Monday, June 30, 2008

Significance of the Amarnath yatra - Jagmohan

Kashmir, the home of Vedic rishis is in news again.

The recent development in Kashmir shrouding the pilgrimage facilities for Amarnath yatris

is anything but unfortunate.

It is hoped that the significance of Kashmir in the map of Sanathanic culture

is recognized by one and all.



Significance of the Amarnath yatra

By Jagmohan

(Deccan Chronicle, June 30, 2008)

The controversy surrounding the Amarnath yatra is unwarranted. It is more a product of pride and prejudice than of any substantial issue. The forest land which had been allotted to the Amarnath shrine board was for a specific purpose — providing basic amenities and temporary shelter to the yatris in pre-fabricated structures. I do not understand how this act could, as alleged in some quarters, change the demographic character of the state or undermine the environment on the yatra routes. On the other hand, it would have made the yatra more organised and environment-friendly. The waste would have been taken care of at the camp sites and better administrative machinery would be available to prevent landslides and protect water bodies. In any case, safety of the yatris is paramount.

Heavy rains and sudden hostility of nature are not unusual in this area. It may be recalled that 256 persons lost their lives in a snow storm during the yatra in 1996. Nor should it be forgotten that India is a party to all the UN decisions and declarations on natural disasters. Experience shows that the nations which are vigilant are able to mitigate losses, while those casual in their approach pay a heavy price. For example, the average Japanese disaster kills 63 people, while in Peru, a disaster of the same magnitude takes as many as 2,900 lives.

It is unfortunate that the controversy has diverted public attention from the cultural significance of the yatra. Of all the Indian pilgrimages, the pilgrimage to Amarnath is considered to be the most sacred.

Recalling Swami Vivekananda’s experience, Sister Nivedita wrote: "Never had Swami felt such a spiritual exaltation. So saturated had he become with the presence of the great God that for days after he could speak of nothing else. Shiv was all in all; Shiv, the eternal one, the great monk, rapt in meditation, aloof from the world." Later on, Swami Vivekananda himself recounted: "I have never been to anything so beautiful, so inspiring."

Such is the impression that the Amarnath yatra leaves on the minds of the yatris. After travelling on foot or horse on one of the most enchanting and enthralling routes in the world, the yatris see the "ice-lingam" in all its shining glory and experience the impact of an invisible, yet all pervading, an incomprehensible, yet all-conveying, force of "what was, is and will be".

The yatris perceive Lord Shiv sitting calmly underneath an imperishable canopy provided by the "mount of immortality" and conveying the message of inseparability of the processes of creation and destruction; of every beginning having an end, and every end having a beginning.

The holy cave is accessible only during a short period of time every year, usually during the months of July and August. At that time, inside the cave, a pure white ice-lingam comes into being.

Water trickles, somewhat mysteriously, in slow rhythm, from the top of the cave and freezes into ice. It first forms a solid base and then on it a lingam begins to rise, almost imperceptibly, and acquires full form on purnima. It is believed that on that day, Lord Shiv revealed the secrets of life to Parvati. It is also believed that while Lord Shiva was speaking to Parvati, a pair of pigeons overheard the talk. And this pair still comes to the cave at the time of the yatra as incarnation of Shiv and Parvati.

The present Kashmir Valley, according to Nilamata Purana, was once a huge lake known as Satidesa. It was surrounded by high mountains. To kill a demon, Jalodhbava, who was indestructible under water, Rishi Kashyap made a cut in the mountains and drained off all the water. The land that emerged came to be called Kashmir, after Rishi Kashyap.

At some spots saints and gods carved out their hermitages for meditation. In the course of time these spots acquired special sanctity and made Kashmir a great nursery of Hindu religion.

If the yatris take the traditional route, they proceed to Pahalgam from where a small road lead to Chandanwari, along thick and green woodlands of breathtaking beauty, with the playful stream of Lidder meandering and dancing in between. From Chandanwari, there begins the ascent to Pishu Ghati, reminding the yatris that the path to salvation involves struggle and stamina. A feeling of having been lifted to a heavenly spot dawns upon the yatris when they reach Sheshnag. After getting refreshed with the bath of ice-cold water of Sheshnag, the yatris take a steep climb to the most difficult spot, Mahagunna. Thereafter, a short descent begins to Poshpathan.

