, who lived during 18th and 19th centuries. The Persian stories adopted by him included those of Laila Majnun, Yusuf Zulaikha, Shirin Khusro, etc. Yusuf Zulaikha, which has been translated in German language, is the most famous of his compositions. He no doubt introduced the Masnavi style but it reached its zenith at the hands of Maqbool Kralawari. This 19th century poet has written a monumental masnavi, ‘Gulrez’, which has become very popular with the masses. From here onwards three distinct streams of poetry continued to flow unabated, the Sufi mystic, the devotional and the romantic. There is a long list of Sufi poets, who espoused the cause of purity and piety as also mutual brotherhood between various religious groups. These included Rahman Dar, Shamas Faqir, Sochha kral, Nyama Sahib and a host of others. Their philosophy was monotheistic and they laid stress on ethical and moral values. Their poetry shows a deep influence of Advaita Philosophy. ‘Ognuy sapan to dognyar travo, pana nishi pan parzanavo lo – Trust in oneness and shun duality; try to know thy real self.’ ‘Ognuy soruy dognyar naba, haba yi chhui bahanay – Truth is one and there is no duality; all else is a fallacy.’ In the second stream of devotional poets the names of Prakash Ram, Krishna Razdan and Parmanand are prominent. While the first two wrote devotional poems called ‘Leela’ in praise of Shri Rama, the last named was a devout of Shri Krishna. ‘Aaras manz atsaevay, vigne zan natsaevay – Let us join the circle of dancers and dance like nymphs in ecstasy for Shri Krishna. Parmanand, who lived in 19thcentury, has written a memorable long poem wherein he has compared the human actions with tilling of the land right from ploughing up to the time of reaping the harvest. ‘Karma bhumikayi dizi dharmuk bal, santoshi byali bhavi aananda phal –your actions are the land where you must put in the fertilizer of righteousness. Sow the seed of contentment and you will reap the harvest of supreme bliss.’ Prakash Ram wrote the first Ramayana in Kashmiri and captioned it ‘Ram Avtar Tsaryet’. In the romantic stream of poetry, the next important poet has been Rasul Meer. He has written beautiful love poems in musical meters. His famous poem starts with these words, ‘Rinda posh maal gindne drayi loloshubi shabash chani pot tshayi lolo – My beloved has come out to play in an ecstatic mood, praise be to her shadow that follows her’. The description in the next line is noteworthy. ‘Raza hanziyani naaz kyah aenzini gardan, ya Illahi chashmi bad nishi rachhtan, kam kyah gatshi chani baargahi lolo – The gracious one has a neck like aswan. God! Save her from evil eye. By that your grace will be no poorer.’ Rasul Meer was the first poet who addressed his poems to a female beloved. The earlier poets had made a male their love, perhaps because they were pointing to the Divine and not the human.

Modern Period

The twentieth century is the period when the Kashmiri language made an all round progress. The three streams that were flowing continued and some new trends also developed. Master Zinda Kaul is a great name among the mystic poets of this period. His book ‘Sumran’ won him the Sahitya Academy award. His suggestive poems are par excellence. A short poem of his reads, ‘Tyamber pyayam me khaermanas, alava hyotun kanzael vanas, taer ti ma laej phaelnas, dil dodum jigar tatyom, krakh vaetsh zi naar ha – A spark fell on the haystack, the entire jungle caught fire. It didn’t take long to spread. My heart burnt and the liver heated up – shouts came from all sides, fire! Fire!’ He has described God in these words: ‘Kaem tam kar tamat bonah pot tshayi doorey dyuthmutsanyev kanav tee buzmut, saenis dilas tee byuthmut– Someday somewhere somebody has seen His shadow from a distance. We have heard it with our ears and our heart is convinced of His existence.’ Ahad Zargar is another important poet of this stream who has written masterly poems on mysticism and spirituality. The immortal poet Mehjoor, who is called Wordsworth of Kashmiri language, has carried the romantic poetry to new heights. He was acclaimed by no less a personality than Rabindranath Tagore. The Hindi poet Devendra Satyarthi, collecting folk songs of different Indian languages was aghast to find that Mehjoor’s poems were being sung by peasants in the fields just like folk songs during his life time. He had this message for his fellow country men: ‘hyund chhu shakar dodh chhu muslim ahli deen, dodh ta shakar milanaeviv pana vaen – Hindus are like sugar and Muslims like milk, let us mix the two (to create a harmonious society)’. Another great name of this period is that of Abdul Ahad Azad. He did not live long but left an indelible mark on our literature. He was virtually the harbinger of the progressive poetry in Kashmiri. His long poem ‘Daryav’ or the river is a masterpiece. He has ridiculed romance in the face of poverty, want and hunger. ‘Madanvaro lagay paeree, ba no zara ashqa bemari. Tse saet gaetsh fursatha aasen, dilas gaetsh farhatha aasen, me gaemets nael naadari, ba no zara ashqa bemari – My love! Romance is not my cup of tea. It needs leisure and peace of mind. I have none and I am crestfallen due to my poverty. So no romance for me please’.

Post Independence period is a period of renaissance for an all round development of literature in Kashmiri. Kashmiri poets were influenced by the philosophy of Marx and the progressive literature of other languages, notably that of Urdu. While Allama Iqbal was the ideal for many, Faiz, Jaffri and other Urdu poets were heroes for others and they took a cue from their writings. Whereas most of the mystic poetry was full of obscure and suggestive idiom, the poetry of this new genre of poets was frank and forthright; sometimes sounding like slogans. In response to the Pakistani tribal raid, the writers formed Kashmir Cultural Front in defence of inter-ethnic harmony and as an affront to religious fanaticism. The literature created could not remain unaffected by the political and social uprising. Earlier in 1945 Mirza Arif had started a cultural organisation by the name of ‘Bazme adab’. Many enthusiastic writers got involved with this organization. Mirza Arif himself is a well-known name for his Kashmiri Rubaiyas, which are crisp and meaningful. The prominent poets of this new movement are Dina Nath Nadim, Rehman Rahi and Amin Kamil. Nadim revolutionized the entire face of poetry. He used pure Kashmiri diction, gave expression to the desire and aspiration of the common man and raised his voice strongly in defence of peace. He wrote operas and sonnets for the first time and his poems have been translated into many languages. One of his immortal poems against wars and strife is ‘Mya chham aash pagahaech, pagah sholi duniyah – I have full faith in tomorrow for tomorrow will bring new light to the entire world.’ He is the trendsetter of progressive and humanistic poetry in Kashmir. His operas, ‘Bomber ta Yambarzal’ ‘Neeki ta baedi’ etc are the milestones in our literature. Rahi is another Sahitya Academy awardee, whose ‘Nav rozi Saba’ shows the influence of Iqbal very clearly. He has also made a rich contribution to Kashmiri poetry. He sang, ‘Yaer mutsraev taer barnyan, Maer maend phyur mas malryan, vaer zahir vaets aaman ta lolo – The benefactor has thrown the doors open and filled wine into the big pitchers; It appears that the common man will get his share now.’ Kamil has written short stories and poetry both. His diction is rustic and meters musical. ‘Khot sorma sranjan tala razan bhav bahar aav – The price of the items of make-up for ladies and the ornaments have shot up, it appears the spring has arrived’. This period produced a galaxy of poets who contributed to the enrichment of our literature. Noor Mohd. Roshan, Arjun Dev Majboor, Ghulam Rasool Santosh, Moti Lal Saqi, Chaman Lal Chaman, Prem Nath Premi, Makhan Lal Bekas, Ghulam Nabi Firaq, Vasudev Reh, Ghulam Nabi Khayal were active within the valley and outside there were B.N.Kaul, Shambu Nath Bhatt Haleem and myself who wrote on a variety of subjects.

Prose writing also got a philip during this period and continues unabated to date. The master short story writers include Akhtar Mohiuddin, Som Nath Zutshi, Ali Mohd. Lone, Umesh, Bansi Nirdosh, Hriday Kaul Bharati, Deepak Kaul, Hari Krishna Kaul, Santosh and Kamil. They gave expression to the emotions and feelings of the common man and picturized the life of the inhabitants of the valley. Akhtar, Lone, Kamil and Hari Krishna have written novels also and given a lead in this direction. Radio Kashmir and later the Door Darshan Kendra at Srinagar provided an opportunity and thereby played an important role in encouraging these writers. The Academy of Arts and Culture has also been publishing the works of these artists and anthologies, which inspires other young writers to try their pen. Moti Lal Kyomu has been a pioneer in the field of drama and Pushkar Bhan in satirical radio plays. Hari Krishna Kaul is also a successful drama writer. There are a host of other writers whom I have not mentioned for fear of digressing from the central point. My apologies to them since I hold all of them in high esteem and recognize their contribution to the Kashmiri literature. I am trying to convey that our language is rich in literature. There have been some translations into other languages but it is not enough. Some of the names that come to one’s mind, who have done pioneering work in popularizing Kashmiri literature are Professors Jai Lal Kaul, Nand Lal Talib, T.N.Raina, P.N. Pushp, K.N. Dhar, B.N. Parimoo, MotiLal Saqi and R.K.Rehbar. There is a pressing need for translating the selected works from Kashmiri into other Indian and foreign languages so that the readers and scholars in the entire country will be acquainted with its depth and vastness. Kashmiri is the beloved mother tongue of all the Kashmiris irrespective of their creed or faith. Both the communities, the Hindus and the Muslims have produced poets, writers and artists of repute. It is, however, a pity that the language has not been receiving the official patronage that it deserves.

Post 1990 period has been a period of turmoil, which brought shame to the composite culture of the valley. The Hindus had to migrate to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country to escape the wrath of the foreign provoked and controlled militancy. During the last decade of their exile Kashmiri writers have authored a lot of literature. In this literature there is a lament of losing their hearth and homes, a craving to go back to their roots and pain and anguish at the way in which politics and narrow aggrandizement have cut at the very roots of their rich culture and shattered their proud tradition. The worst casualty have been the mutual trust, relationship and understanding between people of different faiths. Ladies and Gentlemen! May I, therefore, conclude by reciting this verse of mine:

"Byeyi vaeth deenaek ta dharmaek fitnai,
Byeyi gav byon alfas nish bey.
Gotsh na yi ravun hasil kor yus,
Dashi thaev thaev astanan manz."

(Again we are witnessing conflict and confrontation in the name of religions. Again one is getting separated from the other. I am afraid we may not lose all that we had achieved after offering prayers repeatedly at the shrines and holy places.)

I am grateful to the R.P Memorial Foundation Society and the organizers of this meet for providing me this opportunity of sharing my views with all of you, on the rich tradition of the place of my birth. Thank You.

Influence of Advaita on Muslim Rishis of Kashmir

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'


Kashmir has had a galaxy of saint-poets, both Hindus and Muslims. While Hindus are invariably referred as Rishis, Muslims are given various epithets. One of the epithets given is Sufi, which I feel is a misnomer. Sufis have come to Kashmir towards late thirteenth century and fourteenth century. They include Sharafud-Din Bulbul and Sayyad Mir AH Hamadani etc. They were Sayyads, who had escaped the tyranny in their country of origin and had sought refuge in Kashmir. With the advent of Islam and large scale conversion the demographic situation changed and the valley became Muslim majority place. Naturally, therefore, these inhabitants carried forward their Hindu tradition in the matter of their faith, customs, language, beliefs and so on. Kashmiris had a six hundred year old philosophy called Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy, which had seeped into the very psyche and the way of life of the populace. This philosophy is a non-dualistic doctrine, which emphasizes that the creation is the manifestation of the Creator and that in the ultimate analysis a being as a seeker can attain the Supreme and be one with Him.    

That God is one is a universally accepted fact. There is no difference of opinion about the existence of one God, although there is some doubt about the existence of God itself in some faiths. All those who do not doubt the existence of God universally believe that only one Supreme Power exists. There is absolute unanimity on this point among the major religions, religious ideologues, philosophers and thinkers. This view is held by those who believe in Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto in the East, by the Christians, Jews and Muslims in the West and the Middle-East as also by Indians with Sanatana Dharma as their faith. Even Zoroastrians believe in one God, ‘Ahur Mazda’ although they also believe that there is another evil entity called ‘Angra Manyu’, which misleads people. This is more or less like Christian and Muslims’ concept of Satan. Christians believe in trinity of God, Son and the Holy Ghost, who they believe are one like water, ice and steam are as clarified by Huston Smith in his book ‘The World’s Religions’. As regards Indian view point, the God is no doubt one called ‘Brahman’ but He is also perceived through various powers of the nature, which are viewed as ‘Devatas’ (Literally those that shine) as His different facets only. Thus there is universal ‘Ekeshwaravad’ or belief in one God. This is called ‘Vahdat-ul-vajud’ in Islamic parlance. Sometimes this term is mixed up with ‘Advaita’ or non-dualism of the Upanishads. Advaita actually denotes oneness of ‘Jeevatma’, the individual soul and ‘Paramatma’, the Universal Soul. This doctrine of the Upanishads is against the tenets of Islam. When a Sufi saint or poet talks of oneness he is referring to this doctrine and not to the existence of one God, for he says ‘Anal Haq and Man Khuda’ – I am the Truth and I am the God. This is the reason why Mansur–al–Hallaj was hanged and burnt for such an utterance. Sufis were not accepted in the fold of Islam for a long time till Islam lost political power and they became very important instruments in spreading Islam in different countries. The Muslim Rishis in Kashmir who are called Sufis are, however, a class apart by themselves.

Advaita as conceived in the corpus of Upanishadic literature, the Brahma Sutra of Badarayana and the Bhagavad Gita (The three together are called ‘Prasthana Trayee’) has been interpreted and enunciated in a variety of ways. Basically it is a doctrine explaining the relationship between the Creator and the creation. Some sages and philosophers have held that the two are really one and what we see and observe outside these, is all an illusion. Some of them believe that no doubt the two are one but individually they have their own identity. Some sages have likened the two to the phenomenon of an object and its reflection in a mirror, while others have explained the two as the ocean and its waves. The Kashmir Shaiva Darshan has not subscribed to the illusion theory. It propounds that since the creation is the manifestation of the Creator and since the Creator is real there cannot be anything unreal about the manifestation. What is unreal is the apparent difference observed between the Creator and the creation. This difference is actually an illusion and once this veil of illusion is removed from our vision we can clearly perceive the truth of the individual soul and the Universal Soul being one. This state can be achieved in a variety of ways including contemplation, devotion, spiritual pursuit and the like. This doctrine has appealed the thinkers world over, whether Greek and Roman philosophers, Eastern thinkers, Christian monks or Muslim Sufis. The Muslim saint poets of Kashmir also could not remain unaffected by this captivating doctrine.

I remember my old home in Chhattabal. There was a long lane leading to our house from the main road. On the one side of the lane there were cultivated fields full of vegetables and tobacco. The other side was a row of houses. One of these belonged to one Sheikh Mehmud, who ran a small shop in the ground floor, selling milk, yogurt and some pulses. Whenever I passed by this shop or went to him to purchase yogurt, I would observe a number of men sitting with him and talking about mystic subjects. Soon I came to know that he was also a holy person of the same Rishi order and had a number of disciples whom he guided in their spiritual pursuit. This ‘Peer-mureed’ or ‘Guru-shishya’ tradition in Hindu terminology, meaning a lineage of preceptor and disciple is an essential feature of the Rishi order. This holy person was revered and though illiterate, he also wrote mystical poetry to bring home to his disciples the secrets of mysticism, as was the practice with other holy persons of this order.

Lal Ded and Nunda Rishi

Lal DedThe ‘Adikavayitri’ or the first poetess of Kashmiri language is considered to be Lal Ded, who was a great mystic and a ‘Shaiva Sadhika’ or the seeker of the Divine through the path of Kashmir Shaiva Darshan. She has left behind a corpus of her sayings, which are in the form of four-liners called ‘Vakh’ (or Sanskrit Vakya). These have been translated into Sanskrit, Hindi, and English and interpreted by many a scholar. Let me quote two of her Vakhs to denote how she denounced the false exhibitionist practices and pointed to the essence of spiritualism. She has deprecated the practice of ‘Bali’ or animal sacrifice in these words: ‘Yi kamyu vopadeesh dyutui hayo bata, atseetan vatas dyun sutseetan kath ahar? O Pandit! Who has advised you to offer as a feed an animate sheep to an inanimate stone idol?’ Similarly she has ridiculed the idol worship when she says, ‘Diva vata deevar vata, heri bon chhui ikavata, pooz kath karakh hayo Bata? Your deity is made of stone, the shrine is made of stone, everything from top to bottom is the same stone, what are you going to worship, O Pandita?’ She laid stress on the need to go inwards and realize the self and perceive the Divine in everything. These two ‘Vakhs’ of her will make this point clear. ‘Go’ran d’opnam kunui vatsun, nyabra d’opnam andar atsun, sui Lali gav vakh ta vatsun. My preceptor told me but one thing only and that was to go from without to within. Lala adopted this in letter and spirit.’ ‘Kava chhuk divan anine vatsha, trukai chhuk ta andrei atsha Shiv chhui aet ta kun mo gatsh sahaz kathi myani karto patsh. Why are you groping in the dark like the blind? If you are wise go within yourself. Shiva is there in your heart. Do trust me since it has come to me naturally.’ This great poetess was followed by Nunda Rishi, another great ascetic poet of the Kashmiri literature, who wrote four-liners called ‘Shrukh’ (or Shloka in Sanskrit). He did penance in a cave and was greatly influenced by his senior Lal Ded. He wrote, ‘Tas Padmanporachi Lale, Tami gale amryeth chav. Swa sanin avatar lwale, tithyui mye var ditam Diva. The great Lal Ded of Padamanpura drank a mouthful of nectar. For us she is an incarnation. O Lord! Give me a similar boon as you gave her.’ In the true tradition of Vedanta he considered the world an illusion. He addresses himself in these words: ‘Hai zuva bram chhui samsar ho, zuva marun mothui kava, s’or ta zuva gara panano. O my self realize that this world is an illusion, why do you forget the inevitable death; remember your own home, the abode of the Divine.’ This influence of non-dualism or ‘Advaita’ and other Upanishadic principles as were prevalent in Kashmir is vividly seen in the writings, compositions and other verses of the later Muslim saint-poets of Kashmir.

Let us first see what these Saint poets have said about their mentor, Lal Ded. Mohmud Gami (1765 – 1855), a great name in Kashmiri poetry, who may not strictly be clubbed with Saint poets has written a beautiful verse associating every seeker with Lal Ded in these words: ‘Tsonza shoobai ba khazmatsei, granz Sahibo hyetsthas na zanh. Ada nav pyom Lala matsei, aavaz vatsei no.I am nothing but a maid to serve you, no one to be counted by you. Then I got the name of ecstatic Lala, My Lord! Did you not hear my wail?’ Shamas Faqir (1843 – 1906, real name Mohammad Siddiq Bhatt), one of the foremost Saint-poets of Kashmir who lived in Chinikral Mohalla in Srinagar was fascinated by the writings of Lal Ded. He has paid tribute to her in one of his compositions and also made a mention of her having given spiritual guidance to Nunda Rishi. Says he, ‘Kor Lali ikavata aakash pranas, zan milanav Bhagavaanas seit. Lali trov zala no’t manz pote’l khanas. Zan milanav Bhagavaanas seit. Tchala gayi Lala ma’ts shurahyar shranas. Hala tami kor zagi tikatar tarnas. Kala tami tsotnai nafsi shaitanas, zan milanav Bhagavaanas seit. Vopa deesh karni gayi Nunda reshanas. Rindav dophas aini Irfan. Tshyapi tshipras gyundun Shahi Hamadanas, zan milinav Bhagavaanas seit. Lala did breath control called ‘Pranabhyas’ to realize the Divine. Lala offered a pitcherful of water to the idol in the shrine to know the Lord. Lala slipped to the riverbank called ‘Shurahyaar’ to take a bath and took a plunge to cross the river of life. She controlled the sense objects in order to realize Him. She went to give spiritual lessons to Nunda Rishi and the knowledgeable found it to be the pure mysticism. She virtually teased Shahi Hamadan, who could not gauge her spiritual heights (there is difference of opinion on whether there ever was a meeting between Shah Hamadan and Lal Ded as there is some conflict in the dates). Another Saint poet, Ahmad Batawa’r, a contemporary of Shams Faquir (1845 – 1918), has described the exalted spiritual position of Lal Ded in this verse: ‘Lala matsi kala tso’t nafsi shaitanas. Kala karan Alla Lal sape’n hoo. Lola ha’ts mahav gayi he Bhagavaanas. Jan chum meelith jahanas saet Lala in ecstasy killed all her senses, engrossed in the love of God she became one with Him. My self is one with the universal self.’ While poets other than Rishis have also sung in praise of Lal Ded, but the manner in which the Rishi poets have quoted her, repeated her idiom and referred to her clearly shows the deep impact that her philosophy had had on their minds resulting in their express acknowledgement through their verses.

The Impact and the Influence

When religions travel to new pastures they adopt many new things both ideologically and in order to gain acceptance among the local inhabitants. Buddhism underwent changes when it travelled outside India to Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and other places. Christian theology was reformed in Europe quite substantially. To quote Lippman, ‘Prophet Muhammad’s vision of a united polytribal community fused into one brotherhood by Islam has long since been proved to be unattainable’ because of which Islam thrives as a religion but not as a polity. In India also a multitude of regional and tribal rituals and customs have got fused into the mainstream religion. The Muslim Saints of Kashmir could not also remain unaffected by the influence of the Hindu tradition of thought, ideology and philosophy, which was powerful and inherited by them. Even though they held the Prophet and the holy Qura’n in high esteem, they absorbed the major tenets of the Hindu philosophy in their own spiritual practices and prescriptions. This became a very strong cementing factor between the Hindus and the Muslims. The lead had come from Lal Ded when she proclaimed: ‘Shiv chhui thali thali rozan mo zan Bhata ta musalman. Trukai chhuk ta paan panun parzan, soi chhai sahibas saet zani zaan. The Divine verily pervades everything here, don’t you differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim. If you are wise realize your own self and that is realization of the Divine.’ The lead thus having been provided these Saint poets have tread on the same path and have earned respect, reverence and love from both the communities. No wonder, therefore, that these Saint poets, even though professing Muslim faith, earned love, reverence and regard from Hindus as well. Some of these holy men professed great regard for the Hindu deities and why not; for them there was no difference and no conflict. Holy persons like Makhdoom Sahib, Dastagir Sahib, Batamol Sahib (Muslims) and Krishna Kar, Peer Pandit Padshah (Hindus) were revered equally by both the communities. About Makhdoom Sahib there is a legend that he had a firm belief in Hindu concept of Mother Goddess in her ‘Jwala’ or Flame form. His mausoleum situated at the Hill of Hari Parvat was burnt thrice in fire and the Mother Goddess ‘Jwala’ had to be propitiated so that there is no more devastation of this holy place by fire. 

In the backdrop of what has been stated about it would be worth our while to study the impact and the influence of the Hindu thought, Hindu practices and Hindu tradition on some of the prominent Muslim Saint poets of Kashmir, who in my opinion should appropriately be called Muslim Rishis. This is evident not only from what we hear about them but is also explicitly brought out by them in their poetic compositions.

Shams Faqir

Lal Ded had said ‘Asi aes tai asi asav asi dore kaer patavath. We only were and we only shall be, it is we only who kept on coming and going.’ Shams said the same thing in his own way. ‘Yun ta gatshun mo mashrai, tami gatshit chhu tuhund garai. Do not forget birth and death because His abode is beyond this transmigration.’ The Gita has stated that people see the secret of life with awe and wonder and no one knows the reality of self. This idea has been conveyed by him thus: ‘Kyah chhu hayat kyah chhu mamat, kath cheezas nav kara bo zaat. What is life and what is death, what shall I call the Self (or the Divine)?’ Lal Ded had said, ‘Phiran phiran nyoth anguj gaji manech dui tsaji no. Telling the beads of the rosary you have rubbed the flesh of your thumb and finger but the duality has not gone from your mind.’ The same idea has been conveyed by this Sufi in the following verse. ‘Ha zahida kyah chhuk tsa karan, raath doh goi tasbih phiran. Mokhta ravi fotus rachhit zom, roni mutsrith shroni shroni ko’t gom. What are you doing you fool, you have been telling the rosary day and night. Going after fake things you are losing the real pearl. Have I lost the jingle by untying the bells?’ Again Lal Ded had dissuaded from giving spiritual message to an undeserving person in these words: ‘Syeki shathas byol no vaevze, Kharas gore dina ravi doh. Moodas jnanach kath no vaenze, kom yajyan raavi teel. Do not sow seed in a sandy belt; you will waste a whole day in feeding a donkey with jaggery. Do not give spiritual knowledge to a fool, as you will waste oil in preparing cakes from chaff.’ Shams Faqir has put the same thing thus: ‘Nasihat kaerzi no nasli shaitanas, tala kani zanzyan aasi ma kham. Maarfat kyah kari napak banas, tas naadanas kar tsali tshai. Do not give advice to a satanic person because basically he is raw and not ripe. Mysticism is a waste for an impure one. Alas! When shall his ignorance go away.’ The opening lines of one of his ghazals are an excellent example of the non-dualism of the Vedanta. ‘Bo chhus kenh nai kho’d panay, bo kenh nai kas vanay panay. I am nothing; it is He himself in my form. How shall I explain my not being anything to any one.’ This can be compared with this line from Shankaracharya: ‘Tad-eko-vashishthah Shivah kevalo-aham. I am Shiva and Shiva alone’. He has described omnipresence of God in these words: ‘Mye vuchh har shayi su yaar, chhuno kanh moi ti khali. Vanai bo siri israr yino aasakh vubali. I perceive the Divine at every place. Not an inch is without Him. This is the secret I reveal to you; do not get lost.’

Ahmad Batawari

Ahmad Batawari was a contemporary of Shams Faqir and lived from 1845 to 1918. He was an advocate of the immortality and continuity of life. In the footprints of Lal Ded he has said ‘Hayatuk aaftab chhuna zanh losan, bozan kona chhuk yi chhu yaksan. – The Sun of life never sets, why don’t you understand that the Divine pervades everything equally.’ He has freely used the Hindu mythology to bring home his point of view. A few examples are given here. ‘Saalkas balkas Shiva Naranas, tsonven ikavata pranas saet. Tarkas saath chum vetsarnag sranas, jan chum meelith jahanas saet. Veshnas, Krishnas, Resh madanas, Maha Ganish tati kas kari namaskar, Ganga raza byuthum Gangabal thanas… Ravun rovmut manz tawanas, Sita sata rats He chhavan, Tsayi Rama Tsandras manz daricha khanas… Shaster dendar gupt gnanas, zuv chhuk Shaster dil sat noor, Ahmad Batawar gupt rood panas, jan chum meelith jahanas saet. A seeker, a child, Shiva and Narayana, all these four are together to be remembered through the vital breath. This is the auspicious time to bathe in the spring of contemplation. The individual self is united with the universal self. Maha Ganesha is bewildered in the gathering of the sages. He sees Vishnu, Krishna among them and whom he should salute in reverence. The Lord of the Ganges is seated at the source of the Ganges. Ravana has gone astray while Sita is engrossed with her consort. She is there with Shri Rama. It is the Shastras (the revealed text) that give the secret knowledge. The life essence for the knowledgeable are these texts while their hearts are full of divine light. Ahmad Batawar has remained hidden and his self is one with the universal self.’

Swachhi Kral

This poet lived around the same time in a village named ‘Yander’ in Pulwama. He was an ardent believer in non-dualism. He says, ‘Akh tsa te byeyi bo ganzer maba, haba yi chhui gumanai. Me and you are not to be taken as different because dualism is a delusion.’ ‘Dapyomus bavtam pananui mye aasun, dapunam pan panun gatshi thari kasun. I asked Him to reveal Himself to me. He replied that for that you have to go beyond your self.’ Long before, Lal Ded had stated, ‘Larah lazam manz maidanas aend aend kaer mas takiya ta gah. So rooz yati tai bo gayas panas vonye gav vanas falav dith. In the middle of a field I constructed a house and decorated it on all sides. The house remained here and I only went away as if the shopkeeper left after downing the shutters of his shop.’ Swachh Kral has this to say in the same vein, ‘Yath fan sarayi dyun chhui shaba, ath manz mo trav dukanai. Path chhui marun az ya saba, haba yi chhui gumanai. You have to spend just a night in this mortal inn. Do not start a business here. For you have to die now or in the morn; it is all a delusion.’ He advocates adopting a vision of discrimination to see right from wrong. ‘Dapyomas swarma laegith kyah chhu banan. Dapunam poz ta apuz ada chhu nanan. I asked him what use is the collerium of discrimination in ones eyes. He replied that this enables one to distinguish right from wrong.’ He sees the Divine in everything, the ocean in every drop. ‘Joyi manz basith chhui daryav, nav dar aab tai aab dar nav. The river exists in a brook, water inside a boat and boat inside the water.’

Nyama Saab

Nyama saab was senior (born 1805) and he also lived at Chinikral mohalla of Srinagar. He has time and again reiterated what Lal Ded had said in these words: ‘Lal bo drayas lolare tshandan lustum dyan keho raath. Vucchhum Pandit panani gare, sui mye rotmas nyechhther ta saath. I set out in search of Him early at dawn and wandered day and night. Ultimately I saw Him within myself and that was the auspicious moment for me.’ At one place he has said, ‘Yas naad layi su chum nishi, kamyu sheeshi chovnas mai. That one whom I call aloud is near me. What a cup of wine he has made me drink!’ At other place he repeats, ‘Shah chhui basith panane gare, hoore mye nyunam tsure dil. The Lord is seated within me, he has taken my heart away.’ Again he says, ‘Yaar chhui gari panane, su no me vane aaw. My Beloved is within me but I failed to recognize Him.’ Nyama seems to have reached a stage where he has shunned the notion of ‘I’ and ‘my’. This is the high point of Upanishadic Vedanta. ‘Orai aayov ladith chhav, dopnam sorui myonui gav. Ba dapun myonui vasith pyav, ath nav aalim haarith pyav. He came with all His grandeur and declared that everything is His. The notion of ‘I’ in me was gone because no reason or intelligence is of any use in this arena.’ He has described the status of the Divine purposefully in indefinite terms because he feels that none of the religious schools has any clue to that. ‘Sang ta gnyana math haeratas. Nyermalas manz myani naav. Shubi shinyah tati khidmatas, pyom tsyatas tas chhu myon naav. Bouddh congregations (Sangha) and Hindu centers of spiritualism (Maths) are themselves bewildered; the boat of my life is in the pure sacred waters. Even nihilism is meaningless there for I realized that He and I are one – with the same name.’

Shah Ghafur

This great holy man lived in the beginning of 19th century at village Chhivan in Badgam. He has adopted the Vedantic dictum ‘So-aham’ (or I am He) in its pristine purity and has written a full poem with this title. ‘Brahma, Veshan, Maheeshwar garun, shuft ho chhui tyuhundui zuv. Pan hai khatanai jan hyekh marun, darnayi darun suhamsu. Seek to know the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as they are the givers of your life. If they hide themselves from you give your life at their feet. Adopt always the great mantra of ‘I am He’. ‘Bashar travith, Ishar tsa garun, Isharas saet roz sapnakh sui Ishar sapdun sharir gav marun…. Dah chhi avtaar zanh lagi na tharun, mah zan prazlan naran chhui, Ram Ram karun gav naam sandarun, daranayi darun suhamsu.Leave the individual soul and go after the Universal soul. Remain with God and you will become God. For that you have to shun your self. There are ten different incarnations of God. Narayana only shines in all of them like the Moon. So you need not feel hesitant. Repeating the name Rama is the way to remember God and once you get habituated to that you will feel one with the Divine.’ Saying so, he is at once reminded of the crucification of Mansoor and he warns, ‘Chhu vanan Shah Ghafur vaati ma marun. When Shah Ghafur says that the Divine and I are one, he should not be crucified for this truth.’ Again he says, ‘Shah Ghafur pazichi han chhuna bavan, tan chhas rachhni lachha bo’d jaan. Po’z gatshi aashkar asi maranavan. Intentionally Shah Ghafur avoids telling the truth. After all he has to save his skin for the life is very precious. If he reveals the truth (of oneness of God and man) he will be killed.’ One is reminded of these lines from a Urdu poetess of repute: ‘Sach bolna bhi lazim jeena bhi hai zaroori, sach bolne ki khatir Mansoor ho na jana’. Speaking the truth is necessary but to live also is essential, one should not give up one’s life like Mansoor did simply to speak the truth.

Asad Paray

Asad Paray is a later poet who lived in village Hajin (1862 to 1930). The effect of Hindu mythology and philosophy is apparent from most of his poems. ‘Naran naguk mas’ is a glaring example of this influence. It would suffice to quote a few stanzas from this poem. ‘Om ba karith drass Omkarasay, Om Narayan sat logum saet, tosas Omki pan khalmasay ba rasa rasay kornas tayar. Suhamsu yaar vuchha novnasay tathya Rama tsander sholyav, sayas tahndis tal thovnasay. Jugyah lagith doonya zajmasay, khalvakh dandakvanasay manz, pranay abhyas sharir zolmasay. Bhavanaki nagarada tan navmasay, bava sara vuchhim divay jan. Haramokha bala paan mansovmasay, bo rasa rasay kornas tayar. I started my spiritual journey uttering the sacred ‘Om’ and the Divine accompanied me all through. I went on chanting Om as if He was preparing me for the journey slowly and steadily. When by His grace I realized that He and I are one, I perceived the radiance of Shri Rama. He kept me under His refuge. In the solitude of a forest I lit the sacred fire like a Yogi. I burnt my body in the fire of breath control. In the sacred waters of the shrine at Bhavan I cleansed my body. This helped me to see the divine radiance here itself. I sacrificed my childhood at the sacred foothills of Harmukh, the abode of Shiva and He geared me for the journey slowly and steadily.

Ahad Zargar

Ahad ZargarPerhaps last of the great tradition of Muslim Rishi poets, Ahad Zargar is a forceful exponent of this ideology, which thrives on non-dualism, self-realization and emphasis on contemplation. He was born around 1916-17 in the house of Mohiuddin Zargar, a weaver by profession, whose ancestors were goldsmiths because of which the family got the surname ‘Zargar’. Although he had studied a little of the Persian language but by any standards he can be said to be illiterate like many of his predecessors. Many holy persons would visit their house and in their company he got attracted to this field of mysticism and spiritualism. Finally he became the disciple to one Khwaja Abdul Kabir Lone of Kawadara, Srinagar at the young age of fifteen. He emphasized the need for interaction with the holy persons in the very first verse that he wrote. ‘Shad roz dila myani kyazi chhuk gamanaey, Saet mehramanaey thav ikhlas – Rejoice my heart, why are you gloomy? Keep in contact with the knowledgeable persons.’

I have stated elsewhere that calling these Muslim Rishis as Sufis is a misnomer. Ahad Zargar’s saying supports my contention. It is well known that ‘Zikr’ or rhythmic movement of head, body and arms is an essential feature of a Sufi. Such a person is called ‘Zakir’. By this practice he recites the name of God, tells the beads of a rosary and aims at ‘Fana’ or complete annihilation of the Self. Ahad Zargar opposes this practice as useless and lays stress on contemplation and thought process, essential features of ‘Advaita’or non-dualism. Says he, ‘Zikir tai tasbih zalith trav, fikrav gaetsh gaetsh seer parzanav – give up this Zikra and the rosary and try to know the secret by contemplation. Not only this, he calls it a fraud and deception, which leads us to nowhere. In his words, ‘Makrav saet no dai athi aav, fikrav gaetsh gaetsh seer parzanav – You cannot attain God by these frauds and deceptions. You should know the secret only by a serious thought process and contemplation’. He does not see any difference between himself and the Supreme, again a prescription of the non-dualist philosophy. For him self-realization and realization of the Divine are one and the same thing. ‘Dayi saey bronh sapud oasus bui- Only I existed before the Divine’. ‘Ha Ahad Zargara dur kar daey, pura ada deshakh panun deedar – O! Ye Ahad Zargar, shun all duality and then alone you will realize your self’.

Zargar is influenced by Hindu theology so much that he freely uses terms from that and refers to Hindu sacred scriptures with reverence. ‘Rig Ved. Yajur Ved, Sam Ved,Athar Ved vaster sanyasyan tai. Khastar go’ran tsor veed havinam, jugya samana gnyan – My preceptor taught me the four Vedas and revealed to me the knowledge from these, which is the characteristics of a Jogi’. Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy describes the Creator as ‘Prakasha’ or radiance and the creation as ‘Vimarsh’ or awareness of Him as the multitude in the form of creation. This holy person says the same thing in his own way.Aakash paatal prakash meelith su gash gatshi vuchhun tai – At the horizon there is a grandeur of light when the two worlds meet. That radiance is worth seeing. He acknowledges the benefits of chanting the sacred ‘OM’ and refers to the Hindu practice of ‘Pranayam’ or breath control. ‘Dama Shama dyut me Omkaran tav – I practiced breath control and was spiritually ignited by the sacred OM’. Bhagavad Gita has described the abode of the Supreme as self-illumined. In the same spirit Zargar says: ‘Na chhu tor subaha ta na chhu tor sham- na chhu tor kalma ta na chhu Ram Ram, na chhu tor millat-u- mazhab saman , rinda ban zindagi sara kartan –That supreme abode has no mornings, no evenings. There is no classification of sacred words nor is there any demarcation of creed and religion. Free yourself of all these divisive notions and try to know the secret of life.’

He uses Hindu names of the Divine, Hindu ways of worship and Hindu religious symbols freely in his verses, sometimes in a better way than a Hindu Rishi would use. I cite a few examples here. ‘Goshi goshi Shankaras Shainkh kona vayav- Why not blow the conch in every nook and corner to please Shankara?’ ‘Om ki aalav dity mye har shayav- I chanted aloud OM at every place.’ ‘Ram bo ko’rhas Rama rubayav- I was ecstatic to listen to the hymns in praise of Lord Rama’. The great Lalla had in a typical mystic way referred to the Divine as nameless in these words: ‘Goras pritsham sasi late, yas na kenh nav tas kyah chhu nav- I asked my preceptor repeatedly about the name of that nameless Divine’. Ahad Zargar has followed suit and has said, ‘Chhu kenh nai karith kenhnas ral, vuchhum kenh nai mye deedan tal, chhu kenh nai kyah mye kornam tshal – He is formless and you get absorbed in that formless. I have myself perceived the formless before my eyes. Being formless how come He has enchanted me’.  

Advaita’ or non-dualism is essentially a philosophy that believes in one-ness of the Creator and the creation. Knowing self according to this doctrine is tantamount to knowing the Divine. This has been amply explained and expressed by Ahad Zargar time and again in his compositions. A few examples are cited here. ‘Lamakan sapdith vaechh lamakan- you have to become the Divine (Literally one who has no house) in order to realize the Divine. ‘Aabaech soorath aabas banayo, khabas milavan khabas saet, grakas pananizath athi aayo – Water merged with water and all the illusions were removed. The seeker perceived his own self.’ ‘ Katras meelith gav daryav –the entire river got merged with one drop.’ ‘Baey chhus maikhana paimanay, baey chhus saqi hyeth sarshar, baey chhus baegran maerfata maiy, aki nokta gatsh bedar- I am the goblet in the tavern. I am the cupbearer and I only am distributing the wine of spiritualism. Thus you need to become wise by just one hint.’

The great Lalla had said six centuries earlier, ‘Asi aes tai asi aasav, asi dore kaer patavath – We only were in the past and we only shall be in the future. We only have been coming and going all the time’. Underscoring the same view about the continuity of life Zargar says, ‘Baey chhus aamut az kehnaiy, baey chhus kehnachi ziyi hund bahar, baey nata panaiy chhus kehnaiy, aki nokta gatsh bedar – From nothingness I have emerged, I am the fruit of nothingness. I am not I but nothingness. Again you should take a hint and awaken’. Non-dualism is a creed with this great mystic. He has no qualms to declare himself as the supreme and that too in a wonderful terminology. He says, ‘Bae chhus shama ta parvanay, baey chhus gashuk banikar, baey shamso qamar prazlanaiy, aki nokta gatsh bedar- I am the candle as also the butterfly that hovers around it. I am the one from whom the light emanates, I am the shining Sun and Moon. Take the hint and awaken’.

