Wednesday, October 18, 2017

KRODHA - Vice or Virtue - a Deliberation

[Original Kannada Article by Late Vidvan Chayapathy and English Rendering by Sri K Mukundan]

No one dares to approach a person with blood-shot eyes, trembling lips, frowning countenance and knitted brows and a roaring voice. This is nothing but a manifestation of Krodha (wrath or fury). This wrath born out of the mind, presents itself in various forms depending on a person’s constitution (prakrti). It is hard to find a person who doesn’t get into a rage, and rarer is to find a person who is not influenced by it or remains unaffected by its ill-effects.

Fury in Different Contexts
Fury is like a wayward stream which surges unexpectedly. It can also be sensed deep-down as a whirlpool underneath a stream that appears outwardly serene. We have heard that its realm extends from birds, animals and right up to the Trinity of Gods. Scriptures portray here and there that Rudra, one among the Trinity, was born out of wrath. The Bhagavatha Purana says that even Brahma and other Gods were terrified at the rage demonstrated by Lord Narasimha, one of the Avatars of Vishnu. Another school of thought portrays that God Rudra was created from the wrath of Brahma. We have also read that the Avatara Purushas, Rama and Krishna also exhibited their indignation under certain circumstances. 

While extolling the virtues of Sri Rama, Sage Valmiki has portrayed his wrath as a quality “Kaalagni Sadrushah Krodhe” i.e. Rama resembles Kaalagni when He invites wrath. “Roudra” one of the Navarasas has its origin firmly embedded in Krodha. This would mean a stable mental make-up of the Jeeva that has the propensity to develop and manifest as one of the Navarasas, as and when a conducive environment crops up. Likewise the Krodha Bhaava has played its role to engulf the whole world exhibiting its superiority. There is innumerable evidence to prove that Krodha has flaunted its spoilsport at all times and in all places of the world. Even in the absence of any proof this attribute has naturally got embedded in humans.
“Krodha is born out of Rajo Guna. This leads to hell. It is a contrivance to calamity. It creates a worldly bondage. This finds a place among Arishadvargas (Six enemies of mankind - Kama, Krodha, Moha, Lobha, Mada and Matsarya). Wrath is an accumulated sin in the body.” – These are some of the defamatory abuses that we come across pertaining to Krodha. ‘It is a slander that needs to be renounced.’ It is a vice-not at all a virtue. There cannot be any prosperity for mankind without sacrificing fury. It plagues the penance of Maharishis. There is enough evidence in support of this. Krodha is a greater vice than virtue. It is a sin. There appears to be a great emphasis in all the literature, advocating its renunciation at all costs.

The Deliberation
What is the reality behind all this? Is Krodha to be invariably renounced? Does it really find a place in life and creation? If so what is it? Or else is it an issue unworthy of deliberation? Has nothing good been done by Krodha to our life or this world? Thus a rethink on these aspects with a mind free from any preconceived perception is justified.
It is also true that krodha is a natural instinct, a provocation of the mind, not its evolution. Its surge is very powerful too. Just as the force of water in a waterfall is harnessed as electricity to illuminate the world, the powerful surge of krodha could also be wisely controlled and utilised for the benefit of mankind. Wrath that instigates the mind could also soothe it. Is not the indignation of the doctor towards the disease beneficial to the patient? Does this not become a root cause for the eradication of the disease?
Is it true that whatever anger that gets evolved is a matter of injustice? The mind flares up in the form of anger against harassment and persecution. How can this anger be termed as unjust? If we do not get angry even when our own child goes out of track, we will be spoiling its future life. In this context anger is helpful in grooming the life of the child.
There is no worthless thing in nature. In the same way Krodha which is also a product of Nature cannot be worthless if considered from this angle. Though it can be disastrous when it evolves at the wrong place and time, it can be as much beneficial if utilised at appropriate place and time.
How are we to control the powerful surge of Krodha? We can think of its utilisation only when it can be harnessed. If we ponder over the circumstances and causes for its evolution, then we can think of keeping it under control in very many situations.
Krodha generated under circumstances leading to unacceptable desire, self-centered attitude, intolerance to others’ superiority, is surely disastrous. This detrimental anger is an evil. If we investigate the root cause of anger, its just and unjust components will be unravelled. While the indignation evolved in appropriate situations for a just cause is satvic in nature, that which is born without any rhyme or reason, is tamasic in nature. This could become responsible for cruelty, dominance and evils of the society. That indignation which arises out of obsession for wealth, power and youthfulness is also tamasic in nature.
It is true that, whatever be the cause for Krodha, it is a force to reckon with. It calls for wisdom, so much so, an art, to be able to control this force and utilise it beneficially, appropriate to the place and situation.

