BUNCH OF THOUGHTS
Deifying the great Misreading of scriptures Selfishness, helplessness at the root Effort is God Great examples Worship of the victorious Martyr, great but not ideal Lesson of Rajput martyrdom Act, do not react Philosophy of right action.
OUR great men stand as lamp posts on the path to the fulfillment of our national life-mission and national glory. In order that the coming generations may pursue that path with success, it is essential that their inspiring memories and examples are kept undimmed in the national mind and the lessons of the lives and deeds of those masters of thought and action are presented in their true perspective. It is precisely with this end in view that the celebration of the anniversaries of birth and death of our ancient heroes has found a pride of place in our national tradition since hoary times.
Deifying the Great
But unfortunately a serious perversion has crept into this tradition of recollecting the ideals set up by those great ancestors. Our people, placing implicit faith in the Gita verse
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every such element as is endowed, with glory, brilliancy or power know that to be manifestation of spark of Divine Effulgence - see in the extraordinary power of such great souls a sign of the manifestation of Divinity, a Spark of the Divine Effulgence. So far, it is all right.
But this has led to a delusive belief that all such great men are super-human beings far above and beyond the reach of the common man. The common man, feeling himself a creature of circumstances, tries to find a path of escape for himself by pushing them into the orbit of divinity. For, thereby, he will be absolved of the responsibility of following them in his practical day-to-day life, which would entail for him various trials and tribulations. He, in his weakness and helplessness, also implores God to come to his rescue and save him from the trouble of facing all these dangers. He, on his part, feels that he should sit comfortably at home and that all things be set right by God's grace!
Coupled with this is the craze for maximum benefits and enjoyment with minimum responsibility and risk to oneself in practically all fields of life today. Nowhere do we come across the spirit of manliness, which makes one say, "Well, I am a 'man'. I shall put forth manly efforts and discharge my duties with utmost exertion without caring for any eventuality, be it happiness or misery." That is the reason why a person born in a wealthy family is taken to be highly fortunate because without any effort he is the master of all comfort and luxury. He is not to worry himself for his food and drink. There are servants at his beck and call for doing every little work leaving him all the time to wallow in vulgar pleasures. Thus, due to helplessness in one's life or due to such craze for enjoyment, the common man naturally feels that he should not be called upon to do anything by himself. He thinks, "Let God come down to earth and take me to the shores across the whirlpool of adversities. Let him shower comforts upon me, end His incarnation and return to His abode"!
It is with such fond hopes that in times of difficulty an ordinary man prays and takes refuge in God as if the Almighty will be moved by his prayers and will appear on earth to protect him and redeem His pledge to-
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(For the protection of the saints, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of Dahrama, I am born again and again.)
In this regard, our founder used to jocularly remark, "I, on the other hand, implore Almighty not to take birth just now. For, finding the whole of society immersed in indolence and selfishness, i.e. in adharma, he would only destroy it completely according to his pledge of destroying adharma! So, let us become sadhus first, which means leading a life of effort and sacrifice in the cause of society, and then call the Almighty. Then only will He save us and destroy the evil-doers."
But the common mass of people feel that their duty is over by remembering sometimes those great 'Incarnations' and worshiping them as Divinity Manifest. They have no will or desire to do anything more. For example, our people have regarded Sri Ramachandra as an Incarnation of Vishnu and have been worshipping him all these centuries. But in the case of most of us, it was never with a view to imbibing his manly virtues and manifesting Rama in ourselves. Our founder used to narrate an interesting incident in this connection. Once, while talking to an elderly gentleman, who was used to reciting Adhyatama Ramayana at home regularly, our founder casually asked him which quality of Sri Rama had appealed to him most and had inspired him to emulate it in his life. On hearing those words the gentleman flew into a veritable rage and exclaimed," What nonsense! Do you think we mortals can emulate the qualities of a god? The recitation is meant to give us spiritual merit for attaining salvation, what more do we want?"
The same has been the attitude towards Sri Krishna. We regarded Gita as a divine scripture, got by rote all its verses, recited it, praised it in superlatives, but never once imagined that Bhagavad - Gita is the greatest treatise on human duties intended to be followed in our day-to-day practical life. We find this fantastic notion gripping our mind in all walks and strata of our social life.
To give a recent example. Lokamanya Tilak was a great karmayogi and an outstanding national leader. But after his passing away neither his followers nor the common people bothered to emulate his great life and his noble virtues. Nor did they strive to continue his wise political traditions. On the other hand, they erected his statues, opened a few schools, raised funds in his name, celebrated his birthdays and profusely showered on him their verbal homage! And with this, they felt satisfied as having done their duty towards the Lokamanya. Some of the innocent, simple-minded devotees to Tilak even made him Chaturbhuja (four handed) and worshiped him, meaning thereby that he was an Incarnation of God and they were only poor mortals. How could they, then, hope to rise to those heights of godhood? Their life was after all meant only to eat, drink, earn money, rear up children and finally die one day!
