Friday 01 December 2023

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Thinking Freely

Satyameva Jayate !


Truth is compromised by the need to set up and continue an organization. Compromised truth is "untruth". All organizations are rooted in the need for self preservation. And truth has nothing whatsoever to do with self preservation. Like a fresh blade of grass pushing up through a crack in the concrete pavement, truth accepts death with ease and grace. This is how truth always triumphs -- in life and in death -- just like Gandhiji.

17th January 1991, Thursday, 6 am. Swami Chinmayananda had come to Goa. He was staying at the Damodar Saal in Comba, Margao.

I went there with a group of friends to attend the Satsang. He was sitting in the "chowkhi" behind the main hall where idol worship is done. All clad in saffron robes, sitting in an arm chair. A bearded man in his seventies, he looked peaceful despite his turbulent past of being a war correspondent.

I sat on the floor cross legged, along with my friends, in front of him. Some elderly people from Margao, well to do and well respected, sat on the other side.

"So what shall we speak about today ?" Swami Chinmayananda asked looking at us and then towards the elders.

"I would like to know what is consciousness." I said. " There seem to be lot of differences in how a Western mind perceives life and how an Indian mind does. Is there a difference between Western and Indian consciousness?" I asked him in one breath. I was a bit scared I might not get a second chance.

Chinmayananda looked at me wide eyed. Almost as if he was not expecting such a question in that gathering. "Yes ! You are right !" He said. "There is a difference in the Indian and Western consciousness !"

"What is the difference and why is there a difference?" I asked eagerly.

He looked at me with searching eyes and said something I never expected him to say, "you can go to Vedanta only after knowing the Vedas!"

"Why so?" I persisted.

"Now you are making me talk" He said.

He then asked a person standing near a television set on the opposite side of the "chowkhi" to put it on. Video of an American military aircraft was being shown in the news. "The war has started!" He said.

Operation Desert Storm had just begun.

That was the end of the discussion. Many of the elders in that group looked a little puzzled.They had come there out of reverence for Swami Chinmayananda - not to question him. Or so it seemed to me. The Swami, though a powerful intellect, was also not used to be questioned - especially by teenagers like me. Or so it seemed to me again.

After watching the morning news with the Swami we said some Sanskrit prayers and were about to disperse when a strangest thing happened. There was a foreigner couple among us - probably American, I thought. The man came to me and fell at my feet. I was shocked! "I am not used to such respect" I told him politely. "I must return it to you"-- and I touched his feet in return.

"How do you know so much at such an early age?" He asked me. "I only speak out and question every thought that comes to my mind" I told him. He seemed to understand me. Or may be he didn't.

The entire episode is now a distant memory which I have chosen to revisit only for this blog post.

Why do we revere TRUTH? Why do we not question and try to understand it? Every body in that gathering that day wanted some icon, some Guru, some body whose feet to touch. Although it did not matter to the American that I was a teenager it definitely did to the Goan elders in the gathering. I received a few curious looks and a few contemptuous ones. The ambiance, though appeared sacred while Sanskrit prayers were being chanted, melted away into a dead habit of reverence the moment it was doubted, questioned.

"Can beauty flower a midst an environment of dead habit?" "Can truth exist without the beauty of it?" These questions kept lingering in my mind.

What do I learn from my transient experience with Swami Chinmayananda?

"Guru-Shishya parampara" is always rigid. It presumes that Guru always knows and the Shishya is always ignorant. Chinmayananda was taught by Tapovan Maharaj in the Himalayas. Tapovan Maharaj was known for his rigid approach to teaching. In fact he had clearly told Chinmayananda that he will speak only once and Chinmayananda had to grasp it. He could question Chinmayananda at any time but Chinmayananda could not question him at all. Despite this Chinmayananda stayed on with him for eight years.

Information can be passed from one person to another but can KNOWLEDGE be ever passed from one person to another? What distinguishes knowledge from information? Can knowledge be ever passed on by language at all? Spoken or written word is information. Word has nothing to do with truth -- the knowledge.

A rose can be vividly described by language - the word - but to feel its freshness, its beauty, its vulnerability in your very being - that is knowledge. Knowledge is the art of observation. Observation of the outer as well as the inner ambiance. Observation of each movement of thought. Observation of the tendency of the brain to like or dislike, to judge, love or despise. The art of CHOICE-LESS AWARENESS.

The word can never describe the truth. The beauty, the fragrance of the rose. The word calls rose beautiful. The word describes truth as immortal. Is rose immortal? The rose dies quickly if it is plucked from the plant. In a similar way the truth dies quickly if an attempt is made to describe it to another. The easy acceptance of death is the vulnerability of the rose - the beauty of the rose - the truth about the rose.

One can point to the truth using a teaching or the word but insisting that "that is the only way" leads to bigotry, intolerance and fanaticism.

Can any organization stumble upon the truth at all? Chinmaya mission lays emphasis on the Hindu cultural,  religious and philosophical aspect. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the politics of religion, organizations like HJS on the dogmatic temple related aspect of Hinduism. Do any of these organizations have any thing to do with truth at all? For that matter do any organizations belonging to any other religion have any thing to do with truth at all?

No path, no organization can lead to the truth.

What is the quest for truth? Why is the quest for truth important?

Ninety per cent of human brain develops by two years of age. Almost hundred per cent by five years of age. If structure of human brain is related to thought then thoughts of a five year old and the thoughts of the same person at twenty or fifty years would be the same. However this is not the case. As age advances the thought process "matures". this is because although the structure of the brain is the same the brain has gathered experience during the twenty or fifty years. And thought arises out of this experience. Thought therefore is always rooted in the past, always conditioned by the past.

Truth has nothing whatsoever to do with human thought. The fierce tiger in the woods is not a product of human thought neither is the beautiful bird chirping on a tree. The Earth, the solar system, the unlimited expanse of the universe are not created by human thought. Thought can imagine the unlimited. It can make the most extra ordinary scientific discoveries and inventions possible. All these marvelous inventions are limited by the very thought that creates them. Vedas, like Gods, were also created by thought. Vedanta is the ending of the Vedas and therefore the ending of thought. By remaining in thought one can never end thought. In other words, thought can never end itself. Any effort at ending thought is also thought.

At this point thought asks the question,"how, then, do I end thought?" Thought can only think in terms of the "how". "How" has led to the development of information technology, wonderful medicines for various illnesses.But "how" implies technique and technique implies time. This is one of the ways in which thought and time are related. Ending of thought is the ending of time - psychological time.

In this ending is a new beginning. The beginning of an explosive consciousness that is not rooted to thought or time.

One can never reach the Vedanta through the Vedas although the language or "word" seems to suggest this. Vedanta is not at the end. Vedanta is at the very beginning. Vedanta is in the "now" -- the absolute present. Truth is in the "now".

This is how truth is compromised by the need to set up and continue an organization. Compromised truth is "untruth". All organizations are rooted in the need for self preservation. And truth has nothing whatsoever to do with self preservation.

Like a fresh blade of grass pushing up through a crack in the concrete pavement, truth accepts death with ease and grace.

This is how truth always triumphs -- in life and in death -- just like Gandhiji.

Satyameva Jayate !

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.


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