Thursday, January 10, 2008

Overseas travel

One of the issues heard in Traditional Hindu circles is
that one should not cross the seas to go abroad.
This issue usually comes up to explain why Rama chose
to build a bridge instead of flying on the shoulders
of Hanuman.

Hanuman promised Sita to carry both the
brothers on his shoulder to bring them to fight with
Ravana. Infact Rama's army comprising of vanaras would
not have had much problem in flying over the seas with
2 to 3 stop-overs in the way, say on mynaka parva or
some other parvam coming up to help in RAma-karyam.

One explanation given is that one is not supposed to
cross the seas. That is why Rama first tried to make
the Samudra rajan to give way and later decided to
build a bridge. But this explanation does not hold
water(!) if we were to ask why then RAma chose to
return by flying the Pushpaka vimana on his return

Another issue I notice is that the prohibition seems
to be for flying over the oceans only, not to travel
to foreign countries.

I think these two should not be
mixed, mainly because continuous travel was the norm
for many in those days. People walked to places far
and wide and there were quite many foreign desam for
them in those days.

This brings to us the question of
what is a foreign country?
If the countries of Europe
and American continent are foreign to us today,
even the far off Hardwar and Kedarnath must have been
foreign to travellers of those days.

The people, habits, climate and environs are different in
different places such as these and travellers would
have had a dose of exposure to foreignness in these
places which are not part of their native places.

It is said that Videha was in Nepal and
Kegaya (native place of Kaikeyi)was part of
today's Caucasus.
But people had travelled very far,
to any place which had been possible to visit to.

So I deduce that the prohibition is for moving over
the oceans and not for visiting countries that were
foreign to one's place.
Here again the popular adage
'thirai kadal odiyum diraviyam thedu'
does not support this view.

Since both these notions had been prevalent in those days,
let us deduce further to say that
materialistic people were not barred from crossing the oceans
(in other words, people were not barred from crossing
the seas in search of material benefits)
and only the spiritually inclined ones were barred.
Why single out
the spiritually inclined is the next question.

My attempt to answer this may look bizarre. Still I
wish to write it here, in the thought that there might
be some truth in it and some one reading this may be
able to elaborate on this.

This explanation was heard by me in one of our
week-end sessions on Hindu philosophy and spirituality
during my student years. It was told by the guru
( a yogin)of one of the participants,
that the prana (oneof the 5 gaseous products in our body -refer also BGV-14)
which has a tendency to move upwards
is very strong for a spiritual person.
During regular activity
this upward movement is put in balance without our realization of it.

This zooms up when we see an elder
or one with high pranic shakthi due to his spiritual abhyasa.
Ordinary people like us prostrate before them
to control the sudden upsurge and bring in equilibrium
with respect to other gases like apana.

The complete
saashtaanga namaskara in front of the Lord in the
temple is also to bring in equilibrium as prana
is elevated by the shakthi enshrined in the temple.
That is also why we need not prostrate in front of
human beings inside a temple.
(the all powerful deity has
more sway on our paranic energy than the ordinary
beings ).

Similarly, a spiritual person with high level of
pranic energy will experience a continuous upsurge
while moving on / flying above huge water bodies.
That is why the prohibition.

As has been my habit, let me add kaN, mUkku, kAdu etc.

Apah (water)is Brahman, according to sruti.
The vast ocean (in comparison to rivers and lakes, for crossing
which there is no prohibition)
may be a source of energy of highest kind,
in such a way that the pranic energy of a spiritual person
may be continuously moving up.

In contrast, over land when one prostrates
or when one is closer to ground, some thing like
gravitational energy helps the person to rest in equilibrium.

This effect will be less on him on water,
as the land is far below. Since the depth of the
oceans is more than that of rivers or lakes,
the bar came to be applied to oceans.
What strikes my mind on thinking on these lines is
the death of Sri Krupananda
Warriar while in flight.

To explain why RAma chose to return by Vimana to cross
the seas may be that the body would have by then got
accustomed to adjusting to the changes.
Flying over land has not been a bone of contention,
may be due to closeness to land in helping to bring the prana into

The above explanation may look odd. Still I wish to
share this with others as our texts and rules are more
scientific than what we know as science today.

One instance is that somewhere in sruti texts it has been
said that birds do not stay on the ground at night
because the ground looks to them as red-hot coal.
It is true owing to the loss of heat from the ground at
night (infra red radiation).
It therefore means that birds see infrared radiation.
What science says about this?


Shantosh S said...

Another simple explanation that I came across...
As pointed out, not all are restricted for sea travel. The restrictions were for Brahmins and Sanyasis. Brahmins and Sanyasis are expected to do their daily duties without fail. A sea travel will definitely hinder it - with no land at sight for months together.
So does it stand good in today's age of air travel? I heard one Upanyasar telling that he often travels to the US, but always take a direct flight with travel time less than 20 hours. This helps him to continue his daily anushtanams without break !!

Shantosh S said...

And one more based on the high energy in oceans - Brahmins and Sanyasis were advised to choose their living near water bodies - such as river / lake etc. I am not sure if it includes sea shore too. But they were advised, so that their daily duties can be easily fulfilled. Second, it is also a source of good vegetation.This helps to get their daily requirement for food without having to store for next day, as storing goes agains rules of the shaastras. From your post, we can also interpret water bodies help them in their spiritual growth too.

jayasree said...

Thanks for sharing your views Mr Santhosh.

Let me add an information I read from Nacchinarkkiniyar's commentary to Tholkaappiyam. In his commentary to 13th Sutra of Agatthinai iyal of Porul adhikaaram, he refers to 2 types of separation from family (or wife). One happens on leg - காலிற் பிரிவு (walk) and the other by ship கலத்திற் பிரிவு (crossing the seas). In this context he says that the 4 varnas belonged to the first category as they had to do agni works (homas). This shows that the 4th varna also did homa. Atleast that was the situation 1000 years ago when Nacchinarkkiniyar lived (he is said to have lived in the 9th century). The Vellalas belonged to the 2nd category according to him as they separated through ship - கலத்திற் பிரிவு. So he makes a distinction between the 4th varna and Vellaala (வேளாளர்)

The original verses are given below:-

தொல்காப்பியம், பொருளதிகாரம்.

அகத்திணை இயல்

சூத்திரம் 13

“இருவகைப் பிரிவும் நிலைபெறத் தோன்றலும்
உரிய தாகும் என்மனார் புலவர்.”

நச்சினார்க்கினியர் உரை:-

“நான்கு வருணத்தார்க்குக் காலிற் பிரிவும், வேளாளர்க்குக் கலத்திற் பிரிவும் தத்தம் நிலைக்கேற்பத் தோன்றினும்.

இருவகைப் பிரிவு : காலிற் பிரிவு, கலத்திற் பிரிவு. கலத்திற் பிரிவு அந்தணர் முதலிய செந்தீவாழ்நர்க்கு ஆகாமையின் வேளாளர்க்கே உரித்தென்றார். வேதவணிகரல்லாதார் கலத்திற் பிரிவு வேதநெறியன்மையின் ஆராய்ச்சியின்று. இக் கருத்தானே இருவகை வேனிலும் நண்பகலும் இருவகைப் பிரிவிற்கு ஒப்ப உரியவன்றிக் காலிற் பிரிவுக்குச் சிறத்தலும் கலத்திற் பிரிவிற்கு இளவேனிலொன்றும் காற்று மிகாத முற்பக்கத்துச் சிறுவரவிற்றாய் வருதலுங் கொள்க.“