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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Musings: “May we be cured of our “Past” blindness….”

Just like marriage or voting or to apply for driving license is there an age limit to indulge in philosophical / spiritual studies and discussions? Going by some of the feedback that i have been receiving i am told that lets give another 5 –10 years before we get philosophical / spiritual.

Some of them who know me for more than a decade even pity me for this disposition. Lets be 45+ then we can start spending some time reading about such heavy stuff – is a very common and logically valid argument from most of my friends. I remember taking the same position not so long ago.

There seems to be a psychological – if not legal, age limit we have set to ourselves for more evolved things in life. I am not sure as to where this age limit bias is rooted.

I came across few interesting pieces of information which answered this question comprehensively to my satisfaction and at the same time highlighted as to how and what mistakes we have been making all this while.

There was a highly evolved individual - philosophically and spiritually, who was trying hard to initiate his son into spiritual / philosophical studies. The answer was nothing different from what we would have given. Dad, there is enough time and let me start this at a later stage in life.

All his attempts to make his son see his point were in vain, yet determined about his objective the old man decided to try a new way. As a part of his daily prayers he used to buy some flowers and fruits in small quantities for the days consumption. But on one day he bought few dozens of bananas and stocked near his son’s room.

His son noticed this new stock of bananas outside his room but did not bother to ask what is that for. After a couple of days, the son could not resist asking his dad, what these bananas are for? His replied that these are for God and i am planning to offer them to God after daily prayers. Next few days, the bananas have started rotting and the rotten smell of bananas were becoming unbearable yet there are no sign of any banana being offered to god or being taken out.

The son could not stand this and was complaining to his father for some action. But his dad was quite composed and replied that he is still wanting to offer them to god and waiting for the right time.

His son could not take this calm answer and was about to explode that no one in the house can stand this smell. His father did not seem to be perturbed at this outburst and calmly replied “is this not similar to saying that we can start the spiritual / philosophical studies when we are old and not at an young age…?” We want to offer ourselves to god when we are weak, old with no utility value, then why not the bananas.

His son could not ignore the point his dad was trying to make with all his sincerity “Spirituality is not a past time activity dedicated to physical infirmity at old age but is an essential tool to guide our lives from the time we can think on our own and take decisions for ourselves. These tools come in handy to establish the right priorities in life, control the extraordinary physical urges and give a right conduit to them and most importantly keep them in the right path in our journey called life giving us enough – just enough latitude during this whole journey.

In Tamil there is a saying that "காமம் வருமுன் காயத்ரி வரவேண்டும்" (Kamam varumun Gayatri Varavendum) which means before Gayatri should enter the mind of a child before Kama”.

There is another logic to this argument. They say every action done or word spoken is like a seed being sown. If we initiate our kids early enough in life in the path of spirituality / philosophical studies then its like a seed being sown. the child grows up indulges in the worldly life like we all do and generally when the physical body becomes little slow, say during mid thirties there is a qualitative change in our thinking. The insecurity around our career and our self ability would have been addressed with a decent degree and job, kids, marriage etc would have established ourselves in a life that starts thinking about others with shared responsibility. I can also state that after being few years of married life a man naturally takes to the spiritual / philosophical path (thanks to my female friends reading this and in complete agreement with this :)), hence there is a qualitative change in thinking.

This aspect is a very good catalyst for the spiritual seed sown in the childhood and we notice most of us start looking for higher purpose in life. Let me qualify here that this higher purpose is not in being religious but in understanding / trying to understand how we can be of better utility to ourselves and to the people around us.

In the absence of a seed which was not sown at an early age, it is told that many individuals struggle hard in life without a substratum and lead a mentally volatile life leading to broken relationships, psychological treatments etc – just like a ship without an anchor that would drift and lose its way.

So the argument for starting the spiritual / philosophical studies early in life has 2 arguments so far.

I turned around to see if there are any references in our scriptures or in any of my friend’s works. The one liked was from one of my girl friend “Auvaiyaar” who lived over 2000 years before. She has been asked what is rare and difficult in this world and she replies:

அரிது அரிது, மானிடராதல் அரிது

மானிடராயினும் கூன் குருடு செவிடு நீங்கி பிறத்தல் அரிது

கூன் குருடு செவிடு பிறந்த காலையின்
ஞானமும் கல்வியும் லயத்தல் அரிது

ஞானமும் கல்வியும் லயந்த காலையும்

தானமும் தவமும் தான் செய்தல் அரிது

தானமும் தவமும் தான் செய்வராயின்

வானவர் நாடிட வழி பிறந்திடுமே !

means, It is difficult to be born as a human being, more difficult is to be born without any diseases like blindness, deafness etc. Even if you are physically ok, it is difficult to gain education and wisdom. Even if you are educated, it is very difficult to be generous (to do charity) and do penance (be disciplined). If you are a human being and firmly established in the path of generosity and penance then you shall walk the path of the angels and gods.

This highlights the importance of looking for a higher purpose in life and essentially addressing the community which is well educated but yet shying away from philosophical / spiritual path.

But what is the right age to start this?

