Saturday, April 1, 2017

From ‘Worshipping the Divine Oneness of Arunachala-Ramana’ by Muktha Manu & Peter Berking

…geological finding of the core age of Arunachala as 3.8 billion years old….one of the oldest rock formations on earth….Hence the Holy Hill of Arunachala is the oldest natural shrine in the world.

For 54 years after His Enlightenment, Bhagavan Ramana was accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, to both rich and poor, mighty and humble, scholar and ignorant, even to animals and birds.

Of all the saints who adored Arunachala in many hymns, the child-like Jnanasambandar’s songs are remarkable.

….Major ardent Western devotee…writes….
Bhagavan would wander out on to the Hill a few times a day, and if any attachment to anything on earth could be said of him, it was surely an attachment to the Hill. He loved it and said it was God Himself. He used to say that it was the top of the spiritual axis of the earth; there must be, he said, another mountain corresponding to Arunachala at exactly the opposite side of the globe, the corresponding pole of the spiritual axis…..

….Kanakammal continued:
……Bhagavan’s face took on a special glow! Bhagavan told his devotees of the numerous miracles which took place on the Hill. He told them about his own life on the Hill, the various caves dotting the Hill, the greatness of the banyan tree on the northern slope of the highest peak, about the siddhas [Self-Realized astral beings] who dwell on the Hill and about the priceless herbs that grow on it that cure even incurable diseases

Another meaning of Arunachala is …. ‘A-runa-achala’ means the achala [hill] which makes runa [bondage] non-existent.

Sage Nandikeshvara tells Markandeya Rishi the assurance given by Lord Shiva:
By seeing Chidambaram, by being born in Tiruvarur, by dying in Kasi, or by merely thinking of Arunachala, one will surely attain Liberation…..

The whole Hill is sacred. It is Shiva Himself. Just as we identify ourselves with a body, so Shiva has chosen to identify Himself with this Hill. Arunachala is pure Wisdom (jnana) in the form of a Hill. It is out of compassion to those who seek Him that He has chosen to reveal Himself in the form of a Hill visible to the eye. The seeker will obtain guidance and solace by staying near this Hill.
-          Bhagavan Sri Ramana

Bhagavan quoted from the Arunachala Puranam, pointing to an important verse which says: ….If all the holy places are comparable to a body, holy Arunachala is like the face and the Lord of Sonagiri is like the eyes of the face.

…Even though the Hill is only 2682 feet high, it dominates the landscape….

Devotee Masthan Sahib …..When Masthan Swami died, Bhagavan gave instructions that he should be buried as a saint, using the rituals laid down in Tirumular’s Tirumandiram. These same rules were followed when Bhagavan and his mother were interred. Masthan’s samadhi shrine subsequently became something of a pilgrimage centre since many people reported that requests addressed to the samadhi were usually granted.

Bhagavan used to say ‘Kailasa is the abode of Shiva; Arunachala is Shiva Himself.’

To give verbal instructions it is necessary for the Guru to be in human form, but to have Satsang and subtle inner guidance He may be in any form. That is Guru Kripa. There is no difference between God, Guru, and the Self.
-          ‘Guru and His Grace’ in Maharshi’s Gospel

The Arunachala Hill….is an isolated hill, about fifty miles (80 km) inland from the Bay of Bengal. ….a conspicuous object for many kilometres around. The Arunachala Hill is referred to as the oldest hill on Earth, thus older than the Himalayas, and is regarded as the heart of the earth owing to its sanctity. The Deccan plateau, particularly the Eastern Ghats, is known to be one of the oldest lands on earth. ……In Arunachala, the rock is found to be 2.55 billion years old.

It would appear that among other mountainous belts, the Deccan Plateau in Southern India including Tiruvannamalai is one of the areas of little or no tectonic activity, i.e. seismological; these belts have not changed their characteristics drastically over a long period of time. ……This Hill is of igneous rock….

The Western seeker Paul Brunton….writes ……
A geologist friend of mine from America who visited me lately proclaimed Arunachala to have been thrown up by the earth under the stress of some violent volcanic eruption in the dim ages before even the coal-bearing strata were formed. In fact, he dated this rocky mass of granite back to the earliest epoch of the history of our planet’s crust, that epoch which long preceded the vast sedimentary formations in which fossil records of plants and animals have been preserved. It existed long before gigantic saurian of the prehistoric world moved their ungainly forms through the primeval forests that covered our early earth. He went even further and made it contemporaneous with the formation of the very crust of the earth itself. Arunachala, he asserted, was almost as hoary and as ancient as our planetary home itself…..