Effort is Almighty
It is this mentality of saving one's skin that makes the people thrust the great men into the orbit of godhead. The ordinary man is confounded and terrified when surrounded by calamities. Not knowing anything else to do, he takes refuge in God. He wails and weeps and prays to God 'to come once again'. In that darkness of despair he finds no ray of hope except God. We sometimes see even great Saints and Scholars bewailing in that manner. And if, under such circumstances, a great man appears on the scene and changes the course of events with his prowess, fortitude and sagacity, then he is readily thrown into the rank of gods. But it is sheer weakness that makes one push such great men outside the pale of human beings.
We have to change this perverse mentality of our people and plant in its stead an attitude of manliness and effort. Swami Ramdas has said, yatna to deva janava (Effort is God). We should take refuge in God, manifested as human effort. This is the land of duty, karma-bhoomi, the land of human endeavour. It is a soil sanctified by the sweat and blood of human giants. It is here that all our latent powers and virtues blossom forth and our latent divinity awakened. Let this right conviction inspire us to step forward on the path of human effort. Let us worship and revere those great souls not as gods but as men just like us but who have risen to those heights by dint of their personal efforts. When Ravana abducted Sita, Sri Ramachandra bewailed and shed tears as anyone of us would do when struck by misfortune in our family life. By this he proclaimed to the world that he too was a human being just as anyone else. Though he ate and drank, slept and walked like anyone of us and felt all the common emotions of a human being, each moment of his beckons us with its highest ideal of manhood attained through supreme personal effort.
Our great saints and devotees have no doubt laid great stress on prayer to the Almighty. But they never preached inaction in life. Such devotees who indolently weep in the name of God have always been held in utmost ridicule. All our great men have persistently striven to infuse the spirit of manliness and duty in our society. They stand before us as glorious examples of human endeavour and achievement in various walks of life. We are the children of all those heroes of action. Their blood flows in our veins. They did not drop from the heavens as readymade great men. They scaled those heights of greatness on the strength of their effort, intelligence, fortitude, sacrifice and such other manly virtues. Why should we not have the faith that we too, to some extent at least, can manifest the same virtues in our life? If we have to rise as a great nation, it is most essential that we take up this correct attitude whenever we look upon the lives and deeds of the great ones of the past.
Worship of the Victorious
Let us now see what type of great lives have been worshipped in this land. Have we ever idealised those who were a failure in achieving life's goal? No, never. Our tradition has taught us to adore and worship only those who have proved fully successful in their life-mission. A slave of circumstances has never been our ideal. The hero who becomes the master of the situation, changes it by sheer dint of his calibre and character and wholly succeeds in achieving his life's aspirations, has been our ideal. It is such great souls, who by their self-effulgence, lit up the dismal darkness surrounding all round, inspired confidence in frustrated hearts, breathed life into the near-dead and held aloft the living vision of success and inspiration, that our culture commands us to worship.
A Sri Ram is our ideal, who on the strength of his valour, sagacity and will-power vanquished so powerful a tyrant as Ravana who had enslaved the whole world and imprisoned 'the 33 crores of gods'. And again the glorious ideal of one, who with his incomparable powers of body and intellect could easily have got himself crowned as an invincible monarch but refused to do so, comes up before us in the form of the wholly fruitful life of Sri Krishna. Our objects of worship have always been such successful lives. It is obvious that those who were failures in life must have had some serious drawback in them. How can one, who is defeated, give light and lead others to success? How can flame faltering at every whiff of the breeze illumine our path? It is only such a life which stands like a towering lighthouse, erect and undimmed amidst all ranging tempests and rains and constantly dispels darkness, that can guide the ship of our life to the shores of success.
Martyr, Great but Not Ideal
When a society is continuously subjected to all sorts of calamities and stark despair stares it in the face, it develops various types of mental complexes. There are some who go down under the weight of disasters and helplessly look forward to some divine succour. But when God does not seem to listen their prayers and calamities continue to encompass them more and more, some get infuriated and strive to change the desperate situation. But they do not have enough strength to bring about the desired change. No doubt, discontent burns in them, but they find themselves too weak to face the situation.
