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Enduring Values in Indian Society

Enduring Values in Indian Society

The Indian society of today largely derives its attitude to life and the world at large, from the broad cultural framework suggested in the old texts. The guidance provided by the Rig Veda and the texts that followed it, including the Buddhist and Jain texts, was never rigid. The framework was suggestive and flexible. The two principles of quality of life and the individual freedom were at the heart of their message. These were addressed to the society at large including its subcultures.

The framework was woven around three concepts viz. rta, rna and purusharthas. As I mentioned earlier, rta recognizes our oneness with our environment and our unity with all life on earth; while rna underlines the responsibility of man to his family, his community, his environment and to himself as a human being. It signifies natural or universal order and integrity of all forms of life and ecological systems,

An outflow from the above two is the notion that aims to set values in a normal day-to-day life. These related to the acquisition of wealth (artha), pursuit of pleasure (kama) guided and governed by Dharma. They form a group of three (tri-varga), as called by Gautama and Manu (2,224).This is common to all segments of the society.

[The fourth one, seeking liberation from phenomenal ills (moksha) is optional and is outside the set of three (apa _varga). It is not considered an ordinary human aspiration. Those who pursue this option are beyond the pale of the society and its disciplines.]

It is essential that pursuit of wealth and pleasure is guided and restrained by Dharma. It is the violation of this requirement that sets apart the not _so_ virtuous from the virtuous in the epic stories

Dharma in this context is characterized by human values like truth, compassion, self-restraint, non-enmity, forgiveness etc. It provides ample scope for individual conscience and liberty.

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Upanishads or its earlier texts did not at any time lay claim for discovering the ultimate truth nor did they prevent anyone from questioning their opinions. On the other hand, they encouraged the seekers to think, contemplate, question and find their own solutions.

The Buddha articulated the fundamental sprit of the Upanishads. He discouraged his disciples from borrowing ideas. Through his famous saying, “Live as a light unto yourself” Buddha encouraged his disciples to be mature, and independent.

Ashoka (d.483BC) who followed the Buddha brought focus on human dignity, purposeful life and human values.

Shankara valued personal experience (anubhava) over other means of knowledge. He used in this context a peculiar expression and said, “Be guided by what is “presented to one’s own heart (sva-hrudaya-pratyayam).”

Thus, the fundamental Indian outlook developed and nurtured by the ancients has set the tenor and tone of Indian cultural history. The freedom of the individual to choose his way of life, to follow his conviction and to pursue interests close to his heart is a distinctive feature of the Indian ethos.

If India’s culture tended to become tolerant, accommodating, open minded, opposed to organized regimentation, spiritual but not fanatic; it is largely due to the pervasive but unobtrusive influence of the seers, thinkers, and ordinary people of this country, down the ages.

There has never been a central agency or an organization in India to monitor or diffuse cultural values among its people. The spread of cultural values has always been, at the grass root level, by countless iterant, unassuming bards, fakirs, saints many of them outlandish and exotic. They came from all segments, all divisions of the society. They came from different regions, different religions, different sects and sub sects. They roamed about the countryside without any expectation or reward .They preached and lived what they believed. Those nameless, non-conforming selfless savants have been the guardians of Indian culture.

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Over the centuries, India has absorbed the various influxes that flowed into the country. It has tempered the cross currents that blew across it .These have collectively rendered the Indian culture not only colorful but also complex. Yet, the country and its people have retained the essential Indian ethos and plurality of its values.

This is reflected in our increasing assimilation with the global community, which I view as a sign of healthy growth. This present generation of Indians is comfortable both at home and abroad. They are not afflicted by the pretensions of the colonial era nor or they timidly self-conscious as in the “Hindu growth rate” years. For instance, when I lived in London for a short while (that was a very long time ago), those of us on the fringe nicknamed the inner circle of Indians as “the coconuts”- brown out side and white inside. They were Indians in appearance but more English than the English in their behavior and thinking. Now, looking back, I realize it was a defensive mechanism necessary to survive in an unfriendly society. The present day Indians there, I learn, are Chikkoos – brown outside and slightly less brown inside. That is ok..They are comfortably integrated into those societies they live and yet retain their identity.

Gandhi summed it up for all of us when he said, “I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

Today, the young Indian is trying to internalize various influences and to chosen a path of his own. He is striving to become “mature and independent” as the Buddha asked of his disciples. It is however essential that, in this process, he does not loose his identity and he retains his core spirituality. It is only then we can say, with confidence, the ancient framework woven around sturdy commonsense, which was suggestive and flexible, is still in operation.

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I append the following which I posted in response to comments from the members. This complements the main article.

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I do not hold a dim view of the present generation.

When I compare the present day youths to the youths of my generation, I find them better informed ,more aware of the world/s around them and better equipped to choose their options and take decisions relating to their education , carrier and to life in general..