It would appear that Bhagavan was quite certain about a corresponding Holy hill exactly on the side opposite Arunachala, on the other side of the globe. The following extract from a book by Sadhu Arunachala (Major A. W. Chadwick) .....Chadwick writes …
Bhagavan used to say that Arunachala was the top of the spiritual axis of the earth. He said ‘There must be another mountain corresponding to Arunachala at exactly the opposite side of the globe, the corresponding pole of the spiritual axis.’ So certain was He of this, that one evening He made me fetch an atlas and see if this was not correct. I found, according to the atlas, the exact opposite point came in the sea about a hundred miles off the coast of Peru. He seemed doubtful about this. I pointed out that there might be some island at this spot or a mountain under the sea…..

……there is a sacred mountain at the other end of the axis in Peru, South America. The Inca Indians worshipped this mountain and established a very sacred spiritual city there called Machu Picchu.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi always insisted that the Holy Hill of Arunachala was the spiritual axis of the world, even in a physical sense …..So it was his strong view that another Holy Hill existed diagonally across the globe ……This itself was remarkable since He normally did not take very rigid positions except on matters concerning the Self and the Heart … appears that Bhagavan may not have supported the conclusion of the research done by Major Chadwick (that an underwater mountain may be a candidate), since He seemed convinced that a land-based mountain existed at the other end of this ‘spiritual axis’.

Machu Pichu is about 100 miles away from the exact ‘opposite’ pole of the spiritual axis of the earth. ….The Incas worshipped the Machu Picchu Mountain itself as sacred ….the Divine Mother is worshipped as Goddess of the Universe in both cultures. In Machu Picchu the Godess of the Universe is worshipped as ‘Paachamama’, the manifestation of the Divine Mother, a name that bears a striking similarity to the name ‘Pachaiamman’ used for Parvathi in South Indian shrines. (In the early 1990s, during a plague, Bhagavan Ramana spent many months at the Pachaiamman Temple at the foot of the Hill, outside the town of Tiruvannamalai.           )

From ‘The Indian Colony of Champa’ by Phanindranath Bose

In the first century A.D., in the mainland of India, the mighty Mauryan empire had broken into pieces and the Sungas and Kanvas were ruling over Magadha. At such a juncture…….these colonists went over to Champa and made settlements over there. They might have taken the land route through Burma and Assam, or the direct sea route coming past Java.

The application of the name of Champa to this colony may lead us to conclude that the colonists went from the eastern parts of India. The epigraphical evidence of Vo-can, however, points to the Southern India as the home of the Indian colonists of Champa. As the epigraphical evidence is more strong and trustworthy, we must accept the theory that at least the family of the first Indian royal dynasty of Champa went from the valley of Godaveri and Krishna, because the inscription of Vo-can bears close resemblance to that of Rudradamana at Girnar and of Satakarni Vasisthaputra at Kanheri

…..the Indian kings of Champa…for more than a thousand years (from the third century to the fourteenth century A.D.) they kept up in that country the Indian rule as well as the culture and civilization of India.x

The native Chams had a distinctive clannishness which resisted to some extent the Hindu colonization and the institution of castes. Each Cham clan had its own totem, and there were traditions current for each clan.

Another point to be noted is that Hindu civilization and culture could not influence the law of inheritance of the Chams. So we find that among the native Chams the rule of property going to females survived even the introduction of Hindu civilization. The rule about the devolution of kingship, however, was according to the Hindu Law.

The Hindu custom of sati prevailed in Champa.

…..the prince was known by the Indian name – yuvaraja. ….The yuvaraja was often elected by an assembly of great men. This custom still survives in Cambodia. At the death of the king, the council of ministers meets under the presidency of Aka Moha Sena and elects one as the king or confirms one chosen by the dead king.

Some kings selected their ministers only from among the Brahmans and Ksattriyas.

From Chinese sources, we know that the officers, brothers and even the sons of the king had not immediate access to the king. It is strange that though they were not easily accessible even to their relatives, the kings were sometimes assassinated.

The entire kingdom of Champa was divided into three provinces, with a governor over each of them. It is significant to note that the names of these provinces are Indian. …..The provinces are ….Amaravati. It is in North Champa……Vijaya. It is in central Champa ……Panduranga ….in South Champa

….in the reign of Harivarman …..the whole kingdom at that time consisted of 30,000 families.

