Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

ONAM STORY: Part 3: Real (or more complete) history, decodes the puzzle

Those with ‘Darshan’ (दर्शन meaning, wider knowledge, understanding and appreciation) of underlying Hindu thoughts understand narration of Puraans, a bit differently. They neither add, delete nor modify but interpret a given text from the benefit of wider understanding derived from having mastered several cross-connected matters from the colossal volume of other Hindu texts.

The popular story, at best, is only a side plot, related only to how Indra felt about Mahaa Bali. However, actual main story centers on the fact that no lesser a person than God Almighty had to descend on earth as Vaaman Avataar. Why? Unless there was, a real pressing objective needed to be fulfilled, an objective that only He could take care of. Only a simpleton will think that Bhagavaan Vishnu, the God Almighty can be ‘persuaded’ to do injustice.

Bhagavaan declared the purpose of an Avataar in the Bhagavad Gita, at Ch-4, V-8.  परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम| धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे||”, (“Paritraanaaya sadhoonaam vinaashaaya cha dushkrutaam | Dharma samsthaa panaarthaaya sambhavaami yugey yugey ||”). Avataar has three objectives, one, to help activists engaged in selfless society-uplifting activities, two, to neutralize those engaged in a conduct that would result in societal-evil and three, to be a leader of society, become a role-model and re-establish righteous conduct which can uphold a society in peace and prosperity over a long time. If we were to take a cue from above statement of Bhagavaan Krishnaa (an Avataar of Vishnu), it may lead us to believe that perhaps the world-order was in jeopardy due to Mahaa Bali. If so, if Mahaa Bali was somehow disrupting world order, he deserved to be exiled. Let us examine further.

Mahaa Bali was great grandson of king Hiranyakashipu.

Hiranyakashipu → Prahalaad → Virochan → Mahaa Bali → Baanaasur

Bhagavaan Brahma had blessed Hiranyakashipu. He became powerful and almost invincible king of his times. He thought, as a monarch, it is he, who is sole provider of protection and prosperity to his subjects. Citizens are able to live only because of him. His subjects did appreciate and praised him, but thought he deserved more.  Though he was blessed by Bhagavaan and although he did himself worship Him, in his mind, he felt a sense of jealousy when his subjects revered Bhagavaan. The power and fame went to his head. Hiranyakashipu thundered, “What do you miss in life that I do not provide? I provide you food, house, security. You are living a good life because of me. Shouldn’t you appreciate me more? Think, whom should you worship? Know which side your bread is buttered? He would not even tolerate people sharing some love with God, he wanted unconditional total surrender of people. Gradually, he made his country ‘God-less’ and people began worshipping the king. No one missed God. It did not hurt anyone’s dignity to be a sycophant.

There is a deep connection between belief in Bhagavaan and a development of a virtuous and progressive society. (Hindu concept of God is different from Western/Abrahamic concept of God. For this reason, the word ‘Bhagavaan’ is used although for most purposes, it is okay to use the word ‘God’. Bhagavaan or Hindu God, is an entity that exists in everyone including own self and everything around. This understanding shapes worldview of Hindus and make them good humans). The God ‘within himself’ produces sense of dignity for self.  This sense of self-esteem produces an inner strength for character building. Simultaneously, God ‘within everyone around’ makes a Hindu respect everyone as creation of God. His respect of others restraints him from harming others. A Hindu automatically, by default, develops sense of responsibility towards own self and towards everything created by Bhagavaan; people, animals, trees, mountains nature and the rest. (There are many major differences between what Hindus mean when they use the word ‘God’ and what others mean when they use the same word ‘God’. Interested readers might want to read more about it here: http://nmsresolution.blogspot.ca/  ).

