Monthly Archives: April 2015

On Deeksha

One sishya said to me, “Since taking deeksha is a personal (spiritual) commitment of a bhakta to the Lord, we should leave it to the individual.”

I responded, saying that deeksha is more than a personal (spiritual) commitment of an individual to the Lord. It is declaring one’s commitment to the Lord as well as to the mandali.  By taking deeksha in the presence of the mandali, the bhakta is receiving the blessing and approval of the mandali, and joining as the member of the body of the Lord. At the same time she also throws a challenge to the rest of the mandali to take responsibility for her holistic growth. Both the mandali and she make a commitment to each other. She as an individual should give her contribution to the sustenance and growth of the mandali and the mandali should do the same for her. Continue reading

Unethical Interference

“The Semitic self-description contains a universal truth claim, which gives rise to a dynamic of proselytization. When the biblical God reveals His plan, it covers the whole of humankind. Those who receive this revelation should try to convert the others into accepting the message in this divine self-disclosure. That is, proselytizing is an intrinsic drive of Islam and Christianity. The pagan view, on the contrary, implies that every ‘religion’ is a tradition—that is, a specific set of ancestral practices—characterizing a human community. The traditions are upheld not because they contain some exclusive truth binding the believer to God, but because they make some community into a community. Any attempt at interfering with the tradition of a community from the outside will be seen as illegitimate, since all traditions are part of the human quest for truth….(p.209)

… The value of non-interference is central to the tradition of citizen x {a Hindu} and it is unethical for him to allow Muslims and Christians to interfere in the traditions of human communities. Thus he opposes conversion….—S.N. Balagangadhara, Reconceptualizing India Studies, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.209-210

When I read the rebuke above from Gangadhara against the proselytizing of Semitic religions, I said to myself, ‘Gangadhara hits where it hurts’. But his statement about ‘non-interference’ being central to the Hindu tradition surprised me a bit. I could ignore it if it is his opinion, but when he calls other’s interference “in the tradition of human communities” unethical, I remembered all kinds of ‘unethical interference’ of one (Hindu) sampradaya with others. As a student of Hinduism (and the history of religion in general), this made me raise further questions about such claims by such scholars. Continue reading

Song 3: I Don’t Have the Aromatic Oil

In the third week of February 1985, when I was at Gonda (U.P.), I was reading Luke 7:36-50. I was visualizing the scene and began to meditate upon it. The way the Lord accepted a devotee as she is melted my heart and tears began to roll down as I meditated. Immediately I wrote this song:

பரிமள தைலமோ இல்லை

பரிமளத் தைலமோ கரங்களில் இல்லை
பாவியென் கண்களில் கண்ணீரும் இல்லை
பரமனே உன்பாதம் துணிவுடன் அண்டி
பணிந்திட இன்னும் மனதுமே இல்லை
–பரிமளத் தைலமோ Continue reading

Women vs. Men, Part IV: Women and Literature

Though I glorify women for something special and peculiar in them, this is not an ‘extravagant celebration of motherhood’ as pointed out by Sumathi Ramaswamy. It is worth reading what she further says:

And yet Indian women themselves—as indeed women in so many other parts of the world—had been radically reconfigured by bourgeois discourses of modernity, for if a woman was idealized as the repository of all that was glorious and wonderful in one’s culture, she was also firmly put into her place, in the home and amid her family as ‘mother’ (George L. Mosse. Nationalism and Sexuality: Middle-class Morality and Sexual Norms in Modern Europe, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985). Many studies have demonstrated that the consolidation of nationalist ideologies in different regions of the world was accompanied by an ‘extravagant celebration of motherhood’ (Maxine L. Margolis. Mothers and Such: Views of American Women and Why They Changed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984:28). This was especially true in Western Europe, which provided the model for so many ideologies that crystallized in colonial India. There, bourgeois nationalist discourses were marked by the discursive and symbolic separation of the ‘home’ form ‘work,’ and of the ‘nation’ from the ‘world.’ The home and the nation were hallowed as noncompetitive, depoliticized arenas, and as sacral repositories of moral values and virtue. The reproduction of these arenas, as such, was ensured by insisting that women are ‘by nature’ self-sacrificing, virtuous, unambitious, and nonpolitical beings, destined to be child bearers and nurturers. As George Mosse notes (George L. Mosse. Nationalism and Sexuality: Middle-class Morality and Sexual Norms in Modern Europe. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1985: 97), ‘Women as national symbols exemplified order and restfulness. Woman was the embodiment of respectability; even as defender and protector of her people, she was assimilated to her traditional role as woman and mother, the custodian of tradition, who kept nostalgia alive in the active world of men.’ Such a representation was only further consolidated within nationalist ideologies seeking to put the nation on a pedestal as an iconic object of platonic affection and unconditional devotion, for how much more successfully could this be done than by recasting the nation itself as a selfless, compassionate, and de-sexualized Mother, disaggregated from the public realms of politics, self-interest, and sexual competition. — Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the Tongue. Language, Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970. University of California Press, Ltd. London. 1997. pp. 122-23 Continue reading

Song 2: Come Down My Lord

Though I respect all forms of music, I like Carnatic and Hindustani music the most. My mother and I like when the singer uses a lot of ‘swaras’ in the song. In the early days, even though I heard a few lyrics in the evangelical circle, I never heard a single song with ‘swaras’.

Since I am not trained in a traditional way, I cannot use ‘kalpana swaras’ for my songs. But I finally fulfilled that desire by using the ‘sitta swara’ composed by Mysore Vasudevachariya to one of his famous songs ‘Broche va revarura’ in Telugu. I don’t know Telugu, but this song become very famous after it appeared in the Telugu film Sankarabaranam.

Since I saw the film several times and listened to the songs often, I quickly memorized that ‘sitta swara’. I then used it to write a song when I was travelling from Dharmapuri to Marandahalli in 1981 in my heart, and when I reached Marandahalli, immediately I completed that song with swaras.

‘Sitta swaras’ is composed originally by the author of the lyrics along with the song and in principle the singer has to use the same swaras when they sing that song. Whereas in other songs, they have the freedom to use their ‘kalpana swaras’ that suits to that particular raga. Continue reading

What is the Gospel?

My understanding of the gospel is that it is the good news about the person, Muktinath.

Longing to have a life without strife and conflict is common human nature. For this purpose many theologies/philosophies are twisted to prove that having peace is the true mark of receiving blessing from God. But this peace that God promises to give is wrongly understood to mean a life without strife and conflict which is called ‘nimmadi’ in Tamil.

Many theologies suggest that the highest value we can get from God is to be ‘happy’. Though I am not representing the overall view of Indians, one of the aims in our life is to have ‘peace’ (Nimmadi in Tamil, which means ‘the absence of strife, conflict, pain, sorrow etc.)

Whether God wants us to be ‘happy’ or have ‘peace’, most human beings would prefer to have a tension-free normal life (nimmadi). But there is a subtle anxiety that someone or something will rob this ‘nimmadi’ and each one takes precautions to safeguard his/her personal and family’s interest. The question “What if…” always chases us in every area of life. Only children up to a certain age, insane people to some extent, and dead people are exempt from this question. Continue reading

Bhakti Songs 291-300

291 தனித்த விறகு எரியாது


தொண்டரே வாரீர் தொழுதிடச் செல்வோம்

தூயவன் திருவடி பணிந்திடச் செல்வோம்

தனித்தே அவன் பாதம் நாம் அமரினும்

துதித்துப்பாட இணைந்தே செல்வோம் Continue reading