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Monday, March 17, 2008

Aham brahmasmi: I am wonderful and I bow at my feet!

Don’t get terrified looking at the heavy Vedantic title of this writing.It is only to share and explain about an incident I remember from past.When I was reading the Astavakra gita where King Janaka says, “Oh I am wonderful, and I bow at my feet”, I recollect from my memory, an incident that I, happened to witness several years ago. It was a very amusing incident when you see at it superficially but it also has a very deep philosophical significance.

One very big Swamiji heading a very important religious sect in India was visiting Bangalore and the whole street he is supposed to pass was completely decorated with mango leaves tied all along the streets and decorated with /kolums/ or /rangolis/ and oil lamps every where, to receive him and the traffic is diverted from that street so that thousands of devotees, followers and scholars and philosophers could go in procession behind the Swamiji. On either side, the ladies dressed in sacred gorgeous silk dresses standing with lighted lamps in their hands. Men in sacred dress were standing, ringing bells to greet Swamiji.

Amidst chanting of Vedic hymns, sounds of cymbals and the melody of Nadaswaram Swamiji appeared, walking in slow steps receiving the Pranams of the people with his eyes, and in turn showering his blessings with a serene smile.

One more, important, ritual was anybody who paid an amount of offering of some big money some thing like a five thousand and one rupees or so, will have the privilege to wash his feet. Several ladies were washing his feet with the water specially brought in golden or silver vassal depending upon their status! After washing his feet, they would sprinkle the water from the feet on their heads as a mark of respect and devotion.

In front of one house, a lady in sacred dress came with a silver pot of water and a silver plate in her hand to wash his holy feet. A small little girl around five year’s age must be the daughter of the lady also came out with a brass (supposed to be equally sacred) pot of water. The organizers stopped her allowed her mother only (obviously, the money paid is only for one person!) The mother tried to convince the organizers but they did not agree. Then the mother left the girl behind at her door steps of the house, and went ahead to wash the feet of the holy man.

I was standing there seeing all the things happening and now I am curious as to what the girl is going to do! The little girl saw her mother washing the feet of the holy man and sprinkling the water on her head, the little girl looked around and found all the people around were big and busy. Then she quietly bend forward pushed her long skirt to the side and with the pot of water in her hand, she washed her own feet, sprinkled that water on her head and touched the water to her eyes with total devotion. I was filled with immense joy looking at the rare sight!

I felt in my heart that the tender feet of the innocent girl were much holier and divine compared to the costly feet of the holy man!

Those are very innocent! Where there is innocence, manipulation is not there. It is priceless! In innocence, ego is not born. When ego is not there, even if you wash your own feet it is washing divine feet only. Where ‘I’ is not there only devotion is there. Washing ones own feet, is like Krishna referring to ‘I’ in Bhagavad-Gita. When Krishna says ‘I’ he is not saying out of ego. It is not like ordinary people saying ‘I’

Krishna says in Gita, ‘give up all Dharmas and surrender to me. ‘I’ shall liberate you from all sins. This ‘I’ of Krishna is like the innocent ‘I’ or the tender feet of the child.

Many take it unfortunately literally, and say how egoistic is the statement of Krishna asking Arjuna, who is a trained and courageous warrior, to surrender just because he came to him for advice and words of wisdom to clarify his confusion. Why should Krishna ask him to surrender and be a slave! Arjuna is not a kid, who does not understand. Why should he not try to convince logically? This is how some take stand. It appears like Krishna is not using intellect but is playing emotional trick.

Some others take the sentence literally and try to propagate the idea that Krishna is the only lord and therefore he said so. Krishna is the only lord and neither Rama nor Shiva nor any other god assured anybody any time but Krishna did and he did give salvation. You can do any amount of sins he will clean all that up and makes you fresh! This is another type of fanatics!

When you are looking at them logically these arguments, appear right and convincing!

First of all, let us see, whether we can limit our understanding to logic and science only or do we have a reason to go beyond!

Science lives on logic and develops on logic and it appears very convincing because you see it is man’s logic, which has developed all this science. Thinkers like Aristotle said, man is a thinking or rational animal. In other words, animals have no rational mind but man has. It is only this rational mind identifies man over animals. But with the technology development, we are in a difficult situation. With the birth of computers, man has invented machines which can think like man. In fact, the present computers, both in speed and volume, can handle thinking much better than human being. Many times human being may falter but computers do not. They also can not afford to make mistakes. The computers have greater facility to think than human being. If only thinking is the criteria for superiority of human being over other things as Aristotle mentioned, lifeless computers prove better than human beings.

We need to understand thinking little more deeply. We have hands and legs as our instruments and we have invented substitute implements to take care of them. These implements are much better than the hands and legs. Similarly, we have an instrument which thinks and we have invented substitute implements which can do their function. That is called as computer.

