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, June 23, 2016

1- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website for people to review my narration for many years as “Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me”. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome).

Chapter 1.  Preface

Once I began writing my impression after expedition into the geographic territories of Bhagavan Shiva and my personal mental territories, what emerged was a travelogue, or so it was I presumed. However, Nipun, who is himself a writer on Hindu history felt that it was a story with a plot where expedition was just an excuse. That it appeared to have an agenda made me think, why not place it before the world audience.


Description of the places visited may some time take a back seat when I have found something unusual or of profound importance to talk about. Besides history-geography and general socio-political scene, it tells a lot about Hinduism, Bhagavan Shiva and that unique perspective of idol worship that is completely unknown to rest of the religions. Idol is not a simple instrument of concentration as most have assumed, but something more profound. A tool. A tool for human evolution into a better and powerful human. An attempt is made to underline for double-emphasis certain less known facts and so also refute certain misinformation that seems to have somehow seeped into our knowledge banks.


Not many works cover these three, Kailash-Kathmandu-Kashi, important Shiva destinations in one book. And none of the travelogues covering Indian pilgrimage destinations, even those written by some of the well known, have delved upon what could be more profound motivation behind Hindu pilgrimages. “Washing away sins” is valid but grossly over-simplified, perhaps for want of any other ‘sensible’ explanation. They can not be faulted, Hinduism when viewed from non-oriental-prism can often provide confusing spectacle.


It is intriguing and even significant that holy Mount Kailash and holy Lake Manasarovar (Manas-Sarovar) are quite different than other places of worship. In here one does not find temple, deity, priest, or any whatsoever man-made-structure and paraphernalia. Simply nothing exists - not even enough Oxygen to breathe – just an Attribute-less (Nirguna), Formless (Nirakaar), all-pervading, omnipresent God in the vast expanse of nature. That very same God who appears before His devotees in various forms, assuming shapes and attributes (becomes Sagun-Sakaar) to fit into the image His devotees worship to!


Alps, though large, occupying quarter of the western Europe is in comparison, only a tiny mountain range; its highest peak Mont Blanc at 15,784 ft (4,810 m), was the height at which we had to actually walk miles after miles in Himalayas. Dolma-La pass is at 15,900 feet above sea level! Altitude sickness manifests in different ways to different people but safe to say that anyone with even any minor illness, handicap or health inadequacy is bound to experience those magnified several times over. However, the rest of the destinations are not difficult to endure. Kathmandu is in the midst of lush green Himalayan valley in Nepal and Kashi, known also as ‘Varanasi’ is on the fertile flat plains of River Ganges. Saranath is just a stone’s throw away from Varanasi and Gorakhpur fall in natural route from Kathmandu when travelling by land to India.


Despite life-threatening nature of pilgrimage to Kailash-Manasarovar, it has attracted literally millions of people for thousands of years. Interestingly however, number of people who visited Kailash progressively diminished owing to terrible disruption of social and religious lives of Indians due to persistence invasions and occupation by the hordes of foreign invaders from west and north-west and religious persecution unleashed by them. Subsequently, it became so rare to visit Kailash that until just before a century, Kailash was known only among a select few Hindu, Buddhist and Bon followers and was visited by handful of sanyasis , monks, adventure-bugs and determined pilgrims. Believe it or not, but in fact, mountain’s identity was unknown to geographers of the ‘civilized’ world until ‘discovered’ by Swedish explorer Sven Hedin as late as in 1908. Its perception as a feasible pilgrimage was almost absent in the general public psyche until beginning of twentieth century. However the other destinations covered in this travelogue were not obscure for visitors. Kashi, was a destination for highest learning of Sanskrit and has been visited by many for thousands of years. Its temples, enriched with the donations of pilgrims also attracted foreign invaders who had scanty respect for the traditions of India. The city was attacked several times in last thousand-plus years. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, the city was burned, pillaged and its residents massacred several times over. Kashi is perhaps the most ancient of the world cities, continuously inhabited since ‘pre-historian’ times, not withstanding the claim to same fame by other cities such as Damascus, Delhi, Athens, Jerusalem, etc. In case of Kathmandu, also an ancient city, it did face brutal attacks from invading foreign rulers; however it’s hard to reach mountainous location kept it relatively safe.


Since Mount Kailash, is considered a permanent abode of Hindu God Lord Shiva and His family and since Kathmandu is a place where he is said to have lived once and as for Kashi, it is a city that He craved to live in and kept dear to Him due to quality and characters of its inhabitants who were indulgently nurtured and educated by King Divodas, it has become necessary that my travelogue tries to familiarize God Shiva to the readers along with some relevant truths from Hinduism.


At what stage in my life Lord Shiva became my quest can not be accurately pinpointed. But seed must have been casually sown while watching my parents humming the famous three-word Sanskrit mantra “Om, Namah Shivaay” (O, God, I reverently bow to Bhagavan Shiva) during their morning prayers or perhaps during their repetitive utterances while moving beads of rosary. I do not recall if any of my parents actually ‘taught’ me that mantra. I too used to repeat this mantra sitting in front of a picture of Lord Shiva with childlike total trust in Him. Fortunately or unfortunately, as I grew from childhood to adolescence under the spell of ‘modern education’, the new-age science and rationalism, my childlike trust slowly gave way to its playful neglect and skepticism. By the time I had passed my teens, I become a hardened atheist and Lord Shiva became a subject against which I could debate with any Shaivaite (person or group who practice worshipping of Bhagavan Shiva) and turn him into a nonbeliever. For a long time I romanced with atheism and various shades of communism. Stalin and Mao seemed to be guys to go to for solving every problem, until one day my thought process took a turn in opposite direction. The story in this book begins from that stage.


Most writers use the term ‘Lord’ before the name ‘Shiva’, perhaps in the sense of God. They mean, Shiva to be a ‘Lord’. In actual fact, in Hinduism, there is no scope of any ‘Lord’ or ‘Malik’. A lord who ‘owns’, who ‘controls’ who ‘orders’, who gives ‘commandments’ or whose instructions are inviolable and if violated, ‘punishment’ follows; an individual is a slave or a subordinate who can never be his equal. In Hinduism, man is free to act (or not act) and decides his own destiny and is potent enough to rise to same eminence to who he worships. Lord Shiva should ideally be called as ‘Bhagavan’ Shiva. The English word ‘Lord’ or the Arabic-Persian-Urdu word ‘Malik’ has lead to a somewhat distorted understanding of Hindu concepts of God. This travelogue hence tries to use more appropriate word ‘Bhagavan’ in its text. However the word ‘Lord’ is purposefully used in its title for the reader to make a smooth transition from what he or she knows. Word ‘Lord’ has a lot of goodwill in religious domain, and rightly so, therefore, I have absolutely no quarrel with it. As the word Bhagavan also exists in the official dictionaries, why not use the available more appropriate English word? English language is in many ways like Indian culture, always eager to embrace others.


Excitement of seeing new places, exhilarating sense of adventure in the desolate empty expanse of Tibet and hope of self-discovery in that absolute calmness propelled my wife Poonam and me to this journey. There was one more powerful incentive especially to us and hopefully it would become so to the reader of this book. Thrill of experiencing part of that cosmos where at one time Gods , Devas , Yakshas , Gandharvas , Apsaras , Rishis (enlightened sages), legendary kings etcetera had roamed, where we believe some of the divine beings do still live and or frequently visit in their direct, indirect or ethereal selves. Many individuals, places and events, central to Indian culture and religion are associated with this part of the Himalaya and the plains of Ganges. To imagine their exalted personalities, to imagine intensity of their work, especially that work which compelled even Gods to seek them out. We thought the possibility of experiencing the same or similar supernatural phenomena as experienced by many previous visitors could become our bonus prize. We were not disappointed. We did experience some, first hand!


Unexpectedly, this trip also turned out to be a family discovery trip in which I got to know my ‘Gotra’-giver, that is, my earliest ancestor. Also it took me to my later ancestors, their city and their work. A canvass of 10,000 years?


If purpose of life according to Hindu philosophy is the ‘self-development’ then I must confess that I learnt many things enduring this travel and then, even more writing this travelogue. I hope the readers would experience more than what I could when they visit these places. My ultimate purpose is not merely to add geographic and touristic knowledge but to increase spiritual and self capital of the reader.





.                                                                                                  Nilesh Madhusudan Shukla

 E-mail: NileshMShukla@gmail.com

    Blog: www.nmsresolution@blogspot.com

No comments: