வாழ்கின்றேன் இன்னும் வையகம் தன்னில்
வள்ளளே உந்தன் கிருபையதனால்
வீழ்ந்திட்ட நாட்களை எண்ணியே நின்றால்
வேதனை ஒன்றே மிஞ்சிடும் என்னில்
நொந்து நிற்பதால் பயனேதும் காணேன்
நோக்கினேன் உந்தன் அன்பினை நானும்
“உள்ளபடி வா” என்று உரைத்ததினால்
உருகியே வந்தேன் உன்னடி நானும்
படிந்திட்ட கறைகளோ பலப்பல வாழ்விலே
வழியேதும் காணேன் அவைகளை நீக்கப்
பரிவாக அன்று நீ சிந்திய குருதி
பரிகாரம் ஆயிற்று என்குறை நீக்க
I still live on this earth
By your grace alone O Charitable One!
If I think only the days of my fall
Only pain will remain at the end
There is no use only in having remorse
And I look unto your love alone
As you said, ‘Come as you are’
I too come unto your feet with a melted heart
The strains in my life are many
I don’t find any means to remove them
The blood you shed in the past
Has become the remedy for me to remove my shortcomings.
By birth as a Brahmin, this concept of ‘shedding blood’ and the fact that I am cleansed by, it is abomination for me in every respect. In fact it will add more ‘strain’ (கறை) than removing the previous ones. This is one area in which I had to struggle a lot in my bhakti in the Lord. My later study on Hinduism, particularly related with animal sacrifice, helped me to understand its significance. Yet as a rational person, still I find it bit out of place in my reason.
But my bhakti helps me resolve several doctrinal issues with which my reason refuses to accept. The first step is to understand the ‘irrationality of the reason itself’. For me reason is a logical conclusion that I can arrive at based on my understanding and acceptance. But it need not be universal. So for me every ‘reason’ is personal and tries to present a ‘rational’ solution to many experience in life. Every kind of logical argument can be nullified by a counter argument.
To be honest, no one can present her view on doctrinal areas through logical argument or presentation. Certain things in life begin by faith or trusting the witness of others and then trying to reason it out based on personal need and experience. In other words, no one can believe any doctrinal issue only after a clear rationalistic understanding about it. Till the end, certain doctrinal issues will remain incompatible to reason. But somewhere, somehow, we began the journey and in the course of it we accept the other parts of doctrine that cannot be explained or understood based only on reason. But without accepting them we cannot understand the totality of a particular faith/tradition.
All the areas won’t be appealing to us and will continue to remain a mystery or challenge. But how far they come close to enhancing our faith/bhakti will be crucial for us to continue in that pilgrimage. Because ignoring them or explaining them to accommodate our rationalistic point of view will distort the whole truth.
How I reasoned this out logically in my life came in my search for the answer to the question, “Why can’t I lead a perfect life even for a single day?” All the other answers that I managed to get through my Hindu tradition gave me the best excuses. They never created any guilty conscience, or even any remorse to accept my personal responsibility. So they never satisfied me.
Then, my search for a guru to help me ended up in Muktinath. And my journey with Him and in Him never began with a clear understanding or acceptance of various doctrines related to His life and mission. It began once it helped me locate my problem.
Once my problem was located, I realised that I had to begin by working back to understand not only His teaching but also His life. There is no point of ‘selectively’ taking some of His teachings that appeal to my reason and reject others. In fact, those teachings, according to me, become mere babbling that anyone could utter, if separated from His life and Mission. They become meaningful only if I accept,1 if not understand the very life through which those teachings came in its totality with all its doctrinal implications.
Our Lord’s death on the Cross and how His shed blood cleanses me, though not logically appealing to me, is how His life was presented, out of which His teachings were collected by His immediate disciples and early bhaktas. In fact, it was His death on the cross (and all other things that followed) that forced them to understand and promote His life and teaching.1 If I cannot accept His death and the doctrine related to it, and then I have to reject His teaching as well the way that teaching located my problem. I cannot selectively accept the way it diagnosed my problem and then work out my own solution to solve it.
