The Talmud relates that the dove brought the first olive branch to Noah from Mount Moriah. And Mount Moriah and the mountain Meru both lie in Asia. Here is the beginning of all things. Here is the source for all travelers and all searchers. Here is raised the first image of the Blessed Maitreya—Messiah—Muntazar, the Messiah now awaited by the Mohammedans. Thrice powerful M ! Here, above all disputes, the teachings have raised up the olive branch of the new world. Here is ordained the universal commune.
Some one voluntarily approached and touched our tent ! Who is this man, with his long black braid and a turquoise earring in his ear, and garbed in a white kaftan ? It is the Lama, Pema Don-dub, the local ikon painter. We ask, “Can you paint for us the Blessed Maitreya, exactly like the one in Tashi-lhunpo ?” He consents and now he sits on a tiny rug in the corner of the white gallery, and with various pigments, paints the Image full of symbols. He prepares the fabric for the painting and covers it with levkas (a mixture of chalk on glue), and irons it with a shell. He works exactly like Russian ikon painters. In the same way does he grind his colors, heat them on a coal pan; and thus does he keep an additional brush in his thick black hair. His Tibetan wife helps him to prepare his colors.
And so, in the corner of the white gallery is being conceived the ingenious image, many-colored. And each symbol upon it more clearly defines the Blessed One. Here is the frightful bird-like Garuda and wise Magi and Ganeshi, elephant of happiness, and Chintamani, the Steed, bearing on its back the miraculous stone, Treasure of the World. A sacred cycle of chosen symbols. And upon the image and the hands is laid pure gold.
Like our ikon painters, the artist lama chants hymns as he labors. The chants become more fervent; this means he is beginning upon the Image itself.
And another wonder occurs, only possible in this land. In the deep twilight when the waxing moon possesses all things, one hears through the house the silvery tones of a handmade flute. In the darkness, the artist lama is sitting upon his rug, playing with rapture before the image of Maitreya-Messiah-Muntazar.
The Strings of the Earth !
Where have passed the hordes of the great Mongols ?
Where has the lost tribe of Israel concealed itself ?
Where stands the “Throne of Solomon” ?
Where lie the paths of Christ the Wanderer ?
Where glow the bonfires of the Shamans, Bon-po, of the religion of demons ?
Where is Shalimar, the gardens of Jehangir ?
Where are the roads of Pamir, Lhasa, Khotan ?
Where is the mysterious cave, Amarnath ?
Where is the path of Alexander the Great to forgotten Taxila ?
Where are the walls of Akbar ?
Where did Ashvagosha teach ?
Where did Avan-tisvamin create ?
Where are the citadels of Chandragupta-Maurya ?
Where are the stones of wisdom of King Asoka ? . . .
All have passed by way of Kashmir. Here lie the ancient ways of Asia. And each caravan flashes by as a connecting link in the great body of the East. Here are the sandy deserts on the way to Peshawar; and the blue peaks of Sonamarg; and the white slopes of Zoji-La. And in the flight of the eagles is the same untiring spirit; in the fleet steed is the same unalterable motion. Nor does the world of roses and shawls of Kashmir resemble that forgotten and hidden world of Kashmiri blades.
“Sacre du Printemps“— when we composed it together with Stravinsky, we could not conceive that Kashmir would greet us with its very setting. In Ghari, camping out by night, when the vivid spring sky became afire with stars and the mountains were azured, we observed rows of fires upon the mountains. The fires started into motion, separated and strangely circled about. Then the mountain slopes became aglow with these fiery processions. And in the village below, dark silhouettes began to whirl about brandishing resin torches on long staffs. The flaming circles proclaimed the end of winter frosts. And the songs proclaimed the Sacred Spring. This is the festival of the Ninth of March.
“Bulbul,” the nightingale, sings on the apple tree. The cuckoo reckons out a long life. White linens are spread on the meadow and a samovar is boiling. Red and yellow apples and sweet cakes are passed around to those seated upon the spring grass. The eyes of the violets and the white and yellow narcissus are woven into a many-hued carpet. At evening, flocks of ducks and geese completely cover the tiny islands over the lakes. Small bears steal out on the spring glades. But none fears them—unless the mother-bear is with her cubs. . . .
The river banks are sloping. A line of boatsmen steer their canopied boats. . . . Upon a broad road the oxen drag themselves and the wheels grind along. Three-hundred-year-old plantains and tall poplars guard the ways. And the teeth of the encountered travelers gleam often in the smile of greeting.
In the sheds lie the sleighs—veritable Moscow sleighs. In the yard, a crane screeches above the well. The straw roof is overgrown with green moss. Along the road are gnarled willow trees. And the greetings of the children are noisy. But where is this ? Is it in Schuya or Kolomna? It is in Srinagar, in the “City of the Sun.”
Tiny, big-bellied pillars—small ornamental designs—steep little steps of stone—the gilded roofs of the temple—creaking, ornamented window-shutters—rusty locks—low little doors with their “curtesy”—carved balustrades—slanting tiles on stony floors—the odor of old lacquer—small windows with diminutive panes. Where are we then ? Is this the Kremlin of Rostov ? Are these the monasteries of Suzdal ? Are they the temples of Yaroslavl ? And what of the endless flocks of daws ? What of the naked branches behind the windows ? This is the chief palace of the Maharajah of Kashmir. How curious is everything which remains from antiquity. But the modern additions are hideous.
Upon the road are many Fords. In the hotel dining room one sees the faces of Americans. In the jewelry shop, side-by-side, hang two paintings—one of the view of Delhi, the other the view of the Moscow Kremlin. Among the crystals into which one gazes for destiny; among the sapphires of Kashmir and the Tibetan turquoises, are shimmering green Chinese jadaites—and like a garden, many-colored are the borders of the embroidered kaftans. Like precious shawls, the rooms of the museum are strewn with minute Iran-designs and “Gandhara,” belabored by destiny, unifies the cleft branches of West and East.
In the styles of the temples and mosques; in the angular carved dragons; in the tentlike, sloping hexagonal tower, is seen an unexpected combination of the old wooden churches of Norway and the Chinese pagodas. Out of one well is drawn the Romanesque Chimera, the animal ornaments of Altai and the tiny animals of Chinese Turkestan and China. The Siberian paths of the nations have carried afar the same meaning of adornment.
The fort of Akbar stands firmly planted. But after you have climbed the steepnesses and flights, you may perceive that the old bricks and the claybeaten cement barely hold together. The arches are ready to give way.
Nishad, the garden of Akbar, occupies the site from the lake to the hill—a high place. The structures are modest and upon the corners are the little towers so beloved by him. They are characterized by simplicity and brightness.
Shalimar—the garden of Jehangir—is also in character with its possessor, standing “for itself.” There is less of outward show, but more of luxury—of that luxury which brought the descendants of the Moguls to poverty. The last Mogul, in Delhi, secretly sold furniture out of the palace and destroyed the valuable facings of the walls of Shah Jehan and Aurungzeb. Thus ended the great dynasty.
The weaver of Kashmir accompanied the making of each of his designs with a special chant. Such a searching for rhythm reminds us of the great harmony of labor.
No song relates why the mountain “Throne of Solomon” bears this name. This is a place of such antiquity. Janaka, son of Asoka, had already dedicated here one of the first Buddhist temples. Seven centuries later the temple was rebuilt and consecrated to Mahadeva. . . . But whence comes the name of Solomon? The mountain received the name of Solomon from a legend that Solomon, desiring a respite from the conventions of a sovereign’s life and from the burdens of his court, transported himself upon a flying carpet to this mountain with his favorite wife. Here, again, we come upon the mention of that “flying apparatus” possessed by Solomon. A similar mountain is in Turkestan and in Persia.
It is not alone the mountain “Throne of Solomon” which transports the consciousness into biblical spheres. In the valley of Sindh the prophet Elijah is reverenced in a special manner. Most stirring are the legends; how the prophet sitting in his cave saves fishermen and travelers. Under various aspects, at times benevolent, at times stormy, the prophet appears to defend the works of justice and piety. Mohammedans and Hindus, divided by many differences, equally reverence the prophet Elijah.
Purple iris will always recall Moslem cemeteries. They are covered with these flowers. But there is also joy. The lilacs have blossomed, lilies of the valley are nodding and the wild cherry tree glistens.
In the twilight under the flowing stars, in the purple sheen of the mist, sounds the soft voice of the lama, telling his calm tale of the “King of the World,” of His power, of His action and wisdom, of His legions, in which each warrior shall be possessed of some extraordinary gift. And he tells of the dates of the new age of general well-being.
The tale is taken from an ancient Tibetan book, wherein, under symbolic names, are given the future movements of the Dalai-Lama and Tashi-Lama, which have already been fulfilled. There are described the special physical marks of rulers under whom the country shall fall during the reign of the monkeys. But afterwards the rule shall be regained and then will come Someone of greatness. His coming is calculated in twelve years —which will be in 1936.
When the time came for the Blessed Buddha to depart from this earth He was asked by four lords of Dharmapala to bequeath to mankind His image. The Blessed One consented and designated the most worthy artist, but the artist could not take the exact measurements because his hand trembled when he approached the Blessed One. Then said Buddha, “I shall stand near the water. Thou shalt take the measurements from my reflection.” And the artist was thus enabled to do so, and executed four images, modeled from a sacred alloy of seven metals. Two of these images are now in Lhasa and the remaining two are still hidden until the appointed time.
One Tibetan ruler married Chinese and Nepal princesses in order that through them he might attract to Tibet the two sacred images of Buddha.
Twelve hundred years after Buddha, the teacher Padma Sambhava brought closer to men the teachings of the Blessed One. At the birth of Padma Sambhava all the skies were aglow and the shepherds saw miraculous tokens. The eight-year-old Teacher was manifested to the world in the Lotus flower. Padma Sambhava did not die but departed to teach new countries. Had he not done so the world would be threatened with disaster.
In the cave Kandro Sampo, not far from Tashi-ding, near a certain hot spring, dwelt Padma Sambhava himself. A certain giant, thinking to penetrate across to Tibet, attempted to build a passage into the Sacred Land. The Blessed Teacher rose up and growing great in height struck the bold venturer. Thus was the giant destroyed. And now in the cave is the image of Padma Sambhava and behind it is a stone door. It is known that behind this door the Teacher hid sacred mysteries for the future. But the dates for their revelation have not yet come.
Wherefore do the giant trumpets in the Buddhist temples have so resonant a tone ? The ruler of Tibet decided to summon from India a learned lama, from the place where dwelt the Blessed One, in order to purify the fundamentals of the teaching. How to meet the guest ? The High Lama of Tibet, having had a vision, gave the design of a new trumpet so that the guest should be received with unprecedented sound; and the meeting was a wonderful one—not by the wealth of gold but by the grandeur of sound !
Why do the gongs in the temple ring out with such great volume ? And, as silver, resound the gongs and bells at dawn and evening, when the atmosphere is tense. Their sound reminds one of the legend of the great Lama and the Chinese emperor. In order to test the knowledge and clairvoyance of the Lama, the emperor made for him a seat from sacred books and covering them with fabrics, invited the guest to sit down. The Lama made certain prayers and then sat down. The emperor demanded of him, “If your knowledge is so universal, how could you sit down on the sacred books ?” “There are no sacred volumes,” answered the Lama. And the astonished emperor, instead of his sacred volumes, found only blank papers. The emperor thereupon gave to the Lama many gifts and bells of liquid chime. But the Lama ordered them to be thrown into the river, saying, “I will not be able to carry these. If they are necessary to me, the river will bring these gifts to my monastery.” And indeed the waters carried to him the bells, with their crystal chimes, clear as the waters of the river.
Talismans… A mother many times asked her son to bring to her a sacred relic of Buddha. But the youth forgot her request. She said to him, ‘I shall die here before your eyes if you will not bring it to me now.’ The son went to Lhasa and again forgot the mother’s request. A half day’s journey from his home, he recalled the promise. But where can one find sacred objects in the desert ? There is nought. But the traveler espies the skull of a dog. He decides to take out a tooth and folding it in yellow silk he brings it to the house. The old woman asks of him, ‘Have you forgotten again my last request, my son ?’ He then gives her the dog’s tooth wrapped in silk, saying, ‘This is the tooth of Buddha.’ And the mother puts the tooth into her shrine, and performs before it the most sacred rites, directing all her worship to her holy of holies. And the miracle is accomplished. The tooth begins to glow with pure rays and many miracles and sacred manifestations result from it.”
A man searched for twelve years for Maitreya-Buddha. Nowhere did he find him, and becoming angry, he rejected his faith. As he walked along his way he beheld one who with a horsehair was sawing an iron rod, repeating to himself, “If the whole of life is not enough yet will I saw this through.” Confusion fell upon him— “What mean my twelve years,” he said, “in the face of such persistence ? I will return to my search.” Thereupon Maitreya-Buddha himself appeared before the man and said, “Long already have I been with you but you did not see me, and you repulsed me and spat upon me. I will make a test. Go to the bazaar. I will be upon your shoulder.” The man went, aware that he carried Maitreya. But the men around him shrank from him, closing their noses and eyes. “Wherefore do you shrink from me, people ?” he asked. “What a fright you have on your shoulder—an ill-smelling dog full of boils!” they replied. Again the people did not see Maitreya-Buddha, for each beheld only what he was worthy of seeing.
The lama says, “There are three kinds of teaching—one for the stranger, one for our own, and the third for the initiated who can retain. Now through ignorance they slaughter animals, they drink wine, they have property and eat meat and live squalidly. Does religion permit all this ? Where is beauty, there is teaching; where is teaching, there is beauty.
The people here are sensitive. Your emotions and desires are transmitted so easily. Therefore know clearly what you desire. Otherwise instead of Buddha you shall behold the dog.
That which is hidden in the past is not of importance—that which in age-old books, copied and unfinished, lies covered with dust. For the new construction, that which now resolves itself into life is important. Not through library shelves but through the living word is measured the possibility of future structures.
Under Kinchenjunga are secreted the caves in which are resting the treasures. In stone coffins the cave dwellers are praying, torturing themselves in the name of the future. But the sun has already defined the future; not in secret caves, but in full sunlight one perceives the worship and expectation of Maitreya-Buddha. It is now three years since the Tashi Lama solemnly and openly dedicated the great New Image in his Tashi-lhunpo. The intense, invisible work progresses.
The Tashi Lama is now on his way to Mongolia by way of China. Unprecedented through the ages is this event. Mystery ! Incidentally, it may be that through Sikhim passed only the abducting detachment and the Lama himself moved on to Mongolia.
On a sacred morning upon the mountain started to glow rows of fire—another mystery !
Just now the wave of attention is turned toward Tibet—behind the mountain rampart events are stirring, but Tibetan secrecy is great. Information is contradictory. Whither disappeared the Tashi Lama ? What military manoeuvers proceed on the Chinese border ? What transpires on the Mongolian line ? A year of events !
Sikhim is called the land of lightning. Of course, here also occurs lightning but is it not simpler to call it “the land of future steps” ? For it would be difficult to imagine a better threshold to the mysteries of the future than this unexplored, rarely penetrated country of rocks and flowers.
As behind a tiny silver apple on a saucer, do the hills and steps of the Himalayas reveal themselves. Hundreds, perhaps more, are the monasteries in Sikhim, each crowning the top of a summit. A small temple in Chakong; a big suburgan and monastery in Rinchenpong. Upon the next mountain appears gleaming white Pemayangtse, still higher, Sanga Chöling. Tashi-ding is almost unseen. On the other side of the valley is Daling and opposite Robling and still nearer Namtse. For a distance of forty miles one may behold the monasteries, for we must not forget that here one sees extremely far.
And again before us is the wall to Tibet. And not the backbone of the lizard but the snow-white girdle is outlined upon the peaks of this wall—the girdle of the earth. Let us point the arrow northward—there must be the base of Mount Meru.
In conversation … I have the highest of regard for my elder and friend, Sh Basudeb Sen, a learned soul, a tall human being and an independent director for decades. We have agreed on much and differed occasionally on matters that concerns us as individuals, as people and part of global community. This little conversation took place lately on the ruins of Nalanda !
It started with my observation to a pic you can view down below :
How #Islam was advanced … Terribly sad event in 1193 AD, when Nalanda University was ransacked, burnt and thousands of Buddhists beheaded by the #Muslim fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji , a Turk …
The picture of the ruins of Nalanda University was accompanied with a small introduction …
In 1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by the fanatic Bakhtiyar Khilji , a Turk. The event is seen by scholars as a late milestone through the decline of Buddhism in India.
The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj , in his chronicle Tabaqat-I-Nasiri , reported that many of the monks there were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism and plant Islam by the sword. The library continued to burn for several months and “smoke from smouldering manuscripts hung for days, like a dark pall over the low hills.”
Nalanda was reknowned far and wide … one of the world’s first, perhaps the only residential university then. It had dormitories for students. In its prime, the institution accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers, and was considered an architectural masterpiece. It was marked by a lofty wall and a gate that led to eight separate compounds, ten temples, many meditation halls and classrooms. Within it were were lakes and parks, and a library housed in a nine-storied building that had long rows of books of knowledge and several sections for producing meticulous copies of texts globally in demand.
The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of knowledge, and its portals attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. During the period of Harsha, the monastery is reported to have owned 200 villages, given as grants for its upkeep.
The Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang has left for us detailed accounts of the university, as it was in the 7th Century. He described how the regularly laid-out towers, forest of pavilions, harmikas and temples, seemed to “soar above the mists in the sky” so that, from their cells, the monks “might witness the birth of the winds and the clouds.”
The pilgrim states, “An azure pool winds around the monasteries, adorned with full-blown cups of the blue lotus; dazzling red flowers of the lovely kanaka hang here and there; and outside, groves of mango trees offer the inhabitants their dense and protective shade.”
* * *
Sh Sen wrote in his comment on my observation :
“Why look at the past ?
“(Today) Terrorists and religious fundamentalists have become much more commercially organised in the business of large scale destruction and killing. We have many many Khiljis and their networks operationg all over the World now.”
Though the thought was very pertinent, I found in it a tiresomeness about our history, those events in our past that “dead and gone.”
I believe looking at the past, as it was, is to look at the truth – our own truth.
Proliferation of terrorists and fundamentalists today is, to a great extent, a consequence of us, and the world, having satisfied ourselves with little understanding of our historical truths. As a result, we are without crucial information to orient and strategise our collective steps through a complicated present, and to create a preferred future for ourselves.
We have even gone about laying a thick layer of fake and fabricated narrative over the facts in our past … a monumental error that keeps us, as a people and as a nation, in the darkness of mere emotional ding-dongs, without the clarity of evidence and data backed knowledge of how we are placed in the present, and why.
That leaves us with little idea of our real strengths, weaknesses and threats, with an entirely dissipated orientation to opportunities and diffused attention to what could have been certain steps to our desired future.
The word to us – in India – reads thus :
My countrymen, the reason we are very poor at identifying our national projects and strategies rests in great measure to our inability to look squarely into the face of our historical truths ?
I may assure you that if we had been good at driving ourselves with a sense of purpose and direction, our land would have been largely free of these puny but bloated identities – liguistic, regional and religious – we carry to war amongst ourselves …
The Jain way of life was contemporaneous with the rise of Buddhism, after the catastrophic developments about 1900 BC, when the Vedic convictions were seriously in question. Yet, it was Buddhism that took to prominence with the advent of the third Buddha, Siddhartha Gautam. There are 24 Tirthankars, enlightened ones, in Jain tradition; but this particular belief system was widely embraced only with rise of Mahavir, about 1200 years after Gautam Budha.
Jain Arhats or Tirthankars rejects the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness of everything. They say : If there is no permanent soul, then even attaining worldly fruit in life will be impossible; for, without that individual agency to regulate, the action or effort of one person would have its consequences reaped by another. Because there is a permanent soul, we have this conviction, ” I, who previously did the deed, am the person who now reaps its consequences.”
The soul remains constant through the previous and the subsequent period; the discriminating Jain Arhats reject as untenable the doctrine of momentary existence, in which the soul is said to last only an instant and has no continuity from the previous to the subsequent moments. They define existence as “that which possesses an origin, an end, and an [intermediate] duration.” Therefore, the Arhats exhorted, they who seek the summum bonum of being (human) must not accept the doctrine of Buddha, and should rather honour only the Arhat doctrine.
The Arhat’s nature has been thus described by Arhachchandra-suri : “The divine Arhat is the supreme lord, the omniscient one, who has overcome all faults, desire, etc. He is adored by the three worlds, and is the declarer of things as they are.”
But may it not be objected that no such omniscient soul can enter the path of proof, since none of the five affirmative proofs can be found to apply, as has been declared by Tautatita [Bhatta Kumarila] ? The latter says :
1. No omniscient being is seen by the sense here in this world by ourselves or others ; nor is there any part of him seen which might help us as a sign to infer his existence.
2. There is no injunction (vidhi) of scripture which reveals an eternal omniscient one, nor can the meaning of the explanatory passages (arthavada) be applied here.
3. His existence is not declared by those passages which refer to quite other topics ; and it cannot be contained in any emphatic repetitions (anuvada), as it had never been mentioned elsewhere before.
4. An omniscient being who had a beginning can never be the subject of the eternal Veda ; and how can he be established by a man-made and spurious “Veda” ?
5. Do you say that this omniscient one is accepted on his own word ? How can you establish either when they thus both depend on reciprocal support ?
6. If you say, the saying is true because it was uttered by one omniscient, and this proves the Arhat’s existence, how can either point be established without some previously established foundation ?
7. But they who accept a supposed omniscient, on the baseless word of a parviscient, know nothing of the meaning of a real omniscient’s words.
8. And again, if we now could see anything like an omniscient being, we might have a chance of recognising him by the [well-known fourth] proof, comparison (upamana).
The Jains reply as follows : The supposed contradiction of an Arhat s existence, derived from the failure of the five affirmative proofs, is untenable because there are proofs, as inference, etc, which do establish his existence. In fact, any soul will become omniscient when, its natural capacity for grasping all objects remaining the same, the hindrances to such knowledge are removed.
Interestingly, the Jains hold the soul to be a substance and not a person ! They say, “Whatever thing has a natural capacity for knowing any object will, when its hindrances to such knowledge are done away, actually know it, just as the sense of vision cognises form directly when the hindrances of darkness, etc, are removed. Now there is such a soul, which has its hindrances done away, its natural capacity for grasping all things remaining unchanged; therefore there is an omniscient being. Nor is the assertion unestablished that the soul has a natural capacity for grasping all things ; for, otherwise, it could not be maintained that knowledge can be produced by the authoritative injunction of a text * ; nor could there be the knowledge of universal propositions, such as in our favourite argument, ” All things are indeterminate from the very fact of their existence”. Of course, a follower of Nyaya (logic) will grant that universal propositions can be known, though he will dispute the truth of this particular one, because we [Jains] are convinced that there are certain special means to destroy these obstructions, viz. the three ” gems ” of right intuition, etc. By this charm too, all inferior assaults of argument are also countered.
* The teachers of Purva Mimamsa accept that the soul has a natural capacity for grasping all things ; they allow that the knowledge embracing all things can be produced by the discussion of injunctions and prohibitions, as is said by Sankara in his commentary on the Sutras.
But the Naiyayiks (logicians) may interpose, “You talk of the pure intelligence which, after all hindrances are done away, sees all objects, having sense-perception at its height; but this is irrelevant, because there can be no hindrance to the omniscient, as from all eternity he has been always liberated.” We reply that there is no proof of your eternally liberated being. There cannot be an omniscient who is eternally “liberated.” The very fact of his being liberated suggests that, like other liberated persons, he was previously “bound” ; and if the latter is absent, the former must be too, as is seen in the case of the ether.