But the fire in their hearts does not allow them to sit merely as silent and helpless spectators bewailing their fate. They prefer to lay down their lives displaying a spark of heroism rather than groan under the intolerably oppressive situation. All around them, forces of darkness and despair, ignorance and calumny dance in naked fury - with not a ray of hope, not a single soul to respond to their call. The weak-hearted quail and simply lie low. But those with fire in them refuse to do so and prefer to destroy themselves with a flash of sacrifice. The ordinary man is blinded by the flash of such a death and he exclaims, "What a fiery spirit he was! He broke but did not bend." The people call him a 'martyr' and offer homage to him.
Except our Bharatiya culture, all others adored and idealised martyrdom and have looked upon such martyrs as their heroes. Why do they call Jesus Christ a great soul? Because he was a martyr and offered his life in sacrifice. But in our Bharatiya tradition, this type of immolation is not considered as the highest ideal. There is no doubt that such men who embrace martyrdom are great heroes and their philosophy too is pre-eminently manly. They are far above the average men who meekly submit to fate and remain in fear and inaction. All the same, such persons are not held up as ideals in our society. We have not looked upon their martyrdom as the highest point of greatness to which man should aspire. For, after all, they failed in achieving their ideal, and failure implies some fatal flaw in them.
The message of 'Incarnation'
Just as we do not idealise one's self-destruction out of frustration in one's personal life, we do not also eulogise this type of self-immolation on the national plane. Real greatness lies in achieving total success in life. In our culture worship has been offered only to such men who by their extraordinary nerve and calibre braved the roughest of seas and storms and finally succeeded in turning the adverse tide of circumstances. They were the makers, and not the mere products, of their times. This is the case with all those great men who are taken to be 'Incarnations'. Whenever our society was gripped by dangers and disasters, and plunged in a stupor and was only bewailing taking the name of God, there arose a gigantic personality who, with his spirit of boundless sacrifice, penance, intelligence and power of action, subdued all adversaries and became a symbol of victory. Whatever the forms assumed - a fish or a boar or a student in the guise of a mendicant - they succeeded in achieving their holy life-mission.
Such are our heroes, the embodiment of victory. The life-breath of our hero-worship is this spirit of 'will to win'. Such souls will never lose sight of the ultimate victory even for a single moment of their life or falter on their path when faced with peril, but constantly press forward and pool their resources so as to rise equal to the task. And ultimately they live to see the glorious victory.
Lessons of Rajput Martyrdom
However, we find in our history that martyrs also have had their honoured and inevitable place in the process of national regeneration. No one can say that their martyrdom has gone in vain. The number of such heroes who felt martyrs in the cause of freedom of our country is not small. It might be that they had not the calibre to come out victorious but it is a fact that they had the necessary spirit of sacrifice and heroism to gladly embrace death for the protection of swadharma and swasamaj. Along with this individual martyrdom we also find in our society, whole bands of heroes immolating themselves en masse to uphold what they considered as the duty of a warrior - kshatra dharma.
The history of Rajputs is scintillating with such thrilling episodes. When surrounded on all sides by relentless foes and left without a ray of hope, those flowers of Hindu chivalry and valour silently witnessed their mothers and sisters, wives and daughters leaping into the flames of jowhar and then donning saffron robes plunged headlong with their flashing swords into the enemy forces, never to return. They preferred honourable martyrdom to the despicable existence of defeat and disgrace. The Rajputs have, by such glorious deeds of valour and self-sacrifice, written a dazzling and awe-inspiring page of our history. Such flashes of matchless heroism, such a joyful spirit of sporting with death are rarely to be found in the annals of world history. It is but right that we cherish sentiments of pride and respect towards those heroic souls. But it is a fact that those heroes always entered the battlefield with the sole thought of dying and not with the will to win. They were inspired by the sole idea of meeting a hero's death.
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(The all-renouncing yogis and the heroes who die fighting on the battlefield-both of them pierce the solar orbit and attain spiritual beatitude.)
Imbued with this conviction, the brave Rajput warrior would gladly go forward when the call for battle was given and would charge into the enemy ranks, caring little for life.
As the desire, so the result. If the will to win is supreme, victory ensues; and for one who desires only death, death is sure to come. Even if we plunge such a one, who only aspires to die, in a pond of nectar, he is bound to get drowned in it and die! No one can save him. A person sitting underneath the Kalpavriksha, the tree of fulfillment of desires, gets whatever he desires. And so does the Almighty bless a hero with whatever he intensely desires while doing his duty as a warrior. The martyrdom of Rajputs no doubt reflects remarkable valour and a proud and defiant spirit but at the same time embodies a wrong and suicidal aspiration. It is a memorable but, nevertheless, a sad chapter in the saga of our Bharatiya heroism.