Growing up is dynamic process. We are the children of environment. Civilization creates the environment in which it operates. This blends Man’s mind with the social and economic surroundings and brings about a uniquely dimensioned continuum. This is relevant in all periods, over riding the changes in administration or economic distribution.

Denigration in a society is marked by the absence of acknowledged excellence in the field of academics, literary output, and expression in art, economic activities, social organizations and political administration.

Let us see how we are faring, today, in those areas.

I readily agree we fall far short of excellence in political administration and social organizations. Good governance is still not in sight. The administration in many ways is tied up with avoidable layers of bureaucracy and nepotism. We still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, even in these fields, one has to acknowledge that the public awareness is on increase and some accountability is nudging into the public domain, though haltingly.

The most frightening aspect of the present India is the alarming vivisection of its society into castes and sub castes and the internecine pitched battles to gain the tag of “backward class”. The Supreme Court of India observed “Nowhere else in the world do castes, classes or communities queue up for gaining backward status….No where else in the world is there a competition to assert backwardness and then to claim we are more backward than you.” It is this Frankenstein that is India ’s real nightmare. All other ills flow from this malady. I am not going into the genesis or the pros/cons of it. I hope and pray sanity will prevail and “this too will pass.”

As regards technology, economic growth and global awareness India has made rapid strides mainly due to the initiative, hard work and excellence of its young persons. The literary output has grown rapidly especially when you take into account the richness of the literary works of various forms in the regional language.

There is now a growing awareness of art and art expressions. A more number of young persons are pursuing various art forms than ever before.

Ancient India ’s strength was in the fields of mathematics, logic and philosophy. India was the premier civilization in these fields. There is an anxiety; understandably, the best of our young minds are not entering into these fields. I am confident things will improve.

The young persons we are talking about are first generation that brought affluence in to the Indian middleclass families. There was, therefore, a natural initial urge and anxiety to take off and climb up the economic ladder. The technological base as it gets wider, in due course , is bound to throw up a felt-need for advancement in pure sciences. Many more bright minds will eventually take up to pure sciences. The increase in the number of scholars entering into the Indian Institute of Sciences and other research organizations is a witness to this healthy trend. The next generation of educated young Indians having emerged out of the shadows, hopefully, will have a broader perspective. Even in USA , the pure sciences did not take root until after the end of the first war and most of it was grafted from Europe . (This is no consolation to India .It is just a way of saying it is never too late.)

The excellence in pure sciences, as in art, is related to the general well being, stability and affluence of its society.

A reference is made to aping the western style of living. With the moving of the Indian communities to the West and before that, with the advent of West into India , the “Indian ness” in day-to-day living is definitely diluted. In fact, no nation today is free from the “Western” influence. I think we have to make, here, a distinction between the idiom of day-to-day living; and ones core faith and identity. The urban India has certainly become western in its orientation. I doubt if India has become “western” in spirit.

In case this Forum is taken as a micro sample of young Indians, you will be amazed to find here the interest shown in Indian texts, thought, traditions etc. As I mentioned elsewhere, some of the articles written on these subjects are remarkably good and would make any scholar proud. It enhances the merit of the writings when you consider the authors were not trained or professional historians or Indologists. These persons have other calls in life; but they devote a precious segment of their life to studying, writing and discussing ancient Indian texts, history, thought and way of life for the sheer joy of doing so.

As regards pursuit of Artha, the pursuit by itself was never decried, even in ancient texts. The only requirement was that the process of acquiring wealth should not breach the limits of tolerance set by the Dharma. I presume even our Civil Laws carry the same prescription. There is nothing wrong in trying to earn more or to be competitive so long as you respect the ground rules.

There was a mention about young Indians going away from India . Let me elaborate this a bit. Until about 70s, most of us went to Bombay in search of jobs, careers, dreams and fortunes. This was motivated not merely by a need to earn a living but also by an urge to extricate oneself from the limited confines and to move on to a broader arena that provided scope and opportunities to discover and to realize ones potential or dreams.

I presume the westward movement by the younger generation was driven by similar urge. It may sometimes be important where you are placed. That certainly is not as important as who you are and what you aspire to become.

In matters of technology, economy, global presence and academics, India has done well thanks mainly to the enterprise and hard work of its young Indians. It is also remarkable it has held on to democratic values amidst encircling chaos. The administration and governance have to improve. However, the social and economic disparities are the cause for worry.

Let us hope, as Mr. Micawber said,”something will turn up”

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I am not suggesting the task is done and we are there. We are far from that.