“But is not this being’s existence definitely proved by his being the maker of that eternal series of effects, the earth, etc ? For, according to the well-known argument, the earth etc must have had a maker because they have the nature of effects, as a jar.” This argument, however, will not hold, because you cannot prove that they have the nature of effects. You cannot establish this premise from the fact of earth being composed of parts, because this supposition falls upon the horns of a dilemma ! Does this “being composed of parts” mean (i) the being in contact with the parts ; (ii) the being in intimate relation to the parts ; (iii) the being produced from parts ; (iv) the being as the substance in intimate relation ; or (v) the being as the object of an idea involving the notion of parts ?
The Jains continue to decimate the logic behind the premise : Not the first, because it would apply too widely, as it would include ether which, though not itself composed of parts, is in contact with the parts of other things ; nor the second, because it would similarly include genus, etc. as this resides in a substance by intimate relation, and yet is itself not composed of parts ; nor the third, because this involves a term ( ” produced ” ) just as much disputed as the one directly in question ; nor the fourth, because its neck is caught in the pillory of the following alternative : Do you mean by your phrase used above that it is to be a substance, and to have something else in intimate relation to itself, or do you mean that it must have intimate relation to something else, in order to be valid for your argument ? If you say the former, it will equally apply to ether, since this is a substance, and has its qualities through intimate relation with other things ; if you say the latter, your new position involves as much dispute as the original point, since you would have to prove the existence of intimate relation in the parts, or the so-called ” intimate causes,” which you mean by ” something else.”
We use these terms in compliance with your terminology ; but, of course, from our point of view, we do not allow such a thing as ” intimate relation,” as there is no proof of its existence. Nor can the fifth alternative be allowed, because this would reach too far. as it would include soul, etc, since soul can be the object of an idea involving the notion of parts, and yet it is acknowledged to be not an effect. Nor can you maintain that the soul may still be indiscerptible in itself but, by reason of its connection with some thing possessing parts, may metaphorically become the object of an idea involving the notion of parts ; because there is a mutual contradiction in the idea of that which has no parts and of that which is all-pervading, just as the atom which is indiscerptible but is not all-pervading.
And, moreover, is there only one maker ? Or, again, is he independent ? In the former case your position will apply too far, as it will extend erroneously to palaces, etc, where we see for ourselves that it is the work of many different men such as carpenters, etc, and, in the second case, if all the world were produced by this one maker, all other agents would be superfluous. As it has been said in the ” Praise of Jina” :
1 ” It is said, there is one eternal maker for the world, all-pervading, independent, and true. But we have none of these inextricable delusions, whose teacher art thou.”
And again :
2 ” There is here no maker acting by his own free will, else his influence would extend to the making of a mat. What would be the use of yourself or all the artisans, if Iswara (God) fabricates the three worlds ? “
Therefore it is right to hold, as we do, that omniscience is produced when the hindrances are removed by the three means we have alluded to. And an objection cannot be be made that ” right intuition,” etc, are impossible, as there is no other teacher to go to, because this universal knowledge can be produced by the inspired works of former omniscient Jinas. We accept an eternal succession of revealed doctrines and omniscient teachers, like the endless series of seed springing from shoot and shoot from seed. So much for this preliminary discussion.
The well-known triad called the three gems as right intuition, etc, are thus described in the Param-agama-sara (which is devoted to the exposition of the doctrines of the Arhats) … ” Right intuition, right knowledge and right conduct are the path of liberation.” This has been thus explained by Yogadeva :
When the meaning of the predicaments, the soul, etc, has been declared by an Arhat in exact accordance with their reality, absolute faith in the teaching, i.e., the entire absence of any contrary idea, is “right intuition.” And to this effect runs the Tattvartha-Sutra, “Faith in the predicaments is right intuition.” Or, as another definition gives it, “Acquiescence in the predicaments declared by a Jina is called right faith ; it is produced either by natural character or by the guru’s instruction.” “Natural character” means the soul’s own nature, independent of another’s teaching; “instruction” is the knowledge produced by the teaching of another in the form of explanation, etc.
” Right knowledge ” is a knowledge of the predicaments, soul, etc, according to their real nature, undisturbed by any illusion or doubt ; as it has been said, “That knowledge, which embraces concisely or in detail the predicaments as they actually are, is called right knowledge by the wise.”
This knowledge is fivefold : mati, sruta, avadhi, manas-paryaya, and kevala; they mean as stated herebelow –
1. Mati … by which one cognises an object through the senses and the mind, all obstructions of knowledge being removed.
2. Sruta … the clear knowledge produced by mati, all the obstructions of knowledge being removed.
3. Avadhi … knowledge of special objects caused by the removal of hindrances, which is effected by ” right intuition,” etc.
4. Manas-paryaya … clear definite knowledge of another’s thoughts, manifest upon removal of all obstructions raised by the veil of envy.
5. Kevala … pure unalloyed knowledge, for the sake of which ascetics practise penance.
6. The first of these (mati) is not self-cognised, the other four are. Thus it has been said –
True knowledge is proof which nothing can contradict, which manifests itself as well as its object ; it is both supersensuous and is itself an object of cognition.
Right conduct is the abstaining from all actions tending to evil courses that have effects constituting the mundane. This has been explained at length by the Arhat : “Right conduct is relinquishing the entire blamable impulses ; this has been subjected to a five-fold division, as the five great vows – ahimsa, sunrita, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraka.”
Ahimsa is avoidance of injury to all life, movable or immovable, by any act of thoughtlessness. Kind, salutary and truthful speech is called sunrita. That speech is not truthful which is prejudicial and unkind to others. Not taking what is not given is declared to be asteya.
The vow of brahmacharya (chastity) is eighteen-fold, viz. abandonment of all desires, heavenly or earthly, in thought, word and deed, whether by one’s own action or consent, or by causing another to act. Aparigraha is renouncing of all delusive interest in everything that exists or not ; since bewilderment of thought may arise from a delusive interest even in the unreal.
7. When carried out by the five states of mind in a five-fold order, these great vows produce the eternal abode.
The full account of the five states of mind has been given in the following passage [of which we only quote one sloka] –
” Let him uphold the vow of sunrita uninterruptedly by abstinence from laughter, greed, fear and anger, and by deliberately avoiding speech;” and so forth.
Convergence of these three – right intuition, right knowledge, and right conduct – produce liberation.
Tattvas or predicaments are two : jiva and ajiva. The soul, jiva, is pure intelligence ; the non-soul, ajiva, is pure non-intelligence. Padmanandin has thus said :
” The two highest predicaments are soul and non-soul ; discrimination is the power to discriminate between the two, while pursuing what is to be pursued and rejecting what is to be rejected. The affection, etc, of the agent are to be rejected ; these are objects for the non-discriminating. The supreme light of knowledge alone is to be pursued, which is defined as upayoga.”
Upayoga or “true culmination of the soul’s activity” takes place when vision truly perceives and recognises the soul’s innate nature ; but as long as the soul, by the bond of pradesa and mutual interpenetration of form it produces between the soul and the body, considers itself as identified with its actions and with the body that they produce and form, knowledge may rather be defined as ” the cause of the soul’s cognition of itself being other than these.”
Intelligence (chaitanya) is common to all souls, and is the real nature of the soul viewed as parinata i.e. as it is in itself. But under the influence of upasamakshaya and kshayopasama, the soul appears in its “mixed” form, as possessing both, jiva and ajiva. Or again, by the influence of actions as they arise, it assumes the appearance of foulness, etc.
Hence has it been said by Vachakacharya : ” The aupasamika, the kshayika, and the mixed states are the nature of the soul. So too are the audayika and the parinamika.”
The aupasamika state of the soul arises when all the effects of past actions have ceased, and no new actions arise to affect the future. The Kshayika state arises when there is absolute cessation of actions and their effects, as in final liberation. The “mixed” (misra) state combines both these, as when water is partly pure. The audayika state is when actions arise exerting an inherent influence on the future. The Parinamika state is the soul’s innate condition, as pure intelligence, etc, and disregarding its apparent states. This nature, in one of the above-described varieties, is the character of every soul, whether happy or unhappy.
It is further explained : ” Not different from knowledge and yet not identical with it ; in some way both different and the same ; knowledge is its first and last form ; such is the soul described to be.”
If you say that, ” As difference and identity are mutually exclusive, we must have it as one or the other; that the soul is both is absurd” ; we reply, that there is no evidence to support you when you characterise it as absurd. Only a valid non-perception can thus preclude a suggestion as absurd ; but this is not found in the present case, since (in our opinion, the advocates of the Syad-vada) it is perfectly notorious that all things present a mingled nature of many contradictory attributes.
Others lay down a different set of tattvas from the two mentioned above, jiva and ajiva ; they hold that there are five astikayas or categories : jiva, akasa, dharma, adharma, and pudgala. To all these five we can apply the idea of “existence” (asti), as connected with the three divisions of time, and we can similarly apply the idea of ” body ” (kaya) from their occupying several parts of space.
The jivas (souls) are of two kinds, “mundane” and “released.” The mundane soul reincarnates from birth to birth ; these are again divided into two : those possessing an internal sense (samanaska), and those without it (amanaska). The former possesses the power of apprehension, talking, acting and receiving instruction ; the latter are without this power. These latter are also divided into two, as ” locomotive ” (trasa) or ” immovable ” (sthavara). The “locomotive” are those possessing at least two senses [touch and taste], as shell-fish, worms, etc, and are thus of four kinds : as possessing two, three, four, or five senses. The “immovable” are earth, water, fire, air, and trees. But here a distinction must be made. The dust of the road is properly “earth,” but bricks, etc, are aggregated ” bodies of earth,” and that soul by whom this body is appropriated becomes ” earthen-bodied,” and that soul which will hereafter appropriate it is the “earth-soul.” The same four divisions must also be applied to the others, water, etc. Now the souls which have appropriated or will appropriate the earth, etc, as their bodies, are reckoned as “immovable” ; but earth, etc, and the ” bodies of earth,” etc, are not so reckoned because they are inanimate. These other immovable things, and such as only possess the one sense of touch, are considered as ” released,” since they are incapable of passing into any other state of existence.
Dharma, adharma, and akasa are singular categories [and not generic], and they have not the attribute of ” action,” but they are the causes of a substance’s change of place. Dharma, “merit,” and adharma, “demerit,” are well known. They assist souls in progressing or remaining stationary in the universally extended sky [or ether] characterised by light, and also called Lokakasa; hence the presence of the category “merit” is to be inferred from progress, that of ” demerit ” from frozen station. The effect of akasa is seen when one thing enters into the space previously occupied by another. Pudgala body possesses touch, taste, and colour.
Bodies are of two kinds, atomic and compound. Atoms cannot be enjoyed; the compounds are binary and other combinations. Atoms are produced by separation of these binary and other compounds, while these arise from the conjunction of atoms. Compounds sometimes arise from separation and conjunction combined ; hence they are called pudgalas, because they “fill” (pur), and “dissolve” (gal). Although ” time ” is not properly an astikaya, because it does not occupy many separate parts of space [as mentioned in the definition], still it is a dravya [or tattva], as the definition will hold ; “substance” (dravya) possesses “qualities and action.” Qualities reside in substance but do not themselves possess qualities, as the general qualities, knowledge, etc, of the jiva, and form, etc, of the body, and the power of causing progress, stationariness, and motion into a place previously occupied, in the case respectively of ” merit,” ” demerit,” and akasa.
” Action ” (paryaya) has thus been defined ; the actions of a substance are, as has been said, its existence, its production, its being what it is, its development, its course to the end, as, e.g., in the knowledge of objects, as of a jar, etc, happiness, pain, etc ; in the pudgala, the lump of clay, the jar, etc ; in merit and demerit, the special functions of progress, etc. Thus there are six substances or tattvas [i.e. the five mentioned above and ” time “].
Others add more tattvas … Asrava is described as the movement of the soul called yoga, through its participation in the movement of its various bodies. As a door opening into the water is called asrava, because it causes the stream to descend through it, so this yoga is called asrava because by it, as by a pipe, actions and their consequences flow in upon the soul. Or, as a wet garment collects the dust brought to it from all sides by the wind, so the soul, wet with previous sins, collects, by its manifold points of contact with the body, the actions which are brought to it by yoga. Or as, when water is thrown on a heated lump of iron, the iron absorbs the water altogether, so the jiva, heated by previous sins, receives from all sides the actions which are brought by yoga (mixing of the soul with the body and actions).
Kashaya (” sin,” ” defilement “) is so called because it ” hurts ” the soul by leading it into evil states ; it comprises anger, pride, delusion, and lust. Asrava is two-fold, good or evil. Thus abstaining from doing injury is a good yoga of the body ; speaking what is true, measured and profitable, is a good yoga of the speech. These various subdivisions of asrava have been described at length in several Sutras. ” Asrava is the impulse to action with body, speech, or mind, and it is good or evil as it produces merit or demerit,” etc. Others, however, explain it thus : ” Asrava is the action of the senses which impels the soul towards external objects ; the light of the soul, coming in contact with external objects by means of the senses, forms the knowledge of respective objects or bodies.”
Bandha, ” bondage,” is when the soul, by the influence of “false intuition,” “non-indifference,” ” carelessness,” and “sin”, and also by the force of yoga, assumes various bodies occupying many parts of space, which enter into its own subtile body and which are appropriate to the bond of its previous actions. As has been said : “Through the influence of sin the individual soul assumes bodies suitable to its past actions; this is, bondage.”
The causes of bondage are false intuition, non-indifference, carelessness, and sin.
(a) “False intuition” is twofold, either innate from one’s natural character, as when one disbelieves Jain doctrines due to influence of former evil actions, or by influence of another’s teaching.
(&) ” Non-indifference ” is the non-restraint of the five senses, and the internal organ, from the set of six, earth, etc.
(c) “Carelessness” (pramada) is want of effort to practise the five kinds of samiti, gupti, etc.
(d) ” Sin ” consists of anger, etc. Here we must make the distinction that false intuition, etc, cause those kinds of bondage called sthiti and anubhava; yoga [or asrava] causes kinds called prakriti and pradesa.
” Bondage ” is fourfold, as has been said : ” Prakriti, sthiti, anubhava, and pradesa are its four kinds.”
I. Prakriti means “the natural qualities,” as bitterness or sweetness in the vimba plant or molasses.
2. Sthiti lasts beyond billions of units of time.
3. Anubhava is effect produced in different material bodies caused by our actions ; there exists a special capacity (anubhava) for producing their respective effects.
4. Pradesa is the entrance into the different parts of the soul by the masses, made up of an endless number of parts, of the various bodies which are developed by the consequences of actions.
Samvara is the stopping of asrava by which the influence of past actions (karma) is stopped from entering into the soul. It is divided into gupti, samiti, etc. Gupti is the withdrawal of the soul from that ” impulse ” (yoga) which causes mundane being. It is threefold, as relating to body, speech or mind. Samiti is acting so as to avoid injury to all living beings.
Moksha ( or Nirvana)
Moksha is the attainment with which there is an entire absence of all future actions, as all causes of bondage (false perception, etc) are ceased forever ; and, since all past actions are abolished in the presence of their causes, there arises the absolute release from all actions. As it has been said : “Moksha is the absolute release from all actions through decay (nirjard} of all actuated and potential causes of bondage and mundane being.”
Then the soul rises upward to the end of the world. As a potter’s wheel, whirled by a stick and by hands, moves on even after these have stopped until the impulse is exhausted, so the previous repeated contemplations of the embodied soul for the attainment of moksha exert their influence even after they have ceased and bear the soul onward to the end of the world.
Others hold moksha to be abiding in the highest regions, the soul being absorbed in bliss with its knowledge unhindered and itself untainted by any pain or impression thereof.
” The doctrine of the syad-vada arises from our everywhere, rejecting the idea of the absolute …” If a thing absolutely exists, it exists altogether, always, everywhere and with everybody, and no one at any time or place would ever make an effort to obtain or avoid it. The whole is thus summed up : Four classes of our opponents severally hold the doctrine of existence, non-existence, existence and non-existence successively, and the doctrine that everything is inexplicable (anirvachaniyata) ; three other classes hold one or other of the three first theories combined with the fourth.
Now, when they meet us with the scornful questions, ” Does the thing exist ? ” etc, we have a ready answer, ” It exists in a certain way,” etc. Syad-vada ascertains the entire meaning of all things. Thus said the teacher in the Syadvada-Manjari :
“A thing of an entirely indeterminate nature is the object only of the omniscient ; a thing partly determined is held to be the true object of scientific investigation. When our reasoning based on one point proceed in the revealed way, it is called the revealed Syad-vada, which ascertains the entire meaning of all things.”
” All other systems are full of jealousy from their mutual propositions and counter-propositions ; only the doctrine of the Arhat has no partiality and equally favours all sects.”
The Jaina doctrine has thus been summed up by Jinadatta-suri :
” The hindrances belonging to vigour, enjoyment, sensual pleasure, giving and receiving, sleep, fear, ignorance, aversion, laughter, liking, disliking, love, hatred, want of indifference, desire, sorrow, deceit … these are the eighteen faults (dosha) according to our system. The divine Jina is our Guru, who declares the true knowledge of the tattwas. The path of emancipation consists of knowledge, intuition and conduct. There are two means of proof (pramana) in Syad-vada doctrine – sense-perception and inference. All consists of the eternal and the non-eternal ; there are nine or seven tattwas. The jiva, the ajiva, merit and demerit, asrava, samvara, landha, nirjard, mukti … we will now explain each.
“ Jiva is defined as intelligence ; ajiva is all other than it ; merit means bodies which arise from good actions, demerit the opposite ; asrava is the bondage of actions, nirjard is the unloosing thereof ; moksha arises from destruction of the eight forms of karma or “action.” But by some teachers ” merit ” is included in samvara and ” demerit ” in asrava.
” Of the soul that has attained the four infinite things and is hidden from the world, and whose eight actions are abolished, absolute liberation is declared by Jina. The Swetambaras are the destroyers of all defilement, they live by alms, they pluck out their hair, they practise patience, they avoid all association, and are called Jain Sadhus. The Digambaras pluck out their hair, they carry peacocks tails in their hands, they drink from their hands, and they eat upright in the giver’s house; these are the second class of the Jain Rishis.
“A woman attains not the highest knowledge, she enters not Mukti, so say the Digambaras ; but there is great division on this point between them and the Swetambaras.”
A compendium of all thought and 16 belief – systems that men have lived with over extended period,
that they chose over others for obtaining a life and values perspective to guide themselves through …
Chapter II : The Buddhist Belief System
Puranas, the traditional record of dynasties and kings place the great Buddha about 18th Century BC, a time of great chaos and uprootedness, just after the River Sarasvati had dried up and life was displaced from its settled origins in its valley in present day Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana. People moved North into Punjab and towards East along the the course of rivers Ganga and Jamuna.
These eastern regions in Kosala and Magadha were already populated
and the massive migrations from the West led to much social conflict and churn through survival pressures, power quests and aspirations to affluence. It was a melting pot of gigantic proportions, which threw up several alternate life-views while people picked up their lives with severe ethical and moral questions on the social and personal perspectives they all had largely subscribed to before, through the millennium after the Kurukshetra War that had laid to waste millions of lives and ushered in a new world order. The drying up of the River Sarasvati was no less catastrophic, concomitant as it was with a number of frequent famine cycles.
In those interesting times, the Buddha’s way was a great call for moderation. It was universally heard, appreciated and adopted, though expectedly life throw up the extreme alternates as well. Charvaka’s materialist atheism was one of them.
Buddhists observe : The reasons you (Charvakas) lay down to establish the difficulty of ascertaining invariable concomitance are unacceptable, inasmuch as invariable concomitance is easily cognisable by means of identity and causality. It has accordingly been said : ” From the relation of cause and effect, or from identity as a determinant, results a (specific) law of invariable concomitance … not through mere observation of the desired result in (other) similar cases, nor through the non-observation of it in (other) dissimilar cases.”
On the hypothesis (of the “logician” Naiyayikas) that it is concomitance and non-concomitance, say, A is where B is and A is not where B is not, which determines an invariable (cause and effect) connection, but that the unconditional ( or unconditioned) attendance of the major or the middle term is unascertainable in all instances, it being impossible to exclude all doubt with regard to instances in past and future and present but unperceived … an inadequacy that also affects the Buddhist system … the latter says, “Not so, for such a supposition as that an effect may be produced without any cause would destroy itself by putting a stop to activity of any kind; for such doubts alone are to be entertained that do not implicate us in practical absurdity; as it has been said : Doubt terminates where there is a practical absurdity.“
And, if a man does not allow inference as a form of evidence, pramana, one may reply, “You merely assert thus much, that inference is not a form of evidence : Do you offer no proof of this assertion, or is there one you have ? The former alternative is not allowable according to the maxim that bare assertion is no proof of the matter asserted. Nor is the latter alternative any better, for if while you assert that inference is no form of evidence, you produce some truncated argument (to prove, i.e. infer the contrary), you will be involved in an absurdity, just as if you asserted your own mother to be barren !
Besides, when you (logician) affirm that the establishment of a form of evidence and of the corresponding fallacious evidence results from their homogeneity, you yourself admit induction by identity. Again, when you affirm that the dissent of others is known by the symbolism of words, you yourself allow induction by causality. When you deny the existence of any object on the ground of its not being perceived, you yourself admit an inference of which non-perception is the middle term.
Hence has the Tathagata said : The admission of a form of evidence in general results from its being present to the understanding of others. The existence of a form of evidence also follows from its negation by a certain person.
All this has been fully handled by great authorities; and we desist for fear of an undue enlargement of our essay.
Buddhists discuss the highest end of man from four standpoints, subscribers to which are respectively categorised as Madhyamika, Yogachara, Sautrantika and Vaibhashika. The Madhyamika adopts the doctrine of universal void (nihilism); Yogachara, of an external void (subjective idealism); Sautrantika, of the inferability of external objects (representationism); and the Vaibhasika, of the perceptibility of external objects (presentationism).
Thus the venerated Buddha, the one teacher, has disciples of four kinds, in consequence of this diversity of views; just as when one has said, “The sun has set,” the adulterer, the thief, the divinity student, and commoners understand that it is time to set about their assignations, their theft, their religious duties, household chores and so forth, according to their several inclinations.
In effect, the Buddhist belief may be simply expressed as :
All is momentary;
All is pain;
All is like itself alone; and
All is void.
The Buddhist thus drives the non-physical, non-ephemeral nature of the soul :
” What has rain and shine to do with the soul ? Their effect is on the skin of man. If the soul were like the skin, it would be non-permanent ; and if the skin were like the soul, there could be no effect produced upon it.”
Dilating on existence of beings and things, celestial bodies included, it is perceived that each of them change in part or full, without exception, in short and long term, and are replaced by another, like or unlike. They all – positive projections in existence – are hence categorised as “momentary.” And the “infinite” universal or mother existence that contain these successive momentary entities in existence is neither perceived nor is cognisable by any other valid means. Hence the universal infinite from which these entities form and into they unform, that permanence with character contrary to all these in existence, is void or non-existence. Therefore it has been said by Jnana-sri (Buddha, the knowledgeable) :
What is … is momentary, as a cloud, and as these existent things.
The power of existence is relative to practical efficiency and belongs to the ideal, but this power exists not as eternal in things eternal (ether, etc).
Each entity has only one form, otherwise one thing could do the work of another.
Conformably it has been said … ” Great is the dexterity of that which, existing in one place, engages without moving from that place in producing itself in another place. This entity (universality) is not connected with that wherein it resides, and yet pervades that which occupies that place : great is this miracle. It goes not away, nor was it there, nor is it subsequently divided, it quits not its former repository : what a series of difficulties ! “
If you ask : On what does the assurance rest that the one exists in the many ? You must be satisfied with the reply that we concede it to repose on difference from that which is different (or exclusion of heterogeneity). We dismiss further prolixity.
That all transmigratory existence is identical with pain is the common verdict of all the founders of institutes, else they would not be found desirous to put a stop to it and engage in method for bringing it to an end. We must, therefore, bear in mind that all is pain, and pain alone.
If you object : When it is asked, “like what ? you must quote an instance,” we reply : Not so, for momentary objects self-characterised being momentary, have no common characters, and therefore it is impossible to say that this is like that. We must therefore hold that all is like itself alone.
Objects are not determined by any one of the four alternatives. Hence it has been said …
“A religious mendicant, an amorous man, and a dog have three views of a woman s person, respectively that it is a carcass, that it is a mistress, and that it is a prey.”
In consequence of these four points of view – Madhyamika, Yogachara, Sautrantika and Vaibhashika – when all ideas concerning any or all entities are come to end, to their final extinction, the result is a void. To be true, there is nothing more to be taught : The student has only two duties, interrogation and acceptance. Of these, interrogation is putting forth questions in order to attain knowledge not yet attained here and now. Acceptance is assent to matters enunciated by the teacher.
Critically speaking, the nihilists on the Budhist way are excellent at assenting to that which the religious teacher enounces but defective in interrogation, whence their traditional designation of Madhyamikas (or mediocre). The “method” does not answer the question : Who is witnessing the void, and how ? If the void itself is witnessing it, then it could hardly be void proper !
Yogacharas, on the other hand, seem to realise the predicament : they accept the four points of view proclaimed by the spiritual guide and the void of external things, but question : Why has a void of the internal (or baselessness of mental phenomena) been admitted ? Their reasoning is : Self-subsistent cognition must be allowed or it will follow that the whole universe is blind.” Therefore does Dharmakirti proclaim, ” To one who disallows perception, his vision of objects is not competent (to start with).”
Likewise, the Sautrantikas hold that the absence of external world is untenable, as wanting evidence, which the Vaibhasikas provide while admitting the perceptibility of external objects. It brings the “truth” content in Buddhist thought to a full circle !
The testimony of one’s own consciousness however is an important contribution by those Buddhists who continued their contemplation along the lines of prevailing Yoga – Sankhya studies. Sense perception occasioned by six cognitions : sound (ear), touch (skin), colour (eye), taste (tongue), smell (nose) and, in addition to traditional inclusions, pleasure (mind). The four conditions necessary to sense-perception are : data, suggestion, medium, and the dominant (organ). For instance, the form of blue is the data in our understanding, cognised upon a suggestion in our sight, through the medium if light and the dominant eye organ.
So too with the universe, our perception of which consists of mind and five kinds of its modifications : sensational, perceptional, affectional, verbal, and impressional. Of these, the sensible world is the sense organs and their objects, the perceptional world is the stream of subject-recognitions and of presentments of activity, the affectional is the stream of feelings of pleasure and pain generated by the two aforesaid worlds, the verbal (or symbolical) world is the stream of cognitions conversant about words … the words ” cow,” and so forth, and the impressional world is constituted of the miseries … as desire, aversion, etc caused by the affectional world, the lesser miseries … as conceit, pride, etc, and merit and demerit.
Reflecting, therefore, that this universe is pain, an abode of pain, and an instrument of pain, a man should acquire a knowledge of the principles and the method of eliminating this pain. Hence it has been said, “The principles sanctioned by Buddha are, to the saint, the four methods of eliminating the aggregate of pain.” In these words the sense of pain is known to every one; the ” aggregate ” means the cause of pain.
This aggregate is twofold, as (1) determined by concurrence or (2) determined by causation. Of these, there is an aphorism comprising the aggregate determined by concurrence, ” which other causes resort to this effect ; the condition of these causes thus proceeding is concurrence ; the concurrence of causes is the result of this only, and not of any conscious being ” … such is the meaning of the aphorism. To exemplify : A germ, caused by a seed, is generated by the concurrence of six elements. Of these, earth as an element produces hardness and smell in the germ; water as an element produces viscidity and moisture; light as an element produces colour and warmth ; air as an element produces touch and motion ; ether as an element produces expansion and sound ; the season as an element produces a fitting soil, etc.
The aphorism comprising the aggregate determined by causation is : “With the Tathagatas, the nature of these conditions is fixed by production, or by non-production ; there is continuance as a condition, and determination by a condition, and conformity of the production to the cause ; the nature of these conditions, that is, the causal relation between the cause and effect, results from production or from non-production. That which comes into being, provided that something exists, is the effect of that as its cause ; such is the explanation of the nature (or causal relation). Continuance as a condition is where the effect is not found without its cause. Determination by a condition is the determination of the effect by the cause.
One might interpose that the relation of cause and effect cannot exist apart from some conscious agent. For this reason it is added that there existing a cause, conformity of the genesis to that cause is the nature which is fixed in conditions (that is, in causes and effects) ; and in all this no intelligent designer is observed.
Emancipation is the suppression of these two causal aggregates, or the rise of pure cognition subsequent to such suppression. The method (path, road) is the mode of suppressing them. This method is the knowledge of the principles. Such is the highest mystery.
As an anecdotal instance, the name Sautrantika arose from the fact that the venerated Buddha said to certain of his disciples who asked what was the ultimate purport (anta, end) of the aphorism (stitra), “As you have in quired the final purport of the aphorism, be Sautrantikas.” Thus did the name come to be.
It should not be contended that a diversity of instruction according to the disciples modes of thought is not traditional (or orthodox) ; for it is said in the gloss on the Bodha-chitta :
” The instructions of the leader of mankind (Buddha), accommodating themselves to the character and disposition (of those who are to be taught), are said to be diverse in many ways, according to a plurality of methods. For as deep or superficial, and sometimes both deep and superficial, these instructions are diverse, and diverse is the doctrine of a universal void which is a negation of duality.”
It is well known in Buddhist doctrine that the worship of the twelve inner seats (dyatana) is conducive to felicity.
” After acquiring wealth in abundance, the twelve inner seats are to be thoroughly reverenced ; what use of reverencing aught else below ? The five organs of knowledge, the five organs of action, the common sensory and the intellect have been described by the wise as the twelve inner seats.”
The system of the Buddhists is described as follows in the Viveka-vilasa :
” Of the Bauddhas, Sugata (Buddha) is the deity, and the universe is momentarily fluxional ; The following four principles in order are to be known by the name of the noble truths : Pain, the inner seats, and from them an aggregate is held, and the path (method). Of all this, let the explication be heard in order…
Pain, and the features of the embodied one, which are declared to be five – sensation, consciousness, name, impression, and form.
The five organs of sense, the five objects of sense, sound and the rest, the common sensory, and the intellect (the abode of merit), these are the twelve inner seats.
This should be the complement of desire and so forth, when it arises in the heart of man. Under the name of soul’s own nature, it should be the aggregate.
The fixed idea that all impressions are momentary is to be known as the path, and is also styled emancipation.
“Furthermore, there are two instruments of science, perception and inference. The Bauddhas are well known to be divided into four sects, the Vaibhashikas and the rest. The Vaibhashika highly esteems an object concomitant to the cognition ; The Sautrantika allows no external object apprehensible by perception ; The Yogachara admits only intellect accompanied with forms ; The Madhyamikas hold mere consciousness self-subsistent. All the four (sects of) Bauddhas proclaim the same emancipation, arising from the extirpation of desire, etc, the stream of cognitions and impressions.”
” The skin garment, the water-pot, the tonsure, the rags, the single meal in the forenoon, the congregation, and the red vesture, are adopted by the Bauddha mendicants.”
Though occasioned by a few conversations I had on social media, the topic has been with me for about two decades now : the fallacy in Buddhist thought, if one is looking for truth. For our world of action, there is no better subscription than the Buddhist way. For, it is in the very tenor of what the great Buddha himself presented in the new path : action … terminate absolutely the (lower) desires to end misery in your life and the world about … evolve out of even the (higher) desires to end absolutely the cycle of karma and rebirth.
Keeping the context of cultured thought of the times in which Buddha stood up and presented his own is important, if one is not to merely imagine and project one’s own meaning to what Buddha held forth in his assemblies. He disdains the rituals of Vedic or the later Sindhu-Sarasvati religious culture and he is silent on the ” God ” concept that tradition was then full of. It simplifies much in people’s life, freeing their attention to concentrate on the job at hand : action, on what to do, how to live one’s life, what to believe of what is manifest, which to regard as right or the correct path, how to decide … the entire life and values perspective in short that enables us to critically view our life and situational instance, and act in its accord.
What I see instead is that people, both hard core and romantic subscribers of Buddhist way, are reposing more and more of their quest for truth in it. It just leads to a jumboorie of imagined truths, the kind that Carl Jung warns us about : Enlightenment is not a matter of raising clouds of light within us; it is to illumine the very darkness all about.
Truth, in Buddhist way, can only be speculative, which in itself is a fine thing to do. But since it says, “overcome the self,” its followers presume that the directive means “negate the self.” It implies that the self is either a non-existent entity that we regard as existing through ignorance or that it exists but only until we are able to “eliminate” through our effort.
The first implication is a philosophical one, and still begs the question : So, what exists, in truth ? The second categorically means that the self does not exist in truth, and leads us back to the first. Without attempting to answer the ultimate question, let us revert back to the original directive Buddha proposes : Overcome the self. To me, in its context, it means that we become more powerful than the desiring self, the one which takes us over and commits acts that leads to misery for ourself and the world around us. That, we should win it over and make it subservient to our dictates, to the values perspective that Buddha clearly lays out. It is not a call for negating our very self, for there has to be one even for “overcoming the self.”
To sum : Buddhism could be a great way to action, to live and reduce misery, if not end it. But there is no truth in.
Personally, I find the Buddhist way a trifle too contradictory to something that I regard as non-negotiable : Life is; embrace it.
How is one to embrace life, if all of life and the world is nothing but misery ?
How does the anecdotal Buddha recommend joy, and advise us to enjoy our wealth but with offerings to others ?
Part V : British Colonial Indology (1780 CE – 2000 CE)
In reality this field of study was dominated by German scholars. Interest in Indology only took concrete direction and shape after the British came to India, with the discovery of Sanskrit by Sir William Jones in the 1770’s. Other names for Indology are Indic studies or Indian studies or South Asian studies. Almost from the beginning, the Puranas attracted the attention of European scholars. But instead of trying to understand the Puranas, and the context in which they were developed, the Occidental went about casting doubts on the authenticity of the texts and, in fact, altering the chronology which could be found in a particular Purana.
The extraordinary level of interest by German scholars in Indic matters is a very interesting narrative in its own right and we need to reflect upon its highlights. The German speaking people experienced a vast increase in intellectual activity at about the same time that Britain colonised India. We do not understand the specific factors that came into play during this time, other than to remark on the tremendous intellectual ferment that was running concurrently during the French revolution and the keen interest that Napoleon showed in matters scientific, including the contributions of the orient.
Clearly the remarks that Sir William made about Sanskrit as well as the high level of interest in Sanskrit language that he triggered, contributed to the overall sense of excitement. But why was it Germany and not Britain, the center of research on the Oriental contributions. The answer lies in the intense search for nationhood that was under way in Germany during that period. When Sanskrit was discovered, and it dawned on the Germans that the antiquity of Sanskrit was very great, and that Sanskrit and German were somehow related, the Germans suddenly had an answer to the question of their own ethnic and linguistic origins.
Sir Henry Maine (1822 – 1888), an influential Anglo-Indian scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta university, who was also on the Viceroys council, pronounced a view that many Englishman shared about the unification of Germany.
“A Nation Has Been Born Out Of Sanskrit”
From the beginning, the great interest that Germany showed in Sanskrit had more to do with their own obsessions and questions regarding their ethnic and linguistic origins. It had very little or at least far less to do with the origin of the ancient Indic. And yet, that does not stop the proponents of AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory) in India, whose knowledge of European history appears to be rudimentary at best, from asserting that AIT is an obsession of nationalistic Hindus. Such is the fate and perversion of history that conquered nations are expected to suffer !
Different aspects of this fascinating chapter – postulation of an Aryan race and its corollaries, Indo European and Indo German people – are described by various authors … Trautmann, Rajaram, Arvidsson, and very recently by Prodosh Aich. The interesting but curious aspect of this phenomena is that while the concept of Aryan race has been well nigh discarded by most of the modern generation in the Occident, it lingers on in our narrative of Indian History, a relic of the heyday of Europe’s dominance on the world scene. In those heady times as colonial powers, they promoted racist theories eulogising their occupation of distant lands, and over strange people, as part of their heritage as an Aryan people. Kipling’s phraseology, “white man’s burden.” is at once succinct of their superiority in psyche and of the racist outlook in behaviour and strategy formulation.
In contrast to the Germans and the French, whose interest was catalysed by the ubiquitous presence of Indic civilisation in South East Asia, the British had aparticular reluctance to study the nature and extent of the Indic civilisation. First and foremost, amongst their reasons for such neglect, was the aversion to admit that a subject people had any worthwhile civilisation to speak of, let alone one that was of far greater antiquity than their own.
Britain was the last of the three major powers in Europe to have a chair in Sanskrit; it was almost 50 years after the death of Sir William that England got around to establishing a chair at Oxford, the famous Boden chair.
* * *
Rajagriha or Rajagrha (Sanskrit)
The ancient capital of Magadha, famous for its conversion to Buddhism in the days of the Buddhist kings. It was the royal residence from Bimbisara-raja to Asoka, and the seat of the first Synod or Buddhist Council held 510 BC.The famous Saptaparna cave, in which the Buddha’s select circle of arhats were initiated, was in this famous city.
is the current name of the city and a notified area in Nalanda district in the Indian state of Bihar. The city of Rajgir (ancient Rajagriha or Rājagṛha; Pali: Rājagaha) was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, a state that would eventually evolve into the Maurya Empire. Its date of origin is unknown, although ceramics dating to about 1000 BC have been found in the city. The epic Mahabharata calls it Girivraja and recounts the story of its king, Jarasandha, and his battle with the Pandava brothers and their ally, Krishna.
Rajgir is also mentioned in Buddhist and Jain scriptures, which give a series of place-names but without a geographical context. The attempt to locate these places is based largely on references to them in the works of Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, particularly Faxian and Xuanzang. It is on the basis of Xuanzang’s records in particular that the site is divided into Old and New Rajgir. The former lies within a valley and is surrounded by low-lying hills. It is defined by an earthen embankment (the Inner Fortification), with which is associated the Outer Fortification, a complex of cyclopean walls that runs (with large breaks) along the crest of the hills.
New Rajgir is defined by another, larger embankment outside the northern entrance of the valley, and is next to the modern town.
Part IV : Who Ruled North India During Megasthenes’ Visit ? (contd)
According to Puranic evidence, there had expired 1500 odd years after Parikshit, when Mahapadmananda was coronated. Between Parikshit and the Nandas, there were 3 royal dynasties, namely the Brihadratha, Pradyota and Sisunaga families. The ten kings of the Sisunaga dynasty ruled for 360 years, beginning from 1994 BC and ending with 1634 BC At this time, an illegitimate son, Mahapadma-Nanda, of the last Sisunaga emperor, Mahanandi, ascended the throne of Magadha. The total regnal period of this Nanda dynasty was 100 years. After this with the assistance of Arya Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Magadha, in the year 1534 BC.
The Mauryas ruled for a total of 316 years, and were replaced by the Sungas. The Kanvas, who succeeded the Sungas, were themselves overthrown by one of the Andhra chiefs, which dynasty reigned for a period of 506 years. Then followed the reign of the Sri Guptas for a period of 245 years, a period also referred to as the (last of the) golden ages of Bharata. It was Samudragupta of the Sri Gupta dynasty, who was known as Asokaditya Priyadarshin. The inscriptions of Asoka belong to this Gupta emperor and not to the Asoka Maurya who came to power 218 years after the Buddha.
Narahari Achar of Memphis University has confirmed several of these dates, including that of the Buddha, using the Planetarium software that has its algorithms based on Celestial Mechanics. The method has established that the Puranic dates are correct based on the sky observations that were recorded by the ancients. This must be regarded as an independent verification since the principles of celestial mechanics were unknown to the ancient Indic.
The Hypotheses Of Sir William Jones
He made the following inferences from the work of Megasthenes, which were in retrospect colossal errors …
That the puranic chronology was completely erroneous.
That the Sandracottus mentioned in Megasthenes’ Indika was Chandragupta Maurya. He based this on two observations of Megasthenesa : one, that Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of two rivers which he wrongly read to be the Sone and the Ganges. There are two wrong inferences made in this statement : a) Megasthenes never mentions Pataliputra, but he uses the term Palibothra as the capital and b) Megasthenes mentions the two rivers as the Ganga and the Erannoboas, which was the Greek word for Yamuna. The equivalent Sanskrit name of Yamuna was Hiranyabahu, as prevailed in those times. While Megasthenes mentions the Sone elsewhere in his work, he clearly does not associate it with Palibothra. But Sir William deliberately chose to associate the capital Palibothra with the confluence of the Sone and the Ganga, and hence read it as Patliputra.
We quote the following passage of Sunil Bhattacharya from his paper :
“Even though Megasthenes had specifically mentioned Sone separately, yet Sir Jones conveniently stated that Megasthenes mentioned about Sone negligently. But there was none in those days to protest against such horrendous accusation hurled at Megasthenes. Present day well-informed historians know that there was indeed the city of Pratisthanpur at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, which was also mentioned by the great poet Kalidasa of the 8th century BCE, in his drama “Vikramorvashiya”. The city of Pratisthanpur was destroyed completely about one thousand years ago by a devastating fire and from that time onward that city has been known as Jhusi (or Jhunsi), a name derived from the Hindi word Jhulasna or “to burn.” Megasthenes stated that in those days all buildings / houses near rivers and the sea were made of wood and Palibuthra, being at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, was no exception; and that the structures with brick and clay were built only in places far away from the rivers and the sea. Thus it appears possible that the fire destroyed all the traces of the ancient wooden structures, if any of these at all survived till the time of the devastating fire. Jhusi is located towards the east of Allahabad, just across the river Ganga. Archaeologists have found grains and other artifacts in the mounds of Jhusi, which dates back to before the 4th century BCE. The Asoka pillar found in Jhusi had inscriptions of Samudragupta and it was shifted to the Allahabad Fort and the emperor Jahangir also made his inscription on it. The Asokainscription on it was of Samudragupta, after he had converted to Buddhism and had assumed the name of Asokaditya. All the Gupta kings had their second names ending in “-aditya”. “
After studying the fragments of Megasthenes’ Indika in detail, Pandit Bhagavad Datta offers another similar plausible explanation, and concludes : “Yamuna was flowing thru Palimbothra, known in ancient times as Paribhadra, the capital of the Prassi kingdom. Palimbothra was 200 miles from Prayag on the way to Mathura. The Kshatriyas were known as Paribhadrakas or Prabhadrakas. Their King was Chandraketu. The capital city of Paribhadra was near Sindhu Pulinda, which is in Madhya desa and is today known as Kali-Sindha. The Karusha reservoir was between Sindhu Pulinda and Prayag.”
However, after Sir William’s announcement, notwithstanding the aforesaid facts, Max Mueller anointed the identification of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Maurya and proceeded to declare Alexander’s invasion, and the subsequent visit of Megasthenes, as the sheet anchor of Indian History, neither of which events are of great significance in Indian history.
Troyer did not agree with this conclusion and noted this fact in the introduction to his translation of Rajatarangini of Kalhana. He even communicated his views to Prof. Max Mueller in a letter but did not receive a reply. Max Mueller ignored the objections of Troyer and Colebrook, and hailed the discovery and Sir Jones’ inferences as authentic !
What Does Megasthenes Say About The Kings Who Ruled
He calls Sandracottus the king of the Prassi and he mentions the names of Xandramus as predecessor and Sandrocyptus as successor to Sandracottus. There is absolutely no resemblance in these names to Bindusara (the successor to Chandragupta Maurya) and Mahapadma Nanda, the predecessor.
He makes absolutely no mention of Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the Acharya who helped Chandragupta ascend the throne.
He makes no mention of the widespread presence of the Baudhik or Sramana tradition during the time of the Maurya empire.
He claims the capital is Palimbothra or Palibothra, and that the city exists near the confluence of the Ganga and the Eranaboas (Hiranyabahu). But the Puranas are clear that all the 8 dynasties after the Mahabharata war had their capital at Girivraja (Rajagriha), located in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is no mention of Pataliputra in the Puranas. So, the assumption made by Sir William that Palimbothra is Pataliputra has no basis in fact and is not attested by any piece of evidence. If the Greeks could pronounce the first P in (Patali) they could certainly have pronounced the second p in Putra, instead of bastardising it as Palimbothra. Granted the Greeks were incapable of pronouncing any Indian names, but there is no reason why they should not be consistent in their phonetics.
The empire of Chandragupta was known as Magadha Empire. It had a long history even at the time of Chandragupta Maurya. In Indian literature, this powerful empire is amply described by its name but the same is absent in Greek accounts. It is difficult to understand as to why Megasthenes did not use this name “Magadha” and instead used the word Prassi, which has no equivalent or counterpart in Indian accounts.
The Colossal Error In Indian Historiography
This is indeed a remarkable tale even when viewed from the different perspectives of the Indic and the Occidental. That a person with such a scant knowledge of Sanskrit would have the audacity to rewrite the entire history of the Indian Civilization, based merely on scraps and remnants of a travelogue, written by an individual who is not even highly regarded by more revered Greek historians, is astonishing and bespeaks a degree of hubris that matches the grandeur of the Himalayas. In fairness to Sir William, it must be said that he himself may be utterly surprised at the seriousness with which his speculations were received and subsequently anointed by scholars at home. This is in addition to the great weight that is given to Greek historians’ writing about India, despite their atrocious bastardisation of Sanskrit terms.
And even if Sir William believed he had a good cause to stand by, what of the Indics of the modern era ? Have the Indics taken leave of their senses ? Surely such a sloppy, baseless conjecture would be reason enough to discredit the thesis. The Indics should have cringed when they were told that the undecipherable scrap of paper left of “Indika” was more credible than the Puranas written in a language with very little ambiguity; but such are the depths to which the Indic has sunk. He is apt to believe the words of a conqueror, who is not qualified to tell the story with any degree of accuracy and who is himself qualifying his proposal as something of a speculation, than the words of the great Rishis of yore, who wrote in the precise language of Sanskrit.
There is a palpable sense of frustration when we see that more than 50 years after Independence we still teach the chronology that was erroneously derived from the torn fragments of Indika.
Part III : WHO WAS RULING IN INDIA DURING THE VISIT OF MEGASTHENES
In order to examine these hypotheses we must digress to the characterisation of Megasthenes by Greek historians such as Arrian, Strabo and Diodorus.
