March 2008

Vol 7 - No. 9
























Spirituality | March 2008



“Spiritual hunger is common to all; but tastes differ.  There are different forms of God to suit all tastes.” - Swami Yogaswarupananda, of the Divine Life Society, a Vedanta-based foundation in Rishikesh.

Each religion, by the help of more or less myth which it takes more or less seriously, proposes some method of fortifying the human soul and enabling it to make its peace with its destiny.   -George Santayana

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Time spent laughing is time spent with the Gods. - Japanese Proverb  

  Transforming Development - Hindu Perspective  
Part I I

  BY Chander Khanna

Early on the second day, one crosses a small stream flowing West-ward, cutting across the Himalayas, as it merges with other streams becoming rivers with distinct names and forms ending in the Arabian Sea as part of the Indus river.

   For Reference Notes

By mid-afternoon, there is another stream flowing North West, exiting around the K2 Peak – also joining the Arabian Sea 1,700 KM later. At dusk, one passes yet another stream flowing South East to become the Brahmaputra ending up in the Bay of Bengal some 1,500 Km to the East. Same cloud burst. Some drops of water, by accident of birth, become known as the Indus, others as Yarlung, Ganges, Sutlej or the Brahmaputra River. Each with its own name and form.30 Just like the gold of this ring which came into being as part of a supernova explosion, to become my wedding ring today, part of someone else’s necklace tomorrow, or to serve as a tooth filling someday. Names and forms. As the Gita says … that which exists never ceases to be, that which is not - does not come to Be.31

Hanging Glacier

As for the single drop of water - made up of two atoms of Hydrogen and one of Oxygen - one cannot touch, taste, smell or even feel it in its vapour form as a cloud when the electrons are in their excitable outer orbits. One can do all this when it is in the liquid state, but not even a bullet can pass through when the same molecule forms part of solid ice in its frozen state. In its journey as part of glaciers, lakes, and as pristine rivers which become polluted with toxins, the H2O, the very essence of our drop of water, remains H2O and does not become H2 arsenic or H2 lead. 

It finally joins the seas where it merges with the waters in all the oceans, no longer a Ganges, Euphrates, Colorado, or the Mississippi. There it may remain merged in the depth of the oceans for Millennia, or evaporates falling as rain immediately, or may get locked in as part of an iceberg, or may take on another name and form as a new river. As do you and I.  

This metaphor of the Hindu perspective on re-birth has one caveat - our drop of water does not carry any impressions of the joys or the havoc it may have created as part of a Major River. 


Waterfall and Lake


You and I, on the other hand, carry the impressions, our actions (Karmas), until these embedded impressions (Sanskaras) are exhausted like a burnt seed well into the next cycle of creation. This accounts for perhaps the greatest solace to a Hindu when faced with calamities - his greatest source of spiritual strength in the face of adversity.  


The Black Hole of Calcutta being called the “City of Joy” is no idle play of words.   





To sum up: 


10    Many million verses, laid out with such precision and brevity so as not to be lost when committed to memory, accompanied by detailed commentaries from different perspectives, passed on from teacher to the student engaged in dialectic. 


Amongst this incredible storehouse of scriptural texts, if one had to choose a text which captures most of the essential points of the Hindu faith, it would have to be the Bhagavad-Gita. An incredibly daring creative strategy, according to Krishna Chaitanya32, on the part of sage Vyasa to put in the mouth of historical Krishna, the essence of the understandings and impressions of the Vedic Seers emerging from varying stages of Meditation (Samadhi)33 – akin to the revelations of the burning bush. 


11    Reality according to Hindu thought, as also in Quantum theory, cannot be known with certainty. An important principle is the ancient concept known as Chatursh Koti  .........It is, it is not; it both is and is not; it neither is nor is it not.34 All contradictions are in fact complementary, forming an integral part of the Whole. For every matter there’s anti-matter, every light photon and the electron behave both as particles and as formless waves.35  


12    One contradiction in the Hindu society that is in fact not complementary is the slow pace in rooting out the caste system, particularly as it affects those deemed at the lowest rung of the ladder. It’s not good enough to say that it is constitutionally illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste, or that members of this sub group whom Gandhiji referred to as Harijans, children of God, are beginning to hold positions as Heads of State, ministers, lawmakers, in the judiciary or armed services. Or that one third of most government jobs are reserved for this sub-group. Or that caste consciousness is practically non-existent in urban centres. Not when 70% of the 200 Million Harijans and tribals live in rural areas. Why should there be even a single Harijan?   


Slavery came and went, burning of witches and non-conformists on the stake came and went, deforming little girl’s feet has long since gone, mutilation of female genitalia is on its way out, but denying human dignity to fellow human beings is something for which all thinking Hindus must lower their heads in shame. As part of the sacred commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, the custodians of the Hindu Faith must make one last effort, one final push and take the lead in eliminating the lingering residue of this historic aberration – the ultimate in Homo Hierarchius.


13    As for idol worshipping, it can be summed up in one sentence …. It’s NOT that many gods are being worshipped but that the Hindu devotee values and worships the many-ness of the one and only Ultimate Reality, which is neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian. In fact the Gita asserts “…whenever, wherever, whosoever, seeks Me in earnestness, I appear and strengthen his or her faith from whatever perspective he or she seeks Me”.36 The Hindu devotee has total freedom to focus on the impersonal absolute of the Upanishads or a manifest personal deity for whom he even has complete freedom to postpone his quest.  


14    Intentionality is incessantly and immanently at work in Nature. While the Hindu thought agrees fully with the theory of Evolution, it is not the evolution of pure chance of Carl Becker, Bertrand Russell, Darwin and Moned etc. According to the late Krishna Chiatanya, an example of the most potent and conscious intentionality in nature is at the terminal of organic, inorganic, and biological evolution where man appears – after having lived 8.4 Million lives in lesser forms, Man finally arrives as part of Directed Evolution. 


15    In the spirit of opposites, it would be equally correct to say that Hindu thought concurs with the observation of Bertrand Russell that, at times, Man behaves as the most irritating species inflicted by Mother Nature to lord over her creation, or as Jonathan Swift says in the context of Lilliputians: Man is the most pernicious race of mischievous vermin which Mother Nature has ever suffered on her Creation. 


We shall next see how Man has earned that reputation. Hindu thought describes these aberrations in terms of Yugas, cycles, rhythms both short-term, as swings of the pendulum, as well as of a very long duration lasting Millions of years.


Part  I 


To be continued...


[Chander Khanna is the organizer of the Ontario Branch of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Society, and one of the most active members of the Toronto interfaith community. The article is based on a Keynote Address presented at International Conference – Soesterberg, Netherlands, October 15-17, 2007. He can be reached at 416-590-9645 or]

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