Sunday, November 26, 2017

2. Opposites

One day, I saw a small boy running across a small fenced-in grass field. I was on the road.

He was a preschooler. A teacher was playfully chasing him and he was delightfully running away. It was a bright day. I was driving to pick up my son from his special-day autism preschool.
The contrast between the running boy and my playful son hit me like a vortex. I am usually not one to easily give in to grief. But at that moment, I couldn't drive anymore. I had to pull over and stop.

Years went by. My grief at the all the doors closing for my son on the presumption of his (dis)ability took another turn. Not that the grief wasn't there. And, not that happiness in our lives wasn't there. The turn just showed a new door. It was marked 'Opposite Pairs'. It had its basis on another earlier experience.
We were exiting from a hotel in San Francisco where we had stayed overnight. I remember holding my toddler son's hand and walking out. A group of protesters were outside, they were holding boards and protesting against that chain of hotels for some reason (wages, I think). They were walking silently in a circle right outside the exit. It was inconvenient for the guests. You had to cut across them to get to the car park. Some employees (not striking) had come outside on their chores and stood there, watching. Their look was a mix- annoyed, helpless, restless, angry.. In that scenario, it was impossible to not feel the strong emotions of both the groups.

The walking me had a split second -something. Which stayed. It was some kind of fleeting understanding.
They were the same! The two groups were wanting different outcomes, but the source of that want was the same! So strange, it is hard to explain. This feeling or knowing, as I term it, was -they were the same! The two sides weren't two sides. They was no side. The sides came from the center, they formed from a context taken in opposite directions from the center. The opposite exist because of each other. The difference, or the contrast only exists on the basis of the context. The contrast-context of those two sides collapsed in that split second.

It seems unfeeling to say that I could not see the two sides, that they collapsed. But the feeling was of such grounded centeredness and clarity, it stayed in the back of my mind.
Life went on. It took years for me to understand - and to analyze what I felt.

Fast forward- Opposites are the cornerstone of Maya. Imagine my shock when I stumbled on the philosophical explanation of Raga-Dvesha in Advaita, which is the same as Opposites.
You have to be able see Opposites to see Maya. Opposites annihilate each other and viola, you will see Maya. Or, if you see through Maya you will see the nature of Opposites. If you don't see Opposites you are not seeing Maya.

Within these years, as I was analyzing, I was also using the concept to intellectually get over some hardships. Even as I worked to better a situation to the best of my ability, when in the helplessness of it, I began to search for the Opposite of the main emotion and so, sought to balance it.
Pain at my son's suffering rests on Pleasure on his betterment. Sadness rests on Happiness. Ability rests on Disability. Hardship rests on Ease
I searched for the Opposite whenever I felt a strong emotion. And tried to use it to re-center myself.

Let's see how Opposites come together to build Maya-


Sunday, September 24, 2017

1. Maya

(Your time: about 30 minutes. ~5 minutes read and 22 minutes of video).

A Conflict

A few months ago a group protested at a movie set in Rajasthan, India. They damaged the set and assaulted the director. The movie being made was Padmavati. 

Padmavati is Rani Padmini’s story (13th century). It wasn't written down in her time. But keeping with India's rich tradition of oral story-telling, surely her story was told and re-told through regional ballads and songs? A book of poems Padmavat was written by Malik Muhammed Jayasi in Awadhi language in 1540. This was passed down.  

Rani Padmini is revered in Rajasthan. Her nemesis was Alauddin Khilji, Turkish-origin Sultan of Delhi. Khilji’s rule was documented by writer Amir Khusro in Khazainul-Futuh - Treasures of Victory.
Another book of his of that time, Aasiqa, was of love between Khizr Khan, son of Alauddin Khilji and Devala Devi, daughter of Kamala Devi: Rani Kamala Devi was taken by Khilji after defeating her husband, Raja Karna Deva in Gujarat. Later, her daughter was brought to her. After Khilji’s slow death in 1315, Khizr was blinded and then murdered by his younger brother who took the throne. Devala Devi was slashed when she tried to shield Khizr Khan with her arms. She died.  
Amir Khusro didn’t say anything about Rani Padmini in Khazainul-Futuh (though there is an involved, strange allegorical reference). He wrote that Khilji entered Chittor on August 25, 1303, and renamed it as Khizrabad. What we know of the story passed down from Jayasi is- upon the death of her husband Rana Ratna Simha, Rani Padmini sacrificed herself at the fire (Jouhar) so as to not fall in the hands of the invaders.
(Khusro however wrote that the Rana surrendered and was pardoned. 30,000 Rajputs were killed after that, in one day- "It seemed the meadows of Khizrabad had grown men instead of grass").

