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Kumbh: A mega confluence of different knowledge streams

Kumbh: An Opportunity

(Shri Adi­narayanan) Over­com­ing our own men­tal con­di­tion­ings has become the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge now. How do we prac­ti­cal­ly do that? For that we need oppor­tu­ni­ties. At home, in our reg­u­lar life, it becomes very dif­fi­cult to find oppor­tu­ni­ties to do this. So Kumbh is one such great oppor­tu­ni­ty, to go beyond our own con­di­tion­ings. And yes­ter­day we have looked at the sig­nif­i­cance of a teertha stha­la, what a tem­ple means, all of this we have looked at. See, in the Indi­an tra­di­tion it is use­ful to under­stand this — for exam­ple, you have air every­where. But still we use a fan, which is con­cen­trat­ed. You have elec­tric­i­ty every­where as a prin­ci­ple, but still you have a spe­cif­ic device that focus­es usage of elec­tric­i­ty. Like­wise you have the Divine every­where, the name­less, form­less Divine, nir­gu­na. But the sagu­na aspect is also con­sid­ered very impor­tant. Sagu­na are the usable forms of Divin­i­ty, that we can use for our growth. Dif­fer­ent peo­ple con­verge for their own rea­sons. That is why bhak­ti is looked at in diverse ways. Even some­one who is mis­er­able and cries out, “Hey some­one please save me!” is a bhak­ta. Some come for trans­ac­tion, “Give me this, give me that, give me that career”. He is also a bhak­ta. Some­one who wants knowl­edge “How does this real­i­ty work?” The enquiry, “Who am I? What is this real­i­ty? What is the pur­pose of my life?” He is also a bhak­ta. Some­one who has attained to jnana, a jnani, who under­stands, “Oh! This is real­i­ty.” He is also a bhak­ta. All kinds of peo­ple you will find here. With­out judg­ing any­body, every­body is fine their own way. What­ev­er ful­fills each indi­vid­ual, that is what is impor­tant. What ful­fills you? You can­not judge oth­ers based on what they get ful­filled by. But it should sta­bilise the over­all work­ing. That is called Dhar­ma. Oth­er­wise it is con­sid­ered Adhar­ma.

Accessing the Purpose of Temples

So that is why in tem­ples you will find there are spe­cif­ic ways, means, method­olo­gies, depend­ing on which form of Divin­i­ty and which spe­cif­ic per­son­al­i­ty of Divin­i­ty — all these are looked at in a very sys­tem­at­ic fash­ion. This is very very impor­tant to under­stand. But to decode it, we need the sci­ence. It is just like this Mobile phone. If we were to engi­neer it, most of us are users. We have blind faith in how it works. We place a call, how do we know that it is exact­ly going to that per­son? How do we know? In a way we have been edu­cat­ed and hence we have faith in the sci­ence of how it works. We have faith in the busi­ness­es that make it work and we have process­es estab­lished — audit­ing process­es, reg­u­la­to­ry process­es and so on. This is how our Indi­an dhar­ma as well works. Hin­du dhar­ma works exact­ly this way. There are faith in the mahat­mas, who guide the entire process, but it is based on under­ly­ing sci­ences. Since we have not been exposed to that, we feel it is super­sti­tious or we ask,“How do I believe?” But to even believe that this phone will work this way, you need a back­ground knowl­edge of sci­ences. You need faith in the peo­ple who hold those sci­ences. They have been trained sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly for so many decades to be able to engi­neer this. We cre­ate our real­i­ty, based on what we know, like­wise sub­tle real­i­ty is cre­at­ed and that is called Dai­va, but it is knowl­edge. It is sub­tle, it is not vis­i­ble yet to our eyes, just as the sci­ence of how this mobile phone is cre­at­ed is not vis­i­ble to every­body. You have not been trained in that, it requires rig­or­ous train­ing to do that.

Sad­hus

So that is where you will find so many sad­hus, so many san­nya­sis, they have ded­i­cat­ed them­selves to the pur­suit of this knowl­edge. And it is not easy. Let us take the heart. Now how many of us lead lifestyles that obstruct the work­ing of the heart. Right, do we not? We do not how to allow the heart to func­tion. And hence we get heart attack, hyper­ten­sion, blood pres­sure and so on. Oth­er­wise it is a very straight­for­ward phe­nom­e­non. But for you to allow the heart to func­tion, you need knowl­edge. You need best prac­tices : how to live, so that your heart can func­tion. Like­wise, how to live so that the sub­tler nature can func­tion. Now glob­al warm­ing, we talk of glob­al warm­ing, cli­mate change, we don’t know how to lead our lives aligned with nature. Nature has its process­es. So this align­ment we call as Dai­va — work­ing in har­mo­ny with Dai­va, the sub­tler intel­li­gence. It is also intel­li­gent activ­i­ty, but when we gain such deep­er knowl­edge, then we are not doing any­thing big or great, we are just align­ing with deep­er process­es. And that is con­sid­ered very very crit­i­cal to under­stand. Because if that is not there, then you will have all kinds of neg­a­tive reac­tions, neg­a­tive effects. And that is what our mahat­mas per­son­i­fy. They per­son­i­fy or embody this sub­tle knowl­edge. So that is why you would find so many sad­hus, san­nya­sis, ded­i­cat­ed for this pur­suit.

Sad­hu means some­one who embod­ies cer­tain qual­i­ties — what all qual­i­ties? Love, com­pas­sion, ahim­sa, for all liv­ing beings — they have ahim­sa towards all of life, not just human beings, through their depth of tapasya. Gen­er­al­ly, we harm oth­ers based on how we get locked up with objec­tive enjoy­ment. In our pur­suit for some­thing, we harm some­body else. And hence, sad­hus are those who reg­u­late their pur­suits, so that the harm, the vio­lence is min­i­mized. In our pur­suit of food, we might harm so much more. That is the idea of con­sumerism. You con­sume, and that has a car­bon foot­print. But if you reg­u­late your con­sump­tion, then your car­bon foot­print is reduced. If you don’t reg­u­late it, your car­bon foot­print is increased. This is how it pro­ceeds. So how to intel­li­gent­ly reg­u­late your foot­print, that is the idea of a sad­hu. Naga sad­hus are those who intel­li­gent­ly reg­u­late so many aspects, which would seem hard­ly under­stand­able by reg­u­lar soci­ety. That is why they would gen­er­al­ly stay out­side of reg­u­lar soci­ety, because such reg­u­la­tion would be almost super­hu­man for most peo­ple. They reg­u­late food, sleep, intense cold, pain, plea­sure, all of that they reg­u­late. This is called dwand­hwa, mean­ing, the oppo­site pairs. Pain-plea­sure, heat-cold, and so on. We take a walk, we were walk­ing the full day yes­ter­day, and so many of us became tired and hun­gry. And we see food, we go, we pay and eat and it feels, “Wow!” And we come over here, we lie down and it is so reju­ve­nat­ing. But imag­ine the con­straint. Let’s say you have intel­li­gent­ly reg­u­lat­ed food and sleep, we are doing all of this, but let’s say you can­not buy food, you have imposed that upon your­selves, that you will not buy food. You take bhik­sha and only then eat. That is a con­straint that you have imposed on your­selves. Now can you guar­an­tee that some­one will give you food? What is the guar­an­tee that some­one will give you food? No guar­an­tee, but you have tak­en up a con­straint, a niya­ma that you will not pay and eat food, you will take bhik­sha and eat food as a self-reg­u­la­to­ry mech­a­nism because you are try­ing to under­stand deep­er aspects. How easy or tough would it be? And you have tak­en a con­straint that you will not sleep in a room inside some­where, you will just sleep out in the open under the sky. How easy or tough is that con­straint? So such con­straints, peo­ple take up, sad­hus take up.

