Friday 26 April 2019

Remembering HIM…

4th of July marks the day on which Swami Vivekananda shed his mortal coil. Not just because of this, but we should pick every opportunity to remember him, as his exhortations to our countrymen are more relevant than they were ever before. The cultural nationalism which he envisioned, is a mixture of both Humanism and Universalism, the two important principles of Indian Spiritual Culture. Unlike the western nationalism, which is materialistic, Indian nationalism is based on the Dharmic values. A spiritual voyage will be considered incomplete in India if it doesn’t encompass a deep rooted concern and action for the fellow countrymen who are reeling under poverty and ignorance. So Indian spirituality is always embedded with selfless service.  He wanted the Dharmic ideas to pervade our entire society. He believed that the revival of Indian Spirituality is not possible without the active participation of masses. He said, ‘Let a new India arise out of the peasant’s cottage grasping the plough; out of the hearts of the fisherman, the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop, from beside the oven of the fritter-seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from the marts and from the markets. Let her emerge from the groves and forests, from the hills and mountains’. 

At a time when the Vedantic ideas were confined to the domain of few elite intellectuals, it was Swami Vivekananda who took efforts to spread them to people at large. He said that, ‘ In India they tell me that I ought not to teach Advaita Vedanta to people at large. But I say that I can make even a child understand it. You cannot begin too early to teach the highest spiritual truths’.  He put the whole of religion in practice in these few words. ‘Each soul is potentially Divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work,  or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy,  by one  or more,  or all of these,  and be free. This is the whole of religion-doctrines,or dogmas,or rituals,or books,or temples or forms, are but secondary details’. He spoke only for 3 minutes during his first address in the world parliament of religions at Chicago, in 1893. But despite the brevity he made the sense of Universality very clear in the minds of the audience during that speech. His other speeches at the parliament also had the same theme of Universality. This message has become more relevant in the present circumstances where religious fundamentalism poses a grave threat to Humanity. While remembering him it is also pertinent to spread this message of Universality which will provide a succor to Humanistic and Dharmic ideas.


Yujyate Anena Iti Yogah...

The announcement of June 21st as the International day of Yoga has accelerated the growth of popularity of this age old Indic Spiritual Practice. That day is celebrated with lot of people practicing Yoga Asanas and Meditation.  In many of the countries it is a state sponsored celebration, thus getting much wider attention and coverage. With this increased popularity comes another danger. Off late there are louder voices which deny that it is a Indic spiritual practice and many of them claim that this is non-religious and thus has nothing to do with Hinduism.  While it is important to counter these claims, it is also pertinent to know the root cause of such claims. The imperial powers which were ruling us during the last century are not able to digest the fact that this wonderful wisdom which is actually a panacea for many of the modern day problems actually belong to a country which was enslaved by them. Though the imperial powers are no longer in the ruling seat, their new avatar the modern market driven capitalist countries are having the same kind of malice towards anything Hindu.  There are other misconceptions too about the practice of yoga which includes that it a mere physical exercise, a cure for all physical problems etc. But more than these misconceptions the first claim is the one which has to be countered as it tries to rob the intellectual property of India. Yoga's appropriation is yet another example of America and the West's racism and dominance over the world.  Renowned writer Koenraad writes about this vexing problem thus,
"...Naive readers may not have noticed it yet, but here we are dealing with an instance of a widespread phenomenon: the crass manipulation of the term “Hindu”. Every missionary and every secularist does it all the time: calling a thing “Hindu” when it is considered bad, but something (really anything) else as soon as it is deemed good. Many Hindus even lap it up: it is “instilled, albeit inadvertently.”

Thus whenever a society shows interest in Yoga, there will the so called academicians rushing to quell the effect of Indian Spirituality by calling Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism. Just compare this with the hurry in which they will distance Islam from Violence as soon any terrorist activity happens, you can see the conundrum of secular politics running at full steam during such occasions.