From there, the yatris move to Panchtarni, a confluence of five mythical streams, and then to the cave.

A sense of fulfilment seizes the yatris, and all fatigue is forgotten. Even with the temperature touching zero degree Celsius, the yatris are driven by their faith to take bath in the rivulet of Amravati.

The unique yatra satisfies the individual’s urge to take his soul to soaring heights, to experience spiritual passions and see Mahadev in his greatest image and in his finest abode. But the significance of the yatra does not end at the personal level. It extends to the much larger issue of cultural unity and vision of India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Kathiawar to Kamrup.

When some people talk of Kashmir’s relationship with the rest of India only in terms of Article 1 and Article 370 of the Constitution, I am surprised at their ignorance. They don’t know that the relationship goes deeper.

It is a relationship that has existed for thousands of years in the mind and soul of the people, a relationship that India’s intellect and emotions, its life and literature, its philosophy and poetry, its common urges and aspirations, have given birth to. It is this relationship which inspired Subramania Bharati to perceive Kashmir as "a crown of Mother India, and Kanyakumari as a lotus at her feet", and also made him sing that "She has 30 crore faces, but her heart is one."

Jagmohan is a former governor of Jammu and Kashmir and

a former Union minister

Science and spirituality - Dr Baldev Raj

Science and spirituality have much in common

By Baldev Raj

(Deccan Chronicle, June 30, 2008)

I was born in a middle class business family in Jammu. My mother taught me to love all creatures in nature. She taught me that every day, before going to sleep, I should think if I have hurt anyone or done injustice. In case I have, I must go to the concerned person and admit my mistake and then work out a solution. These lessons have been my guiding principles.

I have always been interested in science. Science is basically driven by the commitment to have new ideas, understand with better insights, do new measurements and develop products and technologies.

Science can never give complete answers. Science gives immense pleasure as one understands better and uses the understanding for producing wealth and removing the sufferings of the society. Thus, science teaches you to respect nature. Science does not allow one to differentiate between religions and castes. That is spirituality to me.

I have learnt from my Guru that the most difficult thing for a person is to be a good human being — noble, caring, selfless and humble. I must mention that I was fortunate to be guided by my Guru, mother, my teachers and a few of my peers and colleagues. My family members (wife and children) strengthen my approaches and correct me whenever I go wrong. They always help me to strive for better human qualities.

Science and spirituality have some commonalities and some differences.

Science is to explore the external truth. It can be explained to others. It has its limitation due to lack of comprehensive knowledge and understanding and can contribute to fulfilment only if it improves quality of life and removes suffering.

At the same time, spirituality is to explore the internal truth. It can be experienced by individuals. It can also inspire others to explore. It has no limitation of knowledge and understanding and brings bliss and fulfilment.

I strongly believe that we need internal and external truth in synergy to live a quality life.

Padmashree Dr Baldev Raj is the director of Indira Gandhi Centre

for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam. He is also the present chairman of NCB

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Destiny honours attitude, not karma.


The destiny ... beyond one's duty

THIS IS a rejoinder to the article, "Even destiny honours karma" by Debarshi Sen (Education Page, July 16). The writer cites the cases of two prominent and successful luminaries of the day, Verghese Kurien and Abdul Kalam to drive home the message that adherence to Nishkama karma (karma without desire) has put them in the place where they are today. The present day student community is called upon to draw this lesson from them and concentrate on whatever field they get and become successful in that field by performing karma. This contention of Mr. Sen has failed to address two issues. One, why are others who have been performing karma with a similar state of mind, not always successful and second, why people doing similar tasks with similar propensity to do karma are not successful in equal measures. Mr. Sen has used the performance factor to explain the success of these two eminent persons.

Taking up the first issue, there are scores of people who perform well and yet cannot rise or have not risen to eminence in their respective fields. If performance of karma favours persons like Mr. Verghese and Mr. Kalam, the same must have helped numerous others also. But the fact is that it has not been so. What we see in reality is that adherence to karma has not always been directly proportional to the attainment of success. This is what has been made out in the Gita too, when it says karmani eva adhikaarasthe, maa paleshu. One has control over the action alone, but not on the results. One can keep on doing his job, but the result is not in his hands. This injunction of the Gita, if drawn to explain the success of the two luminaries in discussion, will be found wanting to give a satisfactory explanation. For, according to the Gita, they had done their karma. Destiny has favoured them for some other reason!

