Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Chandrayaana - 3,4 and beyond…

Padmini Shrinivasan
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Humanity's quest to explore outer space started with a modest beginning in our country Bhaarata six decades ago. Space technology was considered most essential for an all round economic development of the nation. This vision made giant leaps recently, as the headline news read  "India goes where no nation's gone before.." (Aug 23, 2023). This day would be remembered in future by all Bharateeyas as a red-letter day – the day on which our country became the first to land a spacecraft Chandrayaana-3 on the South pole of Moon, joining as the fourth member of the elite lunar club. Extremely meticulous planning, perseverance learnt through failures and dedicated efforts to top it, by the project team, culminated in the successful landing on Moon. The entire nation catapulted into jubilation, as they watched the flawless landing. The spacecraft, a sort of mini lab, was designed to study the space surrounding the moon, its surface as well as its interior through a battery of instruments (payloads). Understanding the Moon is believed to serve as a springboard for future interplanetary missions, to explore our cosmos beyond the confines of our cozy planet earth. A more challenging and ambitious Chandrayaan-4 mission, which is in the offing, is expected to bring back lunar samples.

Moon in scriptures

In ancient astronomy, 'Chandra' meaning bright and shining, identifies our immediate celestial neighbor, the moon. Several millennia old sacred scriptures - Puraanas - associate moon with night – who as Soma nurtures plants. Somadeva (Shiva) is believed to energize and control Soma. Several stories speak about the waxing and waning of the moon; the crescent moon adorning the matted hair of lord Shiva etc. Hence, an object of worship. Somarasa, the internally dripping nectar of Chandra, is considered an elixir by yogis. Moon has lent itself as a natural simile to describe the indescribable in Sanskrit literature too. It is also associated with the mind - manas – of humans.

If an object is so sacred, is man allowed to step over and excavate it? Is the present space age thinking which thrives on knowledge and technology different from what the scriptures say? Should we debunk the old in favour of the new? Or is it possible to gel all of these diverse viewpoints harmoniously? Above all, where do we find a qualified person to answer these queries with a holistic perspective?

The perspective of Bhaarateeya maharshis

A yogi par excellence and a great patriot that he was, Sriranga Mahaguru lived at a time when our own space program was just taking shape, while the other members of the elite space club were racing to the moon. Excerpts from his teachings are summarized below. 

"This land Bhaarata derives its name from bhaa – meaning effulgence and rata – meaning to sport i.e. A land conducive to sport in the Supreme light – paramaatma jyoti. The sages - maharshis of yore were accomplished personae in mundane as well as spiritual domains. Having experienced the paramaatma jyoti, being engrossed, they studied and researched about the origin, evolution and dissolution of the human life, while experiencing Supreme joy - paramaananda  in that exalted state. 

Through a flight in a rocket, we get to know the mysteries of the Moon. The common man would be simply amazed at the  rocket reaching the moon, without having any knowledge about the rocket or its payload, as there is nothing for his intellect. But, the scientists who designed it have a totally different view, looking at everything like its structure, mechanism, its functions etc. in great detail. Devoid of this depth, the view is merely superficial. 

In much the same way, the human body is indeed a machine made up of smaller compact machineries. The maharshis, who were conversant with the science of this ready-made 'body-machine' steered it in diverse ways. This everlasting laboratory of maharshis spans the entire region from bhuvi to divi (earth to heaven). On entering it, the Nature's womb has to be penetrated with a spade called manas, to start the exploration. When such a research is undertaken, encompassing the physical, divine and spiritual spheres - bhuh, bhuvah, suvah, age-old principles regarding the Bhaarateeya culture, hidden in the core of aatma  - soul - can be brought out."

The bidirectional manas

Manas is one among the four internal tools – antahkaranas – which powers all activities of the body, be it mundane, intellectual or spiritual. While manas acts with its foraging nature, buddhi - intellect, also an antahkarana helps in decisive thinking. The nature of the mind is to flow. Manas has the power to stretch itself and fly to any distance. 

When manas is made to flow outwards, along with buddhi, it directs the sense organs to execute jobs in the physical world - pravritti maarga. This mode promotes all activities including intellectual thinking and research in the physical plane. 

Just as streaming water surges backwards, when obstructed by a dam, the outflowing mind drifts inwards - nivritti maarga, when blocked. Maharshis relishing the divinity, made their mind to flow backwards through bhuh, bhuvah, suvah to eternity and realized that the pindaanda (human body) is nothing but a miniature brahmaanda (universe). They visualized the internal Soorya -Sun and Chandra - Moon as true benedictory forms of jnaana - the Supreme Lord, with the external cosmic bodies serving as true representatives of their internally visualized counterparts.

Puraanas narrate these aspects as stories about the invisible power of the personified deities – devatas, which energize the dynamics of the human body as well as the Lord's creation.

Aananda vs Paramaananda

The maharshis regressing their mind through deep penance, also brought out a comprehensive design of evolution from paramatman towards the physical universe known as Bhaarateeya samskruti, which encompasses scriptures, ordained duties, lifestyle, attire, food habits, worship procedures, visit to temples etc, all impregnated with droplets of paramaananda, for the  common man to enjoy happiness – aananda.

The excitement - euphoria experienced  on the success of any human endeavor is termed 'manusheeya aananda'. Aananda mimaamsa, a sacred text quantifies the state of brahmaananda as the maximum possible joy a human can experience, which is several trillion trillion times the manusheeya aananda!! The former happiness experienced through our sensory organs, is but a spark, backed by the latter. 

Looking ahead

The value system embedded in our culture by the maharshis, has lit the torch of jnaana as vijnaana (extension of jnaana) in innumerable ways to nurture our body, mind as well as the soul. Blessed are we to be born through the lineage of these rshis, as Bhaarateeyas. As our country gallops ahead with the already launched  Aditya-L1 and future launch of Gaganyaan, Shukrayaan and Chandrayaan-4, let us augment our thoughts with a true spirit of exploration, without belittling the contribution of these great sages. Saint Tyaagaraja salutes these realized souls, who engineered their minds, in his famous song "endaro mahaanubhaavulu andariki vandanamulu". Salutations to Bhaarata Maata! who nurtured the intellectual rocket scientists as well as jnaanis, who rocketed themselves into the metaphysical space.