Monday, February 27, 2006

Rendezvous with a nondescript village – one in silent revolution

26th February 2006, Saturday

A Saturday like any other. Except that I set off with a few other acquaintances to visit Saragooru on the banks of river Kapila for a stopover. Around 50 kms from Mysore, this nondescript village is a unlikely place for anything unusual, until you start exploring her. 21 years ago a group of young Doctors from Mysore began working for the community of kurubas (tribals) in this area who were displaced by the big dam project. Dr.Balasubramaniam, the thought behind the movement, was inspired by the ideals of Vivekandnanda and Gandhi. Two decades hence, Vivekananda Youth Movement as they call it is a silent revolution in around 12 districts of Karnataka. They provide primary and secondary health care, ayurvedic and allopathic, education, leadership trainings, community healthcare, HIV/AIDS control programmes, housing, training, research, consultancy and all.

We had been to the hospitals, the school and met with people from the haadi’s (tribal villages) and also with Dr.Balasubramaniam. We also saw the back waters of Kabini.

The whole experience was very inspiring and empowering. It did a lot in cleansing away the disempowering thoughts from our minds and it also provided us renewed hope in the amelioration of the socio economics of our world.

The school we visited is in bandipur forests which is around 26 kms from Saragooru. You will not imagine such a resourceful school so far from the towns. Being with children was such a lovely experience. I met this guy called Ramesh, a district topper who wants to be a scientist and two more boys who want to be software engineers. We had lunch with children.

A memorable getaway indeed.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Karma Yoga

© Vinay Nagaraju
(Originally written as an essay titled ‘Secret of Success’)
[ based on the 3rd chapter of Bhagavad-Gita – The Karma Yoga ]

“Time never stops – it ever flows ; the future rushes towards us to become the present and moment by moment it merges with the entire past. In this river of time, you and I stand, work and achieve.”

…and every moment in the present we make trysts with success. ‘Success’, the word by itself invokes into one’s mind a conglomeration of thoughts. Thoughts of each individual are both based and biased by their perceptions of life, which spring from shallow domains of mind. But, what one could read beneath every human being’s comprehension of what success is, is bliss. The zenith in the kingdom of happiness. Contentment, joy and tranquility are what we aspire for as we tread in life’s path.

Before we dwell on the theme ‘Secret of Success’, which is marvelously unfolded in the Karma-yoga, in Krishna’s sermons to Arjuna, a brief introduction to the whole, the Bhagavad-Gita is demanded and will not be out of place at this juncture.

In the divine song ‘Gita’, the discourse forms an ocean of knowledge-wealth to its readers, in particular the youth. Arjuna, the despondent, is an embodiment of varied characters that are seen in the youth of the day. He reflects in his speech and queries the rationality, temperament, confusion, ideals and despair, strengths and weaknesses, self-confidence and also deep-rooted doubts, characteristic of modern day youth. Youth, today are proficient in various fields. But their efficiency in availing the knowledge imparted to them ‘seems’ to be at a low ebb. Knowledge by itself can raise a man to the level of mediocrity, but not distinction. What is missing is education. In the Karma-yoga and in the other chapters, Krishna summarises the high tenets of Vedanta and provides us with approaches and solutions to problems in their various colours and absurdities. It serves as a stupendous compendium.

The gist of the treatise is that the secret of success lies in the mastery over the trio body-mind-intellect and attaining a level of life where the comprehension of the world around us is not limited by the events of the past, or the desires for the expectant future nor the excitations of the present, but to tread the path of selfless dedicated activity.

In the karma-yoga, we are introduced to a term called vasana. Vasanas are the impressions that an individual’s personality garners from its own thoughts and actions in the past. They express themselves as a ‘desire’ in the intellect, a ‘thought’ in the mind and as an ‘act’ at the body levels. Thus are born both noble and ignoble actions. These are the prime constitution of all the activity that we see around us in the world and what we call ‘life’. Karma-yoga discourses on the elimination and exhaustion of these vasanas. It unfolds us the way to act i.e. in the spirit of unselfish enthusiasm, surrendering ego and dedicating oneself to a higher ideal in life. Purified vasanas lead to noble thoughts and actions. The bosom, which is the seat of all feelings and thoughts then becomes home for intense inspirations and peace. Man’s quest for mental equipoise, inner calm and strength and an unmatched stature is thus answered.

Vedanta, identifies two types of men in this science of self-perfection. It offers the path of wisdom to men of intellect and thoughtfulness and the path of action to the active and dynamic type. The path of wisdom should in no way be confused to inaction. In the supreme state of perfection, there exists no anxieties or phobias, no desires or thoughts, only a state of bliss.

All schools of thought, from time immemorial have had a rendezvous with this state of perfection and they seem to appreciate and compliment each other in their views, ideas and conclusions. All organisms are on a journey on an incessant path of action. Every individual should act by virtue of their own nature. No one can afford to remain stoic or passive. The quality of action is determined by the Sattwic, Rajasic or Tamasic vasanas. They are the pure, active and dull type of gunas.

Action is the insignia of life. No individual is bestowed upon with a choice between action and inaction. Only the kind and quality of action. An immoral individual finds pleasure by indulging in actions to gratify his own desires, and such a one is a hypocrite. But, the one who compels himself in actions oriented to serve the society and embarks upon tasks with a motto of service for all, excels. His actions translate into good for his fellow beings. Such individuals are powerful and exemplary by their way of life. They provide leadership and enrich their communities. The communities then strive, achieve, prosper and reap successes and its existence is cherishing. Such men act without any attachment. As a prelude to this concept of action, is the following lucid verse in the second chapter :

That is the way to act. Egocentric constitute attachment in actions, but those without any lust or greed do not. They alone create a conducive environment for the purgation of vasanas. We can attain a mind, which is the abode of peace, a vehicle to the realm of happiness and harbinger for progress. Actions without any attachment promises fulfillment and joy. Thus, un-attachment should be the watermark of all our actions. To perpetuate this attitude, it should be nurtured and nourished throughout our existence. The experience of being alive then transforms, conferring upon the serenity and equipoise of mind. The constraints the past imposes on our view of life disappear and a new view of life emerges.