Prince Prahlad saw what was coming. He tried to explain his dad, Hiranyakashipu. No God meant none to bite conscience for unethical or unfair. No dignity meant it is okay to beg, borrow or steal; it is okay to do anything, good, bad or ugly to meet an objective and it is okay to accept crumbs thrown at him. A dog is an excellent example of a man without dignity. Master may kick his dog and yet it will forget the insult, wag its tail, as soon as a crumb of bread is thrown at him. In addition, dog will wag its tail and accept anyone as master who offers bread. Self-respect or dignity is last thing on its mind. It should not surprise anyone that in a Hindu temple, every animal but a dog is allowed to enter. Hindu Sanskriti places highest value to human dignity. (Do not misunderstand this as a discrimination; Dog has many other exemplary attributes and are appropriately accounted for in the vast Indian Sanskriti. As illustration, take Bhagavaan Dutta, who always keeps a dog with Him. Another famous example of love for dog is from Mahaabhaarat, where, the Dharmic-most Yudhisthir refuses to enter heaven when told that the stray dog accompanying him will not be permitted to go him). Loss of human dignity is floodgate of a thousand other evils. Human dignity deficient society ultimately reaches zenith of materialism, consumerism, hypocrisy, exploitation, immorality, violence selfishness. Powerful people mercilessly exploit and powerless people helplessly suffer. In the end that society self-destructs, unless correcting forces such as, in current story, Nara-Sinha and Prahalad help change the situation.

Prince Prahalaad, who also was leader of student union and an activist, politely confronts his father, the king Hiranyakashipu. “Yes, we are certainly thankful to you, but, you cannot make sun to rise, provide rain or digest food in our stomachs. You are a King, people look at you for inspiration. You are a role model; please do not insult God by asking ‘what he gives?’ I love you father and people love you as a good king, but please be humble. Worshipping God does not mean that they are insulting you”. Power-obsessed person sees himself as the wisest, needing no advice. Arrogant rarely pays attention to counsel. Ultimately, Hiranyakashipu reaches a point; he could not anymore tolerate Prahalaad’s God-centric activism.

Hiranyakashipu saw his son as incorrigible rebel bent upon turning his country against him. He makes several secret attempts to kill Prahalad, but remains unsuccessful. In the end, he makes it official; he puts Prahalaad on trial on the charges of sedition-for ‘war against the state’. He wanted to punish his son in presence of all his courtiers. He wanted to prove that, on sedition charges, he would not pardon even his own son. He wanted to set example for his nation about his impartiality and the dire consequences to the followers of Prahalaad. An iron pillar is heated up, Prahalad is made to face glowing red-hot pillar. Hiranyakashipu then orders Prahlaad, “Hug that pillar, it has your God in there”. That was the very moment, God, Nara-Sinha, an Avataar of Bhagavaan Vishnu, emerges from the pillar. He saves Prahalaad and destroys Hiranyakashipu. Prince, Prahalaad was then sworn-in as new king. He re-established values; reintroduced God in the narrative. Under his rule, it was a brotherhood of mankind under fatherhood of God. The society was happily contented and peaceful. Prahalaad ruled for many years.

Prahalaad’s son Virochan was a good person but as he was a poor administrator, by the counsel of good advisors, he hands over regime to his son, Mahaa Bali, (Prahalaad’s grandson) who becomes a very successful king and rules for many years.

Mahaa Bali was successful due to his vigor, understanding and compassionate nature. He had inherited virtues from his grandfather. He constantly thought of how to improve society and how to be helpful. He was pained to see that Brahmins were poor and constantly struggling to make their living. He knew the reason why Brahmins suffered. It was due to ancient customs that forbade them from demanding price for their service and their consequent dependence on unsteady quantum of Bhiksha[i]. It struck to him as unfair that among the four Varnas, (Brahmin-Kshatriya-Vaishya-Sudra), the Brahmins, who were most knowledgeable and yet they led a most severe and frugal life. It was not acceptable to the sensitive Mahaa Bali.

The ancient code of conduct and work culture in India was defined by twin arrangements of Varna-Vyavastha[ii] and Aashram Vyavastha[iii]. Everyone took pride in living life based on his or her Varna and Aashram. It was a self-sustaining arrangement based on human nature and objectives. As it fulfilled both, the obvious and the latent desires of every individual, it ensured long-term stability of society.

Brahmins had voluntarily accepted the tradition for they knew that once you accept servitude and salary of any master, you would find it virtually impossible to retain freedom of mind. That freedom of mind is of foremost value to a Brahmin. More than anything else. (For example, Guru Drona expresses sadness that he accepted government job and consequently could not avoid many unethical things and insults as admitted by him in the Mahaabhaarat) Therefore, among Brahmin community of yore, they valued independent living accepting no salary and especially no servitude to government. They considered hard and frugal life dedicated to selfless learning and teaching as a worthy life. As per ancient codes of behavior and charters, while the rest of the varnas were free to earn their livelihood, Brahmins had no avenue of earning. They were expected not to charge fees for their only profession, teaching. They had to depend on unsteady Bhikshaa and voluntary ‘guru-dakshinaa’ payments from students. Moreover, the charter of Manu’s laws of administration specified harshest punishments for Brahmins for the equal offence if committed by person of other Varna. It was thought by the lawmakers that a person who knows and still does a wrong thing is worthy of harsher punishment (Something like, how a police officer would attract severe punishment than an ordinary person would for the identical offence).

Mahaa Bali thought that it was too tough a life for Brahmins and especially it can really become worse if the society around turns insensitive and shuns providing Bhikshaa, the Brahmins would literally starve. He therefore thought that ancient traditions should change and Brahmins should enjoy life and luxuries as rest of the society. To take care of this, the perceived ‘injustice’ to Brahmins, he established free hostels, organized free meals, created well-equipped and well-stocked Yagna-Shaalaas, and provided a lot of other freebies, awards and honorariums. Many welfare schemes were organized for Brahmins. He thought of restoring ‘dignity’ of Brahmins by providing everything to help them stop from going out for Bhikshaa and let them concentrate on their core activity of learning and teaching. There was no other time in the Indian history when Brahmins were more comfortable.

Steeped in voluntarily accepted ascetic life, most of the Brahmins resisted life of comforts. However, with time, gradually, one after another, they succumbed to the allure of readily available comforts provided by the government. Comforts and freebies are habit forming and enjoying patronage of royalty is very gratifying. It was but natural that the role a traditional Brahmin played was seriously eroded.  Core qualities of Brahmins, that they remain unbiased, remain fiercely independent, remain upholder of virtues, remain dedicated to a life of life-long learning-teaching activity, remain provider of daily public-education etc. began getting compromised due to favors they began accepting from royalty. They did not anymore think that accepting gifts, state honors, doles and other freebies was loss of dignity. To repay kindness of King, Brahmins avoided critical analysis of his work and began praising the king and his rule. Sycophancy did not remain far behind. When the upholder of values is corrupted, it does not take long for the entire society to become corrupted. It is easy to go downhill but harder uphill, the morals and principles too are easy to loose and harder to raise. With time, almost all the Brahmins were happily leading a comfortable life, and relished respect bestowed upon them by the King. There is an old saying[iv] in Sanskrit; ‘सुखार्थीना कुतो विद्या?’ (‘Sukha-aarthina Kuto Vidyaa?’ - who seeks comfort, how would he gain knowledge?). The core competence of Brahmins was to learn, teach and guide all, without discrimination and fear or favor none. When comforts became priority, level of struggle for acquiring knowledge took back seat. Over a period, society lost its valuable knowledge asset and succumbed to mediocrity followed by gradual loss of shin in all aspects of societal life. General all-round corruption, moral degradation, greed, selfishness, rivalries, crime, violence etcetera began to bite. When citizens observed that Brahmins who had become ineffective and yet they were beneficiaries of government doles; continued to enjoy royal patronage, gave rise to jealousy among other sections of society. Discontent and tensions brewed. Mahaa Bali had to intervene on many occasions to solve people’s problems. In the earlier times, when Brahmins were uncorrupted, it was as if the society was on an autopilot mode and it self-corrected and self-restrained. High morals were upheld by society owing to inspiring Brahmins. Sadly, not anymore. The modifications brought about by Mahaa Bali in the governance of Brahmins spelled a major disruption. His sympathy was misplaced. If that was not corrected soon, it had potential to ruin the society. A revolution in mindset was need of the hour.

However, there were a few Brahmins, who kept up ancient tradition. Vaaman was born in one of those uncompromising families who lived in poverty with pride and considered knowledge and activism for world’s good to be the only worthy cause of their life. The ancient rishis and foresighted administrators like Manu had very carefully designed the code of conduct and that of governance of Brahmins. They had created a society which respected knowledge and knowledgeable more than wealth and wealthy. They had made Brahmins feel pride in use of minimum of world’s resources and give back maximum to the world. A famous hymn, ‘Kaupin Panchakam’  कौपीन पंचकम् aptly describes celebration of joys of thinking high and living plain. वेदान्तवाक्येषु सदा रमन्तो  भिक्षान्नमात्रेण च तुष्टिमन्तः| शोकन्तः करैकवन्तः कौपीनवन्तः खलु भाग्यवन्तः “(I envy) how blessed is he, who has just a loin-cloth to wear, just a morsel full of Bhikshaa-food and nothing for tomorrow but who wanders in the realm of Vedas with kindness in his heart for the world around”. (There are four more verses in this 5-Stanza hymn, written by Shri Aadi Shankarachaarya).

Those few Brahmins struggled to re-establish righteous path. However, they had many hurdles to overcome. First, it was hard to wean anyone away from comfortable life in favor of inviting hardship. Second, the perpetrator was a powerful monarch. Third, he was kind and generous with everyone, although especially partial to Brahmins. And fourth, the doles to Brahmins was an arrangement between two willing partners. King wanted to give and Brahmins wanted to receive.  When both parties are happy, how can anyone intervene? मींया बीबी राझी तो क्या करेगा काझी?’  Thus the correction was very difficult to accomplish. It was nearly an impossible situation. This was the main task before Bhagavaan Vishnu. Task was not what the popular narrative seems to suggest, that of saving Indraasan for Purandhar.

Under the circumstances, the only sensible way lay ahead for Vamaan was to undertake a mega public education to convince society and its rulers as to what needed to be done to save society from ultimate immorality, corruption and general degradation. Precisely for this work, Bhagavaan Vishnu is incarnated as a boy born to a Brahmin family in the reign of Mahaa Bali. His parents named the boy as ‘Vaaman’ due to his smallish frame. He gets educated and becomes an activist with a cause to restore original societal order and to do away with freebie culture promoted by Mahaa Bali. The story of Mahaa Bali-Vaaman episode is a message of reformation of the society.

On one hand, Vaaman admired the kind king and on the other, he had to stop the public-appeasement policy of the king. Good government knows the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. Waaman undertook a massive public-education program explaining long term damage to the society, how the freebies corrupt a society, how a paisa earned by own effort is thousand times better than accepting a rupee thrown at him. Performing duty is honorable even if it means having to do with fewer comforts. Dignity of a man erodes the moment he begins accepting doles. A good ruler creates situation where citizen value their self-respect, not feel ‘bribed’ and obliged by the freebies.

In India, from the time immemorial, everyone practices making donations on some or the other event. They do it during children’s wedding, own birthdays-especially on 60th, on certain festivals such as Holi and Deepaavali, after any significant event such as birth of a child, death of parents etc. Thus, almost every Hindu is a donor to some extent. Kings too follow the same tradition. On that fateful day, king Mahaa Bali offered citizens to come for receiving donations. Vaaman arrives in the court. The king welcomes midget Brahmin. Mahaa Bali was intent on donating whatever be the request. When it was Vaaman’s turn, amused at his small, child-like frame, king asked what he desired. As the story goes, Vaaman asked for an area that can be covered by him in three steps. Mahaa Bali’s advisor, Guru Shukraachaarya, also a learned Brahmin, knew immediately with his sixth sense, that Vaaman was no ordinary person but someone who would abuse king’s generosity only to destroy him. Mahaa Bali is alerted to the dangers by Shukraacharyaa. He even makes a gallant effort to derail king from accepting Vaaman’s request. However, in his extreme goodness, despite warnings, Mahaa Bali went ahead and promised to fulfill desire of Vaaman. Once the King is tied down to his promise, Vaaman expands his form into a giant being. It is said, He become so huge that He could cover entire kingdom in two steps. With no space left for taking His third step, Vaaman asks the King as to where shall He place His foot for the next step. Mahaa Bali realized that Vaaman was God Himself. He is overwhelmed that God almighty had come to him to ask for something. He is thrilled, overjoyed, he humbly bows to Vaaman, in recognition of His Godhood. Vaaman gives him enlightenment. King realizes where he went wrong despite his best intentions. He voluntarily asks for punishment and be put to death and request the Giant to take the third step by placing his foot on his ‘arrogant’ head and crush it. With that gesture, Bhagavaan Vaaman was very touched. He asked King to ask for any boon that he desired. Mahaa Bali loved his people so he asks for one simple boon, “I will miss my countrymen, hence please allow me to visit my kingdom once every year”. God agrees. Mahaa Bali is exiled ‘pushed’ down to the bottom strata of 14-layered[v] Hindu-‘world’, into the Paataal-Loka.  The simple boon asked by Mahaa Bali, turns out to be a great boon because, in the process, inadvertently, Mahaa Bali became ‘almost immortal’. Mahaa Bali has to remain alive to visit his subjects every year and thus he has that rare distinction of being among only 7 such individuals who are classified, not strictly as immortal but as ‘Chiranjeev’ (चिरंजीव) having a long life.

Vaaman coroneted Baanaasur, the son of Mahaa Bali as new King and sent Mahaa Bali in exile. Baanaasur reverses dole culture. Key element, that a populist policy could be reversed, was intensive and extensive public education, involving arousing human dignity and sense of duty among people. It was not easy. Vaaman had to work on five-fold difficulties. One, as Mahaa Bali was not an evil king, he could not be publicly denounced, punished or killed to remove him and forced policy changes. Two, on the other hand, as Mahaa Bali genuinely loved his people including Brahmins and wanted to help them, (even though his actions were harmful to the community in long run) and essentially, Mahaa Bali’s heart was clean, he deserved neither physical harming nor dishonoring. Three, He had to undertake long-term public-education, including that of Baanaasur to change their mindset against dole-governance. Four, replace Mahaa Bali in such a way that he will not interfere in governance. And five, to ensure Mahaa Bali remains a respected person over millennia. A tall order, certainly. Vaaman succeeded in his task, We till date, worship Vaaman and lovingly honor Mahaa Bali.

For 1-Page format of all 5-parts story, click: http://nmsresolution.blogspot.ca/2014/05/onam-maha-bali-vaman-vaman-jayanti-1.html 

[i] Bhikshaa looks similar to begging however, it is quite the opposite. Bhikshaa means, going to the door of someone and accept, unreservedly, whatever is given and use that for surviving that day discarding whatever is left and repeating the same routine next day. If the given food is not enough, the Bhikshuk has to happily starve, no buts and ifs.  It is a tough vow, but all the Brahmins of the yore were happy to comply. 

[ii] Varna-Vyavastha is erroneously identified as Caste-system by the Western Indologists and accepted uncontested by copycat Indian ‘intellectuals’. It is work-culture based group identity arrangement. The word, ‘Vyavastha’ means ‘arrangement’. It broadly identifies four groups namely, Braahmin-Kshatriya-Vaishya-Shudra

[iii] Aashram-Vyavastha is a guideline that roughly means dividing life in four different pursuits. Learning in childhood until about 25 years of age, house-holder’s life after approximately the age of 25, Semi-retired life helping society between approximately 50 and 75 years and renouncing everything after the age of 75 years and living a life of hermit

[iv] From the epic Mahaabhaarat,”विद्यार्थीना कुतो सुखम, सुखार्थीना कुतो विद्या“. Wise minister, Vidura explains in section entitled ‘Shanti Parva’

[v] As per ancient Indian texts, there are 14 worlds including the earth on which we stay. 6 are above and 7 are below ‘Bhu-Loka’ (Earth). In descending order, from top most to bottom most, they are:  Brahma-Loka, Tapa-Loka, Jana Loka, Mahar Loka, Swarga-Loka, Bhuvar-Loka, Bhu-Loka (Earth) Atala-Loka, Vitala-Loka, Sutala-Loka, Talaatala-Loka, Mahaatala-Loka, Rasaatala-Loka and Paataala-Loka. 


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