As This Third Volume of Evam goes to press, I find myself here, in Banaras, beginning to write its Foreword. One of the recurrent themes of this issue is, of course, the interrelationship between Hinduism and Buddhism. These have often been depicted in dialectical or oppositional terms. But on a closer study and examination, it is clear that these are what we might call "co-sanatani," coeval partners of the same timeless wisdom tradition. In the West, unfortunately, Buddhism is usually studied independently and in isolation of its land of birth, India. Robert A.F. Thurman's opening address in this volume goes a long way to redress this misreading. Thurman's introduction in actually an edited transcript of his inaugural address at the Indic Colloquium on "Completing the Global Renaissance: The Indic Contribution," Held from 24th to 29th July, 2002, at the Menla Centre in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Most of us who were present found this a truly extraordinary event, not just intellectually enriching, but personally unforgettable. If was not just an exchange of ideas but also a celebration of our collective endeavours and commitments. Most of the contents of this volume of Evam owe their origins to this meeting.
Sponsored by the Infinity Foundation and executed with remarkable courtesy and efficiency by Tom Yarnall, the conference had the following objectives:
I. To critique the tacitly or overtly presumed intellectual superiority of the West so as to put the dialogue between the Indic and the Western on an equal footing (while at the same time avoiding a reactionary triumphalism from the Indic Side);
II. To critique negative stereotypes of Indic traditions, assessing the damage such stereotypes cause, and to consider measures to counteract them;
III. To heal the breach between the Vedist and the Buddhist perspectives within the self-understanding of Indic civilization, in order to restore this civilization to restore this civilization to its full dimensions;
IV. To develop the materials for a deeper appreciation of the crown jewel of Indic civilization, its Inner Sciences (adhyatmavidya including philosophy, psychology, epistemology, linguistics, and so forth), as supporting and supported by the Outer Sciences ("traditional knowledge systems") and as crucial to creative revisions of history and society, and to develop styles of presenting these sciences as extremely commensurable with the highly valuable to the rebalancing and furthering of contemporary science in the global context.
This, of course, is an ongoing agenda, which cannot be accomplished either by one conference or by one volume, but needs the sustained efforts of thousands of people across the world over generations. On a more modest scale, however, both Infinity Foundation, which sponsored the conference, and Samvad India Foundation, the publishers of this volume, are partners in this enterprise. I would like therefore to specially thanks Rajiv Malhotra, the President of Infinity Foundation, in addition to Bobert Thurman, the conference host and coordinator, and our guest editor, Tom Yarnall, for their support and encouragement in making this issue of Evam a reality.
As usual, though, we also have a lot of other material in this issue, including a visually rich feature on Ajanta, with the homespun commentaries of S. Swaminathan and some rare photographs by Benoy Behl. Behl's work is being highlighted in this issue, with the publication of some of his stunning photographs of Ajanta, his brief essay on mural paintings in India and his conversation with Chandana Dutta about his work. Sunthar and Elizabeth Visuvalingam' dissertation on Pachali Bhairava in Nepal, which fits in quite well with the Hindu-Buddhist theme of the issue, was a welcome contribution. The manner in which its publication has been blocked over the last ten years would make a story in its own right. We are happy that it is being published in full, with the editorial and other changes that its author wanted to make to bring it up to date. We are also pleased to continue our "Debate" section with thoughtful and well-argued rejoinder to the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen's seemingly ill-considered and unsubstantiated remarks on the Bhagavad Gita. To me, what is objectionable, if not hurtful, is Sen's attitude, apparently causal and cavalier. To the Gita, whose reading and interpretation are so central to the Indic civilization. I feel certain that Professor Sen would not have treated a Western source so carelessly; indeed, such a lack of scholarship or rigour would not have gone down so easily in those places where his reputation has been made. But when it comes to a "Hindu" text, it is much easier to be ill-informed or less thorough. Because he comes from India, the West may, and does, consider Sen to be both reliable and authoritative on Indic sources, which only compounds the damage that the possible inaccuracies or distortions in his argument may cause. This issue of Evam also includes two outstanding research paper. Ranesh Kasturirangan and Vinay Kumar's essay on perception is an outcome of painstaking research and writing over a period of two years at MIT, Boston, where both of them were Ph. D. students. One reason why I am excited by it is that it represents a unique interface between science and spirituality, especially from an Indic perspective. The challenge is to succeed in both areas and also in each separately, which few such endeavours manage to accomplish. The other extraordinary paper is by Nupur Chaudhuri and Rajat Kanta Ray on the Bauls of Bengal. On the surface, it may seem like a subalternist move to valorize what is normally neglected and marginalized, but actually the paper works its own alchemy, reinterpreting the ancient idea of the purusharthas or cardinal values of human life.