Other Luminaries

There is no Muslim Saint poet or Rishi, as I prefer to call him, who may have remained unaffected by the Hindu philosophy, mythology and religious beliefs prevalent among the Kashmiri Pandits. Non-dualism, universality of the Divine, transmigration of soul, continuity of life, chanting the name of God, penance in solitude and maintaining secrecy in spiritual matters as also ‘Guru-shishya parampara’ or teacher-taught tradition are some of the prominent principles which have influenced these pious souls and which they have clearly expressed in their poems. For the Divine they have often used the Hindu terminology like ‘Naran’ or ‘Daiy’( Narayan or Dev). Suffice it to cite a few examples from other such luminary- poets.

Rehman Dar who lived at Chhattabal, Srinagar around the middle of 19thcentury has said, ‘Nishi chhui panas paan parzanav. He is within you and so realize your self.’ Rahim Saab, who lived in Sopore and died in 1875, writes, ‘Samah kornam aem Omkaran. Chanting Om has created poise and balance in me.’ Moomin Saab (1810) has explained the high point of yoga in this line, ‘Aslas saet gatshi vassal sapdun ye. One should get merged with the ultimate Truth.’ Shah Qalander who lived at Haigam in mid 19th century has almost quoted Lal Ded verbatim in this verse, ‘Lava ta prava chhai navi khota navye, ravas atagath sori na zanh, Shiv Shah Qalander chhuna kansi hyuvye kamadeev divaye Manasbal. The radiance and glare is newer and newer while the Sun cannot cease to rise and set. Shiva is unique and unparalleled and Kamadev is enjoying at Manasbal (A village in Kashmir, literally the lake of the mind.). Another great Saint Vahab Khar has written a full ‘Masnavi’ on Sheikh Sanna clearly bringing out his love and devotion towards Hindu tradition and philosophy. In Hindu mysticism there is a tradition of keeping the directions of the preceptor secret and the disciple, after getting initiated makes a pledge in these words, ‘Shrutam me gopaya – I have heard what you have told me and I know I have to keep it a secret’. Ahmad Rah, who lived at Dalgate in Srinagar has stated the same thing in his poem thus: ‘Peeran vaenim easar, seer gatshi vyaparavun. Seeras ma kar guftar, deedar tas deedan – my preceptor revealed the secret to me and this secret has to be protected. Secret should never be talked about and then only the seeker is able to have a glimpse of the Supreme’. Referring to the Hindu concept of ‘Jeevan-mukhti – emancipation during life time’, he says ‘Mar zinda par soo ham soo hamas, damas saeti zaan – attain death while living, repeat ‘I am He’ and in a moment you will get enlightened’.

Another great name is that of Samad Mir. Originally he belonged to Nambal Har but lived initially at Narwara in Srinagar before going back to his village, where he lived up to his death in 1959. He was a disciple of Khwaja Ramzan Dar of Anantnag who initiated him in mystic discipline. He also advocated the doctrine of non-dualism and self- realization. Says he, ‘ Pay hyot aashqav kaaba butkhanas, gayi ada panas pana mushtaq- The seekers searched in the temples and the mosques and ultimately they realized that God was not different from them and they began loving their own selves’.   

These examples can be multiplied by the dozens. The influence is so pronounced that the following line from Asad Paray appears to be the translation of the oft-quoted quotation from the Veda. The Veda has said, ‘Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti. The Truth is one and the seers describe it in different ways.’ Asad Paray has said the same thing in this way, ‘Kath chha kuni vath chha byon byon. The Truth is one but the paths leading to that are different.’ This points to the mountain peak theory according to which the ultimate Truth is like a mountain peak, which can be reached from many sides. Of course the climb may be easy and smooth from some sides and steep and tough from others.  It is high time that we realized the truth of this statement and started respecting each others religious beliefs and customs as valid and relevant, so that harmony, love and peace are ensured for all times to come.


The non-dualism is a universal experience and the great thinkers of every religion have sometime or the other contributed to this on the basis of their own experience. Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian monk of the 5th century has said, “Then beyond all distinction between knower and known the aspirant becomes merged in the nameless, formless Reality, wholly absorbed in that which is beyond all things and in nothing else… Having stilled his intellect and mind, he is united by his highest faculty with That which is beyond all knowing.” Malise Ruthven in his book on Islam has this to say, “In the long term modernization is a global process…Muslim souls are likely to find the Sufi path of inner exploration and voluntary association more rewarding than revolutionary politics.” In an article published in The Times of India Jamal Ahmad Khan has observed, “The Sufi saints, Muslim scholars and Islamic sects were liberal in their out look a la their Hindu counterparts and recognized that there were several paths to God, Love of God and service to mankind were their most important principles They were believers in pantheistic monism, the earliest exposition of which is to be found in the Upanishads.” The great Chinese Philosopher, Lao-tzu has said, ‘Knowing others is wisdom and knowing yourself is enlightenment.’ The bottom line is that the emancipation lies in realizing immortality of the soul, in awareness of the Self and in being an integral part of the universal consciousness. This is what Rishis and saint-poets of Kashmir have absorbed and expressed in their poems. Together with Hindu Rishis these noble Muslim Rishis preached a life of piety, purity, contentment, love and firm belief in God, who they said was attainable by love, devotion and penance.  

Of Bhagwaans and Babs - Logic and Faith

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

There have been a series of articles, letters and write-ups about ‘Babs’ and ‘Bhagavaans’ prompted by an erudite article written by Dr. Chowdhury that have appeared in our magazine. These are thought provoking and interesting. In forming an opinion of our own in this regard we have to keep in mind two things. The first is the latitude that Hindus have to reason out everything and question something that they cannot account for. This latitude is not available to the adherents of other faiths and beliefs. The second is the fact that faith begins where logic and reasoning end. I remember once when the participants of a seminar on Kashmir Shaiva Darshan held in Srinagar called on Swami Laxman Joo, what he told them and I quote ‘reasoning will carry you up to a point; beyond that you have to depend on faith.’ In other words he established the importance of both intellectual logic and devotional faith.

Having said that, let me make another observation in this regard. The so-called ‘godmen’cannot all be put in one category. There are erudite scholars among them, who impart teaching in any discipline of their specialization to their disciples. There are narrators, who are adept in explaining in detail stories from Puranas, Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagwat. There are preachers, who aim at propagating the tenets and principles of Sanatana Dharma. There are sages who have achieved the Supreme Truth after spending years and years in penance. People benefit just by having a glimpse of such persons and by gaining proximity to them. There could be some fake persons (as in any other walk of life) masquerading as ‘Sadhus’ who try to entice gullible persons by showing fake miracles. As regards some of the real ones showing some miracles these can again be divided into two categories. First the miracles performed to make others believe in themor developing a spiritual frame of mind and second the miracles performed to alleviate the people from their sufferings. The difference is obvious. When I wrote the biography of Bhagavaan Gopinath ji I came across a number of instances of miracles performed by this saint, which were simply to relieve people from their grief and suffering.

As for the importance and usefulness of these pious men and women is concerned, let me narrate what I read once in the Sunday magazine. The then editor of the magazine M.J. Akber had an interview with Swami Chinmayananda. He asked him about the ‘godmen’. The Swami replied, ‘I wish there were many more’. Akber asked, ‘do you mean to say that they are useful to the society?’ Swami ji retorted, ‘why do you ask me? Ask the millions who go to them, sit before them and get solace and peace of mind.’ Let us not forget that the life is no bed of roses, particularly for those who are poor and downtrodden. If these pious people are in a position to relieve them of their grief and give them some happiness, why not, let them do so. Of course we have to make exception in the case where people are preached in such a way that they turn to be lotus-eaters, fatalists and then become parasites. So long as the advice is in the right direction, inspiring to labour and put in honest efforts and have a reasonable amount of contentment, it is very useful for the society as a whole.

An observation has been made about these pious people themselves suffering physical ailments that needed medical attention. Nothing is wrong or astonishing in this fact. After all when a soul is embodied it has to go through all the properties of the body, changes in the form of growth and decay and the effects of the elements. We cannot expect a saint to hear with his eyes and see with his nose simply because he is a saint. Those who believe in the incarnation of the Divine have accepted Rama’s and Krishna’s life as the life of any human being. They have also suffered, toiled and undergone changes as any ordinary human being would. Shri Rama Krishna suffered. As Dr. Chowdhury has recorded, Swami Laxman Joo and other saints suffered physical ailments. That does not diminish their greatness and usefulness in any way. Even the human beings have mental, intellectual and spiritual aspects besides the physical aspects.

I had the privilege of attending a seminar at the residence of Shri T.N. Seshan, the then Chief Election Commissioner. It was soon after there was a wide spread occurrence of people offering milk to the idol of Ganesha. The then V.C. of J.N.U, who read his paper in the seminar, ridiculed this episode. Seshan observed, "our intellectuals have a habit of ridiculing anything that they cannot account for or explain scientifically. When we heard this we tried with dozens of idols of different metals that we possess but it did not work. Our servant, who lives in our servant quarter, however reported having fed milk to the idol of Ganesha that he had. We asked him to fetch the idol, which he did.We placed it in a silver plate and the servant, my wife andme all were able to feed the idol and there was not a single drop in the plate. Now this is my experience, which I cannot explain scientifically and gentlemen! I think you will give me some credit of being reasonably intelligent without any gullibility.’ There are many such instances, which occur with most of us and we ignore them by treating them as happenings by chance.

We look upon Babs and Bhagavaans aspreceptors, parents, guides, and saviours, who show us the way and give us enlightenment. This helps us lead a life of purity, piety and brings in divinity in our thoughts, words and deeds. Intellect is an important aspect of human existence, which gives us the faculties of reasoning and logic. This enables us to chalk out a path of righteousness for ourselves by discriminating between right and wrong, true and false desirable and undesirable and beneficial and harmful. Our heart gives us the faculties of kindness and compassion. Our mind gives us the faculty of thinking and discernment. Beyond all this there is some other aspect in human existence, may be the soul, that gives us faith, belief and trust and these in turn lead us to a position of bliss. Since the realm of bliss is subtle it is hard to describe or explain. Be that as it may. One thing is very clear and that is that the logic and faith both are inseparable part of human life and have their respective importance and relevance.

Let me end this write up on a personal note. Dr. Chowdhury has made a mention of some event in the life of his elder brother, Shri Chaman Lal Chowdhury. This brought to my memory a wonderful period of four years spent by my family in his company at London more than three decades back. I had the privilege of attending his marriage with Ann and thereafter our two families developed a close relationship. He is one of the finest persons I have ever met and both he and his wife were nice to us during our stay there. They were a very affectionate couple and loving friends. I send them our remembrance and best wishes for health and happiness, peace and prosperity.

Reality of God

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

God is a reality; there is no doubt about it for had it not been so, we would not be talking about God and arguing about Him existing or not existing. It is an accepted fact that we cannot think of a thing, which does not exist.

In our Puranic literature there was mention of people travelling through air and of umpteen different destructive weapons. All that seemed to be a myth not very long ago, but today all that is a fact. We see dreams wherein things and events get juxtaposed losing all the barriers of time and space, yet all that does exist in one form or the other. We may see a winged cow that seems to be impossibility, yet both the cow and the wings do exist, which proves the supposition that we cannot talk and discuss a thing that does not exist. So there is no question of going into a discussion about the existence of God. Even Buddha preferred to remain silent about this matter because he was not sure about God not existing. Mahavir did deny His existence but he could not put forward any concrete proof in support of his belief. Atheists deny His existence only because God is not visible to thenaked eye, which is hardly acceptable. There are hundreds of things that are not visible and yet we feel them or perceive them. Be that as it may and let us proceed on the firm premise that He does exist.

Now let us consider the reality of God. God is not a reality in physical terms because He does not have a form although many devotees worship him in one form or the other. These forms they give to Him out of their unflinching love for Him and on the basis of how they would like to see Him. This situation and this state of mind are difficult for people of other religions and faiths to fathom or appreciate. They denounce this practice of worshipping God with form by terming it as idol worship. The devotees have different tastes and varied likings because of which God is perceived in different forms and different shapes. This also cannot be appreciated and understood in right perspective by the believers of other faiths and is often branded as polytheism. Coming to think of it, there is no polytheistic religion in the world. In fact people of faith worship various visible powers of the Supreme, give them form and shape of their liking and choosing and thereby attempt to propitiate the one Supreme called by various names.

Recently I heard a Muslim cleric lecturing a gathering of Muslims on a Pakistani T.V. Channel. He was ridiculing those who considered Acharya Rajneesh as god. The speaker propounded four different tests for someone to be considered a god and cited Arabic quotations in support of his statements. Among other things he said that God is neither born nor bears anyone, He does not suffer any troubles and He can go anywhere freely. He further added that since Rajneesh was born to human parents, suffered some ailments and was denied American visa, he cannot be taken to be god. I do not want to say anything either for or against Rajneesh being held as a god because that is not the subject under discussion. Yet I would like to make it clear that the cleric in question had no idea of what these followers of Acharya meant when they said that he was a god. He being a person of a faith quite different from the Sanatana Dharma, it was not expected of him to understand the subtlety of this belief. Let us be candid and make it clear unhesitatingly that all religions and all beliefs are not the same. They differ not only in form but also in substance, not only in rituals but also in basic philosophies. The followers of Rajneesh, a set of well-meaning persons, did not mean to place him parallel to Almighty God but underscored his divinity. Moreover, is it not a fact that God permeates every soul and the entire creation is His manifestation? At least that is what we believe and subscribe to.

God can be a reality in real sense or an imaginary reality. If He is a reality in real sense a good many questions arise in our mind. He is one and only, a beginning-less and without an ending entity. Obviously he was not born in the sense in which we see animate beings taking birth. But that there is an entity called God is a conception as old as the man itself. Man has been confronted with mysteries of sorts. His own being is a mystery to him. The universe around him is a greater mystery. The functioning and the order in every activity of nature are simply baffling to him. Naturally, therefore, he is justified in presuming that there is a supreme power behind all this. He is justified in conceiving an entity that controls all this, manages it and ensures that everything works in an orderly manner. Consequently this entity has been held to be omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.

The theists present different proofs to establish His existence. The question that arises is as to why did God think of creating the universe? Was it to establish His supremacy? But then if none except Him existed, for whom was His supremacy to be established? Millions and billions of years back a time must have been such that there was neither existence nor non-existence. How did the creation take place; can there be existence out of non-existence? All these question by their nature must remain unanswered. Any plausible explanation has to be a mere conjecture, however convincing it might sound and appear. God can be a reality in imagination as well. Man, world and God are not only co-existent from the very beginning but are interdependent too. After all there could be neither a man nor the world, had there been no God. Similarly there would have been no God, had there been no man or the world. In this sense God exists as a reality in Man’s imagination. This accounts for the fact that there are different ways in which God has been conceived. Some have conceived Him with form and some without form. Some have conceived Him with attributes and some without attributes. Some see Him as an integral force behind the various elements that constitute this universe. Some perceive Him as the creator, sustainer and the destroyer. Some see Him in the wonders of nature. It is not surprising, therefore, that Man has worshipped the Sun, the trees, the snakes, the rivers and other facets of nature at different times. If we examine this phenomenon more closely and in depth, we will observe that there is no conflict in these practices.

As and when the secrets of nature got unraveled, as the mysteries became clearer, the man came closer to the reality of God. Mankind as a whole passed through various stages of intellectual competence. Individually also men differ from each other intellectually. Even the same man has different degrees of intellectual perception at different times depending upon his spiritual acumen at these times. This accounts for the varied ways in which the truth about the reality of God is perceived and presented. This also accounts for the existence of different faiths and religions. Some religions propound that the initiative comes from God for the uplift of man and man has only to respond, while others place the responsibility on man to take initiative to seek the Truth.

Let us consider this geographical fact. We say that there is an Equator, which divides the earth into two hemispheres, Northern and Southern. We say that there is the Tropic of Capricorn at about 23 degrees north latitude. Similarly we say that there is the Tropic of Cancer at about 23 degrees south latitude. Yet again we say that there is 0 degree longitude passing through Greenwich in England. Now if someone were to ask us to show these geographically relevant landmarks physically, it would simply be impossible to show these. Yet all these items are a reality and their existence cannot be denied nor can their relevance be doubted. The same is the case with God. We may not be able to show God physically. We may not be able to see Him with our naked eye. His existence, His relevance and His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence cannot be doubted. He is a reality in imagined sense no doubt. What do we do with geographical presumptions like longitudes, latitudes and other landmarks? We draw a map of the world on a globe or on a flat canvas and then draw these lines vertically and horizontally to bring home their existence and significance to the students of World Geography. Almost exactly we deal with the concept of God. We draw a picture showing God in various conceived forms. Sometimes we show Him in His benign form with a lotus and one hand bestowing grace. Sometimes we show Him in a ferocious form holding different destructive weapons in different hands. His supremacy, grandeur and greatness are shown by depicting Him having multiple heads, hands and faces. His omnipresence and omnipotence are conveyed by perceiving Him in nature's different facets and sometimes by worshipping the rising Sun, the trees, the mountains, running rivers and so on and so forth. This is the rationale behind idol worship and this is the significance and the justification for nature worship, which is often construed, wrongly though, as polytheism.

The reality of God is in fact indescribable. Those sages, prophets and noble men, who have known God, perceived Him and attained Truth are unable to describe Him in any way that would appeal to us. Perception of God is at spiritual level and we cannot apply mundane yardsticks or empirical explanations to this perception. The fact of the matter is that God as Creator is a mystery as the creation is and mystery defies any elucidation and ceases to be a mystery once it is explored, expounded and explained. It is better, therefore, for us to take pleasure and obtain bliss from this mysterious phenomenon all around us. All the same we should not stop exploring the mysteries on the top of which is the mysterious God, for the act of exploring is so fascinating, so absorbing and so satisfying in itself.

Abstract Perception

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Perception and experience are the main sources of knowledge. These are called ‘Pratyaksha’ or the visible source of knowledge and need no ‘Pramana’ or proof to establish what has been perceived or experienced. Perception is an abstract feeling. When someone pricks us with a pin and we get pain, we can see the pin but the pain experienced can only be perceived but not seen and, therefore, cannot be explained. When someone offers us a fragrant flower and we get joy, we can see the flower but cannot see the joy experienced and, therefore, cannot explain it. A simile often given for such occurrences is that of a candy given to a dumb person. He can see the candy; he can feel the sweet taste of the candy but cannot describe the sweetness.

Perception of the Divine also is an abstract feeling, which can be experienced but not explained. Logic, reason and description are in the realm of mundane and physical life of the human beings. Perception of the Divine, on the other hand, is in the realm of their spiritual life. It is, therefore, illogical and unreasonable to measure the spiritual experiences with the physical and mundane yardsticks. This dichotomy leads to people becoming atheists and non-believers in the existence of God.

In the Bhagavad Gita, there is both an audio and video description of the Divine in his majestic splendour. Although the entire discourse of the Gita emanates from the refusal of Arjuna to fight, which was his bounden duty, yet the Lord in his magnanimity dwells on multifarious subjects including the secret of His existence, His immanence, his omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence. No wonder Bhagavaan Gopi Nath has made a very important statement that ‘any one shloka of the seven hundred and odd shlokas from the Gita can be the preceptor for a person’. Incidentally the controversy about who his preceptor was, is, in my view, absolutely uncalled for. In this connection I am reminded of an old incident. Way back in 1970, when I was in England, a couple of gentlemen called on me and asked me whether the Indian Christians also believed that Christ was the son of God and whether they observed Sabbath on Sunday or Saturday. While I told them that being a Hindu it was difficult for me to answer their query, I posed a counter question and asked them whether the message of the Christ was important or his parentage and whether worship was important or the day when it is performed. They admitted that they had realized the folly of asking such irrelevant questions. We should also refrain from asking unnecessary questions about Bhagavaan Ji and concentrate on his message and teachings.

A very interesting feature of the Gita is that the Lord has described Himself in great detail. He has stated and illustrated that He is the seed of the creation‘Beejam mam sarvabhutanam viddhi Partha Sanatanam- VII.10’. He has made it clear that He is the Creator, the Sustainer and the One in whom the whole creation subsumes. He has also explained that He pervades the entire universe and that everything whether animate or inanimate, is His manifestation only. Later He also demonstrated His glory and Splendour by appearing before His beloved Arjuna first in His gigantic form and then in His benign human form. The gigantic form of Shri Krishna made Arjuna awe stricken and spellbound. The benign form of His mesmerized Him with the result that he was on his knees and could do nothing but surrender before the Lord. How many of us can be lucky to see the Lord in His human form? Shri Ramakrishna could converse with the Divine in His Mother form. Our Bab Bhagavaan was the one who could see and make other fortunate ones see the Divine in the form of a small girl. Not only was he able to see her but he was also in a position to feed her and the Mother Goddess in Her grace accepted these offerings from him. There have been many more people of a very high spiritual stature who have seen Him in the form of Shiva, Shri Krishna, Shri Rama or any other shape. Since we are not that exalted spiritually and since we are mere mortals, our perception of the Divine has to be abstract. The Bhagavad Gita can come to our help in this perception. It explains the existence of God in different terms, which are abstract no doubt but perceivable all the same. For example in Chapter X it says that of the different senses the Divine is the mind. It has to be noted here that the mind is the subtlest of the perceiving senses and the most vital centre of perception. And it hastens to add that in the living beings He is the Consciousness. ‘Indriyanam manashchasmi bhutanam-asmi chetana - Of the senses I am the mind and among living beings I am consciousness’. Again the consciousness is a subtle aspect of the living beings and the universal consciousness binds them all. That is why the Lord says, ‘Mayi sarvam-idam protam sutre manigana iva - All this is strung on Me as rows of gems on a string. VII.7’.

     We all know that there are five elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether. The Lord has explained in Chapter VII His existence in these elements in the following way. ‘I am fragrance in earth, sapidity in water, brilliance in fire and the sound in sky – ‘Punyo gandhah prithivyam, raso-aham-apsu, tejashchasmi vibhavasau,shabdah khe’. It will be observed that all these things are abstract concepts. One can see neither fragrance nor sapidity nor brilliance nor the sound. In the fifteenth chapter the Lord says that a part of His takes the form of an individual being in this world, ‘Mamaivansho jeevaloke jeevabhutah’. This does not mean that the Lord is fragmented in millions of parts in order to be born in the form of different beings. What it implies is that a part of His unlimited powers and unrestricted functions is assigned to the beings to ensure smooth functioning of the cosmic set up. But in order to perceive Him in the beings He says that He is the very soul and the life of all beings. ‘Jeevanam sarva bhuteshu - I am the life in all beings. VII.9’. ‘Aham-aatma Gudakesha sarvabhuta-ashayasthitah - I am the soul seated in the hearts of all beings. X.20’.

There are a number of other statements wherein the Divine has been described in subtlest possible ways with the result the perception becomes all the more undefined and subtle. He is the valour in men, penance of the ascetics, wisdom of the wise and radiance of the splendid, strength of the strong but devoid of lust and passion, desire in the righteous and the reason of the debators. ‘paurusham nrishu, tapah tapasvishu, buddhirbuddhimatam, tejas-tejaswinam, balam balavatam kama-raga-vivarjitam, dharma-aviruddho bhuteshu kamo’smi – VII. 10-11’. ‘Vadah pravadatam – X.32’. Shri Krishna tells us to perceive Him as the eternal time, purifying wind, Science of self, silence as the great secret, the first letter ‘Aa’, as also the sacred syllable OM, which is indestructible. All this constitutes abstract perception as opposed to considering the Divine as the Sun, the ocean, the Himalaya, the Moon, the thunderbolt, the Ganges et al, all of which are visible, perceivable and identifiable. But the beauty lies in the abstract perception, which gives a feel of divinity of the Divine and strengthens the belief in His existence.‘Kalah kalayatam, pavanah pavatam, adhyatma-vidya vidyanam, maunam chaivasmi guhyanam, aksharanam-akaro’smi, giram-asmi-ekam-aksharam-X.25,30, 31,32,33,38’. All this description gives us a lead whereby we can perceive the Divine in all that which is abstract, indefinable, indescribable, immeasurable, and that which cannot be quantified. We have to perceive Him in our breathing, in our feelings, in our heartbeat, in the recesses of our innermost selves and derive eternal joy, which itself is the Divine Himself identified as ‘Aanandah’. This is the message of the Gita, which the Lord Himself has narrated and demonstrated to the world through the medium of Arjuna. Lord is the guide and Arjuna represents a well meaning, intellectually conscious and alert human being who is ever eager to know and, therefore, questions, argues and debates constantly with cogent reasoning and logical analysis. So far as the common man is concerned, he is like a Gopi, full of faith, devotion and dedication. He need not argue or harbour any doubts. He sees and perceives his Lord all the time in the miracles that happen in his life and in the mysteries that he encounters. I as a common mortal human being perceive Him in many forms every day. When I gaze at the vastness of the blue sky above and the lofty mountain peaks kissing it at the fringe, I see Him. When I stroll along the sea-beach and look across where the waters and the skyline meet each other and think of the depth of the ocean I see Him. When I see a multi-hued rainbow scanning the entire span of the grey sky, I see Him. When I walk through a beautiful flower garden and observe the artwork on the flower petals, the variety of colours and the colour scheme, the scent and fragrance, different in different flowers and the singing bees and dancing butterflies, I see Him. When I go into the minutest details of the fruits, the arrangement like that in a pomegranate or in an orange, the pattern like that of the grapes, the making of the interior and the exterior like that of a coconut, an almond or a walnut, I visualize the artist behind all this creation and see Him. I am fascinated by the order, the arrangement and the harmony in the nature. I wonder at my own body in which I dwell, as the wonder of wonders, the functioning of its internal organs and external limbs and see Him with a sense of awe, bewilderment and surprise. This perhaps is the perception best suited to a common man, however abstract and obscure it might be. This abstract perception gives meaning to our lives and direction to us to reach our cherished destination.  

When I look to the portrait of Bhagavaan ji

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

The first time I looked to the portrait of Bhagavaan ji was at his Aashram in Pamposh colony at New Delhi. Thereafter the portrait was replaced by a marble statue. I happened to visit this place a number of times and had so many occasions to look up to him. Next it was the Aashram at Uttam Nagar where again I looked at his statue. In the meantime some literature published by the Foundation also was seen -by me including Bhagavaan ji’s biography, which I wrote and these contained many of his different photographs, which I have been seeing time and again. My experience has been that this gaze at his photograph, statue or portrait has been so fascinating, so inspiring and so invigorating. It gives us a new zeal, imparts fresh energy and fills with enlightenment.  

Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji 
Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji

The first thing that I see is the radiance, the sparkle and the shine that emanates from his face. The rays of light radiate from his forehead in particular and simply mesmerize me. The effect is some sort of a trance in which I feel at peace with myself. This is an experience better felt than described. Then the light of his eyes penetrates, as it were, the mind and I feel that it is purified and put on a meditative mode where I can see piety and pious resolutions directed towards truth. Of course, it is not possible to withstand the dazzle and, therefore, my eyes involuntarily look downwards. Then again I raise my head and have a look at the portrait. I feel Vedic chants are sprouting forth from his delicate lips. I get a feel of a magical environment in which the seed syllable ‘OM’ resounds and instantaneously I perceive that God is all over the place in the form of the ‘Shabda Brahma’, the Eternal Sound.

Thereafter I look up to his spotless white turban and the traditional Kashmiri attire, ‘Pheran’ and get a message of the three golden words, which Bhagavaan Ji himself has prescribed as virtue for a pious noble person. The message is to lead a life of simplicity, purity and truthfulness. These qualities should not only be preached but must be translated into action so that these are manifest in our thought, word and deed. His hands assure me of his benign grace and give me a great solace that he is always there to hold my hands and put me on the right track should I venture to falter or go astray. His broad ‘Pheran’ is a shelter for me. I am assured that he is there to provide me a safe haven from all troubles and tribulations. This shelter will protect me from all difficulties. It is there to cover me so that no shade of any evil falls on me and I remain unscathed from the turmoil of this world.

When I see his partially hidden left foot, I begin to perform ‘Pada-puja’ , worship of his holy feet, in my mind. I visualize both his feet joined together, forming a full-grown lotus, the symbol of life. I worship this lotus and pray that my life too be like a lotus, unscathed and unaffected by the ups and downs of the world around me, where I conduct myself as a member of the vast association of mankind. I remember what Shri Gita ordains us to be, ‘Padma-patram-iva ambasa’ – like a lotus pod in the waters.

I see him as my father, my mother, my Guru, my guide and my savior. I feel safe at his feet and am assured of protection, guidance and enlightenment. I am confident that he will liberate me from ignorance, show me the path of righteousness and steer the boat of my life safely. I see in him God and he tells me to see the same God in myself and in everything around me. I believe in him, I trust him and have an immense faith in him. I am, therefore, sanguine that this belief that everything here verily is God will one day, with the grace of Bhagavaan ji fructify and I will realize this universal truth. I know that if I ask him for some mundane and worldly comforts, he will certainly oblige me. But why ask for a transient and temporary pleasure, when you can get from him permanent bliss for asking? I implore him to give me an ever-lasting divinity that will give meaning to my life. This assurance I always get from him by merely looking at his portrait either in one of his Aashrams or at my home or in any publication.

Not to speak of the pleasure I derive from his portrait, I feel and experience a satisfying happiness even when I meet a devotee of his or have a chance to talk about him with any noble soul. At that moment I feel his presence near me. He guides my thoughts and words and eventually when these thoughts and words are put to action and implemented, the results are pious. I often get a silent message from him to turn to Shrimad Bhagavad Gita for light and guidance. I remember his statement that any ‘Shloka’ from seven hundred and odd verses of this holy book can be our mentor and preceptor. Even so he also enjoins upon me to turn inwards to search the truth and not waste my energy in searching outwardly.

Whenever I sit before his portrait I experience tremendous amount of concentration. My mind does not wander aimlessly even though in the words of Arjuna, it is fickle, arrogant and hard to control, ‘chanchalam hi manah Krishna, pramathi, balavad dridam.’ I try to ponder over the purpose of my life, the secret of the human existence, the creation and the creator as also their mutual relationship. The rays emanating from his eyes keep me focused and I feel that my inquisitive search is in the right direction. When I see his ‘Chilum’ and the ‘Dhooni’, both having fire inside, I am reminded of the famous ‘Shloka’ in the Bhagavad Gita, which goes like this: ‘Brahmaarpanam, Brahma havi, Brahmaagnau, Brahmana hutam, Brahmaiva tena gantavyam Brahma-karma-samadhina.’ In this vast gigantic sacrificial fire, the oblation, the giver of oblation, the receiver of oblation, the fire proper and the purpose and objective of the sacrifice all are the same Divine. Those who are engaged whole-heartedly in this divine action they attain the Divine, no doubt. I feel that this message is the sum and substance of the different messages given by our beloved Bab Bhagavaan and the sooner we realize this, the better for us and our enlightenment.      

The Role of the Media

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

That the media is the fourth pillar of a democracy, after Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive, is beyond any doubt true. A mature and vibrant and responsible media reflects the maturity of a democratic system notwithstanding the occasional rumours that some media persons are in the pay roll of this state or that or this political party or that, with the result that the reporting is biased, glossed or prejudiced. One must not forget that the media persons too have their leanings, their ideologies and their affiliations and consequently they too have their specific viewpoint on various issues confronting the society. This is true of the print media as also the Radio and the Television. In this connection the coverage of the Common Wealth Games held in Delhi is a point in question. Up to the run up of the games day in and day out there were comments on the facilities created for the games and the sports persons participating in the games. Delhi witnessed un-precedented rains during September and consequently there were water logging, traffic snarls as also damage to the infra-structure. The media was quick to question the ability, the intent and the sincerity of the persons and institutions involved with the organization of the games. This was further compounded by highlighting the security lapses and the health hazards like the outbreak of the epidemic of dengue. There was such a fearful hysteria created by the media that at one time it appeared as if the whole project was going to collapse. This resulted in some sportsmen deciding not to take part in the games.

One can understand such a coverage given by the foreign media, who still believe that India is a place of beggars and snake-charmers but what about our own media? They should have realised that in the modern world when broadcast and telecast is available to large sections of the population, the media plays a vital role in building an opinion on anything. The negative reporting was so severe that even the people living in Delhi began to feel that the whole affair was going to end in a fiasco. Nobody pointed out the good side of the arrangements. For example no body highlighted that whereas sports persons were accommodated in university hostels with limited facilities both in Bejing and Melbourne, a whole new games village with all modern facilities had been readied in Delhi. When the opening ceremony was held in the Nehru stadium, all the spectators and television watchers were spellbound by the grandeur and excellence of the event. The prophets of doom had to eat a humble pie. To say the least, the media had acted in an irresponsible manner. There was a debate whether pointing out shortcomings and irregularities was patriotic or unpatriotic. This discussion is neither here nor there. What is important is giving an overall realistic picture and creating a healthy optimistic opinion.

Recently there was another historic event in which again the media played a vital role in building a view point. That was about the court verdict on Ayodhya dispute. First of all a fear psychosis was created that since the decision was going in favour of one of the two communities involved in the case, there was bound to be communal clash. The verdict came and everyone without exception respected the decision, with of course reservations about taking further legal course as available under the law. Majority of the people interviewed on television and those who took part in various discussions on the subject hailed the court verdict as balanced and far-sighted. There was, however, a minority opinion that found it flawed on technicalities. It was surprising to see that the majority view was side-tracked by certain media channels whereas the negligible opposite view was telecast and re-telecast ad-nauseam. Thank heavens and thank the matured disposition of the Indian masses, this did not create any wedge in the society.  Good sense prevailed and today there is a mature reaction to the court decision and many scholars on both sides have shown willingness to reach an agreement by discussion across the table.

Thus it will be seen that important as the media is in a democratic set up, it has to be responsible, sensitive and cautious because it plays a decisive role in shaping the public opinion on various problems confronting the society as also the world at large. It has not only to be truthful in its news and views and reporting but has to be conscious of the outcome of all that goes on air and in print. The verdict in the High court was that the disputed area in Ayodhya be divided into three parts and one part each be given to Muslims for constructing the mosque, to Hindus for constructing the Rama Temple and to the Akhara for their legitimate use. The litigant parties went in appeal to the Supreme Court of India. The Apex court has disagreed with the decision of the lower court on the plea that there was no request from any party for the division of the disputed land. So the situation is back to square one.

Kashmir Hindu Shrines


The book provides a comprehensive account of the history and heritage of the Hindu shrines and tirthas in Kashmir, the tradition and legend associated with them and the spiritual experience they symbolize. 

The book is the first complete study of the sociology of the Hindu religious culture of Kashmir and provides a description of the ancient Hindu temples, mostly lying in ruins, shrines and tirthas and the places of pilgrimage, the cave temples, temples built in and around springs and temples in general, besides, shrines dedicated to the worship of Bhavani—the Mother Goddess. 

The book is based upon source materials drawn from mahatamayas of the Hindu shrines, scriptural notices, legend and tradition. The English version of several mahatamayas and legends and extracts of scriptural notices are included in the foot-notes and appendix of the book for ready reference.

Kashmir formed a part of the complex of cultures, which grew in the north of India from their harappan begingings. An attempt has been made to place the history of the Hindu tirthas in the broad context of the Hindu religious culture of India.

The book is expected to provide the basis for evolving new approaches to the study of the Hindu religious precept and practice which underline a deeper insight into the Hindu religious culture.

71, SUNDER BIOCK, SHAKARPUR, DELHI—110092, Tel.22547672, 
MOB.9891297912 , Email.cl.gadoo@gmail.com Blog. clgadoo.blogspot.com

Kashmir Hindu Shrines

Heritage and History

By Shri C.L.Gadoo

A Review by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan'

T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'At the outset I must congratulate Shri Gadoo for writing this book so painstakingly after a good lot of research. He has dedicated it to his late father Shri Janki Nath Gadoo and rightly so because heritage and history belongs to our fathers and forefathers. The book has a very well written and analytical foreword by our eminent historian, thinker and writer Shri M.K.Teng. The shrines described in the book have been appropriately grouped under various categories, stone temples, spring temples and cave temples. These have been described in great detail, giving an account of their architecture, location, historical background and the legends attached to them. These descriptions have taken into account minutest details that have gone collectively into giving an idea of the architectural grandeur, cultural importance and the religious sanctity of the shrine concerned. Innumerable sources have been tapped by the author to trace the history of every shrine mentioning the king by whom or in whose regime the temple was established and the deities who have adorned their sanctum sanctorum. This extract will amply prove what has been stated above:

“Ancient stone temples of Kashmir are either square or oblong, subdivided into closed or open types. The doorways are everywhere rectangular and Brahmanical temples face in all directions. However, they bear a unique feature in having the water spout, without exception, to the left of the image. The temple walls are profusely carved. The basements of these temples consist of single or double platform, thus giving a single or double passage for circumambulating.” “Pandit Sona Lal Thusu, who was originally a resident of the village Liddarwan, established a shop in Shardi village in 1922. Sona Lal was witness to the annual pilgrimage to the Sarada temple…. He has given a full description of the visit of Kashmiri saint Mathura Devi, who visited Sarada shrine in 1933……” 

The book has convincingly argued that the Hindu temples are not merely prayer houses but seats of learning and culture where one experiences the presence of the Absolute and embarks on an exercise to know Him. There are certain ancient Sanskrit texts still extant, which throw light on the origin, history and the religious importance of the holy river Vitasta, as also the shrines at Tulamula, Amarnath, Sharada, Koti Tirtha etc. These are called Mahatamyas. The learned writer has drawn extensively from these sources to establish the relative importance of each one of these shrines and their pristine glory. There is a separate chapter on the legendary river, Saraswati, on the banks of which the civilization of Kashmiri Pandits is deemed to have flourished because of which we are known as Saarswat Brahmins. While it is widely believed that the river, which existed in Vedic times and later, no longer exists and must have either dried up or got merged with some other major rive, I am of the opinion that a serious thought should be given to the possibility of the river Saraswati and the river in Afghanistan called Harakeeti being one and the same. We know Gandhar (modern Kandahar) has been closely linked with India and we also know that Dewan Nand Ram of Kashmir was the governor of Afghanistan. We also know that the tribes on the Indian side were called gana and on the other side apa-gana, whereby the name Apaganasthan (Afghanistan).

The chapter on destruction of temples is very poignant and painful. It details the events that took place from time to time in Kashmir, which led to the destruction and desecration of Hindu temples, shrines and places of worship, followed by persecution and forcible conversion. This has happened in the period of Mughals, Pathans, Shahmiris, Chaks and others. So much so that desecration of temples and usurpation of the temple land and property took place even in the post independence period. This chapter highlights the pain and plight of Kashmiri Hindus and their suffering from time to time, physically, mentally and emotionally. These details have chronicled the darkest chapters of the history of Kashmir. The author has given vent to his own deep rooted feelings and his concern for the plight of the society to which he belongs.

The book has a wide coverage of all types of temples and shrines dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and His various incarnations and Shakti in Her different forms of Laxmi, Kali, Durga etc. The age-old tradition of Kashmir of having allegiance to specific form of Shakti, called Kula Devi or family goddess has also been described in this book purposefully and authentically. This highlights the practice of Shakti worship that has been prevalent in this part of the country since ages. Although it is said that Brahma, the creator is not worshipped as such, (there is only one temple dedicated to Brahma at Pushkar in Rajasthan), the learned writer has traced some information about the temple dedicated to Brahma, the creator as well. 

A very important under current in the entire book is to establish the historic fact that Kashmir has been religiously, culturally and traditionally a part of this vast country Bharatvarsha where God is worshipped in His various forms of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the sustainer and Rudra, the destroyer; Vishnu in His various incarnations of Rama, Krishna etc, Shiva along with His consort; Shakti in Her different aspects of Parvati, Laxmi, Saraswati, Kali and the like. This link needs to be preserved and strengthened by reconstructing the damaged shrines, establishing them as seats of worship and culture and bringing back their lost glory. There is also a paramount need for our young researchers to carry on this study, which has so thoughtfully been inaugurated by Shri Gadoo, further to bring to light the hidden history and cultural importance of these temples and shrines, through an in-depth study of various ‘Mahatamyas’ and collateral evidence that may be available in different manuscripts still untraced and untapped. 

SourceSpade a Spade, Feb 2012 issue, and Milchar, March-April 2012 issue 


Fire and Sacrifice

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Fire is one of the five main elements, in fact an important element at that, so much so that the Greek philosopher Heraclitas (540 B.C. to 490 B.C.) considered this as the main substance. The Vedas have given it immense importance; The Rg. Veda starts with the mantra addressed to the sacred fire, ‘Agnimeele purohitam ratnadatamam – I bow to thee O, Fire!, the benevolent one and the giver of wealth.’ Science also has identified various forms of fire. The lightening is one of the forms of the fire. There is forest fire. Even the water has fire in it which is converted into hydro-electricity.  There is fire within human body that digests all that we consume. Lust and passion are fire too and these activate our senses violently. Our ancestors, sages as they were, had identified various forms of fire as ‘Davaagni’, ‘Vadvaagni’, ‘Jatharaagni’ etc. 