In the Gita, four types of karma or action are distinguished for us. Of these, the ‘Niyat’ karma encompassing both the ‘Nitya’ and ‘Naimittika’ karmas are obligatory duties and every individual should perform these.
Man is a gregarious being.

"Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people . …A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others ….Only a life lived for others is a life worth while ."

This thought has been echoed and expounded in the Gita in a very limpid way. All of us need to act diligently at all times to come. We should stare at problems in their face and not escape by being passive. If we act without fear or fervour, but being selfless and un-attached, we can guarantee not just a healthy mind but also a healthy body.

‘Yagnas’ are popular mass rituals known to us since Vedic times and the spirit of which teaches us to live life with a feeling of community with fellow beings. A community, which believes in ‘All for one and one for all’. We should stop being individual players and act with a spirit of team. Unless everyone wins, we don’t win. The society needs to be happy, if we should find peace and contentment. Such actions with spirit of yagna stem from selflessness and do not perpetrate vasanas. It allows us to embrace life and not just exist with it.

Umpteen examples of the yagna spirit is seen in the nature around us. Every nuance of the creation contributes to what we sense and perceive as the world. All revolutions that history boasts of are examples of co-operative human endeavour. Modern day gurus like Stephen R.Covey, author of the best seller ‘ 7 habits of highly effective people ’, also propagate this concept of yagna spirit; in their version synergy. ‘Synergy’, simply defined says that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. For example, if we plant two plants close together, their roots co-mingle and improve the quality of soil and both grow better, than if separated.

The challenge is to employ such principles of creative co-operation, which we learn from nature, in our social interactions. We can then write a new script for life where there is less of adversity and more of love, warmth and cordiality. Krishna says if we dare to engage ourselves in such kind of actions, the environment will also cherish it. Paulo Coelho, author of the work ‘The Alchemist’, says, “Dare to dream and the whole world conspires to see to it that you realise it”, seems to much support of what has been said in Gita.

The substance or essence of Hindu Socialism is also the same. The entire universe is like a family. All of us should strive towards a common cherished goal and share the fruits borne thereof equally, which is the remnant of the yagna. There can be no second thoughts about the rewarding success guaranteed by such actions and it also purgates the vasanas. All of us should oblige on this count. Those who beg to differ and corner more than their humble share, commit a sin. Krishna emphatically drives home this point by explaining the Wheel of Action. The supreme, imperishable Self is at the source. Then come co-operative endeavours, which provide conducive environment for all efforts and after which are reaped the results. Arjuna is advised not to stand against this wheel of action because this is nature’s law, nor to submit to passions and impulses.

The only exception to this rule is the man who has risen above all passions and transcended to a state of perfection, Infinite Consciousness, the Self in Him. He is a master of the body-mind-intellect. He neither loses by inaction, nor gains by action. The only way to attain that state of tranquility and fulfillment is by performing one’s duty without attachment.

History, mirrors the fact that masses tend to ‘imitate’ or more respectfully said ‘emulate’ the actions of wise men and tall leaders amidst them. They are the men of glory who provide guidance towards cherished goals. Their words and actions invigorate the life of the people. Krishna says, atleast for this reason, Arjuna should act; to lead people from ignorance to wisdom. The youth of the day should also build exemplary characters and personalities by perpetually being in pursuit of knowledge

LIFE ! is like a field of newly fallen snow; where we choose to walk, every step will show.

The real recipe for success in all spiritual and material undertakings is to act with a spirit of dedication to a higher ideal. This will spring in us unbelievable vigour and gushes within us indomitable energy. We should renounce hope and ego. Hope is a big risk and only causes anxiety in the present and ego flaws our actions. We should act with no regrets of the past.

But what comes as a hindrance to such a sure way to success, are the vasanas. Man follows his own tendencies. Knowledge is available in abundance, but lack of education makes it intricate to navigate through life. Even the most erudite scholars experience this difficulty. We should thus not entertain attitudes of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ that are born out of our vasanas.

Actions by themselves are neither a merit nor a sin. The intentions clandestine within us make them so. What impels us to perform an act of sin in spite of all the wisdom is the lust and anger. This is man’s greatest enemy. Its called Rajoguna or mental agitations. By gratifying these desires, man ends up in a vicious circle, committing actions of varying degrees of merit and sin.

Desires veil the wisdom in us. The Lord gives wonderful analogies: a flame covered with smoke, a mirror covered with dirt or a foetus in the womb. The sense organs, mind and intellect act wildly according to the whims and fancies of these desires. A life of intelligent discrimination then eludes us.

Self-conquest they say is the greatest victory. At the outset we need to exercise restraint at the level of sense organs. As Mahatma Gandhi says in his dissertation of the Gita, we need to have confidence in the soul force to attain discipline at the mental and intellectual levels. Parallels can also be drawn to Plato’s thoughts on this. A problem cannot be solved at the same level where it was created. By rising to higher levels the lower ones can be controlled. The problems of the mind end when we dedicate ourselves to a higher ideal in the intellect. Transcending beyond that we reach the Self or the supreme, the consciousness that illumines the thoughts and ideals. Then we can be masters of our life.

In conclusion, the source of all bliss is the dedicated performance of one’s duty and this is the utterly exceptional and infallible recipe to success.