Banaras, or Kashi, and Evam seem to have an intrinsic link. Our first volume (2001) featured as its cover story a report on an exciting assignment on this ancient city. The Crossings Project designed by Ranjit Makkuni and Madhu Khanna was an attempt to understand and explain the various facets of Kashi through a multi-media, high-tech package in which modernity itself participates in reinterpreting and representing a complex and vibrant tradition. Just before my departure to Banaras, Madhu showed me some of the startlingly original features of her project, which was on display at Chinmaya Mission, New Delhi, on the opening night of the conference on Indic Religious Traditions of the International Association for the History of Religions. Though I was a part of the Banaras project, I had missed seeing it when it opened in New Delhi and New York. I now had my first glimpse of its riches and resources. As I picked up a trishul, which was one of the many objects associated with Shiva, the screen lit up to explain its symbolic significance and its connection with Kashi. Next, I saw the beautiful picture of Shiva painted by an artist from Kerala the same picture that we had used on the cover of the first volume of Evam. Kashi, Shivapuri, the city of Shiva as the Lord of the Universe or Vishwanath, seemed to beckon me.
My flight took off late and landed seven hours after its scheduled time. The seasonal fog had thrown the entire schedule off-gear. We were even diverted to Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, before being brought to our destination. It was dusk by the time my texi entered the city. The driver, Sangram, was an amazing character like all people in Banaras are opinionated, cocky, and very intelligent. He complained of the low wages, but said that he stuck to the job because the owner "spoke nicely," which was rare nowadays: "I wouldn't be able to tolerate any abuse, misbehaviour, or bad manners."
During the long drive into this congested city, he proceeded to narrate to me a story of some baratis or guests of a wedding party, whom he was driving to the venue of the wedding. "There was thick fog that night. We were driving towards Ghazipur, where the wedding was. Suddenly, one of the men said, 'Driver Sahab, stop the car.' There were five of them and they all wanted not so much to have some drinks but to get drunk. Many hours passed. I dozed off in the car. Suddenly, I was rudely awakened with a volley of abuses." Sangram proceeded to repeat them in his Bhojpuri accent; I can assure you that they are unprintable. "Well, I thought to myself," he continued, "he is the master, I the driver, so I must accept all this humbly, but I said, 'huzoor, gaali kyun det hoh? I'll do whatever you want.' But the drunk baraati retorted, 'You son-of-a-dog, another word and I'll slap you.' He wanted me to drive to the grog shop where his four companions were waiting. I wasn't sure how they'd treat me all the way to the wedding; having five drunk, unruly men in my care wasn't appetising. As I started the car, I thought these guys needed to be taught some manners. So I opened the door on his side, nudged him out onto the road, and drove back to Banaras! He and his companions must have had a lot of fun that night; it was very could and they had neither any transport nor any warm clothes to speak off. I said to myself, 'These are foulmouthed people; let them eat 'sweets' all night!'
"Next evening, the man in charge of the wedding party complained to my owner. I told my boss, 'Here are the keys to your car. Jai Ram ji! I can't work where I'm abused or slapped.' You know, I had no other job, but I thought, it is better to starve to death than to work like a slave. The owner took me back and told the man who had hired the car, 'Your guests had o right to abuse my driver. Take your money back; I'd rather lose a customer than a good worker.' So you see, Sir, we may be ordinary people, but we have our dignity. Of course, from then on, I always say o to baraatis."
Throughout its tartan history, the people of Banaras have shown this fierce pride and self-respect. They may have been down, but they were never out. Even the humblest rickshaw puller shows his spirit when he is challenged. One of them, who took us to the temple, smelled of country liquor. I asked him if he had had a peg too many and he said, "Sir, I can take you to your destination, rest assured about that. But if you ask me such awkward questions, how can we get along?" I tipped him five rupees when w arrived safely, through the narrow lanes and in same traffic of the city, to the ghats.
