I think there is more to life than acquaintance or social relativism. The tribal peoples connect to the earth. People who follow a lunar calendar based traditions seem to be more sensitive connecting all within the divine. Whether we reach the point of recognising our collective humility I am still to see.
When we admit in each of us is every possible experience, and in every inconsistency an admission of our own shadow.
I often reflected on the Adivasi of India. There art is often admired but as a people they are marginalised. Their connection to land decimated by land grabbing demands of economic growth. It is easy to dismiss them, in the name of progress. To ignore the consequences to the environment.
The same is true of blaming Britain – and Britain did much harm. The few families that controlled her were exploitative in their policies. But why do people attack it so viscously?
I suggest because there is a shadow of fear within India that Britain exploited a weakness already apart of her. Go back and read the writings of the early Hindu reformers like Ram Mohan Roy and you see they express this point.
I know people will say I dont understand “because you are a foreigner”. I hear this said of people who have lived there for decades. The divisiveness that accuses me of not being able to understand, also blocks the accuser from self-reflection.
I have witnessed the most serene and sacred. I have equally felt a cynical disgust for saffron robed businessmen pretending to be holy. Their diya plastered sanctums of self glory.
At the call of dawn, in sari and Sunday best, I wonder if we can look beyond the symbols. There is great beauty in the serene devotion of people praying before the joyful Garnesh, or to consider the sweet sacrifice of Sita.
But what of the temple that sits beside an open sewer? The beauty of marigold flows onto the street, but so do the plastic bags that clog the drains and from them food scraps are eaten by cows, the swallowed plastic often causing agonising consequences.
It is all to easy to say that reality is an illusion and dismiss the consequences. This Maya however, is a reflection of who we are within. So how we treat others, and how we treat our world, is a mirror of how we view divine truth.
India is a land of hurt substance and of antique opulence but her full time arrived and now she seeks serenity through the reinvention of her past.
I wrote those words when I first arrived in India, and to understand her, summarized her changes in thought. My opinion have moderated through my Indian experience.
To large for one post, here is part one, from Akbar to Derozio, revealing my thinking of the past.
Dynasties rather than nations had ruled ancient India, although Ashoka, Samudragupa and Harsha held the loyalty of vast areas.
The Moghul emperor Akbar (1542- 1605) established a durable administrative system, and seventy five years after Vasco de Gama landed on the Malabar Coast, Akhbar enquired of the wonders, manners and customs of Europe. A font of spiritual and physical knowledge claims his biographer, AbulFazl,he “wished that these inquiries might be the means of civilizing (istinis, familiarity or sociability) this savage [unsocial] race”. He met with missionaries from Goa but was happier with his 300 wives that Christian monogamy.
The degenerating Mughul empire collapsed internally and following the passing of Aurangzeb was subject to Persian and Afghan attack. Each Hindu and Muslim prince sought a piece of the former empire but the British would emerge a dominant European ruler after supplanting the French.
There is an old false stereotype that a dynamic Christian world conquered a near vacuum of pagan illiterates with no history worth mentioning.
Rather, “Western European peoples struggled to emerge from feudalism, the merchants and manufacturers won the support of the state as a way of making the various nations stronger” claimed Gilberto Freyre.
Resulting technological innovation led to “European ships with their square-rigged mainmast sailed closer to the wind,” whereas ““Muslim and indigenous ships on the Indian Ocean sailed only with the monsoons” wrote Lucille Brockway.
“Muslim ships could not carry guns and still relied on boarding parties in naval battles. After centuries of borrowing from the East, European science was being translated into superior technology—better charts, navigational instruments, ships, and cannon.”
“Exchanging oarsmen for sails and warriors for guns meant essentially the exchange of human energy for inanimate power. By turning wholeheartedly to the gun-carrying sailing ship the Atlantic peoples broke down a bottleneck inherent in the use of human energy and harnessed, to their advantage, far larger quantities of power. It was then that European sails appeared aggressively on the most distant seas [Cipolla 1965:81].
Europe had no luxury items to trade with the East, except firearms, resulting in a drain of gold and silver throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Of India, Braudel (1966:569) quotes a Venetian merchant: “Silver goes where the pepper is.”
Nevertheless, “Hindu princes who were resisting Moslem invaders were eager to buy European guns and Arabian horses transported to India on Portuguese ships” wrote Brockway.
One of the supporters of the French was the Hindu agent Ananda Rangi Pillai (1709 – 1761) who shows a total absence of national consciousness. Rather he identifies with French interests. Although he strongly rejects the impropriety of a feast where each religious group and caste was represented together simultaneously as a corruption although each groups requirements and beliefs were respected. The Muslim trader, Mirza Abu Taleb Khan (1752- ?) recognizes errors that have kept into many Muslims life and criticized the pride and indolence of the British. Blind faith causes the British to wait until misfortune strikes rather than prepare and prevent it.
Mirza Abu Taleb Khan
He criticizes the worldliness, irreligion and love of luxury of the British but admits that since land ownership is so well protected in Britain it encourages people to work hard to live later years off the fruits of their labour.
In particularly he notes the ‘peculiar idea’ of the British that perfection is ‘merely an ideal quality, and depends entirely on comparison.’ In future ages the ‘exalted dignity’ of Newton will be looked back ‘as we now do on the rude arts of savages.’
Henry Derozio (1809- 1831) argued that if it is wrong to discuss the existence of God it is wrong to debate against the non existence of God. The theistic Derozio was dismissed from a Hindu school for presenting arguments for and against God – and criticized the Hindu ‘clamour’ over logical debate.
Yet in his poetry he portrays a romantic picture if Indian former glories, while lamenting its then present state calling for an Indian nationalism – as in his poem The Harp of India– and calling for the day when educated youth will overcome the forces of orthodoxy.
The Harp Of India
Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough? Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain; Thy music once was sweet — who hears it now? Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain? Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain; Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou, Like ruined monument on desert plain: O! many a hand more worthy far than mine Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave, And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine Of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave: Those hands are cold — but if thy notes divine May be by mortal wakened once again, Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!
Knowledge is not knowledge but the appearance of knowledge. Knowledge is only information. It does not transform you, but burdens you down.
The fool is at least innocent in his ignorance. Knowledge is ignorance to protect oneself. You must know what you do not know, else you knowledge is borrowed. You are a parrot. You think you now and go on repeating experts. You have to make knowledge you own and give it your own face. Once you know from within knowledge is not the se when experienced from without.
It is spoken from a personal authority and not from a teacher. Hence the Gospels say Jesus spoke his sermon on the mount with authority and not as the rabbi’s.
My message is transferred in silence said the Buddha: a love affair between guru and disciple.
Knowledge satisfies the ego, but wisdom destroys it: If you know you have an immortal soul you will weep tears of fear as death knocks on your door, in the wasted emptiness of ego.
But wisdom is experienced. Wisdom is not about anything. It is to be tasted. When you experience your past life in the touch of a tree that helps you see.
It is not belief, for belief is the profession of priests.
Wisdom is within you. It is laid down, hidden in the Bible, the Gita, the Dhammapada: if only you are open and ready to inquire, to plunge innocently into your heart.
Every day children experience the meaning of the Fall from innocence: that the fruit of the tree of knowledge corrupts and keeps us from wisdom.
