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Rare Books Beloved by Ramana MaharshiRare Books Beloved by Ramana Maharshi by Roy Melvyn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very nice book. Has a collection of philosophical treatise from Hindu Philosophy. One of the books is Tripura Rahasya. This is the largest book in the set of books. The others being Advaita Bodha Deepika, and Siddha Gita.

All of them are good, but Tripura Rahasya is the best of the lot. Read it and get peace of mind and if you are good enough “Get Enlightened”.

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My GitaMy Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik

My rating: 5 of 5 starsA wonderfully different but very sensible interpretation of Bhagwad Geeta. Difficult to summarize the book so some excerpts from it.

Vishnu establishes balance between Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Example of “Karma”?

When Vishnu descended on earth as Ram, he killed Vali, the son of Indra, and sided with Sugriva, the son of Surya. So when Vishnu descended as Krishna, he was obliged to restore the balance in the cosmos by killing Karna, son of Surya, and siding with Arjuna, son of Indra. Here one story is one half of another story, and Karna’s misfortune neutralizes his fortune in another life. Free of any obligations or expectations, he would thus be liberated from the wheels of rebirth. So his killing, which we feel is a sad incident, becomes a wonderful event.”

In the third story, when Vishnu descended as Parashurama, he trained Bhishma, Drona and Karna, who ended up siding with the Kauravas and upholding adharma. Since he could not kill his own students, Vishnu again descended as Krishna and supported the Pandavas, who fought and killed the Kauravas and their commanders. Here Krishna is reborn to correct the errors of a previous life, one of them being Karna.

“The journey from human to divine is to achieve conceptual clarity and appreciate the world as it is, while empathizing with how others perceive it.”

From fear of death comes hunger, hence the quest for food, hence violence. Fear of death by violence makes animal sexual, so that they reproduce and ensure that at least some part of their being outlives death. And that which is reproduced carries with it the fear of death, hence hunger, hence violence and sex. Thus, cause is an action (karma) and the consequence is also an action (karma). Karma is both action and reaction.

Karma – Each moment is a fruit (karma-phala) of the past and a seed (karma-bija) of the future. And just as every seed need not germinate, just as quality of the fruit depends on various external factors like sunlight and quality of soil and availability of water, the reaction of every action is unpredictable. With unpredictability comes uncertainity, which amplifies fear”

The acceptance of uncertainity is the hallmark of mythologies that believe in rebirth. Here, the world is always changing and so the point is to observe it, rather than judge or control it.

“Those who believe in Karma do not blame. They do not judge. They accept that humans live in a sea of consequences, over which there is limited control. So they accept every moment as it is supposed to be. They act without expecation. This is nishkama karma”.

To empathize is dharma. Failure to empathize is adharma.

“Arjuna, in age after age, whenever humanity forgets its potential and functions as it should not, I manifest to inspire those with faith and shake up those without faith, so that humanity never forgets that it is capable of”. A completely different perspective of “Yada Yada hi dharmasya”

Animals have no choice but to follow their instinct. Humans have a choice. When we do exercise our choice, when we value other people’s needs alongside our own, we are following dharma. When we stay focussed on our own needs at the cost of others’, we are doing adharma.

Everyone is born with a different capability (varna): some advise the society (Brahmins), some protect the society (Kshatriyas), some feed the society (Vaishyas) and some serve the society (Shudras). Everyone has to go through different stages of life (ashrama): a student (brahmacharya). a householder (grihasta), a retired person (vanaprastha), and a hermit (sanyasa). The Puranas tell us that society is constantly changing; every culture goes through four phases (yuga) moving from innocence (Krita) to maturity (Treta) to struggle (Dvapara) to decay (Kali).

How does one uphold dharma in different contexts?

Typically people come up with rules – traditions (riti) and laws (niti), and equate them with adharma. Compliance then becomes dharma and non-compliance becomes adharma. But things are not so simple. “What matters more than action itself is intent, which is not tangible, hence rather invisible.” Rules vary with context.