These provinces of Champa were governed by high officials or by princes of the royal family. The province of Panduranga was often given to a prince. ….the Champa king was an absolute monarch….He had ….to maintain a large army. In the time of Wen, it consisted of ….40 to 50,000 men. It increased more and more afterwards. In the eighth century only the royal guard consisted of 5,000 men. ….The command of the army was given to the brothers or sons of the king.

While Cambodia provides us with the best specimens of Indian art and sculpture …..the artists of Champa were not inspired by the Indian ideal in the same way. They followed the Indian canons, and got the Indian form, bereft, however, of the inspiration. The result was that they could not approach the best specimens of Indian sculpture of the Gupta period.

The most popular of the Gods of the Hindu trinity in Champa was Siva…….the sculptors of Champa ….seemed to prefer to represent and worship Siva in the form of a lingam (phallus) ….The worship of the lingam was perhaps prevalent in Rigvedic times…..Whether we agree with Hopkins as to the Greek influence behind lingam worship or not, no one will deny that the worship of Siva and his emblem, the lingam, is of non-Aryan origin.

It is surprising that while Hinduism made such headway in Champa, Buddhism, which penetrated so far into China and Japan could not make much progress in Champa. This may be due to the fact that most of the kings of Champa were Hindus and that they were busy making endowments to Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
The remains of Buddhist sculptures in Champa show that Buddhism prevailed side by side with Hinduism, though it could not rival the latter in popularity.

This art of Champa, which is Indian in origin and design but Cham in execution…….

The stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata seem to have been familiar with the people of Champa, though perhaps they were not so popular as in Java.

India effected in Champa not only a physical but also a cultural conquest. Her sons ruled over Champa for more than twelve hundred years ……

Sunday, March 26, 2017

From ‘Swami Muktananda Paramahansa in Australia. With preface and talks by Baba Ram Dass’ Edited by Peter Hunt

….one of the first thought not exclusive signs of an awakened Kundalini are automatic bodily movements called kriyas (purificatory processes). A person may be sitting in a meditative posture when he finds his body bending forward so that his head touches the floor (yogamudra). This does not happen at his own volition, but automatically, like a nervous twitch. Its purpose is to remove a spinal fault. Defects vary from individual to individual, but whatever they be, Shakti removes only what is necessary, and that is why different people experience different kriyas.
-         -  Peter Hunt

The essence of all scriptures, the essence of the teachings of all saints, is that God dwells within you in His fullest grandeur and fullest splendor. Try to find him there!
-          - Sw.Muktananda

If you simply practice asanas or pranayamas do not think yourself a master Hatha yogi. The sign of mastery of Hatha Yoga is the awakening of your Kundalini. If it has not even stirred, your yogic practices have no meaning. Ordinary asanas and pranayamas are child’s play and are not meant for serious yogis. He alone is a yogi whose inner power has been released and has stabilized in the sahasrar and who is established in a state of unchanging inner peace.
-         - Sw.Muktananda

If you cannot foresee the exact moment of your death you are not practicing yoga, you are only practicing circus acrobatics. A yogi is quite accustomed to withdrawing his spirit from his body every day, so for him death holds no fear because it is just like sleep. The only difference between sleep and death is that after death we do not wake up in the same body.
-          - Sw.Muktananda

Because your attention is not towards Him it appears difficult to experience the Divine Being, but through practice you can find Him easily. You have only to descend into the depths of your own being. One simple way of doing this is to close your eyes and follow, with your mind, the downward movement of prana (breath). Once your mind reaches the centre of true bliss and happiness it stays there. In that state of supreme peace it gets beyond the reach of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow.
-         - Sw.Muktananda

Friday, March 3, 2017

From ‘A White Trail. A Journey into the heart of Pakistan's religious minorities’ by Haroon Khalid

Pakistani historiography discards Hindu and Sikh narratives from its discourse and where ever they are mentioned, they are always mentioned negatively.

The Muslim population of the country at the moment is about 97%. Out of the 3% non-Muslims, a large chunk belongs to the Ahmadiyya community; former Muslims, but now declared non-Muslims according to the Constitution of the country. Of the remaining percentage, the majority are Hindus living in the ‘faraway’ ‘peripheral’ regions of Southern Punjab, inner Sindh and Baluchistan. In 1947, when the country was created, the population of the non-Muslims was about 30% (without including the Ahmadiyya community), a majority of whom have migrated or converted to Islam……….