Yoga is a perception or explanation given to the Vedas and so it is classified as one of the sat darshanas, which means six kinds of explanations. Many great seers have given their explanations about Yoga, important among them being Sage Vasishta, Sage Patanjali, Lord Krishna in his Bhagavad Gita. There are several other evidences to prove that Yoga is a part of Indian Heritage. India should assert itself by citing these and reiterate before the international community that Yoga is very much a part of Hindu knowledge system. Asanas are a part of a very comprehensive Yoga Philosophy. It is actually the third limb of the ashtanga yoga popularized by Sage Patanjali. When the fact remains thus, it is improbable that the third limb asanas alone could have originated in a distant foreign land. 
Indian heritage is one which is lurking at extinction. But it has the wherewithal to survive as it has proved it several times in the last thousand years. There were many such civilisations and cultures which are already extinct now. Many of such pagan civilisations are now seeking a revival through their adherents who are very few in number. Those cultures are viewing India as their redeemer, since India is the sole representative of the ancient hoary civilisations. It is the only country in the world which has millennia old customs and rituals still being practiced with very few changes. But this fact is understood by the western world and that is the reason for their resistance to anything Hindu. A revival of ancient culture means a continuing embarrassment for the European Christian powers. Rev. Andras Corban Arthen ,a pagan revivalist and  spiritual director of the Earth Spirit Community has stated about this thus,

“For Christians, for example, an acknowledgment that the original pagan traditions were not completely wiped out opens the door to the unpleasant possibility that they may, finally, have to deal with the genocidal horrors which Christianity inflicted on Indigenous peoples throughout the world. Outside of Europe, the blame for such heinous acts — when they are even acknowledged — has conveniently been attributed to chiefly secular motives, such as excessive nationalistic ambitions and economic greed, which obscure their actual, fundamental aim and rationale. When the Christian colonization of Europe is factored in, however, it becomes a lot harder to camouflage the theologically-justified goal of creating a vast religious empire, which continued to be the foundation for most subsequent Christian European colonization elsewhere. But if no trace of the original European pagan traditions were to survive, the motivation to open that painful door becomes less compelling, and the comforting obliviousness of the status quo can remain untouched.”
This clearly explains the responsibility our country has, not just towards safe guarding its culture but also to act as a catalyst to revive and sustain the ancient cultures world over. International day of Yoga can become that catalytic force if taken with right spirit. Each and every culture is a repository of a knowledge system and if that culture is revived it will be a shot in arm for the humanity. 


A Fusion of ideas..

When Sister Nivedita was introduced to Swami Vivekananda, he found her as one with a great vision on education. Vivekananda firmly believed that the development and awakening of India depended mainly on the awakening of masses and particularly of the women who had been marginalized for a long time. And he believed that their development could be achieved only through education. It is for this purpose he called upon Nivedita to devote herself to the field of education, in particular female education in India. After the premature death of Swamiji, Sister Nivedita started focusing more on women education. It is clear that to Sister Nivedita nothing was more important than proper education. In her speech given on the occasion of the opening of Chaitanya Library, Nivedita submitted a long list of subjects which must be studied. The list included such subjects as ancient and modern history, archaeology, poetry, novels, and different branches of science, sociology, art-architecture-sculpture, religion and philosophy. This awe-inspiring list vindicates Nivedita's own vast erudition and learning. She also explained in her speech why all these must be studied with equal attention. 

When India was mired with the education which the colonial powers imposed on it, Sister Nivedita believed that the ideal of education must be in line with ideal of the nation. Since the British education was bent on alienating our people from their roots and denationalizing them, she wanted an education which would bring out the glorious cultural heritage of our nation. And she wanted that education to combine the best of both ancient and modern world. She also wanted this education to reach the men who are in the lowest ebb of the society. In this context we must read her thoughts which were as follows,
"We all know that the future of India depends, for us, on education. Not that industry and commerce are unimportant, but because all things are possible to the educated, and nothing whatever to the uneducated man. We know also that this education, to be of any avail, must extend through all 
degrees, from its lowest and humblest grades. We must have technical education, and we must have also higher research, because technical education, without higher research, is a branch without a tree, a blossom without any root. We must have education of women, as well as education of men. We must have secular education, as well as religious. And almost more important than any of these, we must have education of the people, and for this, we must depend upon ourselves." 

A fusion of oriental and occidental, which gives a character making education is what she dreamt of. That could be ideal education for our nation where millions are still groping with an education which seldom helps in their self-unfoldment. 