The next issue is that no two persons doing the same kind of action are rewarded in similar measures. To explain this, let us assume that two persons have been given the task of lifting a heavy stone. The two have to lift similar stones of the same weight, under similar conditions. One of them tries at first to lift it with bare hands and then proceeds to employ some techniques like using a rod as a lever or trying to roll it, etc., and finally succeeds in lifting it. But the other may keep trying with his hand and still find no success. He may also say that he has done his karma but he has failed to succeed. Herein, destiny has not paid for the performance of karma but has favoured the one with extra inputs — the inputs being creativity, intelligence, tactfulness etc. It is observed here that what has been performed has little to do with success, as it is about HOW the karma is being performed that has made the difference. And there is another input also, called ATTITUDE. In the two instances that Mr. Sen has quoted, mere performance has not paid. The attitude with which Mr. Kurien and Mr. Kalam performed throughout their career had elevated them. This attitude is something different from and more unique than the intellectual propensities that have been quoted as inputs in the instance cited above. This attitude can be better understood by the kindergarten tale of the fox and the grapes! The fox tries to catch hold of the grapes hanging above. The several attempts of jumping that the fox is found doing, can be termed as the karma (action). Finally the fox gives up, as it cannot see any shred of success. But what it says finally has something to convey as a moral. The fox gives up with the remark, "These grapes are sour"! but it has not totally abandoned the karma, as it moves on in search of another vineyard. The world is large and it can still succeed elsewhere. That is what is meant by attitude.

When Mr. Kurien found himself in the dock by the denial of entry into the field of his choice, he must have consoled his mind that it was a sour grape and the dairy milk was after all the sweetest of all! Similarly, when Mr. Kalam faced his worst time in the interview board, he did not think that he has faced his nemesis. He managed to resurrect in a different domain. These two undoubtedly performed their karma in the new environs, but what fetched them rewards is their attitude — the mind to accept whatever comes in their way and perform with utmost commitment and dedication. Had they cast their eyes on the results of their karma, the disappointment from denial might have proved too much. They, instead, banked upon samathvam — treating failure and success alike — and went ahead with undiluted enthusiasm and dedication into what the Gita calls as karmasu kaushalam (dexterity in action). This attitude termed as samathvam, coupled with dexterity in action ensures that at no time failure bogs one down. A person with samathvam will care less about the results and instead start concentrating more on how to improve his performance.


Friday, June 27, 2008

The difference between Brahman, Brahmam and Brahma

Brahman is the root word.

It is this word which means

brih, great / big and that which grows.

This is na-kaarantha masculine gender

which is widely used to denote the Supreme Being.

The texts use the word as Brahma also.

Here it is used as rama shabdam, a-kaaranda masculine.

The 2nd case of Brahma is Brahmam, like Ramam

This means “to Brahma”

The first god of the three gods namely

the creator is also called Brahma.

It is because of Brihattwa or

growth associated with creator Brahma.

But texts always use the term as the four-faced brahma

or brahma deva to denote this creator Brahma.

If the text continues only about this deva,

the word brahma is used.

The texts always make a distinction

when denoting the two,

the Supreme Brahman and the Brahma of the Trimoorthy.

Like in "Gurur Brahma, gurur vishnu:.."

In this verse, where the term Brahma is used to denote

the Supreme, it is qualified as "para-brahma".

A mere mention of Brahma is used

when used along with Vishnu and Maheshwara.

Thus the context must be seen to know what this brahma refers to..

But in commentaries in Sanskrit by acharyas,

we find them use the term as brahmaa,

with a dheergam on ‘a’to denote the four faced Brahma.

Wherever they mean the Supreme,

they say Brahman or Brahma.

When they mean the four-faced brahma,

they say so and write as brahmaa.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can we ‘see’ God?

‘Can we ‘see’ God?’-

This must have been a question asked for the highest number of times,

by both believers and non-believers.

Arjuna and sanjaya were able to see God as God (in virat rupa)

thanks to the ‘divine eye’ given by God and Ved Vayasa.

But is it possible to ‘see’ God without such divine eye?