I have to accept the treatment of a doctor who successfully diagnosed my problem. Even if I don’t trust her completely, unless I begin the treatment I cannot further proceed. I can seek a second opinion from some other doctor, but when other doctors fail to diagnose my disease, if a particular doctor has located it, then I have no other option but to continue the treatment from her. This illustration cannot be stretched beyond this.
Purvapakshin: But how long it will continue?
DB: Till the end of my life. If I attain mukti according to my bhakti in the Lord, then I will gain. If not, according to our Hindu belief, I will take another birth based on my karmas to work out my own salvation. In both ways I am in an advantageous position, which I don’t want to give up. So, according to your own argument, in this birth according to my need, character, and temperament and even because of my past karmas, it is written that I should follow Muktinath. And no one should put a stumbling block in that path. Even if others try to persuade me, keeping my goal ahead of me, I have to press forward, not minding about others’ comments, because as our struti says, ‘ayam atma balahinene na labyase’ (a weak person cannot attain that atman). So I should not allow anyone to weaken me.
Once Muktiveda diagnosed my problem, then with some trust, I began to follow the Lord. Of course, all the doctrinal issues related to His life, particularly about His atonement never appealed to my reason based on logic, but it met the need for my inner need and longing of my atman. Of course Swami Vivekananda can rebuke me by saying, “It is a sin to call man a ‘sinner’ and any need for a bloodletting atonement.” And Vedanta can appeal to my logically-pushing reason that ‘aham brahmasmi’ (I am brahman).
The interesting thing for me is that such teachings of Neo-Vedanta and Vedanta appeal to my reason, yet the way they try to explain away my inner struggle as mere ‘avidya’ (ignorance) or ‘maya’ looks very illogical. Reality always challenges idealism, though it may not undermine it. Their statements appeal to my reason (viz., I am not a sinner and the very Being of the Brahman) but their solution looks illogical and the treatment they prescribe to remove that ‘avidya’ looks impractical:
—it is through knowledge first, based on a correct understanding of sruti, but not mere intellectual understanding of it. That knowledge goes beyond the sruti. However it is not possible for all. Only a twice born can study it. But all are not qualified, except the twice born (dviji). Even among them unless one becomes a sannyasi that mukti is not possible. And all cannot become a sannyasi and only a Brahmin among the twice born is qualified for it (nivarti marga). And others have to work out slowly through various births (pravarti marga). And to help them all kinds of other means (vyavaharika) through bhakti, ritual, etc. are prescribed as no one will be left out completely. And both these two ways are within the reach of everyone and no outside help is required for it—like someone doing atonement for us.
Here is both a reasonable approach and illogical inconsistency. However it is beyond the scope her to discuss them in detail. A similar reasonable approach and illogical inconsistency is also in Muktiveda (predestination viz., God chose some for Mukti and others for hell; a theory of linear history – it started sometime in the past and will end up sometime in future, etc.). Neither my reason nor my longing can bridge the gap properly; I begin from where my longing is first addressed. Then I try my best to understand through reason all the doctrines that related to the issue with which I struggled. Everything doesn’t make sense. At the same time I don’t want to explain them away by hair splitting exegesis or dilute them by making a universal disconnected from their contexts. (See notes 2) My simple solution to such a contradiction is: once I began to live as per the level of my understanding and the way the longing of my atman is addressed, then either God will reveal more about other areas in which I am not clear or I myself through proper study will try to understand them in their total context.
Here I have to stop, because the further I write, it will confuse me more than anyone else—as I don’t know how to present my thoughts in English. I know this sharing will raise more questions that need to be addressed in a systematic way for which I am not qualified. By sharing this, I raise more questions than present any solutions to all Muktivedic doctrines and all the contradictions that reason refuses to accept.
One encouraging thing in our bhakti is that we can go to the Lord ‘just as we are’. These days on the Podigai TV channel (Tamil) in the morning from 6:45 to 7:00, Sri M. V. Ananda Padbanacharayar presents a beautiful discourse on the greatness of acharya (of Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya ‘RAMANUJA VAIBHAVAM’). And this morning (9-7-2014) he said that since people are afraid to go to a god who carries some astra (weapon) for fear of punishment, having pity on them, the god gives up the astra and takes the avatara as an acharya (teacher, guru) with sastra (scriptures) to teach us. That is why He has to take the avatara as a human being to communicate to us (as Krishna is called ‘Gitachariyan’ gita = acharya). So the acharya is God Himself and HE is even greater than God. So we can go to His presence with our doubts and questions without any fear. (These are not his exact words but my summary of his 15-minute talk.)
