A modern exploration into an important aspect of a great heritage that survived millenniums because of its deep roots in Truth and Universality.
A book that inspires the devout, impresses the scientist and kindles rethinking in the materialist.
The author, K.B. Nair, who writes in his penname Srikant, has been inspired by a quest for the deeper facts of life since his early age. After a brief period of professional life in the publications Division, Govt. of India and elsewhere, the turn of events equipped him to persevere in his quest maintaining a rational character to inquiry. He integrates the scientific temper imbibed from his academic background of biological sciences with his inborn interest in the exploration of the spiritual dimensions of life. Wedded to an experimental life of study and contemplation, he is gaining the affirmative experience that the human brain, as the yogic knowledge reveals, is equipped and pliable to achieve by undoing its conditioning knots, an evolutionary breakthrough to the faculties and possibilities of the higher dimensions of consciousness and freedom.
He founded Integral Books in 1980s, a publishing mission for an integrated investigation and presentation of the philosophical perspective emerging from the fields of modern science and the ancient spiritual insights, a vital necessity of the present age. He is also the editor of Jnanagetha, a monthly magazine in Malayalam.
When the first edition of this book was published as a slender n volume, about twenty years ago, it evoked much interest for the modernity in its approach in reassessing an important aspect of India's ancient heritage. The warm welcome for its educative relevance from readers and reviewers encouraged the publication of the subsequent editions with added information. The present volume is the revised sixth edition.
Much misinformation and wrong notions about temple worship are widely prevalent. It is even maligned as a superstitious and primitive form of worship of 'inert' stone and metal! Despite the fact that modern science is very much conscious that matter is something not to be despised as 'dead' or 'inert', but is a concentration of tremendous energy, and despite scientists trying to explore into the deeper mysteries of matter such as its potential of 'will' and 'information', there are still some religionists and materialists who voice their contempt for the worship of 'stone and metals' in temples. In such a context, the attention the previous five editions of the book received was encouraging. This new edition is the outcome of continuing popular interest in being informed about this vital aspect of India's spiritual heritage.
The writer himself was once a skeptic with many intellectual doubts constantly cropping up in the mind. At a certain stage, when circumstances appeared to bring the course of life to a dead end, may be due to a compulsive urge of 'escapism' he pondered whether he could find some solace in temples. Once, while he was sitting alone on the verandah of the koothambalam, the hall of performing arts, of the temple dedicated to Sri Krishna (who is called endearingly by the devotees as Guruvaayurappan) in Guruvayur, a middle-aged man came and sat beside him. With a beaming face, he pointed to his left leg and calmly said: "I come from Bombay. This leg had to be amputated and a date for it was fixed at a reputed hospital in Bombay. My wife could not bear it. She is a great devotee of Guruvaayurappan, and she earnestly prayed Him to heal me. As the date of operation neared, there appeared some signs of change for the better. We went to the doctor. After due examination, with incredibility writ large on his face, he told us: 'Your Guruvaayurappan has healed you. This is nothing short of a miracle.' "
This incident and other experiences which pointed to the intervention of an inexplicable Intelligence in human affairs under certain circumstances, eventually triggered in me an interest for the investigation of the rationale of temple worship. Apart from such personal experiences of many in various real life situations related to temple worship, the incidents of miraculous healing in the Church of Lourdes mentioned by Dr. Alexis Carrel, Nobel- prize winner in Medicine and Physiology, in his famous book 'Man, the Unknown', etc., would convince one that transcending all man-made religious divisions, there exists a science of spirituality that calls for deeper investigation. Dr. Alexis Carrel exhorts, "Science has to explore the entire field of reality." Temple worship is an applied science of spirituality evolved by the ancient explorers of Truth and a modern investigation into the subtle technology involved may lead us to a rational understanding of spirituality.
In modern science, especially in physics and biology, there is a slowly emerging philosophical awareness of an all-embracing Reality, which is akin to the concept of Brahman of Advaita philosophy, according to which the whole phenomena of the universe are considered as the conditioned manifestations of Brahman, the Supreme Reality. The science of temple worship, which is an effective means for the conditioned human mind to be in communion with the Supreme, can be better understood through a scientific perspective. This spiritual practice is not based on blind faith, but founded on well-coordinated subtle principles, as we would see, which are the outcome of the deepest inquiries into Reality.
It is because of such misinformation and lack of a rational perspective that the liberating spiritual concepts are often misused as means of exploitation resulting in human bondage. There is a vast gap between religious dogmas and spirituality. This fact often escapes attention. While the dogmas shrink the human mind, spirituality expands it. To transcend the irrationally biased and divisive religionism, modern man has to delve deep into the rationale of spirituality. This fact should receive the special attention of the educational system the world over to evolve universal concepts of human religious striving.
Scientists say that in the course of many millennia, since man evolved on earth there has not occurred any remarkable structural change in the human brain. It follows that because of the potentials of the human brain, irrespective of the time factor, those who activate their brain to know whatever they seek, would get the answers depending on the intensity of their quest. The ancient rishi-s of India focussed their attention to discover the basic secrets of existence and the knowledge they received are enshrined in the Veda-s, the Uapanishad-s and in the symbolic stories of the Puraana-s, etc. This is very much like the modern scientist's explorations into the material world to uncover the subtler facts of matter and their effort to present them through mathematical equations, etc. The trend indicates that a philosophical vision is emerging from modern scientific quest and science is slowly veering towards the spiritual insights of the ancient sages. In future, science and spirituality may converge and blend; and that may speed up the further evolution of mankind.