Megasthenes (ca. 350 BC – 290 BC)
was a Greek traveler and geographer from Ionia in Asia Minor or present day Turkey. He became an ambassador of Seleucus of Syria to the court of Sandracottus ( mistakenly believed to be Chandragupta Maurya) of India, in Pataliputra. However the exact date of his embassy is uncertain. Scholars place it before 288 BC. Arrian explains that Megasthenes lived in Arachosia, with the satrap Sibyrtius, from where he visited India : “Megasthenes lived with Sibyrtius, satrap of Arachosia, and often speaks of his visiting Sandracottus, the king of the Indians.” Arrian, Anabasis Alexandri
We have more definite information regarding the parts of India which Megasthenes visited. He entered the country through the district of the Pentapotamia of the rivers, of which he gave a full account (thought to be the five affluents of the Indus, forming the Punjab region), and proceeded from there by the royal road to Pataliputra. There are accounts of Megasthenes having visited Madurai (then, a bustling city and capital of Pandya Kingdom), but appears to have notbeen to any other part of the country. His observations were recorded in Indika, a work that served as a source to later writers such as Strabo and Arrian. He describes such geographical features as the Himalayas and the island of Sri Lanka.
Megasthenes also mentioned the country’s caste system, more in terms of profession, status and personality descriptor. But the problem from an Indic perspective is that very little of the Indika survives in tact today and we are left with second hand accounts of Greek historians. In fact McCrindle, in “Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and Arian,“ says that the Greek writers such as Megasthenes were not highly regarded and were prone to lying. Strabo was of the opinion that Megasthenes simply created fables and as such no faith could be placed in his writings. In Strabo’s own words : “Generally speaking the men who have written on the affairs of India were a set of liars. Deimachos is first, Megasthenes comes next.”
Diodorus also held similar opinions about him. So who and what should we believe? It was Dr. Schwanbeck who, we are told, had collected all the fragments that were extant at that time, and who finally comes to the conclusion that Megasthenes can be largely vindicated of the charge of mendacity (that was leveled at a host of other Greek historians).
The Greek records mention Xandramas and Sandrocyptus as the kings immediately before and after Sandracottus. These names are not in any way phonetically similar to Mahapadma Nanda and Bindusara, who were respectively the predecessor and successor of Chandragupta Maurya. However, if Sandracottus refers to Chandragupta “Gupta”, Xandramas could be his predecessor Chandrashree alias Chandramas (the last of the main dynasty of Andhra Satavahana Kings) and Sandrocyptus to be Samudragupta. The phonetic similarity becomes quite apparent and other supporting evidence too confirms the identity of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Gupta. The correction also settles the ridiculous start of Vikram Era from 58 BC, while Vikramaditya himself is placed about four centuries later !
The Puranas transmit the Hindu tradition and historical records to successive generations. In fact we are told in the Mahabharata that ‘the Vedas are afraid of him who has not studied the Epics and the Puranas, for he would indeed kill them with his ignorance of the truth propounded in them.’
The Puranas are a class of literary texts, all written in Sanskrit verse, whose composition dates from the time of Veda Vyaasa, who lived at the time of the Mahabharata War. The Puranas are regarded by some as the Veda when studied under a magnifying glass. The word “Purana” means “old” and in fact Panini assigns the meaning “complete”( cognate with purna). Generally they are considered as following the chronological aftermath of the epics, though sometimes the Mahabharata, which is generally classified as an Itihaasa (history), is also referred to as a Purana.
Some scholars, such as van Buitenen, are inclined to view the Puranas as beginning around the time that the composition of the Mahabharata came to a close. Certainly, in its final form the Mahabharata shows puranic features, and the Harivamsa (appended to the Mahabharata), wherein the life of Krishna or Hari is treated at some length, has sometimes been seen as a purana. The special subject of the Puranas is the powers and works of the gods, and one ancient Sanskrit lexicographer, Amarasinha, regarded by some as a Jain and by others as a Buddhist, reputed to be a courtier of Vikramaditya, defined a purana as having five characteristic topics, or pancalaksana :
The creation of the universe, Sarga;
Its destruction and renovation, Prati-sarga;
The genealogy of gods and patriarchs, Vamsa;
The reigns of the Manus, forming the periods called Manavantaras;
The history of the Solar and Lunar races of kings, Vamsanucharita.
No one purana exhibits in detail all five of these distinguishing inclusions, but some reagrd the Vishnu Purana as most close to the traditional definition. Vyasa composed the Puranas in 400,000 “Grantha”. A Grantha is a stanza consisting of 32 syllables. Of these, the Skanda Purana alone accounts for 100,000. It is perhaps the world’s biggest literary work. The remaining 17 Puranas add up to 300,000 Granthas. Apart from them, Vyasa composed the Mahabharata, which contains nearly 100,000 Granthas.
Each Purana is devoted to a particular deity. There are Saiva, Vaisnava and Sakta Puranas. The 18 Puranas are : Brahma Purana (Brahma), Padma Purana (Padma), Narada Purana (Naradiya), Markandeya Purana, Visnu Purana (Vaisnava), Siva Purana(Saiva), Bhagvata Purana, Agni Purana (Agneya), Bhavisya Purana, Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Linga Purana, Varaha Purana (Varaha), Skanda Mahapurana, Vamana Purana, Kurma Purana (Kaurma), Matsya Purana (Matsya), Garuda Purana (Garuda) and Brahmanda Purana.
In the Puranic and other ancient texts, there is no allusion to any invasion or inroad into India by foreign people up to the time of Andhra kings. The only person who bore a name similar to “Sandracottus” mentioned by the Greeks, who flourished at the time of Alexander, was Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty, who established a mighty empire on the ruins of the already decayed Andhra dynasty. His date from puranic records is 2811 years after the Mahabharata War, which corresponds to 328 B.C. His current place on the historical datline is 4th Century AD, which is an obvious error.
It is also interesting to note that the accounts in the life of Sandracottus of the Greeks, the political and social conditions in India at that time, match with those of Chandragupta Gupta era. Therefore, the Greek and Puranic accounts agree only with the identity of Chandragupta Gupta and Sandracottus. A complete picture of the Dynastic lists and the names of individual Kings of the Magadha Empire is furnished here below :
1. Birth of Bhishma ………………….. ………………………………..3396 B.C
2. Birth of Vedavyasa…………………. ………………………………3374 ,,
3. Age of Vysampayana…………………. ……………………………3300 ,,
4. Age of Yaajnavalkya………………… ……………………………..3280 ,,
5. Kanwa Rishi……………………….. …………………………………..3250 ..
6. Bodhayana (Sutrakara)………………. ………………………….3200 ,,
7. The Saptarshis (or the Great Bear) entered Magha…3176 ,,
8. Coronation of Yudhistira at Sakraprastha … …………..3176 ,, (before the War)
9. Yudhistira lost his Empire in the game of Dice……….. 3151 ..
10. Murder of Keechaka by Bhimasena……………………… 3139 ,,
11. Date of Mahabharata War…………….. ……… 3138 ,,
12. Coronation of Yudhistira……………. …………………………3138 ,,
13. Yudhistira Era begins………………. …………………………..3138 ,,
14. Birth of Parikshit…………………. ……………………………….3138 ,,
15. Coronation of Brihatkshana, king of Ayodhya ……… 3138 ,, (Ikshwaku Dynasty)
16. Coronation of Maarjaari / Somadhi, king of Magadha 3138 ,, (after the War)
17. Coronation of Gali (king of Nepal) …………………….. …3138 ,, (after the War)
18. Coronation of Gonanda-II, king of Kashmir ………….3139
19. Sri Krishna Nirvana ……………….. …………………………..3102 ,,
20. Kali Era begins (Cycle year Pramaadhi)… 3102 ,,
21. Submersion of Dwaraka-Nagara…………. ………………3102 ,,
22. Annihilation of Yadava Dynasty……….. …………………3102 ,,
23. Coronation of Parikshit……………… ………………………..3101 ,,
24. Jayabhyudaya Yudhistira Saka begins…… …………..3101 ,,
25. Yudhistira Kaala (or Death of Yudhistira)…………….3076 ,,
1 Death of Parikshit………………………. …………………………3041 B.C
2 Coronation of Janamejaya…………………. ………………….3041 .,
3 Janamejaya’s Gift Deed (Cycle year Plavanga).. ……3012 ,.
4 Age of Aryabhatta……………………….. ……………………….2742 .,
5 Yudhistira Saka of the Jains……………… ………………….2634 ,,
6 Birth of Buddha…………………………. ……….. 1887 ,,
7 Niryana of Buddha……………………….. ………………………1807 ,,
8 Coronation of Mahapadma Nanda…………….. ………….1634 ,,
9 Coronation of Chandra Gupta Maurya……. 1534 ,,
10 Coronation of Asoka……………………… …………………..1472 ,,
11 The Yayana king ‘Amtiyoka’……. ………………………..1472-36 (of Maurya inscriptions)
12 Age of Panini……………………………………….. ……………1400 ,,
13 End of reign of Salisuka of the Maurya dynasty… 1320 ,,
14 Age of the Yavana king “Milinda” …….. ………………1320-1307 ,,
15 Nagarjuna Yogi………………………….. ……………………..1294 ,,
16 Kanishka……………………………….. ………………………….1294-1234 ,,
17 Coronation of Pushyamitra Sunga…………… …………1218 ,,
18 Age of Patanjali………………………… ……………………….1218 ,,
19 Malava-Gana-Saka………………………… ………………….725 ,,
20 Birth of Vardhamana-Maha·Vira…………….. ………..599 ,,
21 Birth of Kumarila Bhattacharya……………. …………..557 ,,
22 Saka Bhupa Kala (Cyrus Era)………………. ……………550 ,,
23 Niryana of Vardhamana Maha Vira…………… ………528 ,,
24 Kumarilabhatta pushed out from the terrace…. …525 ,,
25 Birth of Adi Sankara……………………. …. 509 ,,
26 Upanayana of Adi Sankara………………… ……………..504 ,,
27 Death of Siva Guru, Sankara’s Father……… ……… 501 ,,
28 Authurasanyaasa of Sankara……………….. ………….500 ,,
29 Krama sanyasa of Sankara…………………. ……………499 ,,
30 Death of Aryamba (Sankara’s mother)………. ……493 ,,
31 Niryana of Govinda Bhagavatpada…………… ……..493 ,,
32 Meeting of Sankara with Kumarilabhatta…….. …493 ,,
33 Death of Kumarila. (Self Immolation)………. ……..493 ,,
1 Sanyasa of Mandana Misra(Sureswaraeharya)…. 491 B.C.
2 Establishment of Dwaraka Peetha …………………… 491 B.C.
3 Sankara’s Visit to Nepal……………………………… …….488 B.C.
4 Jyothir Mutt in the Himalayas…………………………. 486 B.C.
5 Govardhana mutt (Puri)……………………………….. …485 B.C.
6 Sarada Mutt (Sringeri )………………………………. ……484 B.C.
7 Kamakoti Peetha(Conjeevaram)…………………….. 482 B.C.
8 Niryana of Sri Sankara……………………………….. 477 B.C.
9 Era of Sri Harsha………………. ………………….. 457 B.C.
________________________________________________________ 10 Coronation of Chandragupta of Gupta Dynasty…………….. 327 B.C.
11 Gupta Era Begins ……………………………………. 327 B.C.
12 Invasion of Alexander ……………………………….. 326 B.C.
13 Birth of Vikramaditya Ujjayani ………… ………….101 B.C. (Panwar dynasty)
14 End of Gupta dynasty ………………………………… 82 B.C.
15 Coronation of Vikaamaditya at Ujjain…………….. 82 B.C.
16 Era of Vikramaditya………………. ………………… …………..57 B.C.
17 Kalidasa , Varahamihira and others, …………….. 57 B.C. (nine gems in Vikramaditya’ court)
18 Era of Salivahana……………………………………. …….78 A.D.
19 Bhattotpala…………………………………………. ……..338 A.D.
20 Bhaskaraoharya ……………………………………… ..486. A.D.
21 Coronation of Bhoja Raja (Panwar Dynasty.). 638 A.D.
22 Birth of Ramanujacharya………………………….. 1017 A.D.
23 Birth of Madhvacharya…………………………….. 1119 A.D.
24 Death of Ramanujacharya………………………… 1137 A.D.
25 Battle of Staneswar…………………………………… 1193 A.D. (Ghori vs Prithviraj)
Where there are no riches there is no poverty. The people are living simply.
Upon the hills, amidst blossoming trees, stand the quiet little houses. Through the colored branches shine the bright stars and glimmer the snow-covered peaks. Here are people carrying their vegetables; here, they pasture their cattle and smile kindly. Here, with fairylike music they walk along the steep paths in wedding processions. Knowing of reincarnation they quietly cremate the bodies. And they are singing. Mark, they are often singing.
Verily, one can sing under a canopy of various flowers and plants. Orchids, like colorful eyes, cling to the trunks of the giant trees. Pink, purple and yellow bouquets are strewn along the way like bright sparks. And these are not simply plants; many have their ancient powers of healing.
Nature awaits here full of gifts. Come hither and be cured. Charura, Parura, Orrura are the three important curative fruits against cough, cold and fever. Charura is like a yellow cherry; Parura like a green chestnut and Orrura like a yellowish-green crab-apple. All three are sharp to the taste and full of tannin. Here is the red bark of Aku Ombo, to cure wounds. Salve against fever is Sergi Phurba, like a dry giant bean. Chuta, the dry bitter root, will cure swelling and heal the throat. Bassack is a brown powder for colds. The red-stemmed Tze produces magenta; bitter Purma is for incenses. A broth from the roots of Berekuro is effective for women’s ailments. The flowers of Dangero heal the stomach, much like the flower of the red rhododendron; while the leaf of Dysro is a disinfectant for wounds. Memshing Pati is a sacred plant in Nepal, where it is used for head ornaments at festivals. Endless are the useful plants…
The leaves of the herb Ava Duti are said “to soften” stones, just as do the “snow-frogs” * in the Himalayas. Therefore, if upon a stone you see the print of an elk’s foot or the paw of an animal, it seems they have eaten or touched this wondrous herb. Turning again to legends : near Phalut, on the road to Kanchenjunga, grows a precious plant, the black aconite. Its flower lights up at night, and by its glow one locates this rare plant. Here again is the trace of the legend of the Russian fire flower, that enchanted blossom which fulfills all wishes— and which leads us not to superstition but to that same source wherein so much still lies concealed.
* Snow-frogs”—a legend which attributes to snow-frogs the ability to soften stones.
Before our gates was found a strange gift. The branches of a fir tree, rhododendron and some other plants were there, with their leaves pointing to our house, and covered with a flat stone. This is a conjuration (Sunnium) and the man who raises this offering receives upon himself all which is sworn upon it, whether of good or evil, sickness or sorrow, or joy. For many days it lay there and even horses shied at it. The same conjuration we observed in the suburb of Jaipur; there in the middle of a street, in a flat basket, lay a lamb’s liver, flowers and three silver rupees. None touched them. These conjurations are of very ancient origin.
Everywhere are legends of the accidental discoveries of sacred spots, the revelation of which was followed by dumbness and even death. Thus it is told that one Shikari (a hunter) in Assam, accidentally wandered into a sacred place and beheld its mysteries, and when he attempted to reveal them he was stricken dumb.
On the shore of the sea is moving a stick. It moves on alone and near the top of it is tied a lighted tinder. Thus do the conjurers of the coast of Malabar invoke their conjurations to burn the house of an enemy. Doctor Jones of Calcutta tried to overtake such a stick but it “walked away” beyond his own pace.
A legend from around Mongolia : “A venerated mother died and her son was desirous that a high lama possessed of exalted powers should perform the services over her. But such a lama could not be found. The son at the moment of death deposited the spirit of the departing one into a sandalwood casket, strongly sealed this sanctuary and himself invited the best lamas from Tibet. The lamas concentrated upon the casket; one of them began to change in countenance, first becoming red, then blue from exertion. Then suddenly the casket burst into splinters before the eyes of all. This lama was able to free the spirit and thus could perform the service.”
The people here know everything; they have heard everything. One can remember and disclose all things in the twilight : of “Nam-Yg” (heavenly letters)—the letters and sacred books which are falling from heaven; of rings of silver or turquoise which change their color as a sign of foreboding and warning; of Si, the stone bead, sent from heaven to guard the health; of the finding of objects which disappear afterward. All this is known.
A woman was very pious and dreamt that she might receive the image of Buddha. Working in the morning amid her flowers she discovered an image and brought it into her shrine. But soon she forgot it and Buddha disappeared from the shrine. Next time the woman found in her garden a whirling sparkling stone and put it into a coffer and forgot it. Then the stone disappeared. Neglect always results in the disappearance of the bestowed happiness.
Do not record the things which can be read in books but those which are related to you in person; for those thoughts are the living ones. Not by the book but by the thought shall you judge life.
A Travel Diary
By Nicholas Roerich
[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]
Part VII : INDIA (1924)
In the first full moon after New Year, which fell this year on the twentieth of February, there was the annual festival in Tashi-ding. The miracle of the self-filling chalice occurs at the time.
Since ancient days—more than eight generations ago—this miracle has been ordained. From a designated spot in the mountain river a small vessel of water is drawn and poured into an ancient wooden chalice. In the presence of witnesses, representatives of the Maharajah of Sikkim, the chalice is closed and hermetically sealed. A year later at sunrise during the same full moon, the chalice is unsealed amidst due ceremony and the quantity of water is measured. Sometimes the water has diminished but sometimes it has increased considerably. In the year of the great war the water tripled in quantity, which meant war. Now the water has diminished by half, which means famine and disorder.
This evil omen has been intensified by another sign. On February twentieth there occurred a complete eclipse of the moon. Never has there been so evil a sign.
The trumpets sound, the whistles shriek, the people in costumes, as though from the “Snowmaiden,” proceed to the great stupa. The choir, singing, winds its way around the crowds. (extra space below – no indent)
Many prostrate themselves. The drums of the lamas resoundingly thunder. At this moment darkness falls athwart the clear moonlight ! The golden fires of offerings gleam out as though against black velvet. Occurs a complete eclipse ! The demon Rahu has stolen the moon ! Never was it so until this day of miracle in Tashi-ding.
Said Asura Rahu to the sun : “Because thou hast carried away Razayana by deceit, I shall swallow thee, god of sun, at that time when, on the thirtieth day, you will unite the knots of the orbit!” And further Rahu pronounced a prophetic threat : “In penalty that thou, moon, although recognizing me, commanded that I be cut asunder, I shall seize thee and devour thee on the date of the fifteenth, during the time of the full moon!” And attentively the people are watching the eclipse of the moon and sun and beat upon the drums and threaten Rahu.
But there was also one good omen. At sunrise the head lama beheld garlands of fire starting to glow upon the peaks of the mountains.
When the moon was restored to the world, the dancing commenced around the main stupa, a typical Russian round. The songs are also like the Russian; their import is spiritual. “In a monastery dwells our Lord Buddha. We bring to him our offering”—so begins one song; or “Mighty is the sacred book but I shall find a spot for it close to my heart” or, “I recollect the sacred monastery.”
In a white kaftan the artist who decorated the local temple approaches. We have arranged for him to go with us to paint the Blessed Maitreya. He will demonstrate the technique of the local painting.
Red, yellow, white, purple kaftans; women’s sleeves of crimson, green and white. Peaked hats, fur-edged. The people talk, sing, and for two nights walk around the stupa.
They are touching their foreheads to the stone upon which the teacher, Padma Sambhava gave his benediction of the site. They walk around another stone bearing the imprint of the teacher’s foot and the imprint of hoofs and paws of beasts. And again the chorus marches around the stupa, singing of the fulfillment of all desires.
Entering the temple, you walk along your left up to the wall of the altar. Within the temples of the Yellow Sect, in the center of the altar wall, is the statue of Buddha. Or now, perhaps Maitreya-Buddha is at the right. Sometimes the lower temple is dedicated to Padma Sambhava and the upper one to Buddha. These positions are closely related to the inner meanings of the teachings : Buddha represents heaven; Padma Sambhava the earth. Upon the side niches are images of Avalokiteshvara— a spiritual conclave of brotherhood, many-headed and many-armed, like our Russian Hundred-Armed One. There are also statues of the “Keepers of Lightning,” of the founders of Monasteries and of sixteen Arhats, sitting in carved caves. Upon the altar are lamps and various offerings, seven chalices with water, a saucer of rice, censers with incense, a shrine with relics.
The walls are generally covered with frescoes, especially one wall, that of the altar. At the entrance stand the images of the guardians of the four hemispheres. In every temple will be found an image of the seven treasures vouchsafed to humanity; among them on a white horse is the image of the miraculous stone.
In a special compartment are kept the sacred books. The common dream of the monasteries is to increase the number of books; but books are expensive—a sacred volume costs up to a thousand rupees.
Especially touching is the service of the thousand lights, in the evening, here in the low frescoed temple, with its columns and ornamented beams. In the center is a long table on which fires are set; along the walls also stand rows of lights, and this sea of fires caressingly undulates and sways, wrapped in a veil of smoke from the sandalwood, wild mint and other fragrances, which are consumed in the urns. During this service the singing, too, is of exquisite harmony.
Along all paths, the caravans of the pilgrims wind their way. High saddles are covered with bright fabrics. Wild white ponies are bearing the bulging-bellied luggage. There are crowds of pilgrims seeking a resting place for the night. Here and there are a few banners raised in memory of the living and oftener for the dead. A crowd up to 1,200 collects together—but a peaceful, good crowd.
At early dawn, long before sunrise, when the snows on the mountain are still soft amber, the camp begins to stir. The drone of life creeps along and broadens; the cadence of early prayer mingles with the stamping of horses and mules.
In the morning, a procession makes its way toward our tents. The head lama himself proclaims the bringing of gifts. After him follow high uplifted trays with rice, with the ribs of a ram, with sugar-cane, with ale and fruit. The lama himself makes the offering to our traveling kitchen.
Amidst the stupas are spread the tents of the pilgrims. Here under a green canopy are sitting lamas from Tibet. Women are turning for them the lengthy pages of the prayer book. The lamas are intoning Tantrik songs, to the sounds of hand drums and gongs. Where is Stravinsky, Stokovsky, Prokofieff, where Zavadsky, to portray the powerful modes of these stirring calls ? And how fine is the white-gold face of her who turns the pages before the singers.
Not far off, a group from Nepal are clapping hands in rhythmic beat and chanting. In the center, a woman, with features unmoved, ecstatically dances the Sherpa Dance, full of the fine gestures of conjuration. Sometimes she moves her hands in a fluttering motion like a bird and utters a weird birdlike call. It is indeed striking.
There the wanderers from Bhutan are praying under a red canopy. Before the distribution of the healing waters, a sacred procession walks around the stupas. In the front are trumpeters in high red hats; after them the lamas in tiaras, and behind are borne a long row of sacred books.
At sunset, within the tent, the head lama quietly speaks of the sanctuaries of Sikhim. He relates the “miracles” which he has heard, or has himself seen; of the buzzing of swarms of invisible bees; of the singing and celestial music; of the apparitions of sacred images. At our departure the lama pointed out two gracious omens. Upon our way, coming to meet us, were three brimming bamboo water-pails carried by water carriers and two woodsmen with full fagots of wood.
Tashi-ding is one of Sikhim’s prominent sites and belongs to the parish of a great monastery, Pemayangtse, and is a day’s travel away. It is also on the peak, standing like a bulwark. It has been newly rebuilt. Its renovation has been done with such sensitiveness that even the most recent painting gives you joy by its fine and ingenious decoration. And the carvings on the casements are fairylike. And the tall heavy doorways lead you into the wooden temples of Russia. Dignified are the head lamas with their festive purple garments and with their impressive red tiaras adorning their heads. Nevertheless one recalls with most pleasure the eighty-year-old abbot of Tashi-ding, ever zealous and careful to improve his structure, with his economical eye penetrating everywhere.
Behind the gates of Pemayangtse are standing as guardians three-hundred-year-old ancient trees—like the fairy forest of Berendey. A tiny street of the lamas’ homes is like the suburb of Berendey, painted and ornamented with its many-colored porches and stairways.