The fact there is dissatisfaction about our growth is by itself a good sign. It signifies hunger for better growth

The challenges ahead of young persons of today are many, beginning with the one of finding their own identity. That includes reorienting their way of living, balancing their priorities and lending a sense of direction to their life. This does not come easy. It calls for compromises, sound common sense coupled with flexibility in approach and a willingness to abide by a set of ground rules that safe guards the interests of the society, the family and the individual. It is in this context a look at the evolution of values in the Indian society becomes relevant. India has survived several strifes and torments that threatened to disrupt its social fabric. It has survived those challenges and managed to retain something of its own. This was mainly because India always appreciated the plurality of the identity of its people and their affiliations. This was an out flow from the ancient framework, I mentioned earlier.

There are a number of other contentious issues that have their roots in the social and economic disparities among sections of its society. These have direct impact on the opportunities available to young persons for their growth and development. They are, therefore, serious issues and have the potential to harm the social harmony, if not handled carefully. A sane, suggestive and a flexible approach that appeal to the reasoning of the sections of the society may alone show the way.

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For Vijaya
Dear Sir
Thank you for the comments. Excuse me for the delay in posting the response.

You have made a number of points. Some of them are beyond my ken. I will therefore sum up my position.

I was trying to say about the role of cultural freedom in social living and in the human development, particularly of the young persons. I confined the view to the Indian context. I tried to trace its evolution from the ancient texts to the present day.

When I talked about the cultural freedom, I had the following at the back of mind
— The freedom of human decisions is important.
— Our ability to understand the choices ahead of us, to consider alternative options and to decide what we have reason to want is also important.
— Education is also about helping the children develop this ability; and to help them take decisions any grown up person may have to take.
— The freedom to question the automatic endorsement of past traditions when young people see a reason to improve upon them is essential for the growth of a society. And
— valuing cultural conservation is as important as cultural freedom.

The instances you cited where the children were discouraged from asking questions, and where they were ordered to lock up their minds and obey implicitly ; I agree, are definitely not the signs of our “enduring values”. These aberrations wormed into our society during the periods its decadence. Some of it is still with us. The instances you cited were from an earlier generation. Those tendencies have not disappeared yet, but surely, they are on decline. The youngsters of today, I believe, have a better awareness of the world around them and they cannot so easily be cowed down, as in the past. I am happy about that.

Aithareya Brahmana says the purpose of education (called in the text, as “addha_vidya”) is to transform a child into one who is useful to society and to himself

As regards respect shown to Gurus etc. let me say that respecting your teacher/guru is one thing but not questioning him at all is quite another. This tradition of questioning the teacher has always been there with us and I hope it will continue to be there. If your view were to be accepted, our Acharyas in the past would have merely followed their Gurus and would not have taken the courage to think on their own and come out with their own new messages.

Whenever the tradition kept the common man wrapped in assailing doubts and gnawing indecisions, an Acharyas or a leader arose as in fulfillment of the needs of times. The first step in his quest was to question his teacher.

When we talk of cultural freedom, it also involves the question of valuing cultural conservation. This is where the enduring nature of our values comes into being. You mentioned about the arranged marriages, I do not see it as a cause for embarrassment, so long as the boy, the girl and families are comfortable with the arrangement and all of them are happily united in the decision-making. In addition, you have to view it in the context of the family system that is still working in India. In Love a boy and a girl alone matter. Whereas in a marriage in the Indian society, the families do get involved rather closely and are there forever. The trends of life in the present society are throwing up more justifications/need to keep the system going. Another way of looking at the issue, you mentioned, is that it signifies the regard the young persons have for their parents , especially the mother, and do not like to see their marriage turn into a source of pain to the families. After all, leaving the town in a hurry, catching the next available flight or train is not the only way to/out of your wedding venue.

As regards the matrimonial column, you are right. It is an embarrassment.

The problem of old parents left to fend for themselves is a growing problem.. More often, the necessity of earning a living at a far-off place is at the root of these problems. Most of us are its victims. But, I do not see this as a deliberate neglect. There are no quick fixes here

I do not take a dim view of our literary and art put. They are doing well than in the past.

As regards Dalits and others, the social equations are changing, they are aware of it. They learnt to assert their rights. Things have definitely improved and will.
Arnold Toynbee defined civilization as a pattern woven by the interaction between challenges and responses. Those challenges may come from many quarters including social and cultural stresses. The response will always have to be creative, individually satisfying and socially relevant, if the society were to have a healthy growth.

Growth is a dynamic process, there will always be challenges and, eventually, we have to come up with right answers willy-nilly. Nevertheless, at the end there will always be a few unanswered questions. That is what Sharath _Chandra, the great novelist, called Sesha _ Prashna. He said that was another name for life.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation

 

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Aside

What is quality of life?

Ancient Indian texts ask us to make a choice between survival and extinction. Survival or extinction by itself, they say, is meaningless. Survival has to be purposeful and enlightened. Survival can only be in terms of quality of life. What then is the quality of life?

