It is June, the month that I have to perform the annual death ceremonies for my parents. It is also time for the ugly head of rituals, caste and customs to rear itself. Whether I like it or not, semi literate and commerce savvy pundits in temples take control of the collective intelligence of the family, creating fear, anger, contempt and divisions between members of an otherwise harmonious, intelligent and spiritually illustrious family.
So why has Hinduism, the oldest faith that predates recorded human history which laid the foundations of human interaction and laws of community living, codifications of communal good and bad and the human code of conduct, elements of which were later encoded in other religions which followed more than 4000 years later, the mother of every single eastern religion, is today herself being reduced to the point of comical ludicrousness, devoid of any logic, sense and resemblance to the original intention.
Bollywood bhajans in temples and even very holy places like Vaishnodevi play bhajans set to the score of some popular Bollywood songs. Dancing marriage party lights decorating gods, electrical drums for aarti in temples and so on. Politicians involved in murder, rape, extortion and fraud walking around in saffron robes garnering votes from huge educated masses who feel they are the true saviors of our faith!!!!!!. Highly educated corporate executives sing their praises. Hand phone toting pundits making calls in between chanting mantras that have learned been learnt in rote with no clue to its deeper meanings. Since you don’t, why should they care?
Humanity is dying on the streets out of hunger and disease, while some are making 10 million dollar crowns for temple deities with 70,000 diamonds imbedded in 35 kilo gold, and a 2.5 million dollar ruby embedded into it, for sure hoping that this will bring them rewards and priority club class service on the way to the doors of heaven. Suddenly temples are being judged by the amount of gold and diamonds they have, and pilgrims flock to see gold and diamond studded gods. The more the gold and diamonds the greater perceived greatness of the temple. God got lost somewhere behind all the glitter. They think god can be bought, and that piety is embodied in jewelry.
Why have we gone so horribly wrong? How did it all happen? How did we loose our sanity? When did our common sense and wisdom collapse? When and how did this rot set in?
Spending my time on weekends in ashrams, serving food, cleaning tables and sweeping and swabbing floors after everyone has gone gives me time for contemplation. To understand Hinduism you have to understand it from three perspectives -
a.Hindu Spiritual practice starts when you stop using logic, knowledge attained from books, or snippets of wisdom from other people to understand God.
It is your chosen guru, who having transcended the chaotic world of illusion Will guide you through your own practice to transcend the world around you to see the divine. There are no shortcuts here; your progress is defined by your own efforts and daily practice, guided by your guru.
Many confidence tricksters and semi knowledgeable gurus have infiltrated this world, but it’s a hard world, and with average intelligence you can spot these fraudsters who usually tend to throw a lot of Sanskrit jargon to mesmerize you. Finally, in some form or shape, they will ask you to part with your money.
This is a hard and long road, involving a huge amount of self-sacrifice in terms of your time, money ambitions, desire and grit. The very nature of this path weeds out most of the frauds and the……… ‘give me a buck, I will do a quick pooja and get you to heaven’……… tribe.
The good news is, India has retained its ability to produce extremely high level ‘God realized’ Gurus consistently over the centuries. The best way to find them is to follow the guru shishya parampara line.
The sad news is the number of Indian disciples in this fraternity is falling dramatically. Extremely deep Hindu Vedic knowledge and practice, with the ability and dedication to achieve this is increasingly being taken up by westerners.
I am amazed that guru after guru that I visit, I see in the set of ‘long term disciples’ a lot of westerners. One has to admire them for coming from lands afar and adopting our philosophies with more zeal than we do.
Whether its my Siberian MBA friend, who does Homas and Yagnas in pure Sanskrit and lives in Shringeri matha as a pandit (wearing janiwaras and dhotis to boot), a French aghori sadhu who has been operating the largest garment business in Tamil Nadu with 60,000 employees and spends 3 weeks in a mountain meditating naked (as agohris do), one week in business. American sadhus walk around with Babaji the oldest sadhu in the Himalayas. My Japanese friend who has now spent about 6 years doing kriya yoga from the Himalayas to Orissa to Srilanka, my Serb American friend who has started a range of yoga wear with Sai Babas blessings, to the founder of Hard Rock café worldwide who has given up everything to sit next to Sai Baba in Puttaparthy. The list of foreigners who have attained and plan to attain serious levels of sanyas in India is growing.
While Hinduism is going international in the right way, it has become a mess in India.
b.Hinduism as a religion. Is when you get involved in a lot of rituals? This is where the great Indian circus starts.
It usually is practiced by Indians who have not read the scriptures (99.5% of Indians have not read the Vedas or Upanishads). We are the only race in the world who does not read our religious books. A majority of Christians and Muslims have read their holy books. Only Hindus don’t read their book. The guidance is usually provided by temple pundits who recite most slokas by rote. Most have a near zero understanding of the bigger picture of Hinduism. Their knowledge is limited to understanding a few slokas and being able to perform some rituals. Or in some cases, talented individuals who have picked up some knowledge on the run, without spending a lot of time reading the books and having a real guru interpret the real meaning for them.
By definition a person who chooses to be religious, need not know the deeper meaning of religion. The issue that I am highlighting is, there is nothing wrong in following a religion without understanding its deeper meaning. It is called bhakti yoga (devotion to god). Religion was designed by our learned ancestors to give simple folks who cannot understand the transcending meaning of its deeper philosophy. It’s like a military SOP manual. ‘Follow these rules of living and you will be fine’ leave the deeper meanings of your actions to a point in time when you have the depth of wisdom to understand its implications. This happens on its own and is ordained by the universe automatically when you are ready.
But there is a catch. Its ok to follow your religion blindly as long as you are doing it exactly the way prescribed in the Vedas and Upanishads, as the wise ancients prescribed you should. If you follow the wrong practices, it’s totally pointless.
The Hindu word for religion is Dharma. The word Dharma comes from the root word ‘dhar’ which in Sanskrit means to give shape to something to be able to perceive it, or to understand it. Dharma was invented for us average ‘low aware individuals’ to follow a safe path through a minefield without making mistakes. The English word for the same is ‘religion’ i.e to do something religiously over and over again without having to think.. Unfortunately in Hinduism, the practice today has no resemblance to the rules prescribed by our ancestors in the holy books. And therein lies the futility of our actions.
c.The threat to Hinduism is two fold.
Internal threat:-Corrosion and mutation of the core philosophy,
External threat: - When people start performing actions that are not in sync with what the religion intends. The actions are driven by wrong or dangerous interpretations
The external corruption arises from internal corruption of meaning.
To perhaps understand the corruption of core philosophies in Hinduism. It will help to illustrate a few points without turning this into a book.