Here is “Heaven’s Sacred Mountain” and upon its peaks shines a small mountain lake. There is also a small temple erected on the spot where the founder of the Red Sect in Sikhim lived. From Dubdi, the founder passed to the Sacred Lake and thence into the ancient Sanga Chöling.
The four most ancient monasteries of Sikhim are Dubdi, Sanga Chöling, Daling and Robling. And the meanings of their names are noble ones : “Palace of Meditation,” “Island of Secret Teaching,” “Island of Lightning” and “Island of Happy Striving.”
An excellent monastery is Sanga Chöling; nor do we forget Daling with its blue-white, porcelain-like entrance amidst a bamboo grove. Here at the altar is preciously kept a sealed box containing relics of the founder of the monastery. There are banners—gold on a black background. In Sanga Chöling there are no relics, but there lies a stone made sacred by the blessing of the founder; when the life in the monastery is undefined the stone is firm, but each besmirching of life makes the stone crack.
Here are those tiny doors, beloved to me in Novgorod and Yaroslavl. Here is beautiful fresco painting. Here are the polychrome ornaments entwining all casements of the windows and doors. Here are the same rounded backs of pilgrims devoted to the faith, and the fires of dedicated offerings. Our coolies are also lighting a fire—a true widow’s mite. And above them adamantly rises “the Keeper of Lightning.”
Although the teacher, Padma Sambhava, was never in Pemayangtse, yet in the monastery are kept the things which belonged to this founder of the religion. The things are kept sealed but on some occasions are shown; a garment, headdress, beads, tiny bells of a wondrous chime, two magic daggers and a small exquisite image of Buddha.
And the trumpets sound more thunderous in Pemayangtse and the dragon guardians seem more terrifying and the influence of the monastery is greater. The ruins of the palace of the Maharajah are near. According to the biblical custom the first Maharajah was chosen to reign by the head of the religion. But there is no figure of Maitreya in the big monastery.
A few solitary temples with a single fire before them, surrounded by peach and rose flowers and intertwining orchids and wild peonies, indicate closer the path of simple attainment of the Teaching.
Out of the forest walks a peasant and his head is adorned with white flowers. Where is this possible? Only in Sikkim.
Before the New Year, the evil entities are destroyed by conjurations and dances. In the Dance of the Stags, the effigy of the evil entity is hacked and its parts strewn around. In the midst of the circle proudly walks the Guardian of the Teaching, brandishing his sword — while black-headed lamas whirl around, swirling the wings of their broad sleeves. Musicians in high yellow hats are coming to the fore, like Berendeys in “Snow-maiden.” And above the ornamented cornices of the temple the eagles wheel, while from the turrets of the hill the assembled crowds stand out in colorful relief.
The dances themselves on the New Year’s day acquire significance, with their frightful symbols of evil entities. How far removed is the impression made by these awe-inspiring masks, against the sunny background of the Himalayas, from the oppressive dark corners of Museums where these examples are so often collected, frightening the visitor by the apparition of a conventional hell! Of course, this hell is invoked only for the terrifying of the weakly developed souls, and much fantasy is devoted to the intensifying of these hellish countenances.
In the monastery of the Red Caps the impression is not so luminous. In the Red Monasteries of Padma Sambhava, this symbolization is more physically conventional. The play starts with a simple “mystery” of the judgment over the dead. The chief lord of hell approaches with his assistants. The beast-like servitors drag forward the black soul of a dead murderer. They weigh out his crimes. The chalice of his sins weighs down the balance, and the murderer is thereupon thrust into a seething caldron. The same occurs to the soul of a female sinner.
But then there is summoned forth a saint in the vestments of a lama. He is adorned in a white scarf. Of course, the court must be just, so three messengers of joy lead the exalted one into paradise !
Fifteen years ago there died a remarkable lama who came from Mongolia. We saw his image — resembling the type of Russian ascetic. A powerful visage, unconquerably hard are the cheek bones; the eyes are piercing. “During the departure of this strong spirit, a rainbow shone over the monastery founded by him.”
The lama possessed rare books — and it is very difficult to obtain rare books. One must send a trusted person into remote districts. Remarkable books exist; there is the book of one Tashi-Lama, concerning his visit to sacred Shambhala. There are collections of symbolic parables. There is a treatise on the transmigration of souls. They are not translated.
The teachings brought from Shambhala often find their way into the works of European scientists. For instance, in the cemetery of Darjeeling is buried an enigmatic man, Hungarian by birth, who lived at the end of the eighteenth century. He came walking from Hungary to Tibet, remaining many years in unknown monasteries. In the thirties of the last century, Csoma de Körös, as he was called, died. In his works he pointed out the teachings from Shambhala, designating the next hierarchy to succeed Buddha. It is very characteristic that this savant came here from Hungary. His activity was entirely enigmatic.
One more spark about Shambhala. A very well known Tashi-Lama often fell into an ecstasy during his talks with his pupils. Sometimes he seemed to disappear altogether, being transported into the sanctuary, Shambhala. These ecstasies vividly transport one to the discourses of the time of Saint John de la Croix with Saint Theresa, when both blessed conversationalists in exultation were raised to the ceiling of the room.
Remembering exalted occurrences, one also recalls the sparks of indignation. “A slanderer once approached Buddha, but the Blessed One was so indignant, that a spark of lightning struck the offender. Of course, the Blessed One arrested the counter-blow and revived the defamer, but the latter had been so shocked that he forgot his plan of attack. The sparks of the counter-blow !”
“The case is also told that Sengchen Lama, before his execution in Lhasa, pointed out that he would soon reincarnate again on earth. And truly very soon in Chinese Turkestan was born a boy with the same rare and characteristic physical defect on his knee, which distinguished the late Lama. Now this Mongolian prince is more than twenty years of age. At present in our service is the son of the servant of the late Lama, and he was wont to travel on the errands of his father to the young prince.”
Whoever is acquainted with riding horseback in Caucasia or in the Arizona and Colorado canyons, will know how to climb the steeps of the hills of Sikhim. Only, instead of the colorful tragedy of American wonders, here you behold an ascending garden cultivated by the mysterious rise of exalted teaching. And in its unknown caves sit hermits, who upon the strings of earth are composing the legend of celestial life.
He who has known the approaches to the old monasteries and ancient town sites in Russia with their blossoming hills and fragrant pine groves, will understand the feeling on the approach to the monasteries of Sikhim. I always repeat that if you want to see a beautiful spot, ask the inhabitants of a town to point out the most ancient site. These people of times immemorial knew how to select the most beautiful places.
Every mountain summit is crowned by a beautiful mendong (in the glossary it is spelled mendang), with its wheels of life, its prayers carved in relief and with its niches for seats from which you behold the image of the far-off distances. Here lamas and travelers are meditating. Here banners are fluttering. Here each rider will slow down his horse.
From the mountain summit, you plunge again into the receding hills. The ribs of the checkered hillocks also disappear, like the backs of panthers, tigers and wolves.
After the hills, again the fairy-tales of the forest. Green gnomes and monsters impede the way. The verdant webs intertwine. The snakes wind themselves around the trunks. The moss-like tigers and leopards here are lurking. An enchanted world this !
The most fantastic hills and rocks form themselves into a seeming Sacred Chalice — a vast valley. In the center of the valley stands the unapproachable mountain of the White Stone, girded by two rivers. It is crowned by the Monastery Tashi-ding, which means “Valley open to Heaven.” An ancient place this. Try to search the endless wrinkles and cavities of its rocks. Try to unearth the treasures collected by the monastery — the miraculous stone, fulfillment of all wishes; the immortal Amritha and a hundred images of Buddha; as well as all the sacred books temporarily hidden; and all else spoken of in the ancient manuscript, “The Voyage through Sikhim.”
The approaches to Tashi-ding are very difficult. Only recently have the impossible trails been transformed into steep footpaths. Verily, the path of the spirit must be traversed by human feet !
One crossing on the suspended bamboo bridge is especially hazardous. Below, the mountain river rushes and roars, bearing down the icy current from Kanchenjunga. And above the bridge, on the steep slope, you pause many times : Shall I at last arrive ? One must hold one’s breath to conquer this age-old mountain.
Upon the upper slope, an honorary reception arranged for us by the land owners. Ale, sugar-cane and tangerines await us under the canopy of rushes, adorned with their yellow garlands. Farther off resound the reverberant drums and silver gongs.
The reception of the monastery. On the last slope we are met by the pipers and trumpeters.
Amidst the rows of a colorful crowd you reach the ancient place. Behind the gates of the monastery, in purple garments, the lamas receive you. In the front row a venerable old man, head lama of the monastery, stands like a delicately carved image of the fifteenth century. Thus you walk up to the spreading turquoise tents in the midst of a forest of stupas and amidst many-colored banners, amidst the sparkling rows of fires.
The motley figures of hell are being trampled down by the powerful feet of the White Guards. Red and green “guardians of the entrances,” many-armed and with horrible grins, are threatening the violators. In explosive gasps flare up the gold tongues of the primeval flame. The misty aureoles of lights are glowing. . . .
With cold respect or else with a clerical sense of the scientific, do we examine the Tibetan and Nepal banner-paintings in the British Museum, the Musée Guimet in Paris, or the Field Museum in Chicago. But in a completely different attitude do we approach the same paintings on this site, and they speak to you quite differently. Every gesture of Buddha’s hand is of vital meaning for the local world. The good and evil entities with their endless symbols are transformed from ornaments into a living epos. The images are enfolded in a stirring harmony of tones. The finest of these are of ancient work although the new paintings are also at times excellent.
Let us predict for these images a great future—just as twenty years ago the future importance of the old Russian ikons was predicted. Merited attention has been given to the Chinese and Japanese art. An elaborate literature has expressed this free art concisely. But after a study of classic Egypt, after the subtlety of Japan, after the romance of China and after the arabesque of the Persian and Mogul miniature, now appears a new object for study and admiration.
The art of Central Asia is coming to the fore. In the fiery fantasy; in the dignity of the fine form; in the intense and complex gradation of tones is manifested this completely unique and striking art. But in its quiescent expression this art responds to the mystery of the cradle of humanity. In itself it forms Asia, to which in time shall be directed inquiries and researches. Only, it is necessary to knock upon the doors of this beauty without threats, without weapons, without pillage. With full readiness must we gather the pearls of profound and anonymous achievements; without superficial scientific hypocrisy and without bribed treachery.
To study the life of a nightingale by first killing it — is it not barbaric ?
One remembers keenly some objects discovered by Kozloff in Kara-khoto in Mongolia. Especially does one recall the wondrous image of the woman’s head. If such a people lived in the silenced cities of the deserts — how far were these places from being a wilderness !
Wisely, wisely did the deserts succeed in guarding for posterity new treasures, and not only material treasures. . . . One must recall not only the swords of the Tartar in measuring the life of Central Asia. There are also the tents of all travelers and searchers. Even to the Khan’s camps were summoned the finest of artists.
I remember how badly fared one young doctor who was sent to Urga in Mongolia for service. Poor soul, he knew not what and how to search. If the young generation could realize what treasures were prepared for it, and lie at the edge of the road — unlifted. Sometimes it is only a question of lifting up the treasures.
A little shepherd boy found 120 pounds of gold in Scythian objects, because he was attracted by the glimmer of metal which sparkled on the slope of the hill, washed off by the rain. How many such sparks are glimmering ! But often our eyes are dulled by laziness.
The blessed Maitreya is always represented crowned by a wreath, in a great image. In Tashi-Lunpo, the monastery of the Tashi-Lama, three years ago there was placed a gigantic image of Maitreya, bearer of the new age of universal Unity. This idea has been invoked with the new approaching era of Tibetan chronology.
During the service in the temples, smoking Tibetan tea is passed around. Therein is the idea of the grail in this filling of the vessels before the Blessed Image. One must never leave the vessel empty — this is contrary to the custom of the East. Then the gigantic trumpets are sounded, like the voices of storm and thunder, with their summons to the future. Backs adorned with their purple mantles are bent low, thinking of the future. And like a fiery field, under the image of the Dream of the World, one hundred and eight fires (108) are glimmering.
In a special compartment are guarded the masks of the keepers. Is it possible that these frightful visages can symbolize the way of benevolence ? However, these are not symbols of benevolence but symbols of earthly elemental forces. For there is the heaven and the earth. Even the physical world of Tantrik teaching, which has been so degraded in modern understanding, must be conceived sublimely. The teacher, Padma Sambhava, would not have proclaimed only a physical teaching.
I look upon an ancient painting of the Monastery Daling. Here are the acts of the teacher, Padma Sambhava. All his forces are represented in action. Here is the teacher as a black-hatted lama with Solomon’s Star upon his headdress, striking a dragon. Here is the teacher summoning the rain. Here he saves a drowning one; he charms small evil spirits; weaponless, he conquers beasts and by a magic weapon he smites a tiger, first covering his head with the sacred triangle. Here he makes harmless the serpents; here he conjures the stormy current; and he sends rain. Now he fearlessly converses with the gigantic mountain spirit. Here the teacher flies above all mountains. Now out of the shelter of the cave he hastens to comfort the world. And finally in the circle of a poor family, he prays for a benign sea voyage for the absent master of the house. No matter how clouded is his teaching now, its foundation stills gleams through.
Or again, another ancient painting: “The Paradise of Padma Sambhava.” The teacher sits in the Temple surrounded by the Righteous Ones. The Temple stands upon a mountain separated from the earthly world by a blue river. Across the river are stretched white hatiks (scarfs) and upon them the self-denying voyagers are crossing to the temple. A clear picture of the illuminated ascent ! Of course, his commentators have besmirched even this manifestation. How encrusted with false grimace are all religions !
Of course, the teacher, Tsong-kha-pa, is still nearer. He rose beyond the confines of magic. He forbade the monks to have recourse to magic powers. His teaching — that of the Yellow Lamas — seems less spoiled.
On New Year’s Eve, February 4, after sunset, the fires in the monasteries upon the hill dart up. And the ringing gongs and the far-away drums reverberate. … In the morning are held the dances.
SIKKIM : evokingly and sharply the arrows whistle across the gulley, from out the bamboo grove. The Sikkimese remember their favorite ancient pastimes. One says : “The arrow is better than a bullet. It sings as it strikes while the bullet screeches as it flies outward.”
In the morning a red leaf was brought to us : “In the evening Senge will arrive.” After sunset upon the zigzag of the path, the fires began to flash out and the trumpets to resound. And finally it came rolling on — motley, noisy, trumpeting, drumming; with a dragon, with handmade horses, with paper yaks. With popguns and many-colored fires the dance proceeded, the motley crowd receding into the violet enamel of the night amid the explosions of the flaming spark. . . . These are Polovetsky dances ! And the banners upon the staffs — these are the standards of Genghiz Khan !
If you understand, then you will be understood. Touching are some of the gifts of the lamas. Knowledge is needed in order to understand all the finesse of intention in these gifts : To whom an image, and just which image; to whom, a bearskin; to whom, a leopard skin; to whom, a fur coat; to whom, a khalat; to whom, a khatik; and if so, whether one with designs or a white one. By the hieroglyphs of these objects one can read their entire relationship with you. Are you recognized as a great scientist ? Or are you left within the limits of conventional politeness ? Or are you left without attention ? Often the non-understood “ceremony” is simply a short subtle code of gesture and conduct.
Two worlds find expression in the Himalayas. One is the world of the soil — full of the enchantment of these parts. Deep ravines and grotesque hills rear up to the cloud-line, into which melts the smoke of villages and monasteries. Upon the heights gleam banners, suburgans or stupas. The ascending mountain passes curve with sharp turns. Eagles vie in their flight with the colorful kites flown by the villagers. In the bamboo-stalks and amid the fern the sleek body of a tiger or a leopard adds a glimmer of rich supplementary color. On the branches skulk the dwarfed bears; and a horde of bearded monkeys often escorts the solitary pilgrim.
An earthly world this, full of diversities ! A stately larch stands beside a blooming rhododendron. All is entangled. And all this earthly wealth shades into the blue mist of the rolling distances. A chain of clouds crowns the lowering mist.
Above this synthetic picture, it is strange, unexpectedly startling, to behold new ramparts mounting the clouds. Above the nebulous waves, above the twilight, glimmer the sparkling snows. Erect, infinitely beauteous, stand these dazzling, impassable peaks. Two distinct worlds, intersected by a mist !
Besides Mount Everest, fifteen peaks of the Himalayan chain surpass in height Mont Blanc. If from the great river Rangith we survey all the approaches to the snowy border and all the white domes of the peaks, nowhere, to one’s recollection, is there such an open barricade of elevations. From this superb prospect one obtains an especially enthralling impression of the grandeur of the Himalayas — “Dwelling of snows.”
To the side of the ascent, the summits merge into one implacable wall — the jagged, unending ridge of the Sacred Lizard. It is difficult to discern that just at that point are hidden the snowy summits of Jelep-la and Nathu-la on the way to Shigatse and Lhasa — the fog seems especially often to envelop this road. The upper portion of the Buddhist banners bear the cross-shaped spear, disk, crescent and lotus-petals. Are not the emblems of all teachings intertwined upon one flagstaff ? In these reminders of the symbols of the elements of Nature every one will find an image near to him.
Upon the ikons and ornaments of Tibet often is found, glowing with precious stones, the image of the fish — that happy sign — the same found upon the walls of the Roman catacombs. In one conception is united the Buddha’s “Wheel of life,” the Circle of the “Elements forming the mystery” of the Christian church and the “Wheel of Ezekiel.” The many-eyed seraphim and multiple eyes of the Luminous Mother of the World penetrate equally into the recesses of the soul.
In the cults of Zoroaster there is represented the chalice with a flame. The same flaming chalice is engraved upon the ancient Hebrew silver shekels of the time of Solomon and of an even remoter antiquity. In the Hindu excavations of the periods from Chandragupta Maurya, we observe the same powerfully stylized image. Sergius of Radonega, laboring over the enlightenment of Russia, administered from the flaming chalice. Upon Tibetan images, the Bodhisattvas are holding the chalice blossoming with tongues of flame. One may also remember the Druid chalice of life. Aflame, too, was the Holy Grail. Not in imagination; verily by deeds are being interwoven the great teachings of all ages, the language of pure fire !
It has long since been said, “Faith without deeds is dead.”
Buddha pronounced three paths: the long way of knowledge, the shorter way of faith, and the shortest way—through action. David and Solomon also glorify the strivings of labor. The Vedanta extols the manifestation of works. Verily, in the foundation of all covenants, action is placed foremost. This is the creative fire of the Spirit.
Are the symbols of the Hindu Trimurti alien to the Trinity ? Does the Buddhist Tree of Wishes, hung with the objects of all desires, not respond to our conception of the Christmas Tree ? What of the details of the arrangement of the temple altars ? What of the ascetics and hermits, who buried themselves in their stone coffins ? What of the image-lamps and the fires of conjurations; the wreaths and candles of heartfelt prayer, flung upon the bosom of the Ganges ? And the birch of Trinity, the musk and incense ? And the wrought gem-bedecked vestments ? And the stones flung at Buddha by his closest kin—are they not like the stones of Stephen ? Verily, not by accident have Buddhist legends been carved upon the frescoes of the Campo Santo in Pisa.
From times immemorial have the most ancient forgotten temples extolled the anticipation of the new epochs. In the ancient city, Kish, has recently been discovered the Temple of the Mother of the World. Sarnath and Gaya, the scenes of Buddha’s personal achievements, are fallen in ruins, now only the goal of pilgrims. So too, Jerusalem. “Because Jesus himself witnessed that the prophet is without honor in his own country.”
According to the legend, Buddha’s initiation was performed in the presence of the High Ones. The site of initiation is called “the holiest stupa” but its location is not disclosed. The sites of Buddha’s achievements on the Ganges are known, as well as the scenes of the birth and death of the teacher — in Nepal. According to some indications the initiation was performed farther north — beyond the Himalayas, because Buddha came down from the north for the performance of his works. But where was Jesus until his thirtieth year ? Who knows those haloed retreats ? Whither lies Korya-Morya ? Shall they be revealed? The legendary mountain Meru, according to the Mahabharata, and the equally legendary height Shambhala in Buddhist teaching, both lay in the north and served as the summit for initiations. And not everywhere until the appointed date, can the details of these places of high knowledge be told.
Wise intercourses — one sees clearer from above. Instead of petty quarrels of denunciation, history recalls to us truly international ties. It is pointed out as a historical fact that a Mongolian, Bogdo Khan, was saved from illness by the “appearance of Nicholas.” This is averred by the Mongolian Khutukhtus, whose knowledge is considered very high. All is full of signs, only do not overlook them. Observe keenly and joyously, and flexibly.
Upon the wrist of a Tibetan woman we observed a strange blue sign, which on closer inspection showed the appearance of a tattooed blue cross of equal ends. When she was asked the explanation of this sign, the woman revealed that a Tibetan physician had applied the sign during “a very dangerous cough” —evidently pneumonia. Tibetan physicians generally inject medicines under such signs. This sign was made by the personal physician of the Dalai-Lama during his three years’ stay in Darjeeling. Swastika is a symbol of the conception of fire and life.
According to the prophecy of Lama Tsa-rinpoche, the present attempt to conquer Everest will end only in losses. Let us see whether the old lama is right.*
* The Lama proved to be right.
The lama seemed astonished at the desire of foreigners to ascend the summit of Everest, at any risk. “Why expend such efforts in the physical body ? Is it not simpler to be there in spirit ?” For with ease do lamas project their astral bodies, for which, of course, no height is an obstacle.
From this very window ** the high priest sent prayers to Tibet which was troubled by the Chinese. For three years, facing the wall of the Himalaya, he kept vigil.
** The author lived in the so-called Talai-Pho-Brang where the Dalai Lama stayed about three years during his flight from Tibet.
In the time of the old Jesuit mission, about 300 years ago, in Lhasa, there was a Christian chapel. Great lamas visited it. Now no one even remembers the approximate site of it.
The lama here bewails the visiting hunters — they came and killed many stags ! And now when the lama strolls into the forest, few are the stags that come to him. And he loves the animals to approach him ! Not savagery but deep culture rings in his complaint. We are reminded of the tale of old Avramy, who was a shepherd beyond the Ural, and when he prayed to the East, all the sheep in silence turned also toward the sunrise.
In Buddhist monasteries it was the custom to confine in the library him who was defeated during a scientific argument. Let him learn more ! An excellent custom !
“A Chinese Amban (governor), an evil and dissolute man, was desirous of visiting a venerated holy abbot of the local monastery in Tibet. By persistence and force he demanded an audience, but when he entered the reception room of the abbot, he saw on the throne, instead of the holy man, the image of a hideous pig, and in fright he rushed from the presence. Thus the dissolute man, making his way by force, found an image worthy of him ! A fine reminder to all despots : As ye measure so shall it be measured unto you.”
A legend of Central Asia tells of the mysterious nation, underground dwellers—the Agharti. Approaching the gates into this blessed kingdom, all living beings become silent, reverently pausing in their course. Recall, now, the Russian legend about the mysterious “Tchud” which went underground to escape the persecution of the evil forces. To this secreted place also leads the sacred legend of the subterranean Kitege. Everything comes from the North.
The whole world tells its tales of underground cities, treasure troves, temples merging under water ! The Russian and Norman peasant relates about this with equal surety. So, too, does the inhabitant of the desert know of the treasures which sometimes glimmer from under the sand waves and then — until the ordained time — recede again under the earth.
Around one beacon-fire are gathering those who remember the predestined dates. We do not speak of superstitions but of knowledge — knowledge revealed in beautiful symbols. Why invent, when truth is so manifold ? In La Manche even now is seen the city which has been “submerged” under water.
Many sources tell of the subterranean dwellings in the district of Lhasa and Koko-Nor. A lama from Mongolia recalls the following legend : When the foundations of the monastery Genden were built during the time of the Teacher Tsong-kha-pa, in the fourteenth century, it was noticed that through the gaps of the rocks there arose the smoke of incense. A passage was broken through and there was found a cave in which, motionless, was seated an old man. Tsong-kha-pa aroused him from his ecstasy and the old man asked for a cup of milk. Then he asked what teaching now existed upon earth. After which he disappeared. It is also pointed out that the Potala, the palace of the Dalai-Lama, has hidden recesses of the greatest antiquity. By the facial expressions of the high lamas one will not discover anything. One must seek through other paths.
If so much lies underground—how much more lies under the veil of silence. It is naïve to insist, after the first cautious response. An authoritative astrologer assures us that he knows nothing — has only heard rumors. Another who is versed in the ways of antiquity just now insists he has not even heard of such things. And why should they answer otherwise ? They must not betray. Most heinous is treason — and there are many traitors. We discern the true devotion and behind it the structure of the future.
It is said that Solomon manifested such devotion toward the Temple that even when breathing his last, lest he interrupt or harm the work of construction, he remained upright in prayer until an ant bored through his staff. The example of perseverance and devotion !
Unexplained have remained the strivings of Solomon toward the One Beginning, sheltering all forms of knowledge. Abandoned Fatehpur-Sikri (near Agra) is full of the signs of this unity which was understood by Akbar the Great who preached the spirit of One Temple. In the center of the palace-court is still standing the temple of united religion. Superficial writers wonder why the walls of this mysterious structure bear the remains of such varied signs — the traces of Buddhism mingled with Hindu and Christian fragments. This united torch was already manifested in life !
“Wise in heart and mighty in strength; who hath resisted Him and hath had peace, Who spreadeth out the heavens and treadeth upon the waves of the sea — Who maketh Arcturus and Orion and the Pleiades and the inner part of the south — Who doeth things great and incomprehensible and wonderful of which there is no number” — exclaims Job about the One. And are not the mysterious signs of Watan and Senzar received by great lamas pointing toward it ? We asked the Lama, “Is it true that the Festival of Unity is approaching ?” He looked closely at us, then answered, “Such are the prophecies.”
In 1924, according to Tibetan calculations, the new era began, for here a century is not calculated as a hundred years but as sixty.
You listen to the reading of the Bhagavad-Gita; you hear the exclamation of the Buddhist servers of the temples. You listen to the singing of the choir. Does there not appear before you the One Image — the One common Will toward happiness and joy, to the unity of consciousness, embracing and conquering, to the exalting and enlightening Aum ?
Should we not reflect why all Covenants tell of the same active beginning ? Why is the manifestation of phenomena always accompanied not only by the same unexplainable words, but always by a vivid action of spirit ? The writings say, “He revolted.” And without the wondrous “uprising,” without this invisible action, nothing is decisive. He realized and became enlightened; became filled with invincible courage !
The formulas themselves often astonish by their universality. In them are united the summons of the mysteries with the prayers of the most unexpected cults separated by whole epochs and whole continents. The language of the Mother of the World is the same for all cradles.
“Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” or “Halelu, Halelu, Halelu” is a conjuration of ancient rites. From the Chaldeans, Babylonians, through the Israelites it reached our era. It is also known by several tribes of India.
In this region the simple guide will suddenly turn around on his path and proclaim : “But men must finally realize that possession is one and all are equal ! But will That soon come, Which will unite men ?” So thinks and ponders the simple, poor man, among the blue hills of Sikkim. In the hope of the guide you discern the powerful proclamation of Vivekananda; without depreciation, only in all powerful unity and righteous understanding, he walked. One wishes that our priests of the West valued Buddha in the same way as the enlightened lamas speak of us. Only in such benevolent understanding lies the guarantee of the future structure.
All creators of Unity must be recognized. Principally let us have less of ignorant denials.
With difficulty one succeeds in getting plants which nurture the musk-deer. But how to bring this mountain pine to the laboratory ? Below the altitude of 6,000 feet, the plants perish.
Most often from Bhutan the ragged, deep blue furling waves of fog crawl upward. Not only the snowy ridges but also the steps to the mountain paths are wrapped in the dense mist. It is difficult to believe there is a hidden glimmer. Shall we not begin denying the very existence of the Himalayas ? If they are invisible, that means they are non-existent ! Whenever something is invisible to us we presume it does not exist. Such is the decision of ignorance.
Intricate are the mountain paths with their many turns. How many are the earth-covered pits under the horse’s hoofs ! Many are the intercrossing currents and streams, with the torpid dampness under the green-blue foliage. Truly many are the serpents beneath the flowers. And the language of the murmuring foliage is incomprehensible.
Early are the stars aglow here. Toward the East, undiminished, flames the triple-constellation of Orion, this astonishing constellation which finds its way through all teachings. In the archives of the old observatories, undoubtedly much remarkable data could be found about it. The cults which surround some constellations such as the Bear and Orion amaze you by their widespread popularity.
The wisdom of the Shamans designates them for worship. Nor did Job accidentally point to them alone as the supreme act of achievement. The glimmer spreads everywhere. In the latest number of the Journal of the London Asiatic Society is this very important item : “The Emperor Baber near the beginning of his memoirs says : ‘On the outskirts of Barakoh is a mosque called the Jawza Madjid. The real meaning of the word is House of Orion. Jawza is a name of Orion.’ “With what ancient cult was the mosque pointed out by Baber identified ?” It is now most likely effaced by the sands of the great desert. Thus we see how unceasingly does Orion attract the eye of men. Again are the astronomic bulletins telling of the inexplicable pink rays, which have suddenly flashed from this constellation. The constellation of Orion contains the signs of the “Three Magi.” The significance of Orion, too, in ancient teaching was compared to the significance of Atlas, supporting the weight of the world. Verily, the Star of the East ! Only in the East do you feel the vital sense of astrology and astro-chemistry in its scientific import. The observatories in Jaipur and in Delhi overwhelm one with their fantastic conviction.
The air is pure. The small Lepchas, coolies of Sikkim, bear huge stones up to the mountain on their backs. It is for the unknown structure. Their heads are bent so low that one cannot distinguish their faces, because of the shawl and metal rings and chains. Will they be able to bear it safely ? How is it possible to overload a body four feet high with such an immeasurable burden of stones ! Yet instead of groans you hear laughter from under the bent back. Much laughter is heard in Sikkim. The further one goes toward Tibet the more communicative are the people. And the more often one hears singing accompanied by a pleasantry. The air is clearer here.
The chief of the caravan is called Sardar. In his purple kaftan, he is mounted firmly on the white mountain pony. Many are the white horses here. The caves of Kinchenjunga, where were guarded the treasures, are still far off. In one of the caves is the statue of Padma Sambhava (teacher of Tibet) and behind it is seen a stone door — never yet opened by man. And yet they say : “Nothing remains hidden !”
The human consciousness often is “like a dog’s tail. If it has curled itself — no matter how you straighten it out, it still persists in curling back.” Thus it was told by the ancient Chinese.
But it is also known how completely the consciousness has been transformed by a mere touch.
“Why do you not tell us all you know, as if you were strewing pearls or setting landmarks ?” By these signposts you yourself will pass the entire way. You alone — by human feet. According to your growth shall you yourself gather pearls. By your own hands shall you match them. By your own hands will you develop dynamic power. “You will return” and project your will.
Otherwise matter will again not flow out in the “song of ceaseless labor.” In this way, superficial curiosity will be divided from true striving. They tell of one “modern sage” who offered to found an institute where any one coming from the street could at once be convinced of phenomena. But this “sage” forgot to offer these strange comers from the street at least the wherewithal to wash their hands for the tests. There are ways which we must approach only with pure hands and with our own will.
And if through the shell of the objects of every day you will be enabled to behold the summits of the cosmos — what a new wondrous and undiminishing outlook shall the world have for the unsheathed eye. The medical lore of the ancients acclaimed laughter as useful for the purification of the glands. How useful then must a smile be for the brain ! Thus shall the trembling conjuries of fear be transformed into the valiant call of joy.
The Tibetan tailor is making kaftans. He takes all measurements with his eye, but most astonishing is it that the kaftan comes out well-fitting. And all this is not done without care ! The quality of gold for the trimming, the color of the lining and the length—all this is thought out. The local homespun is very narrow and one is astonished how evenly they can smooth the many seams.
If we take the accredited historical data of the last century it is astonishing how definitely the folk-consciousness was freed from the obvious survivals of the middle ages. Those who defend such survivals should examine these historic paths and convince themselves and realize that what is occurring now is not accidental but under rational guidance and control. He who fails to recognize this rationality, cannot understand evolution.
In sudden support of fundamental Buddhism, the realist of realists, Huxley says, “No one but a superficial thinker rejects the teaching of reincarnation as nonsense. Like the teaching of evolution itself, reincarnation has its roots in the world of reality and is entitled to the same support commanded by every consideration which evolves from analogies.”
Two beautiful characterisations of Buddhism : “As a lion unafraid by noise. As a wind beyond being captured by a net. As a lotus leaf impervious to water. As a rhinoceros treading in solitude !” — “The study and manifestation of energy in all its forms. Energy of armament. Energy of application in action. Energy of dissatisfaction giving birth to the eternal striving which brings man into the cosmic rhythm.” So said Asanga.
Where, then, is the inactive pessimism ? Where is the philosophy of despair, as Buddhism is sometimes called by persons of small comprehension. How many books have been written under the false romanticism of the nineteenth century ? How many scientists, not versed in the languages, have fed their minds with these vague sour conclusions ? And now there has appeared again an image — Buddha, with a sword, with leonine daring, armed with all energies, within the universal structure, cosmic in striving.
“Watch the movement of the stars, as one who participates in them, and constantly consider the transmutation of one element into another, because such a process purifies one from the grime of earthly life.” So reflects Marcus Aurelius.
So also says an educated Hindu from out the Himalayas.
L. Horn writes : “With the acceptance of the teachings of evolution, the old forms of thought everywhere are crumbling. New ideas arise in the place of outlived dogmas and we have before us the spectacle of a general intellectual movement in a direction becoming ever more strange — parallel with eastern philosophy.
“The unheard-of speed and variety of the scientific progress current in the last fifty years cannot but call forth an equally unprecedented hastening of thought in the broad non-scientific circles of society. That the highest and most complete organisms develop out of the simplest organisms; that upon one physical basis of life stands the whole living world; that there cannot be traced a line which divides animal and vegetable kingdoms; that the difference between life and non-life is a difference in gradation and not substance — all this already has become commonplace in the new philosophy. After the recognition of physical evolution it is not difficult to say that the acknowledgment of psychic evolution is only a question of time.”
The observation of the East astonishes and rejoices one. And not the obvious power of observation which leads to a dead stereotype; but observation, fine and silent in its substance. One remembers how the teacher asked the newly arriving pupil to describe a room, but the room was empty and in a vessel was swimming only a tiny fish. In three hours the pupil wrote three pages, but the teacher rejected him saying that about this one little fish he could have written all his life. In technical imitation is revealed the same sharp observation.
In the adaptation of the meter of a song, in the character of a call, in movements, you see an all-powerful culture. Somewhere the Hindus, enveloped in their mantles, were compared to Roman senators. This is an inane comparison. Rather liken them to the philosophers of Greece, and still better, call them the creators of the Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, Mahabharata. For neither Rome nor Greece existed when India was flourishing. And the latest excavations begin to support this indubitable deduction.
In the Tao Te Ching are drawn the following subdivisions of the types of scientists : “Scientists of the highest class, on hearing about Tao, seriously bring their knowledge into life. Scientists of the middle grade, on hearing about Tao, sometimes observe it. And sometimes lose it again. The scientists of the lowest class on hearing about Tao, only laugh loudly at it.”
Lao Tze knew.
Hindus regard objects of art with fine understanding. From a Hindu, you naturally expect an interesting approach and unusual remarks, and so it is. Therefore to show paintings to a Hindu is a real joy. How captivatingly they approach art ! Do not think that they are occupied only in its contemplation. You will be astonished by their remarks about tonality, about technique, and about the expressiveness of the line. If the observer be long silent, do not think that he has become tired. On the contrary this is a good sign. It means he has entered into a mood, and one can expect from him especially interesting deductions. Sometimes he will tell you a whole parable. And there will be nothing vulgar or crude in it. It is astonishing how transformed are the people of the East before the creations of art. Indeed it is more difficult for a European to enter into the current of creation and as a rule he is less able to synthesize his impression.
In the epic designs of India all can be coördinated. If in the crowd, your next neighbor should be a skeleton, pale with leprosy, you are not frightened. Next to you will lean a Sadhu, colored with blue stripes and with a head-dress made of cow dung. You are not surprised. A Fakir with toothless cobras will cheat you. You are smiling. The chariot of Juggernath crushes the crowd — you are not astonished. There is a procession of fearful Nagis of Rajputana with blades like curved fangs. You are calm.
And where are those for whose sake you have come to India ? They do not sit in the bazaars and they do not walk in processions. And you will not enter their dwellings without their consent. But do they really exist ? Are not leisurely authors writing about them only for the sake of being unique ? Yes, yes, they exist, and there exists their knowledge and their skill. And in this sharpening of human qualities is being exalted all human substance. And no leprosy will turn you away from India.
All that takes place at the metapsychical institute in Paris — the experiments of Nötzing and Richet in ectoplasm; the experiments of Baraduque in the photography of physical emanations, the works of Kotik in the exteriorisation of sensitiveness and the attempts of Beckhterev in thought – transmission at a distance — all this is familiar to India. Only, not as unbelievable novelties, but as laws long since known. They speak little on these themes, because of the dearth of scientifically enlightened fellow – conversationalists.
The ancient method of Hinduism and Buddhism is to open the doors to him who knocks, but not to call any one and not to coerce any one. But the quality of the knock also must be powerful. In the practical teaching of Buddhism, independence of consciousness is sharply emphasized, and as its consequence, an unconquerable forbearing and all-conquering patience. The greatest patience will win a victory. So let the ignorant deniers immerse themselves in the true East to learn and to absorb the power of containment.
Two characteristic episodes are related about the Tashi Lama. When he was in India, he was asked whether he possessed any psychic powers. The Tashi Lama silently smiled. In a short time, though closely surrounded by guards and officers, he suddenly disappeared. All search was in vain. Finally, after a considerable period of time, the officers saw him calmly sitting in the same garden and around him were running, in fruitless search, the guards.
This incident reminds me of Gorki, who many years ago told me that he himself saw vivid images of Indian cities upon the blank metallic leaves of an album, which was shown to him once in Caucasia by a Hindu. With all his realism, Gorki absolutely affirms that he saw in vivid colors that which the Hindu pointed out to him. Greetings to Alexei Maximovitch !
Attraction by thought is astonishing. The desire was expressed to have an old Tibetan Buddha, but this is already difficult now. We spoke and thought among ourselves how to get it. In a few days came a lama and brought an excellent Buddha : “The lady wanted to have a Buddha and I am told to give the Buddha from my house altar. I cannot sell the sacred image — accept it as a gift.”
“But how did you know of our desire to have a Buddha ?”
“The White Tara came in a dream and told me to bring it to you.”
And so it happens.
Recently we read in the Statesman that the lowest castes of India begin willingly to accept Buddhism. Rabindranath Tagore, in a talk with Gandhi, spoke against castes. Out of the mouth of a Brahmin this avowal is significant. Many significant and beautiful signs.
Special attention must be given to the Puranas — therein are many most valuable indications : “When the sun and the moon, and Tishya and the planet Jupiter are in one mansion, then the Krita (Satya) age will begin.” So does the Vishnu Purana point out the age of Maitreya.
Lamas are constantly coming to us. They spread paintings on the lawn; and chantingly pointing with a little stick, they relate a whole epic. The vivid colors of the paintings merge with the natural colors of nature. The visual reactions have been valued since long ago. A nun comes. She sits at the threshold and throwing back her handsome head she chants her prayers. We can only distinguish “Tra shi sho !”
Altogether the question of language is very difficult. All these mountain dialects somewhat resemble Tibetan. But still the difference is very great and the number of dialects of the small tribes is also great. Finally from Lhasa comes Kung Kusho of Doring to salute the house of the Dalai Lama. The Kung (this is a title like a duke; remarkable is the coincidence of Conung, Kung, King) is an important old man with a wife and daughter, round of face like a Ukrainian; with numerous servants; on big black mules shod with silver are high saddles and many-colored horse blankets. On their foreheads they wear vivid red caps with the image of Chintamani. In 1912 the Kung was attacked by Chinese soldiers. They almost wounded him. They killed his secretary. This led to a revolt in Tibet. The Kung is astonished and rejoices at our Buddhist objects. We are breakfasting. We are making Tibetan dishes. We speak of the movement of Buddhism. He is a very ceremonious old man.
Interesting are the tales about the attacks of the cavalry of Kham and Golok. Wild riders do not need reins. Their horses, as in ancient narratives, take part in the battle with teeth and hoof. During battle, the riders take off their khalats up to the waist. Helmeted, with swords, lances and guns, this avalanche is borne onward. Sometimes they disappear under the stomachs of the horses. If all means of attack are exhausted the riders take stones from the ground and fight with screams resembling laughter. There is one sign which at once quiets this avalanche. Of course every tribe has its particularities in battle and by not knowing them one can weaken the best force. Tibetan women in songs, and in life sometimes, are not behind in manifestations of courage. They throw hot water on the enemy; they meet the temporary conquerors with derision.
Near Ghum stands a high rock. It is said that on its peak is lying a significant prophecy. In each stupa are enclosed significant objects. It is wrong to think that the bookshelves displayed in temples to some travelers comprise the entire book treasures of the monastery. Besides these official volumes of teachings everywhere in the secret recesses of the abbot there are manuscripts of unusual interest. One thing is dangerous. Often these hidden places are harmed by dampness, or mice, or are simply forgotten during some hasty evacuation. Often a lama will tell you : “I have written down the prophecies but I do not carry them with me. They are lying under a stone.” Then some unexpected event happens; the lama hastens to put his sack on his back and depart; and the invaluable manuscripts are lost.
Some idiomatic commands are characteristic : “To put on trousers” means to get ready for a march. Idiomatic terms often bring difficulties into negotiations. Once an ambassador spoke in very high terms about “the hair of Brahma.” Nobody understood him and the negotiations had to stop. However, he had nothing else in mind than the river Brahmaputra. Often the languages taught in universities do not help in the local places.
A Chinese book, “Wei Tsang T’u-Shih,” thus describes the Potala : “The mountain palaces are glowing in a purple sheen. The luster of the mountain peaks is equal unto emerald. Verily the beauty and perfection of all objects make this place incomparable.”
We are reading of the builder of the Potala, the fifth Dalai Lama, named “Ruler of conjurations, eloquent, holy ocean of fearlessness.” It is he, who on becoming His Worthiness the Dalai Lama in 1642, built Potala, the red palace, Pho Brang dMarpo, on the red mountain Marpo ri. He also built the remarkable monasteries Mo-ru, Labrang Garmakhiya, and many others. He also erected on the rock the colossal relief of Buddha and the saints of Buddhism. During his rule Mongols entered Tibet the second time. Gruber, the Jesuit, dislikes very much this strong leader, although he finds that he was cautious in his methods, assiduous and devoted to art and knowledge.
Unusual is the end of this Dalai Lama. According to one version the Dalai Lama died in the eighties and his death was hidden for a few years in order to give opportunity for various political matters to be adjusted. According to another version the Dalai Lama voluntarily abandoned his rule and hid himself for several years in the very same seclusion in the Himalayas.
History is paralleled by the following ancient legend : “Every century the Arhats make an effort to enlighten the world. But until now not one of these efforts has been successful. Failure has followed failure. It is said that until the day when a lama will be born in a western body and appear as a spiritual conqueror for the destruction of the century-old ignorance, until then there will be little success in dissolving the snares of the West.”
The Chinese emperors lived according to the astronomical seasons of the year. For each season of the year there was a special colored garment. Each period of the year used to be spent in a special part of the palace.
The method of Buddhist teaching reminds one of the method of the Kabala, that of not imposing, but attracting, and pointing out the best way. They speak about a remarkable monastery, Mo-ru, and about the special learning of the lamas of that monastery. For the three summer months the lamas go away to the west for meditation.
During the “hearings,” the lamas often cover their heads with cloth. This recalls “biblical” ceremony. It recalls the statement of Damis, the pupil of Appolonius of Tyana, of how Appolonius, when he heard a “soft voice,” always wrapped himself completely, from head to foot, in a long scarf of woolen texture. This scarf was kept only for this purpose. From altogether other times, the very same details reach us. Contemporaries were astonished how strangely Saint Germain sometimes “wrapped himself up.” Let us remember also the warm shawl of Blavatsky. Lamas carefully observe a certain condition of temperature which is favorable to the induction of different manifestations.
Lady Lytton came to see the pictures. In the Lytton family splendid traditions remain from their celebrated grandfather Bulwer-Lytton. Then came Colonel Bailey. Then came the whole Everest Expedition. By the way, they persistently wanted to find out whether we did not ascend Everest. In the painting, “Burning of Darkness,”* they recognized the exact image of the glacier near Everest, and they did not understand how this characteristic view, seen only by them, could have come into the picture.
A page of the true East : “Again they will come with the question, ‘How shall one deal with obstacles ?’ One person is hindered by the family; one by a distasteful occupation; one by poverty; one by the attacks of the enemies. A good rider likes to show his skill on untrained horses and prefers obstacles to a smooth path. Every obstacle must be the birth of possibilities. When difficulties appear in the face of obstacles, they result precisely from fear. No matter in what attire a coward would garb himself we must find the page about fear.
Friends, so long as obstacles do not seem as the birth of possibility, so long do we not understand the teaching. Success lies in the enlarging of the consciousness. It is impossible to come near in the presence of fear. The ray of courage shall lead above the manifestations of obstacles, because now, when the world knows where to go—the seed of blood is growing. If the path is strewn by bones one can go courageously. If peoples speak in unknown languages— it means we can open the soul. If one has to hasten—it means that somewhere a new enemy is ready. Be blessed, obstacles, through you we grow.”
India, I know thy sorrows, but I shall remember thee with the same joyous tremor as the first flower on the spring meadow. From thy Brahmins we shall select the greatest who understood the Vedic wisdom. We shall select the Rajah who strove for the finding of the path of truth. We shall notice Vaishya and Shudra who have exalted their craft and labor for the upliftment of the world. A boiling kettle is the forge of India. The dagger of faith over a white goat. The phantom flame of a bonfire over a widow. Conjurations and sorcery.
Complicated are the folds of thy garments, India. Menacing are thy vestures blown by the whirlwind. And deadly burning are thy inclement rocks, India. But we know thy fragrant essences. India, we know the depths and finesse of thy thoughts. We know the great Aum, which leads to the Inexpressible Heights. We know thy great Guiding Spirit.
India, we know thy ancient wisdom ! Thy sacred scriptures in which is outlined the past, the present, the future. And we shall remember thee with the same tremor as the most precious first flower on the spring meadow.
In the very backyard, in a tiny bed of meager flowers, rests a small homely image of Ganeshi, elephant of happiness. The family of Hindu coolies living in the shanty offers to him its last grains of rice. Not much happiness has this image brought to them.
