Recently I have spent some time at Patanjali Yogpeeth Haridwar, where Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev teaches yoga to thousands of practitioners residing there. I met many devotees and then on my visit to Har Ki Pauri and Rishikesh, met some of the pilgrims and discussed about their religious beliefs and spirituality. During my stay I started thinking what it really means ... and here are some of my thoughts and some of the images that I have had taken in these places...
What Spirituality means?
Satan asked the Divine One, "What are they for?”
“They are an experiment in Morals and Conduct. Observe them, and be instructed." … Man is an experiment; the other animals are another experiment. Time will show whether they were worth the trouble. The exhibition is over; you may take your leave, my lords."
Several days passed by. This stands for a long stretch of (our) time, since in heaven a day is as a thousand years… Satan had been making admiring remarks about certain of the Creator's sparkling industries -- remarks which, being read between the lines, were sarcasms … and in the end, Satan is banished to Earth and privately reports back to St. Michael and St. Gabriel (through his letters from Earth)
Satan's Letter – a very small excerpts
“This (Earth) is a strange place, and extraordinary place, and interesting... Moreover… man thinks he is the Creator's pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him... He prays to Him, and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He (the creator) sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered. The daily affronts, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this perseverance…”
– Mark Twain in his book “Letters From The Earth” (1909)
Now according to Charles Darwin, the father of Evolution, the survival of human beings as dominant species is quite a curious phenomenon as humans are not very formidable physical beings. But here we are, thriving and surviving, 6.2 billions of us. Even surviving the bottleneck about 3 to 4 millions of years ago, when our count was reduced to only 2000 to 3000 on the planet earth.
The evolutionary scientists agree that one of the reasons for our survival those days, was due to the fact that we could work together and hunt in groups. We were the social animals on the planet. As our ancestors migrated towards various landmass of Earth, evolved into various classes. Many among these classes did not survive e.g. the Neanderthals. They became extinct due to their inability to change, develop and adapt to new things; learn new way of hunting and doing things together. The class, which finally survived and became ancestors to the modern mankind, were not only social animals but also developed further tools like language, to efficiently communicate with each other, to form better hunting parties etc. They could think forward into the future, devise strategies to hunt, farm and store food for survival.
As the history progressed, certain men among them rose to become the leaders of the various tribes and clans spread across the face of earth. These leaders, in order to keep their growing groups in certain cohesive control, devised the most potent tool of controlling masses - Religion in its structured form. And till today, its proving to be the most effective tool for controlling diverse people in large groups.
The word religion derives from the Latin word ‘Religure’ which means ‘to bind’, but religion slowly, in its modern avatar, has become something that divides. More and more people do more and more different things based on their individual diverse religious beliefs, faiths and practices. For some it has even become a farce as Mark Twain’s Satan says in his ‘Letters from Earth’, “More men go to church than want to”.
When I travel to various places across India in my own spiritual search, I find various people flocking around temples, holy places and filling up ashrams along the riverbanks. I wonder about the reasons they are there. Sometimes, I try to talk to them to find whether they are looking for something or just escaping from the rigors of living. I hear the usual rhetoric of God and His guidance to find Him. Some even go through their convoluted philosophy of being enlightened and how they have transformed their lives from the penury of peace to the wealth of happiness. I find most of them begging in the garb of religion. Almost always in the end, they want to have something from me, of me. They are not happy with what they have and do not want to be happy by being true to themselves, just wander from one place to another, even though I doubt if they have gained anything in their wanderings.
|A sadhu in his full regalia on the banks of Holy River Ganges - Triveni Ghat|
Some even try to show their siddhi (A power, attained through rituals, penance and practice, with which they can supposedly do miraculous things) but usually it turns out to be a performance of deception, guile or guesswork. And it drives me out of these places to solitude, nature and to search within, thinking.
But I am not here to talk about Religion, as there are far better people than me to talk about it. Instead I will share some of my thoughts on spirituality that I have had on my recent journey to Patanjali Yogapeetha, Haridwar and Rishikesh.
|A sadhu wandering on the banks of Ganges - Rishikesh|
“Spirituality is not a temple, pilgrimage or an escape to wilderness of nature, but a workshop where you work with your inner self to find the right path to be happy, content and attuned to the universal consciousness. As a human being, it’s our deepest desire to connect with who we are and why we are here. Spirituality is the factory floor where we weave our living with universal fabric to become an integral part of the cosmic design. Remember, being what you are is the only path to becoming our own supreme self and in bliss; otherwise our life is just an aberration – a wrong stitch in time.” – V.E.D (From Thought Of the Week)
The Spiritual Spark
In the beginning there was a spark (some people call it The Big Bang) and the universe came into existence. There was another spark and from inert molecules like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen etc. a living cell formed in the deepest depth of ocean, millions of years ago. Now here onwards for the journey of mankind on earth, the ‘Theory of Evolution’ takes the credit. Yet I believe that behind the evolution from the first living cell to modern mankind, there were few more sparks. For example the spark, which pushed a living organism out of the ocean to the dry grounds. Another such spark gave development of mind a boost towards developing larger brain and the frontal lobe. Neanderthals did not survive the onslaught of the ‘survival of the fittest’, as they probably did not get that spark of change, but our ancestors did. So here we are, as a result of many pushes through the catalytic sparks in being what we are today.
|At Triveni Ghat - Rishikesh|
Though these mysterious sparks are not defined or explained by the Scientists or by the ‘theory of evolution’, still we cannot jump on to the bandwagon of creationists too (who believe that everything was created by a Creator). It will, inevitably, lead to the question of ‘who created the Creator’. But one thing I am getting close to accepting is that there has to be something beyond our genes, DNA and our conscious and logical mind.
There is some reason for all this to happen in such timed perfection. There is a reason for us to be here. There is some cosmic design to fulfill. There is some way it’s all connected. And we feel it, every time we experience a moment of blissful happiness. We feel that connection, every time we do something good for people around us. We feel it every time we hug our kids, friends, family, or fall in love. Reaching out to that fleeting connection and sustaining it for longer duration within your inner self, is what I believe is being spiritual.
The beauty of this connection is that it’s not ‘one-way’ street. If the search within is strong enough and sustained, you also receive happiness, insights, enlightenment and your ‘reason for being’, from the collective source of universal consciousness that is all around us. That I believe is my spirituality in a nutshell.
SørenKierkegaard, a great philosopher said once, “People are so smart that we actually come to realize that we exist”. The problem with this kind of “being smart” is that we bind ourselves with logic and reason, whereas there are things around life, truth, reality, beauty and us; for which we really don’t have the tools to understand yet. We are still not smart enough to understand things beyond time, big bang, quantum particles likes Higgs boson, speed of light etc. We are still groping in the dark about things hidden within our own physical mind like our own consciousness. And I believe, given the lack of scientific understanding in our present generation, spirituality can be a better tool to understand things like ‘who am I’, ‘Why we are here’, ‘The supreme consciousness’ etc.
|Some yoginis at Paatanjali Yogpeeth Ashram - Haridwar|
We just need to open ourselves to connect within to reach out to that universal cloud computing resource and download the road map to happiness.
Hope you have enjoyed this long discussion and the images I have captured across the spiritual landscape. Do let me know if you have some thoughts about it.
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya