Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sanchi - The end of suffering

Suffering, sadness, struggle and heartburn may arise from any quarter. They don’t tell us in advance that they are coming. There is no preparedness we can ever have for them.

For an Emperor fighting his battle of Kalinga, Ashoka would have never imagined that he would undergo such a change of heart, when he saw the battle field strewn with the renascence of bloody bodies. It was a moment of awakening that gave rise to his conversion to Buddhism and the building of Sanchi, which today is a world heritage site.

Sanchi, known as Kakanaya, Kakanava, Kakanadabota and Bota Sri Parvata in ancient times, has Buddhist art and architecture right from the early Mauryan period (circa 3rd century BC) to 12th century AD.

Emperor Ashoka (circa 273 -236 BC) created a few of the monuments here, like Mahastupa, the monolithic pillar with the characteristic polish and a monastery atop the hill at the insistence of his queen who was from Vidisha. During the Sunga times, many edifices were raised in the surrounding hills as well. In the 1st century B.C, the Andhra-Satavahanas, who had extended their sway over the eastern Malwa, built elaborately the gateways to the stupas. From 2nd to 4th century AD, Sanchi and Vidisha were under the Kushanas and Kshatrapas and subsequently passed on to the Guptas. From 14th century onwards Sanchi remained forgotten till in 1818, General Taylor rediscovered the site.

It is a few great Englishmen, Captain Johnson (1822), General A. Cunningham and Captain F C Maisay (1851), Major Cole (1881) and Sir John Marshall (1912 – 1919) who explored and excavated and conserved the monuments. Thanks to these few brave and dedicated men, we as Indians see and rejoice in what might be called - a symbol of the end of suffering for Emperor Ashoka and his turning to Buddhism.

This post will never be complete without reference to what Buddha said with regard to suffering:

View more pictures:

: All pictures from my web album may be used without my permission but I request you to please credit me for them, as well as quote my blog:
Getting there:

Sanchi is in Raisen district 45kms northeast of Bhopal. Vidisha which was the capital of ancient Akara region is about 10km northeast of Sanchi
Single auto: Rs 100 from Vidisha but you can get off at Sanchi station and walk right out and take an Autorickshaw at Rs 30 to the Stupa.
You can reach Vidisha from Bhopal by train ( Rs 33 for general compartment which I strongly dissuade travelers. Book your ticket in advance with reservation to avoid being crushed by fellow homo-sapiens.

Return the same way or even by bus Rs 25

Entry: Indians: Rs 10; non-Indians: Rs 100

Where to stay:

MP Tourism Gateway Cafeteria Tel: 07482-266743, 266906 Tariff: Rs 200 per bed per person. Rs 400 for full room. The beds are bunks, one below and one on top. The rooms have an attached bath. Meals, veg and non-veg are available on request and can range from Rs 50 – 300

Maha Bodhi Society of Srilanka
Tel 07482-266699, 266739 Website: Tariff: Rs 100 – 1500.

Friday, December 04, 2009

India - The Good Earth

The colours, vibrancy, moods and diversity of India makes me love her with passionate obsession of a lover whose very life depends on the fervent expression of his love to his beloved, in many ways, physically, emotionally spiritually. As if he were lost and totally given to the passion burning in his heart and soul, his groins and his brain.

India is this and much more to me.

I often wonder, why I choose to be born in India and not in England? Why in India and not in Tibet? For all these countries, have, also been my home in some life or the other. I know it in my veins and when the words arise from my being, I know, I am not only an Indian but many countries in one.

Yet, it gives me pride to say, I am Indian. And my thirst is quenched, when her earth is drenched with the torrential rain of the monsoon. These waters from the sky have another message of love for me. Like gallons of pouring emotions forever falling over parched and hungry body of desire. That is why perhaps they say, it never rains, but it pours.

So let it rain over my longing to have been on this part of the earth. This land of diversity, its peoples and its cultures, its many languages and religions which come together in a medley of all that I can ever want. And so it has been my tryst with life in India this time, a dash of joy, laughter in the air, and a bath in the same river of spirituality which has wed with the zest for life as well.

Zorba, the Buddha, a better way to mean what I stand for today – deeply entrenched in the many colours, vibrancy, moods and diversity of India and at the same time, totally detached to it too, in a spiritual way.

And now I know why I chose India to be my home.

I love the contrast, the black and white, the colour and the lack of it, the materialistic and the spiritual, the complete opposites, all in one place. It’s so enchanting, so captivating, so engrossing, this, my India.

Like a woman’s bosom, the more you nestle against it, the more she sucks you in.

More pictures:

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Outdated Philosophies - Gandhi, Gandhigiri and Gandhism

Outdated philosophies – Gandhi, Gandhigiri and Gandhism
(A critical review of True Gandhism by Pirumal Koshy –The Herald of India, Sunday, 8th November, 2009. See website link below)

In his article “True Gandhism”, published in The Herald of India, Dr Perumal Koshy argues that “ GANDHISM and Gandhigiri are distinctly different. Wearing a Gandhi-topi or emulating Gandhian methods does not qualify a person or a movement to be termed as Gandhian”. Further he goes on to say that “For Mahatma Gandhi, freedom was part of a larger reality. It was a search for the truth or Satyagraha. The Gandhian concept of freedom was very comprehensive and had economic, political, social and spiritual implications”.

Let us stop at that. Especially that he has referred to Gandhian concept of Satyagraha to mean a search for truth.

The first point: Was sleeping with two women on either side an acid test for Gandhi to prove that his sexual drive had finally gone to sleep? Or was it not (sexual) harassment of two women and the disgraceful display of insensitivity towards his wife, in public and private quarters?

The second point: Was making his wife Kasturba Gandhi too wash the toilets of harijans and their own, failing which she was threatened to go back to her father’s house, also a litmus test to prove that he was always right? And socially free of all caste bias? And if so, by cleaning the excreta deposits of all humanity, could one be free of casteism?

The third point: Was his leanings towards swadeshi not disturbed by his choice of an affluent and highly Anglicized man, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as his torch bearer for a free India? And if that was not so, why did he not choose Jinnah instead, who was Anglicized to the point that he even forgot his own religion, ramzan *et al? Moreover, if Koshy is right – “Wearing a Gandhi-topi or emulating Gandhian methods does not qualify a person or a movement to be termed as Gandhian” – Pandit Jawarhar Nehru can be accused of the above. What made Gandhi blind about this fact?

When one on hindsight claims that Gandhi’s concept of freedom was comprehensive and had economic, political and spiritual implication, one has to answer this question: Was he not lenient to Jawaharlal, more than Jinnah or Subhash Bose, and if so, does that not imply that the so called “spiritual” implications he so believed in was threatened by “favouritism” on his part? Satya stands for unblemished TRUTH, with no kleshas (impurities) of the mind, of thought, action or emotion. Sadly, favouritism, falls short on all counts – it is an action of mind that is coloured by personal preferential emotions, which have NOT arisen from purity of thought and intent.

Naturally it gave rise to some conclusive responses:

As Koshy states “Unfortunately most of his political contemporaries could not grasp his ideals. For a section of the Indian National Congress (INC) leaders, it was an opportunity to establish their presence in the political arena and get a share in the power structure. For Gandhi, freedom was empowerment of the people. He wanted the INC to stay away from the power struggle and be an instrument of nation building. The idea was rejected”

And rightly so. At least they had provided a competition and not a monopoly of I, me and My choice!

However, Koshy draws conclusion from the above to say that “Sixty-three years after power was transferred to Indian hands, the aam admi does not feel free. Programmes meant for poverty alleviation or employment generation are, in fact, helping to enhance dependency and 'un-freedom'.

Gandhi could not have done better. His ideas were unsustainable. He never saw America as a super power. His world was confined to England. He was not realistic to the degree that society at large is dependent of each other and the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest, applied to all societies at large. His concepts of weaving one’s own cloth and growing one’s own food was short of vision of an India with a growing population and more mouths to feed than can be fed if you take his own community – Bania - practice of hoarding food to rise prices of commodity.

By promoting rural and village industries, Gandhi envisioned the eradication of poverty. The government in Delhi, on winning freedom, forgot the Gandhian plan for economic revival, Gram Swaraj and village self-sufficiency.

While we would like to blame the Mall culture as the # 1 killer of Gandhian principles of the above mentioned swadeshi movement, let us not forget, that it is the Marwaris and the Gujaratis of India who have taught the world to do business and their petty hoarding to increase prices have only given rise to “open theft” at Malls, whether they are in villages or cities, to cash in on consumerism.

The “Self-sufficient villages and Gram Swaraj, a Gandhian dream, are far away. Village shopping malls are in plenty, as are schemes to pump in money to enhance rural purchasing power and facilitate brisk business for MNC brand products…..Gigantic PSUs came into being, offering jobs to engineers and technicians. Simultaneously, the Tatas and Birlas of the private sector got state patronage. The Licence Raj literally killed the emerging private sector, small-scale enterprises as well as ventures in rural India, thereby increasing unemployment, rural poverty and migration to urban slums.”

Perumal Koshy laments that terms such as Gandhigiri are not synonymous with Gandhism. They “undervaluing Gandhi's way of living.”

It does not matter. Gandhi, Gandhigiri or Gandhism are dead philosophies. Be grateful that they are kept alive by The (un-Gandhian) Gandhi Family, colourful and stylish garments at Khadi Bhandar and catchy words like gandhigiri to fall back upon and have a good laugh.

“Freedom for Gandhi ,” Koshy writes “was empowerment: economic, social and spiritual. With terms such as Gandhigiri and other symbolic expressions, we are, in fact, undervaluing Gandhi's way of living. He meant what he preached.”

I don’t think so. Sixty three years after independence, I would like to say that there were many a slip between cup and Gandhi’s lip, between what he said and what he practiced. To reiterate my point, I would request my Readers to go back to the beginning of my article.

- x -

Dr Perumal Koshy works for Samadhan Foundation


* It is believe that Jinnah once called a high English Dignitary to an exquisite non-vegetarian party in the month of fasting – Ramzan. Apparently, he had forgotten about it.

This critical review is dedicated to Subhash Bose, who was forced to form the rebel INA because Gandhi was blinded by his zidh to hand over the power of independent India, to his pet male obsession – Jawarharlal Nehru.

Note: All pictures are from our family album

Gandhi's Sex life:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The world is what we need

Eighty four million lifetimes
Taken for this one lifetime
Eighty four million births
Just to evolve and be blessed
with a life of a human being –

In order that we may See the Self

What good is his
who fasts for a week
or who has vowed celibacy
for years on end?
After the penance of
Eighty four million lifetimes -
the labour undergone
Over eons just to be born
as man?

The chaos “outside” is merely
A projection we call the world
It is what we create
In order that we may be thrust within
To fulfil the purpose of a human life
To See our Self

There is no light
Without darkness;
No rays of the sun
Without objects;
No stillness in the lake
Without ripples.

We need the chaos of the “outside”
The eighty four million lifetimes in different forms
We need to go through the penance
of creating the “outside”
To be born as human
Only to See our Self within

Without water to reflect
the moon is invisible to itself.
- Julia Dutta

According to ancient Indian thoughts, the human life comes once after eighty four million lifetimes in different forms over eons. It is a fruit of penance over lifetimes that one goes through, only to be born a man.

Why should this be the case?

What is it about this life as human that we must go through eighty four million lifetimes to wait for this one?

At a biological level, it seems apparent that the human brain requires that many births to evolve that many brain cells which then make possible what we call “consciousness”. It is of utmost importance that it is only the conscious human being, who is capable of striving for realisation. And that seems to be the ultimate purpose of this human life.

The search for Self is primary to human existence. According to Vedanta, there are three states – the waking, dream and deep sleep state. In deep sleep, there is no world. In the dream state, the dreamer creates the world outside and involves itself in it, but in the waking state, neither the dream state nor the deep sleep state exists. The dreamer wakes and realises that it was all a dream. In fact it is he who was dreaming. He created his dream and now that he is awake, the dream has ceased to be.

There is a third state – the state of deep dreamless sleep. Sometimes, when he wakes up, he realises that he has had a deep sleep, totally free of all dreams.

By these findings he becomes aware that after all, the dream state which disappeared as soon as he woke up was after all false. He can be said to have woken up.

Similarly, it is evident that we create the world outside, in order that we may be disillusioned with it and wake up to the inside – the Self, which is always there, forever still, never moving and never to be found in the outside. Yet, even though it is apparent that the search for Self is inside, it must necessarily begin outside, whether it is in this lifetime or in the eighty four million lifetimes we pass through, in order that we may be born as human.

We need the chaos of the “outside”
The eighty four million lifetimes in different forms
We need to go through the penance
of creating the “outside”
To be born as human
Only to See our Self within

Without water to reflect
the moon is invisible to itself.

Painting picture: By Jamini Roy