Knowledge in and of itself, knowledge as such, is false: Jesus is right, Christianity is false; Mahavira is right, Jainism is false. Their knowledge is a commodity. You can read it in the Bible, or search the internet, just as you can read Das Kapital, or the writing Mao Zedung.
Drop your knowledge so you can re-enter Eden in innocence.
Be a light unto yourself and then you can be a light to the world. If you seek to light the world, but not yourself, your light is darkness.
When a Guru asks come be my disciple he does not ask you to be a clone. Look at the saints of the past: so many were excommunicated, ostracized and even crucified. A true master teaches you to be a master to yourself.
So drop your knowledge and then meditate and look within.
When the Buddha was to leave the earth, Gautama asked his chief disciple, Ananda, why he was crying “”Because you are leaving, because our light is leaving. We see, we feel darkness descending upon us.”
Buddha said, “You are crying because you have not heard me yet. I have been telling you again and again: Don’t believe in me — but you have not listened. Because you have believed in me, and now I am dying, your whole structure is falling apart. Had you listened to me, had you created a light into your being rather than becoming knowledgeable through me, if you had experienced your own self there would have been no need to cry.
“”Look at Manjushree! Go and ask him why he is not crying.” he said. The disciple Manjushree was sitting under a tree just close by, with closed eyes, so serene, so quiet, so utterly blissful.
So the disciples asked Manjushree and he laughed.
“What reason is there to cry? Buddha has helped me to know my own light” he said. “I am thankful, I am grateful, but there is no darkness descending. And how can Buddha die? I know I cannot die — how can Buddha die? He will be here. Just as a river disappears in the ocean he will disappear into the cosmos. But he will be here! He will be spread all over the cosmos. It is going to be something tremendously beautiful. Buddha was confined to a small body; now his fragrance will be released, he will permeate the whole of existence. I am tremendously happy that now Buddha will be spread all over space. I will be able to see him rising in the sun and I will be able to see him flying in a bird and I will be able to see him in the waves of the ocean… and I will be able to see him everywhere.
“He is simply leaving his body. It was a confinement. And how do I know it? I know it because I have known my own soul. I listened to him and you have not listened to him — that’s why you are crying.”
The Buddha then said, “Let me repeat again: APPA DIPO BHAVA — be a light unto yourself.”
Imagine if instead of being woken by the dawn, you have the power to wake up the sun. I do not mean that birds wake up the dawn. But to wake from the night of doubt in preparation for the dawn.
Prayer IS meaningful. Prayer is not empty. Prayer can anchor us to sublime feelings and take us from the doubt that conflicts us with our body.
In NLP we anchor change to powerful intense passions. Prayer is more subtle and sublime.
In sin we are torn from our mother and judged by our father. So follow your heart and expect miracles.
We cannot serve the commandments of the Upper One if we do not know what the creator needs. Inversely, a man cannot serve his wife if she hasn’t told him her desires.
“The dawn does not awaken me, I awaken the dawn” say the kabbalists. It does not mean birds wake up the sun, but in the night of our deeper doubts we prepare for the dawn of a new life.
“We should fight” with Gandhian new age intentions not fight elsewhere in blame of “it’s your fault” with masculine combativeness alone but feminine nurture together, as lovers.
Joined in the middle to find peace within.
We must have a conviction beyond our life. Like Churchill who was convinced he would not die until he finished his World War II mission. I do not encourage the ecstatic religious fervour that leads to violence. Rather the honourable belief that you are here for a reason.
It may seem that life is a smashed vase or an urn. To contain all our possibilities we have to piece it back together. It is like Persephone living with the Lord of death, so she can return and blossom in spring.
For true prayer is not words. Of course, there is great power in personal and communal prayer. The scientist Herbert Benson who described the relaxation response, also discovered its effect is amplified using the chants and prayers of faith over meaningless syllables.
Yes, prayer can offer physical and communal change, but prayer is like incense. Its scent has upper, middle and lower “notes” sensed differently by each individual.
In the Chassidic text Tanya I am reminded of an intrinsic link between spiritual and physical, between the religious world and the body. This not need magic in the sense of controlling the spirits, but alchemy a religion that is socially unifying whereas magic is personally self centred, it is often apart from organised culture.
In Inani Tibb healing may accompany reading averse from the Quran, or even the drinking of water that has washed a Quranic text.
Similarly some Jews recite the Zohar. Chassidism links the spiritual body to the positive and negative commands of Torah, using them to heal.
As above, so below is repeated in the psychosocial healings of Marsilio Ficini, Pico Delqua, Miandola, Paracelsus and John Dee labelled in an arbitrary doctrine of signatures.
Then the Reformation separated the spiritual and physical.
I suggest the breach will be healed more scientifically and by the meanings we give to symbols in our new world. They work by shifting our world view or the messaging triggers of symbolic categories in our unconscious. They trigger child birth ritual ink symbolically to even the Sharman’s chant. Trigger a cultural meaning.
Where earth and land is the “kingdom of heaven”; the emblem of the creator
Then we like the prodigal son who returns, (“return when we find ourselves”, as the Sufi’s say), and discover that darkness was our opportunity to realise our deeper truth.
The Gita inspired the Independence Movement: the Gita inspired both Tilak’s call for violent over throw and Gandhi’s clarion for non violence. Aurobindu spoke of Tantric passion in his call for independence, and puritan Victorians responded (unfairly)that Indians were over sexualised, and early marriage weakened their mental disposition.
“The Hindu student, depraved . . . by too early eroticism, turns to the suggestiveness of the murder-monger and worships the nitro-glycerine bomb as the apotheosis of his goddess.”
A century back, Valentine Chirol the independence movement “in its extreme forms Shakti worship finds expression in licentious aberrations which . . . represent the most extravagant forms of delirious mysticism” (Indian Unrest , 1910).
These attacks have led some to reject Western science when it attempts to place the ancient past on a timeline. I would love the past golden to be discovered scientifically: Article 51 of India’s constitution includes as the duties of a citizen developing a scientific temper.
But if it cannot be, does it matter?
A retired Indian Army Colonel once advised me not too worry. “We cannot even prove that Krisna even existed. But that is not the point. The message of the Gita us timeless. It is outside of space and time.”
What I might call an archetype, a coded message in our psyche. What Jean Houston would describe “something that never happened but is always happening.” A legend – that is the key on the side of our mental page that allows us to read our psychic terrain to go beyond the image (or the computer screen) to access the real life.
Perhaps we can learn lessons from the repeating pattern of past ages . Fractal patterns of history repeat with their own its own unique echo in modern history.
But looking at these lessons from the position of objective witness we can embrace life without falling into self loathing guilt trip of failing to be good Hindu’s, Muslims Christian etc.
Guilt is a cry for help. So I can sympathise with the bhakti call for a religion of no religion similar to what Krishna describes in the Bhagavad Gita (18:66). “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”
However, let’s think a little more pragmatically.How could we personally apply the Gita’s advice ?
Karna confronts Krishna
The question haunts me. The themes of karma and Krishna’s grace contradict each other and the Gita leaves enough room for both sides: a little bit more than how the later bhakti movement is now interpreted .
Krishna proclaims “Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into transmigration, into various demoniac species of life” (16,19). Also: “Those who worship me and surrender all their activities unto me, being devoted to me without hesitation, engaged in devotional service and meditating unto me, I deliver them quickly from the ocean of birth and death” (12,6-7).
