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What to Give Back to India?
Arlindo: Hello, everyone, I find beautiful topics of discussions in the forum lately – I am trying to find the time to write a few comments – the seminar with Ramji has started on the fifth, as you probably know. Very beautiful! I love the teacher and his teaching style. Very brilliant! Everything he says seems to be loaded with a clear purpose: to expose and remove one’s wrong notions and beliefs.
To answer your question about India, I think I may have a vasana for India that may come from another lifetime. I remember my first trip to Poona in 1987 – I immediatly felt so much at home in India for about seven years! Now, having stayed away from India for 20+ years, I was imagining that, after having developed a vasana for Europe and the USA, India with its dirtiness and poverty would be a shock, but guess what? Just after a week or so this feeling of being back home brings again great comfort to my heart.
I love the culture, the local people, the devotional atmosphere, the depth of the symbolism behind their rituals – they all seem to know about Isvara, karma, and many of them know about the self, or awareness. Much different from the poor materialists we find in the West. And it is very special in this small town – or let’s say, in the Ramana Ashram where the shakti and the silence is so pervasive.
On another note, I see the foreigners coming and going to Tiruvannamalai, others coming and staying – all somewhat lost and without knowing why they came here or what they are looking for. They are suffering and they mostly come looking for relief. I met some of them, even some old friends from many years back, and after some time one thing led to the other and I ended up giving a few satsangs, introductory talks on Vedanta.
By the look of it I have lost their friendship already. They do not seem to want to see me for the moment. ☺ Unfortunately, they are pretty much lost in their vague experiential “action-oriented” notions about enlightenment, just as if in a labyrinth with no way to find the exit. They are confused due to the apparent contradictory messages coming from Ramana, who sometimes would teach dualistic yoga and at other times pure jnana yoga (knowledge). They all tend to hear only Ramana’s messages referent to duality: action-experience. And Ramana never really explained the relationship between knowledge and action-experience.
We Vedantins are the rare mature souls with a vision of reality as non-duality – we are “la crema della crema” of the spiritual world, and most importantly, with the understanding that as Ramana himself said, only by knowledge alone the self can be realized (which is indeed related to the subject of the latest discussions in the forum, which I will try to comment on some time tomorrow). Much love to you all.
As far as your question, Visarjana, “Now that you have a sattvic mind being in India, what is it you can and will do for India in return?,” my mind was already predominantly sattvic before I came to India. That is one of the values of self-knowledge, the greatest purifier of the mind. In fact I came here to see India for what I thought would be my last visit in this lifetime, and with no intention of getting or taking anything. Guess what? I am already making plans to come back next year. It is a kind of a love affair.
And to my surprise I find India to be so abundantly “RICH” that I have only love, respect, appreciation and gratitude to offer to it in return. We have so much to learn from the people here. Definitely, Visarjana, the India I see is a completely different India from the one you have seen. As you have probably heard in our Vedanta circles, jiva’s experience is a purely subjective phenomenon. It has very little to do with Isvara’s reality.
Visarjana: Hi, Arlindo, thanks for sharing your thoughts, perceptions and impressions regarding India.
Here is a paper, about 105 pages long, you might want to take into consideration: The Caste System Effects on Poverty in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
By the way, James once said, paraphrased: “I want to make India great again… spiritually, socially and economically.”
Bob Dylan once answered in an interview when asked what love is: “Love? It’s an action thing.”
Arlindo: Hello, Visarjana. We all are, to different degrees, aware of injustices happening all over the world. We also experience them according to our own karmas in the field of life ruled by its merit system. This is all part of Isvara’s play: good and evil – dharma and adharma. This is a lawful and intelligently designed universe in which all objects are subjected to the its rules. Pleasure and pain are the inevitable opposites of life. And as you probably heard Ramji saying, you cannot win or lose here, because life is a zero-sum game.
Yes, India is beautiful, but it is also ugly, the same way in the developed West where most people often have access to the commodities and comforts of life but are often afflicted with too much rajas. This apparent dualistic universe is a play in constant modification due to rajas and tamas energies operating 24/7. Cultivating sattva is the key to developing the vision which will allow us to see through the pair of opposites maya presents to our senses.
You say that James once said, “I want to make India great again… spiritually, socially and economically.” If James said so, he probably meant to say that by helping to bring the understanding of the scriptures to Indian society he is indirectly helping people to cancel their self-ignorance, and therefore he would be helping them to live a more just, comfortable and happy life. Spreading self-knowledge is the most efficient way to re-establish dharma. It is also the greatest expression of love one can offer to others – because the root cause of adharmic thoughts and actions and the suffering we find in the world are but the wrong notions human jivas have about the nature of the self.
I am going to quote the Gita in order to make another important point: “It is better to do a second-rate job on your own dharma than a first-rate job on someone else’s dharma,” “Death following your own dharma is preferable to life following the dharma of others,” and “Following the dharma of others is fraught with danger.”
It means that pleasure and pain have their purpose in life. Whenever we see someone suffering we can be assured that suffering is serving its purpose in the process of evolution of that soul. Nobody is a victim here. Everyone is only reaping the fruits of their own actions. There is no room for mistakes in Isvara’s karmic-psychological system.
To quote the Gita again: “The wise neither grieve for the living nor for the dead.” It means that the wise understand the big picture, and therefore they are not concerned with life or death, with pleasure or pain – they take all as prasad from Isvara. The wise have given up the burden of karma by understanding that all karma belongs to Isvara, and that all beings are going to follow their relative nature in any case.
And this brings us to another important issue which is not simple or easy to understand: svadharma.
Svadharma is our most essential secondary nature as a jiva. If one’s apparent nature is that of a general guiding his army, his duty is to fight – especially an unfair and uninvited war. But if one’s apparent nature is that of “doing good” to others or of a pacifist, his/her duty is to act in harmony with its cause: to re-establish justice in whichever possible way. But if instead one’s svadharma is self-knowledge and moksa (which is the highest dharma there is), then going around trying to save the world from suffering and injustice is but a waste of one’s precious life and intelligence. As Krishna says, “Doing the dharma of others is fraught with danger.”