In Ramayana Vishnu is the first born in a Royal family and is hence expected to follow the the rules of the family, clan and kingdom, and uphold family honour. Krishna the youngest born of a noble family, raised by cowherds is under no such obligation. He asks Arjuna to concentrate on his dharma (sva-dharma) and not on somebody else’s (para-dharma).

In Ramayana Rama upholds rules, while Ravana breaks them. In Mahabharatha Duryodhana upholds rules, while Krishna breaks them. As the eldest sons of their respective clans, Ram and Duryodhana are obliged to uphold rules. Ravana, son of a Brahmin, and Krisna, raised by cowherds, are under no such obligations. Dharma, however is upheld only by Ram and Krishna, not Ravana and Duryodhana. Ram is constantly concerned about his city Ayodhya’s welfare, while Ravana does not care if his Lanka burns. Krishna cares for the Pandavas, who happen to be the children of his aunt, but Kauravas do not care for the Pandavas, who happen to be children of their uncle. Dharma thus has nothing to do with rules or obligations. It has to do with the intent and caring for the other, be it your kingdom or family.

Ravana argues his case passionately, as do those who fight on the Kaurava side, from Bhishma to Drona, Karna and Shalya. They justify their actions on the grounds of justice, fairness, legitimacy, duty, loyalty, fidelity and commitment. None of them sees the other (para); they are too blinded by the the self (aham). Logic serves as a lawyer to defend their stance.

While Ravana and Dhuryodhana judge, Ram and Krishna never do so. They never complain or justify.

In Puranic lore, he who gives upon getting is a deva; he who seeks retrieval of what he thinks has been stolen is an asura; he who grabs, takes without giving, is a rakshasa; he who hoards is a yaksha! He who does not participate in yagna, does not give or want to get, is a shramana or tapasvi, the hermit, much feared in Puranas as the cause of drought, hence starvation. Within us is the yajamana, the devata, the asura, the rakshasa, the yaksha and the shramana. They manifest in different directions.

Exchange can be used to satisfy our desires, or repay our debts. It can entrap us, or liberate us. It depends not on the action, but on the thought underlying the action.

Sankhya means enumeration and refers to analysis, the tendency to break things down into their constituent parts. Yoga is its complement and refers to synthesis, the tendency to bind parts to establish a composite whole. In art, sankhya is visualized as an axe (parashu), use to slice things into parts, while yoga is visualized as a string (pasha), used to tie things together.

With yama we limit social engagements by not indulging in sex, violence, falsehood, theft and greed.

Then, with niyama, we discipline ourselves by practising cleanliness, contentment, austerity, reflection and having faith in divinity.

Third comes asana, where we activate the body using various postures

Fourth is pranayama, through which we regulate the breath.

With prayahara, we withdraw from sensory inputs.

With dharana, we become aware of the big picture and gain perspective.

With dhyana, we become attentive and focussed.

With samadhi, we go further within experience our emotions and discover fear!

Connecting with other is not easy, especially when we look upon each other as predator and prey, rival or mate. In such a situation we trust no one but ourselves, as animals tend to. Or we trust the other only in situation of extreme helplessness, as only humans can.

The earliest word for God in Rig Veda is ‘ka’, which is the first alphabet in Sanskrit, from which come all the interrogative pronouns such as what, when, where, why, how. Thus, divinity had something to do with inquiry. The kavi, or poet, enquired about ka. He later came to be known as the rishi, the observer.

Between survival and understanding comes judging – the state when everything and everyone around is evaluated based on imagined benchmarks, in order to position oneself. The animal wants to identify the other as predator or prey, rival or mate. The judge wants to classify the world as good or bad, innocent or guilty, right or wrong, oppressor or oppressed, based on his or her own framework. The observer wants to figure out what exactly is going on. The journey from animal to judge to observer is the journey if va-nara, to nara, to Narayana.