Possessed by Anger
There are two cases to be considered-to be a victim of anger or to get angry. Getting consumed and becoming vulnerable to a fury that rushes without any reason, by due submission, would really be disastrous. The saying “a poor man can only grind his teeth in anger” just refers to the type of anger that evolves in a wrong situation.  We have seen how people behave in a fit of rage, losing control over themselves and their actions.
Whatever be its root cause-reasonable or unreasonable this type of indignation only ushers in calamity. “Is it ever possible that a nose that has been cut in an act of fury reappear in its place?” This refers to the type of people who get impulsively infuriated. These people are possessed by anger. They are vulnerable to and fall a prey to anger. Many people lack the power to control their anger and utilise it, without others feeling the heat, fully aware of its intent and extent. Hence the world is mostly obsessed by anger. Such an anger that gushes out could play havoc. The altercations or infighting that is encountered in human life is mainly generated due to anger. That is why it is considered as an enemy. Remember our enemy always wishes our destruction. Is there a greater enemy to us than an anger which pounces on us unawares, putting us in peril?

Controlled Anger
To get angry does not mean that you become vulnerable to it. Wisdom lies in controlling anger that is undesirable, by analysing its pros and cons- through deliberation, utilising its beneficial aspects, appropriate to time and place. People who possess this attribute have anger in their subordination. In fact anger obeys their dictates. Their anger can be likened to that present in a mother trying to correct an erring child. It is that shown by a farmer against a weed as well as that by a doctor against a disease.
This type of anger that is discretionary in nature tends to be an attribute. It is not ordinary but a noble virtue. It has a friendly nature, not only beneficial but also congenial to humanity at large.

Krodha of Sri Rama
Valmiki who was aware of these mystical effects extolled Roudra or Indignation as one of the virtues of Rama. Rama gets angry but is not overpowered by it. His anger has an assigned goal. It is backed by wisdom. He is fully aware of the target of his anger, its cause and the extent of its limits that is to be exhibited. In case, he decides to outpour his anger without any limit, he becomes a volcano. In this case the destruction of the victim of this outburst is certain. However, till the situation warrants the annihilation of the erring individual, Rama will not utilise his anger for the purpose. His anger is not a violent stream. It likens to the impounded water in a reservoir waiting to be let out. No doubt, it gushes out when the gates of the reservoir are opened. It only washes out the dirt on the ground but not the crops. Similarly Sri Rama’s anger is targeted on evil–doers alone. It never goes out of control except for this purpose. The portrayal of Rama’s virtue of granting amnesty is likened to that of Mother Earth. ”Kshamaya Prithvi Samah” alongside the description of the role of Rama’s anger, depicts the expertise of the poet, in exploring the innate personality of Rama. This portrayal brings out the fact that Sri Rama is not only aware of the role of anger-as well as the role of granting pardon, but also has the wisdom to use them appropriately based on the context. Thus it can be seen that Krodha could also be a virtue.

Krodha of Shiva
In the same way the krodha of Brahma, the personification of Jnana, is also a power of Jnana. Rudra, who evolved from his knitted brows, is an apostle of Jnana.  The secret of yoga indicating realisation of Rudra at the junction of the eyebrows is also worthy of being noted in this context. In the same manner, the target of Shiva’s anger has always proved to be for the welfare of humanity. Kama was burned to ashes, through the third eye (Jnana Netra) of Shiva for attempting to win Him over against His wish. Shiva is neither obsessed by Kama nor by Krodha. Likewise His Krodha is not of the type that develops Kama but only destroys it. Kama and Krodha cannot overpower Him by force. He is Isha, i.e. when Shiva Himself permits Kama for the welfare of the World, He would not oppose it. He thus becomes Kamesha. He will not allow kama to destroy His penance. That is why He is Jnana Vibhuthi. His anger is also Jnana Vibhuthi. Hence He is also the Samhara Murthy of Asuras. In this way the anger of Rudra is the power of Jnana –not a vice.

For the Welfare of Society
When anger is utilised for the welfare of Mankind, it does not work as a destructor of penance. For the seeker of Samadhi Sthithi, who has withdrawn his mind after renouncing the sensory impulses, the force of anger that automatically surges within him, does destroy his penance. Having acquired the fruits of penance, if one seeks to utilise the anger that is not impulsive, for the punishment of the evil-doer, anger may not be destructive in nature. This aspect has to be decided in the context therein and the effects thereof.
It is safe in all respects to express the anger in a controlled state suitably on an individual or in the family or in the national context. But the person needs to be in control of his anger but not being overpowered by it. That is to say he should be able to invoke anger as and when required while not being possessed by it. Just as a farmer removes the stones, thorns and weeds from his farm to improve its productivity, if a person is able to direct his anger within himself to eradicate his shortcomings that are encountered in his life his greatness will definitely record its growth. In the same way if elders in the family exhibit right anger in warranted situations, would not the family tend to become the abode of cultured behaviour? Similarly if national leaders target their anger on social enemies, will not the nation tread in righteous path?
Yama is not just a God of Death. Few qualities of Yama must be possessed by the King, according to the intuition of the Jnanis. It is a power that awards suitable blessing or punishment, based on rules and control, by impartially analysing the just and unjust deeds of the individual. If a king were to possess such a power, where is the need for worrying about the welfare of the State?

What if Anger is not Exhibited?
This is not all. If anger does not get exhibited in an individual, in the family, society, within nations, in suitable locations, situations, everything gets worse. The indifference of a farmer towards the weeds and garbage in his own farm could be suicidal. In the same way, is there any doubt, that a person could spoil his life, if he does not correct his vices by himself or when warned by others? Similarly we need not highlight the misdemeanour that could be encountered when anger is not exhibited in a family or society in warranted situations. If anger which is supposed to be directed against villainy, injustice and unrighteousness disappears from the scene, it dooms hell for the society and the Nation. If anger invariably manifests against injustice, public decorum is maintained. Therefore anger is certainly a virtue that safeguards public decorum. That is why fear against infamy is recognised as a noble virtue by elders.

Anger is a natural virtue of life. It is an inevitable aspect. Its absence may mean disaster. Total renunciation is not advised for an anger based on wisdom. Anger that outpours and destroys life is necessarily to be renounced. In the same way anger that is backed by wisdom needs to be safeguarded. Therefore satvik anger is a virtue.
Krodha is a force to reckon with. It is also a power. It could ensure welfare or it can cause destruction. Krodha when utilised in a suitable context or situation with a good intention is definitely a source of nectar, just like a poison can also serve as a medicine. Thus it is not only essential for a jeeva, but also inevitable. The Krodha of Mahadeva is also a power of Jnana.

I submit this writing to the Jnana Vibhuthi of Mahadeva who is in the form of Jnana Shakti and the foremost well-wisher of this world, remembering that this article is born out of the inspiration of the wisdom accorded by Sriranga Mahaguru, who explored the mystery of the krodha that could ensure the welfare of the world.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Mangalya – A Background

[Article in Kannada by Late Vidvan Chayapathy and English Rendering by Smt Padmashree Mohan]

The following is an account of the māngalya which is a part of the Hindu marriage rituals.  It is brief and indicative only and not a comprehensive treatment of the subject.

Diverse Views:

The māngalya is dear and sacred to many women of Bhārata even to this day.  It is a symbol of being married. The people of our country revere it greatly.  We realize what a venerated object it is when we consider how even a political campaign can sway the minds of people by saying that the high rate of inflation makes it hard to purchase gold for the māngalya.

On the other hand, there are also a growing number of women, educated in modern ways, who question the status awarded to the māngalya. They liken it to a halter tied around the necks of cattle and horses. Based on such a comparison, activists and feminists consider the tying of the māngalya as a humiliating practice. Very often, they decry the māngalya in their speeches and writings.  

Marriage is the (socially approved) union of man and woman. Māngalya is a symbol of that union. Similarly, different symbols are used by different sects of people in other parts of the world. But they are all essentially symbols and nothing more. Our feelings and emotions invest greater meaning and sanctity to them.  Some people cite this reason and hold the view that it would be unwise to pursue any rational questioning to understand the significance of the māngalya.

The greed of people and their imprudence has given rise to the shameful practice of varadakiā (dowry).  Unfortunately, this has converted marriage into a sordid business of gains and losses.  Thus the joy and ardour of conducting a wedding is replaced by arduousness giving rise to the saying in Kannada "mane kaṭṭi ou maduve māi nou." It means that one must perform a marriage or build a house to experience how taxing it can be. A good number of people fret about how they will buy the gold for a māngalya in the midst of soaring costs.