Now-a-days the mass media often highlight many astonishing and extraordinary facts that raise questions challenging our ordinary patterns of thought and faculties of reasoning. If we closely observe the world around us, we come across many unusual facts that evade our grasp. They are pointers to deeper facts. Serious investigations into them would reveal to us the deeper dimensions of ourselves and the universe, and might lift and expand us to greater levels of existence. Instead, we just wonder at them, forget them, and revert to the 'practical life' of inventing the deadliest weapons of mass destruction and are lost in contriving the most efficient means of exploitation of our fellow beings and Nature.
It is high time man thinks deeper about himself, and makes an updated reassessment of ancient spiritual wisdom to integrate it with the new philosophical vision of modern science so that a liberating scientific approach with spiritual orientation might emerge, replacing the mind-narrowing religious dogmas and the retrogressive materialistic logic.
I hope this book will have some relevance in this context. It has ten chapters that cover the main subject. Between the chapters, there are some interlinking topics which shed light on the various aspects of India's spiritual philosophy that will facilitate the understanding of the subject. The reader can either go through the main chapters at a stretch, reading the other topics later, or read each chapter and after absorbing the ideas in the interlinking topics, proceed to the next.
The view of Albert Einstein, "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind" is prophetic. The advent of a liberating science that leads man to a greater civilization very much depends on a bold inquiry into the ancient and modern fields of knowledge, on sifting and discarding the dross and accepting whatever that reinforces and expands human consciousness.
Till a few years ago many people believed that with further progress of scientific knowledge the Hindu temples would once for all be proved as towering symbols of ancient superstition. But, along with the closing phase of the twentieth century, an era of momentous scientific advance, there has been a resurgence of awareness about the efficacy of temple worship and we see even many scientists joining the ranks of those who go to temples and worship the vigraham-s, the icons symbolizing the Divine. What is the cause of this apparently 'irrational' trend?
In the early phases of modem science, the scientists were somewhat over-confident about their new systems of enquiry. Their first triumphant discoveries tempted them to believe that after some serious explorations of science there would not remain much to be known and the whole mystery of the universe would be solved through material enquiry.
But, today's science is more matured. Scientists see that with each new discovery, the mystery of the universe is further deepening. They are aware that their enquiries are slowly taking them to the shores of an unexplored ocean that lay far beyond their materialistic logic - the Ocean of Consciousness. And while some of them stand on these new shores wonder- struck by the new vistas, a flash of awareness comes to their mind: "Have not others - the great rishi-s of India, the mystics all over the world - already explored this wonderful sea, dived its depths and discovered many a brilliant gem?" The ancient rishi-s declared that the fundamental basis of the universe is an Intelligence and the deeper understanding of the universe called for an exploration of the inner depth of man himself.
"But every one of us feels," observes Prof. Dr. Joachim Illies, a German biologist and writer, "that even when gazing through the telescope... he is in fact looking into a mirror, and that in those unknown depths of the universe, beyond the horizon of science, all he encounters is himself and the mysteries of his own depth."
Thus, today there is a growing trend among the modern thinkers to recognise the ancient view that in the depth of human consciousness lies the key to all the secrets of the universe. The stalwarts of modern psychology, like Carl Gustav Jung and others view with awe and admiration the profundity of the ancient yogic knowledge about man's inner being and possibilities.
The seers of India assert that the true evolution of man involves an increasing expression of the Universal Intelligence in his physical body, which brings him true knowledge and freedom. They devised several methods to help him achieve this inner evolutionary expansion.
Towering ancient temples are seen throughout the length and breadth of India. For the devotees they are centres of power and peace. But for the modern intellectual and the man of science, they pose certain enigmatic problems.
Some of these temples, according to traditions, are founded by great rishi-s in ancient ages, and some in different phases of history, following the methods prescribed by them. These master-minds must have ample reasons to found them.
But the man of the modern world just cannot satisfy himself with such an assumption. He has to find rational answers to his intellectual questions to go deeper into facts that he does not comprehend clearly, and then to elevate his mind to supra-rational truths.
Many modern researches on humnan mind, its inner secrets, its unknown potentialities and powers, taking place in several scientifically advanced countries not only tend to support the wisdom of these ancient seers, but also shed new light on the deeper significance of temples founded by them. Some of the relevant points are briefly discussed here.
A few temples included in this book as examples are selected for convenience mostly from the southern parts of India and they are meant to explain some aspects relevant to the subject. Throughout the length and breadth of India there are innumerable places of worship vibrant with spiritual power. Recognising the central divine unity in the splendid diversity, India has patronised all genuine spiritual striving. This book seeks to promote a modern understanding of how India's ancient explorers evolved temples based on deep knowledge rather than on blind faith.
This book is not intended to propagate any particular religious system. Hinduism, in its true sense, is not a religion; it is a science of perennial evolutionary values applicable to all human beings and to all religions. Whenever the word 'Hinduism' is mentioned, it does not mean any particular religion with a certain set of unquestionable beliefs and dogmas. Indian culture intrinsically has no place for religious fundamentalism; it is an open culture in constant pursuit of inquiry. It has an inbuilt capacity to correct and renew itself. Here we are making just a modest probe into the knowledge of the Supermen - the rishi-s - who were beyond the confines of any man-made religious limitations who in their profound interest in the ethical and spiritual evolution of humankind devised several ways to help evolve its superior possibilities.
This will serve as a brief introduction to a profound field of knowledge which awaits further exploration. The observations made may provide food for thought, and if they help even in a small way towards a better understanding of the subject the author will consider his efforts amply rewarded.
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