Yet his ‘Avatar’ is subject to karma, killed when shot on his own ‘Achilles heel’ in the Mahabharata. Karma seems to move on with detached clockwork precision. This leads to the Gita leaving unexplained the contradictions between Vaishnavism’s claim that Krishna is only an incarnation of Vishnu wheras the Gita’s super-personal Krishna is the Supreme Lord of the Universe (5,29), eternal (4,6) and the source of all existence: “I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from me” (10,8). , spiritual and material (9,16-19; 8,4; 10,20-42) even contrary to Vedanta, the source of Brahman (14,27) and contrary to Vaishnavism he is the instrument of attaining fusion with Brahman (14,26). Although the intention of components.
Then there is the personal decision we face like Ajuna.
Do we obey duty or dharma verses the karma we must face if we do our duty against our conscience. Krishna tells Ajuna “When you become confused in your false ego you say to yourself, ‘I will not fight’ you are misled. By your nature you must fight” (18,59). Action is better than inaction we are told, the three gunas of Krishna’s past karma, and his warrior caste, determine his nature or prakriti. Our past karma is the hand we must play in the game of life which limits our choices.
Ajuna must break the Vedic code by killing his relatives. “Those who think that they can kill or those that think they can be killed are confused in the manifestations of ignorance. The infinite, immortal soul can neither kill nor be killed” (2,19). Therefore Arjuna is free to kill his relatives, considering them only temporary abiding forms for the eternal self, mere mortal frames.
Or as S. Dasgupta states in his commentary:
The theory of the Gita that, if actions are performed with an unattached mind, then their defects cannot touch the performer, distinctly implies that the goodness or badness of an action does not depend upon external effects of the action, but upon the inner motive of action. If there is no motive of pleasure or self-gain, then the action performed cannot bind the performer; for it is only the bond of desires and self-love that really makes an action one’s own and makes one reap its good or bad fruits. Morality from this point of view becomes wholly subjective, and the special feature of the Gita is that it tends to make all actions non-moral by cutting away the bonds that connect an action with its performer.
-S. Dasgupta, Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarsidass, 1991, vol.2, p. 507.
But if “actions are performed with an unattached mind, then their defects cannot touch the performer” then why does Yudishthira, Arjuna’s brother, try to expiate the sin of killing his relatives at Kurukushetra through repentance, gifts, asceticism and pilgrimages (Mahabharata12,7). Yudishthira bad conscience could not be cleansed by a right mind, he needed compensatory acts.
Does not a morality that any act is good as long as it is dedicated to God risk becoming the justification of terrorism? If God controls all could I not decide, as Ajuna is asked to do, to reject well-established moral codes?
The demon Kamsa, whose corruption of karma Krishna came to destroy, used the same argument to kill the children of Krishna’s parents in the Bhagavata Purana;
In the bodily conception of life one remains in darkness without self-realization, thinking “I am being killed” or “I have killed my enemies”. As long as a foolish person thus considers the self to be the killer or the killed, he continues to be responsible for material obligations, and consequently he suffers the reactions of happiness and distress.
Perhaps Krisna, whose avatar comes to destroy Kamsa intends to fight fire with fire.
If the same “detached” perspective on moral values can be used both by the demon Kamsa, who caused the corruption of the dharma, and by Krishna as the divine avatar who came to restore it (Gita 4,6-7) and kill the demon, it is hard to accept that such an approach could represent a true basis for morality.
This I suppose where we as a society and individually must balance the competing forces of life, lest the eros of fanaticism and nationalism takes over.
True detachment is does not stop with nihilistically accepting reincarnation to justify defiance, violence or terrorism.
We must be fully prepared to take the full consequences of our Karma. To go inside and listen.. We must accept communion with the unborn and unmanifest the whisper of the soul can be heard.
As the victors at Kurukshetra reflected
“Alas, having vanquished the foe, we have ourselves been vanquished in the end! The course of events is difficult to be ascertained even by persons endued with spiritual sight. The foes, who were vanquished have become victorious! Ourselves, again, while victorious, are vanquished!” Mahabharata Sauptika Parva Section 10
I find India a giant chaotic Samsara from which a few escape by looking within and find nirvana.
Family and special relationships are equally a source of ecstacy and torment, heaven and hell. India is a giant family and offers us both.
Perhaps we find tranquility in a temple, or by an artwork, where great artists have found shape for a feeling.
Osho claims, perhaps apocryphally, that a great French artist said “I draw pictures only to find what form a certain emotion, a certain feeling of my heart, can take on a canvas. In my efforts to express that feeling, a picture emerges.”
I cannot find the source of these words, but find its theme true among my artist friends..
Perhaps meditating on art may reveal the feelings of the artist. In great art we see something of ourselves . For while you may see the form etched on the canvas, but concentrate and the nature of mind resonates from beneath the cross hatched lines. Consider a flower you may be drawn to the symmetry of the petals, or a beautiful face, because it corresponds to an inner image of beauty within. Or perhaps you feel the discomfort of an ugly face that challenges your ideals of beauty.
Osho instructively uses Gurdjieff distinction of Eastern art “objective art” and Western art “subjective art.”
“Objective art, art which has some intrinsic quality which can be imparted for thousands of years. The work of art is a code word. After experiencing meditation for thousands of years, mediators’ have come to recognize that a certain posture, a certain way of sitting, a certain way of the eyes, can create in anybody a synchronicity, a sympathy; some sympathetic note can be stirred by the statue.”
In the East a statue is not made for its own sake. It is made as a code language for centuries to follow. Scriptures may disappear, languages may change, words may be interpreted. There may be disputes about theories…
But anybody who is capable of sitting silently by the side of this statue will have a certain thing stirred in the heart. This is objective art.”
So in the Buddha statue we see an archetype, perhaps shaped and reflected by our own inner world. At times we may find this archetype in the still simplicity of the sunset, when we pause and see with no thought.
In great art the archetype remains even if scriptures are lost and doctrines misinterpreted. Sit beside as Buddha or on of the Mahavira, statues which at times look much the same:
“There is no question of dispute, there is no need of any commentary. Anybody who is capable of sitting silently by the side of this statue will have a certain thing stirred in his heart. This is objective art.”
Osho was trying to illustrate the essence behind the story and extract an inner state from his listeners. This is why some people dispute the details he gives in many of his stories.
Whatsoever you see creates its echo within you, and in some deep sense you become like that which you see.
– Osho, Hidden Mysteries, Chapter 4
If we can see the resonance of form, to find the core of our inner world, in equanimity everything we do can be divine.
The tantra, mantra and yantra of art
The picture is itself a state that is deeper than the image. Look at photos of your last journey and you elicit memories. A photo of you meditating deeply mat licit the state anchored in your being.
“Just watching Mahavira’s statue you may fall into a meditative state. That was their original function. They were not made to be worshipped, they were made to make you aware of a certain state. The statue is of a certain state, not of a certain man; that man is irrelevant.”
Very few truly good artists, musicians or writers can create such artifacts that can give you a resonance inside you.
In a Jain temple and you will see twenty-four statues of twenty-four teerthankaras, the founders of Jainism, and you will be unable to make out any difference between them; they are all alike. Whose statue is this? Mahavir’s? Parswanatha’s? Adinatha’s?