Every form of fire demands sacrifice in the shape of an oblation. Trees are oblation to the forest fire and food is an oblation to the fire in the tummy. This oblation, our sages have taught us, is to be given as a sacrifice. By doing so, we practise detached action, which in turn frees us from all types of bondages. While offering an oblation we say ‘Agnaye swaha  - this is an offering for the sacred fire’ and then hasten to add, ‘Idam agnaye, idam na mama  - this belongs to fire and this is not mine.’ In the words of the poet we say, ‘Tera tujh ko sonpte kya laagata hai more – I hand over to you what is already yours and in doing so I lose nothing.’ This gives us a mental attitude of detached action. Naturally, therefore, we reap neither good fruit for good deeds nor bad fruit for bad actions and our position is ‘Padma-patram-iva ambasa – lotus pod in the water, unscathed and unaffected. This is also in line with what is stated in Ishavasya Upanishad, ‘Tena tyekhtena bhunjithah -  one should enjoy everything in a detached way.’

Shrimad Bhagvad Gita has described a variety of fires and their respective items of oblations. There are our senses of hearing, seeing, smelling etc. These are given as oblation in the fire of restraint. These senses in their turn form a fire in which sense objects are offered as oblations. Self-control is another form of fire kindled by knowledge. In this fire we offer all the actions of our senses and the functions of the life-giving breath as oblation. When oblation is offered into the sacred fire it is termed as ‘yajna’ or sacrificial fire. The act is differently termed as ‘yajna’, or ‘homa’ or ‘havana’. The oblation is called ‘aahuti’, the sacrificial fire is known as ‘hutavaha’ and one who makes the offering is called ‘hota’. The nomenclature for the fire is significant in as much as it means ‘the carrier of the oblations’. The question is ‘where does it carry the oblations and the offerings’. The answer given by our scriptures is simple, that it carries these offerings to the gods ‘devatas’, to whom these substances belong. There is a variety of these sacrifices which we offer, the wealth, austerity, self-study, knowledge, extreme vows and self-denial and even yoga whereby the individual soul or ‘jeevaatma’ gets merged with the universal soul ‘paramaatma’.   

There is yet another type of sacrificial fire going on continuously without any break or let up in our lives. The inhaled air is offered as oblation into the fire of exhaled air and the exhaled air is offered into the fire of inhaled air. This sacrificial fire is kept kindled by those who are engaged in the regulation of the life-energy or life-essence called ‘Prana’, by the exercise called ‘pranayama’. The knowledgeable who have mastered this technique treat the breath as fire as well as an oblation and are constantly engaged in this ‘yajna-karma’. This destroys all their sins because this world, according to Shri Gita, is for those who perform these sacrifices and not for others. They partake of the remains of these offerings and then get merged with the Absolute Brahman.

These all different types of yajnas emanate from actions and deeds and the realization of this fact liberates the knower. Although all the sacrifices are important yet they vary in the relative importance. Offering knowledge is naturally superior to any other offering of wealth etc. In fact all our actions are aimed at gaining knowledge or awareness. Once the awareness is attained we know the self and we know the Supreme, we know the creator, the creation and the relationship between the two. If the philosophy of dualism appeals to us we see the creator as a great painter or a sculptor and the creation as the paintings and sculptures drawn and carved by Him. If, on the other hand non-dualism convinces us, we see the creator as a ‘Nataraja’,the great dancer and the creation as His dance or sport called ‘Leela’. This magnificent spectacle enthralls us, bewilders us and leaves us awe-stricken where we say, ‘Vasudevah sarvam-iti  - everything here verily is Vasudeva only.’

Shri Gita has gone still further in describing this monistic phenomenon apparent from the character of the cosmos. It says, ‘Brahmaarpanam brahma havi brahmaagnau brahmana hutam, brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma-karma samadhina – the oblation is for Brahma, the oblation in itself is Brahma, Brahma only offers these into the fire, which also is Brahma. One who sees Brahma alone in this action attains Brahma.’ This shloka describes the entire cosmos and its various functions as fires of different types. Even at mundane level we see the fires of different nature and different types in existence. When we feel hungry, the hunger erupts as fire and we satisfy it by giving food as oblation. When we are thirsty, the thirst burns as fire and the water that we drink to quench the thirst becomes an oblation. The passion, the lust, the zest, the vigour and similar other feelings and emotions form different types of fire and are satisfied by different types of offerings. This act goes on incessantly, constantly and continuously and we get engaged in sacrificial fires and offerings, knowingly or unknowingly.    

But fire is a good servant and a bad master. If we control it, regulate it, our life will remain on the track of righteousness, piety and purity. If, on the other hand, we allow it to overpower us, the journey of our life will go astray. It is, therefore, essential to understand each type of fire, identify it and select the right form of oblation for it to be satisfied. Take the case of desires, a very strong fire. This can be given an oblation of the desired object but that will satisfy it temporarily and then it will get rekindled in a big way. But, if we use contentment as an oblation the fire will subside permanently. Similarly the fire of hatred, malice, ill-will, enmity and jealousy needs an oblation of love, compassion, kindness, sympathy and goodwill so that the fire does not over power us.

Shri Gita talks of yet another type of fire. ‘Kama esha krodha esha rajoguna samudbhava – The desire and the anger emanate from the attribute of passion’. We get into an unending syndrome of desires and lust. If these are satisfied the satiation is momentary or temporary. Again the fire erupts and makes us restless with redoubled lust and craving. If these are not satisfied or are partially satisfied we lose temper, get into a rage and the fire of anger overpowers us. Here again the oblation has to be changed to enjoyment with a detached mind, action without an eye on the fruit of it and a poised attitude towards the pairs of opposites, like success and failure, happiness and grief, gain and loss.


by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

The word ‘Mythology’ is derived from the word ‘Myth’, which in turn is adopted from the Sanskrit word ‘Mithya’ meaning false. This goes to show that whatever is recorded in any mythology is not true. It is false, fabricated, concocted and based on the fertile imagination of mankind. Even so it has a purpose, a lofty aim and the intention to do something for the good of the mankind. Every religious group, every ideological section and every sect has created a storehouse of mythological stories, which are read with reverence and faith. We have Puranas, Jatak Kathayen, Biblical stories, and umpteen other literary compilations, which are in the form of stories with morals, lessons and directions for righteous living. There are mythological heroes, whose life is an ideal to emulate. There are other characters who are role models for the conduct of a pious, pure and just behavior. In fact whereas the scriptures and holy books of various religions have attracted the attention of the intellectuals and an elite group only, the mythology has had an appeal for the common man. It has always been popular among the masses and has commanded their reverence, respect and devotion. It has put the common man on the right track in life and ensured that he refrains from vice and sin and leads a virtuous life.

In the corpus of Indian mythology eighteen Puranas are the most popular works, wherein there are characters, which have had an indelible effect on the conduct and morality of Indian masses. In addition the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great epics, which are read with great devotion. Rama of Valmiki became a role model for Sanskrit knowing elites and then Rama of Tulsidas reached every household in the North. Subsequently Ramayana came to be written in almost every language of India. Rama is referred to as ‘Purushottama’, or an ideal person. No doubt he presents a clear portrait of an obedient son, a devout husband and a responsible and just ruler. Laxmana and Bharata, on the other hand are depicted as faithful, honest, truth-loving and devoted brothers, who know their respective rights and responsibilities. Hanumana is a devotee of the Lord and is ever prepared to carry out any job for him, howsoever onerous and difficult that may be. Sita shows an ideal woman-hood ever and always attached to her husband.

Even the negative characters have a message to convey. Look at Ravana, Hiranyakashyapa, Kansa, Duryodhana and their ilk. All of them were arrogant, haughty and headstrong. These negative traits were considered unpardonable and all these persons were punished. The lesson to be drawn is that the arrogance does not pay and instead we should be humble. As against these characters there were others like Vibhishana, Arjuna, Sugreeva, Angad etc who were humble. They got rewarded adequately for this virtue.

Arjuna and the Gopis collectively are the two characters representing respectively, intellectual finesse and devotional surrender. Arjuna argues, raises questions and doubts and seeks answers to his misgivings. Finally when he realizes his limitations and shortcomings he sees no other alternative but to surrender before the Master. He says, ‘Karishye vachanam tava. – I shall execute your orders and carry out your command.’ Gopis are, ab initio, in a surrender mould. When Udhav visits Gokul, at the behest of Shri Krishna, they surround him and ask scores of questions about the Lord. When he ventures to give them some lessons in knowledge ‘Jnana’, they brush that aside saying, ‘Udhav man nahin das bees, ek huto so gayo Shyam sang – Udhav! We do not possess multiple minds. Like any human being we had one mind, which has gone with our beloved Shyam, so we cannot be receptive to your lessons.’ This surrender pays because the Lord says, ‘Tesham nityabhiyukhtanam yogakshemam vahami-aham – I look after all the needs of those who are always attached to Me. I provide them what they do not have and protect what they do have.’

Look at the characters like Dhruv and Prahlad. They are embodiment of devotion, dedication, faith and love of God. Their life and activities are a lesson in surrender unto Lord, dedication to Truth and realization of the Supreme. Since the mythological literature is next only to the scriptures, these lessons in the conduct and behavior go deep into the psyche of a common man. Once it puts the lives of the millions on the proper track of righteousness, the purpose is served. Even otherwise conveying a message directly does not have that much an impact as when it is conveyed indirectly through the medium of a story. Outside the mythology as well, we have a storehouse of stories, ‘Brihat Katha Manjari’, ‘Katha sarit Sagar’, ‘Pancha-Tantra’ etc;       which convey morals, lessons and guidance in a subtle way, sometimes even through animal characters, e.g. ‘Buddhir-yasi balam tasye, nirbuddhestu kuto balam, pashya simho madonmatta shashikena nipatita – A person with wisdom only is said to be powerful, a fool has no strength. Look how a small but wise hare was able to drown a mighty but foolish lion.’

In India we see a lot many story-tellers, who take sessions after sessions and give discourses in Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagwat and other Pauranik literature. Thousands of devotees listen to them with reverence. They not only get solace for those hours spent in listening to these discourses but also carry the lessons in good conduct, pious behavior and virtuous life and imbibe these qualities. These lessons, sooner or later, stand them in good stead and help them in fashioning their lives on a righteous track. The individual is reformed and in the process the entire society is given a new and pious form. Thus the mythology plays a constructive role in shaping the lives of the people and in influencing the civilization and culture of a nation. This is no mean contribution and puts the entire corpus of this literature on a high pedestal. One can conclude that whereas the scriptures appeal to the spirit of a man, the mythology affects his mundane life and behavior. It has been rightly said that these mythological stories are read and narrated for ‘Vinoda, Sukha, Labhaya’ entertainment, happiness and benefit. It depends upon us how much benefit we derive from it.

Mythology may not stand the test of logic and reasoning. It may not pass the examination conducted through intellect and wisdom. Yet it cannot be discarded outright as irrelevant and useless. The corpus of revealed texts of different religions and the works and findings of various philosophers and thinkers appeal to those who are intellectually at a higher level and those who seek truth in a concerted way by adopting various spiritual disciplines. For a common man, however, there has to be some material, which attracts him, educates and guides him and gives him solace and satisfaction by reaching out to him at his level of understanding. This requirement is fulfilled by mythology and other similar literature that gives lessons in morality, ethics and good conduct. Human society owes a great debt to this corpus because it has shaped the society and given the life its meaning and purpose.

Our Sacred Symbols

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Recently I heard a religious discourse where the learned speaker said that ‘Dharma’ is one and that is beginning-less and unending and the divergent faiths that we see in our contemporary world are actually different ways of worshipping. How true this statement is? No doubt there are multifarious ways of worshipping the Divine. Each one of them has certain symbols to represent different aspects of their faith. The Christians have a cross, the Muslims have a crescent, the Sikhs have an iron bangle or a dagger and so on and so forth.  Traditionally we too have certain sacred symbols. Each one of them has a meaning and a certain connotation. Let us examine some of these symbols and what each one of them represents and conveys. We may also underline the importance of these in the contemporary world for us. The first and foremost is ‘AUM’ called ‘Pranavah’. The Bhagavad Gita says that ‘AUM’ connotes the Divine. ‘Pranavah sarva Vedeshu – the crux of the Vedas is ‘AUM’ and that is Me.’ This important symbol known as ‘seed syllable’ or ‘Beeja-akshra’ represents totality, completeness or fullness, manifestation of the Divine in the form of the entire creation. It covers top, bottom, centre of the cosmos denoted by the three letters and the unknown beyond that, represented by the fourth nasal sound called ‘Turiya’, fourth. The Divine is said to be beyond all these four states. This symbol also is held to be denoting four stages of human consciousness, wakeful stage, dream-stage, sleeping stage and the stage higher than the rest three. There is a belief that the Ganesha is the personification of this sacred symbol conceived by the sages of yore.

Now let us take the symbol hexagon. It is actually a juxtaposition of two triangles, one inverted into the other. This not only shows the six dimensions of the universe but also symbolizes union of the two opposites like the Chinese yung and yen, Upanishadic ‘Pran’ and ‘Rayi’, Vaishnavite’s ‘Purusha’and ‘Prakriti’ and Shaivite’s ‘Shiva’ and ‘Shakti’ or the Matter and Force of the Sciences. Our mythologies have conceived of certain multi-faceted entities like four-faced Brahma and Ganesha, five-faced Shiva or six-faced Kumara. This shows that our sages were aware of multiple dimensions at a time when the world was ignorant of the astronomical and scientific facts of the universe.     

The next symbol is called ‘Swastik’ or the symbol of well-beingIt is the mathematical sign of plus with all the four arms extended. It denotes not only the union of various elements but also suggests infinite nature of the existence through its open-ended extremities. We use this symbol on festive occasions and during religious rituals. Now let us take the mark that we put on our foreheads called ‘Tilaka’. We make a paste of sandalwood, saffron or vermilion. Then a mark either round or oval or straight is made with this paste on the forehead in the centre between the two eyebrows. We all know that this place is a nerve centre and controls various parts of the body intellectually and through awareness. These holy pastes keep this place poised in a balanced equilibrium. It keeps the temperature of this most important epicentre controlled and properly checked. Some people apply white ashes called ‘Vibhuti’ on the whole of the forehead. In certain areas of our country the pattern of this mark additionally indicates the school of philosophy to which a person owes allegiance. If the mark has threefold horizontal lines made of sandal paste, the person is a ‘Shaivite’, believing in non-dualism of Adi Shankara. If the mark is round and red, made of vermilion, the person is a ‘Shakhta’, worshipper of Mother Goddess. If it is vertical U-shaped mark, the person is a ‘Vaishnavaite’ subscribing to dualism of Madhvacharya or qualified monism of Ramanujacharya.

There are multifarious symbols prescribed in different treatises. These are all graphic and geometrical and are called ‘Yantras’. In fact there is a close connection between ‘Mantras’ and ‘Yantras’. For every ‘Mantra’ there is a specific ‘Yantra’. Of these ‘Shree Yantra’ or ‘Shree Chakra’ are the most commonly used for rituals and worshipping. We have had an abode of ‘Shree Chakra’ at the hillock Hari Parbat in Srinagar for centuries. The place is called ‘Chakreshwara’ and devotees worship at this place with conviction and abundant faith. While the ‘Mantra’ is used for chanting and recitation of the names, attributes and praises of the chosen deity, the ‘Yantras’ help in concentration, meditation and ritualistic practices. Often these symbols are written on paper or metal sheets and made into a talisman to be worn round the neck, as upper armbands or on the wrists. A coloured red and yellow thread called ‘Narivan’ is also worn round the wrist. This is a symbol of the pledge we take in front of our deity to lead a life of righteousness, piety and purity. This is a symbol, which is with us all the time and inspires us to be noble and divine in thought, word and deed. This is tied and worn at the beginning of every ritual and at the commencement of the sacrificial fire.   

There are many other symbols prescribed in different schools of philosophy and each one of them has a meaning, a connotation and has its relevance in the course of spiritual practice. Those who follow ‘Tantra’ have a number of symbols with different usage.

The First Lessons

by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

Millions and millions of people the world over read Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the song celestial. Different people derive different meaning and different lessons from the verses contained therein. Those who seek solutions to their mundane problems get guidance and those who seek spiritual knowledge get enlightenment from this compendium of the Upanishads. From the second to the last eighteenth chapter there are discourses on action, ‘Karma’, knowledge, ‘Jnana’, devotion, ‘Bhakti’and contemplation, ‘Dhyana’. Although the first chapter is generally skipped over by those desirous of profound knowledge, for a beginner like me the first chapter also conveys a lot. For me it contains the first lessons of life, both exoteric and esoteric.

The first verse talks about ‘Dharma-kshetra’ and ‘Kuru-kshetra’. This tells me that whatever is stated in the Gita relates to our life, which is a vast field of action and a theatre of righteousness. I am convinced that the Gita tells me to live a life of committed action and sustained virtues. The same verse refers to the two armies arrayed in the field as ‘yuyutsavah’ or inclined to fight. This tells me that the life is a continuous struggle between right and wrong, true and false and virtue and vice and the Gita describes this struggle and shows us the ways and means to fight and be victorious.

For me again the verse nos.21 and 22 are very significant. Arjuna asks the Lord to place his chariot between the two armies so that he could see whom he is to fight against. Arjuna represents the ‘Jeevatma’ or a human being, the Lord is his consciousness, the chariot is his self and the two armies are the forces of virtue and evil. Now this human being wants to identify the forces of evil and virtue and then determine how to overcome the evil and live a life of righteousness. We are so deeply immersed in the waters of delusion that the forces of evil appear to us as our near and dear ones and, therefore, we are reluctant to fight them. These forces are ‘Lobha, moha, kama, krodha, mada, ahankara’ greed, delusion, lust, anger, pride and arrogance. They thrive under the patronage of our blind intellect, Dritrashtra. They are so dear to us that we are deeply attached to them. That is why we, the beings refuse to fight them and drop our weapons. In a later verse of this chapter Arjuna refers to them as his kinsmen, ‘Swajana’ and refuses to take up arms against them.

We experience this situation in our every day life. We have greed for wealth and lust for enjoyment. Unmindful of the momentary pleasure that we derive from these things we are mad after them. Obviously, therefore, we are reluctant to combat them. We are proud of our position and power. We are arrogant about our possessions because we are in a delusion that whatever we have is the result of our own actions and that we are the rightful enjoyers of all these material luxuries. If through us somebody is benefited, we unashamedly boast about it and make a show of it, but if we are benefited due to someone’s actions we take it to be our right and well-deserved reward and thus refuse to give credit to him. We make a pomp and show of our riches and wealth, strength and power, wisdom and knowledge, possessions and belongings. Some thinker has rightly observed that ‘these days people are respected for what they have and not for what they are’. That being so we are so attached to all these evil attributes that we treat them as our near and dear ones against whom we should not raise our head. In his ignorance a being says that even if these forces of evil become the cause of his death, he should not fight them. This is the real paradox of our life.

On the other side are the forces of virtue, love, compassion, kindness, harmony, poise, honesty, truth, purity, piety and straightforwardness. These attributes are constantly fighting the forces of evil and vice. This is the real fight between Kauravas and Pandavas, indefinitely going on in our mind. Once we keep the chariot of the self in the middle we are able to have a full and complete view of these forces arrayed on both sides of the mind. Once we are aware of these forces and are able to identify them, we begin to overpower the evil forces and triumph on vices. This enables us to rise from animality to divinity and live a life full of virtues. In all this exercise Shri Krishna in the garb of our own consciousness guides us on the path of righteousness. The being addresses the Lord seated in his heart in these words, ‘Shishyaste-aham shadi mam tvam prapanam – I am your disciple, I bow before you and seek instructions from you.’

For a common man of ordinary prudence this first chapter is, therefore, of a great significance. It tells me that I must be aware that there are two forces of vice and virtue in me. I must realize that if I am intellectually blind, the evil will entice me and appear to me as my dear one. I must, therefore, seek guidance from my consciousness and learn to overpower the evil with the help of the forces of righteousness, which are also there within me. I must keep this struggle continuously on throughout my life and create a balanced and harmonious attitude in all my actions. I must not harbour despondence and defeatist thoughts I must be a person of action, focused and committed all the time. This is the greatest lesson I learn from this chapter.     

Once these forces are identified, once the evil elements are overpowered and once the path of righteousness is chosen, we have not to go on fighting this battle lifelong. If these first lessons are learnt well, we will have a sound and firm base of awareness on which can be built the edifice of spirituality. These first lessons help us remove our delusion with the result our vision is cleared and we regain our consciousness and steer clear of all evil. We will shun all lust-oriented actions and shall become ‘Sanyasi’ or ascetics in real sense of the term. We shall regulate all our actions relating to desire and wealth, ‘Kama and Artha’ with due regard to ‘Dharma’ or righteousness and focus on attaining ‘Moksha’ or liberation. This liberation will be from all types of bondages, ignorance and darkness. 

If we ignore these first lessons we shall feel the same way as Arjuna and say, ‘my limbs fail me, my mouth is parched up, my body quivers, my hair stand on end, my skin burns all over and my bow slips from my hand’. Like Arjuna we shall lose the power of discrimination and our judgment of good and bad, vice and virtue, right and wrong and righteousness and non-righteousness will get blurred. If these lessons are learnt well in time, we shall know what is our duty and what is not. We shall be able to identify sin and virtue, transient and eternal and also learn to live a life of purity and piety and know the essence of everything around.

These two armies of vice and virtue are all the time present in my mind. They are ever ready to overpower each other. Once I am conscious of this fact I will see to it that the elements of vice do not get an upper hand. I need not kill them. Even a change of direction will serve the purpose. Instead of having lust for power I can have lust for knowledge. Instead of greed for wealth I should have greed for knowing the truth. If I have to be angry I must be angry on my ignorance. Pride and arrogance do not go with wisdom and knowledge. These have to be changed into humility, compassion and love. This can be done by having devotion and dedication. Faith, commitment and dogged perseverance in effort together form a ‘Mantra’ for winning this battle of the inner world.  

Views on Elements

by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

Whenever I think or read about our religion, culture and tradition I am simply awe-stricken by its vastness, flexibility and depth. The Greek philosopher Thales was aware of only one element, water. Anaximenes accepted only air. Heraclitus regarded only fire as the fundamental substance. Empedocles was the first Greek philosopher to talk of four elements, Fire, water, air and earth. Anaxagoras suggested mind as the primary cause of physical changes. During pre-Christian millennia both Vaishnavaite Alwars and Shaivaite Nayanars of South saw God in the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space, in the Sun and the Moon as also in the soul of every living being. What does the Bhagawad Gita say centuries before them? ‘Bhumir-aapo-analo vayuh kham mano buddhir-eva cha, Ahankara iti-iyam me bhinna prakritir-ashtadha. B.G.VII.4 Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and the ego, these are the eight different elements of mine and constitute my visible energy aspect, ‘Apara Shakti’.’ Thereafter it refers to the subtle energy aspect ‘Para Shakti’. The Sankhya of Kapila Muni also calls this as ‘Prakriti’ and the Divine as ‘Purusha’. In Western scholastic terms the two are termed as Potency and Substance. The Scientists term these as ‘Matter’ and ‘Force’. The Chinese call these Yan and Yung and view the two as complementary to each other. The Upanishad has referred to the two as ‘Prana’ and ‘Rayi’ and has hinted that the two together bring about creation. It is this Potency, Prakriti and Para Shakti that we propitiate on the occasion of Durga Ashtami. Sri Krishna has said in the Bhagavad Gita that it is with the help of this aspect of His that the Divine sustains the entire creation, animate and inanimate, ‘Jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat. B.G.VII.5 Our sages had recognized this Shakti and conceived it in many forms of Bhawani. Bhawani Sahasranam, which is so popular among our community, enumerates thousand names of this ‘Mahashakti’.  Shri Janaki Nath Kamal has explained these names elaborately in his English translation and commentary brought out by Sri Ramakrishna Mission. Different people worship Her in different forms.

As regards the ‘Purusha’ or the Absolute, we have different ways in different scriptures and different schools of thought to describe Him. One of the most common is Vishnu, who is said to have ten different incarnations in different ages. He can be equated to the nucleus or core cell in any animate entity, where electrons and protons interact and atoms play. The sixth and seventh incarnations of Vishnu were in the form of Ramas, one wielding an axe and the other with bow and arrow. The former is called Parashu Rama and represents the post-neolithic age when ‘Shastra’ or those weapons were in use that had to be held firmly in hand and used close to the enemy. The Jayanti of this incarnation is celebrated with great devotion and is a day of great significance for us. It shows that even a Brahmin is required to take to arms, should Dharma and Justice be in danger. Shiva himself had offered an invincible axe to him after he underwent a rigorous penance. The seventh incarnation of Shri Rama represents that age in human evolution when ‘Astra’ or the weapons that can be thrown at the enemy from a distance, came to be used. His birthday is also celebrated with reverence as ‘Rama Navami’. He is referred to as ‘Purushottama’ or the ideal supreme man. He has shown how an ideal life of a caring and benevolent king, a dutiful son, a loving brother and a kind master should be lived.

These theories and doctrines are described at length in our scriptures, Vedas, Upanishads, treatises relating to the six schools of philosophy and the writings of Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and other great sages. Kashmir has had the honour of being a seat of learning. It has produced its  own philosophy but different from Shankara’s, which again is non-dualistic and propounds thirty-six elements from the gross earth to the subtle Parama Shiva. It is the bounden duty of all of us to pay homage to the great souls, saints, savants and sages by spreading this unique philosophy of Kashmir and transmitting its ideology to the younger aspirants. There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Un-abhyase visham vidya – Knowledge, if not put to use, becomes poison.’ Let the fortunate persons amongst us who are well versed in these disciplines take into their tutelage some young enthusiastic ‘Jijnasu’, persons eager to know and train them in this valuable rare subject. That will be the best homage to our sages. I remember that once when a seminar was held in Srinagar on this discipline, the scholars called on Swami Laxman joo and sought his views. He said, ‘Your reason and logic will carry you only up to a point. Thereafter it is the Divine grace that will help you, for which you need faith.’ Let us all pray for this divine grace for our enlightenment and perception of the Truth.

The Dutch philosopher Spinoza was of the opinion that ‘God is the totality of existence’. The French philosopher Pascal on the other hand regarded ‘believing in God the most prudent choice between theism, atheism and agnosticism’. The Sanatana Dharma embraces all shades of opinion on the consideration that the search for Truth is evolutionary in character. Everyone will narrate his experience of that stage only up to which he may have reached. Thus these views, however differing they may be, should not be construed to be conflicting or opposing each other. Swami Vivekananda has rightly said that we have not to go from error to truth but from one truth to other truth, from lower truth to higher truth. Religion has its psychological and sociological aspects also. Psychology addresses the issues of motivation as a result of which, a person feels to adopt theistic conviction. Sociology addresses issues of the purpose religion serves the society at large. When tradition is no longer adequate to hold society together, human life faces a grave crisis. In order to avoid this crisis we have to preserve our tradition and culture in its pristine glory. Celebrating our festivals and observing our rituals is one such way to safeguard our tradition. This justifies euphoria on Holi, pomp and show on Deepawali, convergence of multitude of people on Ganesh Puja, Jagannath Rath Yatra and the enthusiasm on Shivaratri and other festivals.

Three Steps to Enlightenment

by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

We are all eager to have enlightenment in spiritual terms and for this we try various methods and tread various paths. As sincere devotees, all of us who hold Bhagavaan Ji in high reverence are sure that he is there to guide us and show us the right path even now when he is not physically present. His presence in astral form is a guarantee for us that our sincere efforts will bear fruit. This seeking of enlightenment is a ladder, which has three distinct steps, very clearly laid down in the Bhagavad Gita in the following verse:

Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevaya

Upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas-tattvadarshinah

(Seek that enlightenment by prostrating, by questions and by service; the wise, the seers into the Truth will instruct you in that knowledge.)

These three steps are ‘Pranipata’ or prostrating, ‘Pariprashna’ or questioning and ‘Seva’ or service. The first step is prostrating or making complete surrender. This step is one of ‘Shravana’ or reading the scriptures and listening to the words of wisdom from the knowledgeable. It presupposes an unflinching faith in the master ‘Guru’. There should be no problem in taking this first step. The very fact that we have entrusted the steering of the boat of our life in the hands of Bab Bhagavaan should see us through this first step. He is seated in our mind, in our heart and in our conscience and oversees all our intentions, our utterances and our actions. The sincerity of our reverence towards him and our unwavering faith in him will leave no option before him but to come to our rescue. Even otherwise he is known to be benign, kind and compassionate. During his lifetime he guided many a blessed soul. He is bound to show the same amount of kindness and compassion towards his followers and disciples who remember him all the time with every breath of their life. And then we are only seeking spiritual guidance from him, not any material favour. He should be more than willing to come to our rescue in showing us the way for spiritual uplift.

The second step is questioning and removing doubts. This step is one of ‘Manana’ or deliberation. Whatever we read and hear has to be mulled over and deliberated so that we assimilate what we are taught. In doing so many doubts will spring up and many queries will be there in our mind, for which we shall need clarifications and expositions. When the preceptor is present physically we are in direct contact with him and can ask him to clarify our doubts but when he is not present we have to act like Ekalavya. We have to meditate on his picture or a photograph or simply invoke his presence in our mind. In so doing we shall have the benefit of his constant guidance. As we go on with our deliberations, the doubts will get clarified and the queries will get answered. In this situation Bab will rule over our intellect and conscience and through our own intellectual and discriminatory powers he will guide us and remove our doubts as and when we encounter them. We shall assume the position of Arjuna and he will be our Krishna, driving the chariot of our spiritual quest and exploration of the Truth.

The third and the final step is service. This step is one of ‘nidhidyasana’ or dedication. In other words we have so far deliberated on all that we have read and heard. During this deliberation whatever clarifications we needed we have obtained. Now our mind is clear as to what we have to do in order to get spiritually enlightened. Now the only thing that remains is to put it in practice and experience in actuality. Or to put it in a scientific terminology, the science that we have learnt is to be tested and applied in actual practice. This is very important because pure sciences are meaningless unless applied in the form technology. Shri Krishna has also stated in the Gita that ‘Jnana’ or knowledge must be supplemented by ‘vijnana’ or practicals in order to make the knowledge ‘Ashesha’ or absolute. He tells Arjuna, ‘Jnanam te’ham savijnanam idam vakshyami asheshatah, yat jnatva nehi bhuyoh jnatavyam avashishyate – I shall give you knowledge together with its application, after knowing which nothing further remains to be known’.

One thing has to be understood in this regard that these three steps are not exclusive of each other. These steps are not to be taken one after the other. These are overlapping and are to be taken simultaneously. We have to study, listen, get the doubts clarified and then put into practice all that we have learnt almost together in one go. This is a continuous and an unending process. This is an eternal journey that has a multitude of milestones and at every milestone our Bab Bhagavaan is there to take us forward and, therefore, we need not have any apprehensions whatsoever. He tells us, ‘Aham tva sarva papebhyah mokshayishyami ma shuchah – I shall liberate you from all sins; grieve not’. But the condition is that we have to prostrate before him with unflinching faith, seek clarifications after deliberating on the lessons learnt and also serve with dedication.

Prostrating and questioning can be and perhaps are our personal and private exercises but service can be at two levels, both at personal and at community levels. If we serve humanity we shall be serving our ‘Tathi Bab’. If we serve the mankind we shall be carrying out his wishes. As true devotees of his we must make a promise before him hand folded ‘Karishye vachanam tava – I shall carry out your command, act according to your directions and implement whatever you say’. We have to remain attached to him emotionally, mentally and physically. ‘Pranipata’ or prostrating is depiction of our ‘Bhakti’ or devotion and involves emotional links. It is our unflinching love in the form of ‘Bhakti Yoga’. Pariprashna’ or questioning is in the realm of ‘Jnana Yoga’ and denotes our mental and intellectual attachment towards our preceptor. ‘Seva’ or service is in effect ‘Karma Yoga’ and represents our physical involvement in the great spiritual activity of service prescribed by our Guru. These three forms of Yoga together with the fourth ‘DhyanaYoga’ cover the whole gamut of spiritual exercise. ‘Dhyana Yoga’ is our meditating on the name and form of our preceptor in order to invoke his grace. There is no conflict in these different categories of Yoga, inter se. These are complementary to each other and one leads to the other. We climb these three steps and reach the apex of spirituality where we are enlightened in true sense of the term.

Once we get enlightenment through these three proven steps prescribed in the Gita, we attain supreme bliss and in the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘divinity manifests in our personality, in all the three aspects of thought, word and deed ‘vichar, vaani, karma’. May Bhagavaan Ji shower his benign grace on all of us and lead us on the path of righteousness.

Who Fights Whom and Why

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shrimad Bhagawad Gita is said to  be a discourse delivered by the Lord for Arjuna, while the two armies of Kauravas and Pandavas were arrayed against each other in the battle- field of Kurukshetra. Shri Krishna was his charioteer. He placed the chariot in between the two armies, at his instance, to enable him to see the warriors eager to fight on both sides. Arjuna was distressed to see his own relatives on both sides and dropped his bow, ‘Gandiva’, determined not to fight. A question often asked is why did the Lord not agree when Arjuna declined to fight and thereby avoid the great war of Mahabharata. His endorsement of the change in the mind of Arjuna would have obviated the heavy loss of life resulting from this war and would have served the cause of peace. In order to find an answer to this question, we can proceed in three different ways. First let us see what was the immediate cause of this war. The immediate cause was that Kauravas denied Pandavas their due. In fact Shri Krishna tried His utmost to avoid the conflict by counselling Kauravas. He made a last ditch effort and went to the extent of even settling with just five villages for Pandavas. It was the ego and the adament nature of Duryodhana that thrust the war on Pandavas and  forced them to fight for their rights. So it was a war for the right cause and, therefore,  it formed the duty for Arjuna, a warrior as he was. Perhaps it is in this context that Shri Krishna says: ‘Atha chet-tvam-imam dharmyam sangramam na karishyasi. Tatah svadharmam keertim cha hitva papam-avapsyasi. If you do not wage this righteous war you will destroy your duty and your fame and thereby incur a sin. II.33.’ The epithet used for this specific war  here is ‘dharmyam’, righteous. So it has to be noted that Shri Krishna wants Arjuna to fight for righteousness as a part of his duty. The duties of a warrior have been laid down clearly: ‘Shauryam, tejo, dhritir-dakshyam yuddhe chapi-apalayanam. Danam-ishwar-bhavash-cha kshatram karma svabhavajam. By his very disposition, the duties of a warrior are bravery, radiance, resoluteness, expertise, generosity, lordship and determination not to desert in the war. XVIII.43.’ He should not run away from the battle-field, an honoured warrior as he is, for if he does, he will not only be forfeiting his own duty but also will incur slanderous defamation from his fellow warriors. ‘Bhayad-ranad-uparatam mansyante tvam maharathah. Yesham cha tvam bahumatah bhutva yasyasi laghavam. You will be deemed to have run away from the field out of fear. The warriors who held you in high esteem shall look down upon you with contempt. II.35.’ 

Another important point to be noted is that Arjuna declines to fight not as a principle that war is evil but because of two distinct reasons. One that he did not want to wage a war against his own kinsmen and kill them and  two that he was not sure which of the two sides was going to win ultimately. This will be clear from these shlokas. ‘Dhrishtva-imam svajanam yuyutsum mama gatrani seedanti – seeing these Kinsmen ready to fight, my limbs fail me. I.28 & 29.’ ‘Nimittani cha pashyami viparitani – I see adverse  and unfavourable omens. I.31.’ ‘Na cha shreyo-anupashyami hatva svajanam-ahave. Na kankshe vijayam Krishna na cha rajyam sukhani cha. I do not visualise any good ensuing from the killing of my own kinsmen. I do not desire victory nor any empire. I. 31& 32.’ ‘Yadva jayema yadi va no jayeyuh . Whether we shall be victorious or they shall defeat us. II.6.’  Arjuna is unsure about his duty. He is confused, weakened and, therefore, unable to decide the right course of action. ‘Pricchami tvam dharma-sammudha-chetah yat-shreyah syat-nishchitam bruhi tanme..- My understanding about my duty is confused. I am asking your advice. Tell me for certain what is beneficial for me. II.7.’ Shri Krishna’s replies to these doubts are very pointed. It is not winning or losing in the war that is material. What really matters is doing one’s ordained duty. ‘Hato va prapsyasi svargam jitva va bhokshyase mahim.- slain, you will gain access to heaven and victorious, you will enjoy sovereignty over the earth. II.37.’ ‘Svalpam-api-asya dharmasya trayate mahto bhayat.- even a little of this righteous duty when executed protects you from great fear. II.40.’ As regards the point raised by Arjuna about the killing of his  own kins, he is put wise by Shri Krishna on the broader questions of  who the ‘karta’, the doer is and the fact that the soul is immortal. He reveals an important secret that these kinsmen, the kauravas, as others,  existed before and shall  exist hereafter. This is the eternal nature of existence. ‘Na tu-eva-aham jatu nasam, na tvam na-ime janadhipah. Na-chaiva na bhavishyamah sarve vayam-atah param. – These ruling kings, you and I were never non-existent. All of us shall similarly never cease to be existent in future. II.12.’ So far as the bodily existence is concerned, the life and death is in the hands of the Lord. In this case also He has already slain Kauravas and Arjuna is being made only an instrument, an agent, which gives him name and fame as a warrior. He also is assured of the sovereignty over his kingdom. ‘Tasmat-tvam uttishtha yasho labhasva. Jitva shatrun bhukshva rajyam samriddam. Maya-eva-ete nihatah purvam-eva, nimitta-matram bhava savya-sachin.- Get up Arjuna! Earn name and fame, conquer your enemies and enjoy the rich and prosperous kingdom. I have killed them already and you be only an instrument for their killing, a cause of their death XI.33.’ 

The second way of examining the question is to analyse whether the war or the fight referred to in the Gita at all is Mahabharata or is it some other conflict. This doubt is well founded and can be corroborated with internal evidence from the Gita. Sanjay reports to Dhritarashtra that Arjuna said to the Lord, ‘I shall not fight,’ and then kept quiet. ‘Na yotsya iti Govindam uktva tushnim babhuva ha. II.9’ Had the reference been to the war of Mahabharata the logical reaction from Shri Krishna would have been, ‘Why? But why don’t you want to fight? You want to spare these plunderers who have usurped your legitimate right to kingdom. You are prepared to let these sinners get away with the unmanly treatment they meted out to Draupadi. Don’t you remember that I tried my best to avert war by asking Kauravas to part with just five villages for you and your brothers, and they declined.’ It will, however, be seen that nothing of this sort was told by Him. No such argument was put forth by Him in defence of waging the war. The first reaction of the Lord on seeing Arjuna lay down his arms was, ‘Kutas-tva kashmalam-idam vishame sam-upasthitam. Anarya-jushtam-asvargyam akeertikaram-Arjuna. – Whence has this dejection come upon you at this crucial hour? It is unmanly, heaven-barring and liable to defamation. II.21’. Next when he said in so many words that he was not going to fight, the Lord chastised him for grieving on a situation which did not warrant to be grieved at. He brought in straightaway the subject of the mortal body and the immortal soul to bring home the fact of  inevitability of death for the body and indestructibility of the embodied soul. ‘Ashochyan-anvashochastvam prajnavadansh-cha bhashase. Gatasun-agatasunsh-cha nanushochanti panditah. II.11’. 

In this context one would like to go back to the first word of the Gita which is ‘dharma-kshetre’, meaning in the field of righteousness or duty. This is followed by the word ‘kuru-kshetre’ meaning in the field of action. So the battle-field intended is the field of action for righteousness. It is a common knowledge that a person has two aspects of vice and virtue of his nature. The aspect of virtue is sedate, unassuming, sober and beneficial in the long run. The aspect of vice is vibrant, attractive, alluring and of momentary happiness. This aspect becomes dominant and  controls and directs our thought, speech, actions and attitude. It is these traits in the form of Kauravas which are to be slain. But they are so enticing that they appear to us to be our own near and dear ones. We don't want to fight them, let alone kill them. Shri Krishna warns us that any idea of not facing and annihilating these is unmanly and disastrous. It will bring only defamation as this will turn us of '‘asuri prakriti'’ demonic nature and will deprive us of heaven. ‘Anarya-jushtam-asvargyam akeertikaram. II.2’. So He wants us to shun the faint-heartedness and rise to vanquish these enemies. ‘Kshudram hridaya-daurbalyam tyaktva-uttishtha. II.3.’ Therefore, one could conclude that it is this struggle constantly on against these vicious elements, in our own mind, which the Lord inspires us to fight to the finish. The entire Gita is replete with the details of these two aspects, the consequences of each one of them and the ways and means of killing the vicious one and then realising the true nature of the Self. 

The third way of tackling this question is to keep in mind the basic purpose of the Lord’s appearing in the embodied form. This has explicitly been made known in these two shlokas: ‘Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir-bhavati Bharata! Abhyutthanam adharmasya tada-atmanam srijami-aham. – Whenever the righteousness declines and the vice is at its ascendance I embody myself. IV.7’. ‘Paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya cha dush-kritaam. Dharma-sansthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.- For the protection of the good and destruction of the evil-doers and for the establishment of righteousness I am born age after age. IV.8’. It is, therefore clear that the Lord had embodied himself to protect Pandavas, whose case was just and right. He was here to destroy Kauravas, who were ‘dushkritam,’ evil-doers, whose actions were unjust, wicked, cruel and sinful. He had to re-establish the rule of law, justice and truth. It was, therefore, imperative for Him to aid, abet, encourage and support the war effort of Arjuna, or else it would go against the very purpose of His ‘Avatara’, descent on this earth. He was his charioteer and was guiding him in this mental and spiritual struggle of his life. We have to remember that we are not the doers. ‘Naiva kinchit-karomi-iti yukto manyeta tattvavit. – One who knows the truth believes, and rightly so, that he is not the doer. He does nothing. V.8’. The Lord is the creator and the destroyer of the whole world. ‘Aham kritsnasya jagatah prabhavah pralayas-tatha .VII.6.’ It is because of this that Arjuna is urged to fight in order to carry out the task of the Divine as His instrument. ‘Antavanta ime deha  nityasya-uktah sharirinah. Anashino-aprameyasya tasmad-yudhyasva Bharata! – The bodies have an end. The indweller in them is indestructible and formless. Therefore Arjuna you nust fight. II.18.’ ‘tato yuddhaya yujvasva naivam papam-avapsyasi. – engage yourself in the battle, There is no sin involved for you. II.38’. ‘Tasmat-sarveshu kaleshu mam-anusmara yudhya cha. – Remember Me all the time and fight. VIII.7’. The Lord says that we should surrender all actions unto Him and be free from hope of selfish motives, even while engaged in battle. ‘Mayi sarvani karmani sanyasya-adhyatma-chetasa. Nirashi-nirmamo bhutva yudhyasva vigata jvarah. III.30.’ This is repeated again when the Lord wants us to make all our actions an offering to Him, ‘Yat-karoshi yad-ashnasi yaj-juhoshi dadasi yat. Yat-tapasyasi Kaunteya tat-kurushva mad-arpanam. Whatever you do, eat, sacrifice, donate and whatever penance you practise, do it as an offering unto Me. IX.27.’ 

Ego is one trait that is never approved of by the Lord. Humility, submission and surrender before Him are the qualities that endear us to Him. Any action which is carried out without any notion of egoism keeps us free from the fruits of the action. ‘Yasya na-ahankrito bhavah buddhir-yasya na lipyate. Hatva-api sa iman-lokan na hanti na nibadhyate. Once there is no notion of ego and once the wisdom is untainted, even if you kill these people, you are not held responsible for the killing and, therefore you do not get involved in the act and its fruits and result. You are not bound at all. XVIII.17.’ A practical demonstration of the fact that these Kauravas had already been slain by the Lord and that Arjuna would only be an instrument, has been made to Arjuna when he sees all the warriors enter the mouth of Shri Krishna involuntarily. Awe stricken, he narrates, ‘Ami cha  tvam Dhritarashtrasya putrah sarve sahaiva-avanipala-sanghaih…. Vaktrani te tvaramana vishanti danshtra-karalani bhayanakani. All the sons of Dhritrashtra along with other monarchs enter hurriedly into your mouth, terrible with teeth and fearful to look at. XI.26 & 27.’ 

Thus it will be seen that the Gita supports and advocates legitimate action including a war which is righteous and is waged to protect the truth and justice and forms a part of one's’duty. It further makes it known that:- 'Sahajam karma Kaunteya! Sadosham-api na tyajet. One should not abandon one’s natural duty even if it is faulty. XVIII.48.’ It inspires the war effort against animality within our selves, so that we are able to raise ourselves to divinity. It says that we are helpless in carrying out the fights on His behalf to restore  and re-establish ‘Dharma’ as His agents and instruments for carrying out these tasks. 

(Taken from the Book ‘Bhagavad Gita, the Elixir of Life’ written by T.N. Dhar) 

Jagad Guru Bhagavaan Gopi Nath ji

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

A Miracle

It is by now an open secret and a matter of common knowledge that the officers and personnel of the Indian Army, who had never even heard of him saw Bhagavaan Gopi Nath Ji at the front during Kargil conflict with Pakistan Army, guiding them during the operations. These Army Officers have attributed the successful recapture of the Tiger Hills mainly to the directions they received from him during the counter assault launched by them. It was an officer of 18 Grenadiers, who first revealed how this mysterious saint of Kashmir directed the operation and how the commandoes acted according to his command with the result that the strategically important feature of Tiger Hills was snatched from the clutches of the enemy. The officer had heard about him from a Kashmiri Army Officer and had seen a locket in his neck with his photograph. It was because of this background that he had recognized the saint with a white turban and a red ‘Tilaka’ on his forehead. He vouched that in the first instance the Indian Army encountered enormous difficulties but after this great and mysterious saint appeared on the scene, the strategy was restructured and it bore fruit. He had no doubt in his mind that this success in recapturing this formidable and strategically all important peak was made possible by this unforgettable character emerging on the scene on July 3.   

Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji 
Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji

The higher echelons of the Indian Army also were curious to know more about this strange episode. They were informed that according to some war heroes this saint had already guided the forward ranks of the Army during 1947, 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan. There should be nothing surprising about this. Shri B.L.Kak, a well-known journalist has quoted Swami Yogananda as having recorded in his book, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ that ‘yogis can materialize and dematerialize themselves and move with the velocity of light and utilize the creative light rays in bringing into instant visibility any physical manifestation’. Men of common prudence cannot, however, account for these things. It is perhaps because of this that the Army Officer has recorded in his diary that nobody would believe him when he would reveal that it was Bhagavaan Ji who led this 11-hour assault leading to the recapture of this dominating peak called Tiger Hills in the Kargil region that proved to be the turning point in the 40 days old conflict with Pakistan. 

Some devotees of his who were very close to him have said that during 1962 when the Indian Army was engaged in halting the onslaught of the Chinese troops, one day he left his residence and returned only the next day. His body was cold and shivering and he had caught cold and was having the symptoms of bronchitis. When asked he replied that he had gone to Tibet border to settle scores. A few days soon thereafter there was ceasefire on the battlefront. When the decisive war of 1971, which created the separate country of Bangla Desh, was being fought, some devotees of Bhagavaan Ji prayed in his Ashram at Kharyar in Srinagar throughout the day and begged of him to save the country. Bhagavaan Ji appeared before one of them in response to their prayers and directed him that a particular item should be offered by all of them jointly before the evening ‘Aarti’ by way of oblation for four consecutive days. After these four days there was an announcement on the Radio and Television by Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India that General Niazi of the Pakistan Army had surrendered before the Indian Army and the war was over. This was his way of influencing the matters of his country even long after giving up his mortal frame.

A Saint Apart

Bhagavaan Ji was a saint, who did not believe in creating a sect or a group around him. He was not given to discourses or philosophical sermons. His aim had been to know the truth, mitigate the suffering of people and give spiritual guidance to those who sought   it from him. Because of these peculiarities nobody could see anything unusual in him that would suggest his eventual sainthood. Leading a group of young friends to various shrines or arranging ‘Rasa Leela’, the spiritual dances, remaining celibate or even seeing some prominent saints occasionally could not be sufficient indication of his being a ‘Sadhu’. He did no miracles in his childhood and demonstrated no super natural powers. Why should he have done so? After all he had not to impress anyone or prove his stature or position. He was a quiet, shy lad who was of religious bent of mind no doubt but in the conventional manner only. Every household in Kashmir had a ‘pooja’ room called ‘Thokur Kuth’earmarked for daily worship. Small ‘Shiva Lingam’ of crystal, a ‘Saligram’ of a crimson coloured stone, a coin showing Shri Rama Panchayatan, Ganesha and replicas of other deities would be kept there with devotion. Every morning these idols would be washed, smeared with sandal-paste, decorated with flowers of all hues and then propitiated with devotional hymns, ‘Bhakti Stotras’. In these private worshipping sessions as also at different pilgrimage centers popular ‘Stotras’ like Bhawani Sahasranam, Indrakshi, Panchastavi, Shad-akshar and Pancha-akshar hymns would be sung. People would also sing ‘Leelas’ and ‘Bhajans’ in praise of their choicest Deities, either in chorus with the accompaniment of Harmonium, Tabla and earthenware pitcher called ‘No’t’ or solo, in individual ways, with faith and dedication. 

This was the general religious scenario of an average Kashmiri family. Then there was extra religious fervour and atmosphere in his father’s house and in the house of his maternal grandfather. No wonder, therefore, that Bhagavaan Ji turned out to be an ascetic of highest spiritual attainment. He was simple in manners, straightforward in demeanour, man of few words, agile and restless in mind but firm and resolute in his aspiration to know the Divine. He never adopted any outward garb of a saint. Neither did he grow a beard nor did he wear any ochre dress like the usual mendicants. His dress was that of an ordinary Kashmiri Pandit, a shirt, a waistcoat, a ‘Pheran’ with a detachable white lining and a turban tied on the head. During the winters he would put a black blanket over his shoulders and take a ‘Kangri’ inside his ‘Pheran’. There was nothing unusual in all this that would give an impression that he was a sage of highest order. Yet he was a saint, a seer, a sage, and a saviour of the mankind. When he grew up, however, he did smoke a ‘Chillum’ and had a ‘Dhooni’ lighted in front of him. At best this gave an impression of his being a ‘Mastana’ or one lost in the world of his own and not that of an accomplished emancipated soul that he actually was. How could one gauge the spiritual plane at which our Master was or the level of spiritual accomplishment that he had reached. Strange are the lives of such yogis and mysterious are their ways. 

The Abode of Sages

After draining the waters of Satisar with due penance at the instance of his son Nila, it was the desire of the great Kashyap Rishi to make Kashmir a haven for Rishis and convert this holy land into a hermitage. No wonder, therefore that every household in Kashmir has given birth to a sage. It is the unique feature of Kashmir that whereas every mountain peak is celestial, every spring is sacred and every nook and corner is a place of pilgrimage, every village and every township has produced a sage of eminence. Consequently a great number of ‘Grihasta Sadhus’, household ascetics have lived in this pious land. They have given spiritual guidance and mental peace to a host of their devotees and others from time to time. Some of them have composed mystical and devotional poems in a variety of forms, Bhajans, Leelas (Hymns in praise of God), Vakhs, Shrukhs (Quatrains containing moral and spiritual message) and so on. The message they gave was one of righteousness, piety, purity and penance. In the Hindu period of our history there have been great scholar-sages from Vasugupta, Utpaldev, Somanand and down to Abhinavgupta, and others, who propounded the world famous Trika philosophy – a monistic doctrine unique in many ways. They wrote original texts, treatises and commentaries in Sanskrit notably Spanda Karika, Shivastotravali, Shiva Drishti, Parmarthasara, Tantralok and the like.  

From the fourteenth century onwards and with the advent of Islam, we have had saints who wrote or preached through the medium of Kashmiri language. At the head of this list is the great Lal Ded who was followed by Nunda Rishi, Roopa Bhawani, Paramananda, Krishna Razdan, and others. There were quite a few Muslim Sufis as well, notable among them being, Swachha Kral, Rahman Dar, Shah Gafoor, Waza Mehmood, Shamas Faqir, Wahab Khar, Nyama Sahib, Asad Paray and Ahad Zargar. Kashmiris sing their compositions with reverence and devotion and these provide light and guidance. There, however, have been other saints and sages, who may not have written or composed any text or any poetry but they have guided many a seeker and provided solace to the suffering humanity. Some of these holy men revered and remembered by all Kashmiris are Krishna Kar, Reshi Peer, Sona Kak, Jeevan Shah, Mirza Kak  Kash Kak, Nanda Bab, Swami Nanda Lal, Grata Bab, Mathura Devi, Swami Laxman Joo, Shankar Razdan. In this galaxy of stars there appeared a shining Pole star called Bhagavaan Gopi Nath Ji, who in his lifetime got the title ‘Jagad Guru’ or the preceptor of the world. He was born towards the end of Nineteenth century and lived in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir State throughout his life.

Birth and Background 

Srinagar city is situated on either bank of the river Vitasta, also known as Jehlum. This river is the lifeline of the valley and sprouts forth from the spring of Verinag. Its source is known in local language as ‘Vethavotur’ and is a sacred place of pilgrimage. In olden days the two sides of this river were connected in Srinagar by seven bridges, now there are nine. Between the second and the third bridges, on the right bank there is a densely populated area called ‘Bhana Mohalla.’ As the name itself indicates the mohalla is named after the family of Bhans, who lived in this area. Shri Lachhman Joo Bhan, a Wazir Wazaarat (present day Collector) in the Revenue Department of the Dogra Maharaja lived here. His son Pandit Narayan Joo Bhan was married to Shrimati Haara Maal, daughter of Pt. Prasad Joo Parimoo and the couple were blessed with a son on the 19th Ashada 1955 (Vikrami) corresponding to 3rd of July 1898 AD, who was named Gopi Nath. There is an unconfirmed report that sometime before his birth Swami Vivekananda, who was in Kashmir then, had paid a visit to that place. Some say that he called on the family and others say he stopped short of entering the house and sat on a tailor’s shop below it. Coming events cast their shadow before. Probably Swami Ji was aware that a great and a pious soul was going to be born there. Sometime around that time in 1898 was born Ronald Nixon in Cheltenham, UK, who came to India in 1921, became a Sanyasi, a monk and was eventually known as Shri Krishnaprem Vairagi, a worthy disciple of Yashoda Ma.  Two years earlier in 1896 were born A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness or ISKCON and Anandamayi Ma, who was referred to as ‘the purest flower the soil of India has ever produced’ by Swami Sivananda Saraswati, the founder of the Divine Life Society of Rishikesh. 

Obviously there was something celestial about the last decade of the Nineteenth Century. It is no surprise, therefore, that Bhagavaan Ji should have been born in this auspicious decade. His father Pandit Narayan Joo was a highly religious person, a devout and spiritually very elevated. He dealt with Pashmina wool business. That he was a pious person of highest order devoid of any greed and coveting is clear from the fact that he gave up his ancestral home at Bhana Mohalla and other possessions inherited from his father, in favour of his stepmother and her children. Himself he shifted to the house of Pandit Shiv Ji Khyberi in Bhana Mohalla itself, along with his parents and family including young Gopi Nath Ji, about ten years of age. He had two other sons. The elder one Pt. Govind Joo Bhan remained a bachelor. He worked in the Customs and Excise department and died in 1946. The younger one, Pt. Jia Lal was given in adoption to a family of Kaks at Sathu Barbarshah. He was married but had no issues. He was a draftsman in the State PWD and died in the year 1964. He too was spiritually inclined and would always be seen engaged in the service of Sadhus and the poor and downtrodden. At the time of his death Bhagavaan Ji is said to have remarked that the departed soul had merged with the Divine and, therefore, it was not surprising that he had given up his gross body. This is an indication enough that he too was spiritually at a very high level – a typically household sage, ‘Grihasti-Sadhu’. 

Shrimati Haara Maal, Bhagavaan Ji’s mother was the daughter of Pandit Prasad Joo Parimoo, who lived at Sekidafer. He was also a saint in his own right. He and Swami Anand Ji of Jamanagari, Shopian were the disciples of the same Guru and Pandit Parimoo was considered to be spiritually so profound that he was fondly called ‘Zada Bharata’ after ‘Jada Bharata’, the legendary saint of the Puranas. It is said that in the beginning he had no issues and, therefore, he adopted a son, Madhav Joo. Soon thereafter he had a vision of Shri Rajna Bhagavati while in samadhi at Tula Mula shrine. The Bhagavati chided him for having gone for adoption when she herself was desirous of taking birth in his house. Eventually Haara Mal was born, who was to give birth to Bhagavaan Ji in course of time. Shri Parimoo, the grandfather of Bhagavaan Ji had two more daughters, Badar Ded and Zapaer Ded and two sons, Bhagawan Das and Dama Kak.  Holding ‘Satsang’ or spiritual meetings was a matter of routine in their house. Prasad Joo initiated his younger daughter, Zapaer Ded into ‘Japa-yoga’ himself as a result of which she was recognized as an accomplished saint when she was around fifty years of age. His son, Pandit Bhagawan Das Parimoo was a devotee of Bhagavati Sharika and would go to Hari Parbat daily for circumambulation. Teaching of the scriptures like ‘Yoga Vaasishtha’ of Patanjali was a regular feature in their house. He would also go to ‘Pokhribal’ at the foothill of Haari Parvat towards the exit gate of Kathi Darwaza and return by dawn to his home. The spring at ‘Pokhribal’ used to be desilted once or twice every year. The young Gopi Nath would undertake this job. He would descend into the spring and remove the silt, mud, rotten flowers and other offerings from its bottom to clean the water. He would also attend the annual yajna at this sacred shrine. These activities of his showed that the seeds of spirituality and religious bent of mind were ingrained in the young lad from the very childhood.

Religious Legacy 

Bhagavaan Ji had thus, it appears, inherited religious discipline, yoga practices, sainthood and spiritual atmosphere from his mother’s side, Whereas his mother was an incarnation of Bhagavati Rajna, his grandfather, his aunt and his maternal uncle, all were initiated saints and devout practitioners of religious rituals. Periodical religious meetings, ‘Satsang’ had made the whole atmosphere in their house divine and pious. The atmosphere in his own house also was strictly religious as his father was at a high spiritual level, his elder brother practised celibacy throughout his life and the younger one was also given to service of Sadhus. No wonder, therefore, that he was drawn to ‘Dharma sadhana’ or the religious pursuit from the early age and as a young boy took pleasure in doing pious jobs as service unto the Divine. Mundane activities and normal household life did not, therefore, interest him at all. He developed aversion to sense objects and became indifferent to food, clothing and other means of comfort. This was manifest in his attitude in later years of his life. It is well said that coming events cast their shadows before. The seeds of his future exalted spiritual position were sown in his young age itself. Yet he was not given to ostentation or exhibitionism and remained throughout a silent and hidden seeker. He spoke very little and that too in low whispers and remained engrossed with the spiritual world of his own although outwardly appearing to be very much in this mundane world. He would seldom address any visitor directly. The conversion would either be indirect or through gestures. 

Bhagavaan Ji had two sisters. The sister elder to him was Deva Maali. She gave birth to two daughters and was widowed at a young age. Probably the destiny had willed that she should be free from the worries of her own family so that she gave her full attention to sustain Bhagavaan Ji during the period of his rigorous ‘Sadhanaa’ or the spiritual pursuit. She remained with him for a major portion of his life, taking care of his food, clothing and well being, till she died in 1965. She was with him during pilgrimages and occasionally on his visits to some prominent saints of the time. Her elder daughter, Shrimati Kamala Ji was married to Pt. Shyam Lal Malla and the couple got one son and two daughters. It was in their house at Chandapora that Bhagavaan Ji spent the last eleven years of his life and gave up his mortal frame in 1968. The younger daughter, Chanda Ji was married to Pt. Madhav Joo Sathu. Bhagavaan Ji stayed in their house at Rishi Mohalla for ten years before moving to the house of Mallas in 1956. Bhagavaan Ji’s younger sister was Shrimati Janaki Devi. She died at a young age after giving birth to two sons and two daughters. She was also devoted to her brother and used to serve him on various occasions. 

Living in ‘Vangaejvore’ (hired houses with or without rentals), moving from house to house, losing near and dear ones and the resultant turmoil made this young boy vividly aware of the frivolity of the worldly matters and the need to strive to know the Supreme Truth. Consequently he became an introvert. It is because of these traits and the fact that from his childhood itself he was not open and communicative that many people have observed that there were no signs of sainthood in him in his younger days. He had inherited piety and spiritual bent of mind both from his father and mother’s side. The seeds of ‘Saadhana’ were there and the deprivation, turmoil and grief that he experienced made these seeds sprout and he chose a path of sainthood that was destined for him. No doubt the cumulative virtue ‘Sanchit punya’ of the previous many births had a big role to play in shaping his spiritual life. Without the intrinsic qualities of sainthood and the inclination towards ‘sadhana’ carried over from the previous births, the turmoil would only have caused depression and turned him an escapist and would not have given rise to the positive aptitude towards seeking the Divine. 

He must have been around ten years of age when his father shifted from his ancestral home to the house of Pt. Shiv Ji Khyberi in the same area, Bhana Mohalla. He had given up his palatial three-storeyed ancestral house and property in favour of his stepmother and her children. The family lived there for about one and a half years. In 1909 they moved to the house of Pt. Keshav Joo Nagri in Shaalayar where they lived for three years. These were the days of schooling for the young Gopi, who passed the middle standard, which at that time was of good reckoning. It was here that he lost his mother when he was just twelve years of age. In 1912 the family moved to Razverkadal house of Pt. Kailash Joo Bhan. During this period Bhagavaan Ji joined his maternal uncle in Pashmina wool business for some time. Thereafter he took employment with Vishi Nath Printing Press as a compositor. This engagement continued for three years and in between the family again shifted to Sekidafer in his maternal grandfather’s house. His sojourn here seems to have intensified his spiritual activities. Earlier he used to visit the saint Zana Kak and now he would press the feet of the Jatadhari saint Balak Kaw, fondly known as Bal Ji. The family stayed at Sekidafer for seven years. His stint with the local press lasted just three years and then he started a grocer’s shop at a place called ‘Chaidob’. In 1920 the family took up residence at Safa Kadal in the house of Pt. Keshav Joo Dhar. Bhagavaan Ji shifted his Kiryana shop to Sekidafer. He formed a group of young friends and as the leader of the group arranged occasional trips to holy places like Tula Mula, Vitsarnag, and Mahadev. He was fond of going to various saints, meeting them and having their darshan. It is possible that during these meetings he might have been discussing the problems encountered by him as a seeker in his quest for the Divine and sought answers to his queries. Alas these secret conversations are not made public and, therefore, one has just to presume what must have transpired between these sages. Surely they would not talk about worldly matters unless the topic veered round the good of the mankind at large.   

It is not uncommon in Kashmir that a sage is born in an apparently ordinary household. There is a saying in Kashmiri, ‘Lembi chhu pamposh phatan’meaning that a lotus grows in muddy waters. We have had a galaxy of such saints, both men and women. In 14th century we had the great saint-poetess Lal Ded whose ‘Vakhs’ or sayings are on the tip of every one’s tongue. We have had Roop Bhawani in the 17th century who was an incarnation of Goddess Sharika. We had Krishna Kar, the illustrious preceptor of another great saint, Rishi Peer, who was called ‘Peer Pandit Padshah, Mushkil Kusha har du jahan’ meaning a King of saints capable of removing all the difficulties of both the worlds, here and beyond. In the contemporary scene also we had big names like Kash Kak, Nanda Bab, Grata Mo’t, Mathura Devi, Sati Ded et al. In the lineage of Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy luminaries we had Vasu Gupt, Utpal Dev, Somanand, Abhinav Gupt, Swami Ram, Swami Mahtab Kak and Swami Laxman Joo. They have left behind a treasure of literature expounding the tenets of the unique ‘Trika’ Philosophy of this pious land. 

This basically a non-dualistic philosophy, propounds that the whole creation is the manifestation of the Divine and is, therefore, real and not an illusion. It comprises thirty-six elements and the spiritual quest consists in moving from objectivity to subjectivity or vice versa and attaining the position where the two get merged. In this doctrine the Divine is perceived as the Supreme Universal Consciousness, which manifests itself in the form of the creation with the help of its own inseparable energy aspect out of its own free will. Kashmir has been fertile enough to give birth to saints like Bhagavaan Gopi Nath, who during his lifetime got the epithet of ‘Jagad Guru’, the Preceptor of the World. To his numerous disciples he was ‘Bab’, the loving father. Some of his disciples have fondly called him ‘Bab Bhagavaan’ or the God father and God father no doubt he was to his numerous devotees and fortunate persons who gained proximity to him. He was their ultimate hope for support, succour and spiritual guidance. He continues to provide this support in his astral form even now to the people in various nooks and corners of the globe. His birthday and Nirvana day are celebrated every year throughout the length and breadth of the country and abroad with devotion and dedication. 

Attractive Disposition

Even today long after he has ceased to exist in human form, Bhagavaan Ji is as radiant as the Sun. He is as cool and soothing as the Moon. He is deep as an ocean and vast as the sky. He is ever fresh as the morning dew. He provides shelter like a mighty Bunyan tree. Whenever we see his portrait, picture or statue a strange kind of magnetic attraction is felt. We are drawn to him by the intensity of the gaze of his eyes. It is as penetrating as the rays of the morning sun entering a closed room through the mesh windows. It is so enchanting as the sight of the rising sun from behind the mountain peaks. It is so captivating as the thousand flowers of all hues blossoming simultaneously. We are drawn towards him because of the attraction of his half open lips, which are eloquent enough to give an impression that they are reciting ‘Richas’ of the Rig Veda or singing ‘Sama’ of the Sama Veda or uttering the eternal seed syllable ‘Om’. Incidentally he was himself very fond of Shastriya Sangeet or the classical music. We are drawn to him due to the radiance reflected from his glittering countenance and the splendour and grace radiating from his white turban and coloured ‘Pheran’. This radiance spreads throughout the atmosphere around and envelops the entire audience. We are also drawn to him by the fountain of lights sprouting forth from the vermilion ‘Tilaka’ of his shining forehead, likened by many with the ‘Sharika Shila’ at Hari Parbat. 

He was a recluse who lived an austere life. He was an ascetic and an introvert who was never after name or fame. He had taken birth not only to achieve the supreme truth himself but also to uplift others spiritually, rescue those in difficulty and relieve the suffering of their pain. He proved to be a pole star guiding the course of the ship of life for a number of devotees. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan has rightly observed about such an experience, ‘It is good to know that the ancient thinkers required of us to realize the possibilities of the soul in solitude and silence, and to transform the flashing and fading moments of vision into a steady light which could illumine the long years of life.’ He was always engrossed in his own divine spiritual world, in communion with the Divine, whom he could approach at will. He was not in favour of getting married. Perhaps he thought that he would not be able to devote his full attention to the ‘sadhana’ that was his main interest and the aim of his life. We have had many examples of sages who did not marry for the same reason or if they did under force and coercion of their parents, they had to neglect their family, which pained them. The 14th century saint Nunda Rishi was forced to marry and got two children. Eventually his wife died and he himself went into a cave for intense penance. The burden of bringing up the kids fell on his aged mother. It is said that the old lady approached him and asked him to relieve her of this troublesome responsibility. The sage looked up towards the sky and requested God to take away the children since household duty was not his forte. Instantaneously the children died and that was the end of this distraction for him. To avoid such a grave and pathetic situation it was in the fitness of things that Bhagavaan Ji should have from the beginning decided not to marry and lead the life of a celibate. He had special liking for the celibates although he was equally considerate and kind towards the devotees who were householders. He recognized that even they could attain spiritual heights but the path for them was more arduous.

Aptitude and Inclination

In 1923 on Vijay Saptami he joined a group of people comprising the families of Shalis and Parimoos for pilgrimage to Mattan. When they reached Khanabal by boat, he along with a couple of his associates separated from the group and dashed off to see the saint Jeevan Sahib, who lived somewhere that side. There are other instances when he similarly went to see other saints. He would likewise organize trips to Kshir Bhawani, Mahadev, Vitsarnag and other holy places along with a group of people as their leader. This shows that Shrines and Saints attracted him a lot. Shrines would provide him the right atmosphere and a serene environment for his spiritual ‘sadhana’. Saints would provide him the proper forum to talk about his spiritual experiences and also help him choose the right mode of ‘sadhana’ best suited to his genius and temperament. He must have carried forward the ‘sanskaras’ of his previous births because of which the latent sainthood in him started flourishing right from his young age. Shrimad Bhagavad Gita says, ‘Aneka janma sansiddhah tato yanti paran-gatim – a seeker gets perfected over a number of births and then only attains the exalted spiritual position’. The exalted spiritual position that Bhagavaan Ji attained during his lifetime stands testimony to the fact that he had a number of highly successful spiritual lives in the past, the cumulative effect of which enabled him to merge with the Divine during this life. 

Although the formal school education did not satisfy his mental needs, he did continue his studies till he completed the Middle Standard. He was a student of the Church Missionary School, Fateh Kadal, just across the river from his house. A renowned missionary educationist, Tyndel Biscoe had established this school as a part of his missionary work. The two of Bhagavaan Ji’s close classmates were Pt. Vish Nath Kukiloo and Pt. Gash Lal Bhan. The trio would jump into the river Vitasta from the diving board of the school and swim down the river right up to the Veer after the seventh bridge ‘Safa Kadal’ and then swim back to the third bridge, Fateh Kadal. It is authentically known that he had a good command over Persian, Sanskrit and Urdu. He knew both Devanagari and Sharada scripts. Whether he had read these languages or acquired their knowledge by the dint of his spiritual acumen is, however, not known. There are many devotees of his who have vouched that in his ecstatic mood he would sometimes utter beautiful sentences in English as well. It is also said that when the Kashmir question was being discussed and debated in the Security Council he had uttered a few sentences in an unintelligible language, which turned out to be Russian eventually as these very sentences were spoken by the Russian Delegate the next day while vetoing the resolution of the Council sponsored by the Western powers, which was detrimental to the interests of India. In his early life Bhagavaan Ji would recite Bhawani Sahsranama, Indrakshi, Panchastavi, Vishnu Sahasranama, Mahimnastotra and Shivastotravali. He would occasionally recite the Vaakhs of Kashmiri Saints as well. He was an ardent reader of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, a copy of which was always by his side. 

Himself also he did not attach too much importance to his external self, the body or its upkeep and maintenance. Every morning he would wash his face and Yajnopavit with water at a water tap. Then he would be seated on his ‘asana’. Here he would tie his turban and put on a tilak of saffron with a little ash in the centre. Thereafter he would light his ‘Dhooni’ in an iron sigdi placed on a stone slab or in a large iron tray. The ‘Dhooni’ would be kept burning with firewood from morning till evening. In the morning some oblations would be offered in the ‘Dhooni’ and then he would fill his ‘chillum’ and engage in smoking. Oblations into the fire would consist of ‘Shakkar’ (raw sugar, yellowish-brown in colour), rice, barley, dry fruits, mint and skimmia leaves, ‘bel patra’ and flowers of sorts. This ‘yajna’ was a detached ‘sattvika yajna’described as the yajna of the highest order in the Bhagavad Gita in the following verse: ‘Aphalakankshibhir-yajnah vidhi drishto ya ijyate, yashtavyam-eva-iti manah samadhaya cha Sattvikah – Yajna performed without desiring any fruit, as per procedure, with mind fixed on yajna only for its own sake is categorized as a sattvika yajna’. He was particular that the ‘Dhooni’ was always in flame and it was not merely a burning charcoal. This indicated the importance he imparted to the light ‘Prakasha’ represented by the flame and blaze. This is in consonance with the Vedic prayer, ‘Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya – lead me from darkness to light’.

Signs of Sainthood

He was indifferent to everything external. In the matter of food also he showed a lot of indifference. He used to say that one should not eat when one is hungry but feed this body only when there is no urge for eating or appetite. This was obviously to conquer hunger and thirst. He would go without food for days together and sometimes eat ferociously. Perhaps he believed in what is stated in Shri Gita about digestion, ‘Aham Vaishvanaro bhutva praninam deham-ashritah, pranapana-samayukhtah pachami annam chaturvidham – Abiding in the body of living beings as Vaishvanara, associated with pran andapana, inhale and exhale, I digest the four types of food’. Normally he would take a cup of Kashmiri black tea called ‘Mogael chai’ at about 9 a.m. At about 1 p.m. he would have his lunch consisting of rice, vegetables etc. For this he had to be reminded by his sister and many times he would decline saying that either it was too late or too early. In the afternoon he would again take a cup of ‘Mogael chai’ or salted tea with milk, called ‘Sheer chai’ in Kashmiri. More often he would take only one meal a day and even that he stopped eight months before giving up his gross body. Even while eating or taking tea he would be lost in his own contemplation, in his own ‘Sadhana’ and in his own spiritual world. The tea in the Kashmiri bronze cup called ‘Khose’ would get ice cold while in his hand for a prolonged time. Then he would either gulp it down or throw it away. During fasting he would be physically weak but mentally alert. ‘Chillum’ was his constant companion and as per his own statement it would give him enough nourishment. It seems he had complete mastery and control over his sense organs because of which he did not feel hunger or need for any thing else. 

In his later years he would recite a shloka or two from these scriptures but would not read from them; perhaps he had memorized them thoroughly. He seems to have been particularly fond of the fourth ‘Stava’ called the ‘Ambastava’ or the Hymn to Mother. He would himself recite a verse or two from it. Once when Shri S.N.Bakshi was introduced to him as a melodious singer of the ‘Panchastavi’ he asked him to recite the same fourth hymn in a singing tone. Another important text that was very dear to his heart was the ‘Guru Gita’, a hymn in praise of the preceptor. This clearly demonstrated the amount of importance he gave to a preceptor for those who aspire for the Supreme Truth. His attendance at the Satsang of saints and scholars shows that he took keen interest in Vedanta and Kashmir Shaiva Darshan in particular and in other disciplines discussed at these meetings in general. For him the different paths of devotion and self-realization did not matter. It was the goal of merger with the Divine, which was of utmost importance for a seeker. The Scriptures were, therefore, of secondary importance to him and what mattered was the personal spiritual experience. Some Sadhu is reported to have made a comment about his not being well versed in scriptures to a disciple of his. Endowed with a clear vision as he was, he made a mention of this comment when the disciple visited him. By this he proved that knowledge does not come to a seeker by merely reading and memorising like a parrot but by perception, vision and yoga and that the experienced truth is supreme and is superior to that acquired by reading scriptures or by listening to discourses. He believed in this shloka from ‘Panchadashi’: ‘Adhitya chaturo vedan sarva-shastranya-anekshah, Brahma tattvam na janati darvi sooparasam yatha – Just as the feeding spoon does not get the taste of the soup served with it, a person does not get to know the Divine merely by reading the four Vedas and all the scriptures many times over’. The idea conveyed here is that the scriptures are there to help. They are the means but it is the perceived and experienced truth ultimately that matters. 

The Spiritual Attainment

What brought him emancipation and what gave him the spiritual height of a rare order, nobody knows. However, one thing is clear that he had attained‘Moksha’ through his spiritual insight, ‘Jnana’. It is rightly said, ‘Jnanena cha-apavargo- it is through knowledge that one gets liberated’. Righteousness takes one to spiritual heights, ‘Dharmena gamanam-urdhvam’, lack of righteousness throws one in the abyss, ‘Gamanam-adhastad-bhavati-adharmena’, and through sub-conscious aspirations ‘Vasana’ one is tied to vice and virtue, ‘Viparyayadishyate bandhah’. Knowing these facts fully well Bhagavaan Ji seems to have cleaned his mind of all conscious and sub-conscious aspirations and inclinations. He was ‘Vasana-rahita’ and had instinctively and intuitionally directed his mind and soul towards the Divine. He was a ‘Jeevana-mukta’ – an emancipated soul during his lifetime. He had transcended all distinctions of being and non-being, right and wrong, true and false, loss and gain, respect and disrespect, love and hate. Even when circumstances demanded of him to attend to some worldly chores or family problems, he did it in a dispassionate and detached manner. He lived like a lotus in a pool of water, unscathed and unaffected, ‘Padmapatram-iva-ambasa’. What brought him emancipation and what gave him the spiritual height of a rare order, nobody knows. However, one thing is clear that he had attained ‘Moksha’ through his spiritual insight, ‘Jnana’. It is rightly said, ‘Jnanena cha-apavargo- it is through knowledge that one gets liberated’. Righteousness takes one to spiritual heights, ‘Dharmena gamanam-urdhvam’, lack of righteousness throws one in the abyss, ‘Gamanam-adhastad-bhavati-adharmena’, and through sub-conscious aspirations ‘Vasana’ one is tied to vice and virtue, ‘Viparyayadishyate bandhah’. Knowing these facts fully well Bhagavaan Ji seems to have cleaned his mind of all conscious and sub-conscious aspirations and inclinations. He was ‘Vasana-rahita’ and had instinctively and intuitionally directed his mind and soul towards the Divine. He was a ‘Jeevana-mukta’ – an emancipated soul during his lifetime. He had transcended all distinctions of being and non-being, right and wrong, true and false, loss and gain, respect and disrespect, love and hate. Even when circumstances demanded of him to attend to some worldly chores or family problems, he did it in a dispassionate and detached manner. He lived like a lotus in a pool of water, unscathed and unaffected, ‘Padmapatram-iva-ambasa’.    

It seems he was deeply seeped into the dictates of Patanjali’s Yoga Vasishtha. He would strictly adhere to ‘Yama’ and ‘Niyama’, do’s and do not’s prescribed therein. He adopted the laid down posture ‘asana’ and engaged in ‘Dharna’ and ‘Dhyana’ or contemplation, concentration and meditation. His aim was ‘Samadhi’ or complete merger with the Divine and this art he was perfecting slowly and steadily, largely unnoticed by others. With his constant companion ‘Chillum’ and occasionally  ‘Khos’, the Kashmiri teacup in his hand also he would be miles away absorbed in his own ideas wandering in his own world. The sparks from the fire in the ‘Chillum’ would burn his dress even his lips sometimes, the tea in the cup would become ice-cold and he would be unmindful of all this, himself dwelling in his spirit and not the gross body. An eminent Urdu poet has said, ‘Rehte hain apne jism main kuchh istarah se ham, Apne nahin kisi gair ke ghar mein hun jaise’ meaning that I live in my own body in such a detached way as if I live in somebody else’s house and not in my own. This was exactly what Bhagavaan Ji must have lived like. His real self was his soul and the spirit that was embodied in the gross body and only carried by it. 

When he lost his father in the house of Pt. Dina Nath Bota at Rangateng, it seems his last link with the mundane world was severed. He plunged headlong into the rigorous discipline of ‘Yoga Sadhana’. His communication with outside world was minimal and he remained in communion with his inner self all the time. May be he also believed in what Lal Ded had said six hundred years ago: ‘Go’ran dopnam kunuy vatsun, nyabra dopnam andar atsun. – My preceptor told me but one secret, to go from without to within to seek Him’. There are eyewitness accounts that while at the shop he would seldom speak to others and would remain lost in his own inner world. Many a time he would leave the shutters of the shop unbolted and unlocked and rush to Hari Parbat. This shows the aversion he had towards the worldly affairs although the circumstances compelled him to attend to family matters occasionally. That sure must have been a detached involvement, an outward act. 

Effect of The Gita

While there are authentic accounts of his knowledge of various ‘Stotras’ and devotional texts, it is not known if he had studied various scriptures and texts relating to Vedanta, Kashmir Shaiva Darshan or the like. Even otherwise ‘Bhawani Sahasranam’ and ‘Panchastavi’ are the two texts very popular among the Kashmiri Pandits, the all-Brahmin community. There are two possibilities in this regard. Either he had studied some of these texts or he had experienced through his own ‘Yoga sadhana’ all that is written and explained in these scriptures. Such things are not uncommon with many a saint of high spiritual order. In Kashmiri language it is called ‘Apaer achhar’or acquiring knowledge without reading any text.. Even so it has been reported that he had recited the following three selected Shlokas to Pt. Shankar Pandit and Pt. Nila Kanth of Ali Kadal: 1. Na jayate mriyate va kadachit. Naayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah. Ajo nityah shashvato-ayam purano na hanyate hanyamane sharire – The soul has no birth and death. It neither comes into being nor ceases to exist. It is unborn, eternal, constant and ancient, it does not get killed when the body is slain. 2. Indriyani paranyahuh indriyebhyah param manah. Manasastu para buddhih yo buddheh paratestu sah – The senses are said to be superior to the body; the mind is superior to the senses; the intellect is superior to the mind and beyond intellect is that or the Brahman. 3. Na tad bhasayate Suryo na shashanko na pavakah. Yadgatva na nivartante taddhama paramam mama – The eternal abode of Mine is such that it needs no Sun, Moon or fire to illumine it and having attained it there is no return from there. On one occasion he is said to have recited four of the five ‘Stavas’ or cantos of ‘Panchastavi’. 