Much before the attack, when I read of Rani Padmini’s story being made into a movie by director Sanjay Leela Bansali, my first response was- oh no. I wasn’t too keen on how Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's subtle and sensitive masterpiece Devdas was pictured by Bansali more than a decade ago. The visual opulence overtook the symphony of contrasts in human nature, thus missing the essence (the movie did very well, so that would put my opinion in extreme minority). 
So now, how would the legendary story of Rani Padmini be filmed to suit the entertainment needs of current Bollywood audience? How would the typically-medieval gory invasion of Rajputana and Sati/Jouhar be shown? 

My concern was mild, I'm really fine either way- whether a movie is made or not. I can always not watch it. A movie is just one way of story telling. It is usually heavy on visuals of mass emotion, appealing to and redirecting it at the same time. 
Then came the attack. Whoa, we can’t go harming people we disagree with! We should be able to state our opinion even if in extreme minority and others should also be able to. The movie makers should be able to make any movie. (It is ironic though that many Indian movies have hero-led vigilantism).
The local protestors had a stance. I suppose they felt bypassed. They likely suspected appropriation of an important narrative of their culture by biggies looking for a story for show-business. This feeling can be quite disconcerting and raw. 
Dangerous roads open up in a democracy when we disdain genuine views of others and especially if we take to violence to enable our stand. These roads lead us right back to the middle-ages.


How is this conflict in Maya!? Maya means illusion, not-real. How can the above conflict not . be . real?!  It was happening in front of our eyes! 
Thus, Maya has absolutely baffled many through the ages. 

(Note: this might be disturbing to many. Proceed with cognizance of your own risk. Maya is only for the good-hearted and strong, because if fully glimpsed, Maya removes the earth under your feet).

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, philosopher, was critical of Maya: “The general idea pervading Gaudapada’s work that bondage and liberation, the individual soul and the world are unreal, makes a caustic critic observe that the theory which has nothing better to say than that an unreal soul is trying to escape from an unreal Supreme Good, may itself be an unreality... If we have to play the game of life we cannot do so with the conviction that the play is a show and all the prizes in it are mere blanks. No philosophy can consistently hold such a theory and be at rest with itself. The greatest condemnation of such a theory is that we are obliged to occupy ourselves with objects the existence and value of which we are continually denying in theory...”

S. Radhakrishnan was most likely referring to Gaudapadiya Karika (a treatise on Advaita, 7th century). Gaudapadacharya was in the guru lineage of Adi Sankaracharya (8th century).
Gaudapadacharya is correct. S. Radhakrishnan is wrong. 

How and why? The difference is Gaudapadacharya saw through Maya and S. Radhakrishnan did not.  Maya is beyond intellect. It turns out all of Radhakrishnan’s concerns become invalid in full-scale Maya.  

Only e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y few recognize, pause and relentlessly ponder at some anomalies in life. Then, sometimes, some may begin to see through Maya. 

Maya is quintessential to Advaita. Advaita is the philosophy that is unique in all the paths to unconditional Truth. All that is elegant, easy, unattached, liberating, graceful and very ancient in Hinduism comes from Advaita. Advaita is the source. Silence is its language. It is consistent and completely at rest. 
In words, Advaita is not-two. That is, everything is same. So same that words are not needed! To begin to see sameness, one has to see Maya first. 

Unreality is Maya. Maya is for real. 

Let’s step into Maya. Put on your safety belts (kursi ki peti). I will take you to the entrance:


In Telugu:


Note: Some readers have said that the videos are not opening for them.
They seem to be not opening on some platforms. If that happens, here are the direct YouTube links:
Maya  and Maya-Telugu


Monday, June 12, 2017

The story cooking.
Please come back.

If you feel like, there is the Backstory and the Storyline for reading -->