These statues have nothing to do with the people. These statues have something to do with what was happening inside those twenty-four people, and that was exactly the same.
The point is not the form, but the archetype within. This experience is a form of tantra, or techniques for expanding your consciousness, “finding your inner sound, your inner rhythm, your inner vibration” or inner mantra.
“Once you have found your mantra, it is of tremendous help: just one utterance of the mantra and you are in a totally different world. That becomes the key, the passage, because once uttering that mantra, you fall into your natural vibe.”
The inner mantra of a mountain scene may elicit serenity within you, just as a pop song may arouse you sexually.
Similarly, the statues of a divinity, or a Buddha, or Mahavira become Yantra’s , or figures, to elicit a state from within you.
“Watching a Buddha statue is watching a yantra. The figure of the statue, the geometry of the statue, creates a figure inside you. And that inside figure creates a certain vibe. It was not just imagination that happened to you, those Buddha statues created a certain vibe in you.
Watch the state of Buddha sitting so silently, in a certain yoga posture. If you go on watching the statue, you will find something like that is happening within you too.
The outer is not the outer, and the inner is not just the inner; they are joined together. So beware of what you see, beware of what you listen to, beware of what you read, beware of where you go – because all that creates you.”
For this reason all great art eastern art is born out of meditation
They have nothing to do with religion. A certain secret science has been used for centuries so the coming generations could come in contact with the experiences of the older generations – not through books, not through words, but through something which goes deeper – through silence, through meditation, through peace.
As your silence grows; your friendliness, your love grows; your life becomes a moment-to-moment dance, a joy, a celebration.
I have been meditating on a non existent natural blue rose
It doesn’t exist because it would be hard to see against the preponderantly green leaves of nature. This hasn’t stopped gardeners from trying to breed a blue rose. There is the genetically modified blue carnation. True, there is the blue Gentin with pointers visibleto bees in ultraviolet light,
Gardeners have spread flowers across the continents designing their land for painterly effect of colour, texture and composition. In nature, flowers are purely sexual: reproducing, competing and spreading their seed. Bees see more red and butterflies red and yellow and honeyeater birds want dripping nectar, often in deep tubes, on strong stems. Night flyers are attracted to pale strongly scented flowers. The lemon scented jasmine dead looking by day comes alive at night. Pygmy or honey possums may forage from the strong stemmed gravillea. Millions of pollen grains are needed when cast randomly to the wind.
How does this relate to meditation?
What appears beautiful to us is not what the bee or butterfly sees. There is more to a flower than meets the eye. There is more yo be observed than our common sensory input reveals.
We have all heard of blind people gifted with increased hearing or sense of touch. Some meditations help us reduce our sensory distractions.
But what if we had no choice? Then I remembered Helen Keller and a story told by Osho.
I read Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) in high School and was struck by her beautiful descriptions of nature. From “the anguish and horror … bowed down by the twofold weight of blindness and deafness,” Helen became a highly cultured mystic in the Hermetic-Platonic tradition.
At age nineteen months, Helen was diagnosed with “acute congestion of the stomach and brain” and left her blind and deaf from high fever.
“A Phantom in a No-World” is how she later described her five years of complete isolation. “Like a ship in a dense fog, groping its way without compass or sounding-line’, she lived in ‘a conscious time of nothingness. I did not know that I knew aught or that I lived or acted. I had neither will nor intellect. . . I had no power of thought.”
Most of us think with pictures and words. Asked not to think of s pink elephant, we do.
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, was a former teacher of the deaf, whose eife couldnot hear. He encouraged the Keller to the Perkins Institution for the Blind, who recommended a half-blind twenty-one year old Irish woman named Annie Sullivan.
They first met on March 3, 1887.
“My teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, had been with me nearly a month, and she had taught me the names of a number of objects. She put them into my hand, spelled their names on her fingers and helped me to form the letters; but I had not the faintest idea what I was doing. I do not know what I thought. I have only a tactile memory of my fingers going through those motions and changing from one position to another.
“One day she handed me a cup and spelled the word. Then she poured some liquid into the cup and formed the letters w-a-t-e-r. She says I looked puzzled and persisted in confusing the two words, spelling cup for water and water for cup. Finally I became angry because Miss Sullivan kept repeating the words over and over again.
“In despair she led me out to the ivy-covered pumphouse and made me hold the cup under the spout while she pumped. With her other hand she spelled w-a-t-e-r emphatically. I stood still, my whole body’s attention fixed on the motions of her fingers as the cool stream flowed over my hand. All at once there was a strange stir within me–a misty consciousness, a sense of something remembered. It was as if I had come back to life after being dead!”
“I was like an unconscious clod of earth. There was nothing in me except the instinct to eat and drink and sleep. My days were a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation, without interest or joy.”
More than merely physical–that it was an awakening to mental realms.
“Now I see it was my mental awakening. I think it was an experience somewhat in the nature of a revelation. I showed immediately in many ways that a great change had taken place in me. I wanted to learn the name of every object I touched, and before night I had mastered thirty words. Nothingness was blotted out! I felt joyous, strong, equal to my limitations! Delicious sensations rippled through me, and sweet, strange things that were locked up in my heart began to sing.”
“When the sun of consciousness first shone upon me, behold a miracle! The stock of my young life that had perished, now steeped in the waters of knowledge, grew again, budded again, was sweet again with the blossoms of childhood. Down in the depths of my being I cried, “It is good to be alive!” I held out two trembling hands to life, and in vain would silence impose dumbness upon me henceforth.
“That first revelation was worth all those years I had spent in dark, soundless imprisonment. That word “water” dropped into my mind like the sun in a frozen winter world.
“The world to which I awoke was still mysterious; but there were hope and love and God in it, and nothing else mattered. Is it not possible that our entrance into heaven may be like this experience of mine?”
Few will ever experience as deep a life affirming self realisation. Without preconceived notions, Helen could experience a break through to meaning mediated through touch and smell. Her regeneration from a living death to humanity, grasping what religious sages describe as a change from “death” to life.
What lesson can we learn from this story?
With only touch and smell, Helen learned about new-born life when Annie had her hold an egg in her hand so that she could feel the baby chick ‘chip-chipping’ its way out through the shell.
Of her teacher, Helen wrote:
“Poetry and music were her allies. In her fingers words rang, rippled, danced, buzzed, and hummed. She made every word vibrant to my mind–she would not let the silence about me be silent. She kept in my thought the perceptive, audible, and other qualities of every object I could touch. She brought me into sensory contact with everything we could reach or feel–sunlit summer calm, the quivering of soap bubbles in the light, the songs of birds, the fury of storms, the noises of insects, the murmur of trees, voices loved or disliked, familiar fireside vibrations, the rustling of silk, the creaking of a door, and the blood pulsing in my veins.”
Teaching Charlie Chaplin the manual alphabet
We are told our brain makes neural connections. relationship between the human sensorium and the power of the human mind Similarly, Helens new life seems to me made by her ability to make connections through touch and smell to form meaning with her outer environment. In some esoteric traditions the senses are similarly mixed: the Jews “saw the voices” from Mount Sinai, the famous Rabbi Akiva claims the experience. A more secular suggests we created god from multiple and mixed senses, while mediators may believe increased perception is a divine gateway.