This question has been handled by Ramanujacharya

in his book Vedartha sangraha

which is a concise book on his commentary on Brahma sutras.

He has written about how to see God

and what it means to see God, by drawing inputs from Vedas and Vyasa.

In verse 252 of VedArtha Sangraha we find the explanation like this.:-

“He (Bhagavan Krishna DvaipAyana – original name for Ved Vyasa) says,

‘His form does not fall within the range of perception.

No one sees Him with his eyes.

He, whose mind has been brought to the

state of samAdhi by determined effort,

sees him who is of the nature of knowledge, through bhakti.’

The meaning is that one who by determined effort

fixes his whole mind on the Supreme Purusha,

sees him through bhakti.

Here ‘seeing’ means direct perception and

‘direct perception’ means attainment.

It is thus the passage would be one in meaning

with the Lord’s declaration.,

“I am attainable only through undivided

bhakti (Gita XI 54)”.

Bhakti, therefore is only a form of knowledge.

Thus the explanation is complete and satisfactory.”

(My Note:- To know what ‘perception’, ‘knowledge’ and

‘bhakti’ spoken in the above verse are all about,

One has to sail through the import of the verses

245, 246, 247, 250 & 251 of Vedartha Sangraha.)

From these verses it is known that

servitude (seshatwa) in the form of bhakti

is spoken as knowledge by texts.

“It has already been elucidated

(in the verses from 245 to 247)

that it is this service of the form of bhakti

that is spoken of as knowledge.” (251).

What is this service and servitude?

(Taking cue from verse 245,

swami AdidevAnanda has

this to say in the Foreword to the translated version

of VedArtha Sangraha by Sri S.S. Raghavachar.)

“Sri Ramanuja enunciates a principle

‘that what an individual pursues as a desirable end

depends upon what he conceives of himself to be.’ (245)

Different people pursue different and

mutually conflicting values.

Hence the notion that independence is happiness

proceeds from the mis conception

that one is identical with the body, mind etc.

This attachment to the body is a sort of dependence itself.

Instead of dependence on God,

it is dependence on matter.

The metaphysical fact is that he is not the body and

consequently there must be something else

with which his self is related.

There can not be relation of the

principal entity and the subsidiary (sEshin and sEsha)

between any finite objects.

The only object with which

such a relation can exist is God.

Hence dependence on anything other than God is painful

and subservience to God is joy and freedom.

Similarly bondage is indeed a dog’s life (Manu says)

when one serves those who are

unworthy of service.

The only entity which is worthy

of love, adoration and service is God.

Sri Ramanuja clinches the issue by quoting the text,

‘He is to be served by all.’ (150)

The emancipation consists in

service of God, and true bondage is

independence of God and service of body.”

To continue the logic, let us go into verse 250,

“..the only one that ought to be served by all who are

enlightened about the fundamental nature of the self,

is the Highest Purusha.

‘He is to be served by people in all stages of life.

He alone is to be served by all.’

The lord says, “he who serves me, following the

path of undivided bhakti,

transcends these qualities (of prakriti) and

will attain self-realisation.’

(Gita XIV 26)

In verse 251 Sri Ramanuja speaks of this service as

bhakti which is spoken as ‘knowledge’ by texts.

“Only knowledge that is of the nature of supreme bhakti

is the means of attaining Bhagavan.”

This ‘attainment’ is ‘direct perception’

which is equated to ‘seeing’ is what the last verse (252)

of VedArtah sangraha is all about –

which I quoted in the beginning of this post.

To quote Ved Vyasa in Moksha dharma (Maha Bharatha)

which is a commentary on the whole of Upanishads,

“His form does not fall within the range of perception.

No one sees Him with His eyes.

He, whose mind has been brought to the state of samAdhi

by determined effort,

sees Him who is of the nature of knowledge, through bhakti.”


Related articles:-

Why Can't We See God - A scientific explanation

The String Theory and the Origin of God

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It is not spirituality vs religion, it is spirituality as religion!

Swami Agnivesh’s views on ‘God and I’ is still ringing in me.

Two issues from his views catch my thought.

One is that the core concept of religion is spirituality.

Very true.

All the rituals and the do’s and don’ts associated with religion

are aimed at helping the individual evolve spiritually.