Holi at Multan
……Hiranyakashipu, the tyrant who is believed to have ruled the city of Multan thousands of years ago….Prahlad Bhagat ……His devotees built a temple in the memory of Prahlad at the spot where he supposedly killed his father – on a mound outside the city, which later became a popular spiritual site with mystics and saints. The temple stands even today………abandoned since partition ………the area came to be considered holy, as a result of which Muslim mystics were also attracted……..Bahauddin Zakariya (1170-1267) whose shrine came to be situated next to the temple. The tide of fortune has now turned and the temple which was once the fount of spirituality ……now lies in obscurity under the shadow of this massive shrine, which has become the symbol of the Muslim city of Multan……..there was a time when Hindu temples and Muslim shrines could share a wall and devotees visited both of them, an act almost unimaginable in a post-partition Pakistan.

Banned all over the country, alcohol can be legally purchased by nono-Muslims if they have a permit card, provided to them by the government for the purchase and consumption of alcohol. However, despite this categorization and limits on its sale, alcohol is readily available throughout the country and sold to people without permits. But permits do provide a benefit to the non-Muslims as alcohol is sold at a lower price on this license. Using this economic advantage, somn non-Muslim boys and men purchase alcohol in bulk and sell it to their Muslim clients at exorbitant prices………Despite being readily available, drinking remains a guilty pleasure in Muslim Pakistan.

The majority of the Hindu community of the city is uneducated and unaware of its political rights, given the demonization of the community in the Pakistani society – through education, media, cinema, etc. – most of them are too traumatized by the struggle of their daily existence to take up the cause of an abandoned temple.

………religious distinctions between Hindus and Christians have become blurred in urban Punjab…

Navratri at Bahawalnagar
Akaliyan Mohalla literally means ‘Community of the Minorities’……Compared to Central Punjab, Southern Punjab has been historically tolerant towards other non-Muslim faiths, which is why a significant Hindu population continues to live here…..violence here during the partition never scaled the heights it did in the other regions….A distinguishing feature of the houses here is the use of colourful paints, instead of the conventional white, grey, and the like ……Muslim houses all over the country tend to be more somberly painted.

……….annual pilgrimage to Hinglaj, where a Hindu temple honours an incarnation of Durga. Hinglaj is in Baluchistan, about two hundred and fifty kilometres from the coastal city of Karachi. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims go there every year in October, making it one of the largest Hindu festivals in the country.

The tradition of idol-making in Punjab died a natural death during the massacres of the partition.

Das has been wearing the bangle for a year. He also hasn’t worn shoes in the meantime. Shiia Muslims in Pakistan also indulge in similar offerings to God, promising not to wear shoes or taking up bangles for a particular gift. Despite separate categorization of religious identities as distinct and often conflicting with each other, there are several religious rationale and practices such as this that transcends those boundaries.

Hindu festivals are not officially recognized in Pakistan, so Hindus working at offices have to ask for special holidays

The Peepal tree remains sacred in all the religious traditions of South Asia.

Frequently worn earlier, the sari, sometime after the years of Islamization, became associated with Hindu women and no longer appreciated in a Muslim country.

He would then tie the thread around the wrist of the devotee, still reciting something. The thread is supposed to protect a devotee from all harm. This is also tied to devotees visiting Muslim Sufi shrines, a tradition which clearly overlaps between Hindu and Muslim pilgrims.

A lot of Hindus in Punjab do this, passing off as Muslims or Christians by taking up non-Hindu names. This is a survival technique in a hostile environment.

Shivratri at Killa Katas
Al-Beruni compiled his observations in a book called Al-Hind, which is considered to be one of the best anthropological works of all times. It is the first study which introduced the Indian people and their religion to the Western world. In his book, he claims that the Hindus are believers of one God, like the Muslims, and are ‘Ahl-e-Kitab’ or the ‘Followers of the Book,’ a term used in the Muslim holy book, the Quran, to refer to the Christians and the Jews. By referring to the Hindus as the followers of the book, Al-Beruni raises their status in the eyes of the Muslim readers and urges them not to view them as ‘lowly pagans’……also permits the Muslims to have food with the Hindus and intermarry. However, in contemporary Pakistan, where nationalism is premised upon hatred for Hindus, such a claim would not only be shunned but taken offence to.
This complex-with a natural pond, fossils dating back to millions of years, ancient caves, an unexcavated Buddhist stupa, Hindu temples said to be thousands of years old, and a university which attracted scholars from other parts of the world-is known as Katas Raj or Killa Katas….of immense historical significance….In his pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, …Guru Nanak ….also came here

Contrary to the stereotype of being a religiously oppressive area, since partition, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) has been home to a large proportion of religious minorities who have lived there rather peacefully. These are primarily Hindus…. Hindu festivals are celebrated with much pomp in these areas……. The primary reason for that is that unlike Punjab the riots were less intense due to the influence of the Indian National Congress there. A lot of Hindus and Sikhs continued living in their ancestral lands even after the creation of Pakistan.