Against the evidence of such refined values as are seen in Ramakrishna, Rabindranath Tagore, Sir Jagdish Bose, one cannot become reconciled to that which still constitutes the contents of the temples. Here is a phallic cult—Lingam in Elephanta. Up to now, in the sanctuaries of this cult are seen the traces of fresh offerings. From the ancient wisdom we know that “Linga is the vessel of knowledge” and we know the scientific explanation from times immemorial of this wise distribution, of energy. But now the basis of this worship is forgotten and it has degraded into superstition.
Another ugly spectacle ! In a golden temple of Benares, before us, was led a white little goat. She was led into the sanctuary. There evidently she was approved of because in a little while, frantically protesting, she was hurriedly dragged before us. In a minute, she was stretched out on the threshold of the temple and the broad knife cut off her head. It was difficult to believe that a sacred action had taken place ! The meat of the goat evidently went for food, because priests do not partake of any meat except that of offered sacrificial animals. And such animals the population evidently brings each day.
The teaching which sanctioned the priests, evidently pictured them as quite different. Even their appearance is undecorative and they cannot guard the beauty of the symbols of knowledge. As long as the rule of castes is not comprehended properly the country cannot develop. During our stay we read of several difficult family dramas founded on this ground of an evidently surviving prejudice. At the same time, the Vedanta and Advaita clearly establish the principle of unity. Some of the most cosmogonic parts of the Vedas are written by women, and now in India has arrived the epoch of the woman. Greetings to the women of India !
In spite of a superabundance of tourists they seem to know America very little. One can understand this. The whole mass of tourists quickly flows through the sheet-iron channels of tourist companies, and never enters into a real and active contact with the life of the country. In the north of India, Americans are called “nomads” because the agencies give to these hurrying, breathless groups a special character, completely outside of the people’s understanding.
Out of the windows of the car glide by huddled little villages, those original producers of all utilities and the makers of the nation. But who cares for these primary sources ?
Ramakrishna says : “In Atman there is no distinction of male or female, of Brahmin or Kshatriya and the like.”
Ramakrishna executed the work of the sweeper to show, personally, that there were no distinctions.
In December, we want to go into the Himalayas. We are regarded with astonishment : “But now there is snow !” Snow is feared. Whereas the only time for the Himalayas is from November to February. Already in March the curtain of fog rises. From May to August only rarely and for brief periods can one see the entire glimmering range of snow; and truly such grandeur is nowhere paralleled.
Just as when you are approaching the Grand Canyon of Arizona, when you approach the foothills of the Himalayas you go through the most uninteresting landscape. And only for a moment, at dawn, in Siliguri, do the white giants appear before you as the first messengers. And again they are hidden in the curly jungles. And again tea plantations. And again barrack-like structures and factories. And only sometimes does a typical habitation appear and conceal itself again as a vision from another world. There are tales about the attacks of tigers and leopards. There are mountains of cases of tea with the mark, Orange Pekoe. There is a Belgian missionary from Kurseong.
It becomes cool. Crowds of small coolies are repairing the cave-ins from the last monsoon. In the frosty air one cannot even imagine the pressure of the summer monsoon downpour from which all nature becomes moldy. There are few birds. Eagles are seen.
Mountains are densely covered. The view of Darjeeling itself disappoints you. Is it necessary to seek the Himalayas in order to find merely a corner of Switzerland ? The colorful types of the bazaar are not apparent at once, and the regular barracks and bungalows already strike one’s eye.
We search for a house. The first information is not encouraging. We are assured there are no good houses. Some are shown to us, lacking outlook and grounds, some immersed in the little streets of wooden country houses and fences. This is not suitable. We want something, beyond—there before the image of all the Himalayas, where the city orchestra does not play its conventional tunes. “You will find nothing there !” But we are persistent. We go ourselves, and we find an excellent house. And calmness and solitude, and the entire chain of Himalayas before us. And still another surprise : Just here lived the Dalai Lama during his long flight from Lhasa. For us, this house is just what is needed.
Not on one occasion only were we awakened by the chanting and the rhythmic beats around the house. These are the lamas who, bowing to the ground many times, marched around our dwelling.
Somewhere the people are babbling that in this house lives a devil which appears as a black pig. A haunted house, as we were told. But we are not afraid of devils, and in the neighboring village, Bhutia Basti, there are many black pigs which resemble boars. Did not our dear monkeys who came into the bathroom and ate the peas and flowers around the house play the part of the devil ?
There is the tiresome need of having many servants—and the reason always the same : castes. It reaches absurdity. The porter does not clean the path. Why ? It appears that according to caste, he is a blacksmith and has no right to take a broom into his hand. Otherwise he will become defiled and become a sweeper. He decides the problem in a very original fashion. He begins to brush around the garden with five fingers, creeping along the ground. The groom is from the high Kshatriya caste and hints at his descent from a king, which did not hinder him from mysterious operations with the horse feed. Sometimes in the kitchen religious meetings are arranged. And the cook, chairman of the local Arya Samaj, persistently persuades his listeners to something. Buddhists are not limited by caste and are free to perform all kinds of work. They work fast, are merry, are quick to understand and easy to adapt themselves.
There are many tales about Tibetans, the warriorlike tribe of Kham and about the wild Goloks, who call themselves wild “dogs.” They bring one back again even to the times of Siegfried : They cement their brotherly oaths by mixing and drinking brotherly blood. They never part with their weapons.
“His Country” begins to unfold, as the series “Banners of the East” is begun. In June, after the first rains, all the tempera begins to be covered with white spots of mold. One has to heat up the place considerably in order that the mold should dry and come off.
“His Country.” In Sikhim, itself, was one of the Ashrams of the Mahatmas. To Sikhim, Mahatmas came on mountain horses. Their physical presence communicates a solemn importance to these parts. Of course now the Ashram has been transferred from Sikhim. Of course now the Mahatmas have left Sikhim. But they were here, and therefore the silver peaks of the chain glimmer still more beautifully. . . .
Accompanied by pupils, artists and a sculptor, comes the majestic Rinpoche from Chumbi. He walks throughout the whole country erecting new images of Maitreya. All is being hastened. In a long talk, the lama points out that all may be attained only through Shambhala. For those who imagine Shambhala as a legendary invention, this indication is a superstitious myth. But there are also others, fortified by more practical knowledge.
The noble Atisha, the Pillar of the teaching, walked from India to Tibet for the purification of the teaching. The teacher passed by the retreat of Milarepa. The great hermit became conscious of the passing procession and wishing to test the forces of the Pillar of the teaching, appeared sitting on the end of a blade of grass. The noble Atisha seeing this manifestation of the hermit, came down from the porte-chaise and also rose upon the end of the next blade of grass. And when the teachers exchanged brotherly greetings, Milarepa said : “Our knowledge is equal, but why is the blade of grass under me slightly bent, while under thee, it has retained its tension ?” The noble Atisha smiled : “Verily, equal is our knowledge; but I come from the country where the Blessed Tathagata himself lived and taught, and this consciousness raises me.”
What magnets are laid in India ? Indescribable is the charm of the children’s round dance near Madras, with its tiny Gopis and miniature Krishna, Lel and Kupava. The best images are strewn in the unrealized wealth.
India knows the all-penetrating power of the magnet. And how about miracles in India, friends of the west will ask ? We will say that we have not seen “miracles,” but we have encountered every manifestation of psychic energy. If one wants to speak about the manifestations of a “higher miraculous” power— then it is useless to talk altogether. But to comprehend the materially-attained development of psycho-physical energy, then India gives even now the most remarkable manifestations. The celebrated “evil eye” of the east exists, and the people die submissively at the ordained date, if they are not able to counteract it by a still more greatly trained will. The transmission of the command of will from a distance does exist. Suggestion in any form exists in highly complicated correlations. Some manifestations are being performed consciously and a greater part subconsciously through natural ability and beneficial atmospheric conditions. And that which is unusual for a civilized European, that very thing for the cultured Hindu, or rather Asiatic, will be an almost daily material occurrence.
Observe how remarkable are the physiological comparisons traced by the Hindus between cosmic manifestations and the human organism. The womb, the navel, the phallus and the heart, all these long since have been included in the fine system of development of the universal cell. Only it is difficult to entice the people into a discussion of this. Again is necessary that confidence which cannot be established at the dining table.
During the period of Inquisition people were burned for invoking the teraphim. But in India even now this means of influence is practiced. And now, in the Malabar Hills dark persons may come and because of an unfulfilled request will try to touch you, while they say to you : “Sahib will be sick” or “You will live only ten days.” If the organism at that moment is fatigued or if the will is weak, the command is fulfilled, and one can remedy this only by a counter-suggestion. But often the counteraction is less powerful or not applied in time.
The cases related about the “evil eye” provide a remarkable, and as yet untouched, problem for the psychiatrists and criminologists. The person who has received this stroke of the will, on the appointed day begins to lose his life energy and his power of resistance and finally the apparatus stops. The doctors who do not apply suggestion in time are at loss for a cure, and begin to poison the paralyzed nervous system still more. Incipient anæmia, a stroke of the heart or spleen, or gall bladder, nervous spasms and choking are often the visible effects of the command of the invading will. It is difficult to ascertain just how the nature of the attack on the particular organs occurs; one may rather imagine that the most feeble organ succumbs to a nervous attack. In a small and more crude manner the same practice is apparent in Shamanism, but the gradations of the will and its applications are entirely incomparable. It is justly pointed out that such murder or harm by will power is far more dangerous than a physical one. And where can one seek the limits of such suggestions? In the East one sometimes hears a significant sentence: “He shall not live.” It means one has sensed the spark of the will-stroke.
Two qualities must be conceded to the English : steadfastness and precision. For the East, both qualities are remarkable. Precision according to the ordained dates of course is absolutely necessary because “the worst theft is the theft of some one else’s time.” Do not be late if you wish to be respected.
It all began with the unknown traces found by the Everest Expedition. Then, in the Statesman, an English Major related how during one of the expeditions into the region of the Himalayas, he encountered a strange mountain inhabitant. At sunrise, amidst the frosty snows, the Major walked away from the camp and climbed the neighboring rocks. Glancing at the near-by rocks, the Major to his astonishment beheld a tall man almost naked, standing, leaning on a high bow. The mountain inhabitant did not look at the Major, his attention being completely attracted by something unseen behind the curve of the slope. And suddenly the man bent, strained himself, and by madly dangerous leaps rushed from the rocks and disappeared. When the Major told his people about the meeting they smiled and said: “Sahib has seen a ‘snow’ man. They are watching the guarded places.”
They tell of a recent case in Bengal. A Sadhu was traveling in a train without a ticket. At the first station he was put out of the train. The bells rang. The locomotive whistled and did not move. So it continued for some time. The passengers remembered the Sadhu who had been put off and demanded that he be put back in his place. Then the train moved. This is verily mass suggestion !
A European lady living in India entered a dense part of her garden and became lost in a revery as to why the garden walks were not laid out in that place. Three days later she went there again and saw a freshly traced path, but the end of the path was somewhat lost.
She called the old gardener: “Who has made the path?”
“Mem-Sahib wanted to have the garden path but I did not know how to end it !”
Then the woman remembered that the completion of her thought about the garden path was not clear.
Sir Jagdish Bose affirms that the sensitiveness of plants is completely astonishing. As the plants feel the formation of a cloud long before it is visible to the eye, so the East feels the thought at its inception. In the close interrelation between the visible and the invisible, and in the epic simplicity of their interplay, lies the charm of India.
Siani glides by. Here are the Wells of Abraham. Here are the “Twelve Apostles”—fantastic little islands. Here is Jeddah, the gateway to Mecca. The Moslems on the steamer are praying toward the East, where, behind the pink sands, is hidden their center. To the right the boundaries of Nubia are lying like an ancient cornice. The hulks of wrecked vessels cleave to the reefs. The Red Sea can be merciless as can the Arabian sandstorms. Not in vain does the fiery finger of the Stromboli Volcano threaten and warn by night. But now in the winter the Red Sea is blue, not hot, and the dolphins leap in mad merriment. In a fairylike design lie the Arabian Bays—Korya Morya.
The Japanese do not lose an opportunity to visit the Pyramids. This nation does not waste time. One should see how quickly and sharply their field-glasses move about. And how persistently practical are their questions : Nothing superfluous. This is not the vacant touring of tired Europe. “Well, now finally we will come to an understanding,” says the Japanese in a businesslike way without any sentimentality. And may this businesslike attitude be the guarantee of cooperation !
In Cairo, in the mosque, sat a boy of seven or eight and chantingly read the lines of the Koran. One could not pass by without noticing his penetrating striving. And in the walls of that same mosque was boldly imbedded the cannon-ball of Napoleon. And that same conqueror of empires broke the image of the Great Sphinx. But if the sphinx of Egypt is mutilated, the sphinx of Asia remains safeguarded by the great deserts. The treasures of the heart of Asia are preserved and its hour has come.
Ancient Ceylon—the Lanka of the Rāmāyana. But where are the palaces and pagodas ? It is strange. In Colombo we are met by the Swiss Consul. The policeman is Irish. A French peddler. A Greek with post-cards. Dutch tea-peddlers. An Italian chauffeur. But where are the Singhalese ? Have they all emigrated to Europe ?
The first aspects of Buddha and Maitreya reveal themselves in the Kelaniya Temple near Colombo. The powerful images are guarded in the dusk of the temple. Hinayāna prides itself before many-varied Mahayana on the refinement and purity of its philosophy. The great restored stupa near the temple reminds one of the ancient foundation of this place. But, after all, only in fragments do Colombo and Ceylon recall the ancient Lanka of Hanuman, Rama, Ravana and other giants. And for Buddhism, Ceylon is an important site. Many temples and palaces guard the fragments of one of the best periods of the Teaching. Outside of the ruins that are known, numerous unsuspected treasures are buried under the roots of powerful jungles. That which has above the soil gives an idea of the past splendor of the former mighty city. You do not need to search for the places. They proclaim themselves. But exploration can only give results if it is carried on in a broad measure. One must approach such ruins fully fortified, as one palace alone has 900 chambers. Ceylon is an important site.
The public baths near the bitter-sweet mountain, Lavinia, do not suggest the domain of ancient giants. Slender palms shame-facedly bend down to the spray of the tide. Like skeletons stand the fragments of Anuradhapura; consider that Anuradhapura is not entirely explored. And Adam’s Peak is not enticing. By the remains of Anuradhapura one may judge how powerful was Borobodur in Java.
And again, ceaselessly, are gliding by the faces of our fellow travelers : the Japanese, with whom we wept over the remains of the Cairo Pyramids that have passed from a valiant history to become the curio-museum of a greedy guide.
Is it really India ? A thin shore line. Meager little trees. Crevices of dessicated soil. So does India hide its face from the south. And the black Dravidians as yet do not remind us of the Vedas and Mahabharata.
Multi-colored is Madura with the remains of Dravidian strata. All the life, all the nerve of the exchange, was near the temple. In the passages of the temple are the bazaar, the court, the sermon, the reciter of the Ramayana, the gossip, and the sacred elephant who wanders in freedom; and the camels of the religious processions. The ingenious stone carving of the temple is colored with the present-day crude colors. Sarma, the artist, sorrows over it. But the city council did not listen to him and colored the temple according to their own plan. Sarma is saddened that so much of fine understanding is gone and has as yet been replaced only by indifference.
He warns us not to go far in our European attire because some elements of the population may be hostile. And yet Madura is a city of 1,000,000. Sarma inquires about the condition of artists in Europe and America. He is genuinely surprised that the artists of Europe and America can live by the labor of their hands. It is incomprehensible to him that art can provide a means of livelihood. With them, the occupation of artist is the most profitless one. There are almost no collectors. Sarma himself, tall, in white garments, with sad, calm speech, awaits something better, and knows all the burden of the present.
There was no possibility of a meeting with Tagore. Strangely such things happen in life. In London, the poet found us. Then in America we succeeded in meeting him in New York; and he also met George in Boston. But in India itself we did not meet ! We could not go to Bolpur and Tagore could not be in Calcutta. He already was preparing for his tour in China.
There were many curious occurrences. In Calcutta we tried to find Tagore. We thought that in his native city his name would be known on every corner. We took a motor and requested to be taken straight to the poet Tagore, and in vain we rode for three hours through the city. First we were taken to the Maharajah Tagore. Then a hundred policemen and peddlers and passing Babus sent us into the most varied alleys. Finally six volunteer guides were hanging on our motor. And so we ourselves, in this bushy manner, finally remembered the name of Dwarka Nath Tagore Street, where the house of Tagore was situated.
It is said that when Tagore received the Nobel prize, a deputation from Calcutta came to him, but the poet severely asked them : “Where were you before ? I remain the same person, and the prize has not added anything to me.” Greetings to Tagore !
We met the relations of our friend Tagore—Abanindranath Tagore, brother of Rabindranath, artist head of the Bengal School. Gogonendranath Tagore, nephew of the poet, also an artist, secretary of the Bengal Society of Artists. Now he imitates the modernists. A splendid artist is Kumar Haldar, present Director of the School in Lucknow. Hard is the life of the Hindu artist. Much resolution is needed in order not to abandon this thorny path. Greetings to the artists of India ! Why is it that in all countries of the world the condition of scientists and artists is so precarious ?
Thorny also is the way of the Hindu scientists. Here, before us is an example, in a struggling young scientist, a biologist and pupil of Sir Jagdish Bose. He began his laboratory in the name of Vivekananda. In his peaceful little house above the laboratory is a room dedicated to the relics of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and other teachers of this group. This young man, pupil of the closest pupil of Vivekananda, carries into life the principles of this master, who fearlessly proclaimed his evocation to action and knowledge. In this little top chamber he formulates his thoughts, surrounded by the things which belonged to his beloved leaders. One remembers vividly the portraits of Ramakrishna and his wife. Both faces impress one with their purity and striving. We sat in complete silence near this memorial hearth. Greetings !
Who can explain why the path of knowledge and beauty is the most difficult ? Why does humanity accept with such hesitation all that is predestined ? It is therefore the greater joy, to see in India, the signs of an ascent of knowledge and art. It is joyful to see that in India the number of schools is increasing and that legions of new enlightened workers for science and beauty are ready to serve in the victory of evolution.
In Calcutta, not far behind the city, are two monuments to Ramakrishna. On one shore, Dakshineswar, the Temple where long lived Ramakrishna. Almost opposite, across the river, is the Mission of Ramakrishna, the mausoleum of the teacher himself, of his wife, of Vivekananda, and a collection of many memorable objects. Vivekananda dreamt that here should be a real Hindu University. Vivekananda took care of this place. There is a great peace here and it is with difficulty that one realizes oneself so near to Calcutta with all the terror of its bazaars and confusion.
We met Sister Christine, almost the only living pupil of Vivekananda. Her useful work was broken up by the war. And now, after the lapse of many years, Sister Christine has returned again to the old site. The people are changed. The consciousness is consumed with local problems. And it is not easy for Sister Christine to find contact with the new waves of Hindu life.
On the memorable day of Ramakrishna, as many as half a million of his admirers gather.
From the purest to the most hideous : In special streets of Bombay, behind bars, sit the women prostitutes. In this living merchandise which clings close to the bars, in these outstretched hands, in their calls, is contained the whole terror of bodily desecration. And a Hindu Sadhu passes through with his burning incense in order to purify the spot !
When we entered the Chartered Bank of India—out of the door there came to meet us the sacred cow; and how strikingly amusing was this correlation of bank and sacred cow !
The tigers roar in Jaipur. The Maharajah has forbidden any one to shoot them. In Golta Pass two tribes of monkeys are at war. The guide arranges a battle for a most reasonable fee. Nowadays all battles may be arranged thus easily !
The Fakirs are seated, “charming” the old, half-living toothless cobras. The pitiful Hatha-yogi is whirling in the bazaar, making the most gymnastic contortions for the purification of his spirit. “The spiritualist” offers to make the carriage move without horses, but to do this it is necessary “that there should not be one cloud in the sky.”
And along with this is a fantastic and romantic fragment of old Rajputana—Amber where the princesses looked down from their balconies upon the tournaments of their suitors; where every gate, every little door, astonishes one by the correlations of its beauty. Near here is the penetrating and fantastic Golta Pass which could not be imagined in any fantasy—only the “play” of life can accumulate such unexpected creations. And here also is Jaipur with its fairylike astrological observatory and with the charm of an unspoiled Hindu Moslem city. Fatehpur-Sikri, Agra—rare chips of a departed culture. And the frescoes of Ajanta are already unsafe.
All the remains of the constructions of Akbar have a veil of seeming sadness. Here the great Unifier of his country buried his best visions so misunderstood by his contemporaries. In Fatehpur-Sikri, he conversed with his wise Birbal, and with the few who had attained his level. Here he built the temple of universal knowledge. Here he lost his few friends and foresaw that the welfare of the State created by him, would not be preserved. And Agra and Fatehpur-Sikri are full of a kind of limitless sorrow. Akbar knew how the well-being which he bestowed on his people would be pillaged. Perhaps he already knew how the last emperor of India would live to the middle of the nineteenth century, peddling the furniture of his palace and chipping from the walls of his palace in Delhi the fragments of mosaics.
With all the dustiness gathered by time, the architecture of Benares still retains its charm. All the mixture of form of the old Hindu, Dravidian and Moslem, can give new solutions to the unprejudiced architect. One can easily imagine a combination of the many-storied Tibetan structure, with the comforts of an American sky-scraper. One can draw a parallel from the palaces of Benares to the palaces of Venice and to a livable private dwelling. One can develop the style of American pueblos, with the newest understanding, as is being done in Santa Fé.
A Hindu complained to me of the lack of Hindu architects. I said to him, “If there are no architects, let an artist develop an idea, but let him proceed from out of the harmony of the folk consciousness combined with the character of its nature.” One cannot defile the whole world with a uniform building. One cannot make out of Java a Swedish Stockzund. And one cannot visualize Comanches and Apaches in the houses of Boston. Appropriateness must be maintained.
On the shores of the Ganges, a gray-bearded man, cupping his palms like a chalice, offers his entire possessions to the rising sun. A woman quickly telling her rhythms performs her morning Pranayama on the shore. In the evening she may again be there, sending upon the stream of the sacred river a garland of lights as prayers for the welfare of her children. And these fireflies of the woman’s soul, prayer-inspired, travel long upon the dark watery surface. Beholding these offerings of the spirit one can even forget the stout priests of the golden temples. We are minded of other things. We recall those Yogis who send into space their thoughts, thus constructing the coming evolution. Not the usual priests these, but active hermits; they are bringing our thought near to the energy which will be revealed by scientists in the very near future.
Gigantic stupas of Buddhism—burial mounds surrounded by a fence. The same Kurgans of all centuries and nations. The Kurgans of Upsala in Sweden; Russian Kurgans of Volhov on the way to Novgorod; the Steppe Kurgans of Scythians, surrounded by stones; all tell the legends of the same solemn cremations which have been described by the skillful Arabian traveler, Ibn Fadlan. Everywhere, the same purifying conflagrations.
Everywhere, much incense, rose water and fragrant sandal-wood. Hence the smoke from the bodies in the Burning Ghats of Benares is not turbid. And in Tibet, also, cremation is used.
Regard the gentle child games of the Orient—and listen to the complicated rhythms of the chants and soft music. There are not evident the profanities of the West.
The Maharajah of Mysore is awakened with special songs— songs of beginning and of end.
In Madura in a crowded alley, an old man models the forms of the “sacred images.” He is the last old man—with him dies this knowledge. Thus is dying the past. So is approaching the future.