Adi Sankara’s Vision

And this is a very intel­li­gent process, but to under­stand the intel­li­gence, you need to under­stand the back­ground, how it evolved and all of that. For exam­ple, you know, each indi­vid­ual faces these exis­ten­tial ques­tions — “What is life, what is the pur­pose of life?” And each per­son approach­es it dif­fer­ent­ly. That is where sys­tems were cre­at­ed to approach it sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. For exam­ple, Adi Shankaracharya, the great Adi Shankara, cre­at­ed the Dashana­mi order of sad­hus, san­nya­sis. He cre­at­ed var­i­ous orders of sad­hus and san­nya­sis. One of that is the Dashana­mi order, so that is where you will have the Saraswati, Giri, Theertha, and so on. For exam­ple Shankaracharya’s lin­eage of san­nya­sis from Kanchi are called Saraswati; from Sringeri are called Theertha; from Puri are called Giri and so on. You have the Juna akhara, you have var­i­ous akha­ras which are orga­nized forms of pur­suit of the spir­i­tu­al knowl­edge. They all come under the Dashana­mi sys­tem. It is an orga­nized form of pur­suit of knowl­edge — intense spir­i­tu­al knowl­edge. But there are unor­ga­nized forms as well. You will find all kinds of con­ver­gence in the Kumbh. That is the great­ness.

Megaconference of Knowledge

Now ear­li­er the ecosys­tem used to enable them to per­form their Dhar­ma. But now, they have to inter­act with soci­ety for even their means of sus­te­nance. Food is a big issue, sim­ple liv­ing is a big issue. That is because as a soci­ety we have moved away from under­stand­ing our own best prac­tices; cul­ture is called civ­i­liza­tion­al best prac­tices. It is not very easy — to know what to eat, what not to eat — even that is a best prac­tice. Prin­ci­ples might be there but you need best prac­tices to guide, and each fam­i­ly has its best prac­tices. So this is a con­flu­ence, a mega con­flu­ence of knowl­edge, where so many dif­fer­ent kinds of knowl­edge streams are avail­able. But for these two days we are not here for knowl­edge. Because this is an immer­sive form of knowl­edge, and to access it, you need to spend some time, and you need to have spe­cif­ic ques­tions. With­out which you can­not approach any­body. If you go to a con­fer­ence, you are just an onlook­er with no par­tic­i­pa­tion; you will not gain much. We are still just here, just as an onlook­er, not too much of a par­tic­i­pant. But still this is a very very good first step.

Indi­vid­ual pur­suit to find such access to knowl­edge is not easy. For exam­ple, you study in a uni­ver­si­ty. With­in the uni­ver­si­ty premis­es you have access to knowl­edge, if you step out­side the uni­ver­si­ty premis­es, do you have access to the same knowl­edge? No. That is how it works and find­ing with­in the uni­ver­si­ty, all the researchers are con­verged and hence you can access those peo­ple. Out­side that, it is very dif­fi­cult. Like­wise the kumbh pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for such intense pur­suit of knowl­edge. They can access all the know-how, all those great mahat­mas who car­ry knowl­edge, they can access that in one place one time. But for that fun­da­men­tal­ly what is required? If food is served before you, what is required to rel­ish that food? Hunger. Hunger is a prime require­ment. How do you get spir­i­tu­al appetite? And that is where kar­ma, seva, all those become very crit­i­cal. When you encounter a lot of peo­ple, you do seva, you start hav­ing ques­tions, you start asking,”Why is life like this? Why is that good and bad, why is some­one get­ting some­thing, some­one not get­ting some­thing?” That starts churn­ing and cre­at­ing the appetite for spir­i­tu­al knowl­edge, with­out which it is not easy. So kumbh is such a con­ver­gence. I am very hap­py that all of us are here, we have the bhagya to be here.

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