Aren't marriages being performed elsewhere in the world with none of these rites and rituals?  As long as society approves of man and woman coming together to form a family unit, how do specific rites matter? Why behave in (financially) suicidal ways just because of some ancient tradition? Reformists denounce the current form of marriage as being ostentatious and advocate a simpler procedure instead.

There are also a good number of people who do not concern themselves with probing into the meaning of traditions.  They make minor tweaks to conventions to suit their convenience, and are content to conduct their affairs 'traditionally.' 

But there are also a small number of people to whom traditions are dear. They even wish to gain a deeper understanding about them. The various views articulated about the institution of marriage cause anxiety and confusion to them rather than alleviating doubts and offering clarification.

Instead of blindly adhering to traditional practices, it is judicious for us to investigate them and retain only those that are found to be valid and uplifting for our lives.

That is why the most relevant question in this context becomes, “How is the māngalya related to marriage? Is it just a symbol of marriage? Or does it have a deeper significance and meaning? How does the māngalya benefit our lives?”

The institution of marriage permits a man and a woman to live together in cooperative companionship, with the approval of society.  The notion that ‘mutual attraction of personality and thoughts forms the crux of marriage’ is most widespread.  And this notion is consistent with today's way of life too.

Some Truths:

Although the earth appears to be stationary, the fact of its motion is well-established. That the moon's surface is full of craters and not smooth as poetically described is known from landing on the moon itself! X-rays and scans have now made it possible to know the inside of the body just as well as we know the outside. Microscopic and telescopic devices have thus drawn out the mysterious truths of Nature, and understanding these truths has enriched our lives.

Although a lens is basically glass, it undergoes a process of refinement and acquires special optical properties.  Similarly a mind that has been conditioned and refined by the procedures of sādhana acts like a lens and provides insights into the information gleaned from the sense organs.  There are sādhakas who have turned their well-conditioned mind inwards, learnt from the truths revealed therein, and have shaped their lives to be in harmony with those truths.  They have fashioned the affairs of their outer lives to resonate with the truths revealed to them in their inner lives. 

The knowledge of the inner truths helped such sādhakas determine the true purpose of life and conferred upon them, a state of bliss unattainable through just the outward manoeuvres of life.  Since they were able to present conclusively the objectives of life, they wove several symbols and practices of that inward life into the dealings of outward life. This is designed in such a way that their future generations too would be drawn inward through the contemplation of those symbols and practices.  Just like geologists discover the lodes and ores bearing gold and other precious gems within the earth, the sādhakas tapped the rich treasures hidden in the depths of the Ātman and gave them to the future generations. 

People with a comprehensive knowledge of life have indicated that the kernel of the marriage ceremony practiced in Bhārata is best understood according to the pointers given in the previous paragraphs.  Although some marriage practices today are inconsistent with the inner truths and are just masquerading in the name of śāstras and tradition, there are other elements that hark back to the inner reality. Only a knowledgeable person can distinguish between the two.

The Basic Principle:

That marriage rests on the mutual attraction of thoughts and personalities is outwardly acceptable. But it is more meaningful to investigate how marriage is a union of the śaktis (energies) that confer femininity upon the woman and masculinity upon the man.  It follows from this that we must redirect our attention from the outward appearance of the body towards the subtle energies that are at work in Creation.  The general understanding is that the union of a cell each from a woman and a man results in the development of a foetus.  Jñānis do not reject this idea. But through their deeper understanding, they realize that the prāa is the subtle energy that operates within the body.

The fount of that prāa is the divine energy which is itself of the form of Consciousness, known by the name 'Soma.' This entity can be experienced and it is of the nature of Light and Bliss. They also call it by the name Nārāyaa - where Nāra means the aggregate of all forms of life, and ayana means the fount and resting place of all those forms of life. Similarly, Prakti - the energy or principle which aids the expansion and manifestation of that underlying divine energy - is called Lak. Purua (also used to mean “man”) has the potential like Nārāyaa to fill and grow.  In the image of Lak, stri (a woman) has the potential to give expression to Nārāyaa’s power to grow. Just as a seed grows into a tree, and in return, produces a seed at maturity, life that blossoms from the Source of Consciousness must trace its path back to the source. Every stage of the blossoming of life should be without any deterrent that prevents the journey back to the source. This is the view of the realized people.

Similarly, since marriage too is a relationship that furthers the blossoming of life, it is most meaningful when people participate in it with the remembrance of the “Source-Energy” behind all Creation. That is why every mundane marriage invokes the divine marriage of Lak and Nārāyaa.