Shri Valmiki’s Birthday at Lahore
…the bloody partition of Punjab, after which social prejudice and stigma attached with being a Hindu increased immensely. Government school text books are filled with references labelling the Hindus as mischievous and conniving and they are blamed for the bloodshed during the partition. Over the years, this state propaganda has resulted in the Hindu becoming a taboo in this Muslim puritanical society. In order to avoid the social prejudice associated with their religion, a lot of Hindus have now taken up Christian and Muslim names to avoid being noticed in society. A few have even converted to Christianity and Islam. However for all practical purposes, this marriage of convenience is more out of prudence than actual conviction.

Sita gave birth to the twin sons of Ram, Luv and Kush while she was here after she had been banished by Ram. Lahore and Kasur are said to be named after Luv and Kush. There is a temple near the Alamgiri gate of Lahore fort, called the temple of Luv. It is believed that the original temple was built by Luv himself, whereas the current structure goes back to the Mughal era.

Representation of minority groups in the media remains paternalistic; that of an outsider group that needs to be protected and represented in a way that they know best.

Shri Krishna Janmasthami at Lahore
According to the Islamic laws, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Jew or a Christian as they are regarded as followers of the book. However in practice…..Christian girls are converted to Islam before a Muslim man can marry them. It is never the other way around. According to Al-Beruni’s definition, even Hindus are followers of the book, and therefore a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Hindu woman according to the religious laws. However in Pakistan, not many people endorse his point of view and marrying Hindus therefore remains un-Islamic.

Untouchable Hindus who converted in 1947 are referred to as Deendars or Musalis to distinguish them, and are still treated as untouchables by the high-caste Muslims of the area. Converts from the higher castes became Sheikhs. However, importantly, the caste titles remain, to distinguish those who have converted recently from those who were ‘original’ Muslims.

A Pilgrimage to Maryabad

……unlike the Hindus, the Christian community has a formidable presence in the Punjab. This means that the political parties and leaders also have to cater to their interests, unlike the Hindus, who are a smaller community…….and can therefore be ignored. The Christians are represented through powerful establishments like the Churches and …..schools, colleges, and hospitals which have been set up by Christian missionaries….Even though according to the census of 1998, the Hindu majority is the largest minority in the country, with Christians in the second place, most of the Hindus are scattered in Sindh, Baluchistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with only a few in Punjab. The Christians on the other hand have an overwhelming majority in the Punjab (among the minorities) and are visible in the social fabric….

Even though a lot of untouchable Hindus initially converted to avoid the stigma associated with their caste, it nonetheless continued to haunt them even after conversion. For the high caste Muslims, these low caste Christians remained un-touchables referred derogatorily to as chuhras……..Even in prominent cities like Lahore, several Muslims refuse to eat with Christians and consider utensils used by them as impure. Ironically, it was the Muslims who were treated as untouchables by high-caste Hindus in the old days. In upholding this concept of untouchability the Muslims of Pakistan are practicing an Islam tainted with the flavor of the worst of Hinduism.
So even though this attitude of impurity originally started with low-caste Hindu converts to Christianity, it soon started dominating the nature of interaction with all Christians, even those who belonged to the former higher-castes of Hinduism………..A lot of low end hotels and restaurants not only in rural areas but even in metropolitan cities…….have separate utensils for Christians. A common practice is for Christians to announce their “caste” before eating at a small restaurant so that the owner takes the necessary precautions, to avoid embarrassment later.

There was a time when famous singers like Madam Noor Jahan and Arif Lohar used to sing and record Christian gospels……The trend……is now on the ebb…… that the society has become so polarized….

Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary at Lahore
The Ahamdiyyas being allowed to live peacefully in India and persecuted in Pakistan is a strange irony of history toying ……..The Ahmadiyya community played a prominent role in the creation of Pakistan, a country where they thought they would be allowed to practice their religion freely.