Bhagavad-Gita tells us it is not enough merely to live; one must live well. What is to live well is a matter of understanding, aspiration and fulfilment. Towards this end, Bhagavad-Gita suggests a framework of values integrating   man’s work, emotions and knowledge in order to give his life a meaning. The main plank on which the quality of life rests, it points out, is the Spirit of Man.

The Spirit of Man has to survive amidst challenges and changes in a complicated structure of needs, enjoyments and power. It has also to transcend the constraints of time and narrow confines of circumstances. At such times, it reaches excellence, evidences creativity and pushes the wheels of progress. (E.g. lives of Buddha, Ashoka, Gandhi)

History enriches itself by highlighting such transcendence of Man and by not merely chronicling conflicts and events.

What is quality of life?

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation

 

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HUMAN EXPRESSIONS WORDS, SOUNDS And SILENCE

HUMAN EXPRESSIONS — WORDS, SOUNDS and SILENCE

 

The varieties of human expressions are almost infinite. There are the bodily expressions through face, eyes, limbs, fingers etc. There are also the expressions through voice such as talking, shouting, crying, singing etc. There is another whole range of expressions through dancing ,  writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, etching, weaving, building, crafting; and through various types of instruments and also through light and shades etc. In addition, there is the complex and exaggerated forms of expressions that combine a variety of these art forms, in an ingenious manner, to produce a sensitive or a stunningly spectacular , mammoth art or a commercial expression, whichever way you choose to look at it.
 
I am talking about theater or opera productions and films.
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Each of these carries its sub-forms. It is virtually impossible to enumerate all the modes of human expressions. Most of these expressions have flowered into valid art forms. What I do not know of each of those can fill several Universities
 
As one who had to produce words to make a living, I strived at writing a passably good prose in order to make myself understood. I am aware my prose does not measure up to “industry” standards. Poetry interested me a great deal, though I was incapable of writing any sort of poetry. Poetry appealed to the other side of my mind that longed to be lost amidst the flights of fantasy or loved to scale the peaks of idealism or to caress the tender graces of love. Listening to music was of course an experience of wandering in the land of delight. It is an art and an entertainment; closer to my heart.
 
As the years progressed, I realized there was another form of sublime expression that I had not meaningfully cultivated ; and , it was ideally suited to exploring the Self. I am talking about silence. It is the silence of a kind I had not known before.
 
 
I realize Prose is the language of the mind, while poetry is the heart speaking through the medium of mind. The music, on the other hand, is the language of the heart. It emanates from heart and reaches the heart of the listener. These forms of expressions relate to the instruments of mind and heart. There is the human mind; the earth bound mind; ever  judging and doubting the reality in others. But, we have also the loving and the aspiring heart; free from insecurity, eager to establish oneness with the rest of the world. Both of these – head and the heart – explore the known and the unknown, in their own way.
  
Silence of course is the most sublime and the ultimate form of expression. It transcends the limitations of the mind, thought, voice and the heart. It encompasses in itself all other forms of expressions. It is the language of the Soul.
 
Let us briefly talk about forms of expressions in prose, poetry, music and silence.
 
Here is the essence of mankind’s creative genius:
 Mandala777
 
PROSE
 
Prose is the lifeblood of the day to day living. It has the ability to produce concise descriptive expressions, to make life possible among our fellow beings. With the use of language and prose we grope toward understanding; and to  , some degree , intelligently respond to what meets us in the lived world. But since we live more deeply than we can think, we are always short of appropriate expressions. That forces us to improvise,to  innovate and to coin, each day, a new term to keep pace with the world streaking past us at breakneck speed. Keeping pace with the times is surely a true sign of a living and a dynamic language.
 
The growth of the language , however , is always regulated and governed by its grammar. The rigidity of grammar, the orderly structure and its disciplines are essential to preserve the identity and the purity of a language and its form.
 
A good prose aims at full expression within the limitations set by the grammar. Within that approved format a sentence is born of two elements: a thought and then a structure chosen out of an infinite number of possibilities which express the thought. It tries to present the ideas with lucidity and with slight ornamentation; to say it clearly and to make it beautiful, no matter what.
 
The test of a good prose is its ease and its readability; leading you on from each sentence, paragraph and page to the next; not letting your interest wane. It not merely expresses a thought or a feeling that captivates you; but, it also succeeds in evoking a cascade of thoughts and emotions.
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For that reason, a good prose is comparable to music. A good book is worth reading not merely for the thought it contains but also for the thought which it inspires; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts. Inspire (from the Latin inspirare) means to breathe life into another. As Gass once said, “Language serves not only to express thought but also to make possible thoughts which could not exist without it.”
 
Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it to write short stories, novels, and essays and so on.
 
A good prose is essentially giving a lucid expression to a well composed mind. Prose is the language of the mind.
 
Mandala777
POETRY
 
Poetry is a more liberated form of expression, as compared to prose. One cannot easily define poetry. As Dr. Johnson exclaimed “Sir, what is poetry? Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.”
 
Poetry discards the rigidity, the disciplines and the correctness of the structure prescribed by the grammar. Poetry enjoys the voluptuous malleability and freedom with words and sounds; it bends and twists them in any number of ways. Its concern is not so much with the correctness of form than with the sensitivity, refinement and brevity in expression of a range of thoughts, feelings as also  human emotions of joy, sorrow, grief, hope, despair, anger and fulfillment.
 
Poetry  has the soft power to compress lengthy passages of prose into a few lines of wit and wisdom. That is the reason why some call poetry, life distilled.
 
Poetry can be subtle and suggestive. The imagery that poetry evokes can hardly be captured in words. What is unsaid in poetry is more evocative than the explicit. “Poetry is the opening and closing of a door leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment” as Carl Sandburg said.
 

[ Poetry, in the Indian traditions, is often called ‘vyakaranasya puccham’ – the tail piece or the appendix of Grammar. The Grammar determines the correctness of the words and their arrangement within a sentence. The poetry is however more concerned with the appropriateness and mutual relations among the words.  The poetry, as far as possible, follows Grammar. But , when it finds that the rules of Grammar are too constrained or suffocating , it switches over to other means of expressions that are more appropriate or conducive to its natural flow; or , it invents its own means. At times, when those inventive expressions of poetic suggestions are so charming and become so popular, they walk into Grammar per se.  Scholars like Nagesha Bhatta say that Grammarians must necessarily accept (svikara avashyakah) the power of suggestion (Dhvani) that poetry alone can display – vyakarananamapi etat svikara avashyakah).

It is, therefore, often said that the poets enjoy a rare privilege; and a certain liberty that others cannot claim. They seem to have the license to wield the language in any manner they choose, appropriate to their work. In a way of speaking; a poet can typically write ‘against the natural language’; breaking conventions, transgressing grammatical rules, and saying what could not have been said ordinarily.]

Poetry , thus, has the power to set us free from the limited confines of our regimen, existence and personality. It is the language in which man explores his own amazement. Poetry represents the world as a man chooses to sees it, while science represents the world as he looks at it. It is the difference between seeing with the heart, and looking at the world unfeelingly. Poetry is Truth, but not necessarily reality.
 
Poetry is a search for syllables to express an unknown. It is direct and universal. It appeals to the heart. It finds its echo in another heart. Poetry is the heart talking through the mind.
 
Mandala777
MUSIC
 
Music is surely the most basic of human expressions and predates the written word. The melodic and rhythmic patterns are natural to humans and are tied to the unique expression of their various cultures. Music and man have influenced each other in a variety of ways, over the ages. Music and sound have infiltrated society on many levels, from sinister use in propaganda to simple listening pleasure. Our actions and emotional responses are greatly influenced by what we hear.
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Music does not need a specific language ; and, its sounds need not carry meanings to be enjoyed as such. Music is the language of languages; and, is the universal language of mankind. Music is the vernacular of the heart.
 
It can be internal and personal, or uniting and widespread. Everyone can and does participate in music; whether it is creating, listening, or simply singing or humming a tune. From an entire orchestra to a single whisper, memories, new ideas and a whole spectrum of feelings can be roused. Music may produce expressions of various emotions – peaceful, relaxing, exciting, festive, boring, unsettling, unstimulating, invigorating … and so on. We can close our eyes to escape from the visual world; even in silence we can hear breathing and the heartbeat, keeping the sense of rhythm that marks the progression of time.
 
Music is an extremely versatile medium of human expression. It is capable of exploring all the features that are used in verbal communication; and can go beyond. Its sounds carry no meaning; yet, give expression to sorrow, joy, peace and prayer in a manner the words are incapable of achieving.
 
Music can express itself directly and does not need the aid of explanations to reach the listener. For instance, when one writes the most often repeated set of words ”I love you”, it carries with it an infinite shades of meanings. The author has to, each time, prop this term with additional words to provide explanations to clarify which one of those meanings, his set of three famous words meant to say. The mere words “I love you” when written could mean: I like you, I desire you, I want you sexually, or even to mean I hate you. It could be a barely audible murmur full of surrender; a wish for emotional gratification; a heartfelt admiration; a hope for love relationship; a request for intimacy; a submissiveness, a begging to be accepted; a longing for comfort and tenderness; a conquest; a dry meaningless repetition; a mockery or charade; a whiplash of cruelty; or it could a deceit or anything else.
 