Not Reaction but Action
It is only because of a mistaken notion of kshatra dharma that those heroes destroyed themselves by aspiring to martyrdom. It is also a kind of weakness. To fly into desperation en masse being unable to bear the brunt of circumstances and go down under its weight cannot be our ideal. An emotionally high-strung mind cannot have that calm and collected strength which remains unaffected amidst the distracting pulls of circumstances and which alone can lead one to ultimate victory. Such a mind has not the capacity to think calmly and act so wisely as to overcome the adversities.
Intelligent and mature men do not merely react to circumstances. They boldly act with a will to make circumstances their slave. To a mature man, to kill or to get killed can never be the ideal. His attitude is a constructive one. He silently proceeds on the well thought-out path, which takes him to ultimate victory. And such a one is our ideal - he who has worshipped victory and successfully fulfilled his mission in life.
Sri Rama, one of our greatest ideals, is a living example of this philosophy of victory. Killing of woman is supposed to be against kshatra dharma. It also ordains one to fight the enemy in the open. Nevertheless Sri Rama Killed the rakshasi Tataka and shot Vali from behind a tree. For, Sri Rama was aware of his ultimate duty of establishing the rule of righteousness by destroying the wicked. The slaying of an innocent woman is sinful but the same principle cannot be applied to a demoness. The technique of fighting also varies according to the nature of the enemy. This is the right understanding of kshatra dharma and Sri Rama followed it. There were in those times discriminating preceptors who preached the right concept; there were heroic disciples too who followed them.
The same has been the case with Sri Krishna and Arjuna. Just as the great war of Mahabharata was about to commence, Arjuna, seeing his elders and teachers like Bhishma, Drona, and others ranged against him, lost his spirits and threw down his bow. Seeing him confounded, Sri Krishna roused him saying, "Is not your name 'Vijaya' (Victory)? Your duty is to achieve victory on the battlefield. Why then do you delude yourself thus? Your foremost duty is to strike down evil and its supporters, whoever they may be, and establish the supremacy of the good and the just."
And again during the battle, when Karna had got down to lift up the wheels of his chariot stuck in the mud, Sri Krishna commanded Arjuna to direct his arrows at him. Karna appealed to Arjuna in the name of dharma, saying that it was adharma to strike at an unarmed and chariotless adversary. Then the great Yogi Sri Krishna thundered, "O Karna! What are the dharmic injunctions you have followed till today that you now come forward to preach dharma to us? Where had your dharma gone when all of you had surrounded the unarmed lad Abhimanyu and slaughtered him shamelessly? Where had your dharma disappeared when you insulted a helpless woman, Draupadi, in an open assembly? I know only one dharma to protect, and that is Dharmaraja!" It was because Sri Krishna presented this correct perspective and thereby steeled the will of Arjuna that the latter could fight the war and bring laurels of victory to the forces of dharma.
The Philosophy of Will to Win'
This has been our philosophy - the philosophy of victory of the forces of righteousness over the forces of evil-preached and practised over millennia. Even today, the demoniac forces of evil are strutting about the world stage, armed with world-destructive weapons and threatening the very future of humanity. It is only on the strength of our philosophy, which steels our will to win that we can inspire mankind to face this new challenge of adharma. Many a time even renowned thinkers of the West despair of the future. Bertrand Russel, for example is taken to be a great philosopher of the West. Even he, when faced with the prospect of a nuclear holocaust in case of conflict with Communist Powers, said, "Let us be red rather than be dead." What sort of a philosopher is he who counsels despair and not manliness? In fact, that is exactly what the Communists want - to break up the mental resistance to their onslaught. Well, our philosophy and philosophers have never counselled despair in the fight against the forces of evil. Faith in the ultimate triumph of the forces of good over the forces of evil is ingrained in our blood. Vanquishing rakshasas and establishing the kingdom of manava dharma has been our tradition since hoary times. Verily man's real purushatva - manliness - lies in establishing his superiority over the rakshasa. Do we not know that man, even in his early days, did not succumb to the wild beasts of prey, though they were physically far more fierce and powerful? He conquered them and asserted his superiority. Communists too may appear for the present to be endowed with all such terrible powers of destruction. But the power of goodness inherent in man is more potent and is bound to assert itself and overcome the evil forces in course of time. That is what a true reading of human history tells us and that is what our ancient masters of philosophy have taught us.
Let us, therefore, decide to tread that path, concentrating our attention and strength on reaching the final goal of victory over all the forces of evil. We are to test every act, apparently good or bad, on this touchstone of ultimate victory of the forces of dharma. That which leads to the victory of the virtuous and the righteous, is alone good and meritorious. And the examples and lessons of the victorious and the great will inspire us with the necessary will to win and awaken in us the right discrimination to achieve ultimate victory in the path of dharmasthapana, i.e., establishing righteousness all over the world, which has been our national life-mission since ages.