Arjuna, he who sees the divine as present equally in all things does not hurt himself by hurting others and so attains the ultimate state.

Arjuna, he who does not hate anyone, is friendly and compassionate always, is not possessive and self-indulgent, stable in pleasure and pain, forgiving, contained, controlled and firm in his love for me, in heart and head, is much loved by me.

In nature, there is a pecking order. But animal domination is not aspirational; it is necessary for survival. Domination ensures they get access to more food. Humans dominate to grant themselves value, and feel good about themselves.

Maya distracts us from infinity and immortality, from the feeling that the world can continue without us. Maya makes us feel important.

We cannot measure infinity, but we can lock infinity in a symbol. Thus in temples, a rock (pinda, linga) or a fossil (shaligrama) can represent the formless divine. It is our imagination that gives value to things, purpose to an activity and identity to a thing. We can give meaning or wipe it away. That is the power of maya. It is the power of God bestowed upon us humans. Maya is often called magic, for it has the power to make the world meaningful, transform every word into a metaphor, every image into a symbol. Maya can divide and separate, cause conflict by comparison.

When people say in Hindi “Sab maya hai”, it is commonly translated as “The world is an illusion or a delusion”. What it means is that the world can be whatever we imagine it to be – valuable or valueless, fuelling ambition or cynicism.

We can manufacture depression and joy in our lives by the way we measure, delimit and apportion the world. The world itself has no intrinsic measurement.

In nature, there are natural forces of attraction and repulsion, even between two objects. Plants and animals are drawn to food, and shun threats. Over and over this, humans cling (raga) to property (kshetra) that grants them value in society. We convince ourselves that our social body defines our identity. To be told that our true identity is intangible and immeasurable (kshetragna) seems quite unbelievable, as it can never be proven, only believed. So we cling to our goals or rules, to property or relatives, to titles or ideas, and fight over them as animals fight over territory. Animals fight because the survival of their body depends on it. Humans fight as the survival of their identity (aham) depends on it. Clinging is comforting. Insecurity fuels desire (kama) for more, and so acquiring more becomes purpose of life. We get angry (krodha) when we don’t get them, get attached (moha) to them, become intoxicated with pride (mada) because we possess things, feel jealous of those who have more and insecure around those who have less (matsarya). Material reality thus enchants us and crumples our mind several times over. These are called six obstacles (arishad-varga) that prevent the mind from expanding, the aham from transforming into atma and discovering bhagwan.

We also shun (dvesha) things out of fear. We avoid taking ownership, responsibility or proprietorship in fear. We are terrified of heartbreak, and so refuse to fall in love. We are terrified of failing, and so avoid struggles. We are terrified of outcome, and so refuse to take any action. We clearly demarcate what is mine and what is not mine. If attraction to things makes us householders, and revulsion of things makes us hermits, then neither is actually wise, as neither accepts reality. As householders, we wish we expand the mine, sometimes at the cost or yours. As hermits, we want to shun even what is mine and reject all that is yours.

Reality is allowing things to come to us naturally and not seeking things that do not come to us naturally. Wisdom is bearing the fruit we are supposed to bear and not wanting to bear the fruit that we cannot bear. Depending on its guna, a tree bears mango fruit; this is not ambition or desire, it is simply realization of potential. If we expect a mango tree to bear apples, then problems start. We do not respect guna. A human being can become a king, a warrior, a merchant, a servant or a poet depending on his qualities and potential. If we try to change a warrior into a poet because we are revolted by war or attracted to poetry, then we cause tension and suffering. Hinduism therefore does not talk of conversion, only realization of potential. To let our potential be realized without deriving our identity from it, or without denying its existence, is the hallmark of wisdom.