The year 1929 seems to be a landmark in his life. Till then he must have been in search of the spiritual discipline best suited to his temperament. As soon as he moved to the house of Pt. Tika Lal at Rangateng he intensified his ‘Sadhana’ on the path finally chosen by him. There was no looking back for him thereafter. In his typical ‘Asana’, with a bolster on the right and at the back, was seated his ‘Sthoola Sharira’ gross body only. His ‘Sookshma Sharira’, the subtle body was engrossed with his ‘Ishta Deva’, the Brahman. His was an embodiment of a single-minded devotion described in the Gita as ‘Eka bhakti vishishyate – excelling with single minded devotion’. He stayed at this house for seven years. Thereafter he shifted first to the house of Pt. Nila Koul Saraf at Dalhasanyaar and then to the house of Pt. Madhav Joo Sathoo at Rishi Mohalla and stayed in these houses for a period of ten years each. It was in the house of Shri Saraf that for the first time he began to be addressed, remembered and called as Bhagavaan Ji. Finally he moved into the house of Pt. Sham Lal Malla at Chondapora, which turned out to be his last resting place. Here he stayed for eleven years till his ‘Maha Nirvana’ in 1968. All these places were sanctified and made holy by his presence and by the dust of his lotus feet. Hundreds of people had the good fortune of having his darshan at these places, many blessed people had the good luck of listening to his golden words though limited and very brief, many were cured of their ailments and many more got answers to their queries and remedies to their needs. These answers, however, were always indirect and one had to be very alert and sharp to catch, understand and interpret these. 

His subtle self was the most valuable possession with him. He kept nothing for himself. Whatever people brought and offered to him was there and then distributed among all those present. Favoured were those who got a pinch of ash from his ‘Dhooni’ and ‘Dhoop’ or those who were allowed to have a puff at his ‘Chillum’. Fortunate were those who were treated to a cup of tea or even to a meal at his place. Theirs is an enviable lot as they got the most precious things one could aspire from this seat of ‘Dharma’, truth and righteousness. His ‘Aasana’ was a Sanctum Sanctorum, ‘Garbha Griha’ and his lotus feet were as sacred as the Flagstaff, ‘Dvaja-stambha’ of a temple. The sacred fire in his Dhooni was the ‘Agni’ about which the Rig Veda says, ‘Agnimile purohitam, ratna dhatamam – I bow to the fire, which has always in the past kept my interests supreme and which is the giver of wealth’. Agni is next only to Indra in the Vedas. It is significant to note that in Rig Veda alone there are more than 200 ‘Richas’ in favour of Agni. While the white turban above his broad forehead bearing a glistening ‘tilaka’, a coloured ‘pheran’ and a blanket over his shoulders were prominent in his external appearance, a ‘Chillum’ in his hands, a ‘Dhooni’ with a blazing flame, a pincer, a long iron tong, a spoon for oblations in front of him and a few pillows and bolsters on the right and at the back of his ‘asana’ constituted all the wherewithal he had in his room wherever he stayed. He believed in no sermons, no scriptural discourses and no scholastic discussions. Physically he would be seated in his ‘Aasana’ and his real self would be miles away, in communion with his ‘Aradhya’, the beloved one. Occasionally the word ‘Narayana’ would, as it were, slip out from his lips in a feeble low whispering sound. At times he would mutter a few words in such a low tone as if he were talking to himself or to Him who was all the time within him as the great Lal Ded would have it, ‘Vuchhum Pandit panani gare – I perceived Him within myself’. Normally, however, his eyes would be looking up with his gaze fixed upwards. He was seldom in direct conversation with any one present before him, lost in the world of his own. At times while puffing at his ‘Chillum’ he would go in a trance, stay in that position for quite sometime and then return to this world. This situation is called in spiritual parlance ‘Sahaja Samadhi’, or easy communion with the Divine. This is the high point of ‘Yoga’.    

A Self-Initiated Saint

There is a controversy about his preceptor. Many names are mentioned in this regard and many arguments are put forward. Although he has many times stated that one’s own effort and preceptor’s grace are required for spiritual uplift, yet when himself he was asked who his preceptor was he is reported to have said that any one shloka from the Bhagavad Gita could be the preceptor. It is, therefore, clear that he was self-initiated. Many a miracle is ascribed to him. He delayed death of a person till the wedding of his daughter was solemnized. He cured many patients from severe ailments. He rescued many of his devotees from imminent dangers. Above all he caused a lucky few to have a glimpse of the mother Goddess in the form of a small girl, whom he fed by his own hands with some savouries. He caused rain when it was needed and warded off the clouds when they were likely to cause hindrance in some programme. Many Sadhus who came for the pilgrimage to Swami Amar Nath Ji would call on him. He would pay a Rupee each and then funds would flood from unexpected corners for them to meet their expenditure. He would empty his cloth purse to the needy parents of any marriageable girl and all their needs for the wedding of the girl would be met easily. He was furious to see an unchaste woman or a man of doubtful character, yet he would eventually show compassion towards the erring persons. He inspired householders and celibates alike to take up spiritual ‘Sadhana’. 

No body knows the path he chose for self-realisation and realization of the Divine. It appears that he taught different methods to different disciples, each according to his capacity, aptitude and inclination. Himself he started with traditional ‘Panchanga Upasana’ of Ganesha, Surya, Narayana, Shiva and Shakti. Ganesha is the ‘Adi Deva’, the primary deity and has to be propitiated before any other deity. Surya is described as ‘Pratyakhsha Deva’ or the visible deity. Narayana represents the Vaishnava stream and Shiva the Shaiva stream. Whereas Shiva is Prakasha, the Eternal Light, Shakti is the inseparable energy of the Divine with the help of which He controls and manages the entire creation, animate and inanimate. The five together complete the ‘Panchayatan’ or a group of five that is worshipped traditionally by the Kashmiris. Later on Bhagavaan Ji seems to have concentrated on Shakti, the energy aspect of the Divine. This must have been the result of his having a vision of the Divine Mother when he was a young man of around 25 years of age. From the age of 22 years itself he had started daily circumambulation, ‘Parikrama’ of Hari Parbat. He would rush to Hari Parbat, worship and meditate at Devi Aangan and smoking his Chillum in an open hut there be absorbed with his ‘Ishta’, the desired one. There should be no doubt about his having been a regular practitioner of Yoga as propounded by Patanjali in his ‘Yoga Vasishtha’. One has to look at his life and habits in their totality in order to arrive at the conclusion that he had discreetly adopted its tenets of ‘Yama’, ‘Niyama’ and ‘Asana’, gone through the stages of ‘Dharna’, and ‘Dhyana’ prescribed therein and eventually attained the highest stage of ‘Samadhi’ described in this text. No wonder, therefore, that he would often be seen puffing at his ‘Chillum’ gazing upwards unmindful of his surroundings. He appears to have experimented with control of senses by observing silence at times and by fasting for days on end. He may have practised ‘Pranabhyasa’ (a Tantric technique of meditation) as well as is clear from the fact that he is reported to have vomitted large quantities of blood at times, which is not uncommon in this process. Some persons have recorded that he would also propitiate Saturn. 

Patrizia Norelli Bachelet, the Director of Aeon Centre of Cosmology has given a different reason for Bhagavaan Ji paying homage to the Saturn in his daily practice. According to her Saturn rules Capricorn and Capricorn is the planetary ruler of India.  Furthermore Saturn has been equated with Chronos, the Time-Spirit. This is considered to be Shiva in his ‘Mahakala’ or the ‘time supreme’ form. She has, therefore concluded that since this planet is central to destiny it is no surprise that Bhagavaan Ji used to pay homage to this planet everyday. She has also observed that such saints, who are perfectly realized souls, perform such acts guided by their own inner command that this must be done. Finally Bhagavaan Ji seems to have settled for ‘Aghor-upasana’ of Shiva. This is indicated by the two items, which were his lifetime companions, the ‘Chillum’ and the ‘Dhooni’. This ‘Upasana’, or worship gave him a vision of the past, present and future, powers extra-ordinary to control even death and capacity to transcend time and space and remain engrossed with the Divine at will. May be he sometimes dabbled in ‘Kundalini yoga’ as well. This can be deduced from the accounts of many of his disciples who have found him often in an ecstatic state. This ecstatic state is the result of awakening of Kundalini, the dormant energy coil, which has been described by Adi Shankara in his ‘Soundarya Lahari’ as ‘Cidananda Lahari’ and ‘Paramananda Lahari’, or bliss of the Consciousness and the bliss Supreme, respectively. The ‘Sadhaka’or the seeker remains glued to his ‘Aasana’ for hours together, enjoying the feeling of an eternal bliss. 

Bhagavaan Ji appears to have reached a ‘Jeevan-mukta’ (emancipated in lifetime itself) state at quite a young age in the prime of his youth. Normally this age leads the young men of ordinary prudence astray and they are attracted towards the worldly pleasures. For him, however, the youth was a different cup of tea. It was the time to reflect on the purpose of the life and explore the right path for attaining the Supreme Truth. He did not consider the gross body as the be all and end all of human existence. He would refer to his legs as mere logs of wood. He was unmindful of his body even when it was swollen, unsteady due to prolonged fasting or weak due to some ailment. Once a rat nibbled a hole in one of his heels that remained so for a long time. This shows that he enjoyed himself in his ‘Sookshma Sharira’ (Subtle body) of ‘Sat, Chit and Ananda’ or Being, Consciousness and Bliss and bothered little about his ‘Sthula Sharira’ (Gross body) of flesh and blood or the ‘Karana Deha’ (Causal body). He had no qualms in taking non-vegetarian food and sometimes showed extreme habits by either not eating at all for a long period or by eating unusually large quantities of food. Taking opium, Datura seeds, ‘panak’ and other intoxicants, emptying bottleful of whisky or brandy when offered at times were the other extremes he engaged in and baffled those present on these occasions. Strange are the ways of such saints and nobody can fathom their depth, vastness or gravity.

A Mystery

It is very difficult to classify his method of ‘Sadhana’. He has guided many a disciple transmitting knowledge either through his ‘Chillum’ or by a mere gaze or by touching them with a pair of tong used for the fire in his ‘Dhooni’. There are indications that he prescribed different methods of ‘Sadhana’ to different disciples of his. This shows that he would examine the capacity, genius and aptitude of a devotee before suggesting what particular path he should follow to achieve the Supreme Truth. His frequent visits to holy places and shrines and his having shown some people a vision of the Divine Mother in the form of a girl indicates his ‘Sakaara Upasana’ or worship of the Divine with form. Hymns to various deities written in his own hand show his inclination towards ‘Bhakti’ or devotion. This is also indicated by the fact that the portraits of gods and goddesses, and great saints like Guru Nanak and Sri Rama Krishna Paramhamsa adorned the walls of his room. This is further corroborated by the fact that he was very fond of classical music. Shri Shivpuri, who would normally go along with his disciples carrying a Harmonium and a pair of Tabla to sing before him, was once asked by him to bring a Tanpura along giving a clear indication that he preferred Classical music to other forms of light music. He would present various ragas like Kedar, Malkauns, Jogia, and Bairagi Bhairav etc.  Many well-known Musicians like Shri Shivpuri, Mohd. Abdullah Tibetbaqal and Ved Lal Vakil would present Kashmiri Sufiana Kalam and Bhajans before him. 

This indicates the state of proximity or ‘Samipya’ in his spiritual life, which is an essential ingredient of the ‘Bhakti Marga’ of the dualistic school of Philosophy propounded by Madhvacharya. He would concentrate on ‘Om’ and has written this seed syllable, symbolizing the crux of the Vedas in his own hand in Sharada script. Shri Gita says, ‘Pranavah sarva Vedeshu – I am the Om, the crux of all the Vedas’. He has also written Rama and Shiva decoratively around this Pranava. This shows his firm belief in the fact that Shiva and Vishnu are one and the same. He was so much enamoured about the worship of ‘Om’ that he once explained that it was the throat of the godhead. Om is described in Maitri Upanishad in these words: ‘the sound of Brahman is Om. At the end of Om is silence. It is a silence of joy. It is the end of journey where fear and sorrow are no more, steady, motionless, never falling, ever lasting, immortal. In order to reach the Highest consider in adoration the sound and silence of Brahman. For it has been said, God is sound and silence. His name is Om. Attain, therefore, contemplation – contemplation in silence on Him’. Bhagavaan ji advocated this contemplation on Om.  This is also indicative of his ‘Nirguna Nirakara upasana’ or worship of the attribute-less and formless God and the state of similarity or ‘Sarupya’ in his spiritual life, peculiar to the Vishishta-advaita or qualified monism of Ramanujacharya. One has, therefore, to conclude that for him all paths led to the same goal or that he believed that different methods of ‘Sadhana’ were useful at different levels of spiritual quest and for seekers with different capacities and attitudes. 

Ultimately he became a ‘Siddha’, an accomplished soul conquering death, transcending time and space and remaining in constant communion with the Divine and thus attaining the state of identity or ‘Sayujya’ as a spiritual entity, the ultimate goal envisaged in the Advaita or non-dualistic doctrine upheld and elaborated by Adi Shankara. It is astonishing that while analyzing and writing commentaries on the ‘Brahma-sutra’ of Badarayan, the Upanishads and the Gita, called the ‘Prasthana Trayee’ the three great commentators, Shankaracharya, Ramanuja and Madhva should have propounded three different schools of Philosophy. This justifies Bhagavaan Ji’s saying that one can hold on to any branch of the tree and yet reach the Truth. A saint is once reported to have found it rather baffling that he should have come to the shrine at Tulamula and without performing any puja at the holy spring should have straightaway gone to a hut in the periphery and got absorbed with his own ‘Chillum’. Here one is reminded of a couplet written by an Urdu poet, ‘Jo khud se guzar jate hain sijda nahin karte – one who has transcended the self seldom bows’. No doubt he had reached that elevated stage in spirituality where he had transcended his self and had become one with the Divine. There was thus no need for him to follow the routine rituals or routine practices. 

 He was a ‘Virakhta’, a detached ‘Sadhaka’ although occasionally he attended to his family matters as well as social customs. Shri Shali has stated that he once attended the tenth day ceremony of someone who had died but was seen absorbed with the Sun above. He was compassion personified and that is why he sometimes deferred the death of a person when the situation so demanded and so often relieved people of their pain and suffering. God only knows how many people have benefitted due to his benign and compassionate nature and how many have got solace sitting at his lotus feet. Even a cat was allowed to sit in his ‘Asana’ in spite of the remonstrations of some devotees. It is, therefore, meaningless to enter into a discussion as to which Guru initiated him and what method of worship he professed. Let us not forget what Pushpadanta has said in his ‘Shiva-mahimnastotra’, which Bhagvaan ji often recited in his younger days, ‘Trayi sankhyam yogah pashupatimatam vaishnavam-iti, prabhinne prasthane param-idam adah pathyam-iti cha, ruchinam vaichitryat riju kutila nana patha jushyam, nrinam eko gamyah tvam-asi payasam arnava-iva- At different times different people professing Vedas, Sankhya, Yoga, Shaivism or Vaishnavism due to their personal preferences proclaim their faith as beneficial. Yet all these people treading different paths, whether straight or involved, seek you alone O Lord! Just as all the rivers are heading towards the ocean only.’

Achieving Immortality

The fateful day of Jyeshta Shukla Dvitiya corresponding to 28th May 1968 arrived. It started as usual and Bhagavaan Ji had his usual routine. There was nothing abnormal or unusual about it and no indication of any major event going to take place. Some people came for his darshan throughout the day and got his blessings and prashada of the holy ash. In the afternoon some three Sadhus came and got the customary ‘Dakhshina’ of Rupee one each. He puffed at his ‘Chillum’. A devotee made some tea for him but he declined to have it. Then he drank a glassful of sugar-mixed water. A lady devotee wanted to have ‘Prashada’ from him. She refused to budge an inch until and unless she received it from him and not from any one else. At the end he did oblige her by taking out some dry fruits from his pocket and gave it to her. Finally the time came and at 5.45 p.m. he uttered the ‘Shad-akhshar’ Maha mantra of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and closed his eyes forever. This was in keeping with what the Lord has said in the Gita, “Om iti-ekaksharam Brahma vyaharan mam-anusmaran, yah prayati tyejan deham sa yati paramam gatim– He who remembers me by uttering the single word ‘Om’ while giving up the gross body certainly attains the exalted spiritual position”. Uttering these immortal words with the last breath was very significant. It sheds light on his entire life and sums up his message. All along he had attached a lot of importance to the seed syllable ‘Om’. He used to call it the throat of godhead. Om is the crux of both Nigamas or the Vedas and Agamas or other scriptures. It represents the Absolute God, its Energy and the resultant manifestation in the form of the creation. Shiva is the Divine in his attribute-less and formless state, attaining whom is the high point of spiritual seeking. When we pay obeisance to Him by saying ‘Namah’ we recognize the limitless ‘I’ being sought after by the limited ‘I’. After all the spiritual ‘Sadhana’ is nothing but a journey from this limited ‘I’ circumscribed by time and space to the limitless ‘I’ transcending all the barriers of time and space. By uttering these words while giving up the mortal coil he gave a clear indication that he had accomplished the highest point of ‘sadhana’ and was one with ‘Param Shiva’

Bhagavaan Ji might have ceased to exist in his embodied form but he lives in his astral form even today. A distinction has to be made between ‘Kshetra’ or the body and ‘Kshetrajna’ or the knower of the body, the terminology used in the Gita. As ‘Kshetra’ he may not exist today but as ‘Kshetrajna’ he continues to be there. He lives in the hearts of those who loved and adored him. He lives in the memories of those who were relieved of their suffering by him. He lives in the gratitude of those who consider themselves indebted to him for one reason or the other. He lives in the spirit of those who were guided by him in their spiritual quest. He lives in the gatherings where hymns in his praise are sung, where oblations in his name are offered into the holy fire and where the soul-satisfying ‘Mantra’ of ‘Om Namo Bhagavate Gopinathaya’is chanted with dedication and devotion. He lives in the captivating gaze emanating from his resplendent eyes in the photographs and statues. He lives in the unspoken words that appear to sprout forth from the half-open lips of the statues and portraits placed on pedestals in the Ashrams at different places. He lives in the dreams, thoughts and feelings of his devotees, admirers and beloveds. He had come to this world with a purpose and the purpose was first to complete his own spiritual journey and then to serve the humanity both in mundane and spiritual matters. He accomplished the first purpose by bringing his sadhana to fruition and realizing Self and the Divine. He fulfilled the second purpose by coming to the aid of the suffering and deserving and by guiding the aspirants in their spiritual quest. From all accounts given by various people within the country and abroad he continues to fulfill his mission in his astral form. People have seen him in their dreams, perceived him in human form and seen a glimpse of this great soul in their imagination. This has established his oft-quoted utterance, ‘Amar chha maran– How can death come to an immortal.’

Importance of A Preceptor

From different accounts of the devotees it is clear that Bhagavaan Ji attached a lot of importance to the grace of a preceptor. By this he meant that a preceptor was always a must in order to evaluate the need, the capacity and the temperament of a seeker. Although he has emphasized that the effort of the seeker is of paramount importance and that he has himself to strive for the truth, yet he feels that the preceptor helps him in selecting the method best suited to his genius, guides him in spiritual exercise and assists him in warding off the difficulties and overcoming the hurdles. Just as destiny and actions govern the course of one’s worldly affairs the two important elements that shape the spiritual ‘Sadhana’ of a seeker are ‘Guru Kripa’ or the grace of the preceptor and ‘Parishrama’ or the effort of the seeker himself. 

A World-View

It is clear from the account given in the preceding paragraphs that he experimented with all sorts of spiritual disciplines, different methods of worshipping and various procedures of penance and thus climbed the ladder as it were, step by step. This position also suggests that he had no formal initiation from anyone. For had he got initiation from a Guru he would have been directed on a specific spiritual path and he would have no need for all the experimentation that he actually had to undertake. In that case he would have adopted the path prescribed by his preceptor and stuck to it up to the last. He would give a lot of importance to the path of ‘Vichara’ or contemplation, the path leading to supreme awareness and universal consciousness. He used to talk reverentially about persons whom he thought were ‘Vicharavan’ or thoughtful. This vichara took him to the level of totality, universality and limitless eternity. He appeared before Mr. Simpfendorfor, an Australian devotee in 1978 and remarked: ‘World harmony depends on a globally inter-connected network of light among sacred places and groups of people without regard to nationality or religion’. This is a glaring demonstration of Bhagavaan Ji having attained a universal vision and having dismantled all man-made barriers of religion, cast, creed sects and faiths. This is perhaps the elevated position where saints like him quite naturally make statements like, ‘Aham Brahmo’smi – I am the Brahman, the Divine’ or ‘Man Khuda – I am God Almighty’ or ‘Anal Haq – I am the Truth’ or ‘Chidananda Rupo Shivo’ham Shivo’ham – I am Shiva, I am Shiva, in the form of Consciousness and Bliss, or in the words of the Upanishad Tat Twam asi – That Thou art or the Sufi’s Hama-O-ast - I am He’. 

Shri Rama Krishna is reported to have experimented with Muslim and Christian methods of attaining the Truth with the same amount of success as he had achieved by following the traditional Indian methods of ‘Advaita’. Even the great Lal Ded, the 14th Century saint-poetess of Kashmir has said, ‘Shiv Chhui thali thali rozan, mo zan Hyond ta Musalman – God pervades everything, do not, therefore, discriminate between a Hindu and a Muslim’. Bhagavaan Ji also has remarked once, ‘Hyond chha akh ta Musalman byakh – is there any difference between a Hindu and a Muslim?’ In fact there is an interesting story involving a Muslim. It is said that a lady came to see him. A Muslim servant accompanied her carrying a bagful of yellow pears called ‘Bagugosha’. He directed that these be distributed among all present beginning with the servant. A devotee who was distributing the fruit gave one pear to him but Bhagavaan ji signalled that he be given more. One after the other he got five pears whereas others got only one pear each. Later he revealed that when the lady was purchasing the fruit he had a craving to get some for his consumption but he was not sure that he would get even one as he did not know the person for whom these were being purchased. It is the saints of his stature who have a universal outlook, a world view and an unlimited vision who are able to perceive the truth and express it spontaneously in these expressions: ‘Ishavasyam-idam-sarvam yat kinchit jagatyam jagat – All this that is and that takes place here in this world is pervaded by the Divine’ or ‘Vasudevah sarvam-iti – Everything here verily is Shri Krishna only’ as clearly stated in the Ishavasya Upanishad and the Gita, respectively. 

Lessons to Learn

Bhagavaan Ji was a saint of very few words. He seldom gave a straight answer to any one. He would always refer to himself in plural and would say sentences like, ‘We have eaten already’ or ‘we shall go to Hari Parbat’. Even so he did utter some pithy and meaningful statements from time to time, which have been devotedly recorded by his disciples. Some of these are:

·        A person should be endowed with three qualities of ‘Sezar, Shozar and Pazar’ or straight-forwardness, purity and truth.

·        ‘Amar chha maran’ meaning that cease to exist which is immortal. Here he refers to the immortality of the soul.

·        ‘Ahankaras namaskar, sui gav omkar, tami saet bani sakhshatkar’ . It means that a seeker must realize his self. In so doing he shall realize the Divine and perceive Him as Om. In this situation the subjectivity and objectivity shall get merged.

·        ‘Yi chhu kitab paran, tor chha gash’. Here he says that mere reading the scriptures does not bring enlightenment and by inference enjoins upon the seeker to experience the truth.

·        A seeker can achieve his goal only if he strives for it and has the grace of his preceptor. ‘Mehnat panan ta Gora kripa’ or one’s own effort and the kindness of the preceptor.

·        Seeking the truth by contemplation is superior to worshipping the Divine with form. ‘Yi gav taf parun, yi gav veeri shihlis tal pakun’meaning that worshipping God with form is an easy-going way like walking under a shade and avoiding the Sun.

·        A seeker must put his own mind and breath on the same wavelength as that of his preceptor. This happens only if God so wills, ‘Yi gatshi yatshun’. 

Bhagavaan Ji had a simple message for a common man that he should earn his living honestly, spend some of his money in charity and remain honest in his dealings. For him all men were equal irrespective of their faith. He used to say, ‘Bata chha akh ta Musalman chhu byakh’ meaning that a Muslim is no different from a Hindu. For the seekers of the truth he emphasized to have a positive attitude, be prepared for a strenuous effort and keep on loving God. He attached a great importance to the Gita as a guide and the Panchastavi as a document of penance. He had a world-view of spirituality. He desired that the forces of peace, piety and righteousness world over should pool their efforts and serve humanity so that universal brotherhood prevails and the forces of dissention and division are defeated. 

A question is often asked whether a saint can change the ‘Prarabdha’ or the destiny of a person. Shri Krishna has said in the Gita ‘Yo me Bhakta sa me priyah – one who is devoted to Me is my beloved’. Once a devout commands the love of the Lord, he is in a position to get anything done through Him. There is a story about the sage Narada. He was once going to ‘Vishnuloka’ when he happened to pass through a township. A couple living there desperately desired to have a child. They requested Narada to give them a boon so that they got a child. The sage told them to wait till he enquired from Lord Vishnu. The Lord told him that the couple was destined to remain childless. He conveyed this to them but they did not give up their hope. They approached another saint who gave them a boon and in course of time they begot a son. After many years Narada happened to drop in the same house for alms and was surprised to see their son. He was furious when he was told how they had got the child and in a rage he went to Vishnu to complain about his having been let down by the Lord. The Lord explained that He was duty-bound to keep the word of His devotees, who are dear to Him. Narada instead of recommending a child for the couple had made only an enquiry whether a child was in their destiny. On the other hand the other saint had straightaway ordered, so to say, that a child be given to them and the Lord immediately accepted his command and blessed the couple with a child. 

This mythological story illustrates that the accomplished saints can, if they so desire, give any boon and fulfill any desire of their beloved devotees. Ordinarily, however, they would desist from interfering with the nature or tampering with the destiny. These may be termed as their miracles or the manifestation of their compassion or their concern for the suffering humanity. We can get anything at their lotus feet but it depends on us whether we seek transient impermanent pleasures of worldly nature or eternal and limitless bliss and joy of the spiritual realm. To illustrate this it may be stated that once a devotee came to him with a huge number of fresh lotus flowers brought from the Dal Lake. At his insistence Bhagavaan Ji remained motionless – in fact he went in ‘Samadhi’, engrossed with the Divine, while he decorated the Master with these flowers from top to toe in his own choicest way. In order to oblige him and give him the benefit of deriving supreme pleasure he remained in this position for hours together. What better example of selfless love and ecstatic devotion one can give. Yet these acts give eternal joy to the devotees, after all there is a thin line of demarcation between love and madness.

Towards Bhagavaan Consciousness

These directions and the spiritual message received from this saint extra-ordinary have encouraged a band of his devotees to launch a movement of bringing people under the fold of what they call ‘Bhagavaan Consciousness’. Ashrams and centers of worship have been established within the country and abroad. These serve as hubs of twofold activity, ‘Sadhana’ or spiritual quest and ‘Seva’ or service of the mankind. During 1997-98 yearlong functions were held in India and abroad as a part of centenary celebrations of the Master. The Government of India, Department of Posts issued a special Rs. 3 stamp and the first day cover to commemorate his hundredth birthday. Mayor Schundler of New Jersey proclaimed July 26, 1997 as Jagadguru Bhagavaan Gopinathji Day when a colourful function was held there with devotion and religious fervour. 

In one of his articles on Bhagavaan Ji Philip Simpfendorfer, his Australian devotee has recorded his experience in these words: “In the dark of the night, somewhere beyond deep sleep, I sometimes glimpse awareness of his presence. He is not in human form, but his presence is unmistakable. Perhaps his body is an energy field, perhaps a vibration. It touches one of my subtle bodies with light. I suspect that it touches the whole earth because the presence does seem to pervade some rocks and caves and canyons on the bushland property where I live. Several years ago when I knew him more in his astral form, I asked where he really was, and the reply was to the effect that ‘We are in the circle of the Shaktis.’ The reply is still an enigma to me. Does it mean he is like the hub of a wheel and his emanation like the spokes, connecting with the rim of powerful blessing as it whirls in energy paths across the earth? Nothing can block or stop the waves of power. All nature receives its good-ness as do receptive humans. To others, it just passes through them. It is an energy of infinite Consciousness.” He has concluded with a significant remark that if all of humanity lived in Bhagavaan Consciousness, all creation would be open to infinity. He is sure that Bhagavaan Ji is constantly breathing his consciousness into us. If we also perceive the situation in a similar way any apparent miracle performed by our master will cease to be a miracle and will be seen as a natural and logical phenomenon, irrespective of whether the occurrence has taken place before or after his giving up the mortal coil. 

‘Laer’, a Typical Kashmiri House

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Enter the courtyard, with or without a gate, of any house anywhere in Kashmir and you will see an open rectangular or square space kept as neat as the weather permits. This is called ‘Aangun’. On the far off corner there will be a small dry toilet and somewhere in the middle of a side there will be a brick enclosure, ‘Hoze’ with a tap for cleaning, washing and drawing water. You should not be surprised if you find a stone mortal and a large wooden pestle, used for crushing dried chillies and other spices, called Kanz ta Muhul’. Then you will find a stone platform with two or three steps on either side at the front door. The platform is known as ‘Brand’ and the front door as ‘Daar’. This door leads to a passage, which divides the house into two halves. This is referred to as ‘Vuz’. On either side of this passage there are two big rooms, each called ‘Vo’t’. These are in effect sitting rooms used during winters. They are covered with grass mats, ‘Vaguv’ over which are spread floor coverings, ‘Satrand’, ‘Namda’ or ‘Gabba’. A portion of this room is partitioned and made into a traditional kitchen, ‘Choka’. It has cooking ranges, big ‘Daan’ and small ‘Oktsore’, ‘Hahkole’. There are storage spaces for kitchen items, utensils and fuel and charcoal. There is also a wooden shelf, ‘Garavanja’, meant to hold pitchers of water for use in the kitchen. The size of these rooms depends on the number of windows there are on the front elevation of the house. The houses are usually either ‘Sath-taakh’, in which case there will be three windows in each room or ‘Paentsh-taakh’, in which case these two rooms will have two windows each. At the end of the passage there is a self-closing door called ‘Thasa-bar’, which opens into the staircase leading to the upper stories. The space below the circular bend of the staircase is gainfully used as a bathroom or washroom.  

Climb the staircase and you are on the first floor. In a typical house there will be two rooms on either side and a small room in the middle on the front side. This small room is very important and sacred. It is called, ‘Thokur Kuth’ or the room for worship. It houses a small temple with a variety of idols of different deities. The rooms on either side would be bedrooms for different members of the family or study cum bedrooms for the youngsters. These are tastefully decorated with pictures and photos and wall hangings and furnished with carpets spread over grass-mats and floor coverings. In some traditional houses one or two rooms out of these four rooms may be used as store rooms called, ‘Bana-kuth’ for grains, spices, pulses etc; and ‘Baeth-kuth’ for fuel, dried cow-dung, charcoal etc. The former will have large pitchers, ‘Machi’ or big but short ones, ‘Math’ made of earthenware to store various items of household. At the onset of the winter these ‘Maths’ will be filled with potatoes, turnips, radish and knoll-khol to be consumed during winter months, when there is scarcity of such items due to snow, frost and cold.   

Once again you can go up the next staircase and reach the second floor. There may be three or four rooms on this floor of varying sizes. One of them will have an anteroom, ‘Shansheen’. One on the front or on the side may have a small balcony extended out, either round or rectangular in shape. It will have either ordinary windows opening outside or three or four windowpanes one over the other, which are lifted and stacked one after the other on a support in the upper portion of the window. This is known as ‘Vuroosi’ and is usually made of wooden panels beautifully carved with floral designs. One of the rooms may have all its walls plastered with white cement, ‘gachh’. This room would be earmarked as the bedroom for the head of the family. All these rooms will have double-panelled windows. One set made of thick wooden plank will open towards inside. The other set made of criss-cross carved wooden mesh, called ‘Panjra’ will open outside and would be resting on two hooks. These can easily be removed from the hooks so that paper is pasted on them to block the draught of wind during winter months. The ceiling of the rooms will be rather low and tastefully woven with small wooden pieces of varying designs. This is called, ‘Khutumband taalav’ and is exquisitely beautiful. The floors may be of clay resting on wooden girders and sleepers. These are cleaned and smeared with clay-paste and covered with grass mats ‘Vaguv’, ‘Satrand’ and carpets or Kashmiri ‘Namdas’ and ‘Gabbas’.In some rooms you may find a wooden pole hanging by the ropes on either end from the ceiling. This is called ‘Villinj’ and is used to hang clothes, sheets and floor coverings, towels etc.   

Another flight of stairs and you are on the third floor, ‘Kaani’. It is a huge hall covering the entire space. In the entire length of the front side there is a projected balcony overlooking the courtyard below. It has beautifully carved wooden poles supporting the typical window-series and separating the ‘Vuroosi’ system. The ceiling is of wooden planks below the huge wooden girders and beams. Over this there is a V-shaped roof ‘Pash’, either covered with corrugated tin sheets or wooden shingle or of mud-phuska over birch sheets that make it waterproof. The space between the roof and the ceiling is called ‘Brari-Kaani’ and is used for stacking cut-wood fuel. In some houses small study rooms are made out on the corner sides known as ‘Gable’.  The hall is used as a living room in summer months as it is airy and pleasant and for serving meals to a large number of guests on important occasions like marriages betrothals etc. It has a kitchen and a storeroom on either side of the stair door. Those houses, which do not have taps on this top floor, have a strong wooden wall bracket, ‘Garvanja’ to hold earthen pitchers for storage of water. A servant is engaged to fetch water from the taps below and fill these pitchers for use in the kitchen and for drinking purposes.  

During the winter, when there is a heavy snowfall a thick layer of snow settles on the rooftop. If the roof is made of tin sheets or shingle, the snow melts in due course and slips from the slanting roof. If, however, the roof is made of mud, some labour is employed to push the snow from above lest the roof gives way under the weight of the snow. This is done with huge wooden ore-like blades called ‘Phyuh’. During the summer people leave chillies, paddy, pickle and ‘Kaanz’ (fermented drink) on the roof in the open sunshine. There is a small covered opening in the middle of the roof where the two slopes meet. It has a small door used to climb on to the roof whenever needed. On auspicious days people climb the roof through this opening along with a plateful of raw meat pieces and hurl them above their heads for hovering kites to grab and take away. On the flatter roofs even paddy is spread on grass mats to dry in open sunshine. 

A typical Kashmiri house is built on a raised stone plinth. The ground floor is often built in stone blocks neatly chiseled. The remaining floors are built with baked bricks of varying sizes. Small sized bricks ‘Maharaji Seri’ give a beautiful look to the construction from outside. These are usually painted brick red or deep crimson. After every floor wooden beams are placed on the bricklayers and interlocked at the four corners. These help the walls to stand firm and secure. The roof is built over huge and straight wooden logs, usually from the poplar tree, and wooden girders. There is no plaster from outside but the inner walls are plastered with fine powdered clay mixed with chaff or tree-wool. Ceilings are low and so are windows so that the rooms remain warm in winter months. Just above the window on the extreme right in the ground floor there is a small wooden shelf on the outside. Cooked rice and other eatables are left on this shelf for birds of sorts, which are there in plenty. Similarly on the top floor just outside the projected balcony there is again a wooden shelf for the same purpose. 

People generally sit on the floor on a carpeted surface leaning on large-sized bolsters kept along the walls. It is also customary to sleep on the floor on mattresses stuffed with cotton and take similarly stuffed quilts as coverings. During the day these beddings are neatly folded and stacked in one corner either on top of a table or a huge tin box. While toilets are always outside, bathrooms can be either inside or in the corner of the courtyard adjacent to the water-tap. These houses are living monuments to the culture of Kashmir. The galleries on all the floors are used not only as approaches to different floors but also to leave the shoes behind, as these are not taken inside the rooms. Kitchens are demarcated by wooden partitions in order to maintain their sacred purity. Every house has a small room for offering worship. Kashmiri Pandits are deeply religious and God fearing. It is customary for them to offer daily pooja, perform rituals on important occasions and observe a fortnight-long celebration on Shivaratri. They sit, sleep and eat normally on the floor and for that keep their houses neat, clean and pure. A portion of all that is cooked is left for dogs, birds and the guests are received with an open heart.  

Divinity, the Geeta Way

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Swami Vivekananda’s mission was to raise man from animality to divinity. He emphasised that divinity should be made manifest in every movement of his life. The Geeta in chapter XVI has summed up, in just two and a half shlokas, the traits of divinity and explained in detail the various traits of animality. The former is called ‘Daivam Sampadam’ and it liberates. The latter is called ‘Asuri Sampadam’ and it binds. Analysed below are the traits of divinity vis-a-vis those of animality as given in the Geeta:- 

1.     Abhayam: fearlessness is the prime quality for the one born for divine state. One has to be fearless in the face of death, dejection, pain, defeat, disrespect, and all other pitfalls of the human existence, for the Geeta proclaims ‘Samatvam yoga uchyate’.B.G : 2.48 - equilibrium alone is yoga. This equilibrium can be achieved by being fearless in the face of all odds. And fearlessness can be achieved by complete surrender unto the Lord who is bound by his divine promise ‘Tesham nityabhi-yukhtanam yoga-kshemam vahami-aham’ B.G. 9.22 - I provide gain and security to all those who are ever devout to me. So when He has taken full responsibility for our security where is the question of our fearing at all. 

2.     Sattva sanshuddhih: purity of heart is the other trait essential for divinity. We all pray in the morning : ‘ma vidvishavahay’ - let us not hate any one and again: ‘tan-me manah Shiva sankalpam-astu ‘let my mind be filled with noble resolve.’ Both these Vedic prayers indicate that we are required to aspire for purity of heart. The Geeta says that as against this quality of the divine, those with evil disposition are ‘ashuchi-vratah’ of impure resolve. They are full of malice and hatred for others. 

3.     Jnana-yoga vyavasthitih: steadfastness in the yoga of knowledge. The emphasis here is on steadfastness. Whether it is to achieve merger with the Divine through knowledge or to gain knowledge, one has to be steadfast. The Geeta is on record to say, ‘aneka janma sansiddhah tato yanti param gatim- B.G:6.45’ birth after birth one has to strive with steadfastness and then alone one attains the supreme position. The evil, on the other hand will be ‘ajnani’ without knowledge  and if at all he makes an effort to know, he will be fickle-minded. 

4.     Daanam: giving alms is also a great virtue. Divine are those who give their wealth and knowledge to others, who help others physically, monetarily as also by giving good counsel. A wealthy virtuous person gives alms but the foolish pride their wealth and covet for more. Sharing is a divine trait and those who are evil cook for themselves: ‘te pachanti atma karanat. B.G.: 3.13’ 

5.     Damah: control over senses is an important step in yoga. One must be the master of one’s senses and not their slave. For, if they get out of control, we become ‘ugra karmanah B.G.16.9’ men of fierce deeds. That would lead us to destruction. If we cannot control our senses, we are prone to think of sense-objects all the time and a chain of cause and effect follows, viz; attachment, desire, anger, delusion, confused memory, loss of reason, loss of wisdom and finally the destruction. B.G.2.62-63. 

6.     Yajna: the ritual of sacrifice is another important requirement for a person of divine qualities. Performance of Yajna and partaking of the left over from oblations ‘yajna-shishta-ashna’ is what the Geeta prescribes. This inculcates a sense of sacrificing in us and disciplines our life  so that we enjoy every thing with a detached mind as the Ishavasya upanishad would have it : ‘tena tyakhtena bhunjithah.’ In contrast to this, those who are of demoniac disposition, perform yajna for ostentation disregarding the prescribed procedures. ‘yajante nama-yajnaiste dambhena avidhi-purvakam.’B.G. 16.17. 