Music can expresses all these and more, spontaneously, without external aid. When words fail to express the sentiments and finer emotions of the human heart, music takes the place of the sublimated language. Moreover, it does so in an explicit and structured way, which makes it an interesting window into human understanding, in general. There is none that more powerfully moves and touches consciousness, than music.
 
Music is so ideally suited to express the worlds beyond petty human concerns. It can say that which cannot be said and that on which it is impossible to be silent.. It emanates from the heart and the success of it is ultimately in the heart of the listener. Music is such an experience. It is the language of the heart.
 
After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
 
Mandala777
SILENCE
 
Silence is sublime; and is the ultimate form of human expression. It envelops within itself all other forms of expressions. Every thought and every word is born out of silence, dies back into silence; and, during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence lends the voice a space for it to reverberate. In silence resounds a voice;and , in voice silence finds its existence. Silence endows identity to thought and sound. Poetry consists in turning the invisible silence into perception and voice.
 
One cannot understand the value of silence unless one respects the validity of language, for the reality that waits to be expressed in language resides in silence. It would be impossible to think of a voice without thinking of silence; the two are inseparable. Voice and silence coexist in ones heart. If noise is the inner chaos , silence is the inner peace. That peace cannot be attained by letting one fight against the other. Peace and silence has to be attained gradually through continuous self discipline. The purpose of silence is to be able to see and hear clearly.
 
The silence we are talking about is not just the absence of sound; but it is the very space of our being and is with us every moment of our life. It transcends speech and thought. Silence also means silence from thoughts. There is something beyond mind that abides in silence. Silence is a quality; it is an experience. A silent mind, freed from slashing waves of thought and thought patterns is a more potent medium of understanding than words.
 
All religious traditions therefore stress the importance of being quiet and still in mind .They tell us that when mind is still , the Truth gets a chance to be heard in the purity of silence. They ask us to let-go all attachments, rather than fight noise. We are asked to let go of our thoughts, emotions and everything; and see what is left. We are asked to watch for that imperceptible interval of infinitesimal duration between thoughts; and seize that silence, hold on to that minute fraction in space and time and let the mind stay open. If we could do that, we are told, we are awake, at last.
 
Silence stabilized is fulfillment. That inner silence brings us in contact with the reality. It is that state of silence, stability and openness which transcends speech and thought, which we call meditation. Zen Masters tell us that the essence of living dwells in visiting that infinitesimal zone of stillness and silence again and again; and enlarging it. “Silence is the essential condition of happiness” said a Zen Master.
 
At the core of Sri Ramana’s teachings is silence. He said the inner silence is ever speaking, it is the everlasting eloquence punctured by thoughts and words; and it is the best language (Para Vac). What exists in truth is Self which resides where there is no “I” ; and that is silence, he said.
 
Our sages’ right from Sri Dakshinamurthi to Sri Ramana Maharsi; and, from the Buddha to the Zen Masters imparted knowledge through silence. Their silence underlined the limitations of rational knowledge, futilities of the blind alleys of metaphysical queries and the frailty hollowness of words. Where silence reigns supreme, words are rendered redundant. The language of their silence helped dispel the doubts, the confusion and uncertainties in the minds of those around them sitting in silence. Silence flows from the transcendent Self and speaks best for the enlightened.
 
Silence is the language of the soul
 
Lotus-flower_15
 

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What Love is…

 

love
 
I read on Sulekha a number of writings on love and related stuff. I had not consciously thought of it so far. It did not occur to me to look at it and examine it, in order to understand it. The exercise meant like looking into one’s own eye. I do not pretend I understand what this is all about, despite the years.
 

I hesitate to articulate on this. I cannot talk unreservedly and with comfort. It is not because of an inhibition. There are voices within vying;each one  yelling it is the true one. There is also a taciturn skeptic, in a state of suspended judgment watching and laughing in half mock. I am not sure which one to give expression. Nothing appears to make much sense. Yet, I am reluctant to let this pass. I may not have much time left.

There are those who poke fun at love as a naïve and romantic construct of our culture milieu, dismiss it as an affliction, and will tell you it is impossible to love and be wise. Others wax poetic and sing “love is all; love is the bird call and the glint in a young girl’s eyes on a summer night.” Some will be dogmatic and pronounce emphatically “God is Love.” And, some, out of their experience, teach, “Love is a strong emotional attachment to another…”etc. There are those that never thought of questioning love, much less defining it; and object vehemently even to the suggestion that they at one time doubted the wisdom of it. To them love is not to be pondered, it is to be experienced.