Gajendra the elephant is caught by a crocodile and Gajendra tries to escape in vain, as no one comes to his rescue. Lost, helpless, he prays to Vishnu who appears and strikes the crocodile away. This is a metaphor for a mind consumed by passion, seeking gratification in the material world and suddenly finding the world turning against it, becoming even more hostile. The solution is not to fight harder, for that only leads to crocodile tightening its grip. The solution is to stop fighting and have faith that another force will intervene.

In the story, Gajendra chooses to see himself as a victim and the crocodile as a villian. If he wins, he will be hailed as a hero and if he loses he still be hailed as a martyr who died trying. But the observer can see that the crocodile is no villain; it looks upon Gajendar either as threat, or a food. The crocodile’s violence is not violation. Gajendra sees it as a violtion, as he is in a state of mada, seeing himself as the king of elephants, master of all the cow elephants, loved and feared by all, and not as an animal, prey to a predator. Rather than imagining violation, being heroic or acting like a martyr, Vedic wisdom suggests that we recognize maya, moha and mada at work, stop struggling over imagined boundaries, and have faith that life is shaped by many other forces, not just the ones we have control over.

As long as we don’t have faith, we carry the burden of solving all problems. We will be impatient and fight and cling. Wisdom is enjoying things that drift away, like watching the waves drift in and out of the breach.

Rama is considered the greatest king, as he was more concerned about his kingdom and his family’s reputation than his personnal happiness. Krishna is considered the greatest kingmaker, as he shows the Pandavas that war is not about vengeance or ambition, it is about governance.

Unlike the independent Shiva made dependable by Shakti, Vishnu displays vulnerability and dependance on other others when descends as Ram and Krishna, for other also wants to feel powerful and valued, and this can happen only when self ‘consumes’ the other. I want you to need me. If you do not need me, and only give me, without taking anything from me, I feel inadequate, meaningless, valueless and purposeless. In wanting me, you illuminate me and contribute to my fulfillment. Likewise, you want me to need you. If I do not need you, if I am dependable but detached, you will feel insulted, hurt, unwanted, and I will appear patronizing.
Krishna to Yudhishthira “Yudhishthira, hear what Kama, god of craving, says about himself. He who seeks to destroy craving with weapons ends up craving those very weapons. He who seeks to destroy craving with charity ends up craving charity. He who seeks to destroy craving with scriptures ends up craving scriptures. He who seeks to destroy craving with truth ends up craving truth. He who seeks to destroy craving by austerities ends up craving austerities. He who seeks to destroy craving with renunciation ends up craving renunciation. Craving cannot be destroyed, but it can be put to good use by locating it in dharma. So seek to destroy by with the pursuit of dharma. You will end up craving dharma! And that will be good for the whole world, for you will then conduct more and more exchange, bring prosperity to the world, liberating yourself in the process from all obligations, enabling others to give without expectations.”

In Western philosophy heros try move the world from “imperfection” to “perfection” and hence the terms like redeemer and saviour are frequently used. The Eastern philosophy concentrates more on the individuals victory over the baser instincts and movement towards understanding of universal unity.

“The yearning for perfection stems from the desire to control and organize the world to our taste, to create a cocoon where everything makes sense to us. It demands that we judge the world as a problem that needs fixing, chaos that needs to be organized, a disease that needs to be cured, a polluted space that needs purification. It assumes that the world needs to have a climax, a happy ending, or else life is a tradegy. These are typical of finite narratives, where there is only one life to lead”. This underlies most of the Western Philosophies. The Eastern Philosophy on the other hand gives mutliple chances to redeem oneself and gain oneness with the only ONE.

The summaries from the end of each of the chapters

You and I do not have to judge

Do you seem me as a hero, villian or victim? If yes, then you are not doing darshan. If you can empathize with the fears that make people heros, villians and victims, then you are doing darshan. For then you look beyond the boundaries that separate you from the rest.

You and I have been here before

This life is not the first time you and I have experienced each other.  We have been here before, but we have not learned, from past experiences, that much of life defies explanation and control, that life always offers a second chance and that the world existed before us and will continue to exist after us. As long as we resist reality, we will not discover the immortal, and go from lifetime to lifetime, hungry for meaning and validation.

You and I experience life differently

My deha is different from yours. My hungers are different from yours. My assumptions are different from yours. My capabilities are different from yours. My experiences are different from yours. My expressions are different from yours.

You and I seek meaning

Plants and animals, including humans, seek food. Additionally, humans also seek meaning: the dehi within the deha, the meaning within the word, the soul within the body, the metaphorical within the literal.
You and I have to face consequences

I want to control your actions and reactions. You want to control my actions and reactions. We want to control the world around us, make it predictable. To act is karma. Karma Yoga is when we act without seeking control over the outcome.

You and I can empathize

Dharma is more about empathy than ethics, about intent rather than outcome. I follow dharma when I am concerned about your material, emotional, or intellectual hunger. I follow adharma when I focus on my hunger at the cost of yours.
You and I can exchange

To do yagna is to recognize that we live in a sea of assumed expectations and obligations. You and I can hoard, grab, give in order to get, get before giving or simply withdraw from the exchange. We can act out of desire, duty or care. We can choose to expect or control outcome or not.

You and I withdraw in fear

A yogi looks within to appreciate the mind that occupies the body, the thoughts that occupy the mind, the fears that occupy the thoughts, the opportunities and threats that occupy the fears, and the fears of the others that occupy those opportunities and those threats.

You and I hesitate to trust

We all ride the waves of fortune and misfortune. If you and I believe we alone control the waves, then we are asuras. If you and I feel entitled in fortune and remember God only in misfortune or in fear of misfortune, then we are devas. We are not yet in touch with the atma within and without.

You and I have potential

I want you to be bhagwan: see my slice of reality, my insecurity and my vulnerability, and comfort me, without making me feel small. You have that potential. So do I. If not your and I, then surely there is somebody else.

You and I can include

When I feel that you acknowledge, appreciate and accommodate my worldview, rather than dismissing, tolerating, adoring or even following it, I know you are expanding your mind and walking the path of brahmana.

You and I can accommodate

Sometimes, you can see more than me, but you pretend to know less so that I don’t feel intimidated by you. I do the same for you. We do not feel superior when other is vulnerable; or inferior when we feel helpless. This is waht sustains our relationship.

You and I have no control

We are all a masala box of guna, with one guna dominating at different times. We can all be lazy, assertive or detached or engaged. Yoga makes us aware of the guna at work.
You and I value property

You may value me for what I have and what I do. But I am not what I have or what I do. If you love me, focus on who I am: my hungers, and my fears, and my potential to focus on who you are.

You and I compare

Do you derive your identity by comparing yourself with me? This is maya, a necessary delusion without which society cannot function. It can uplift you with inspiration, depress you with jealousy or grant you peace by revealing how different you are from me.

You and I cling

There is no violation in nature. Only violence. Violation follows when we grant meanings to things and derive our identity from them. We are attached to property as long as we are dicsonnected from atma.
You and I can be generous

Am I aware of my fears that make greedy, stingy, and controlling? What stops me from being generous materially, emotionally and intellectually? Liberation, essentially, is letting go of our insecurities that disconnect us from others.

You and I matter to each other

Can you and I participate in a relationship without seeking to control the behaviour of the other? Can we help each other outgrow our hungers and fears? Then we are on the path of brahma-nirvana. When we derive joy from within, not from achievements outside, we are on the path of atma-rati.

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I am not a very big admirer of Gandhi. But there are certain aspects that I cannot help admire. Here is one of them. Read the link for more details.


How true each one is. Nobody will doubt it. But I doubt if many follow it. Very relevant in today’s world filled with corrupt politicians who only claim to be followers of Gandhi. The only connect, if at all they have, is the cap popularized by Gandhi.
Read the book given below. Extremely candid autobiography of himself. Not many would admit to things that he has admitted in this book.