If one fails to become spiritual in the inner core,

there is no use claiming that he is religious.

It is like the orange-example that Rajaji gave

to explain the difference between character and culture.

The outer skin of the orange is like culture or civilized behavior that one has.

But such behavior need not be reflective of the inner character.

The inner character is like the inner fruit of the orange covered by the outer peel.

The outer peel may shine well.

But the inner fruit may have been sour.

When the peel is removed, the inner quality of the fruit will become known.

Similarly with religion.

A person may claim to be a religionist and do all sorts of rituals.

But if the inner spiritual feeling is not there, there is no use.

From this it can be inferred -

that religion is only an aid to spiritual growth

and that one can become spiritual even without the aid of religion.

In other words, even without all talks of God and worship of God

one can be spiritual.

Can one be??

The answer for this lies in the second view of Swami Agnivesh

that life is a miracle!

Those who defy God but still sound spiritual,

have grown inward only by observing or admiring the nature around us.

Nature is a miracle and

everything around us is capable of inducing a sense of awe and wonder,

by the way they exist or by means of affecting our senses in some way.

In ‘God and I’ column,

we have seen people express that admiration as a way of their communion with God

or as experiencing some inner Truth.

So it all boils down to Nature and Creation.

When we think of Nature and Creation,

we come to realize how small or inadequate we are before that.

Even the air we inhale does not belong to us.

We have no control over that air.

Swami Agnivesh speaks of breathing as a miracle happening to us.

In my opinion, every second breathing is a miracle happening to us.

I am alive at the moment because I breathed now.

But I don’t know about the next breath.

It may come to me or it may not come to me.

I have no clue about it,

nor have I any hold over it.

There lies my inadequacy, however strong I may think I am.

When I have to depend on the air around

(which of course will not help me when my next breath fails me),

I have to accept that I am small and

that I have to depend on something else for my survival.

That is why the Upanishads praise air (vaayu) as a

‘prathyaksha Brahman’ (a palpable / tangible God).

When one grasps the serenity and beauty of Nature and Creation,

one starts growing empathic with all that is of this Nature and Creation.

Such empathy leads to compassion and love- all tendency.

This, in Vedanthic parlance is

Ahimsa paramO dharma:” – Non- violence is supreme dharma.

And Dharma is what God is embodied as.

That is why even if one says he loves all, but do not believe in God,

we must know that he is close to god only.

His inadequacy before Nature and Creation will someday

bring a realization about that Un-surmountable Nature and Creation.

He may call it by whatever name,

but a rose is a rose – call it by any name!

Super natural power guides us - Srikanth

By Srikanth
(From "God and I" column in Deccan Chronicle, June 24, 2008)

I have always been very religious and spiritually-inclined. I hail from Tirupati and often tell people that I grew up at the footsteps of holy Tirumala hills. As a child, I used to visit the Lord Balaji temple quite often and even today, not a single day passes by without praying to the Lord.

I was told that my great grandfather used to walk all the way to the seven hills daily and place a lotus at the feet of Lord Venkateswara Swamy. We still have a temple built by our ancestors there and we visit it often.

My family celebrates all festivals and visits temples. His blessings strengthen our family bond. I also like Shirdi Sai Baba for his teachings. His teachings are about leading a simple life with humility and that has had a great influence on my life. He taught me about "anna daanam" and the benefits of sharing wealth with those who are in need. I believe that we should not boast about the charity we do in the name of God. There is lot of inner satisfaction in doing charity.

The film industry is always associated with lot of sentiments and superstitions. Though superstitions are personal feelings, I always believe that there is a supernatural power that guides us. Before a risky shot, I close my eyes and pray.

Srikanth is a South Indian cricketer

Sanskrit and other languages

A few examples of similarities between Indo-European words. (from the following blog)























or Ten


















bear (a burden etc)


















or Tri





old English for wolf)






























Muus old English












Shanishvram -Slow moving planet











Hantar (killer)




Nose (nasal)






Yoke (to join)


Proto (first)









Tat (Tat Tvam Asi)


Janan (generate)


Loka (place)







Mia (Me)















Pre-fix e.g.’Para-psychology’

Peen (pointed)









Part (section)



Veda=knowledge based scriptures


Witan(old English) Be aware
Wit- Wise