7.    Swadhyayah: study of the scriptures is also important about which we are told not to shirk , ‘ swadhyayat ma pramaditavyam.’ For it is the study of scriptures that gives us the right direction and shows us the right way. In the words of Yudhishthara, ‘mahajano yena gatah sa panthah,’ the path shown by sages and savants, recorded in the scriptures, is the path to follow. If we do not take to the study of scriptures we are bound to act on the impulse of our desire giving a go bye to what is prescribed: ‘shastra- vidhim- utsrijya vartate kama-karatah. B.G.16.23’ That takes us away from our goal, perfection and happiness and consequently we lose our divinity. 

8.     Tapah: penance or austerity is yet another quality which should be inculcated. This quality hardens us and enables us to face the ups and downs of the life. It helps us maintain a balanced posture and remain dogged and steadfast in all our endeavours. Without this quality we become ‘chanchala’ restless and remain ever dissatisfied: ‘aneka-chitta-vibhrantah mohajala samavritah B.G.16.16’ bewildered by many a fancy, and caught up in the web of delusion. To avoid such a situation the only answer is tapas or the penance. 

9.     Aarjavam: straight-forwardness in dealings is another positive feature of a good person. In order to qualify for a divine nature, one has to be forthright. There should be no contradiction between what one says and what one does. The conduct should be simple and straight, the actions should reflect the pious intentions and one should be as clear as a crystal. In contrast, the one with an evil nature  has neither purity nor right conduct: ‘na shaucham napi cha-acharah. B.G. 16.7”.      

10. Ahimsa:  non-injury by itself is an essential quality of a person of divine disposition.  He injures neither in deed, nor by utterances, nor even by thought.  In contrast a person of evil disposition says ‘Asau maya hatah shatruh, hanishye cha-aparanapi’, that enemy has been slain by me and I shall kill others also - B.G :16.14’.

11. Satyam: truth.  What is, is called ‘sat’ and the fact of being is ‘satya’, the truth.  We pray to God to lead us from ‘asat’, non-being, to ‘sat’, being. Therefore it is of paramount importance for us to be truthful in word and deed in order to be divine.  Seeking and aiming at truth,  practising and experiencing truth, truth in thought and conviction makes a person divine.  Others of demoniac traits practise only falsehood.  They consider the entire universe as unreal and without any basis, ‘Asatyam-apratishtham te jagad-ahur-anishvaram - B.G :16.8’, the universe is unreal, they say, and is without any moral basis and without any God. 

12. Akrodah: devoid of anger.  Since the person divine controls his senses, it, ipso facto, means that he will have no anger.  Anger is the result of intense desire.  Conquering it is a step towards divinity.  Anger is the trait of the evil as has been stated, ‘Ashapasha-shatair - baddhah kama krodha-parayanah - B.G :16.12’, they are entangled in multiplicity of hope and are given to lust and anger.  Anger is conquered by non-anger.  We have the authority of ‘Setu-sama’, from the Sama Veda, which says that we can cross the chasm of anger over the bridge of non-anger - ‘Setuns-tara, Akrodhena krodham tara’ 

13. Tyagah: relinquishing.  This has been defined in Chapter 18 of the Geeta, thus, ‘Sarva-karma-phala-tyagam prahus-tyagam - B.G. : 18.2’, abandonment of the fruits of all actions is called Tyagah.  Again it has been stated ‘Sangam tyakhtva phalam chaiva tyagah sattviko matah - B.G.: 18.9.  Abandoning attachment and fruit is a superior tyagah.  The Geeta has right from Chapter 2 repeated it several times that actions cannot and should not be relinquished for the cycle of actions must go on.  Even the existence is not possible without performing actions.  But, what is required to be relinquished is the attachment to and the fruits of these actions.  In other words one has to consider the Divine as the real doer and oneself only as a tool.  However, a person of demonic traits thinks in a different way, ‘Idamadya maya labdham, imam prapsya manoratham.  Idam asti-idam-api me bhavishyati punar-dhanam - B.G.:16.13.’, this has been gained by me today, this desire I shall fulfil. This is mine.  That wealth also will be mine.  Not only is such a person after everything with greed but also considers himself as the real doer. 

14. Shantih: serenity and peace come naturally to a person with divine traits because he is ‘Santushto yena kenachit - B.G. : 12.19.’ satisfied in all circumstances anyhow and ‘Atmaneva-atmana tushtah - B.G : 2.55’, fully satisfied in himself.  He is at peace with everyone because he sees himself in all beings and all beings in himself, ‘Sarva-bhutastham-atmanam sarva bhutani cha-atmani - B.G.:6.29’,  he also knows the gospel ‘ashantasya kutah sukham B.G.:2.66’  how can one be happy if he has no peace.  Peace is the direct result of relinquishment,  the quality discussed earlier.  Relinquishment, says the Geeta, is superior to practise, knowledge and meditation, and it leads to peace ‘Shreyo hi Jnanam - abhyasat Jnanad -dhyanam vishishyate dhyanat-karma-phal-tyagah, tyagat shantir - anataram - B.G :12.12’ and it is the peace that we pray for every morning after our ‘sandhya vandanam’ and other routines chores.  While the one with divine nature has complete peace of mind, those of evil nature have, ‘Chintam-aparimeyam B.G 16.11’, unlimited worries.   

15. Apaishunam: aversion to fault-finding. A person, in order to be divine, has to be sedate, simple and soft. He should be devoid of aggression, harshness and vehemence. He should have a gentle and pleasing demeanour. He should be averse to finding fault with others. There is a Sanskrit shloka which says, ‘A bad person sees the smallest fault of others but even after seeing, he ignores his own gravest faults, however big and sizeable they may be,’ A heavenly person on the other hand, is conscious of his own short comings but never finds fault with others.  

16. Daya-Bhuteshu: means compassion for all beings. This is a paramount quality for a person with divine traits. For this quality to develop one has to see everything as a manifestation of the Lord. “Vasudevah sarvam-iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah B.G.7.19” It is difficult to come across a person who sees Vasudeva only in everything. Again, it has been stated that, “Yo mam pashyati sarvatra, sarvam-cha mayi pashyati. B.G. 6.30” One who sees me everywhere and also sees everything in me. Such a state of mind makes us ‘sama-darshanah’ such that we see the same in all. “Vidya- vinaya-sampanne Brahmane, gavi, hastini, shuni chaiva shwapake cha Panditah sama-darshanah.B.G.5.18” The wise have the same approach towards a well read and humble Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a wild person (lit. one who eats  dog’s flesh). On the other hand the persons of evil mind feel thus, “ko-anyo-asti sadrisho maya B.G.16.15” who else can equal me. And, therefore, they work with impure resolve, ‘pravartante ashuchi-vratah, B.G.16.10’ 

17. Aloluptvam: absence of greed or covetousness. It is a matter of common logic as to how a person can be pious if he is full of greed and covets other’s wealth. Ishavasya Upanishad says, “ ma gridhah kasyachit dhanam “ covet not, for who does this wealth belong to ? Once we develop an attitude of sacrificing and relinquishing, once we develop a habit of giving and once we perfect ourselves in the art of control of our senses, the desire (kama) is won over and covetousness and greed vanish. Kabir has said that ‘Lord is he who wants nothing. Now let us see the trait of  those who are not virtuous. They strive to secure wealth by unjust means  to satisfy their sensual requirements, “Eehante kama-bhogartham anyayena-arthaa sanchayam. B.G.16.12”           

18. Mardavam: this means sweet demeanour and gentleness. No doubt a divine person has to be gentle, soft and pleasing. Like a tree whose branches are laden with fruits bending downwards, a person with divine qualities is gentle and full of humility. Such a person knows that it is the ‘Para prakriti’ or the higher element of the Divine that upholds this universe and that he himself is only a ‘nimitta matra’ just a tool or the means through which the Divine makes things happen and, therefore, he is humble and grateful that the Divine has entrusted him with noble tasks. Pride does not so much as even touch him. As opposed to him an evil person is ‘dambha-mana-madanvitah B.G.16.10’ full of hypocrisy, pride and arrogance. 

19. Hrih: or modesty is a complementary trait to gentleness. The opposite trait is ‘darpa’ or self-conceit. For a person with conceit, the Geeta says that, ‘karta-aham-iti manyate,B.G.3.27’  he firmly believes that he is the doer. This makes him conceited and he proclaims, “Ishwaro-aham aham bhogi, siddho-aham balawan sukhi B.G.16.14” I am a lord, the one who enjoys; I have accomplished perfection; I am powerful and happy. The virtuous, on the other hand, says, like Arjuna: ‘shishyaste-aham shadhi mam twam prapannam, B.G.2.7’ I am at your door step as a disciple of yours, kindly order me what to do. After having been shown the path, such a person says, ‘karishye vachanam tava, B.G. 18.73. I shall act as per your command. Such is the modesty of this person that he surrenders completely before the Lord. 

20. Achapalam: meaning firmness. The characteristics of a steadfast person have been enumerated in the second chapter of the Geeta. Such a person is unperturbed in adversity, unattached in pleasure  and unaffected by good or bad. This in effect is the exalted state at which the bewilderment vanishes. “Esha Brahmi sthiti Partha! Na-enam prapya vimuhyati, B.G. 2.72” To attain this position one has to be in full control of one’s senses. The evil, however, is ‘aneka chitta vibhrantah B.G.16.16’ bewildered by many a fancy, that makes him fickle minded not knowing what to do and what to refrain from. “pravrittim cha nivrittim cha jana na viduh-asura B.G.16.7”  

21. Tejah: connotes vigour, splendour and radiance. Even in our day to day life we observe that a pious person has a shining face, glowing forehead and radiance in his eyes. We are attracted towards such a person just by his gaze. It is because of this that the Lord has said: ‘tejas-tejasvinam-aham, B.G. 10.36’ I am the splendour of the splendid. In fact the splendour in itself is the sign of divinity for the Lord has said, “the radiance that is seen in the sun, moon and the fire actually is my own radiance. Yad-aditya-gatam tejah jagat-bhasayate-akhilam chandramasi yat-cha- agnau tattejo viddhi mamakam. B.G. 15.12” Every day we pray that God grant us Tejas: ‘tejasvinavaditam-astu’ Those who are not pious lack this radiance and have been referred to as malicious people: ‘abhyasuyakah. B.G. 16.18’ 

22. kshama: forgiveness is a weapon of the strong. Those who are strong physically, mentally and spiritually and yet forgive others show that they are imbued with divine qualities. Our morning prayers conclude by saying: ‘ma vidvishavahai’ let us not hate anyone. This prayer presupposes that those who might have wronged us are forgiven by us. Only then do we resolve not to hate them. The Pauranic story  wherein it is stated that Bhrigu hit Vishnu with his foot is an excellent example of forgiveness. Vishnu not only did not retaliate, but in stead asked Bhrigu if his foot was not hurt. This quality places one in an exalted position. Compared to this is the trait of the evil. They are revengeful and carry hatred for their adversaries to the hilt. They always think ill and of destroying others. ‘ksheyaya jagato-ahitah B.G.16.9 

23. Dhritih: is both tolerance and fortitude. This trait is developed by having poise and equilibrium in the face of all ups and downs of life. It has been stated that one should not waver in the face of one’s duty: ‘swadharmam-api-cha-vekshya na vikampitum-arhasi, B.G. 2.31’ Tolerance and fortitude are imbibed only if actions are performed with mind firmly fixed in yoga. ‘yogasthah kuru karmani sangam tyakhtva Dhananjaya, B.G. 2.48’ Those with demonic traits are naturally of wavering mind: ‘Aneka-chitta-vibhrantah. B.G. 16.16’ 

24. Shaucham: is purity and cleanliness at all levels. Physical purity by cleaning and washing, adoring clean clothes and having clean habits. Mental purity by having pious ideas, noble thoughts, and pure resolve and by keeping at bay all malice, ill-will and hatred. Spiritual purity by transcending Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, all the three attributes as prescribed: ‘nistrai-gunyo bhava-Arjuna B.G. 2.45’ Purity is the second nature of the divine person. In contrast to this those who are of evil disposition have neither purity nor good conduct. ‘na shaucham na-api cha acharah. B.G.16.7’ 

25. Adroha: absence of ill will. It is a well known fact that the Indian tradition believes in ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ the entire universe is but one family. Our prayers are not self-centred. We pray, ‘sarve bhavantu sukhenah.’ May all be happy and well. ‘ma kaschana dukha bhag- bhavet’ Let no one come to grief. This prayer stems from a state of mind where there is no ill will . This comes natural to a divine person for he sees everyone in himself and himself in every one. Every one for him is an eternal portion of the Divine, “Mamaiva-ansho. B.G.15.7”  So how can he harbour ill will towards any one. It is the evil who hate every one and thereby the Lord existing in every body, ‘mama-atma-para-deheshu pradvishanto B.G.16.18.” these people hate Me (the Lord) in their own bodies and in those of others. 

26. Natimanata: Absence of pride and hot headed-ness. Pride is the symbol of ignorance, shallow knowledge, ego and arrogance. While the pride for one’s wealth, power, position and such like things can be tolerable, the pride for being virtuous, knowledgeable or wise is a paradox in itself. There is no limit to knowledge, no boundaries of virtuosity  and with any amount of knowledge, virtue or wisdom one has still  quest for more of these. This situation removes pride, if any, from a person of virtue. He knows that perfection is the name of God and as a human being he is imperfect. So there is nothing to be proud of. He is well aware that he is limited in Sat, Chit and Anand, the being, the consciousness and the bliss which makes him Jeevatma, the individual soul. It is the Paramatma, the Universal soul which is unlimited in these three and is  independent in every respect. There is, therefore, no reason to be hot headed or proud. It is the demonic who are, ‘dambha-mana-madanvitah, B.G.16.10. full of hypocrisy, pride and arrogance. 

These qualities and traits have been divided into two broad categories. The first category comprise serenity, restraint, austerity, penance, purity, forgiveness, uprightness, knowledge and faith. These are intellectual traits (B.G. 18.42) and could include other items like study of scriptures and performance of yajna etc; The second category consists of heroism, radiance, firmness and expertise and is termed as heroic traits (B.G. 18.43) . This could include the qualities of fearlessness, forgiveness, tolerance and absence of ill will. 

The Geeta says that lust, anger and greed are self destroying and lead to hell. ‘Trividham narakasya- idam- dwaram nashanam- atmanah, Kamah, krodhah- tatha- lobhah B.G.16.21’ and one who shuns these along with ego, violence, arrogance and possessiveness (attachment) attains peace and eventually, the Brahman status. “Ahankaram, balam, darpam, kamam, krodham, parigraham, vimuchya nirmamah shantah Brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. B.G.18.53.”     


Yoga in the Bhagwad Geeta

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

In the last five verses of the Geeta, Sanjaya sums up the dialogue between Arjuna and Shri Krishna. It is significant to note that he refers to Shri Krishna as ‘Yogeshwara’, the lord of yoga. What is meant by yoga? In simple words it means communion, addition, merger, combination or contact. On the spiritual level it means a state where the individual soul, ‘Jeevatma’ merges with the universal soul, ‘Paramatma’. At the practical level it connotes a situation when all our deeds, physical, verbal and mental are related to the Lord. There are two definitions in the Geeta of yoga. One is that it means efficiency in one’s deeds, ‘yogah karmasu kaushalam’. The other is that it means balanced state of mind, ‘samattvam yoga uchyate.’ If for a moment the spiritual message of the Geeta is set aside and only the mundane aspects are taken into consideration, it would be clear that we are advised to relate every thing to Him, who is ‘the observer, the one granting permission, the protector, the enjoyer and the master seated inside us, B.G. 13.22’ Now that the Hero of this sacred text is Master of the yoga, it is no wonder that all the eighteen chapters are related to yoga of one form or the other and are named accordingly.

The first chapter is called the ‘Yoga of Despondency of Arjuna.’ The grief in the mind of Arjuna is that he is required to fight his own kith and kin, his elders who are worthy of respect and reverence. So he puts forward his grief before the Lord in these words, ‘I have no desire for the kingdom if I have to pay this price. How can I be happy after killing my own people ?’ Since he relates his grief and misgivings to his Lord in this chapter, it is given the name of ‘Arjuna vishada yoga’.

The second chapter deals with a definite and well reasoned knowledge called ‘Sankhya’. Arjuna expresses before his mentor the confusion that he is facing in determining what his duties are, prostrates before Him and begs of Him to show him the right way, ‘yat shreyah syat nischitam bruhi tanme.’ He pleads, ‘Please tell me definitely what is good for me.’ After listening to a detailed reply, he puts another question about a steadfast person and his qualities. These are narrated in verse number 55 et. seq. The entire chapter connects Arjuna with Shri Krishna through the well reasoned knowledge called sankhya, about the individual and universal soul as also the supreme state called ‘Brahmi stithi.’ Thus the chapter is rightly called ‘Sankhya yoga.’

The third chapter deals exclusively with deeds and duties, the seed of which had already been sown in the previous chapter (2.47.) Again Arjuna is confused whether knowledge is superior to action or vice versa. The Lord clarifies that the path of knowledge is for the discerning and that of action for the active. He lays stress on two things, (i) performing obligatory duties without attachment, ‘anasakhti’ and (ii) surrendering all actions unto Him, ‘karmani mayi sanyasya’ B.G.3.19 and 30. Thus the individual soul is required to merge with the universal soul by means of un-attachment and surrender. This is the ‘Karma yoga’ or communion with the Lord through the action, the name given to this chapter.

The fourth chapter is one of those chapters which have different names in different editions. The most common name given to this chapter is ‘jnana-karma-sanyasa yoga’ the yoga of renunciation of action in knowledge. In some editions the name given is ‘Karma Brahmarpana yoga.’ The yoga of offering actions to the Supreme. I would personally favour the latter as this aptly brings out the essence of this chapter. In this connection one has to closely study shloka number 24 which says, ‘the oblation, the fire, the giver and the receiver of the oblations, all are Brahman only. One who cognises Brahman alone in his actions attains Him. Thus offering one’s actions to the Divine creates communion with Him and this becomes the yoga of offering actions to the Supreme.

In reply to the very first question in the fifth chapter, the Lord says that the performance of action and dedicating it to the Divine is superior to renunciation of actions. The kernel of this chapter is verse 10 wherein it has been stated that he who acts abandoning attachment, dedicating his deeds to the Supreme is untainted by sin as a lotus leaf is in water. This dedication of action is in itself yoga as it helps make contact with the Lord. In effect, therefore ‘Karma-sanyasa’, the renunciation of action, the name given to this chapter and ‘karma Brahmarpana’, offering actions to the Lord, the name given to the previous chapter are one and the same. To make a distinction, perhaps , Adi shankara has adopted only Sanyasa Yoga, the Yoga of renunciation, as the name of the fifth chapter. For it is in this chapter that renunciation has been explained as not being inaction but action performed on behalf of the Divine. This attitude also creates constant communion with the Divine and therefore this chapter is appropriately named as Yoga of renunciation of deeds and actions.

The chapter sixth has been differently named as Yoga of meditation ‘Dhyana Yoga’ and yoga of self restraint, ‘Atma Samyama Yoga’. No doubt there is a detailed description of meditation - how, where and when of it, yet the underlying current in this chapter is that of self restraint. In reply to some relevant questions put by Arjuna about the hurdles in controlling one’s mind, Shri Krishna concedes that mind is hard to control, but hastens to add that by practice and non-attachment it can be controlled. The Lord explains that a Yogi carries forward his experience from one birth to another and perfects his Yoga, ‘ Aneka janam sansiddhah tato yanti paraam gatim’ B.G 6:45. Thus the message is loud and clear that through self-restraint and self-control, one is able to merge with the supreme and therefore the Yoga in this chapter has been called ‘Atma Samyama Yoga’.

The 7th Chapter is called Jnana-vijnana Yoga. While there is no dispute about the meaning of Jnana, the knowledge, the word Vijnana has been variously interpreted as realisation, application superior knowledge or experience. Shri Abhinavgupta, the great philosopher from Kashmir has said, ‘Jnana-Vijnana, jnana kriya eva’, i.e. it connotes knowledge and its application. In other words, the former would mean pure science and the latter the applied one, represented respectively by the Goddess Saraswati and the Goddess Lakshmi. The Lord acknowledges that all types of seekers, whether men in distress, men desirous of knowledge, men after wealth, or men of wisdom are noble, but it is the wise ones who are dear to Him as He is to them. This is so because the wise are established in the Divine. This communion with the divine through the knowledge, both pure and applied, is called the Yoga of Jnana-vijnana.

Next comes chapter 8th which is rightly called ‘Akshara Brahma Yoga’, the Yoga of the imperishable supreme. In some editions it has been called ‘Brahmakshara nidesha Yoga’, yoga of the direction towards the imperishable Lord. Shri Krishna makes it explicitly clear that he who constantly remembers me easily attains me and having attained me, these noble souls are freed form cycle of re-birth. Therefore He advises, ‘Think of me alone at all times. B.G - 8:7’. Thus concentrating all the time on that imperishable Brahman is the Yoga, unique and unparalleled.

Rajavidya-Rajaguhya yoga is the name given to chapter 9. This means that this chapter gives out the sovereign science and sovereign secret. The sovereign science revealed herein is that the universe is pervaded by the Divine and that all beings exist in Him. He is the seed imperishable of the entire creation, ‘beejam-avyayam.’ The sovereign secret given out is that the Lord provides gain and security to those who remain ever devoted to Him, ‘tesham nityabhiyukhtanam yoga-kshemam vahami-aham.’ Yoga in this context means providing something which is wanting or gain. Kshema means giving protection to whatever one has or security. The Lord advises that ‘whatever you do, all your actions should be an offering unto me and this way you shall come to me, B.G. 9.27 and 34.’ Understanding this supreme science and supreme secret also leads to the communion of the soul with the Supreme and thereby, constitutes yoga.

Chapter 10 is called ‘Vibhuti yoga,’ or the yoga of the contact with the Divine Glory. What better yoga there can be than perceiving and experiencing the glory of the Lord who is the master of this entire cosmos. The Lord says, ‘I am the seed, I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings. My divine manifestations are endless and an individual being is a spark of my splendour. B.G. 10. 20/39/40/41.’ And when yoga takes place it is this spark of His splendour that gets merged with the universal, eternal and immortal splendour that the Divine is.

In the opening shloka of chapter 11, Arjuna admits that all his delusion has been dispelled by the discourse that he has heard. Now he wants to have a glimpse of the Supreme Lord whom he addresses as Yogeshwara. In response to his this request the Lord shows him His cosmic form and seeing that he prostrates before Him. Terrified as he feels on seeing this spectacle, he begs of Him to appear in the ‘Deva Rupa’, the gentle human or the four-armed Vishnu form. Shri Krishna obliges and makes an important statement, ‘I cannot be seen in this form by any means, not even by Vedas but by unswerving devotion only. ‘Naham Vedairna…..shakya evamvidho drashtum. Bhaktya twananyaya shakyah…B.G 11.53/54.’ The vision that Arjuna had of the cosmic and gentle human forms of the Lord brought him in close contact with Him and this justifies the name given to this chapter.

Having said that the Lord can be seen only by an unflinching devotion, the next chapter 12 details the qualities of a devout who is the beloved of the Lord. Among other things the devout is required to be full of faith and keeping the Lord in view as his supreme goal, ‘Shraddanah matparamah, 12.20’ Since the devotion, ‘Bhakti’ has been described in detail in this chapter, it has aptly been named as Bhakti yoga, or communion through devotion.

The thirteenth chapter is yet another chapter which has been given different captions by different scholars. It has been variously called as '‘Prakriti-purusha nirdesha/viveka yoga” or the yoga pointing to/differentiating Nature from the Supreme Self, and ‘Kshetra-kshetrajna vibhaga yoga,’ or the yoga of the classification between the field and knower of the field. It has been explained in this chapter that the body is the field and the in-dweller Divine is the knower of the field. It has been made clear that the Nature and the Supreme Self both are beginning-less. The former is the means to the cause and effect syndrome and the latter causes enjoyment of pain and pleasure, B.G. 13.20/21. It is the Purusha seated in the Prakriti, who experiences the ‘Gunas’ born of it. The Purusha himself is the knower of the field and stays in the field in varying capacities of the Observer, the Giver of permission, the Supporter, the Enjoyer and the Supreme Master. Perceiving this with an eye of wisdom helps a person attain the Divine and that is the yoga of discernment described in this chapter.

The 14th chapter is captioned, ‘guna-traya-vibhaga yoga’ yoga of the division of the three gunas or qualities. In this chapter the three types of characteristics have been identified, described and their effects analysed. It has been stated that one must cross over these three gunas and the secret of doing so lies in poise, equanimity and balanced attitude. The Lord says, ‘having crossed these three gunas, a person attains immortality, Gunaetan-atitena treen dehi…..amritam-ashnute, B.G.14.20.’ In other words such a person merges with the Divine and that is the yoga realised by differentiating the three gunas and rising above them.’

Let us now take up chapter 15, which is called ‘Purushottama yoga’ or the yoga of the Supreme Self. In this chapter three types of ‘Purushas have been described : the perishable or all the beings, the imperishable or the one seated within the beings and the Supreme or the one who transcends the remaining two. It is this Supreme Self which pervades and sustains the three worlds. ‘yo loka-trayam-avishya vibharti, B.G 15.17.’ About this Supreme Shri Krishna says, ‘Vedaischa sarvair-aham-eva vedyah,B.G.15.15’ I am the one to be known through the Vedas. It is this Supreme Self that the seeker desires to merge with, and so the name of the chapter stands justified.

The 16th chapter is designated as, ‘Daivasura sampad vibhaga yoga,’ or the yoga of the classification of good and bad traits in a person. These traits have been listed out and it has been stated that those with bad qualities of lust, anger, greed etc; fall into a state still lower and never ever reach the Lord, ‘mam-aprapyaiva….yantyadhamam gatim, B.G.16.20’ On the other hand the qualities of compassion, renunciation, truth, purity, fearlessness etc; help a person attain the highest position, ‘yati param gatim, B.G.16.22.’Therefore, in order to attain communion with the Divine we have to have full knowledge of these requisite qualities, for which the Shastras are the authority, ‘Pramana, B.G.16.24.’

The penultimate chapter 17th is named ‘Shraddha-trayi-vibhaga yoga,’ or the yoga through the three types of faiths. In the Geeta everything is said to be of three types. The food we eat, the nature we possess, the actions we perform and so on, everything is either related to light, ‘sattavika’, or to fire and passion, ‘rajasika’, or related to the darkness, ‘tamasika.’This can also be classified as superior, ordinary and inferior. Similarly the faith is also stated to be of three types depending upon one’s disposition, one’s Deity, one’s food and one’s resolve. The faith when applied to austerity & penance, ‘tapas’, alms giving, ‘dana’, and sacrifice, ‘yajna’ makes them a reality, reality,’Sat’ and these very acts performed without faith become a non-reality, ‘Asat’. It has further been stated in this chapter that the three sacred words, OM, TAT and SAT are the three ways of reciting the name of Brahman, the Supreme. Uttering these words leads to liberation and thus this chapter has correctly been named as Yoga through discriminating between faiths of three types.

The 18th chapter is designated as Sanyasa Yoga, the Yoga of renunciation at some places and Moksha Sanyasa, the Yoga of liberation through renunciation at other places. Since the chapter 5 is named as Yoga of renunciation or Yoga of renunciation of actions, it would be better to adopt the latter. In chapter 5, a seeker is asked to perform all his actions on behalf of the Divine, which connotes renunciation of action. In this chapter, a complete surrender before the Lord has been prescribed which would lead to merger with Him. Defining the word Sanyasa, it has been stated that it means renouncing those actions which are performed for desired objectives, ‘Kamya Karmas’. Similarly Tyaga has been defined as abandonment of the fruits of all actions. It has been explained, how, detachment leads to the supreme devotion, a state of freedom from actions, knowledge of the Divine, and, finally, complete merger with Him. A special attention may be paid to Shlokas 63 to 66. The Lord says, ‘I have given you a relatively more profound knowledge, reflect on it and then do what you like’. The Lord hastens to add, ‘there is however, yet another knowledge which is most profound, and which I shall give you now.Fix your mind on me, be devoted to me, renounce everything and take refuge in me. I shall liberate you and you shall come to me.’

Thus the message of Shri Geeta is unequivocal that surrender leads to liberation. It makes the seeker, ‘Yukhta’, or merged with the Divine, who is Sat, Chit and Anand, Being, Consciousness and Bliss, and thereby he becomes ‘Mukhta’, emancipated and liberated. In other words, he becomes the Master of the Yoga, ‘ Yogeshwara’ himself.

The Secret of Shivratri

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shiva worships Bhawani

Shiva is the eternal existence and, therefore, the Supreme Truth. He is free of bondage, devoid of attributes, all pervading and yet above everything, ‘Ati tishthat dashangulam’. He is Consciousness, ‘Chita’ and Bliss, ‘Ananda’. Everything emanates from Him and everything ultimately merges with Him. He adopts the form of Brahma and with the attribute of Rajas (Rajoguna) creates the universe. He assumes the form of Rudra and with the attribute of Tamas (Tamoguna) destroys the creation. In between He holds the form of Vishnu and with the attribute of Sattva (Sattvaguna) looks after and preserves the creation. He is free to desire, to know and to act (Iccha, jnana and kriya). All this, however, needs energy or power and that takes the form of Shakti, which in essence is an aspect of Shiva Himself. Sometimes Shiva propitiates Shakti and She enters Him to enable Him to perform five acts of creation, ‘utpatti’, sustenance, ‘sthiti’, and destruction, ‘samhara’, concealing, ‘pidana’, and showering His grace, ‘anugraha’. While explaining the importance of Shakti, in Bhawani Sahasranama, Shiva says to His favourite devotee Nandi, “It is the grace of Bhawani that I have been able to create the entire universe, humans, animals, birds, devas, asuras, gandharvas, stars, planets, flora, fauna, et al.”

Bhawani worships Shiva

Some other time the Bhawani herself meditates on Shiva, invokes Him, merges with Him whose inseparable aspect She is and becomes the cause of the birth of Kumara Kartikeya. This brings an end to the demon Tarkasur and saves the devatas from his wrath. This merger or marriage of Shiva with Shakti is what is celebrated as Shivaratri in Kashmir called ‘Herath’ or Hara ratri, the night of Shiva. This festival has the same importance in our part of the country as Durga puja has in Bengal, Ganesh puja in Maharashtra, Ayyapa festival in the South, Holi in Brajadam and Baisakhi in the Punjab. This is perhaps the only festival in India that is celebrated in Kashmir for a full fortnight and has become a unique socio-religious event. It starts on the first day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February/March) with cleansing and renovation of the houses and concludes on the fifteenth amavasya day with the distribution of prasada of walnuts after performing the prescribed puja. Every married daughter is regarded as a Parvati and is sent by her parents to her Shiva’s home in new dresses carrying money and gifts.

We worship Both

Although the fact of one God is universally accepted, the relationship between‘jeeva’ the individual soul and ‘Brahman’, the universal soul is perhaps extensively discussed and explained only in our scriptures both in‘Nigamas’(Vedas) and ‘Agamas’(other Shastras). There is an oft-quoted Vedic pronouncement, ‘Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti’ the Truth is one, yet it is explained by the wise in different ways. This has given rise to different schools of philosophy propounding ‘dvaita’ (dualism) and ‘advaita’ (Non-dualism). The Shiva school of philosophy espouses non-dualism and the Kashmir Shaiva Darshan, also called ‘Trika’ system stands for non-dualism in its pristine purity. It advocates that the creation being the manifestation of Shiva cannot be an illusion or Maya as propounded by Shankaracharya. It is, therefore, real and pervaded by Shiva. We in Kashmir worship Shiva in both the aspects of Shiva and Shakti. Shakti for us is Rajna, Sharika, Jwala and many other forms of the energy aspect of Shiva. Worshipping Her gives us unflinching faith in Shiva, the source of all knowledge and the destination of all the seekers (‘Eko gamyah’ as stated in Mahimnastotra). Shiva for us is the supreme Truth. Worshipping Him leads us to unwavering trust and belief in the Mother, the giver of protection, solace and divine grace.

Shivaratri Celebration

The celebration of Shivratri, therefore, is symbolic and this symbolic leads to the Real. Attainment of the real coincides with self-realisation and self-realisation is the ultimate aim and goal of a true seeker. The faiths world over have believed that it is from the mundane that one advances to the spiritual and supramental. Even Sufis have proclaimed that from Ishqe Majazi, the worldly love one rises to Ishqe Haqiqi, the true eternal love where one is able to realise (Ham O ast), I am He or (Man Khuda), I am the God. This is called ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, I am the Divine in Vedantic parlance. This undisputedly establishes the importance of idol or symbol worship in general, which takes the form of Vatuk Puja on Shivaratri in Kashmir, The various pots that constitute the Vatuk - Dul, Ryesh Dul, Sanivar, Machivar and No’t, etc, stand for various deities or in other words, the different aspects of the same Divine. We propitiate them and pray for world peace and well being of Mankind. From here we march on to self-realization and for this is needed an inward journey.

In the words of the great Lal Ded :

Go’ran dopnam kunuy vatsun 
Nyebra dopnam andar astun.

My preceptor revealed to me the single truth and that was to go from without to within.

(Taken from the Book ‘A Window on Kashmir’ written by T.N. Dhar)

The Systems of Indian Philosophy

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Philosophysays Bertrand Russell, is a No Man’s Land between theology and science. Dogma is the realm of theology and definite knowledge that of science. The Sanskrit word for philosophy is Darshan, which means ‘seeing’. There are three things that in our view are shrouded in mystery, namely, God, World, and the Self. Innumerable questions confront us in relation to these three, their nature, their origin and so on. We seek answers to these questions either on the basis of inherited religious and ethical conceptions or through logical reasoning and scientific investigation. This gives rise to a viewpoint or vision and that vision constitutes one's philosophy.

The Vedas comprise a vast body of sacred literature containing divine knowledge as seen by ancient seers. Since it was revealed and heard, it is called ‘Shruti’. It used to be called ‘Veda Trayi’, the triple Vedas, because knowledge (Jnana), ritual (Karma) and devotion (Bhakti), formed the three major streams dealt with in the Vedas. In due course of time, seers and sages engaged themselves in interpreting, investigating and analysing the Veda Mantras. They wrote their conclusions in a form called ‘Sutra’ (literally meaning - a thread) or aphorism method. This necessitated writing of commentaries and treatises called Bhashya, and Vartika. Since different scholars wrote these commentaries, different systems of Indian philosophy emerged out of these texts. There are six major theistic schools that are usually clubbed in three groups of two schools each.

Sankhya and Yoga.

Nyay and Vaisheshika.

Poorva Mimansa and Uttara Mimansa (also  called Advaita).

Buddhism and Jainism provided two major heterodox systems and the Charvaka propounded a purely materialistic viewpoint.

The usual method was to take up a theme (Vishaya), discuss its relevance (Prayojana), consider its dissentient view (Poorva Paksha), and then arrive at the conclusion (Uttara Paksha). The norms or sources of knowledge (Pramana) employed were perception or experience (Pratyaksha), inference (Anumana), verbal testimony or revealed word (Shabda). Some scholars also accepted other sources namely, analogy (Upmana), presumption or postulation (Arthapatti) and non-apprehension (Anupalabdhi). Some facts of knowledge were treated as self establishing (Swatah Pramanya). A distinction was made between the gross body of flesh and blood called ‘Sthula Sharira’ and the subtle body called ‘Sookshma Sharira’, between reality and appearance (Sat and Asat). Relationship was established between the individual soul and the universal soul (Jivatma and Parmatma). A correlation (Smanvaya) was observed between the individual entity and the universe (Pinda and Brahamanda) and it was proclaimed that ‘as in individual, so in the universe’ (yatha pinde, tatha brahamande).

The rationale for different systems was already given by the Vedas themselves by stating “Ekam Sat Viprah bahudha vadanti”- The Truth that exists is one but the wise describe it in many ways. Even so, the Indian philosophy differs from the western philosophy for the ancient Greek philosophers confined themselves in investigating the individual being, the world and the Divine and social, political and religious tenets only .The Indian philosophers, on the other hand were concerned with suffering of the mankind, materially, morally and spiritually, its eradication, the relationship between the individual being, the nature and the Divine as also the means of attaining the Truth and self-realisation. Thus the Indian philosophers had a definite direction and goal though their paths were different. In fact the difference in these paths itself may be apparent rather than real as these paths are either complementary to each other or relevant at various stages of spiritual investigation and progress. Now let us examine how and with what purpose did these systems develop and flourish.

Saankhya literally means enumeration. The word is derived from Sankhya meaning numerals. Evidently Saankhya is purported to describe a definitive knowledge as definite as a numeral denotes. This system is concerned with duellist cosmology explicating the concepts of bondage and liberation and is in search of discriminating knowledge. The oldest text on this system of philosophy is the Saankhya Karika of Ishwara Krishna dating back to 4th century, yet it is attributed to sage Kapila of 15th century. It is a boldly speculative system of duellist metaphysics. It does not base itself on Vedic revelation and its basis is a proto-scientific inductive reasoning. It is knowledge of super sensual elements of reality discovered through a form of inference from analogy. This kind of inference supersedes sensual perception as one is removed from the world of perceived effects to unperceived cause. It believes that the knowledge that discriminates between the world of effects and the world of causes is a liberating knowledge and justifies the saying: “Sa Vidya ya Vimukhtaye”- knowledge is that which liberates. Two ultimate eternal realities are recognised in this system, viz.; Purusha, the Spirit and Prakriti, the Nature. Besides these two there are twenty-three other elements that form this universe. These evolve from Prakriti whereas Purusha is non-matter or pure spirit. Two types of liberation are conceived in this system: “Jeevan Mukhti” or liberation during the life time when the self ceases to be affected by life’s vicissitudes and “Videh Mukhti”, liberation after death when the spirit is released from the psycho-physical organism and remains eternally unconscious.

Yoga, loosely translated yoga means combining or total absorption. This system shows methodicity and may be termed as a formulator of a meditative technique for attaining liberation. While Saankhya is in search of discriminating knowledge Yoga lays emphasis on ascetical methods constituting discipline of body, mind and soul. In philosophical terms it agrees with most of what Saankhya says, only it differs in technique. It accepts the theory of twenty-five elements but adds one more element of the Supreme Being as eternal, all pervading and omniscient which brings about the association of Purusha and Prakriti. This system is based on the Yoga Darshan of Acharya Patanjali, which has been explained and elaborated by scholars like Vyasa, Vachaspati Mishra, Vijnan Bikshu, Raghavanand and Nagesh Bhatt. In this system eight steps of yogic practices have been envisaged. These are Restraint (Yama), Discipline (Niyama), Comfortable posture (Asana), Breath control (Pranayama), Control of senses (Pratyahara), Contemplation (Dharana), Meditation (Dhyana) and the attainment of complete Merger (Samadhi). The aim of both Saankhya and Yoga is attainment of perfect isolation called Kaivalya. This is a state where the individual spirit is liberated from the bondage of matter by vigorous effort and self discipline.

Nyaya: This system of pure logic aiming at liberation through clear thinking is attributed to Gautama, a sage of the 2nd century. In this system a well defined procedure has been developed to arrive at a well reasoned conclusion after ironing out arguments, counter-arguments, objections, doubts, and debatable aspects of the issue involved. There are two streams of this philosophy. One piloted by Gautama is called categoristic since it details sixteen different aspects to be considered before accepting a proposition. This is also called Prachina Nyaya or the ancient logic. The second one originated by Acharya Gangesh is called Navya Nyaya or the modern logic. This is a highly sophisticated school of logic developed in the 13th century. This system accepts the existence of God as all pervading, creator and controller of every thing. It treats the creation as an effect and God as its cause.

Vaisheshika: This system is almost like the modern Physics as it analyses the specifics of material reality and therefore justifies its name, which means Specific Knowledge. It is attributed to the sage Kanada, believed to have lived in first or second century. Originally this system was atheistic and believed that creation was the result of combination of atoms. Later with its merger with the Nyaya it accepted God as a secondary creator periodically creating worlds from eternally existent matter. Vaisheshika has explained the various forms of matter, the difference between Time and Direction, Nature and Function, Ordinary and the Special, Existence and Non-existence, Knowledge and Nascience and the concept of sky, ether, relationship etc; As against other systems the Vaisheshika accepts only 17 elements of sight, taste smell etc; About Dharma Kanad says: “Yato- abhyudayah nih-shreyas siddhih sa Dharma “ - that which helps achieve spiritual upliftment is Dharma.

Purva Mimamsa: Mimansa literally means a critical investigation. Vedas have two major subjects, Karma Kanda and Jnana Kanda, i.e. ritual and knowledge. Since this system makes a critical investigation of the ritual portion of the Vedas, it is called Mimansa. The investigation of knowledge is made under the system called Vedanta. The former is known as Purva Mimansa or earlier exegesis and the latter Uttara Mimansa or Later exegesis. Mimansa has its origin in the Mimansa Sutra of Jaimini (1st century BC) on which a commentary has been written by Shabara Swami. Two scholars further elaborated this Shastra during the 8th century. They were Kumaril Bhatt and Prabhakar Mishra. The main aim of Mimansa has been to propound Dharma for which it considers Veda as the sole authority. Veda, according to it, contains five topics viz.

Vidhi - or procedure, which are directional in character

Mantra - or the specified chanting at the time of performing rituals

Namadheya - or the nomenclature of various Yajnas

Nishedha - or forbidden acts and

Arthavada - or eulogising the qualities and relevance of any matter.

The Veda in Mimansa is considered eternal and unchanging and ‘Apaursheya’ i.e. a divine revelation. The world is believed to have existed always and there is an endless process of becoming and passing away. Consciousness comes to the soul only when it is embodied. With the liberation, the soul becomes devoid of the body and the consciousness, both.

Uttara Mimansa or Vedanta - The subsequent enquiry or later exegesis is actually Vedanta, end or the goal of the Vedas. The sole aim of this system has been investigation of the knowledge of Brahman and therefore it covers the Jnana aspect of the Vedas. This system actually started with the composition of Brahma Sutra (aphorisms on the Divine) by Badarayan, who perhaps lived around 4th century BC. . The subject of investigation being what it is and the Brahma Sutra having been written in aphorisms, it was open to different interpretations. Consequently, a number of scholars wrote commentaries on Brahma Sutra along with the Bhagwat Gita and Upanishads, collectively called ‘Prasthana Trayi’. This gave rise to various streams within the system of philosophy collectively called Uttara Mimansa or Vedanta. There were differing views on the nature of the individual being (Jiva) and the Divine (Ishwara), and the relation of the former with the latter. In fact, these discussions form the core literature on the unique Indian philosophy aiming at ultimate liberation, self-realisation, emancipation and moral, mental, physical and spiritual upliftment of the mankind.

The first major interpretation on Brahma Sutra came from Gaudapada and Shankara, the disciple of his disciple Govinda. They propounded the theory of Monism (Advaita) stating that Brahman alone was the reality and everything else was an illusion (Maya). The catch word was from Chandogya Upanishad ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ - thou art that. Shankara’s philosophy was further elaborated by many scholars including Sureshwara and Vachaspati Mishra.

The next important exposition has been that of Ramanujacharya, who advocated qualified Monism (Vishishta Advaita). It was explained by him that the relationship between individual and the Divine is that of a part and the whole. Both have distinct identity. They are not identical, but everything conscious and unconscious exits in the Divine. This system gave rise to Vaishnava theology and introduced meditational devotion to Lord Vishnu.

The third line of thought was propounded by Madhavacharya, who was the exponent of Dualism (Dvaitavada). He advocated that God is eternal and transcends the world. The world and souls are also eternal but distinct from one another, and dependent on God. This ideology was further elaborated by an erudite scholar named Jayatirtha.

Three Sanskrit words describe the relationship between Jiva (Individual Soul) and Brahman (Universal Soul) according to the three major interpretations to Brahma Sutra provided by the three streams given above. These words are Saameepya (proximity), Saarupya (similarity), and Saayujya (identity). The Dualist philosophy believes that the individual soul as a devotee can attain proximity to God. The Qualified Monism believes that the individual soul can attain identical similarity with the God by his meditational devotion, and the Monist believes that the individual can attain complete identity with the God by merging with the Divine once the illusion melts away and Avidhya (nascience) and Ajnana (ignorance) are removed by true Vidya and Jnana.

Two other schools of philosophy within the Vedanta system are Dvaitadvaita (Dualism in Non-Dualism) of Nimbarka and Vishuddhadvaita (Pure Non-Dualism) of Vallabhacharya. The former school is also called Bhedabhed (Difference in Non-Difference). Nimbarka believed that the Brahman, the souls and the world are identical yet distinct. Even after their merger, they remain distinct. Vallabhacharya was of the opinion that Maya was not an illusion as stated by Shankara but it was the God’s creative activity.

The heterodox systems of philosophy presented a critical epistemology. They evolved a system of logic of complexity and refinement and thereby inaugurated a Philosophy consisting of a dialectic for destroying metaphysics through its own assumptions. However, in due course it gave rise to a counter dialectic which re-established metaphysical thought. Even so there was considerable mutual effect between the theistic (Astika) and heterodox (Nastika) schools of thought, the latter being Buddhism and Jainism. The one school that challenged the primacy of Brahman and Aatman was Charvaka Darshan. This school is attributed to Brihaspati (date not known) and Jayarashi Bhatt of the 7th century. They propagated that the liberation or Moksha was only an illusory goal and that the life ended with the death. There are no Gods nor any Aatman and the happiness alone is a sensible end. Obviously this materialistic viewpoint did not find Indian soil fertile enough for it to sustain. The Indian mind accepted God as an embodiment of Being, Consciousness and Bliss and Liberation or unity with Brahman as the highest goal. It was proclaimed “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma” - everything here verily is Divine alone.

The Elixir of Life

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

A detailed study of the Gita will show that often there is no single straight answer to any single straight question. This is not surprising. Since the dawn of civilisation the life itself has been so complex and intricate that the problems faced by the mankind and their solutions cannot be over simplified. We have the gross body of flesh and blood which has its own problems of survival that gives rise to material needs and their fulfillment. We have the subtle body of mind and soul which has its own problems of perception, feelings, experiences etc; that give rise to non-material needs and their fulfillment. The two are different, poles apart. One is solid, visible and apparent and the other is subtle, invisible and abstract. Even then the two are so intermingled and over lapping that they cannot be completely separated or segregated. The questions that are bordering on both these fields have, therefore, necessarily to be intricate and their answers have to be complex. Sometimes we are faced with a situation like that of the famous egg and hen syndrome and it is difficult to decide which one came first. The nature of persons is varied. Their experiences are different. The circumstances in which they live, the way they think, act and react are dissimilar. It is natural, therefore, that their perceptions differ and they develop different views and philosophies of life. One thing is common though, that all of them want to achieve success, maximise their happiness and attain peace. It is here that the problems arise about what the means to success are, what the lasting happiness is and what the real peace and bliss are. Now the answers to these questions have to be different for different persons. In fact these have to be different even for the same person at different times and at different places. There cannot be a single teacher for all classes of seekers of knowledge nor can there be a single teacher for a student at all levels of his scholarship. A simple primer of alphabets and a nursery teacher would be all that is needed for a beginner to learn a language. The higher the student rises in his studies, the more advanced books would be needed and better qualified teachers would be required. Similarly, different medicines are to be adminstered to different patients with different diseases and even to the same patient at different stages of his ailment. There cannot be a single medicine as an elixir for all. In the same way, the Gita prescribes different solutions for the problems of different aspirants and for the same aspirant in different situations. The sum total is an elixir of life for all, at all places, for all times and in all circumstances. An aspirant, a seeker has to see for himself what suits him at what time, place or level of his aspiration and quest.

The Gita talks of knowledge, action, devotion and yoga as the different paths of achieving one’s goal. In specific contexts it establishes superiority of one over the rest. However, it does not emphasise the supremacy of any one over the others for all situations, for all times or for all persons. Therefore these different paths should not be costrued to be conflicting or opposed to one another. They are at leasts different routes suitable for different sets of travellers and at best different means relevant and beneficial at different stages of the journey, complementary to each other in achieving the desired objective. These different stages could be also the different levels in the quest for spiritual enhansement and realisation of the Supreme Truth. Even while refering to any one of these means the Gita gives a holistic picture with pros and cons, pitfalls and the effort involved, so that it becomes clear as to what one is up to in treading that particular route or adopting that specific means in one’s spiritual journey. When it talks about ‘jnana’, knowledge it gives the importance of both the theory ‘jnana’ and its application, ‘vijnana’. When it talks about ‘karma’, action it qualifies it by specifying that it should be either ‘mat-karma’, action on behalf of the Divine, or ‘nishkama-karma’, action without any desire for its fruits. When it talks about ‘bhakti’, devotion, it makes the point clear that it should be ‘ananya’, undivided and unswerving. When it talks of ‘yoga’, the yoke, it says that one should be ‘nityabhiyukta’ and ‘satat yukta’, ever and always merged with the Divine. Thus every path has been defined, qualified, elaborately specified and explained in detail.

It is in this context that we have to understand the alternatives placed before Arjuna by the Lord in these words: ‘If you want to live in Me alone, you should all the time fix your mind on Me and apply your wisdom towards Me. This would be the ideal situation. However, it may not be possible for you to be in that state all the time. Try and practise yoga in order to reach Me. In case you find practising also too difficult then perform actions for my sake to attain perfection. If even executing My actions is beyond your capacity, then be on your own, act as you please but renounce the fruit of your actions. This will give you peace because renunciation of the fruit of action is more beneficial than meditation, knowledge or experimentation.’ Giving up the fruits of action is the definition of ‘tyaga’, abandonment provided by the Gita. But it says that it is not possible for any one to give up all the actions born of his nature. No body can remain actionless even for a moment. However, one can be selective and if ‘kamya karmas’,the desire-oriented actions are given up, this would be termed as ‘sanyasa’, renunciation. Even so the ascetics, the men of knowledge and the men of action have been placed lower in rank to a ‘yogi’, one who is yoked to the Divine. This gives a clear message that in the end analysis it has to be our aim to attain the position of ‘sayujya’, complete merger with the Lord. Yoga also has been defined in two ways: excellence in one’s actions and equanimity and poise in one’s conduct. Whatever we do it has to be done to perfection. Thus it will be seen that three things are involved in the path of action. First is the selection of actions. These should be those that are our natural duties, virtuous and righteous and not those dictated by our passion, lust, desire or ignorance. Secondly, having selected the right type of actions, we must perform them with excellence and to perfection Thirdly, care should be taken that their fruit is not the consideration for undertaking them The only consideration should be that they form our duty and must be performed. As regards the poise in our conduct, we must take success and failure in our stride. We should neither get lost in pleasure nor be perturbed in pain. Seeing the Divine in every being, our attitude towards all should be the same.

Human life is one of constant change, for better or for worse. If it is former then a person is elevated from the lower stage of spiritual position to the higher one. If it is latter then he goes down from higher to the lower. For the second category of people the Gita says that they sink lower and lower and never attain release from the bondages of ‘samsara’, the cycle of birth - death - rebirth. It is for the first category of persons that the Gita prescribes various paths, ways and methods of seeking the Truth as also solutions for various problems faced during this quest. These are relevant at various stages and levels of their elevation in their search for self and the Divine. At some level they have to distinguish between the real and the unreal knowledge indicated in the Gita. At other times the detailed procedure for meditation given therein, is found beneficial by them for their upliftment The logic and reason helps them up to a point. Then the faith, trust and belief take over and carry the seekers forward. Thereafter a stage is reached when it is realised that the only way out is complete surrender before the Lord and seeking refuge in Him till one achieves perfect merger, the ultimate goal of all the seekers and devotees. Even the duty and righteousness, called ‘dharma’, which the Gita says is essential in the early stages of ascendance, has to be abandoned ultimately. This is exactly as we give up the ladder, which helped us climb the heights, on reaching the desired peak. Or just as we abandon the boat, which ferried us across, on reaching the shore.

Our traditional knowledge has always been holistic. There were no compartments, subjects or disciplines of knowledge. One had to traverse the whole range from Grammar to Philosophy, from Logic to Exegesis, from Monism to Dualism and from mundane to spiritual in the quest for knowledge. True to this tradition, Shri Gita also presents a comprehensive picture of all the aspects of life and is, therefore, useful for any one, at any place, at any point of time and at any level of consciousness. There are four very vivid, lucid and all encompassing shlokas in the Gita. One of them gives the sum total of the nature of existence of the Lord within the heart of beings and His varied functions. It speaks of the Divine as a spectator who goes on observing us and our activities while seated therein. It depicts Him as the one from whom we can seek permission, guidance and direction for all that we do. It calls Him as the enjoyer of all that is enjoyable and master and preserver of all that exists. The second shloka describes the perfect devotees. They sing in praise of their beloved deity. They talk about Him, discuss Him and describe Him in their conversation. The Lord is all the time in their thoughts, mind and intellect. This keeps them contented, happy and peaceful. The third one assures those who are ever merged with the Divine that they need not worry about themselves. What they have, will be protected by the Divine. What they do not have, will be provided by Him. He takes care of their gain and security. The fourth shloka is virtually the last shloka of the operative part of the Gita. It is a window to the ultimate and the supreme path. It asks us to abandon all other props and take refuge in the Divine. This, it says, will liberate us from all sins and thereby all anxieties. This is the elixir of life that will sure deliver us from all our ailments, physical, mental and spiritual so that we are able to reach our goal of realising our self and the Divine, who is Existence, Consciousness and Bliss; who is True, Benevolent and Beautiful.

(Taken from the Book ‘Bhagavad Gita, The Elixir of Life’ written by Shri Dhar)


Marriages, outside The Community

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

The Background 

Ours is a very small community, a miniscule one, scattered all over the country and even abroad. We go by the nomenclature 'Kashmiri Pandits'. Prior to 1990 we were largely concentrated in the valley and those who were outside also had their roots in the valley. Of course there was a section of our society whose forefathers had migrated centuries back due to the then prevailing persecution in Kashmir and had settled in different parts of the country. It goes to their credit that most of them, almost without exception, would find match for their children from within the community even though they had to find that from distant places. Kashmiris in U.P. would hunt for brides and bridegrooms from distant states of Rajasthan, cities of Madhya Pradesh and the Punjab and vice versa. Those within the state would naturally join in relationship within the community itself. This kept our community largely in tact socially and culturally and ensured its distinct identity. Our tradition, rituals and customs were maintained with a very little variation, which together with hundred percent literacy gave this community a place of pride, prestige and dignity. The community produced many a stalwart in the fields of literature, law, medicine, education, politics, philosophy and the like. We are justifiably proud of this creditable past. Of late the number of our girls and boys marrying outside the community is on the rise. The number of divorce cases in the community has also increased substantially. This has resulted in broken families, single parents, disturbed lives, turmoil and stinking conditions. It is also threatening our distinct identity as a community causing concern among the elders and youngsters alike. Let us examine the causes of this sad state of affairs. 

The Causes 

The causes for young boys and girls marrying outside their community are not far to seek. There may be stray causes for exceptional cases here and there but in general there are two major causes. Firstly there is the changed situation in which our young boys and girls have wider exposure. They come into contact with the young boys and girls of different religions, from different backgrounds, belonging to different castes and hailing from different states and ethnic groups. This inter-action creates proximity, attraction, infatuation and then results in courtship and marriage. This infatuation often makes them blind to the realities of life that they are going to face once they enter into wedlock and this blindness proves in many cases to be disastrous and devastating for the married life in course of time. Another major reason is dowry system (prevailing in most of the communities) and the resultant maltreatment of the brides. Once the children decide to marry out of caste, their parents are no longer obliged to follow the norms in vogue in their own community or those of the community in which the marriage takes place and thus they get rid of a sizeable expenditure which they were required to incur otherwise. This can hardly be treated as an acceptable reason for marriage even though in practice it is found to be expedient. That is why we come across parents who have no objection if their daughters marry out of caste but would prefer their sons to bring in brides of their own ethnic group. The term caste here is meant to convey a wider meaning covering the same ethnic group, speaking the same language and having the same traditional and cultural background. The caste in its real meaning has lost sense, in urban areas and major townships completely and in larger rural areas to a great extent. No doubt in small, remote and backward villages the caste system is still in practice though banned by law of the land. Social evils are eradicated by social reforms and social awareness more than by rules and laws and, therefore, take a long time to vanish. 

Consequential drawbacks 

Let us consider the consequences of marrying outside one's community. Before doing so let us not forget that a marriage generally and certainly in Indian tradition is not only a relationship between a man and a woman but also between their families as well. It is, therefore, of utmost importance for the bride and the groom to fit in the new environment. This assimilation and adjustment becomes difficult and sometimes even impossible when the new family, to which one is related as a result of this wedding, speaks a different language, has a different tradition of customs and rituals, a different set of festivals and a completely different way of celebrating them. Sitting among the members of this family one feels like an alien and miserable when during the conversation one is made to feel that one belongs to a different stock altogether. Their different food habits may fascinate initially but soon the food becomes unpalatable and a cause of dejection and aversion. The bride cannot relate to her in-laws to the extent and in the manner they would like her to relate with the result that she is miserable and often unwelcome. She may even have to suffer taunts like 'how can she know anything, coming as she does from a different background'. Her parents and other relations also are not kindly disposed towards her for breaking the family tradition and marrying in a different community. Consequently she loses the love and affection of her childhood and is not able to have it compensated by the love and respect of adulthood that she would certainly acquire had she married in her own community. The groom also has to face the wrath of his own family by bringing his bride from a different community. He too gets a scant regard from the family of his wife and thus is a loser on either side. Whenever there is a family gathering in his in-laws house he is conspicuous like a black sheep among the sheep with white wool on their bodies. The only way out is separation, which itself throws the couple into seclusion, alone sans relatives, sans help and assistance. Like the lone morning star without companions they feel forsaken and forlorn, in an unenviable position. That marriages are made in heaven is of little consolation in such situations. 

This conjugal relationship boils down to a situation where the two, wife and husband are just by themselves, the two of them. In course of time they beget children. Now a new set of problems crops up, for the children and the parents. These children belong to the community of neither their father nor their mother. They may learn both the languages of their two parents but can claim no language as their mother tongue. They are successors of neither tradition and inheritors of neither culture. They belong to here nor there. They are misfit in the community of their mother as also of their father. It is often seen that such children adopt a third language without having any moorings in that and own no tradition as such except perhaps some common festivals like Holi and Deevali, without any special fervour or significance attached to these festivals in different communities. These children are a pathetic lot and when the occasion comes for them to find a life partner and marry, they can hunt for one neither in this community nor in that. Often they land up in yet another community, different from the communities of their father and mother. They remain without any roots, without any links with the tradition like a kite with strings cut, drifting in this and that direction. Certainly nobody would like to land himself in such a situation or see his children in a rootless state. After all man is a social animal and he cannot live in isolation. This isolation is best avoided by marrying within ones community as far as possible. 

Some times people marry even outside their religion. Some so-called pragmatic and progressive persons hail it as a step in the right direction and appreciate it on the basis of equality and oneness of the mankind. On the face of it one may find it laudable but down to earth in real life it is fraught with disastrous consequences. All said and done, religions are not same, nor even similar. They are poles apart in their rituals, practices, methods of prayer, beliefs and even their attitude towards the adherents of other faiths. These differences make a man, who marries a woman belonging to a different religion, a misfit in the company of his in-laws. For the women it is simply disastrous and even conversion does not put her at ease. Then comes the question of what religion the children should follow. This becomes a bone of contention between the two and leads to breaking the marriage itself. There are some rigid faiths, the followers of which insist that whomsoever marries in their religion, whether a man or a woman, must first get converted. This insistence either leads to a friction before the nuptial knots are tied or forces the prospective couple to severe all connections with their respective families. 

The Solution 

Not all arranged marriages are a success and not all love marriages are a failure. Similarly not all marriages within the community are always a success and not all marriages out of the community are necessarily a failure. Moreover, marriage is a personal matter for every man and woman and no body has any right to interfere, dictate or sermonize where this individual matter is involved. We cannot transgress this fundamental right of a person to choose his life-partner and force him to marry within his community. But alas! If only youth knew and age could. It is the paramount duty of the knowledgeable, the experienced and the learned parents and seniors to educate their youngsters and put them wise about such matters. They should be made aware of the pros and cons of marrying out of their community vis-?is marrying within their own and thereafter the decision should be left to them. Let them not, later in their life after facing the realities, accuse their elders of not guiding them at the proper time. It is imperative that all the children are soaked in the nectar of cultural richness and the grandeur of tradition so that they realize the importance and utility of these essential elements in the life of a community. From day one they should be made to develop love and pride for their values, their tradition and customs. This will, in course of time, create in them a firm resolve to find a life partner within their own community and the cases of marrying out of the community will be an exception rather than a rule. This timely education and ingrained values will take care of those cases where persons marry outside their community due to the increased exposure and contact with the persons of other communities in the fast changing scenario all over. This will also ensure that nobody takes a wrong decision due to ignorance and inadequate knowledge of the consequences that are likely to follow by marrying outside his own community. 

The second cause has to be tackled collectively at social level. It is really a shame for any community if their girls are to be given in marriage to the boys of other communities not for any worthwhile consideration like the suitability or good qualities of the groom but merely to escape the expenditure on dowry and other such bad customs. Let us not trade in marriages, let us not commercialize this holy relationship and let us not auction our boys in the marriage market. Any other reason for marrying outside one's community, ethnic group, religion or biradari can be understood, reasoned out, rationalized and even justified. There is, however, no justification whatsoever for marrying on this consideration that the parents are spared the compulsory obligation of giving dowry or money that they can ill-afford. Ours is a well-educated, cultured and enlightened community with a glorious past. The scourge of dowry and other social evils and bad customs has crept in over the years and needs to be addressed on a war footing. Let us eradicate these drawbacks and create a healthy tradition so that we do not lose our talented girls to other communities. If we do we shall be poorer to that extent. No rules and no laws are going to see the end of this contagious disease. We need constant self-analysis, social awareness, meaningful education and vigilance. Already ours is a miniscule community; let us not turn it into a microscopic one by creating such conditions as force our children to marry outside our community. Today we are not reckoned because we are not politically important due to our small numbers. Our plight of forced exile from the valley is nobody's concern because we are not a political constituency. Let us make ourselves important enough to be counted (and not taken for granted) by the dint of our acumen, sagacity, scholarship and intelligence and by preserving our distinct identity. This goal can be achieved by ensuring that the number of marriages outside community is as low as possible and that too for good and justifiable reasons and not for ignorance or avoidance of dowry. 


Thus we have seen that while marriage is a personal matter for every individual and there is no place for any coercion or dictation, there is a pressing need for creating conditions to ensure that they take place within one's community. The purpose is two-fold, one that the married couple does not find itself isolated and two that the distinct identity of a community, particularly that of a small community like Kashmiri Pandits, is preserved. There are two major reasons why our children tend to find their life partners outside the community. The first reason is that they are nor aware of the consequences of such a marriage. Once they come into contact with the persons of other communities they get emotionally involved and without realizing the adverse consequences they enter into a matrimonial relationship. The second reason is the enormous avoidable expenditure involved in marrying within the community due to the prevailing bad and despicable customs like the dowry in cash and kind. Our children are vividly conscious of these bad customs and they do not want to be a burden on their parents. They want to ensure that their parents are saved from running into debt due to the expenditure involved and, therefore, go for a simpler marriage without incurring any sizeable expenditure. They go for a marriage into a different community and thereby avoid the bad customs of both the communities. If both these reasons are removed, there is no reason why the number of such marriages outside our community cannot be reduced greatly without encroaching on the personal liberty of the young ones. The first cause can be addressed by educating our children about the hard facts of a married life and the consequences of marrying outside one's community. The second cause will get eradicated automatically once the bad customs are removed from our community. These steps are a must if we want to keep our community alive as a well-knit community of intellectuals as we really are.

The Festivals of the Kashmiri Pandits

T. N. Dhar, ‘Kundan’ 
pdf Download

Excerpts from: 
Kashmiri Pandits: Looking to the Future 
Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society (Regd.) 
New Delhi - 48

Monjaher taeher Gada Bhatta Khyachi Mavas Shishur
Gora-Trai Kaw Punim Teela Aetham Zetha aetham and Shravana punim
Auspicious days of Ashada Vyatha Truvah Pan Dyun Divagone
Posh puza Dodh Sonder Sonth, Navreh and Zanga trai

Kashmir is known as the abode of Rishis because it has provided a calm and serene shelter to sages and savants for their penance. In the hoary past, it was inhabited by the Nagas as is vouched by Nila in his Nilmat Purana and Kalhana in his Rajatarangini. Nila, himself a naga, was the son of the illustrious Rishi, Kashyapa. The penance and the efforts of Kashyapa transformed the vast span of water called the 'Sati Sar' into a fertile valley fit for inhabitation and worship by the austere Rishis. It was he who helped these Rishis to get rid of the demon 'Jalodbhava'. These Rishis, finding the place secure for their 'Tapas', made it their home and gave it the name 'Kashyapa-mar' after the Rishi who founded it. This name, in due course became Kashmir.

These pious and compassionate Rishis did not neglect the nagas andrakshasas who were the original tribesmen living in this land. They made arrangements to satisfy their needs acid requirements from time to time. This gave rise to certain peculiar customs and festivals, not prevalent in any other part of the country. These forest-dwelling tribes would usually demand food items during the winter months. It is because of this that most of these festivals are held in the month of 'Pausha' of the lunar calendar. Some of these are described below:

Monjaher taeher: Monjhaer in Kashmiri means the lunar month of Marga Shirsha. Taeher means yellow cooked rice mixed with mustard. It is customary for Kashmiris to cook such rice on all auscpicious days, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays, offer it to their chosen deity and then distribute it among neighbours, friends and relatives. But on the first day following the end of Margashirsha, that is the beginning of the Pausha month, such rice is specially cooked, offered to the Griha devata and Grama devata and then distributed. More often it is vowed that should a desire be fulfilled, like getting a son, obtaining employment or finding a suitable match, the household would prepare this rice regularly on this day every year. Coinciding with this is a very significant observance on this day called theMatrika Pujan. Since time immemorial there has been a belief that the sound is the Divine Shabda Brahma and that the language has originated from the sound produced by the Damroo of Lord Shiva. These sounds, fourteen in number, are called Maheshwara Sutrani. These are divided into eight groups, one of vowels and seven of consonants. Each group has a deity who is propitiated on this day. Vowels begin with 'Aa' and the consonants with 'Ka', 'Ch', 'Ta', 'Ta', 'Pa', 'Ya' and 'Sha', respectively. So the prayer is offered to the relevant deities in this order. Amayay, Kamayay, Charvageyay, Tankadharyanyay, Tarayay, Parvatyay, Yakhshanyay and Shri Sharika Bhagavatyay. All that we know, this day might have been fixed to initiate a student to a school of learning and he was required to offer prayers before such initiation. 

Gada Bhatta: This word literally means fish and cooked rice. On any Tuesday or Saturday of the dark fortnight in the lunar month of Pausha, except when there is panchak, fish is specially prepared and near ones are invited to the dinner. First of all a plateful of rice and fish is arranged and it is placed at a clean place in a room on the top floor, called Kaeni. This is meant for the deity of the house referred to as Ghar Devata. The plate is properly covered with an up-turned basket and nearby is placed a glass of water. Some house-holds even serve a raw fish. There are eye witness accounts that the next morning the food is found consumed and even the fish bones are found lying by the side of the empty plate. After placing the plate at the fixed place for the deity, a feast of rice and fish is held along with near and dear ones.

Khyachi Mavas: This is also known as Yaksha amavasya. In other words, the last day of the dark fortnight of 'Paush' dedicated to the 'Yaksha', which again appears to refer to some forest-dwelling tribe that lived there before the rishis. On this day a special dish of moong mixed with rice is prepared in the evening. It is served to the Yaksha on an improvised plate made of dry grass. The plate is placed on the top of the compound wall. The kitchen mortal is placed on a grass ring, worshipped as a symbol of the cosmos and decorated with sindoor, sandal, raw rice and flowers. Some households serve fish on this day also. During our childhood we were told that the Yaksha would be wearing a red cap while partaking of this Khichdi and whosoever is able to snatch away this cap will get riches. So all the children would be eager to get hold of this cap, which eluded everyone. 

These are the festivals which apparently were held to satisfy the demands of the aborigines and tribesmen. There is yet another occasion during the bright fortnight of Marga or the dark fortnight of Pausha, which is described below:

Shishur: This literally means the winter. This is an exclusive occasion for the new born baby and the newly-wed bride. On this day a little lime powder is placed in a piece of 'Zarbaft' cloth and stitched into a small triangular shape. This is then fixed on the cap of the new born or on the side of the sari which covers the head of the bride. The rationale behind this custom is to ward off any evil eye and any ill omen. On this day yellow meat is specially cooked and this along with pan cakes is distributed among the relatives, friends and the neighbours. Scattering the lime powder during winter in order to get rid of the bacteria, insects and bad odour must have been the forerunner of this custom.

Gora-Trai:Gora-Trai or Gauri Tritya is celebrated on the third day of the bright fortnight of Magha. Gauri is the name of the Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning. On this day the family priest brings a portrait of the goddess, below which are printed some shlokas in praise of the goddess. Whenever a child is born or there has been an addition of a bride, the occasion is special and the family priest of the bride's parents also brings a specially decorated portrait and in return gets a handsome honorarium. This must have been the day of teaching the child the first alphabets after offering pooja to the goddess of learning. This is borne out by the fact that the following day is called Shruka tsoram or the Shloka Chaturthi. Obviously, on this day the child was taught the basic Sanskrit shlokas like 'Twameva Mata cha Pita twameva - O Lord, you are my mother as also my father.' Thischaturthi is also known as 'Tripura Chaturthi' as the goddess is worshipped on this day in her Tripura Sundari form. The goddess is regarded as the energy aspect of the Supreme Divine. It is this aspect of energy that activates the Divine undertake the five functions of creation, sustenance, destruction, providing cover and granting grace.

Kaw Punim: The full moon of the lunar month Magha is also known asPurnima of the crow. Two sticks are tied in the shape of a cross and on the open ends of the cross grass is woven to make a long handled flat spoon. Again after some pooja, yellow rice is served on this spoon to be offered to the crow. The children sing a melodious song while making the offering to the crow. The song loosely translated reads thus:

O clever crow;  
O, the lover of khichri, crow;  
Come to our new house along with your spouse;  
Be seated on the threshold of our roof – 
And partake of the salty pudding.

This festival is indicative of the love that the Kashmiris have had for the birds and the care they took of them. It may be worth mentioning that every Kashmiri household will scatter some cooked rice on a wooden shelf kept outside the house everyday before serving food to any member of the house. This shelf kept near the top right hand corner of the window is called Kaw paet - a shelf for the crow. Likewise every person keeps apart a little rice from his or her plate to be fed to the dogs. This is called Hoonya myet - the roll of rice for the dog. This shows the compassionate nature of the Kashmiris for the animal world. No doubt the Gita defines a Pandit as one who treats equally a well read Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a downcast chandala who devours dog-flesh.

Teela Aetham: This is a festival held on the 8th day of the bright fortnight of Phalguna month of the lunar calendar. In effect it is the culmination of the Shivaratri festivities as also bidding adieu to the shivering winter. To begin with, pooja is offered at home and a number of lamps are lit. These lamps are taken to the river bank and floated on grass bases in the river after the prescribed pooja. Afterwards, old firepots, Kangris, are filled with grass. A long rope is tied to its handle and fire is lit in it. Then the kangri is moved round and round in circles rhythmically till the whole kangri bums down. Then it is hurled faraway into the waters of the flowing river. While doing so the children cry out, 'Jateen teen, Jateen teen'; meaning that it is a flame, it is burning.

Zetha aetham and Shravana punim: The eighth day of the bright fortnight of Jyeshtha and the full moon day of Shravana are both very auspicious days for the Kashmiri Pandits, the former is dedicated to the Goddess Maharajna and the latter to Lord Shiva. On the Jyeshtha Ashtami devotees assemble at the shrine of Tula Mula. After taking a dip in the waters of the Sindhu, they enter the precincts of the shrine. The marble temple is situated in an L-shaped spring, the waters of which change colour, believed to be the change of the dress by the Mother Goddess. The whole area is full of huge Chinar trees and the stream skirts the area allowing the house boats to anchor there. After individual pooja and a collective Aarati, there are night long Bhajans and Kirtan. The refrain of the Aarati is Gaurim-ambam amburuha-akshim-ahameedey - I bow to my beautiful mother whose eyes resemble a lotus.' There are Dharmashalas for overnight stay and Yajnashalas for sacrificial fire. Although this shrine is visited by the devotees every month on the eighth day of the bright fortnight, Jyeshtha Ashtami is a special festival for Maharajna, the Consort of Shiva.

On Shravana purnima, while the entire country celebrates 'Raksha Bandhan' in Kashmir we have the world famous pilgrimage to Swami Amarnath cave for the glimpse of the Ice-Lingam, which waxes and wanes along with the growth and decline of the moon. On this day the Kashmiri Pandits collect the holy clay from the Shankaracharya hill, mix mercury with it and make the required number of 'Partheshwaras' for a private pooja. They keep fast on this day and immerse the Partheshwara in the river waters in the evening. Pasting is an essential aspect of the spirituality of a Pandit. Amavasya, Purnima, Ekadashi, Ashtami are the monthly fasts and, besides, there are occasional ones like Chandan Shashti, Bhimsen Ekadashi, Kali Ashtami, Shiva Chaturdashi, Kumara Shashti and the like. The anniversary day of the parents as also of the sages like Alakheshwari and Rishi Peer are also observed as fast days.

Auspicious days of Ashada: There are four important days in the month of Ashada, called Haar in Kashmiri. The seventh day of the bright fortnight is called Hara Satam. On this day, the courtyard, the front door and the gallery called the Vuz are decorated with Hara Mandul - a round design made of multicolour powders. This is to greet the goddess who is expected to grace our houses by her presence. It may be recalled that similar designs are made on the occasion of the weddings and the yajnopavit to greet the bride and the groom and the children who have gone through the Upanayan samskara. The nomenclature is different. These are called the Vyuga. The decoration made on these occasions on the front gates is also picturesque and is known as Krule.

The Kashmiri community is predominantly Shaivite and, therefore, worship Shiva and Shakti. They are grouped into three groups according to their affiliation to three different forms of the Goddess, Maharajna, Sharika and jwala. The three shrines for them are situated at Tula Mula, Hari Parbat in Srinagar and the hill at the village Khrew respectively. It is noteworthy that all the three festivals for these forms of the Divine Mother are held in the month of Ashada. On ashtami is the festival of Tula Mula. On navami is the festival at Chakreshwara, Hari Parbat and on Chaturdashi it is at Khrew to worship Goddess jwala.

Vyatha Truvah: Vitasa or the River jhelum holds an important position in our religious and cultural life. Most of our famous temples are situated on its banks, noteworthy being Ganesh temple, Mahakali shrine, Somayar - the temple of the Moon, Raghunath Mandir, Batayar, Bokhatakeshwar Bhairav Temple etc. It is not surprising, therefore, that we celebrate thePracdurbhava divas or the appearance days of this life line of Kashmir on the thirteenth day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrapada, for all the ghats of this holy river are sacred for us to perform Sandhya, to have a dip and to offer pooja. The river is worshipped by offering water, milk oblations vermillion, raw rice and flowers. People also go for pilgrimage to its source at 'Vyatha Votur’ and Verinag. There used to be seven bridges (a couple of bridges have since been added) across river in Srinagar, from Amira Kadal to Safa Kadal. The banks of this river have been fortified with the huge stone slabs, carved and otherwise, obtained from the destroyed temples during the Muslim rule, particularly during the reign of Sultan Sikander, nicknamed as 'Butshikan’, the iconoclast, in early fourteenth century.

Pan Dyun: 'Ryetav manza ryethah, Baedearpyethah, Venayka Tsoram to Aathvar'- The month is Bhadrapada, the day fourth day of the bright fortnight and hopefully a Sunday. This is the festival known all over the country as Ganesh Chaturthi and celebrated in Kashmir in a unique way. Early morning a metal pot is cleaned and placed at a suitable clean place, with some water filled in it. The ladies of the house prepare a sweet pancake called 'Roth'. Poppy seeds are fixed over these on both the sides. The family members sit near the pot and the lady of the house narrates a story of Beeb garaz Maej. This story has a moral that by performing pooja of Shri Ganesha on this day, preparing sweet pancake and offering the same to the deity, poverty and the miseries of the person are removed and one lives a pious life full of comfort. The story is very similar to the one narrated on the occasion of the Satya Narayana Pooja. After listening to the story, all the members fill the pot with flowers and a specific variety of green grass, which they hold in their hands throughout the narration of the story. The sweet pancake prepared on this day becomes the prashada and is distributed among relatives, friends and neighbours. Distribution of such things as TahaerRoth,Yogurt, cakes, walnuts is a common feature of the Kashmiri life and helps make it a close-knit community bound by love, concern and care for each other.

The Sanatan Dharma allows, in addition to the prescribed rituals in accordance with the tenets of the Vedas, observance of additional customs called LokacharDeshachar or Gramachar peculiar to the place and environment one may be living in. This prescription has made marriage, yajnopavit and other ceremonies different for different groups of people in point of detail. Two such customs which are distinct in our community are briefly explained below:

Divagone: Every marriage ceremony and yajnopavit ceremony is preceded by a ritual called Divagone. This is to propitiate Surya, Chandra and Brihaspati Devatas to bless the bride or groom to be or the child who is going to adopt the Yoni or the yajnopavit. On this occasion, only the bride is asked to wear various gold omaments including the Dejhore which for Kashmiri women is the symbol of marriage. In other parts of our country, the married ladies are identified by red vermillion in the parting of their hair, Mangalsutra, or the little toe rings. In Kashmir Dejhore is the symbol. It is worn in both the ears and there is an attachment to it which is called theAtahore made of gold or golden or silver thread made into a specific shape. Before the ritual proper, the bride, groom or the child is given a bath with milk, yoghurt, honey and other such things mixed with water, to the accompaniment of the chanting of Veda-mantras.

Posh puza: At the end of the ritual of marriage, saptapadi etc. the bride and the groom are made to sit in a comfortable posture. A red cloth is placed on their heads, and then all the people around offer them flowers in accompaniment of Veda mantras. This is called worshipping the couple with flowers. The rationale behind this custom is that the couple is considered to be Shiva and Parvati and the two are duly worshipped. First there are mantras for the bride and the groom separately followed by those meant for the two jointly. In contrast to this, the newly-weds in the south are required to touch the feet of all the elderly couples present. We are, however, of the view that marriage is a spiritual union between a boy and a girl and they have to live this life of Artha (wealth) and Kama (desires) with due regard toDharma (righteousness) and aspire for Moksha (Emancipation). The four together are called Purusharthas. That is why the newly-weds are treated as Shiva and Parvati and worshipped as such at the time of the Posh Puza.

Dodh: Literally it means milk but what is implied is yoghurt. Whenever a lady is in the family way, she needs to inform her in-laws so that due care is taken of her health, diet and other comforts. It was difficult for her to convey this news to her in-laws with the same ease with which she could to her mother or sister in her parental home. Therefore, after her parents get the information, she was asked to carry two gadvis (metal pots) full of yoghurt and place one each in front of her father-in-law and mother-in-law. This was meant to be a signal to them that now is the time to take extra care of their daughter-in-law. Alas! this custom has lost its original significance and has turned into a bad social custom. A huge quantity of yoghurt is now-a-days expected to be received from the parents of the girl, which is distributed among the relatives as if to give publicity to the event. A gala feast is also organised by the family and the lady concemed comes from her parents' home with new dresses and other costly gifts.

Sonder: On the eleventh day of the delivery or on any other suitable date, ladies of the neighbourhood, near relatives and ladies in the house collect in the morning. The mother and the baby are properly bathed and suitably dressed. Thereafter small pieces of bhojpatra bark are burnt and lighted barks moved round the heads of the two by turns. A specific folk song is chanted, perhaps to ward off the bad omens and to wish a further safe delivery in due time. This has its origin in the Punaswan sanskara, one of the sixteen prescribed in the rule book. These pieces of the bark are then dipped into the water kept in a pot nearby. This is called Burza Myet.

Sonth, Navreh and Zanga trai: Sonth heralds the Spring season and the Navreh the New Lunar Year. Both these days are important in our calendar. A unique custom on these two days is to fill a plate overnight with rice, yoghurt, milk, nuts, cake, flower, pen, gold coin, picture of a deity or the goddess, and the new panchang (only on Navreh). This is kept covered for the night and early in the morning every member of the family sees this plate and the nice items placed in it, first thing after getting up from the bed. Thereafter people go to the river bank, take a dip and throw these nuts in the water. Then they wear new clothes and offer pooja at home and in the temples. Outings are also organised to the gardens to enjoy the beauty of the almond blossoms. Sweets, savouries and the famous decoction, 'Chai’, is served with gaiety and happiness all round. On the third day from the Navreh, ladies go to their parents' house and dine there. From there they go to the temples and gardens with their kiths and return in the evening with new dresses and the customary NoonTsocha and Atagat i.e., salt, cakes and some cash. These three items are a must to be given to the married daughters, whenever they come to their parents' house, at the time of their return to their home.