Reaching adulthood with the capability of bringing forth a new generation of children is not the only criterion for the marriage of a man and a woman. A financially sound standing to ensure the supply of food, clothes and comforts is not the only qualification to look for in a man.  A man should be a 'vara' ('groom', 'boon' and ‘superb’ in Sanskrit), not just a man.  He must have inquired into questions like 'What makes the body grow?' and 'What is the source that has given rise to my present form?' The search for the answers to these questions ought to have prompted him to be a 'brahmachari', which does not merely mean “a bachelor” or “an unmarried person”, but one who has moved towards the brahma-śakti that has manifested itself through all Creation.  Having submitted his mind to the Nārāyaa-śakti which is the root and source of Life, his body must enable the flow of that power through itself just like a copper wire conducts electricity. 

The realized guru of such a brahmachari notices this qualification in him, and exhorts him to get married. The girl chosen to be wife of such a man must be capable of not only receiving that Nārāyaa-śakti, but of giving it a manifest form too, like Goddess Lak. That is why marriage is not considered merely to be the coming together of the external bodies. It is the union of the inner principles, the inner Śaktis. Vyaktis (people) are mere instruments for the eternal play of those Śaktis. When we take a second look at the rites, rituals and mantras that are part of a marriage while keeping the above thoughts in mind, we realize the deeper meaning of marriage.

The Significance of the Māngalya:

Just like all the auspicious ornaments that are part of a marriage, the māngalya too bears the mark of these elevated thoughts. Contemplating its outer form draws our thoughts inwards and reveals the inner truths to us. The meaning of the symbols impressed on the māngalya becomes clear to all as soon as they become adept at looking inwards.  Since a great many sis of Bhārata have strived to look inwards, it is only in this land that the rites and rituals of marriage (including the form and use of the māngalya) have evolved to embrace and reflect the meaning of the inner life of the Ātman. These practices cannot be censured just because others have not arrived at a similar understanding and have not advocated similar practices. 

The appearance of the māngalya varies - in shape and in the design made by the symbols imprinted on it.  Generally every māngalya bears marks of the Bindu, the Visarga, and the Surya-Chandra-Agni on it. It is always made of gold. And it is always tied around the neck of the bride. Let us look at the significance of these.

When the inward focus of the eyes of the Jñānis reaches a point just above the line formed by the eyebrows, they have a vision of a luminous Bindu (dot). That is the Light known by the name Śiva. That solitary Bindu joins with another Bindu to form a Visarga (two dots in this (:) shape).  The Bindu then becomes capable of opening up and expanding. This comes to be known as Śakti or Lak or Prakti. When the Bindu of the form of Śiva joins with Visarga of the form of Śakti or Prakti, Life blossoms. The coming together of Śiva and Śakti, or again of Nārāyaa and Lak is indicated by the presence of the Bindu and Visarga on the māngalya.  The same union of Śiva and Śakti is reiterated by the use of the symbols of the Soma, Surya and Agni on the māngalya. 

Just like the picture of a flower can evoke the memory of the experience of the flower, these symbols on the māngalya reach back to the experience that the Jñānis had. Being reminded of that inner truth, the Jñānis look upon the external object - the māngalya - with reverence. The brightness of gold most closely resembles the effulgence of the inner Light and draws the vision inwards. Besides, the contact of gold has the special power to facilitate such an inward shift. For these two reasons, the māngalya is made out of gold. A piece of turmeric root has these properties to a good extent and hence can be substituted, in times of need and financial constraints, for a māngalya made of gold.

The region in the body from the Mūlādhāra Cakra (at the base of the spine) to the Kaṇṭha (the throat) has been identified by Jñānis as the seat of the Śakti (the feminine principle). The region above the throat is the seat of Śiva (the masculine principle). The throat, then, is the seat of the union of Śiva and Śakti.  That is why the māngalya bearing the symbol of the union of Śiva and Śakti is tied around the neck at the level of the throat which is their seat of union in our body.  The vara (groom) who ought to have had an experience of Śiva and Nārāyaa, during his brahmacharya days, remembers all this and ties the māngalya around the neck of the bride to imbue her with the same experience.

This mangala-sūtra (the thread which ties the māngalya) with the pointers it bears to our inner lives is the mangala- sūtra of our lives.  It is an auspicious reminder of the inner truths revealed to the Jñānis. It is a blessing in keeping with the inner harmony. 

With the memory of Sriranga Mahāguru who taught me about the māngalya and about the rites and rituals of marriage, this writing is offered at the feet of Lakmī-Nārāyaa.