 
Similarly, the single whom we mistakenly take to be lonely and suspect that their status might be due to their lack of knowledge  or experience of love, will tell you they too have a concept of their love.
Matterhorn, Switzerlandmoon reflection
Some of them will tell you it is like a tranquil pond reflecting, as if dreaming, a distant mountain peak; as like the moon reflected in the still waters. The moon does not get wet and the water is not broken, yet both enjoy a tacit relation.
 
In addition, there are those in vast numbers that sleepwalk through life unmindful of what surrounds them.
 
Surely, there are yet more views and attitudes I am not aware. All of those may be true to some degree, but to assume that any one is best or comprehends all there is to love, is rather simplistic. Each one of us lives and experiences love in his/ her limited sphere, supremely unconcerned with the seeming confusion surrounding its definition. Each has an understanding, an experience of her/his own life and love, and goes by that. Definitions and opinions matter little.
 
J .Krishnamurthy in a way summed it up, when he said:
 
Put away the book, the description, the tradition, the
authority, and take the journey of self-discovery.
Love, and don’t be caught in opinions and ideas about what love
is or should be. When you love, everything will come right.
Love has its own action. Love, and you will know the
blessings of it. Keep away from the authority who tells you
what love is and what it is not. No authority knows and he
who knows cannot tell. Love, and there is understanding
.”
 
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful and an idealized understanding of love and friendship- Anam Cara “Soul Friend.” It is soul love, connecting and bonding souls. The loved ones’ recognize the inner light and beauty in each other. People, it believes, are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun’s out, but when the darkness sets in, it is then their true beauty glisten brightly in vivid glory – only if there is light within.
 
This concept is beautiful but is elusive like a moonbeam you try to clasp in your palm. When you find an Anam Cara, you are blessed. Does it ever happen? ; Rarely or  perhaps never.  Is it Attainable? I am not sure.
 

I am incapable of grasping a mystical or idealized love as Hafiz or Mirdad or even Tagore as in his later years did. It is a yearning for the distant one; often one-sided. One of the paradoxes in romantic love is that it never produces human relationship as long as it stays. People never seem to settle into relationship with each other as human beings and as friends, until they are out of the romantic love saga and until they love each other instead of being in love.

I find the Indian view warm and human. It enjoins to cherish each other in happiness and sorrow, share the burdens and pleasures; make mistakes and yet be friends caring for each other. It teaches to care about everything; the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You are saying ‘Let us walk these steps together .I watch with love every step we take. I am witness to your life as you will be mine. I stand beside you as partner and friend. You are the cause of my life. Let us cherish each other in sorrow and happiness.”

Most of us lead quiet, unheralded, uneventful lives as we pass through this world. This does not mean we should reject the idea of ideal love. We cannot and we should not .Yet, we should progress from romantic love of songs and legends to sharing, loving and living.

It is not always possible to love the best person, even if such a one does exist. You love a person for the best you see in him/her (or you think so).If you could find someone to love you for what you are, that would be ideal. That rarely happens. Consider yourself blessed if it could bring out the best in both.

It is not about perfection either. The perfect ones in the world as snowflakes or stars are either dull or too distant. We come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. We learn to accept the other as truly as the other is. We are not here to make things perfect, but to live a life as well as we can despite angst, broken hearts, shattered dreams and loving wrong persons. It has also a lot to do with forgiveness and gratefulness.

What is to live well is a matter of understanding, aspiration and fulfillment. It is woven around your work, knowledge, emotions and your values, in order to give life a meaning. None of it makes sense if love, actual care for persons, is not present. Your life, your love needs expression with those who share it.

There were times when I was scared , unable to let in someone’s love. I even  tried pushing it away, finding it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in. Looking back over the years, I now realize I could have been gentler and understanding.

 

It is now no longer important whether anyone loved me or not; more important now for me is to love all; that brings greater happiness. Pablo Picasso wrote, “In life, you throw a ball. You hope it will reach a wall and bounce back so you can throw it again. You hope your friends and loved ones will provide that wall.”

As we grow older, we learn from the ebb and flow of life. As Anne Lindbergh said, when you love someone, you do not love him or her constantly, all the time, in exactly the identical way, from instant to instant. Each moment is not identical with its next one. It is just as a river, each ripple, each drop, resembles its predecessor and its successor but it is never the same ripple or drop. It is impossible; it is hard even to pretend to replicate chosen moments of life. Yet, this is exactly what most demand; not realizing life has a rhythm and vitality. We seldom recognize continuity is possible in life, as in love, only when there is growth, fluidity and freedom. It offers you at each moment, opportunity to make new choices, to live afresh and grow, instead of trapping you in an endless loop.

“We spend nearly a lifetime attempting to define who we are and then spend what ever time we have left trying to undo the mess. We do not get to start over but we do get another opportunity to make new choices about new directions every moment of our lives. That will never change but we can.” as Wei Wu Wei said.