When asked how she taught Helen abstract ideas like gladness, goodness, love, and beauty, Annie Sullivan replied “It isn’t the word,but the capacity to experience the sensation that counts. The word love she learned as other children do, — by its association with caresses.”
As Helen herself said:
“My fingers cannot, of course, get the impression of a large whole at a glance; but I feel the parts and my mind puts them together. I move around my house, touching object after object in order, before I can form an idea of the entire house… It is not a complete conception, but a collection of object-impressions which, as they come to me, are disconnected and isolated. But my mind is full of associations, sensations, theories, and with them it constructs the house. The process reminds me of the building of Solomon’s temple, where was neither saw, nor hammer, nor any tool heard while the stones were being laid one upon the other.”
“Touch cannot bridge distance,-it is fit only for the contact of surfaces,-but thought leaps the chasm. For this reason I am able to use words descriptive of objects distant from my senses. I have felt the rondure of the infant’s tender form. I can apply this perception to the landscape and to the far-off hills.”
Smell is, for her, “the fallen angel” of the senses:
“Touch sensations are permanent and definite. Odors deviate and are fugitive, changing in their shades, degrees, and location. There is something else in odor which gives me a sense of distance. I should call it horizon–the line where odor and fancy meet at the farthest limit of scent. Smell gives me more idea than touch or taste of the manner in which sight and hearing probably discharge their functions. Touch seems to reside in the object touched, because there us a contact of surfaces. In smell there is no notion of relievo, and odor seems to reside not in the object smelt, but in the organ. Since I smell a tree at a distance, it is comprehensible to me that a person sees it without touching it.”
So Helen learned to “listen’ to a tree. And to imagine beauty as a form of goodness.
Rather intriguingly a Dr Tilney tested her sensitivity, and found her not any more sensitive than the average human. When spun on a chair she could only tell by the feeling of air on her face.
“The great difference exists in her use of the senses by the development of her brain” he concluded, long before we could test for neuro-plasticity. We are left with ambiguous speculations.
“I understand how scarlet can differ from crimson because I know that the smell of an orange is not the smell of a grapefruit. I can also conceive that colors have shades, and guess what shades are. In smell and taste, there are varieties not broad enough to be fundamental, so I call them shades.” – Helen Keller
At worst, she was criticised for literary flourish using the word colour in ways that to sighted people would not make sense.
“Philosophy constantly points out the untrustworthiness of the five senses and the important work of reason which corrects the errors of sight and reveals its illusions.”
Helen Kellers life suggests there i more to reality than sense perception. Our mind creates our reality. For positivists to lose part of perception was to lose part of reality is lost.
This has been a perennial philosophic debate.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz suggested “Being, itself, and truth are not known wholly through the senses; for it would not be impossible for a creature to have long and orderly dreams, resembling our life, of such a sort that everything which it thought it perceived through the senses would be but mere appearances. being and of truth is found therefore in the Ego and in the understanding, rather than in the external senses and in perception of external objects.” Or as Max Plank simplified it “As long as we logically pursue the positivist teaching we must exclude every influence of a sentimental, aesthetic, or ethical character from our minds…””
“With Helen, we have a clear case of someone who thought of herself as having instrumentation, from which an image of reality could be gleaned through the mind; through generating a mental picture which can, potentially, be something completely efficient. She implies that her imagination is more actively engaged as a result of lacking the sense of vision. The particular burden of vision, as she describes it, is that the sensing person is less clear of the fact that their mind is forming a picture of reality from impressions of instruments. Reality is not being imparted from the eyes to the mind, which is simply a receptacle. Rather, the mind is always working to construct this picture of reality, and perhaps more so when the impressions are not being perceived at the same time, as with an image which can only be built up over time. At least the primacy of the mind’s role may be more clear to the perceiver in this case. She says that she will not claim who generates a more efficient conception, the seer or the blind, who sees through touch, but as her own writings show clearly, this woman who could not see, had a real sense of the power of her own mind, and an efficient conception of reality, which we know because her thoughts can move us and can generate powerful ideas within our own minds.” – Meghan Rouillard
Yet Helen heard more without sound
Helen Keller in India
“Critics delight to tell us what we cannot do. They assume that blindness and deafness sever us completely from the things which the seeing and the hearing enjoy, and hence they assert we have no moral right to talk about beauty, the skies, mountains, the songs of birds, and colors… Some brave doubters have gone so far even as to deny my existence… I throw upon the doubters the burden of proving my non-existence. When we consider how little has been found out about the mind, is it not amazing that any one should presume to define what one can know or cannot know? I admit that there are innumerable marvels in the visible universe unguessed by me. Likewise, O confident critic, there are a myriad sensations perceived by me of which you do not dream… Certainly the language of the senses is full of contradictions, and my fellows who have five doors to their house are not more surely at home in themselves than I…“
Of a soprano she said “When I read the lips of a woman whose voice is soprano, I note a low tone or a glad tone in the midst of a high, flowing voice.” When she ‘heard’ Enrico Caruso she was moved to tears.
Sound uses our entire body as a resonator, feeling the touch of a singers powerful voice is not impossible.. Lyndon LaRouche suggested she had a kind of sixth sense which perceives other characteristics beyond the sound of classical music, or helps us know we are part of the human species even if we are blind and deaf.
If her gift cannot be explained by senses or supersenses, as Dr. Tilney concluded, then didthe higher power of language help her grasp ideas which bridge single sense impressions and develop them?
Annie Sullivan insisted Helen use complete sentences.
For example, Helen learned the word to think when her teacher Anne Sullivan wrote on her head while she was beading a necklace. But in later in life she could use the word in different contexts.
“I cannot always distinguish my own thoughts from those I read, because what I read becomes the very substance and texture of my mind,” or,
“Just as the wonder-working mantle of the Nautilus changes the material it absorbs from the water and makes it a part of itself, so the bits and pieces of knowledge one gathers undergo a similar change and become pearls of thought,” or, “Greek is the loveliest language that I know anything about. If it is true that the violin is the most perfect of musical instruments, then Greek is the violin of human thought.”
While we may never know how Helen Keller constructed her thought world, she prove to us the power of the mind to create a reality.
“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist” wrote Emerson. I suggest it is was true for the Helen Keller.
Given a a copy of Emanuel Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell in raised letters, Helen found in it “a likeness of a God as lovable as the one in my heart.”The same philosopher had informed Abraham Lincoln.
“Its spirituality and idealism appeal to me. It also fosters all kinds of true freedom, places humanity above party, country, race, and it never loses sight of the essence of Jesus’s gospel – the supreme and equal worth of each individual soul. That doctrine is the heart of Christianity.”
While lapsed Catholic Annie Sullivan differed she said “I can respect your beliefs because you do not use them like a weakling to console yourself for blindness and deafness, but as part of the happiness God wants to create for us all.”
Her advise was “form your views independently. Only keep yourself clear of competitive sects and creeds, and do not get involved in any fanaticism. Always be just and generous to those with whom you differ.”
On another occasion “What we learn from others is of less value than what we teach ourselves!”
She was also a member of the first Humanist Society in America along with Einstein. But It seems that her family were unimpressed by her beliefs and as a young passionate woman her only known suitor was forced away by her mother.
However, was vocal in her opinions, speaking along with Rabindranath Tagore at the New History Society in New York, founded in 1929 to further the Bahai Faith, in the interests of India.”