The level playing field tilts

The recent claims by few Lingayat leaders of Karnataka that they are not Hindus but a separate religion would have raised the palpitations of many in the Hindu society. That the ruling party is trying to polarize the society using this issue is very obvious. They support the Lingayats and are ready to grant them the status they are asking for, hoping to gain the Lingayat votes. They know very well that this will be struck down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, as it did in the Ramakrishna Mutt case 25 years ago.  In both cases it’s our law which has driven them to this futile attempt of claiming minority status. In the case of Ramakrishna Mutt, they filed a case in Calcutta High court seeking minority Status in order to save their Educational Institutions from Political interference. But the Supreme Court of India declared that neither Sri Ramakrishna nor Swami Vivekananda founded any independent, non-Hindu religion. Thus ended the RK Mission's desperate attempt to gain the privileges accorded only to minority religions in India, specifically, the right to manage their extensive educational institutions free from government control. The then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mutt, Swami Atmasthananda, told in an interview that, "Whatever legal brains have done is for lawyers to say." The RK Mission's explanation has been all along that it has taken this step to save its schools, and that the court statements are simply part of the necessary legal maneuvers. 

Now even after 25 years the Hindu society is in the same confounded situation where they have to seek the ignominious minority status in their own homeland, to have their administration free of unnecessary Government interference. Solution to this problem lies in abrogation of Article 30 of our Constitution which grants and upholds the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. While Article 30 was included along with its various clauses to protect the interests of the ethnic as well as religious minorities in India, it also has certain drawbacks. The very fact that minorities have the sole control of the educational institutions that they establish implies that the government cannot exercise any control over its formation as well as management. Hence, in case of malpractice, the government will not have the right to intervene and take control of the situation. Article 30 exempts the minority institutions from reserving 25% of its seats for the poor as per Rights to Education Act, which, is in stark contrast to fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. So instead of creating a level playing field this Article has only resulted in creating a favorable atmosphere for the minorities and resentment among the majority community. The term minorities have been defined without any reference to size. We can understand when Parsis are refered as minorities. but can the same tag be extended to Muslims? When there are 180 million of them around, making India the second-largest Muslim country in the world? This fact made Maulana Abul Kalam Azad say that Muslims were not minorities in India, instead he called them India’s second majority.

Ours is proclaimed as a secular country. But it is here where the temples of the majority community are under the control of the State, whereas, the minorities have the protection granted by law. This will probably be the only country in the entire world where the majority community helplessly saw its members reduced to the plight of refugees when the ethnic cleansing happened in Kashmir and Kashmiri Pundits were driven out of their homeland. This is a country where the beleaguered majority community which is facing attacks from all the fronts needs some protection. 

The spirit of the Article 30 is to ensure that the Minorities are not discriminated against. But in essence it has only resulted in Governments acting with impunity with regard to the majority community’s institutions and turning a blind eye to the happenings in the minority institutions.  It’s time to abrogate this Article which creates disparity among communities. Instead of asking the political parties to abolish this detestable provision the Hindu sects are seeking refuge in that very same provision. This approach is akin to putting the noose around our neck and walking further. Whatever be the grounds in which we seek this minority status, it will only result in that particular sect getting distanced from the mainstream Hindu samaj.  And it is this disintegration of Hindu society which the proselytizing Abrahamic faiths are eagerly looking for. These predatory faiths may also be at the back of these political dramas, hoping that if Lingayats are alienated from the Hindu society, then it will be easy for them to convert them.  It needs enormous political will and courage and an ability to look beyond vote bank politics and mere electoral gains to find a right solution to this issue which may otherwise become contagious.


Padmavibhushan For Vivekananda Kendra President Mananeeya P. Parameswaranji

Kendra workers all over India and Patriots and adherents of Hindu Dharma rejoice at the honour done to Kendra President Ma. P. Parameswaranji. He has been chosen for Padma Vibhushan award for the 2018 Republic day.

Born in Shertalai in Alappuzha district of Kerala in 1927, Shri Parameswaranji completed his college education in S.P. College of Changanassery and Tiruvanathapuram University College taking his B.A., (Hons) degree in history.
On the advice of Pujya Guruji Golwalkar he became an R.S.S. Pracharak in 1950. He became the Organizing Secretary, All India General Secretary and the Vice President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He underwent imprisonment during the emergency 1975 – 77. In 1977 he left active politics and dedicated himself to whole time writing, speaking and constructive work. He became the Director of Deen Dayal Research Institute Delhi and served that Institute for four years.

