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

2- 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 as "Kailash Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me",  for people to review my narration for many years. 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 2.  He died. He simply died without uttering a word

My guru-like uncle, Labhshanker just died. A hale and hearty man, chatting with me, he on a couch and me on a sofa, facing each other, just breathed his last. Not even a whisper came to his lips to alarm me. It was summer of 1972; I was a final year student, pursuing Electronics Engineering. My uncle normally lived in Gujarat and had just come previous day to visit us in Mumbai. We were talking about Vietnam War; about capitalism, communism, corruption, atrocities on Vietcongs[1], nightlife of Saigon[2], Nepalm bombs, anti-personal mines, dynamites, herbicide ‘Agent orange’ used by US army for clearing forests, infrared night-vision gears, propaganda through VOA[3], Izvestia[4], Pravada[5] and politics of cold war adversaries. Uncle was a scholarly upright gentleman, held rank at M. Sc. with Mathematics and Physics, but had even more interest in Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy. In his own words, “would prefer to be called a Vedanti” instead of any other description. Vedanti is a person who follows Vedic Philosophy, the original brook of thoughts that shaped Hinduism. There are four Vedas. Among them, the Rik(g)-Veda has distinction of being world’s oldest literature. We were still chatting when he suddenly fell silent and lifeless; he was still in same sitting posture across me, his back towards the windowed wall and face towards me, unperturbed. Event was so peaceful, apparently so impressively painless and so quick, that I could never have believed had I not been the witness. I was 21, a self-styled rebel, who found flaws in everything, be it politics, society or religion. Sometime before this incident, before we went into discussion of cold war between communists and capitalist, I had discussed my disagreement with our family tradition of Shiva worship. First step towards any worship is acceptance and submission to the object of worship; in our case, to Bhagavan[6] Shiva. This begins with chanting Om, Namah Shivaay’ (O, God, I bow to Bhagavan Shiva). As a descendent from a Shaivite family, I saw my parents do it and I too did from my early childhood, instinctively looking at my parents. But now, it was a different, I was ‘thinking’ and had become a ‘rational’ ‘scientific minded’ ‘educated’ adult with a liberty to live my own life. Even so, I did not rebel ‘loudly’ with my elders but was always happy to get an opportunity to air my views in discussions. One does not want to hurt people’s, especially of loving parents and respected elders, sentiments.


It is not expected that I could question chanting of this 3-word-mantra. But rebel in me considered it silly and senseless to chant Om, Namah Shivaay’. Why should one? Obviously, many did find my stand outrageous but happily, as Hinduism does not approve any action (or inaction) to be a heresy or blasphemy, I was safe from being haunted and branded a kaafir despite this (and many other) sacrilege. In my family everyone traditionally worships Shiva. That being so, unthinkable was this question, it should not even arise. A beautiful picture of Bhagavan Shiva in a wooden frame adorned our Pooja (worship) room. Since my late teens I however, could not bring myself to say ‘Om, Namah Shivaay’. I was too proud. I do not discount a craftily hidden elephantine ego underneath the rebel-hood, that prevented my submission to any ‘ism’ or any God. Why should I ‘bow’ to Shiva? And why should He even want me to bow to Him, especially if He really is a God; surely it is disgrace to His godhood if he is that petty so as to want us, ordinary mortals, to sing His songs and demand our submission. Response of philosopher uncle to my question was two simple sentences. One: “there is no need for you to chant ‘Om, Namah Shivaay’, if you do not want to”. Two: “but as the word ‘Shiva’ in Sanskrit and all other Indian languages means, “Kalyaan-Kaari” (Force for betterment, good or Goodness), what harm is it, Nilesh, if you were to utter, “O God, I bow to the force of betterment”. That’s it; he left rest for me to work out. In hindsight, I think, it was his brilliant move…a rebel in me would certainly latch on to the idea of ‘betterment’. And I did; my mind being heavily preoccupied in those days not only with Vietnam, but also with, Apartheid regimes of South Africa, Rhodesia, blacks of America and applicability of any known ism including ancient Indian wisdom to overcome those and other problems faced by the humanity. My uncle died on that fateful day but idea germinated then remained alive, kept me still interested in re-looking and researching on the ancestral practice of Shiva worship. My search is not yet over but it did inspire me to expand my search by traveling to Kailash, the abode of Bhagavan Shiva where He lives with His family and His ‘army’. My wife, Poonam[7], on the other hand has been a consistently so devout a Shiva worshipper from very beginning; needing no re-looking and who always wanted this trip, even before I could think of it. Thus we became natural partners in this Himalayan adventure and I think, we, were very well rewarded.


[1] South Vietnam based resistance force inspired by communist North Vietnam
[2] Capital city of then South Vietnam
[3] American Broadcasting Service: ‘Voice of America
[4] Erstwhile Soviet Union’s Propaganda Publication
[5] Soviet Union’s Propaganda Publication
[6] Word Bhagavan, (pronounced Bhagavaan) has many more aspects then what is conveyed by English word ‘God’. However, for practical purposes, it is not wrong to read ‘God’ wherever the word Bhagavan appears.
[7] Her actual passport and school certificate name is Purnima, No one knows when, how and why she is known as Poonam and who got it changed. An unsolved family mystery!

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