Rights: Samuel P. Hayes Research Library, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA
There is a deeper Helen than the legend of a miracle child.
“Most people know of Helen Keller as a disabled seven year old in the grips of an oblivion of no sight, no sound, rescued by an incredible teacher at a well at the age of seven, brought out of that oblivion through language …and then it disappears from people’s minds.” (Bergmann, 1999, Interview transcript, The Real Helen Keller, Channel FourTelevision).
As depicted in Anne Pughs documentary, The Real Helen Keller for more than forty years after her death, Helen Keller is still known internationally as the little deaf-blind girl, the “miracle child” who triumphed over adversity. It is an image that endures through the Hollywood film “The Miracle Worker” – but Keller never chose that image, and she battled against it all her life. Hidden from the public gaze was the real Helen Keller, a flesh-and-blood woman, writer and radical activist, suffragette and socialist.
Nor do they remember that her teacher of 50 years Annie Sullivan was also disabled. Their relationship was mutually supportive.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it, that Annie Sullivan was a person with a disability herself, but is never really remembered that way and when her disability is noted, it’s minimised. It’s reduced to insignificance, she has a little eye trouble, she wears kind of designer sun glasses in The Miracle Worker. But we don’t think of this as in fact two disabled people mutually supporting one another, we think of it as dependent and professional.” (Longmore, 1999) …
“Throughout her life, the validity of her academic and political achievements were questioned by many. She never fully escaped suspicion that she was really the puppet of Annie Sullivan, “speaking and writing lines that are fed to her by Annie’s genius” (Lash, 1980). Deviations from the image, including her political beliefs, were blamed on Annie, even though Helen’s commitment to socialism preceded and exceeded Annie’s. It was partly in answer to these accusations that Helen worked for years to improve the clarity of her speech: if she could speak directly to her critics, instead of through Annie, her only interpreter, then perhaps they would be convinced that her words were her own.”
– Liz Crow Helen Keller: Rethinking the Problematic Icon
There is always more to the rehashed tales of collective memory.
Like gardeners selecting flowers for painterly effect, we like to choose the colours and hues we see of people. We also live colours and hues imposed on us, not of our inner nature.
Then there are those like Helen Keller who live a life true to their nature.
Energy healer Caroline Myss is claimed to have observed that Helen Keller “was a mystic and was able to hold her hand over a flower and tell you the type of flower it was, and the personality of the flower…..She was able to remember the vibration of every person she met forever, she would simply know who you were and who you are just when you walked into a room and she hasn’t seen you in twenty years.”
This again leads me back to the non existent blue rose. I came to India with a useful reality that no longer worked in my new world. I have also had to reconect my linear singular thinking to a collective and inductive India. It is no where as a comprehensive change as experienced by Helen. She has shown what perseverance can do.
…and What did Helen Keller learn from Nature?
“According to all art, all nature, all coherent human thought, we know that order, proportion, form, are essential elements of beauty. Now order, proportion, and form, are palpable to the touch. But beauty and rhythm are deeper than sense. They are like love and faith. They spring out of a spiritual process only slightly dependent upon sensations. Order, proportion, form, cannot generate in the mind the abstract idea of beauty, unless there is already a soul intelligence to breathe life into the elements.
“Many persons, having perfect eyes, are blind in their perceptions. Many persons, having perfect ears, are emotionally deaf. Yet these are the very ones who dare to set limits to the vision of those who, lacking a sense or two, have will, soul, passion, imagination. Faith is a mockery if it teaches us not that we may construct a world unspeakably more complete and beautiful than the material world. And I, too, may construct my better world, for I am a child of God, an inheritor of a fragment of the Mind that created all worlds.”
That truth remains indpenedent of our culture or religion.
 Of 151 species world over, 73 are found in my native Australia.
Back in Australia, the day before the Sydney Siege I was on the train to Brisbane. I was dressed in a white kurta as I was meeting Indian friends that evening. For four years I have enjoyed Hindu and Muslim hospitality and feel more comfortable in Indian rather than western clothes.
I am not – nor ever will be – a Muslim. Still, my coloured kurtas from India were in the wash so I chose the last one available: White silk. With Australia’s upgraded terrorist alert it has raised some, but rare, comment. Am I a Muslim? Or gay and wearing a dress?
Most people don’t look twice.
A woman, newly arrived to Australia soon sat opposite me with her two excited boys. She was from Pakistan happy about the order and peace of Australia, and also very concerned that people would label her a terrorist. Her husband was working in Western Queensland soon to take a new position in Tasmania. We talked about India and Pakistan and she assured me most Pakistani’s wanted peace to simply get on with life. I spoke of Pakistani’s who I knew had lived happily in australia for twenty years.
As it was the first time she had taken an Australian train, I helped her find the Roma Street Parklands were she would meet friends, I wanted to find the newly install statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
I wished her “Salaam alaikum” as I departed. “Wa Alaikum Salaam” she replied surprised.
Then of course there was the tragic siege of next day.
I am not a “bleeding heart liberal” but four years in India taught me that the narrow – at times 3 word slogan – politics of fear rarely shows the other side of the world correctly. No society – or media – seems able to keep its audience long enough to tell the whole truth.
So when I was told of the siege it came from a man convinced terrorism will turn governments on religion and bring on Armageddon.
“Jihadi’s have taken over a Sydney shop. They’ ll slit some throats.“
I was not sure whether he said “they had “ or “they will”. Nor had I heard the news: I didn’t know anything. But he was smiling, abroad smile as if he were waiting for divine approval.
I felt sick: this is a tragedy.
“Did the news say they had cut people’s throats?” I asked surprising myself by my calm reaction. This well meaning man, who has extended generosity to me in hardship, is prone to repeating the exaggeration of fellow industrial labourers.
“Well, they hung a jihadi flag in a window” He began to walk away a little chastened. One thing I have learned from India is stick to facts and don’t believe stories. I have asked him only to tell me news that is backed up by evidence. I don’t listen to gossip.
“It’s nothing to be happy about” I said.
“I’m not. it’s just the news” he retorted.
“Your smiling! It’s a tragedy.” He immediately stopped. I think a little shocked at himself. We have had a few very quiet balanced discussions since.
What is it that allows us to assume the worst of a whole group of people. The majority of the worlds billion Muslims would never think of murdering for religion, why do so many immediately assume a person in a white kurta with a beard is a terrorist? Do we label all Christians Klu Klux Clan? Have we forgotten that more people died in war last century in Christian lands than anywhere else?
I think that even if a media article is balanced, most people only look at the lead photo, headline and maybe the first sentence. Sensational headlines and photos sell papers.
We had debated this theme many times before using my neighbours Christian heritage as a starting point. He called watching news events “staying awake”. But I keep coming back to Psalm 15 and the Sermon on the Mount. “Pray for your enemies and pray for those persecuting you”. Hating someone is the same as murder. Staying awake seems to me to be a spiritual condition of being the person who God would want in his tent (as Psalm 15 describes it) who is blameless, righteous, “ who speaks the truth from their heart” does not slander, doesn’t wrong others, “casts no slur on others” who sticks to his vows even at a loss to himself.
While I will not describe myself in Christian terms, I recognise much of his Sermon paraphrases Rabbi Hillel’s compassionate Judaism The Sermon on the Mount inspired Gandhian non violence. Also, many Indians of the Advaita tradition describe Jesus as a bhakti yogi: a teacher of love propounding the essence of Sanatana dharma (divine occupation) that precedes and is above religious form.