Very often, the sense of possession, fear grip and strangle the relationship. We leap at the flow and fear at its ebb. We desperately hang on to an experience and try in vain to relive it .We are afraid it will never return. If you realize that all things change, you will try not to hold on to the past but live in the present and accept it as it is now, within their limits; for each moment has something to offer. That is what keeps life alive.

Appreciation of each other is important. Appreciation is the understanding, quiet amazement and gratitude. The basis of love is that appreciation, respect and trust which provide space for affection and friendship to flourish. As the poet says, Seasons turn, feelings churn, passions burn, spirits learn, seeds take hold and turn to gold.

When I said providing space, I meant being responsive to other’s feelings and letting the other feel whatever he/she needs to feel without fear how it might be perceived within the relation, and express it. She may need to express her anger, grief, silence, protest, pain, and seek a little solitude or even ask for comfort, to hold hands. It requires humility, care, understanding and the ability to step out of the way with grace; and honesty to appreciate that whatever that is causing hurt is certainly not above our relationship and us; and it can be put away. Two solitudes protect, touch and greet each other. You serve as a container for the overwhelming feelings; that is a gift of love.

What seems to grow fairer to me as life goes by is the love and the grace and tenderness of it; not its wit and cleverness and grandeur of knowledge – grand as knowledge is – but just the laughter of children, and the friendship of friends, and sight of flowers, and the sound of music.

Lao Tzu (c.640-540 BC) said it with remarkable clarity and simplicity what love meant in day to day living: “Why not simply honor your parents, love your children, help your brothers and sisters, be faithful to your friends, care for your mate with devotion, complete your work cooperatively and joyfully, assume responsibility for problems, practice virtue without first demanding it of others, understand the highest truths yet retain an ordinary manner? That would be true love, true clarity, true simplicity, and true mastery.”

Lewis Carroll says the same but differently; “Oh, tis love, tis love, that makes the world go round!” Somebody said. Alice whispered, “that its’s done by everybody minding their own business.”

Love, happiness and well-being are spoken in one breath as if they are inseparable. Many times, I think, they are not even related. A lot of that does not necessarily feel good. It is a bouquet of feelings of various hues and shades. Had I thought that love was about only feeling good, I would have missed many things in life.

Anne Lindbergh wrote,” Don’t wish me happiness. I don’t expect to be happy all the time…It’s gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage, strength, and a sense of humor. I will need them all.”

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the poems, legends and the sagas that idealize pain and suffering as if it is all that is to love. To them, sorrows are seeds of loving , to love is to die like a thorn bird that searches for the perfect thorn to impales itself singing the most beautiful song ever heard , as it dies. I am not sure of that either. You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may live to learn, as Mirdad said. I think love is an attitude; it is about life. Love is about living.

 
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme love.
: Lao Tzu said
 
 
A longtime friend whom I had not met in years wrote this. It in a way sums up what I was trying to say.

Love is not all a bed of roses.
Some times it’s washing dirty sox,
 Sometimes it’s getting no sleep with a colicky baby,
Sometimes it’s putting your needs last,

Sometimes love is keeping your mouth shut,
Sometimes love is fighting and making up
Sometimes it’s dealing up with in-laws or extended family,
Sometimes it’s moving away from everyone you’ve ever loved except your mate,
Sometimes it is insisting that your needs come first this time,
Sometimes it’s holding your beloved’s hand as they breathe their last

 

Watching her beloved die in her arms, her shriek in pain was a natural and an intense expression of love gushing forth like a geyser from the depth of her being. No matter how much it hurts—and it may be the greatest pain in life—grief can be a pure expression of love.

As years pass, the companions who loved , cried, fought, shared , laughed, witnessed wretchedness, drowned in ignominy, sang verses over the autumn moon behind the shifting clouds , are going or gone . Only their mute images remain. And, we survive among the dead and dying. The old grief passes gradually into quiet, tender longing love.

 
I love without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

-Pablo Neruda
lotus red

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation

 

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Time and the Individual

Time and the Individual

Indian texts – Hindu and Buddhist – say time is an illusion .Yet the illusion persists. Man needs to break up time into fragments because he has to understand, monitor and manage his life and of his fellow beings. Therefore, “time” is important in man’s life. But, is man important in time?

In the shorter time-spans, say in day-to-day life, decade or in a century the individual takes the center stage. Changes that occur during this time-span are centered round him and become immediately relevant to his life and that of his fellow beings. History tries to record activities, changes, unrest etc. of this period. However, it often fails to project it in the perspective of human history.

When you stretch the time-span to centuries, the perspective is diffused. Individuals become less important than events .And isolated incidents get lost in the general sweep of broad appraisals.

When you stretch the time-span to million years or more, you can only talk of survival of human species on this planet

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Speculation

 

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