Hindus have a ritual called Valaikappu (that’s how its in tamil) which is conducted around 6th month of pregnancy where the mother bearing the child is made to wear lots of glass bangles. The reason behind this is to recognize the development of hearing sensation of the fetus.

Our scriptures are replete with stories where the child has been learning even when it is in the uterus. For example Abhimanyu learnt the war secret of breaking a battle formation (Chakra vyuh) when he was in the uterus. Prahalad son of Demon king Hiranyakshan learnt the Atma tattva when he was in uterus and that led to Narasimha avatar.

But what took me off my feet was this lullaby (தாலாட்டு) in Sanskrit which is being sung by a mother to the new born child.

“Suddhosi Buddhosi Niranjanosi
Samsar Maya Parivarjatosi
Samsar Swavadam Tyaja Moha Nidram
Na Janma Mrityu Twahi Sat Swarupe..”


You are forever pure, you are forever true
and the dream of this world will never touch you
So give up your attachment, give up all confusion
Fly in that space that's beyond all illusion. You are the that truth’s form…

If you read the song again you would notice that there is nothing religious in that but the supreme philosophy that is being sung to a new born infant.

I came across this piece only a few days back and “Googled” to find out more. to my surprise I found quite a number of articles, even videos actually sung by not Indians but foreigners who have taken active interest in learning our past which we have comfortably ignored.

I have started asking my friends & relatives if they have heard this song. the answer is disappointing not only from our generation but also from the previous generation.

oldIndiaI think Lord Macaulay should be laughing his heart out in his grave as he managed to spearhead the inculcation of “Past blindness” in a country of billion people.. (enlarge this image to understand this.)

I think there has not been a country with about 3 generations now who have comfortably decided to give crass importance to their rich past and is obsessed with anything that is alien to ours.

I fear may we not live to see the days when a stranger from an alien land comes and teaches us about our past!… May we not put our children to face those days. Lets be intellectually hungry about our rich past, lets be rationally discriminate about them and lets be very passionate about the right ones and take pride in them.

May we be cured of our “Past” blindness!…

Happy reading!

PS: I am producing here some exceptional quotes about India’s past. Check out the Einstein’s quote on Bhagavad Gita.

When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous.
- Albert Einstein

"Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been
broken up into fragments by
narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from
the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches
its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary
desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is lead forward by thee
into ever-widening thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
let my country awake."
"GEETANJALI" -Rabindranath Tagore

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.
-Albert Einstein

If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India.
- Max Mueller (German scholar)

Mark Twain said: India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.

French scholar Romain Rolland said: If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.

The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday's bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.
- Mark Twain

India - The land of Vedas, the remarkable works contain not only religious ideas for a perfect life, but also facts which science has proved true. Electricity, radium, electronics, airship, all were known to the seers who founded the Vedas.
- Wheeler Wilcox (American poet)


  1. @Ragu: Take a bow! This is by far one of the most intellectually stimulating and thought provoking blogs I have read in the recent times. This is a fitting post on the Republic Day today which makes us take a hard look at what we have gained so far and what we have lost and will continue to lose if we don't stop and look for prosperity inside us - within ourselves (spirituality) and within our country (culture).

    I had read this letter from Macaulay few years ago and my heart peeved at the systematic destruction of our rich history over hundreds of years and inculcation of twisted facts and suppression of our culture by various invaders, the last of which not just emptied our treasure but also our culture. I only wish more people of our country wake up to strengthen their roots before running after the fruits. We are languishing today because of the mad rush after anything 'foreign' and our misplaced sense of pride for 'money' rather than 'values'. We are in a mad rush for nothing - running very hard but not knowing where we want to go. Only when people reach their old age, then they realize the futility of it all and turn to holy books almost as if preparing for their final exams!

    But all is not lost. One needs to start early and not wait to reach their ripe age to look inward. Since our heritage is not completely intact as a lot of it has been distorted and destroyed, we need to put efforts in finding our roots and enriching our lives, imbibe values and instill in future generations. Like the Bhagavad-Gita says, 'No one can destroy the imperishable soul', let us try to become that soul who cannot be destroyed and recreates life.


    नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः ।
    न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः ॥२- २३॥

    Nainam chindanti shastrani
    Nainam dahati pavakah
    Na chainam kledayantyapo
    Na shoshayati marutah

    BG 2.23: The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burnt by fire, nor wetted by water, nor withered by the wind.

    P.S.: Thank you for including the transliteration of the saying in Tamil about Gayatri. I will bother you about Auvaiyaar another day. :)

  2. Thanks Ashish!...
    As long as we realize this and start seeding it in our kids... we have real hope to turn this situation around, much to the annoyance of Mr. Macaulay... :)
    Thanks again!

  3. Hey Raghu,
    You have outdone yourself! Great post and very well written. I specially liked the McCaulay bit. I would agree with ACM above that this is one of the more interesting blog posts I've read in a long long time (and also goes to show by twitter will be the death of human thought!)
    One of my uncles has written a book that explores the McCaulay angle more deeply - let me know if you are interested in getting in touch with him.
    Thanks again for a lovely post.

  4. @RSK: Thanks for the comments and compliments. But more importantly good to hear from you after a long time. Would be very keen to be in touch with your uncle and point me to his book too..

    Thanks Again!