The religion of love: the religion of no religion.
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear” is how Hindi friends quote from the Gita. Christianity also says there is no fear in love.
Sadly, the Sydney siege had a tragic end that witnessed an act of heroism. Dealing with fanaticism will require hard choices. history reminds us as economies crumble the politics of fear thrives.
However, I was heartened by wonderful news: “Inspired by the Twitter hashtag “I’ll ride with you“, some commuters heading into the city for work on Tuesday gave their support to Muslims who might feel vulnerable amid concerns about a blowback after the hostage drama.”
My faith in Australia is restored.
As my Indian born Brisbane based friend Vikas Rana wrote on Facebook:
I am so impressed by the amazing spirit of Australians.
After the Lindt Cafe event, Australians are coming together to show their support to the Muslim Australians via #illRidewithYou that means No such events can shake us and we will NOT make hatred part of our culture !!
And that’s how it should be.
It is only the minority of Australians, (like the minority of Muslims) who give the community a bad name. Even if one radical conservative claimed hashtag was a leftwing conspiracy to label Australians racist, the power of compassion proved the exact opposite.
That people of all faiths are basically good is the mantra the Dalai Lama has repeated for years.
Even my fundamentalist friend was impressed.
Ina few days, instead of Christmas carol’s, perhaps people should remember Jesus sermon: “Happy are the peace makers, for they will be called Son’s of God.”
Have you ever been fascinated by the yeti? Or perhaps, like me, you fell in love with the movie Lost Horizon and the story of Shangri La.
Shangri-la from James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon evokes Tibetan legend, perhaps Nghe-Beyul Khembalung or Shambala.
But did you know that the word yeti has another Sanskrit root?
The word yeti is misused for “snowman.” It is a Sanskrit word which means a renunciate, an austere person, and is the name of a group of renunciate sadhus who belong to one of the orders of Shankaracharya.
– Swami Rama
From childhood. Swami Rama lived and studied in the Himalayas for decades explains that the Sherpa’s who know the mountains well take the willing and paying westerners to find their Lost Horizon, “but they have no knowledge of the spiritual tradition of any part of the Himalayas.”
From Darjeeling and Sikkim expeditions have chased the yeti with no result.
The Swami never aw a yeti either, but heard many elders tell of the snowman to eager grandchildren.
“ Shangrila does not exist in reality. The myth of Shangrila is based on the existence of two ancient cave monasteries hidden in the Himalayas. These caves are described in our traditional scriptures and have a long heritage of meditation and spiritual practices. One is situated on the Mount of Kinchinjunga at the height of 14,000 feet and the other, where I lived, is in the deep Himalayas on the borders of Tibet and Garhwal. This cave monastery accommodates many practitioners comfortably. It is situated at a height between 11,500 and 12,000 feet above sea level. Very few people have been to this place. This monastery still exists, and there are many Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Sandhya Bhasha manuscripts preserved there.”
So what is the yeti?
Maya and perhaps the rare white bears: Swami Rama had a pet bear and saw how the footprint could look ‘human.’
“The story of the snowmen is as ancient as the human mind’s ability to fantasize. In the deep snows, one’s vision becomes blurred and white bears, which are rarely seen in the mountains, are mistaken for snowmen from the distance. These bears live high in the mountains and steal the food of expeditioners.
They leave long footprints which are similar to those of human beings.”
US TV host Josh Gates displays ‘Yeti’ footprints in Kathmandu November 30, 2007.
The human mind remains under the influence of delusion until ignorance is completely dispelled. If there is no clarity of mind, the data that is gathered together from the external world is not perceived in a coordinated manner, and the clouded mind conceives a false vision. This is one of the modifications of the mind, like fancy, fantasy, symbol, and ideas. Maya is cosmic illusion, and avidya is individual ignorance which comes from a lack of knowledge about objects and their nature; it is also an illusion.
The story of Bigfoot is based on the belief of a fantasy and discoordinated perception. When a bear runs fast in the snow, climbs upwards or runs downwards, the size of the foot of the bear looks very large.
When I had a pet bear, I myself was surprised to see the big footprint it created. It is usually large and similar to a human foot.
– Swami Rama
Intriguingly, American television channel host Josh Gates displayed what is believed to be ‘Yeti’ footprints to the media in Kathmandu November 30, 2007. The U.S.-based television channel investigating the existence of the legendary Yeti in Nepal has found footprints similar to those said to be that of the abominable snowman. The team of nine producers from Destination Truth, armed with infrared cameras, spent a week in the icy Khumbu region where Mount Everest is located and found the footprints on the bank of Manju river at a height of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet).
Other British scientists tested the DNA of hairs from two unidentified animals claimed to be yeti. One shot 40 years o, from Ladakh, west of the Himalayas in north India and from a bamboo forest in Bhutan. The tests revealed that the unidentified animal, was in fact a subspecies of the brown bear.
OK – not Swami Rama’s pet white bear, but close.
Maybe I’m biased, but I prefer Swami Rama’s answer”
Alas! the world, under the influence of illusion, is still searching for the shadows and the large foot. I call it “Himalayan maya.” I was born and lived in these mountains and I have nothing to say to those who are delighted to believe in these myths and who are still searching for something which never existed. God help those misguided souls. These are not the footprints of snowmen or yetis, but of delusion.
– Swami Rama
Prime Minister Nehru described India as a palimpsest, a manuscript page, either from a scroll or book, its text scraped or washed clean to be reused. Arcehoeollogists find the text is never quiet removed, the past remains to be examined. India, a land of four main racial types, and innumerable migrant cultures has allowed the ‘prajas’ or the common people more or less remained peaceful. Meanwhile Raja’s and Nawabs periodically fought against each other in the military sport of kings.
At times invaders came to wipe the slate clean, or at least that is how many see India’s British and Muslim past.
Sadly the story that Medieval India was peaceful before Muslims arrived “at the point of a sword” ignores that for centuries previous Muslims had made many diverse inroads into India settling as mostly peaceful traders.
Atrocities occurred, but India’s future success on taking responsibility for the present. India will not grow if it continues to blame former Mughal or British rulers.
Unfortunately, Nationalism is rewriting history to help promote Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra.A review of Muslim and Christian websites reveal other religions are equally able to fall in the same trap. However, the size of Hindu population could result in discouraging the essential questioning required by historians seeking to learn from history o make a better India.
Greed or conversion?
We cannot deny Mahmudh attacked the Somnath but it was with the help of Hindu generals who equally enjoyed looting. Mahmud, with the help of a Hindu king Anandapal, also destroyed the Muslim town of Multan and every mosque within it.
The ruthless ferocity of the Somnath attack remains scarred in public memory: 50,000 Hindu troops died, it is said that the Shiva lingam was destroyed by Mahmud himself, and 6.5 tons of gold, and the famous, intricately carved, temple doors were looted.
“The communalist interpretation portrays Mahmud as someone who harbored a special hatred for Hindus, but there is nothing he did to Hindus that he did not also do to Muslims, especially Muslims he considered to be heretical.’
