Sunday 30 June 2024

Sri Ramakrishna, Patanjali & Jihad

In "Sri Ramakrishna, The Great Master", the spiritual biography of Sri Ramakrishna, it is mentioned that one Govinda Ray, was attracted by Islam & was initiated in it. He came to Dakshineswar & met Sri Ramakrishna, who thought "This also is a path to the realisation of God & the sportive Mother (Kali) has been blessing many people through this path also. I must see through it." So Sri Ramakrishna got initiated into Islam, chanted "Allah", wore Islamic clothing, did namaz regularly & was disinclined even to see Hindu Devas, not to speak of worshipping them. He had a vision of an effulgent, bearded person.(Mohammad?) Afterwards Sri Ramakrishna felt he had merged finally in the attributeless Brahman, the Absolute. (Allah?) He did not even enter the Kali Temple during this period.

One Hindu spiritual discipline is defined by Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras." At the outset itself, it states "Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhaha", i.e., control of the mind. This complete Yoga is quite different from the commonly practiced one of physical & breathing exercises. These may improve health but may not be spiritually productive.

Coming back to Islam, the word "Jihad" is not present in Qur'an. It is however mentioned in the "Hadith", contemporary accounts of the life & sayings of Mohammad. After returning from a battle defending his faith, he is supposed to have said "We are returning from the lesser jihad to continue the greater jihad, the more difficult & more important battle against our own ego, selfishness, greed & evil."

This may be similar to the "Chitta Vritti Nirodaha" of Patanjali & also explain Sri Ramakrishna's desire to practice Islam's greater jihad.

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Maverick Musicians: Ustad Vilayat Khan & Vidwan S. Balachander

Both were feisty, given to making controversial statements & thought themselves under recognised.

The two accessible biographies of them are "The Sixth String of Vilayat Khan" by Namita Devidayal & "Voice of the Veena -  S. Balachander" by Vikram Sampath. They shared many common views. Both liked cars & perfumes, "Brut" being the Veena maestro's favourite. Both disliked Pandit Ravi Shankar (or his popularity!). Vilayat Khan refused all Padma awards. Balachander was never awarded the "Sangeeta Kalanidhi", the highest honour of the Music Academy, though he was awarded & accepted "Padma Bhushan" from the Central Government.

Balachander was a polymath, being a film director, chess player, good in Billiards & Snooker also. He was a self-taught genius, unlike Vilayat Khan who traced his musical ancestry to six generations. Both made many innovations in their respective instruments, the Veena & the Sitar. Surprisingly, Balachander first learnt the Sitar on his own & gave a radio recital of Carnatic music played on it. Later he switched over to the Veena.

Though Vilayat Khan's legacy is being continued by numerous sitarists of his gharana, Vikram Sampath writes that Balachander's legacy is being forgotten, except by his last disciple Vidushi Jayanti Kumaresh.

Friday 7 June 2024

Is Hindu Centric view the only way to tackle Euro Centric View?

Primarily due to colonisation, the Eurocentric view of the world became prevalent. As more & more countries threw off the Imperialist yoke, their indigenous culture blossomed with new vigour & the tendency to view everything from an European viewpoint became irrelevant.

Hinduism, being one of the oldest civilisations, had no doubt, the lion's share in philosophy, culture & religion to contribute to mankind. But as per an ancient saying, it held that "Sarvey Janah sukhino bhavantu" i.e. let all mankind be happy. This was in stark contrast to the Semitic religions' attitude. The Jews believed that they are "The Chosen People" as if God was a stepfather, discriminating among his children. The  Christians came up with Christian/Heathen dichotomy. Islam divided people into Believers & Kaffirs (Unbelievers) with Jannat (Heaven) being only open to the Believers.

Amidst all these divisive ideas, Swami Vivekananda, espousing his master Sri Ramakrishna's belief, boldly proclaimed that ALL religions are true. This is also rational in that God, being omnipotent by definition, could have created only a single religion, but didn't choose to, presumably to cater to different races with different needs. 

With the above background, replacing Eurocentrism with Hindu-centrism, as is being done now by a section of Hindus, may not be quite accurate. A more balanced approach may be to consider a multi-centric approach, where all civilisations get due credit for their unique contributions.

This in no way takes away the enormous contribution to World Culture by Hinduism.