Saturday, December 27, 2014

Conception/Perception of MAA KAALI !!!

During the recent ongoing discussion member Petrus had stated that it is the contemporary Indians who are not comfortable with Ma having blood on her palms or around her mouth and then James Curcio was talking about Sex and Death.

I think there is a lot of difference in the conception/perception of MAA KAALI in the eyes of the Westerners, Indians, devotees and non-Devotees. Last year when I was interviewed for  Deutschlandfunk radio station, I realized how different the perceptions were.

The Devatas are conceptions of Rishis/Enlightened people. The sculptural details of Murtis are from Dhyana slokas. The Dyana sloka is written by a person who has attained Mukti through the particular Dhyana. It is the conception of the person who has done the Dhyana.For example: Ugrapratyangira Devi is the form conceived by Sage Angiras and Prathyangiras. The name is derived from Prathyangiras. The deity is also known as Atharvana Bhadra Kali.

The popular Dakshina Kali image (Dakshineswar temple) was conceived by  Krishnananda Agamavagisha the author of Tantra Sara. It is of a recent origin. The Dhyna sloka (karala vadanam, Muktha kesim ....) was written later.

The Kali images of South Indian temples which are much older show her with Thamshtra. She is Chamunda Kali. Of course there are images which are similar to the one at Dakshineswar. But they are of a recent origin. The images in Kalighat and Tarapeth are totally different from other images.
Now paintings and lithographs do not strictly follow Dhyana slokas. Most of the images of Kali in books are from paintings and lithographs where the creator uses his imagination.

Every individual conceives GOD in his/her own way. You ask a six year old child about how it thinks GOD is like. Most probably it will be a super image of its own mother. It is said “For a small Child Mother is GOD”.

Recently I saw an English movie with a Girl called Mary as the heroine. GOD appears in that. The hero asks him whether he is GOD. GOD replies that "I am Mary's conception of GOD."

Your conception depends on your upbringing, tendencies, notions and what not. Your Vasanas.

Basic Conceptions:

1. Most of us are brought up in an atmosphere where we fear GOD. The term God fearing is used as an adjective. Children are told உம்மாச்சி கண்ணைக் குத்தும். (GOD will punish you)

We needed the concept of a punishing GOD when we did not have any formal judicial system. To maintain Law and order. Even today most of the Village deities are perceived this way. We hear how Karuppnnaswami punishes people who have committed crimes. You hear often of சாமி குற்றம். (God's Sin)

More than this many of us believe that GOD is waiting to punish us. We talk about putting the fear of GOD into someone. This is a fallacy. There is a story in the Purana about a thief plucking Bilva leaves on Sivaratri night to keep awake and dropping them in a Sivalinga about which he was not aware. He attains Moksha.

2. GOD is love, compassion, happiness (Daya, Karuna, Ananda) personified. GOD is waiting for an opportunity to reward you for your good actions.

Your basic conception of GOD depends on which one of the basic conceptions you choose. The punishing wrathful GOD or the Kind and Compassionate GOD.

There is also a tendency to categorize Deities as Sattvic, Rajasaic, and Tamasic and again as Soumya and Ugra. But these categorizations according to the Gunas does not apply to the Supreme God as GOD is above the three Gunas. We call MAA as Thrigunathmikai. GOD is omnipotent and omniscient. Other wise GOD is not GOD.

This categorizations depend on our Vasanas. For example Maa Kali is seen by most of the Tamil Brahmins as Ugra whereas in Bengal she is seen as the Universal Mother. Most of the Tamil Brahmins who are in Bengal see her as Karunamoyi, Dayamoyi and Anandamoyi. In Tamil Nadu Maa Kali is worshipped by many communities. In fact the Tamils are the only community in India where a Male is named Kali or Kaliappan. Sri Ramkrishna considered Lalitha as a Ugra Devata.

These classifications are based on our own conceptions/misconceptions and not on facts.

Your conception of God would depend on which of the models you have chosen.

Just to quote some examples.

We all know that Lord Krishna is called Shyam because of his colour. You could call it Mega varna, but still he was not fair in color. But you find many images specially in North India which show him as fair. In most TV serials also he is fair. Why? Because of our deep rooted color prejudice. Again he is always clean shaved. How come the only two kings in India who were clean shaved are Rama and Krishna? Siva is also clean shaved. You call him Smasana Vasa and Jadadhari.

Why do we associate a clean shave with Sattva and a moustache with non Sattva? In which case all our seers were not Sattvic.

Again Maa Kali's description in Dhyana Slokas is totally different from what is depicted. In Bengal she is seen as a Beautiful young woman. This is not the description of the Dhyana sloka. Bhadra Kali is considered by many South Indians to be a benign form of Kali. They will be shocked if they read the Dhyana Sloka.

It is of absolutely no consequence how GOD is represented. The question is "Are you able to relate to GOD in this form? Does it fit with your conception?"

Once I had shown the image of MAA from one of the temples in Tamil Nadu dressed in Madisar saree to a friend of my mine who is a Devi Bhakta from Kerala. He immediately remarked that he is not able to relate to her in this dress. Many South Indian visitors to temples in North and Eastern India are not able to relate because of the peculiarity of the images. The Bengalis in Chennai prefer to visit the Kali temple in Mambalam rather than the Kali temple in Annanagar, because the image in Mambalam is Bengali style. The Keralites in Kolkata have a Guruvayurappan temple though there is a Krishna shrine in almost every nook and corner of Kolkata.

Your conception of GOD will again depend on what you think of GOD. As a

1. King

2. Mother

3. Child

4. Lover

These are called Bhavas.

Suppose you are a Sakti worshipper. But which form of Sakti? Kali, Bhuvaneswari, Lalita, Mariamman or any of the other innumerable forms? Lalitha Tripurasundari, Kamakshi, RajaRajeswari, Bhuvaneswari are all forms of Sakthi. Whom do you choose. When you choose Vishnu, is it Rama, Krishna or Narayana and even after choosing Krishna is it Balakrishna (Unnikrishnan), Brindavan Krishna (Radhe Shyam) or Dwarakadhisa (Krishna as a King)? You have a huge variety of choices.

Please think about this and post about your conception of GOD. Which form? And if possible Why? This is Sathsang. Make you think of GOD. It would also help us understand the basics of devotion and different Hindu practices.

No conception is wrong. No conception is superior to others. Hinduism allows everyone to have his/her own conception of GOD.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sign Posts

When you travel by road you come across signposts. These indicate the distance to some town, name of the town, nearest gas station etc. depending on the nature of the signpost.

Many a time when I am traveling from Chennai to Kanchipuram, which is 40 miles away, I see signposts, which tell me that it is 600 miles to Kanyakumari. I do not bother about it. It is sometimes irritating. When you are searching for the nearest Gas station, it is irritating to see a signboard that tells you that you are 600 miles from Kanyakumari.

The Ultimate Goal in spirituality is aeons away. Only some of us will reach that goal in this birth. We are all travelers in the path. I consider my messages to be like the signpost to the nearest gas station. The messages may irritate the advanced seeker. But as you need signposts for gas stations, I believe you also need messages, which are meant for beginners in the path.

We have lot of resources on the web about the different paths. But web pages serve a limited role in that you cannot post your reactions.

If you do not like a signpost you can kick it. Signposts may be wrong. Then you get it corrected. But I believe it is illegal in all the countries to remove signposts.

My messages in blogs are like the sign posts.

The Ethos of a People:

In this context certain pertinent questions arise. If India is so culturally rich, how come she is materially so poor? If India has the credit of developing the high philosophy of divinity of the soul and oneness of life, how is it that some of the worst forms of social injustice, exploitation and discrimination have persisted in Indian society for centuries? How is it that a nation with the highfaulting motto 'Truth alone triumphs' has now come to be rated as one of the most corrupt and dishonest in the world? Even from ancient times in India nonviolence and contemplation have coexisted with incessant wars and thuggery and, now, terrorism and extremism. This paradox, and the
paradox of a nation which taught harmony of religions to the world being perpetually rocked by religious unrest and communal riots, need an explanation.

The explanation lies in the peculiar ethos of the Indian people, which has not been studied properly. However, before proceeding further,we have to understand what 'ethos of a people' really means. The
phrase was introduced perhaps by the German philosopher Hegel who spoke of every child being 'suckled at the breast of the universal Ethos.' According to Hegel, 'The wisest men of antiquity have given judgment that wisdom and virtue consist in living agreeably to the Ethos of one's people.'

The original German word used was sitten which means moral habitudes of thought and action. There is no English word that fully expresses this idea and, instead of having recourse to the German, it has become customary to use a Greek term ethos.

The word 'ethos' has been defined in Webster's dictionary as, 'the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature or guiding beliefs of a person or group or institution.' More simply stated, it means the
moral temper of a race, or nation, or community. It represents the sum total of the moral attitudes of a group, the way they react to various problems and situations in life. Mackenzie says that the ethos of a people 'constitutes the atmosphere in which the best members of a race habitually live... it constitutes the universe of their moral activities.'

India has an ancient culture rich in spiritual wealth unmatched by any other culture in the world. And its value system which is based on, and aims at, direct realization of the ultimate Reality, holds great
promise for the future welfare of humanity. However, we can't talk in the same vein about the ethos of the Indian people. For there are grave defects and drawbacks in the Indian ethos.

The Indian ethos favours the cultivation of certain values such as renunciation, charity, chastity, filial duties, and spiritual disciplines. People in this country can be more easily prompted to pursue these values. But the ethos has not been so favourable to the pursuit of some other values such as justice, equality, scientific objectivity, dignity of labour, and collective responsibility. The inadequacy of the ethos of this land is the main cause of this nation's loss of political power, loss of economic prosperity, loss of intellectual vigour and moral stamina, and dismal performance in international sports and games. Social tyranny, caste war, exploitation of the poor, bride burning, and corruption at all levels of administration still persist in modern India mainly because of the supportive nature of the ethos of the people.

Several factors have contributed to the creation of the Indian ethos the most significant of which are: the strange institution of caste which prevented vertical social mobility, the evils of priestcraft, the segregation of people caused by racial, linguistic and regional differences, prolonged submission to alien rulers, and the popularization of a philosophy of illusion among the masses. Whatever be the contributory factors, it is necessary to know the limitations of the ethos which have been the main cause of the nation's failures in several fields.

If India is to attain economic prosperity, social well-being, intellectual advancement, national integration, and the rejuvenation of her ancient spiritual culture and values, drastic changes in the
ethos of the people must be brought about. This was one of the major tasks Swami Vivekananda took upon himself. Swamiji himself pointed out that the reformers who had preceded him had made 'the serious mistake of holding religion accountable for all the horrors of priestcraft and degeneration' and tried to pull down the indestructible edifice of religion. The same mistake had been committed by the German sociologist Max Weber a few years before Swamiji expressed his ideas.In his book The Religion of India Weber raised the question why India, in spite of having an advanced culture and wealth, failed to develop a technological civilization, and he held the Hindu religion responsible for the failure. Swami Vivekananda, however, showed that religion was not at fault. The degradation of India took place not because of religion but because the life-giving spiritual principles of religion
had not been properly applied in practical life. Swamiji saw that India's spiritual culture was the repository of eternal values which could help to rejuvenate not only India but the whole world. This does not, however, mean Swamiji believed that everything was all right with India. The word 'ethos' had not become popular during his time but he never overlooked the fact that the individual temperament and social attitudes of the people of India were defective in several respects, and he never hesitated to apply the corrective wherever necessary.

Modern India is a bundle of contradictions. But if we keep in mind the distinction between values and the ethos of the people, it becomes possible for us to see the contradictions in the right perspective.

Thoughts about Retirement

The family, wife and children play a major role in the transition from working to retired life. Their attitude and perceptions. Wife plays the most important role. For her also this is a major transition. A husband who was not present in the house during the day, is now present all the time. Earlier she had to cater to his needs only for part of the day. Now she has to do it full time. This will definitely change her life style.

A temporary fix thought of by everyone is for you to get another job. Everyone recommends it. They talk about "Idle mind ....". But remember this is only a temporary fix and not a solution. It only postpones the problem. As I pointed out in my earlier post this may lead to worsening of the problem. Do not fall for it.

Please do remember

Life does not end with your retirement.

You have some of the best years of life before you. You can contribute to society.

Most of our Rishis passed on their wisdom to us when they were old.

Your years of experience in a particular field and life in general can be made use to impart knowledge and help others.

Do not be led to believe that you are not the Head of the Household because you are retired.

You still have a life of your own independent of the lives of your children.

Do not lose your independence.

I really like this from Answers .com

What is meant by 'an idle mind is the devil's workshop'?

Read more:


Somebody who is busy with work - an occupied mind as opposed to an idle one - doesn't have time to think about sinning or doing any evil.

Somebody that has an idle mind has too much time on their hands and think-up and falsely imagine problems in their life that do not really exist. However, a busy mind at work, at school or both will stay occupied and will go about life in a happy typical manner, NOT falsely imagining problems in their life.

A society that had increasing free time and increasing knowledge also had time to think.. learn and debate all aspects of life. Such as religion.. and man's existence. When an educated and knowledgeable society rises, the ability of those who would seek to control them - such as governments & religious groups/cults - they lose the ability to do so.