The aarti or the evening vespers were going on when we reached the river. Rows upon rows of beggars, who lined the ghats, were singing, arms or even stubs of arms, raised. It was an unusual experience as we walked down between these devout vagrants, none of whom bothered to beg during the aarti, but who would be sure to badger you on your way back up. A magnificent bull lay curled up, totally at ease, indrawn and introspective, unconcerned with us passersby. I would not have been surprised if it was meditating. I immediately thought of Raja Rao and his evocative book, On Ganga Ghat. Sure enough, later I encountered a talking parrot too, in a lane behind the Kala Bhairava temple.
We descended the steps to the river, getting our Prasad on the way down. The waters were covered by bobbing boats. I went down to the river and sprinkled some water n my head. It was none too clean, with floating lamps, flowers, and some riverside scum, but it was the Ganges nevertheless. Up ahead, in the larger boats, we saw pilgrims going for the dusk boat rides. Too little children, a boy and a girl, raced each other at the ghats, with their own improvised lamps. They would pick any lamp they found, pour some of the oil from it to augment their own meager supply, and set their lamp afloat on the river, giggling all the while. As we walked back, I found a friendly mendicant who changed my note into many coins. All the arms were now stretched towards me, clamouring for their share of small change. But the Banaras beggars, I thought, were different. They were so generous with their blessings! Some were not beggars at all. I found a toothless man sitting quietly by himself. As I approached him, he gave me a gummy, inquisitive smile, surprised somewhat that I was offering him a coin. Then he raised his hand high as he accepted it, "Jai bhole baba, jai ganga maiyya."
Whatever else it may be, Banaras is the city of Shiva. Everything here is Shiva-saturated. You taste, smell, eat, sleep, and dream only Shiva. Even the quarrelling rickshaw pullers are Shiva. In the twilight dust, your rickshaw collides with another one. The wheels are interlocked. The rickshaw puller on the left utters a volley of abuses. Your rickshaw-wallah is actually at fault, but tenders a full and feisty response. The other driver pulls height and returns a contemptuous look as if to say, "To lie after having made a mistake is beneath contempt." Your rickshaw puller is abashed, though he tries hard not to show it. He concedes to the other by pulling back and letting him pass. Shiva has reprimanded Shiva and the harmony of Shiva's creation is restored.
At the Vishwanath temple, despite the crowds and foul smell, there is a certain sense of splendour. This Shiva is small, almost completely covered with flowers, bel leaves and other offerings. But when we enter, as if by magic, the priest removes the accumulations and dumps them unceremoniously into the refuse basket. Next door, the mosque that Aurangzeb built is totally cordoned off and barricaded. The white mosque looks lonely and pale in the evening light, while the temple is bustling with devotees. Despite all the humiliations and setbacks, Hindu India survives, even flourishes. At the Annapurna temple, the Goddess, wide-eyed with outpouring grace, who personally feeds every denizen of Banaras, looks calmly at us, with her shiny, metallic, exposed face, while the rest of her is covered with decorations and flowers. On another day, at the Kala Bhairava temple, we get knotted black threads to ward off the evil eye and bad luck.
I am suddenly and startlingly reminded of why I wanted to write about Banaras in this Foreword. During the international conference on Kashmir Shaivism which was being jointly hosted by the Mutkabodha Ashrama and the Banaras Hindu University, a professor of philosophy from Panjab University Chandigarh, in a personal aside, revealed how he grew up with both Buddhism and Shaivism, never seeing them as separate or opposed. "If was only when we read philosophy that we were taught to see them in conflict." That remark set me thinking, reminding me of an earlier visit to this city. Then, at the Vishwanath temple at BHU, I remembered reading a marble plaque honouring the Buddha. I think the plaque had said that Hinduism and Buddhism are offshoots of the same Arya Dharma, which has billions of followers all over the East. In fact, during my first visit, I was intensely struck by this truth at Sarnath itself, where the Buddha had set the wheel of Dharma rolling. Now, the speaker in this conference was saying the same thing, albeit in a slightly different way.
During my four days at Banaras, I really felt as if I was Shiva's guest. I was treated with such courtesy by one and all. My accommodation at the BHU guest house was very spacious and comfortable. I had a suite of rooms to myself. My bedroom faced the East. Each morning, I chanted the names of the sun, greeting it warming beams. The seminar on Kashmir Shaivism seemed to open up new vistas of thought, taking me back to my early forays in Indic traditions. The resource-persons were learned me Professors Kamalesh Jha, K.D. Tripathi, D. B. Sensharma, and H. N. Chakravarty all shared their wisdom and insights with us. I remembered my teacher, the late Professor Girdhari Lal Tikku, who had first put Jayadeva Singh's translation of Vijnana Bhairava into my hands twenty years ago. Kashmir Shaivism was the only philosophy where the bondage and liberation of the human being was explained as the self-restriction and self-expansion of Shiva himself, thereby leaving nothing undivine either theologically or ontologically. As Professor Moti Lal Pandit, a great scholar of Kashmir Shaivism whom I met at the conference, put it, "An individual being is basically ontologically non-different from ultimate Reality, which is interpreted as being of the nature of pure Consciousness. It is on account of ignorance that the individual being thinks of himself as limited, or takes the limited entities as the basis of his Self." The beauty of Kashmir Shaivism is that it accepts no separation, no fall from the Divine. When one's epistemological errors are corrected, as Panditji explains it, "The Lord, while concealing his divine nature, manifests himself as a bound individual. The individual being breaks up the barriers of his boundedness the moment he recognizes (pratyabhijna) his essential nature to be non-different from that of Shiva."
This was the great Gift that I felt I had received from the paramguru, the only guru in fact Shiva himself in his own city, Banaras.
The knowledge, and what is more important, the experience of one's own Shivahood confers a unique dignity and autonomy on the individual. The key word in Kashmir Shaivism, svatantrata, is also the word used to signify Indian political independence. No wonder, Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of BHU, wanted to build an institution that would nurture the intellectual and cultural independence of India. He says this clearly in one of his dohas or couplets that graces the plaque dedicated to him in the Vishwanath temple at BHU: "Paap deenta, daridrata aur daasata paap/Prabhu deeje svadheenta, mitaye sakala santaap." "Sinful is meanness and inferiority, sinful is meanness and inferiority, sinful slavery/Lord give us the independence that ends all woes." Banaras represents this resistance to slavery, which is Shiva's greatest gift to each of us.
|The Inner Revolution and the Global Renaissance: |
Re-integration of Buddhism and Vedism (Hinduism) in Indic Religious Studies
|Robert A. F. Thurman||1|
|Loss, Recovery and Renewal of Texts in Indian Traditions|
|Countering World-Negation: |
The World Affirming and Integrative Dimension of Classical Yoga
| "Religion" and "Religious Freedom": |
Towards an Indic Understanding
|The Mahajanaka Jataka Murals:|
|Mural Paintings of India|
|Benoy K. Behl||82|
|Paradigm of Hindu-Buddhist Relations:|
|Pachali Bhairava of Kathmandu|
|Sunthar Visuvalingam and Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam||106|
|Samvada as a Literary and Philosophical Genre:|
|An Overlooked Resource for Public Debate and Conflict Resoulution|
|Laurie L. Patton||177|
|Logic, Morals and Meditation:|
|Tarka, Dharma, Yoga|
|Genuine vs. Apparent Knowledge and Justification|
|Stephen H. Phillips||201|
|Non-duality in Perception:|
|A Computational Perspective|
|Rajesh Kasturirangan and Vinay Kumar||212|
|The Fifth Aim of Life:|
|In Search of the Medieval|
|Nupur Chaudhuri and Rajat Kanta Ray||226|
|Cartographies of the Imagination, Legacies of Colonialism:|
|The Discourse of Religion and|
|the Mapping of Indic Traditions|
|The Third Eye and Two Ways of (Un) knowing:|
|Gnosis, Alternative Modernities and Postcolonial Futures|
|Consequentialism and the Gita:|
|A Response to Amartya Sen|
|Sitansu S. Chakravarti||276|
|The U-Turn Theory: An Introduction|
Item Code: IDK707 Author: Markarand Paranjape Cover: Paperback Publisher: Samvad India Size: 9.4" X 6.3" Pages: 314 (16 Color Illus:, 26 B/W Illustrations) Other Details: weight of the book is 628 gm