Apart from these customs, rituals and festivals which are peculiar to our community, there are other festivals which are celebrated more or less in the same way as in other parts of the country. Whatever difference there is, is because of geographical reasons and availability of the required items. For example, in our rituals walnuts, rice and local vegetables are used whereas in other places coconut, banana, banana-leaf and other locally available items are put in use for these rituals. Likewise, due to the intense cold we haveSandhya only once in the morning instead of three times elsewhere. Wearing a dhoti or making offerings and pooja bare-bodied also is not enforced in Kashmir for the same reason.

Shivaratri: Any account of the customs and rituals of our community, without a mention of the Shivaratri festival, would be incomplete. This is the crown of our festivals, and is spread over a full fortnight of the PhaIguna month. It is a socio-religious function that is the very part of our life. On the first day of the dark fortnight, called Hurya Okdoh the wholesale cleaning of the house, painting and decorating begins with gusto. The pooja room called Thokur Kuthand the front door called Dar are specially cleaned, one for the pooja and the other to welcome Shiva and Parvati, whose communion is the real essence of Shivaratri. The first week up to the Hurya Satam, is busy time for washing, cleaning and collecting the required items. The eighth day called Hurya Aetham is the day of the presiding deity of the valley, Maa Sharika. On this day we have Havan at Hari Parbat and night long Keertan. This is followed by Hurya Navam, Dyara Daham, and Gada Kah. On these days apart from usual pooja, prescribed items of vegetables and/or fish and meat are cooked according to the custom of every home. Ladies go to their parents' house for bathing and washing and return to their own homes with new clothes, a newKangri (fire-pot) with a silver tsalan dangling behind it. Twelfth day is known as Vager Bah and it is customary to have Vager pooja on that day, which is the first formal pooja of the Shivaratri. The thirteenth day called Herach Truvah is the day of the main pooja. The eldest member of the family keeps fast for the day. Vatuk is brought by the potter which comprises a 'No't', Resh Dul, Dul, Saniwaer, Macha Waer, Dhupu Zur, Sani Potul, assortment of Parva and Taekya. These are cleaned, filled with water and then arranged in the prescribed order in the pooja room . Nariwan and garlands are tied round these items. The No't representing the Kalasha and some other pots are also filled with walnuts. The actual pooja begins in the night when all the family members assemble in the pooja room for the purpose. The Vatuk, representing various Devatas and Bhairavas, is worshipped under the directions of the Kula-Purohita (the family priest). This is an elaborate pooja for a good three hours and is followed by a sumptuous feast. All the items cooked are first offered to the Vatak Nath. Next comes Shiva Chaturdashi. This is popularly called 'Salaam'. Perhaps because on this day friends from the Muslim community would come to felicitate Kashmiri Pandits. Also beggars, bards and street dancers would come to take their due on this festive occasion, and salute the head of the family with the words 'Salaam'. On this day children receive Heraech Kharch the pocket allowance for their enjoyment. The usual pastime is a game of shells which creates a lot of enthusiasm . On the Amavasya day the culminating pooja of the festival is held and the entire paraphernalia of Vatuk is taken off from its place. In the evening a very interesting event is observed. It is called Dub Dub or knock knock. Actually one member of the family goes out and returns with a glass of water. The door is shut on him and when he knocks at the door a conversation takes place. He is asked who he is. He replies that he is Ram bror and has come with wealth, riches, good wishes for health and happiness, food and means of livelihood and all the good things. Then the door is opened. The walnuts are broken to take the kernel out and along with cakes made of rice flour are first offered to the deity and then taken as prashada. From the next day begins an arduous task of distributing the walnuts among friends, relatives and neighbours. The closer the relationship the larger is the number of walnuts given to them. The highest number, in hundreds, goes to the in-laws of the newlywed daughters. The only thing that remains is the disposal of the residual material i.e.; grass seats of the Vatuk, the flowers and Naervan tied round these pots and other such things. These are dropped into the river on the Tila Ashtami, and this marks the grand finale to this great festival. It is believed that every Kashmiri girl is a Parvati and is wedded to Shiva. The Shivaratri symbolises the wedding of the two, and on this occasion the Bhairavas and other Ganas accompanying Lord Shiva are fed with choicest dishes up to the fill and to their satisfaction. That is what is known as Vatuk poojan.

This tradition of customs, rituals and festivals gives a distinct identity to the Kashmiri Pandit community and needs to be preserved and nurtured alongwith other important facets of our community life and our beloved mother tongue, Kashmiri, which has been enriched by the writings of Lal Ded and Nunda Rishi, Habba Khatoon and Arnimal, Parmanand and Shamas Faquir, Masterji, Mehjoor, Azad, Nadim and scores of other poets, writers and thinkers.

These festivals, rituals and customs have had relevance in the past, these are relevant today and they shall remain relevant for all times to come. The relevance is manifold. Firstly, they give us a distinct identity as Kashmiri Pandits. We know about various festivals which are associated with different communities. Durga Puja is for Bengalis what Ganesh Puja is for Maharashtrians. Ayyapa Puja in the south, Holi in the Braja Dham and Jagannath festival in Orissa are very well known. We, in Kashmir, are proud of our socio-religious festival of Shivaratri and other local rituals. Every spring is holy for us, every village has produced a Mahatma of repute and every mountain peak is sacred for us. These festivals and rituals have spiritualised our community for centuries. They have made us god-fearing, non-violent, pious and religious. With all the advancement in science and the technological development, we cannot discard the spiritual aspect of human existence.

After all, our existence is not confined to our gross body alone. These age-old customs of ours help in character building by creating a sense of care and compassion in us. They make us realise our responsibility towards environment, animal world and birds, besides our fellow human beings. These are important props to give us self-confidence, courage to face all eventualities and dynamism in our approach. It is of paramount importance, therefore, for us to preserve and perpetuate these festivals. Their meaning and significance has to be explained to our younger generation in their idiom, cogently and convincingly so that they realise their importance. Carrying forward these traditions is an answer, to a great extent, to our present day problems of stress, strain and tension at the individual level and at the social level of many ills including inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, etc. However, we should not forget that many of these customs are losing their importance because we do not know their underlying significance and the rationale of their observance. This calls for a concentrated effort in the field of research for which our scholars and the knowledgeable should come forward before it is too late and before some meaningful and useful customs get extinct because of non-observance and disuse. This rich tradition of ours is an indescribable 'Radiance', which is self-illumining, self-satisfying, independent, self-supporting, self-creating, self-rooted and this radiance has to be perceived, realised and then drawn into the depths of ourselves.


Fo ur Ty pes o f Yo ga

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita has eighteen chapters. Each chapter is named after one or the other yoga. Yet there are four distinct types of yoga explained and discussed in this Divine Song. These are Jnana Yoga or the yoga of knowledge and cognition, Karma Yoga or the yoga of action and deeds, Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of devotion and dedication and Raja yoga or the yoga of meditation and contemplation. 

Actually these four sum up all the aspects of human life. We seek to know everything around us as also the secret of all those things that appear to us as mysterious. We act all the time in conscious mind and sub-conscious mind, both. We are devoted to what we do, what we seek to achieve and to the values that we hold dear. We contemplate on the problems faced by us and meditate to find satisfactory solutions to these problems. All this is true of our mundane life and the spiritual life in a great measure but the quantum may vary from person to person and between different periods of the life of the same person. To understand these topics in fuller details a close reading of the Bhagavad Gita is very useful. There may be discussions on these in other scriptures, holy books and other books in various languages of the world but if we want to have access to the explanation and exposition on these subjects at one place, we will have to turn to Gita for light and guidance.

Shri Gita has described and analysed Jnana or knowledge at length and in great detail. It has established its superiority as well. One thing is, however, noteworthy; it says that Jnana or knowledge is incomplete without Vijnana or its application. The former is pure Science and the latter is the applied Science or the Technology. The former is represented by Goddess Saraswati and the latter by Goddess Laxmi. Science when transformed into technology creates wealth and this justifies our worship of Goddess Laxmi as the deity of wealth.

The two are complimentary to each other and either of these is incomplete in itself. That is why Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, 

Jnanam te-aham savijnanam

idam vakhshyami asheshatah, yad jnatva

neha bhuyah jnatavyam avashishyate 

– I am going to explain to you the knowledge and its application, both in full, after knowing which nothing else will be left worth knowing.’ 

This stipulation gives us an important advice to follow that it is not sufficient to know alone. It is also important that we apply this knowledge in our mundane and spiritual life. Whatever we know must translate into action.

Whatever we learn must be implemented and brought into practice. All our knowledge should be put to good use in our life for our own benefit and for the benefit of the mankind.

Again the Karma or action has been qualified in two ways. It should be either ‘Mat-karma’ or the actions carried out on behalf of the Divine and ‘Nishkama-karma’ or the deeds performed without an eye on the fruit. ‘Kamya-karma’ or desire oriented actions have been forbidden completely. Once we carry out actions on behalf of the Divine, the sense of doer-ship vanishes from our mind. We become humble and realize that we are only the means to carry out our ordained duties. Our deeds are not motivated by any greed or craving for any fruit. We do our duty with a sense of duty. This absolves us from the good and bad effects of the actions undertaken. We have a commitment to the deeds and not to the fruits of the deeds. We ensure harmony and poise in the face of the pairs of opposites like loss and gain, pain and pleasure, defeat and victory. We derive pleasure out of the actions and never wait for them to fructify. We strive for excellence in our actions for we are told that yoga is excellence in actions.

Coming to Bhakti or devotion, the Bhagavad Gita says that it should be ‘Ananya-bhakti’ or undivided devotion. Our frame of mind should be such that we see the Divine in everything. He should be in our mind all the time. We have to have devotion to what we seek to know, what we intend to do and what we desire to achieve. We have to concentrate on Him with unflinching faith, trust and belief. We have to surrender unto Him so that He worries about us, He takes care of us and He guides us all the time. We keep on thinking about Him. We execute His command and we entrust the boat of our lives to Him. With this attitude He becomes the boatman who ferries us across. The condition, however, is that it should be undivided, unflinching and unwavering devotion. The beauty about this devotion is that there are no doubts, no questions and no apprehensions. It gives us a commitment, a resolve and resilience, with the result that divinity manifests in our thought, word and deed. We do not hurt any one and no one hurts us either.

The fourth yoga is called Raja-yoga or the princ ipal yoga of meditation and contemplation. This one has been qualified in Shri Gita as yoga, which has to be continuous and without any break. Yoga means a yoke and a yogi getsyukhta or yoked with the Divine by meditation. One has to be yoked all the time, continuously without any let up so that the yogi can be identified as ‘Nityabhiyukhta’. Now every one of us needs two things, one what we do not possess and two protection to that which we do possess. For a Nityabhiyukhtayogi God has promised to take care of both these things. He has said in Shrimad Bhagavad Gita very clearly that He will provide them all that they lack and give protection to their possessions provided they are uninterrupted yogis. In the ordinary sense of these terms we can take it that by our continuous meditation and contemplation we shall achieve all that we need and ensure protection to our possessions from the Divine. In spiritual terms, however, these two words have a significant connotation. God has promised to take care of our yoga and kshema if we are constantly and continuously attached to Him. Yoga here would mean emancipation and Kshema is that which ensures our well-being. In spiritual parlance this would meanParamananda or supreme bliss.

Thus we have seen that these four types of yoga have been qualified by the holy Gita. It says that Jnana or knowledge must be accompanied by Vijnanaor application. It states that Karma or actions should be Nishkama Karma or actions not done for their fruits. It enjoins upon us that our Bhakti or devotion should be Ananya Bhakti or undivided devotion. Then it clarifies that Yoga or meditation should be Nitya or continuous and uninterrupted. These four types of yoga will lead us to emancipation only if these stipulations are kept in mind and implemented in letter and spirit. These formulations are applicable in our worldly life and equally so in our spiritual life.

A Strange Experience

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Sometimes I go through strange experiences. If I am in a balcony and some birds are nearby chirping, I begin understanding their conversation. If I am in a garden I feel that the trees and other forms of vegetation are talking to me. If I am on the bank of a river the waves communicate with me. You will not believe it but it is true. I myself do not believe all this but only after the event. While I am in the company of these, everything is clear to me but as soon as I am on my own, it all baffles me as it does you. I do not blame you for treating all this as a figment of my imagination but please bear with me. Believe me as a gentleman that I am not selling pure fiction. I am narrating to you what all I usually go through while I am with these friends (as I like to call them).

I am reminded of a poem in Kashmiri written by that genius of a poet who was fondly called Master ji. A sparrow came and sat on the sill of his window, where he was seated with his eyes closed. As soon as he opened his eyes, the sparrow flew away. The sensitive poet was grieved; it touched his heart. At once he addressed a few verses to the little bird. He asked why it had flown away. He asked whether it did not like his eyes because it had flown as soon as he had opened his eyes. He lamented that men devoured their eggs and flesh because of which they were scared of humans. All the same the poet was in conversation with the bird.

So am I, not only with birds, with flowers and trees but also with other forms of nature. When I look to the tall poplar tree with its up-stretched branches I get an impression of a haughty arrogant person. I hear the tree tell me, ‘be like me -headstrong and egoist. Walk with your head high and do not bend before any one. See, however strong and forceful the wind may be, I am shaken momentarily but not bent. I prefer to break than bend.’ Then I turn to other side and see the mighty Chinar. It tells me, ‘my dear! Be graceful like me. Help others. Give them shelter. Protect them from Sun and rain. Service rendered to others makes you gracious, magnanimous and splendid. It gives you prestige and makes your life purposeful and meaningful.’ Likewise, when I come across a fruit tree laden with apples, pears, pomegranates or any other fruit, and approach it, the voice I hear says something like this, ‘if you have some worth and are capable of yielding anything worthwhile, you have to be humble and submissive. Humility is a virtue that makes you great, worthy and valuable.’ Many a time when I am in a flower garden, the tiny buds and enchanting flowers talk to me. Once I was brooding near a small flower plant. Suddenly a little bud spoke to me. It said, ‘do you know what Josh, the famous Urdu poet asked me one day? He questioned my very existence, which aims at just a smile. I replied to his query by asking a counter question as to how many people are lucky enough to get even one smile in their lives. He had no answer.’ Suddenly a flower resumed where the bud had left the conversation. It said, ‘the bud is right. It is a bud only as long as it smiles. Once it smiles it becomes a full-fledged flower like me. We attract people by our beauty, patters on our petals, our multifarious hues and the scent that we emit. If you have to be a symbol of beauty, you must possess colours of virtue and fragrance of goodness.’ Not that I am a silent listener. I also tell them what I feel. Sometimes I thank them for their advice but whether I am intelligible to them or not is not known. Even then I speak out my heart to them.

Once I told a mango tree, ‘what use is your motto of service unto others? Are you not hurt when people climb on you and your delicate branches get broken? Do you not get bruised when people throw stones at you in order to have your fruit? Is it not humiliating when someone curses you finding your fruit tasteless or rotten?’ the tree replied in its magnanimity, ‘if you live only for yourself, your life is wasted. If you live for others as well, your life is virtuous. You should not bother about what others do or how others behave. You do what you feel is right and proper. Leave others free to decide for themselves what they consider right.’ I was reminded of a saint who was offering his prayers on the bank of a river. He saw a scorpion drowning. He picked it on his palm. As soon as it was out of water it stung the palm of the saint with its pincers. The hand of the saint shook and the poisonous creature fell in the water and was about to get drowned. Again the saint picked it from the water and again it stung his hand. There was a tremour in his hand because of which the scorpion again slipped off. Again the saint saved it from drowning. The saint was doing its duty and the cunning creature was at its dirty job, perhaps helpless because of his nature.

One day while I was on the balcony of my house, I was surrounded by a host of birds, small and big, of a variety of patterns and speaking in different tunes. A small budgerigar asked me in a sweet tone, ‘may I sing for you?’ I gave a nod. It sang a melodious tune. It lulled me to sleep and in my dream I saw the bird as a small fairy moving around me and singing a scintillating song. I was mesmerized. Suddenly another bird hopped near it and began scolding the poor bird, in these words, ‘why do you sing for him? You know they are called human but in reality they are inhuman. They destroy our nests and eat our flesh and eggs.’ The little parakeet sided with me and replied, ‘do not blame them. Some of our ilk also pounce upon us, injure us and then devour our flesh. Moreover, this person is a poet and poets by nature are humane, kind and sensitive. They are sympathetic and are moved by the grief and suffering of others.’ Then came a kite swooping and sat at the railing. It complained to me, ‘Kashmiris would occasionally throw sinews of goat and sheep flesh up in the sky from the roof of their house for us to eat. We would hover around and dancing would jump at these meat pieces. These days they no longer feed us like that.’ I told it, ‘while you are right, you must realize that they have been uprooted from their hearth and home. It has become well nigh impossible for themto follow their traditional customs and continue with their habits.’ The kite looked to the large black crow that was parching nearby and gave a look of appreciation. The birds also seem to understand human tragedies.

Many times I have had intimate conversations with the flowing waters and the waves of a river. I am very fond of sitting on the banks of a river for hours on end. On one such occasion I was sitting on the bank of a river. The water was flowing single-minded and making a sweet sound. Waves after waves were rising and then getting subsumed by the river. Small whirlpools were dancing and I was absorbed watching all this. Suddenly the water whispered to me, ‘Do you observe me flowing unhindered without resting? You should emulate me in living your life. I try to flow within the parameters of my two banks. When I transgress these there is flood, inundation and destruction all round. Take a lesson from it and never overstep the norms and standards laid down by ethics and morality.’ I was amazed to find how much there is to learn from this mighty river. The whirlpools talked about turbulence and turmoil but the most profound lesson came from the waves. They taught me the secret of human existence that further strengthened my belief in non-dualism of Indian philosophy. One of them even explained the reality in plain words. ‘Look at us,’ it said, ‘we are born of the waters of this river and we get merged in these waters. We are part of this whole although we appear to be distinct. Our ebb gives us a notion of being separate from the river but our flow shows us the reality of being part and parcel of the same river. We are witness to this phenomenon where one gives rise to many and many eventually become one.’ I was reminded of these lines from the Upanishads, ‘Poornam-adah poornam-idam poornat poornam-udachyate poornasya poornam-adaya poornam-evaavashishyate – Everything here is complete. Add complete to complete or subtract complete from complete, it still remains complete.’ We have to know this whole, this perfect and this complete, of which we are a part. Or is it that we appear to be a part but in reality we are the whole, as explained by the wave?

Three Doors to Knowledge

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

We are all eager to have knowledge in mundaneterms and enlightenment in spiritual terms and for this we try various methods and tread various paths. There are three doors to this seeking of knowledge and enlightenment as very clearly laid down in the Bhagavad Gita in the following verse:

Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevaya
Upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas-tattvadarshinah

(Seek that enlightenment by prostrating, by questions and by service; the wise, the seers into the Truth will instruct you in that knowledge.)

These three doors are ‘Pranipata’ or prostrating, ‘Pariprashna’ or questioning and ‘Seva’ or service. The first door is prostrating or making complete surrender. This involves ‘Shravana’ or reading the scriptures and listening to the words of wisdom from the knowledgeable. It presupposes an unflinching faith in the master ‘Guru’. There should be no problem in knocking at this first door. The very fact that we have entrusted the steering of the boat of our life in the hands of our teachers should see us through this first door. The sincerity of our reverence towards them and our unwavering faith will leave no option before them but to come to our rescue.

The second door is questioning and removing doubts. This is one of ‘Manana’ or deliberation. Whatever we read and hear has to be mulled over and deliberated so that we assimilate what we are taught. In doing so many doubts will spring up and many queries will be there in our mind, for which we shall need clarifications and expositions. When the teacher or a preceptor is present physically we are in direct contact with him and can ask him to clarify our doubts but when he is not present we have to act like Ekalavya. We have to meditate on his picture or a photograph or simply invoke his presence in our mind. In so doing we shall have the benefit of his constant guidance. As we go on with our deliberations, the doubts will get clarified and the queries will get answered.

The third and the final door is service. This is in the form of ‘nidhidyasana’ or dedication. In other words we have so far deliberated on all that we have read and heard. During this deliberation whatever clarifications we needed we have obtained. Now our mind is clear as to what we have to do in order to get mundane knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. Now the only thing that remains is to put it in practice and experience in actuality. Or to put it in a scientific terminology, the science that we have learnt is to be tested and applied in actual practice. This is very important because pure sciences are meaningless unless applied in the form technology. Shri Krishna has also stated in the Gita that ‘Jnana’ or knowledge must be supplemented by‘vijnana’ or practicals in order to make the knowledge‘Ashesha’ or absolute. He tells Arjuna,


‘Jnanamte’ham savijnanam idam vakshyami asheshatah,

yat jnatva nehi bhuyoh jnatavyam avashishyate 

– I shall give you knowledge together with its application, after knowing which nothing further remains to be known’.

Once we gain knowledge and get enlightenment after going through these three proven doors prescribed in the Gita, we shall attain supreme bliss.

To put it in the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘divinity will manifest in our personality in all the three aspects of thought, word and deed ‘vichar, vaani, karma’. If we are sincere God will shower His grace on us and lead us on the path of righteousness. 


by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

The entire cosmos is bound by the relationship of one kind or the other. The astronomical entities, stars and planets are in position with the relationship of gravitational pull. Some of these derive light from others. Some orbit round the other. There is a relationship between these celestial entities and the life on earth. The earth has life on the ground, in the water and in the sky. There is a co-relationship between these various forms of life. No doubt the man is the superior most creation but it has a close relationship with other forms of creation, which he is obliged to maintain. Man is born of his parents in a family. He has a blood relationship with his parents and the other members in the family, his brothers, sisters, cousins, grand-parents et al. He grows in the extended family and develops a relationship of love, affection and trust with other members. He takes position as a member of the society and establishes relationship with other members based on love, regard, trust and mutual understanding.

Mankind is not only divided into different religions but also different tribes, groups and Societies based on common interests, beliefs, nationalities and ideologies. Here again a relationship develops both intra-groups as also inter-groups. The ideal situation should have been that this relationship is based on love, brotherhood, compassion and kindness, manifest in giving rather than demanding, in selflessness and not selfish motives. But the truth is not that, the ground realities are very different. It is based on selfish interests, needs and necessities. This changed format of human relationship is shameful, to put it very mildly.

Civilizations have evolved over many millennia and so has the human relationship. The attitudes and approaches that were based on natural relationships and the bondages of sorts have changed drastically. One may very safely and perhaps appropriately call the present day relationship as need-based rather than emotion oriented. This is not surprising because the entire human behavior has become commercialized. Parental love is determined by the amount of service the children render or are capable of rendering. The love and regard for the parents is based on the amount of wealth that their children are likely to inherit. You get love and affection from your siblings and other relatives directly proportional to the extent of benefit, financial or otherwise, they are expecting from you. This is true at every level of relationship, at individual level, at social level, in the office and work places, within a country and internationally between various countries and nations.

The international scene is a remarkable example of this need-based relationship. There is oil, a major source of energy, available in the Middle-east and elsewhere. Rich and powerful nations are dependent on this supply and, therefore, they interfere in their internal affairs, try to influence their plans and policies so that their own interests are safeguarded. Many a time these countries even compromise on their own declared principles and ideologies while dealing with these oil-producing countries. Elsewhere they swear by their lofty principles even if the situations are the same. These mighty powers produce a number of goods for which they need a market. This need of a market to sell their goods again influences their attitudes towards different countries. Likewise they need raw material for their industries and labour force to run them. These come from specific countries, which are either poor or developing. This need again guides the attitude of the rich and advanced countries towards these countries supplying them raw material, providing them market or making good their need for the work force. Then there are strategic interests, military considerations and ego of the countries to maintain their supremacy and hegemony, which again influence their foreign policies (read relationship) towards other nations of the world. History is witness to the fact that even in an august body like the Security Council, which one would like to see as an impartial body devoid of any bias, whenever international disputes or cases of universal importance come to it for consideration these are viewed by different member countries subjectively and not objectively. Accordingly every member country gives its opinion with due regard to its own interests and not on the merits of the case.

This strange phenomenon of need-based relationship has permeated in every walk of life and in every sphere of human existence. In family relationship, in social interaction and in political life of a nation every relationship is guided by self aggrandizement, self interest and personal need. A brother is your brother as long as you fulfill his needs. A neighbor regards you his own as long as you are useful to him. Before entering into a relationship every person first of all asks himself, ‘how does this relationship help me’ or ‘what benefit do I derive from this arrangement’. Naturally, therefore, the relationship is short lived. It lasts so long as the interest lasts. Once the interest is served, the relationship ceases to exist. It is because of this that the nature of a relationship changes frequently and the partners in a relationship also change quite often. What is said about politics that there is no permanent friend or foe in it, applies equally to all other walks of life. The oft-quoted proverb, ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ has perhaps been coined because of this fact of life that all relationships are need based.    

A teacher’s relationship with his taught is based on the amount he pays for the tuition. A doctor’s relationship with his patient is connected by the amount of fees he gets. A shopkeeper is concerned with the profit he earns from his customer and not with the customer as such. The relationships are thus based on the salary, wages, remuneration, commission and other forms of payments. These relationships are seldom governed by a sense of duty, or a commitment to a cause or service unto mankind, nature or a principle. As in other walks of life the advanced technology and the scientific knowledge has also affected the relationship. Watching television and listening to the radio broadcasts has to a great extent replaced the habit of reading books, papers and journals and thus our attitude towards relationship with books, which used to be our best friends, has been adversely affected. Telephones, mobile phones, SMS’ and e-mails have drastically reduced social visits, down-sized leisure times and minimized hobbies, the relationship with which was for pleasure, happiness and mutual concerns and not selfish motives. It is not for nothing that a poet has lamented, ‘Dil doondta hai phir vohi fursat ke raat din, baithe rahe tassavure janan kiye hue  -  Once again my heart craves for days and nights full of leisure when I would sit back and think of my beloved.’ The changed nature of relationships has deprived us of these luxuries when we could with ease say that ‘we are doing nothing’, ‘we are just chatting’ or ‘we are just relaxing’.

We all must take a serious note of this phenomenon of need-based relationship. We have to bring back good old relationships based on love, compassion, kindness, brotherhood, service and the like. Then and then alone shall we see for ourselves what E.B.Brown said, ‘Love me for love’s sake’. Then we will see the truth behind the saying, ‘those who live for others do not live in vain.’ The institutions of marriage and family, which till recently were sacred, at least in the East, have been shattered by this need-based relationship. Their basic character has been eroded drastically. Families have got sub divided and the relationship between these smaller units is largely based on interests and needs instead of brotherhood and mutual regard as was the case earlier. Marriages are being replaced by live-in arrangements, which by their nature itself are arrangements founded on needs. Relationships between neighbours have become formal rather than natural. Communities and different religious groups accept each other on the principle of co-existence rather than human values. Nations have trade relations, political treaties and economic inter actions. Seldom do we see care for human dignity, liberty and lofty values. Seldom do we come across relationships based on kindness, care and compassion.

Time has come that we restore these human qualities, regard everyone as son of the mother earth, member of the human society and ensure a relationship of mutual love, brotherhood, care and compassion. Let our attitudes be self-less and let us learn to live for others. Let us take pleasure in giving and not in receiving, in offering and not in demanding. Let us pray for the welfare of all and for peace and prosperity of the entire human kind. ‘Sarve bhawantu sukhenah sarve santu niramaya, sarve bhadrani pashyantu, maa kaschid dukhabhag bhaveta – May all be happy; may all be free from grief, may all come across beauty and benevolence. Let no one suffer any trouble.’

What the Stars Foretell

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

These days all the leading journals and the daily News papers include a column from some well known astrologer giving a broad outline of the forthcoming events for all the stars. While the daily papers give this forecast on day to day basis, the journals and magazines provide forecasts for the entire month. In addition birthday forecasts also are provided. It is a matter of common sense that there are only twelve stars and, therefore, the entire mankind is to be divided into twelve groups, each group having a specific star sign. Naturally these forecasts cannot come true word for word for every single individual. These have necessarily to be taken as broad parameters of the events likely to follow as against forecasts emanating from a study of individual complete horoscopes showing the positioning of all the stars and their mutual interaction.

Some people do not believe in Astrology either because these forecasts have not come true in their case or they have not found a real astrologer and have got landed in the lap of some quack. I for one have full faith in this branch of learning as I consider it a well designed science. Three things are, however, essential in this regard to be kept in view. First and foremost the horoscope should be based on correct time, date and place of birth. Secondly the astrologer we consult should be an expert in this field not only a commercial money grabber. Thirdly it must be understood that one’s actions and deeds are capable of changing one’s destiny. After all what is destiny if not the result of past deeds and the stars are only indicators through their positioning and interactions. It is not for nothing that destiny in Sanskrit is also called ‘Karma-phala’ or the fruit of actions.

There is no doubt that Astrology is a science. It is closely connected with Astronomy. In India it is called ‘Jyotish’ and comprises two branches, ‘Siddhanta jyotish’ or Astronomy and ‘Phalit Jyotish’ or Astrology. The subject is so well developed that it forms one of the six recognized ‘Vedangas’ or the limbs of the Vedas, which means the ancillary literature of the Vedas. It is also a matter of common knowledge that this Science was learnt by the Arabs from ancient India and then carried first to their land with the name ‘Ilme najum’ or the knowledge of the stars and then onwards to Europe. The Astronomy deals with the entire solar system and galaxies, their positioning, movements and interactions. The Astrology details the effect of these stars and planets on human, plant and animal life. But we must not forget that we in India believe in ‘Karma’ theory, which lays down that our destiny is determined and formulated by the stock of past deeds no doubt but is subject to changes and alterations, for good or for bad, by the present deeds and actions.

Thus there are two types of forecasts, forecasts for the individuals based on their respective horoscope drawn on the basis of their time, date and place of birth and the broad outline of the forecasts in general, based on the positioning of the twelve main stars and their inter-relation at a particular period of time. The second type of forecast has necessarily to be sketchy, broad based and suggestive, rather than specific, detailed and clear as the first type should be and usually is found to be. The second type sometimes turns out to be funny as was experienced by me recently. The astrologer usually plays with the words in the brief forecast and instead of telling what is likely to happen, it says what we should or should not do. It is a command rather than a forecast, a directive rather than a fore warning. This reminds me of a famous joke about weather forecasts that cartoonists used to depict in olden days when our scientific instruments were not as sophisticated and accurate as they are now. Once there was a cartoon showing a man walking with an umbrella in rain by the side of the Weather Office and the board outside the office had this weather forecast written on it in bold letters, ‘it is raining’. This was saying the obvious. Sometimes there are similar obvious lines of forecast in our journals and newspapers, e.g. ‘you should be careful with your money or else you will lose it’, ‘do not trust any unknown person; you are liable to be duped’, etc. etc. In my case it was a different story altogether and an amusing one at that. I am a Piscean and it was forecast against my star as follows; ‘Your monkey brain will play tricks with you’, whatever that meant. I could hardly figure out what this forecast conveyed. I read it aloud to my family members and friends and all of them had a hearty laugh. I had been suffering from nerve pull in my right leg and thigh for some weeks and was under the treatment of an orthopedic doctor. Suddenly my ailment aggravated and I could not even stand erect and had to bend my back in order to ease the strain. I had to walk here and there in that position like a monkey. So it was not my brain that was to play a monkey but my body that turned into a monkey. Ah! What a forecast. Long live the astrologer concerned.

Later it was a neurologist who had to take the lead from this forecast. He examined me, had an MRI of my spine done, diagnosed my precise problem and treated me over a period of time. All the same I had to move like a monkey for over a week and thus proved the astrologer cent per cent right.

Man is a strange creature. He does what is in his powers and the rest which is out of his control he leaves to his stars. He forgets that destiny is nothing but fruit of actions and actions can move mountains. Suddenly he turns a fatalist and is engulfed by inertia. This is a retrograde situation not contemplated by our Rishis. This attitude sometimes becomes disastrous. To give an example I would quote a story published in a daily paper a few decades back. It was reported that a person working as a cashier in a firm at Darya Gunj in Delhi had committed suicide by lying down on a railway track. It transpired that a couple of weeks earlier he had consulted an astrologer with his horoscope. The astrologer had told him that he was going to die and that his family members would come down on to the street as beggars. Not realizing how he could make such a forecast just by seeing his horoscope alone and without consulting the horoscopes of other members, he believed in it and went on to take some action to avoid such a situation. All that he could think of was to embezzle a hefty sum of money from his company and make the future of his family secure. The theft came to the notice of his boss who filed a case with the police. Poor fellow lost the balance of his mind and took such a drastic step of losing his own life.

There is another feature, and a beautiful one at that, of the Science of astrology and that is the prescription of remedial and corrective measures. The knowledgeable astrologers suggest use of some specific gems, performance of some special type of worship called ‘Anushthan’ or chanting of certain ‘Mantras’ to either ward off the bad effects of some stars or to strengthen the good ones. These measures have two great virtues. Firstly these do show sizeable results and secondly they have a powerful effect on our thinking, psychology and the frame of mind. We feel prepared and dauntless to face the events and assured to come out of any difficulty unscathed. Naturally we take recourse to treatment and medicine if sickness is forecast and to other safeguards if any other peril is in offing. Indirectly, again we rely on ‘Karma’ or actions and not on fate as such, which is the fundamental teaching of our faith.         

Sai Baba

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

It was amusing for me to read and hear that Sai was no more. I thought he was all the more there even though he may not be bodily present. I was reminded of what Bhagavaan Gopinath once said, ‘Amar Chha maraan - does the immortal die?’ So he is always there either ‘Sashariri’or ‘Ashariri’,embodied or without body.  I have had the privilege of seeing Sai Baba four times, twice at Delhi and twice at Bangalore. At Delhi we heard his discourse and heard him singing a couple of Bhajans as well. But at Bangalore it was only ‘Darshan’.

If I caption it as ‘Sai and Me’, the story began in 1971. I had just returned from my posting in the U.K and we took a flat on rent in Old Delhi. One day my wife took ill and I showed her to a doctor. For three or four days there was no improvement in her health condition. I suggested that the doctor be changed but she would not agree. I attended my office next day in a sad mood. A senior colleague of mine enquired about my problem. When I told him that my wife, who was ill, was showing no signs of improvement, he took out a pinch of ashes and gave it to me. He said it was ‘Sai Vibhuti’ and should be smeared on the forehead of my wife. In the evening I applied the holy ashes to my wife and then went to see the doctor. To our utter surprise a different doctor was on duty. He plainly said that the previous doctor had mis-diagnosed her. He changed the medicine and she was quite well in the next three days.

Soon we came to know that there were quite a few families living in the vicinity who were devotees of Sai and would hold weekly Bhajan sessions, children’s camps and study circles. Both my wife and I joined them. We started attending weekly Bhajans and I joined the study circle too and we sent our son for children’s camps. We came to know more and more about the life and teachings of Satya sai Baba, his activities relating to village upliftment and miracles. Some of our neighbours narrated their own experiences of miracles like ‘Vibhuti’ falling from Baba’s photographs and sudden appearance of certain things from nowhere as such. I was not interested in miracles as much as I was in his teachings of truth and righteousness. One day some families from our neighbourhood went to Puttaparthi to have his darshan. Because of my pre-occupation in the office we could not plan a visit along with these devotees. My wife felt bad about our inability to make it to Prashanti Nilayam, the abode of Sai Baba. One day she expressed her feelings to me. Jocularly I said, ‘If he wants us to see him he will himself come to our house. Next moment a friend of my wife entered our room and informed us that Baba was expected in Delhi in a week’s time. Baba came and we saw him in Talkatora garden twice, heard his discourses and tuneful hymns.

Time passed. We had certain photographs of the Baba on the walls of our house. We read some literature about him, his life and his message for the good of the mankind. However neither did Sai come to Delhi thereafter nor did we go to see him. We talked about him and heard about him in our conversations with many devotees of his both Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris. Lot of information was gathered during weekly study circles. After sometime, we shifted to our own house and there also we used to have occasional Bhajan gatherings. I read an interesting book written by an American psychiatrist about Sai. He had come all the way from America leaving behind luxurious life style and stayed at Puttaparthi. He has frankly admitted that at first he regretted having taken this step but once he got the taste of spirituality, peace and tranquility, he thanked his stars for having taken the decision to come to Sai Baba. He returned to his native place only to come back along with his wife, brother and brother’s wife. A lady neighbor of theirs accompanied them. Before leaving America she was hospitalized for suspected breast cancer. She was mentally disturbed but an old lady, a fellow patient in the hospital, gave her a hymn to chant so that her reports are negative for any malignancy. She was declared safe, a minor operation was carried out and here she was at Puttaparthi along with her friends. The group was granted a private audience by the Baba and lo and behold the same hymn was sung by him which the old lady had given her in the hospital back home. The lady was in tears. She was sure that it was he who had saved her from the dreaded cancer.

By the end of 2004 we came to Bangalore. My good friend Dr. A.N.safaya, an ardent devotee of the Baba was Director of Shri Satya Sai Super Speciality Hospital here. We exchanged visits to each other’s house frequently and renewed our old association. One summer Sai came to stay in Brindavana, his residence at Whitefield. We went to have his darshan along with Safayas. This was after a gap of many decades. He was naturally the subject of our conversation whenever we met. Here again I had the privilege of studying some more literature about him and his activities. I was awe-stricken to know the amount of work that was being done under his direction for the welfare of the mankind, in the field of education, health, water resources, village uplift et al. It is no wonder that millions of devotees the world over, in more than 116 countries are attached to him and indebted to him for the transformation that he has brought in their physical, mental and spiritual life. After sometime Dr. Safaya was asked by the Baba to take over the mantle of running the hospitals at Puttaparthi. He had to leave Bangalore and we missed the company of a pious family and friend and the occasional conversation centered round Sai.

Here in Bangalore I have a professor friend, who lives in Indore but since his son is here, he visits this place quite often. Once he was here and he came to me suggesting that we visit Puttaparthi to have Baba’s darshan. I expressed my inability to leave Bangalore for some personal reasons. He said that in that case he would also not make the trip. I was sorry to have deprived an eager devotee from fulfilling his desire. Next day we had a telephonic talk with Safayas and came to know from them that Baba had moved to Bangalore for a brief stay of a couple of days and was scheduled to return to observe the death anniversary of his mother, Ishwaranba at Puttaparthi. I informed my professor friend and the next day we drove to Whitefield early in the morning at about 8 O’clock. We sat in the hall, quiet, eyes closed and feeling the bliss of the spiritual fragrance in the atmosphere. At about 10 O’clock Sai Baba was brought to the podium in his wheel chair. We had his darshan to our heart’s content and returned with a feeling of great achievement after joining the mass singing of hymns and bhajans.

For nearly a month Baba was in the hospital and on 24th April he decided to go back to his abode and leave his mortal frame here. Last rites of the mortal frame over, we will be left with his portraits, photographs and statues in private and public places, in homes and temples. We will continue to have access to the vast literature in various languages brought out for our guidance. The institutions started by Baba or by his devotees in his name will continue to function as desired by him and the common man will continue to derive benefit from these institutions and from the self-less service rendered by people manning these. But a lot of responsibility is on our shoulders too. We have to live and for that we have to fulfill our mundane needs. In doing so we have to restrict our demand only to our need and do away with greed. Actions in this field should be honest and detached as the Upanishad enjoins upon us, ‘Tena tyakhtena bhunjeetha, maa gridah  -  enjoy with an approach of detachment and covet not.’ Simultaneously, however, we have to ensure uplift of the spiritual aspect of our existence, by seeking liberation from ignorance, by exploring the truth and by attaining transcendental elevation where ‘Vyashti’, the individual part gets merged with ‘Samashti’, the universal whole. This is the real purpose of our existence and this is the goal attaining which should be our primary concern. This is the message of the sages and saints and this is the message of Sai Baba. He used to ask his devotees to approach him for spiritual guidance and not for mundane requirements. To sum up we need to understand that we have to strive for spiritual uplift and simultaneously serve the mankind, and if we can, serve all forms of the God’s creation.        

Krishna Joo Razdan

by Kundan

Krishna Joo Razdan
Krishna Joo Razdan

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