This only proves the process called thinking does not belong to consciousness. It belongs to an implement or an instrument. It is a mechanical process and consciousness is not mechanical, matter is mechanical. Logic belongs to mind and brain. Superior to logic and thinking we have another activity going on within which is ‘feeling’. Machine does not feel but man feels. The feeling that I am limited, this belongs to me, this I feel no good all such things only man can feel and no machine can feel. This forms ego of man too and we are familiar with this ego. Ego limits us and isolates us from the rest of the creation.

We are so familiar with this ego. Therefore, even when Krishna says, surrender to ‘me’; we look at with an idea of limited ego. We start questioning as how can a person like Krishna who gave such an extra ordinary message talk from the platform of ego. There are two reasons for this question to rise.

The whole training in this world is to give importance to ‘me and mine’ which is this limited and limiting ego. We tend to look at every thing with this limited ego. Limiting is putting boundary and is called as ego. When there is no boundary, we feel insecure. We feel highly insecure if we do not see it with the view of ego.

The second reason is our ego exists based on material world which is again derived from our senses. Even if we are thinking of the sun which has so much power or the galaxies or Milky Way that contains so many stars and expand to so many light years etc, the knowledge of them all belongs to thinking which is again based on senses and their mathematics. This knowledge is also our ego. More and more knowledge becomes further decoration of our ego. Though the magnitude of these objects may humble us for a second the knowledge of these objects will become our ego and we feel we are grater than all of them.

Apart from this knowledge, there is another aspect with in us, which is feeling and it appears to be much closer to us than the knowledge. Feelings are of two types one is gross like the feeling of hot and cold, and the other is subtle that feel god’s presence, a feeling of compassion for the animals, feeling of wonder, etc.

One fear the intellectual always has, is that if it does not fit in logic or thinking then it becomes a myth and it goes far away from reality. It is then a blind faith.

Vedanta holds the view that even to think that every thing has to be explained by intellect or logic itself is a blind faith. There are several experiences, which are spontaneous and which are not bound by the senses but the moment you have them all our impressions change. We feel elevated. But if you bring in intellect the whole experience is lost, the whole innocence is lost. The spontaneity is not there any more.

A similar experience is given in the case of Janaka.

In the second chapter of ‘Astavakra geeta’, Janaka, the king of Mithila,says, “Oh I am wonderful I bow to me out of full respect. This sentence, he repeats several times. Each time wondering at one or the other aspect and the aspect is not logical and not related to any particular sense organ.

Aho, aham namo myaham, … oh I am wonderful and I bow at my feet…

Spirituality is experience and not logic. Logic can not even be a shadow of spirituality like a live experience. Same way god is an experience which only a person who can go beyond logic can have!

Aristotle said, man is a thinking animal, but we need to change this statement today after all this technological development. Man’s growth is in the experience is much profounder than the thinking. It reaches in to all his pores of the body all his cells of the body. Even a simple experience like you tasted ice cream you whole body feels the coolness. You take liquor; it reaches every part of your body, immediately your legs show your eyes show the influence of the liquor. Your talk can not hide the influence. Karl Marx said spirituality is like intoxication. He is true because spirituality is an experience and not just intellectual. in spirituality unlike in inteelctual every cell willl be filled with expereince!

For Krishna the expression of ‘me’ or ‘my’ is only symbolic and nothing more than that. No ego is attached in that. This ‘me’ is the expression of god it is not solid ‘my’ like our ‘my’. But we take the symbolic ‘my’ very seriously like the flag of the nation which is nothing but the symbol. If one spits on the land of the nation, nobody bothers but if one spits on the flag there will be total violence. You go to the best of government offices you see every where the marks of the spitting in every corner.

If you look into Krishna, there is no ‘I’ at all. How can there be ego. How can you think that Krishna would have ego. Before the war, when there was a need for a messenger to negotiate with Kauravas, he went without any hesitation or any ego, that he is so great.

A very sweet incident happened in the life of Sri Ramakrishna. When the person who took the photo of Sri Ramakrishna in sitting posture, which is now the main picture, being worshipped in the Ramakrishna maths, he started offering his Pranams again and again and started saying how wonderful and how spiritual it is! Some one then pointed to him, “Thakur, what are you doing; why are you bowing to you it is your picture”. Thakur very innocently replied, “where is my picture, I am not offering my respects to the person in the picture I am seeing the Samadhi and I am offering my prayers to this Samadhi and not the person”!

We are all Brahman the divinity when we are not there in other words our ego is not there. That is the real state of Samadhi and that is the state of every child. With spiritual Sadhana, we have to become once again child like. That is the reason Jesus said in bible only a child like can reach the kingdom of god!

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