In 1982, he returned to Kerala, founded the National Research Centre, Bharatiya Vichar Kendra with its Head Quarters at Tiruvananthapuram. 
He became the Vice President and then the President of Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee and Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari. He used to speak to our youth on Swami Vivekananda and his National and spiritual ideals.
He is a patron of Gita Swadhyaya Samiti which takes the message of the Gita to the younger generation.

He was associated with the Kalady Advaita Ashrama and its founder Swami Aghamanandaji. Sri. P. Parameswaranji is also well connected with Ramakrishna Math.

He has great faith in the Gita concept of Selfless work and its efficacy in solving the society’s problems. In 1998 he started the Gita Decade. The Trichur Gita Sangamam involved 2000 youths. He organized in the year 2000, a National Seminar on Gita’s answers to contemporary problems and published the research papers as a useful volume. 1500 professors, researchers and thinkers participated in the seminar led by the then Human Resources Central Minister Dr. Murali Manohar Joshi and the Dalai Lama.

Sri. Parameswaranji played a useful role in the centenary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago speech (1993).

Widely travelled and well-versed in our Dharmic Literature Sri. P. Parameswaranji is a powerful speaker in Malayalam and English.

His untiring patriotic and Dharmic work was recognized by Kolkatta Bada Bazaar Library (Hanuman Prasad Poddar award in 1997), Jawaharlal Nehru, University Delhi appointed him as its Senate member. Mata Amritananda Mayi Math conferred its Amrita Kirti Puraskar upon him in 2002. He became a Padma Shree in 2004.

He has been the editor of Kesari and Manthan. He is the editor of all Kendra Periodicals. He is the Chief editor of Pragati the Research Quarterly.

He is the author of numerous books on Sri Narayana Guru, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and Indian Culture and values. His books on Marx and Vivekananda, From Marx to Maharshi, Bhagawad Gita and Hindu Dharma have been translated into Indian languages. His poems have been collected and published under the title Yajna Prasad. 

His 90th year celebrations were inaugurated by the Home Minister Sri Rajnath Singh in August 2017 in Kochi. The concluding programme at Tiruvananthapuram in December 2017 saw his collection of Articles, essays, speeches and other writings under the title “Heart beats of the Hindu Nation” being released by Pujaneeya Shri Mohanji Bhagawat the Sarsanghchalak.
Sri. Parameswaranji continues to serve the nation through his sage counsel,  work and writings.   

Man who saw GOD

As a young seeker Narendranath was very curious not just to know about God, but also to see him. With this keen interest he went to many great saints whether they could help him see God. But to his dismay none could give him the answer which he expected. Disappointed and desperate the young man one day, along with his friends, went to meet Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a somewhat eccentric priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar in Calcutta. At the first opportunity Narendranath asked him the same question - "Sir, have you seen God?"

But Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, unlike the erudite saints whom Narendranath met before, replied in rural dialect without mincing words - "Yes, I have seen God. I have seen Him more tangibly than I see you. I have talked with him more intimately than I am talking to you. But my child, who wants to see God! People shed jugs of tears for money, wife and children. But if they weep for God for only one day they would surely see Him." 

Narendranath was astounded. For the first time, he was face to face with a man who asserted that he had seen God. For the first time, in fact, he was hearing that God could be seen. He could feel that Ramakrishna's words were uttered from the depths of an inner experience. But on encountering Ramakrishna, Narendranath’s skeptical mind could not understand Ramakrishna’s ecstatic devotion to goddess Kali. He viewed Ramakrishna’s ecstasies and visions as mere imagination and hallucinations. He placed many questions and arguments before Ramakrishna, who patiently prodded him to “try to see the truth from all angles”. He intuitively knew that here was a genuine man to whom God was a living reality and not at all a philosophical concept or an intellectual pastime. It was under the tutelage of Sri Ramakrishna that Narendra Nath Dutta evolved into a full-blossomed spiritual soul, later to be known as Swami Vivekananda.

The spiritual initiation given by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa evolved Swami Vivekananda as an Advaitic, who can see the existence of God in the things that exist. From his guru Ramakrishna, Vivekananda learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the Divine; therefore, service to God could be rendered by serving mankind.