On the fields are standing, in circles, the figures of white ceramic horses. Whence are these resplendent mounts ? Upon them, the subtle bodies of women are said to go galloping through the nights. Backs, which are doubled during the day in household tasks, at night are made erect in flight. Shall one say it is a goat’s leap to the gathering of witches ? No, rather is it the flight of the Valkyries—the virgins of the air—the leap toward a wondrous future.
Each day a woman’s hand molds the sand at the entrance of the house into a special design. This is the symbol that within the house all is well, and there is neither sickness, death nor discord. If there be no happiness in the house then the hand of the woman becomes stilled. A seeming shield of beauty is placed before the house by the hand of the woman at the benevolent hour. And little girls in schools early are being taught a variety of designs for the signs of happiness. An inexplicable beauty lives in this custom of India.
Vivekananda called the women of India to work and to freedom. He also asked the so-called Christians, “If you so love the teaching of Jesus why do you not follow it ?” So spoke the pupil of Ramakrishna who passed through the substance of all teachings and learned through life “not to deny.” Vivekananda was not merely an industrious “Swami”—something lion-like rings in his letters. How he is needed now !
“Buddhism is the most scientific and most coöperative teaching,” says the Hindu biologist, Bose. It is a joy to hear how this truly great savant who found his way to the mysteries of plant life speaks about the Vedanta, Mahabharata, and about the poetry of the legends of the Himalaya. Only true knowledge can find the merited place for all existing things.
And accompanying the voice of the savant, simple and comprehensive, the silvery tones of an electric apparatus tinkle out the pulse of the life of the plants, reopening pages of the world’s knowledge, long since sealed.
Bose’s mother in her day sold all her jewels in order to give her son an education. The scientist, in demonstrating “His kingdom,” says : “Here are the children of the rich in luxurious conditions. See how they become puffed and baggy. They need a good storm to bring them back to healthy normalcy.” Knowing the pulse of the plant world, the scientist approaches wholesomely all the manifestations of life. He values highly Timiryaseff’s review of his works. One of Bose’s best books was written on the heights of the Punjab in Mayavati—in the shrine of Vivekananda. Vivekananda departed too soon. Bose and Tagore—noble images of India !
The frescoes of Ajanta, the powerful Trimurti of Elephanta, and the gigantic stupa in Sarnath, all speak of other ancient times. And this former beauty also glimmers in the fine and slender silhouette of a woman who carries her eternal water—water which feeds the hearth.
And the well, as in biblical times, remains the central spot of the whole population.
Rajive Malhotra’s work, ” Being Different,” is a challenging book. If literary classics are especially vested with riches that enable them to be read at different levels, Rajive’s matter-of-fact psycho-spiritual non-fiction demands a subsumation of all levels to a very specific understanding of the Indian way of life and thought, and how if differs from that in the West. The universe he lays on the table has an entire history to contend with, the evolution of values along it and how they express today in acts, thoughts and utterences of typical Hindu and Western or West-imbibed individuals today.
It reminds me of Albert Camus’ works and my own growing up in a partially Western scheme, if not values. His works show a subjectivity cut off from the supernatural paradigms in Judeo-Christian context and its alienation from the absurd world about him. His protagonist acts but only as drawn by situation and events and, very tellingly, fails to express the being he is privy to, of himself.
What value abides in a world without order ? What do we make of this existential chaos ? These questions preoccupy Camus through every one of his works, wherein he intuits answers while feeling the presence of the cosmos in his own being, and in the being about him. This mode is extraordinary, compared with how the Western laity and leadership dwell within the monotheistic framework laid out and imposed by the Church. But for the poetic souls who embrace the irrational, with capacity for extended sensibilities, it is especially uncommon among linearly inclined atheists, materialists, logicians and rationalists, scientists, politicians and businessmen.
Camus is different within the Western mainstream, as is the Hindu without it. Rajive’s Being Different juxtaposes the Western mainstream mind and the Hindu mainstream ways : the former caught up in its imposed Judeo – Christian orientation and Greek linear order, which collapsed with Bruno, and the latter with a sense of continuum anchored to reaffirmed cosmic truths and with guidelines to an illustrated way of life in dharmic tradition. The two are different, as the author details in the following terms :
History Centrism vs Embodied Knowing
Synthetic Unity vs Integral Unity
Anxiety Over Chaos vs Comfort With Complexity And Ambiguity
Cultural Digestion vs Sanskrit Non – Translatables
In the Indian context, Dharma is both morals and ethics, and is rooted in Truth that is not apart from our Self, God, Pervasive Energy and Conscious Immanence.
To the Hindu, Truth is said to underlie existence entire; it is consciousness itself, of which our I-sense is constituted and which illuminates our mind and intellect. It is the vitality flowing in the body, operative in sense organs and interfacing the mind with feelings and emotions. It is the undifferentiated bliss we experience in deep sleep and is the undeniable power of existence in each being.
Positioned between the mundane and the divine, the dharmic tradition envelops the Indian soul in the same inclusive reality that at once and directly links him ever with the cosmos and the world about him, even if one has not perceived it for oneself. There is always someone in the present, or not so long ago, who has refreshed the same truth announced in antiquity and has periodocally enunciated it in contemporary terms. In sum, the call is same : We live in truth and die in truth.
In contrast, truth in the Judeo-Christian scheme is either in the book or equated with phenomenal facts, knowledge about the other – the truth of the moment – discovered and known by those with some claim to scholarship. The Bible is community interpreted, compiled, edited and ordained, though of words issued by supposedly historic individuals. Deviations from the laid terms are generally considered blasphemous. Alternate notions, unless reinforcing that stated in the book, have no validity and acceptance. There are human arbiters, representatives of God whose word is final, with assumed authority of biblical historic characters. They have a right over a fraction of the fruits of one’s income and are empowered to channel the Lord’s forgiveness in confession boxes.
Everybody is a sinner and is exiled in the ungodly realm, to be finally judged at the end of history and take his place in Heaven or Hell till eternity.
In his works, Camus shows the Western mind in the order that prevails. He does not strive to create an illusion of reality, for it is precisely the real which is being questioned. His strange protagonist is tweaked to reflect the bizarre gulf between the inner self and outward acts. His work gives the sensation of fragmentation, the incoherence of a world which has lost its nuts and bolts… with just a hint of the answer that will later be arrived at in several treatises.
But not everyone is an artist or an intellectual; in fact very few are. How do the rest cope ? By chasing dreams where few succeed, mostly by creating opportunities by hook or crook. It doesn’t really work though : there are 42 – 45 milion poor people in the USA, the land of opportunities ! The West has the best of medical cures but few can afford some of that state of art . The UK is on the way to dismantling its National Health System. And EU will soon find it hard to sustain its mandatory welfare programs.
Since chaos and uncertainty is forever upon us, insecurity and anxiety is our base human condition. How would the man in psychological exile, without anchor and deeply alienated, handle it ? And that isn’t the end of it, too. God is dead and the world is unforgiving. It is legal to hoard and go for the kill : everybody has the right to make the most of opportunities. It’s a free market. Every cure, pain alleviating advance, or scientific research comes with a mountain of “opportunity” cost or royalty, to people who need them the most but have the least capacity to pay. Typically, cancer treatment drugs in the West cost 50 to 100 times of that which prevails in India.
A life led by truth, even while striving, is markedly different from a mind lit up to facts. Truth, in its universally inclusive meaning and indescribable form, infinitely deepens the mystery and magnifies the wonder. Facts, the ‘information or knowledge about,’ seek to quench the wonder and kill the mystery.
” It’s a wonder ! It’s a wonder !! It’s a wonder !!! ” says the enlightened one in Chandigya Upanishad. The culture nurtured for the path of enlightenment is quite apart in their values, concerns and behaviour, from one that is restricted to rationality.
“Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees,” explains St. Gregory of Nyssa.
Camus’ narrator has lost the key to his own secret : he has become a stranger to his own life. He holds only facts, and facts are nothing. Therefore, he cannot give his existence a meaning which would establish its unity. Having neither past nor future, he has only a present which is crumbling away and does not become memory. Time, until the final revolt, is nothing for him but a succession of distinct moments, which no Cartesian God pieces together, which no vital impulse spans, which no remembrance transfigures. Camus has rendered admirably this fall of the present into insignificance through a paradoxical use of the first person narrative.
We would be ascetics though if, I believe, our alienation was complete. A stranger to ourself and others, we forever have a homeland in sensation. Finding nothing within to engage ourself, we still have the body to ourself. We indulge then to find and have our bagful moments of happy sensation, in food and porn. Its excessive pursuit in the West is not only a protest against the false seriousness of pulpit morality but also a proof of the victory of the values – system that the Church, even the catholic one, dare not speak against.
Thus is the injustice of having been cast rootless in spirit, mind and body, addressed. Nothing is sacred anymore before the meaning that sensations offer. It is I and my sensations, my indulgence … take it or leave it. Cultism is preferable, family could be discarded or corrupted, and marriages annuled, but I must have it and you got to take it. In the age of freedom, the world must order itself among feminists, misogynists, sadists and masochists, leaving the middle ground to be ordered by the shrink ! Abuse, violence and arbitrary cruelty is never far away and an unspeakabe slavery, formed of freedom all about it, prevails.
Individual freedoms anywhere tend to prompt either getting carried away or being rooted in indifference. It gets exacerbated in the West in the absence of something greater than the individual to moderate it, or to urge him to step up. The family makes it clear that it is not going to provide or take care of anybody beyond a point. One needs to do that for himself; others might chip in then, not before.
To that extent, the family in the West is also not heeded to, beyond a point. As to community and society … the less said the better; it’s wholly optional. There are laws but they, as everywhere, would almost always kick in after the horse has bolted. The United States police and FBI do have the vision of preempting the excess, but getting organised and empowered to that extent also brings in the spectre of a Police State. As some will vouch, it already does.
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In a direct head on, historically and especially from the Hindu’s perspective, Christianity is hardly a religion – it has a political agenda in spiritual guise. Its end is subjugation of non-Christians, in common with the other Semitic derivative, Islam. To achieve that end, it has relied on propagation of lies and falsification of history – not to mention manipulation of our very notion of what is right and wrong.
For instance, Judeo-Christian religions cannot get over the idea that Hindus worship the male organ, as the Shiv Ling idol is perceived. The vertical cylindrical form is in fact placed over the Yoni ( vulva ) of Shakti, and the two together symbolise the transcendent Matter-Intelligence power, of which all being is manifest. The symbol connects the individual with the wonder of creation, in very everyday terms, and calls upon each to regard all life as sacred.
I believe, even Christians and Muslims are exhorted to have the same value; so, why is the most characteristic feature of life, the act of progenition, any the less sacred ? Why do they, in practice, consider it to be sin, dirty and unclean ?
It is not only the act of sex in focus here but the union of vast and qualitatively different energies, male and female, of which the Shiv Ling is a symbol. It acknowledges and celebrates the fact that mankind has two genders, each with its unique attributes and qualities; and, that, when they come together, they create MORE life of their own kind, becoming in the process more than the sum of their individual parts.
Many ancient civilisations recognised this wonder of creation. The Chinese represent it somewhat abstractly in their symbols of Yin and Yang. Such transcendent and sacred wonderment set in our awareness the idea of something pervasive, with which we can relate to through what we each are and have.
The perspective of someone with such extended consciousness beyond his individual idea of exclusive self, based on biology and not on creed or community affiliation, is wholly different from a faith limited to religious fantasies of a personal God or historical Prophet walking upon water or miraculously curing a cripple or a blind. The former lends to us a unity with faraway cosmos in our very being; the latter wrenches us away from close-at-hand life and baptises us into this belief in fiction.
Let us consider the assumptions that cause us to think of sex as something “unclean”? Why is a joke about sex or pictures of the naked human body labeled as “dirty” ? Because we have since been conditioned into thinking of it as something wrong and impermissible, by the pervasive manipulations of this nature-abhorring “ethics” imposed by western clerics and brain-washed laity. Islamists, of course, were simply barbaric during their 500 year rule in Indian subcontinent : they destroyed every institution or temple arm remotely connected with education.
However, the British occupiers and Christian missionaries more than made up with their sophisticated cultural onslaught. They started schools, not to teach but to school the unsuspecting young ones into their lies which, among others, included their cardinal belief that sex was evil, unclean and inherently immoral, in and of itself – perhaps their oldest lie of all. And like all of its lies, it was meant to serve a “control” agenda in spiritual guise.
India since antiquity has always had a central place for Mother Goddess. Hindus know her as Shakti and, in her manifestations, as Durga / Kali / Parvati. Akkadians worshipped Gingira. Sumerians had Inanna. North-eastern Semites knew her as Astarte. In Assyria, Babylon and Egypt, as Ishtar. In ancient Greece, as Hecate or Demeter, and later as Anaitis or Aphrodite. In Persian culture, which widely prevailed before the rise of absurdly puritanical Islam, people knew the Goddess Mother as Anahita. In Rome, as Vesta. Even in the New World, American civilisations of that era had temples and representations of Mother Goddess.
Israelites seem to be quite the odd tribe there, back then. They had a different kind of god altogether : a male god, with a Capital G. They called him Yahweh, and he is the direct antecedent of the ” Lord Our God ” of the Christians, and Allah of the Muslims. He was not about fertility or caring at all. He was wrathful, vengeful, jealous and angry god, full of violence, hatred and intolerance. He spoke out of a “burning bush” and instructed Moses that his followers must not worship false gods, that HE was the One True God, and then asked Moses to go with his staff and smite another people who believed in false gods.
It was their belief, stronger than any other, that the non-believer is a lesser human being than one of them … a belief that was later copied by Christians and Islamist. This signified a political agenda that was truly unprecedented untill then, exhorting, ” Go forth, multiply, and kill whatever stands in your way, because I Am That I Am and I am on Your Side.”
We know the bloodshed that followed from Old Testament times, from pages of history after Christ, and upon Mohammed’s proclamation in Mecca. The Jews did not go about converting people with the rabid fervour of Christians, but they had the same political agenda. They reviled other people in neighbouring civilisations of Egypt and Babylon, especially by discrediting their principal deity – the Mother Goddess.
In practice, they brought in their male dominated values and made it popular to despise and subjugate women, than treat them with respect as equals. The culture put an end to worship of any Goddess in societies where Jews and Christians, and Muslims, became predominant. They denounced fertility and procreation itself, declaring it as not miraculous but sinful affair. For them, the male – female intimacy, and sex, was the Original Sin; the human body in its natural state was dirty and unclean.
The world had not seen a fanatic until the Judeo-Christian paradigm had set in. Slowly but with unmatched doggedness, the anti-female script was enacted … It began with the murder of Queen Jezebel, described in Old Testament. The Temple of Astarte in Jerusalem was razed to ground, and one for Yahweh was raised by King David in its place.
The conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine I to Christianity in AD ca. 300 was a great advance to the cause. He led codification of the Bible as we know it today. However, recent finds have thrown up alternate forms of the gospels included in it and a few that were found as not appropriate.
The fall of Rome in 480 AD was followed by the Dark Ages, rise of Papacy and the blood-soaked Crusade centuries, degrading Colonialism and murderous Inquisition eras. The faith that had sprung from the Israelites spread like a metastizing cancer over the face of the earth and holds its sway even today, despite the feminist movement through the 20th Century … now more particularly in the Islamic world, where a monotheistic intolerant God descended from Yahweh sits high up yonder in his most perverse caricature.
We know how women are treated in Muslim countries : the recent Malala incident is symbolic and the Saudi order, which informs husbands every time the woman leaves or enters the country, is a telling symptom.
The world knew of the Mother Goddess once. The dharmic tradition in India alone continues with it today. It is the only one that has survived since antiquity. The civilisations of Persia, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Americas, have all fallen to Judeo-Christian uniformity…Later, parts of Asia fell to the Islamic monstrosity.
All those cultures that have disappeared were marked with the same tolerance that makes the Hindu standout today. While the Western and Islamic worlds are today looking to cook up a humanism by the rivers of blood they have caused to flow, the true heirs of the tolerant, accepting and inclusive ways of yore are preserved in India, among the native Hindus who the world knows as “being different.”
* * *
And we in India, who follow the dharmic tradition, must never forget this : we are different. We are hiers of this spiritual legacy of the most ancient civilised era, of which we are the last surviving inheritors.
One day, Christianity’s mighty edifice will fall under the weight of its own contradictions, just as Islam is falling today. Till then, we must bear the torch of the legacy of pagan humanism that will ultimately prevail.
From Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Marx is a logical – and inevitable – progression on the road to tyranny. India and Japan are the only major cultures that have successfully resisted this onslaught.
* * *
Some Of The Ways We Are Different :
The Dharmic tradition is derived from Truth anchored at once in the cosmos and the humanity at large, in the pre-historic and the pre-mundane man !
We are a secure, sharing, tolerant, accepting and inclusive people !
Extending between the ephemeral and the eternal, the Dharmic tradition occupying the Indian mind not only permits but encourages a joyous acceptance of contradictions between potential truths and manifest facts. It has no qualms about setting in our awareness mutating facts, as truths of the moment, and immutable truths, being the facts for eternity.
The dharmic tradition declares : There is not an iota of diversity, not even the least trace, in the ultimate substratum of all being. And, equally, there is no truth without abundant and unending diversity in the manifest world.
We is free to be calm in truth, with peace deep in our heart, while dancing in step with the rapid transience about us or pacing to moves in an engaging combat with the enemy before us.
As a consequence, the Hindu is incomparable : there is no soldier like him, none more forebearing under occupation, more gracefully vigourous a dancer or a more completely immersed singer gliding over the scales with restrained speed for hours.
Each one of us are informally skilled at playing with raging waves while being anchored to the depths of the sea. That is the unacknowledged secret behind the unusual success of Indian managers and entrepreneurs globally. On the other extreme, it explains why the Indian remains unmoved despite the ugliness he has and has had to put up with.
* * *
Asked what he thought of freedom, Camus said : “What freedom can there be in the fullest sense without assurance of eternity ?” Hence, Camus built up a sense of freedom that lies in an assumed one : as if it were; as if it were already there.
In contrast, the Hindu’s freedom is for real. The Indian dharmic tradition comes in the wake of infinite – existence, knowledge and bliss – and ushers an unending karmic journey.
It situates the individual in an entire tri-ply scheme : That (mental) is infinite. This (material) is infinite. The Infinite derived of Infinite leaves the Infinite (spiritual). It needs mere observation of the cosmos, and a discovery in oneself, to experience the reality of absolute freedom.
Of course, the karmic laws are incontrovertible in material space : we are free to act but not free to choose the immutable consequence it invites.
Our freedom in mental space is more liberal : we are free to know and outgrow the limitations that circumscribe our current station.
And, finally, we are free to shed this individuated awareness of our self and cease to be, as we were, for ever. There is nothing anymore, as we ever knew – not the material world of beings and things; not the mental world of sensation, will, meaning and knowledge; and no longer the ego-I-sense dilating through sleep, dream and wakeful being. There is nothing anymore animal, human or divine.
It’s truth itself, alone, without a second.
This spirit to outgrow is natural to the Indian dharmic tradition. It occurs along various generic attributes. First, in human goal over a lifetime : dharma, artha, kama and moksha … loosely translated as Right Knowledge, Thought and Conduct; Income and Wealth; Sensuous and Sexual Fulness; and, Supreme Yoga and Liberation Absolute … in that general order. The process allows for endless variations of the same theme, because the outgrowing process itself is not strictly compartmentalised in practice.
The stepping up is more obvious in relief when viewed against the age – axis and values system respective to each :
0 – 7 years, with parents in an atmosphere of love and tender care;
7 – 25 years, celibate life with the teacher, away from parents, in utter simplicity, given to study and service to others, without any priviledge or exceptional treatment over others;
25 – 50 years, leading a vigorous householder’s life, living by right knowledge, honing skills and applying effort to become a useful citizen in the community, with moderated but full-blooded sensuousness, marraige and raising a family in the light traditional morals and exemplary ethics, excelling at one’s chosen profession in accord with aptitude;
50 – 75 years, gradual withdrawal from worldly pursuits and possessions, handing over all to next generation, disengaging from sensuous calls or sexual acts and generally from householder’s duty, engaging in spiritual company, education and practice; and,
75 – 100 years, complete withdrawal from worldly and household affairs, given over entirely to reclusive life, engaged pointedly in prayer, thankfulness and at inviting spiritual fulness, in ever – prepared state of readiness to shed the body and depart for the next.
The sense of outgrowing pervades a Hindu’s lifetime, even in other ways. It is common for to hear of outgrowing the ways of physical animality and take to mindful human values and pursuits, and then to preparations for inviting the divinity upon one’s heart and mind.
It is common worldwide to see the eagerness to evolve through one’s age while we are young or our worldly stations in adult life. In India, however, sages are on record advising people to outgrow external signs of identity in favour of internal ones; from rituals or audible chant to their mental equivalent; from godhead with form to the truth formless; from religion itself to the a-religious perspective.
But to outgrow means to give and take anew; and for that to happen, we need to turn away from merely deepening our anchor in history and, rather, to rescue ourself from it and restore ourself to ethics arising from our morals, not merely from the law in our statute books.
That would place us precisely in the otherwise non-linear dharmic tradition, with which the Hindu has remained connected through the millennia after Ice Age,
the Bronze Revolution,
the Great Bharata War,
the end of urban Sarasvati Civilisation,
the rural Arya resurgence, the Iron Age,
Buddhism and Jainism religious reform movements,
transformation of democracies into monarchy,
the great Maurya and golden Gupta eras,
the reign of mighty Harshavardhan and his extreme generosity at Kumbha gathering at Prayag,
the brilliance of pure monism of Adi Shankara,
the centuries of Islamic onslaught and Muslim rule,
the Age of Devotion and poetics,
the British occupation and long period of Christian upmanship,
and the chaos of post-independent India.
The Indian has seen too much with a surfiet of extreme stupidity and barbarism, of utter beauty and complete harmony. He stands balanced with his wealth and secure in his poverty, patient with peace and hopeful of growth in chaos.
The cosmos is stil there… how wrong can things go ?
I’ve been increasingly thoughtful about it and have been occasionally compelled to remark about it on Twitter. Naturally, it’s me … how I see it, as opposed to how the Dalai Lama assesses. It’s his court, with the Chinese on the other side.
First, the basic values : I believe Buddhism is the better than Christianity, and infinitely more welcome compared to Islam. But Buddhism, to me, had no trace of truth – the one I can carry when my heart stops, or when it’s curtains on my brain.
Buddhism is a great religion concentrated on ethics and morality while one is alive. Peace … yes, while they themselves live in chaos, on the dole let out by others. Non- Violence … very much, while the meat killed by others is on their table !
But that isn’t what I wish to speak of : it is about their heroic, self-satisfying self-immolations. They are counting … perhaps, they’ve scored a century. I wouldn’t. I’d think of of the sad unprotected families left behind and wonder about what the great Dalai Lama thinks and believes, and does about these ‘heroic’ suicides.
Well, he does nothing except go from one award function to another, one edifying speech to another eulogising fervour. I can see the crap. Does the great one see through what he is doing ? Damned be he, does he see through the pain of his people ? And what is his solution or advice ? I do not know.
What does come to fore, in my view, is that the Dalai Lama is a religious leader. A magnificent one, for a magnificent religion ! But what a lie I see, a magnificent lie. There is no truth in it.
By my upbringing … the truth is that waging a war is preferable to encouraging the unjust or suffering their injustice. It is possible that one is incapacited for a while, not able to do a thing for a time. But what crap of a religion is this that leaves its people weak.
Damn this belief – system that will go extinct because of its excessive belief ! I’d much rather, every self immolator embraced a Chinese, common Han or official, while the fire is burning ! Let the moral goal justify the conduct, not a damned religious ideology.