It is very difficult to live with Muktinath as His demands go beyond the Ten Commandments. In one way it is easy to please the God of Purvaveda. However, thankfully, He came as a Human being to teach us, knowing our limitation and need. So we can go “just as we are” to Him. The one consolation that I always have in Him is that He is ready to accept my weakness, but not excuses. And sometimes I find it comfortable for me to become ‘weak’ so that I need not even gain strength to offer any excuses.
The following story may not be relevant here, but I would like to share. I very vaguely remember it as I read several years before:
Everyday, a saint walked along with the Lord on the beach and talked with Him. So there were always four footsteps on the sand. One day after a long walk, when he looked back, to his surprise he saw only two footsteps. With much disturbance He asked the Lord why He suddenly deserted him and went away. For this the Lord said, “My dear son. You become too weak in your mind and spirit. At that time, I had to carry you in my arms. The two footsteps that you see are not yours but mine.”
(revised on 15-09-16 )
- Nevertheless, whoever reads the Bible today is also reached by the Bible today only. The contemporary reader does not get in touch with the historical Jesus, but only with the word that narrates him, and the moment he understands, it, revelation happens to him. Finally, the contemporaries of Jesus did not experience him as the incarnation of God, but only those who accepted him in their faith.— Revelation in Hinduism, Gerhard Oberhammer, in Andreas Bsthe (ed.), Hinduism questioning Christianity: Christian Faith in the Encounter with Hinduism, vol. 1, Modling, 2007, St Gabriedl Publications, originally first published in German: A. Bsteh (ed.,), Der Hinduismus als Anfrage an christliche Theologie und Philosophie(Studien Zur Religionstheologies; 3). Modling, 1997, Translation by Ingeborg Bogensberge, Vienna, in cooperation with John MMercer and Adrianne Nagy DaPonte, Boston, pp. 87-125 p. 103
- This is from my book review on Chaturvedi Badrinath’s two books:
Dharma, India and the World Order. Edinburgh, Scotland: Saint Andrew Press and Bonn, Germany: Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag 1993 and Finding Jesus in Dharma: Christianity in India. Delhi: 2000, ISPCK. [I this review is not posted in my blog. And those who are interested I can send.—db]
Second, Badrinath ends by giving a picture of Jesus that does not at all ring true. Opposing traditional views of Jesus he says, “the problem was that whereas Jesus was talking symbolically, those who heard him, including his disciples, understood him literally, and therefore did not understand him at all.” [2000: 184] But if Jesus’ disciples understood him wrongly, surely we should not claim that we can understand Him rightly. Promoting a cosmic Christ in opposition to the personal understanding of the disciples of Jesus based on their experience is wrong. For them He Himself was that Great Reality-the very God in flesh in His PERSON. Definitely there was a progressive understanding about this among His disciples, which was completed only after his crucifixion and resurrection. It is true that “what Jesus was saying, was that it is truth and love, and not the satisfaction of physical appetites alone, that make man fully human. What he was saying, was that it is love, and not the laws, that has the redeeming power.” [2000: 184-5] But it is a wrong perception to say that, “seen in this light, neither his crucifixion nor his resurrection is to be understood in its gross physical sense, although that is how they mostly have been understood.”  Because at least for the first disciples of Jesus all that happened in a gross physical sense in the life of Jesus, which has become a historical event for us now, is not a “mere records of events”  but also the meaning of those events, the interpretation the disciples of Jesus taught to others who confirmed that meaning in their own experience. The criteria for history is not just an event, but the interpretation of that event by those who have direct encountered with it. It is not that “Christianity in history” with its all varieties of beliefs that will help us to understand Jesus Christ as a PERSON, but the relationship which we have with Him because of our faith; faith both as a gift of God and our conscience response to that gift.