As Guru Golwalkar wrote “it was the Hindu blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh, soul of our soul, who stood in the vanguard of Mahmud’s army. These are facts of history…”
Perhaps cleric at times pressure d some Muslim rulers, but I suggest temple destructions were driven by more Machiavellian motives , to quote, Jayanti Alam , than forced conversions, balancing political and financial powers and plundering of gold and precious gems.
Then, as now, political decisions often involve many other pressures often forgotten to history. Temples were destroyed by Muslim and Hindu alike for for the wealth within them.
Period historians often want their rulers to appear saintly and evout, when greed was a bigger motive.
Consider Aurangzeb: He razed the Vishwanath temple of Kashi, but he also gave ‘jagir’ to the Jangambari temple in the same city. Aurengzeb extensively destroyed many temple and yet built a Ram temple at Chitrakoot, paid for ‘ghee’ ensuring the earthen lamps at Ujjaini’s Mahakal temple remained lit perpetually, donated ‘Jagirs’ to the Allahabad’s Someshwarnath temple, the Umananda temple at Guwahati, Dattatreya Gurumandirat Mohanpur in Maharashtra, the Dantadhavan mandir at Ayodhya, Nageshwara and to temples at Junagadh, Gaya and Mount Abu. He had also donated to Shatrunjay Jain temple at Ahmedabad and to some gurdwaras.
Muslim legend claims he was gifted with being able to speak to dead Saints and destroyed as false the Muslim shrines of saints who did not answer his call. He also executed Sufi Said Sarmad who supported Prince Dara Shikoh as heir to the throne. Perhaps then, Aurengzeb’’s motives mixed were greed and power with displays of religiosity, or even a genuine attempt to seek the divine.
Even today Mafioso and war lords are extremely religious, because they believe only god can understand why they are compelled to violence! But it is not faith that drives them.
The religion of power has been drawn Indian rulers of all religions to simultaneously exploit and at times support their peoples.
Peace after Babri?
More recently, the agitation t rebuild Ayodhya’s Ram temple ‘further polarised India. The Ramayana, which has many versions, inspired many nationalist symbols during the Independence struggle. Sita was the model for Gandhi’s non violent struggle, and claimed “a devotee of Tulasidas from my childhood and have, therefore, always worshipped God as Rama.”
So the believed birthplace of Rama is very close to the heart of many Hindus.
More recently, swirls and swastikas discovered beneath the ruined Babri mosque, suggest a Hindu, Jain or Buddhist structure preceded it. Contrary to media hype this does not prove this is the birthplace of Rama, god or not. That question is beyond scientific ability to prove.
I remember that as a foreigner I was advised to stay indoors as Babri Masjid court case was decided. There was less reaction than many feared. A few people pelted a bus nearby. But as a lover of archaeology I was bemused by claims that Rams birth place had been discovered.
When questioned by journalist Christopher Kremmer, archaeologist Dr Swarajya Prakash Gupta author of the ASI report Ayodhya 2002-03 clearly the researcher believed the 50 plus pillar bases discovered proved the Babri mosque was built directly on top of a pre existing Hindu temple placed behind a hall supported by 84 pillars. Gupta exhibited a malencholic love of his work, but also a fiery love of his religious tradition. The professor, in a weaker moment, argued you cannot prove scientifically Muhummad visited heaven from Jerusalem, or Jesus was born of a virgin. True, it is beyond the realm of science, as it is to prove where Rama was born.
However, archaeologists of all persuasions can give into politics. In Israel skeletons at Masada were proclaimed remains of freedom fighters against Rome, but why were they buried with pig bones? Meanwhile archaeologists bemoan flushed out artefacts from cleaning activities in the temple mount, beneath the Dome of the Rock unable to be excavated.
I believe the Hindu tradition is strong and vibrant enough without needing to politicize the past by bending history into a narrative of us versus them.
During the Independence struggle, Indian versus Invader had a strong political pull. Will it help now? War with Pakistan perhaps fuels, is used to fuel, fear. As world economies decline history predict s the rise of fear based politics.
But why dismantle a centuries old mosque?
As journalist Praful Bidwari wrote “Can the vandalism of the past justify revenge driven-vandalism today?” ’The claim of peaceful Hindu coexistence would be better served by building a new temple beside the Babri mosque instead.
Sadly political euphoria took over. Bidwari asks if destroying monuments to avenge the past is akin to the Taliban’s destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas.
We must remember that in Ayodhya over a hundred Buddhist Viharas and 10 Hindu mandirs remained un-destroyed. This suggests there was there more to the temple destruction than Muslim intolerance. It also reminds us that Ayodhya was not just the holy place of the Ram bhaktís.
While Hinduism has been remarkably tolerant, it is wrong to deny Brahmin antagonism against Buddhism at times.
Some Buddhist temples were destroyed or converted to Hindu use. Vivekananda claimed the Jagannath temple of Puri was built on Buddhist ruins. We can list other Hindu wrongs through out History: Jaina temples destroyed by the Shaivites in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra. Parmar king Su bhat Barman, Kashmir k ing Shriharsha, Chola king Rajendra and various o hers like Shashanka, Pushyamitra Shunga, Mahendra Barman and Pula-keshi II, destroyed Jaina and Buddhist temples to prove their power1.
The greatness of past Hindu civilization, with its scientific discoveries, are reinforced in the concrete and marble slabs of Delhi’s very beautiful Akshardham monument in Delhi. Rather than agree with the “The Hindu’s did everything, but the Muslims stole the credit”’ view of history, I suggest Islam better used and spread earlier Hindu science, much as Rome built from, and added too, the sciences of Ancient Greece.
As India weakened from within many shrines were forgotten over time, to be rediscovered by the British, Sanchi, Ajunta, Ellora were all over grown and forgotten. Even the Taj Mahal gardens declined as Mughul wealth shrunk.
Nationalism is like erotic love: the moments of passion can quickly die into indifference. At times, those who proclaim their heritage can as quickly misuse money for temple maintenance, or corruptly neglect their shrines.
The great civilization of India does not need exaggeration or misinformation to prove its worth. Reformers like Gandhi or Vivekananda recognized that Brahmin Hindu’s need to be reformed and corruption removed. However, they had also preserved the tradition as the Hindu world declined.
Rulers throughout history have had only one religion, the religion of power and domination.
Sanatana Dharma is timeless, even if some of the many differing details may disagree with archeology. Let science discover cold hard facts because transcendent truths will still remain. People will always be seeking meaning that transcends the religious formalism.
To quote the Rama devotee, Mahatma Gandhi,
“ I myself have been a devotee of Tulasidas from my childhood and have, therefore, always worshipped God as Rama. But I know that if, beginning with Omkar, one goes through the entire gamut of God’s names current in all climes, all countries and languages, the result is the same. He and His aw are one. To observe His law is, therefore, the best form of worship2.
 The ‘Organiser’, January4 , 1950 quoted by Jayanti Alam see 2
 ‘Bigots’ and ‘Fanatics’, Jayanti Alam Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 39, No. 14/15 (Apr. 3-16, 2004), pp. 1463-1464 URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4414860 .Accessed: 26/11/2014 00:57
 One counter view by Ambedkar scholar Balwant Singh Charvak, in his book Ayodhya Kiski?Na Ram Ki, Na Babar Ki (‘Whose Ayodhya? Neither Ram’s Nor Babar’s’ suggests the site was once a Buddhist temple.
 Swami Vivekananda, ‘The Sages of India’ , The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 3, p264, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta