A ‘Hindu’, is essentially geographically bound; ‘aa setu himaalaya…’, and as some deridingly remark, a nomenclature foisted upon the unsuspecting vaidikaas by the Persians (in lieu of Sindhu). A few others will insist that there is no ‘Hinduism’ as such, that it is a definition that is post-colonial and lacking antiquity or unity. In either case, people of the Indian subcontinent who identify with the sacred geography of the land and/ or those who follow certain ideals that are a unifying factor across the various sects and panthaas, are not invested in mere naama – roopa, since the universal vision that directs the lifestyle and belief system of the Hindus, called by whatever name, remains grandiose and subtle simultaneously without having to worry about what ‘others’ call us. Such individuals are sanaatanis, and given the cosmological limitations of time-space, Hindus do not lay much importance to mere names and forms. What matters is the vision, the ideals, the principles that lead one to freedom, in the here and now, also called moksha.
Moksha is the be all and end all of every Hindu’s life – whatever we do knowingly or unknowingly is directed towards ‘gaining’ this end. When we marry not basing our decisions on our raaga dveshaas, but by taking into considerations various factors such as family background, similar culture, a common purushaartha, a united belief system and goals, we assure the continuation of aachaara, vichaara and dharma. More the dharma is one’s life, more the karmic surety that this will definitely lead one towards moksha – the shaastra and the guru.
For most ordinary people, without the rigours of a gruhasthaashrama there is no scope for moksha. One becomes a contributor, gives back to society via vaidika festivities, functions, and samskaaraas. By adjusting and compromising one’s preferences and prejudices (not values) for the greater good of the family, for children, for aged parents and so on, one becomes a bigger better person, a more spiritual dharmik person if you will. From this position vairaagya and viveka are within reach. One can become more dispaasionate less subjective and less reactive as well as look at every incident, instance with discrimination – is this the Truth or is this just the semblance of the Truth! One realizes with experience that a unlimited seeking in the limited nature of the world will not provide us the infinite happiness that we all so badly desire.
Hindu view of spirituality is lofty! It is all encompassing. It is a vision that leaves no one out. It is non-exclusive, non-judgemental and non-violent. There is no pressure to ‘gain’ moksha by an external force or clergy. It is an individual pursuit, when one senses the need for something more complete, more fulfilling, more permanent; one becomes a mumukshu – desirous of moksha. When this happens, it is not merely enough to want moksha but to learn how to go about ‘getting’ it! And via eeshwara and guru kripa and one’s own good karma coming to fruition, we learn that the problem is of ignorance! We do not know that there is nothing to be gained, we are ‘sat-chit-aananda’ through and through. This fact that we are Truth, Consciousness and Infinite (all Joy) has been covered so to speak by the various malaas of my various acts. My thoughts, words, deeds over various births have put me in this position today wherein my body and my thoughts take precedence over all else – wherein I cannot ‘see’ that I am svatahsiddha, self evident.
The ‘I’ that is the substantive, the material with which this whole universe is made – that ‘I’ is in fact me. That bhagavaan is indeed you also, as is everything else in this world – but for the superimposition of naama-roopa! We as kids understood all-encompaasing reality from the story of Prahlada and Narasimha. As long as I identify with the small me and not with the ALL I, I feel limited, cheated and insecure, and behave through that micro upaadhi with jealousy, envy and competition. Once this small me loses it’s fear of duality, it’s insecurity that it is a micro-organism, and sees itself as the WHOLE I and understands that it is made in the same mould as the macrocasm, the jeevaatma-paramaatma aikyam takes place, the ‘as though’ union of the micro with the macro happens (‘as though’ because what is to be achieved is already in the here and now!).
This removal of ignorance of one’s original identity and the subsequent ‘recognition/ identification’ with the complete package we call eeshwara is moksha, the unrecognized, untold desire of every human on this planet, whether Hindu or not. After all what is all our endeavour directed towards? Any human endeavour seeks security, pleasure and righteousness, and via these ultimate, complete and infinite happiness.
This vision of Hindu spirituality which is proclaimed in the gnyaana kaanDa of our Vedas finds itself spread it’s wares via various puraaNaas, itihaasaas, kaavyaas….our bedtime stories were of heroes who kept their word come what may, our ethics were guided by grandma’s tales of heroines who held up family values at all cost, our day-to-day samskaaraas from annapraasana to vidyaarambham to vivaaha to antyeshTi, are all geared towards connecting us to the paramaatma. They are constant reminders of something higher, something other than this mere body and mind which is a rational construct of the time-space continuum. This vision and it’s lifestyle reveals that we are not merely ‘scientific’, but also something more. That this universe is a live pulsating, throbbing entity with various energy centres that we call devataas, whom can placate or supplicate for what we desire.
Wanting to prove that God is scientific is in fact limiting God to time and space! Our view of God is not a male entity sitting in the sky/ heavens, as that would limit the definition of God severely! Our definition of God is non-dual. That for which there is no other! You and I are God, Everyone is God! The mahaavaakyaas in the Upanishads proclaim this awe-inspiring outlook and promise you that with shraddha (trust pending understanding), one can live in this moksha, right here, right now and we need not wait for death, after-death or the heavens to be infinitely completely happy, or to be one with everything around us.
Our daily activities are driven by vriddha vyavahaara where we observe our elders and ancestors, the ancient traditional customs and rituals that have been passed on from generation to generation, which are continued in the same form as they have been for centuries. This antiquity, this continuity permeates the whole lifestyle of Hindus, be they of any denomination or sect. From checking the panchaangam everyday wherein we connect with the skies and the stars, to folding our hands in prayer with ‘karaagre vasate lakshmi…’ first thing in the morning, to asking bhudevi for forgiveness when our feet first touch the ground, to invoking Gangama into the waters with which we bathe or do pooja, to offering arghya to the sun, to eating only after offering naivedyam to the gods, ancestors and others in the vicinity be they animals, plants or neighbours, to sleeping only after invoking Hanuman (raamaskandam hanoomantam et al) to ward off negative thoughts, dreams…every act that a practicing Hindu does is filled with bhakti towards the infinite, knowing fully well that this duality is just vyaavahaarika, an empirical reality which is ultimately mithya – a dependent reality not completely True, in the sense that it has no independent existence.
One can de-construct anything of this world and we arrive at sat. The truth of this world is just names and forms that require a higher/ bigger/ subtler energy-entity behind it.This entity we call brahman – the ultimate Truth. Which is true and exists for all times, all places, all entities. Hence it exists here and now and we as people, I as a person am not beyond this truth, hence I AM the TRUTH.
To appreciate such a subtle philosophy and to live it, one has to prepare adequately. To remove one’s malaas ie negativities one does karma – the various rituals that fashionable people dismiss or modern people decry, are needed to cleanse us of our negative tendencies which time and again tend to identify with our body and mind sense complex as a default, these forces pressurize us to behave in ways that go against our universal self. Our raaga dveshaas if not handled via proper saadhana or spiritual practice will force us to perform actions that go against dharma, thereby creating more malaa! Our saadhana can consist of a regular practice of haTha yoga, praaNaayaama, japa and dhyaana for aatma-naishchalyam (removing mental emotional disturbances and gaining equanimity) and pooja, seva, samskaaraas and vrataas for aatma-shuddhi (cleansing ourselves of our negative tendencies by doing our duty and not giving in to our preferences and prejudices).
Once our practice is in place, our lives change in various magical ways. We become more settled in who we are, we are no longer in the rat-race of humanity to prove something to someone else because we feel small and inconsequential. We reach out, we make genuine connections, we feel integrated with whole universe, we do our duty happily, we feel contented. When we do our best and leave everything to bhagawaan we are practising eeshwaraarpaNa buddhi, this becomes second nature, and taking whatever comes as a blessing of eeshwara, as praasada buddhi makes us concentrate on how best we can do something and not worry about the fruits of our actions. This is how a Hindu lives, and ought to live. To be in contact with that divine with every breath we take is the Hindu View of Spirituality, after all there is nothing BUT God, as Pujya Swamiji (Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji) would say.
(This essay was one of the winning entries of for the Yogadarshana Workshop held by Indic Academy)