Category Archives: Reflections

Why Religion Was Not Taught in Schools

Teaching Hinduism in an academic setting is part of western influence, particularly because of Christian teaching in Sunday school and bible class during the colonial period.

In traditional settings in India, rituals were taught and learnt in a home atmosphere while puja were performed on everyday basis and also on special occasions.

Because many western Hindus feel the need for their cultural and religious identity in an alien atmosphere, particularly where their faith and traditions were challenged by other religious views, they feel it necessary to teach them ‘systematically’ both at home, in temple and special classes arranged for the purpose.

There is nothing wrong with this and we need to applaud them for doing it. But imposing their view of India based on their need is also becoming part of the Western Hindu agenda which I call as the ‘Native Invasion’ on India. What they will teach in a systematic way about Hinduism would be more philosophical/theological with a particular point of view. Of course some general teaching also could be given on some scripture like Gita.

But at the end, who is teaching and how the slokas and mantras are translated and interpreted also will play a crucial role in those teachings. At the least, some basic things can be learnt about some scriptures.

So though I welcome such thoughts, imposing them on others based on their experience is not correct and blaming Nehru and calling him a foolish person shows the immaturity of that person rather than helping to understand the Indian reality which is home oriented culture and tradition and not academic.

Hinduism is basically a religious of rituals. From the Vedic time (yajnas) down to the present day, the main focus of Hindu spirituality is centred around rituals to perform (how, when, who and why). In fact the Vedas are mainly concerned about rituals to earn the favour of gods.

Later Samhitas and Brahmanas mainly elaborate on this. In fact the Brahmanas mainly deal with how to perform the rituals with all the details and every act and part of rituals were explained and interpreted. The later speculative views about rituals are nothing but an (early) attempt to give intellectual explanation and understanding about them. In other words rituals came first and texts came later. And all the philosophical texts are nothing but elitist attempts to give rationalistic interpretation about the rituals.

This being the fact, any academic teaching about Hinduism without knowing the minute details of rituals (which also vary according to sects, region and even families) won’t do full justice to learn about Hinduism.  And all the minute details about rituals plays a crucial role in performing the rituals.  Which one needs to be done first and who can do it and how to do it are very important. Though the family priest can guide, it is the family elders, particularly women who know the details and will play an important role in it.

This cannot be taught by any academician. This does not mean that we should oppose or criticise such attempt to teach Hinduism. Though we should welcome such attempts, we should also point out the complexity of learning about Hinduism.

Good Samaritan

Luke: 10.25-37

The lawyer’s question and Jesus’ answer don’t quite match up, and that’s part of the point. He wants to know who counts as ‘neighbor’. For him, God is the God of Israel, and neighbours are Jewish neighbours. For Jesus (and for Luke, who highlights (p. 127) this theme), Israel’s God is the God of grace for the whole world, and a neighbour is anybody in need. Jesus’ telling question at the end isn’t asking who the Samaritan regarded as his neighbour. He asked, instead, who turned out to be the neighbour of the half-dead Jew lying in the road. Underneath the apparently straightforward moral lesson (‘go and do the same’), we find a much sterner challenge, exactly fitting in with the emphasis of Luke’s story so far. Can you recognize the hated Samaritan as your neighbour? If you can’t, you might be left for dead.— Tom Wright, London, SPCK (2004), Indian Edition, Delhi, ISPCK, 2015, pp. 127-28

 

But the priest had a special problem. The wounded man beside the road was unconscious and stripped. If the victim was a fellow Jew, and especially a law-abiding Jew, the priest would have been responsible to reach out and help him. But this victim was naked and unconscious, so how could anyone be sure of his ethnic-linguistic identity?11No doubt, the priest wanted to do his duty under the law.  But what was his duty?  (p.292)

The wounded man could have been dead. If so the priest who approached him would become ceremonially defiled, and if defiled he would need to return to Jerusalem and undergo a week-long process of ceremonial purification. It would take some time to arrange such things. Meanwhile, he could not eat from the tithes or even collect them.  The same ban would apply to his family and servants. Distribution to the poor would also have been impossible. What’s more, the victim along the road might have been Egyptian, Greek, Syrian or Phoenician, in which case, the priest was not responsible under the law to do anything. If the  priest approached the beaten man and touched him and the man later died, the priest would have been obliged to rend his robes, and in so doing would have violated laws against the destruction of valuable property. The poor priest did not have an easy time trying to determine his duty under the law. After deciding that his ceremonial purity was too important to risk he continued on his way.— Kenneth E. Bailey,  Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Illinois, IVP Academic, 2008, pp. 292-93

11. Even circumcision would not settle the matter for him. Samaritans and Egyptians were circumcised.—p. 292

The Levites functioned in the temple as assistants to the priest. This particular Levite probably knew that a priest was ahead of him on the road and may have been an assistant to that same priest. Since the priest had set a precedent, the Levite could pass by with an easy conscience….Could the Levite ride into Jericho with a wounded man whom the priest, in obedience to his understanding of the law, had opted to ignore? Such an act would be an insult to the priest!—ibid. p. 293

…Here the parable assumes the wounded man to be a Jew.  It would have been more acceptable to the audience if Jesus had told a story about a good Jew who helped a wounded Samaritan on the way to Shechem. The Jewish audience might have managed to praise a “good Jew” even though he helped a hated Samaritan. It is, however, a different matter to tell a story about a good Samaritan who helps a wounded Jew, especially after the Jewish priest and Levite fail to turn aside to assist the unconscious stranger!—ibid. p. 294

…A Samaritan would not be safe in a Jewish town with a wounded Jew over the back of his riding animal. Community vengeance may be enacted against the Samaritan, even if he has saved the life of the Jew….—ibid. p. 295

The Real Great Commission

Concepts in one (religious) tradition don’t fit neatly in others. For example, take the Christian concept called the ‘Great Commission’ where Muktinath says “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Every faith has some concept similar to this. Otherwise everyone would have following the same faith/theology/philosophy/doctrine from time immemorial. This is very true in Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya, as I pointed out in my critique on Balagangadhara

Though every bhakta should do her part in fulfilling the Great Commission of Muktinath, all are not called to do it in the same format. Each bhakta is called to do her part faithfully, leaving the rest with God. 

But the tragedy is that the Great Commission is interpreted as ‘converting’ people from one religious community to another. Even in this the conversion is not limited to personal faith but includes the sociological dimension. And Christianity, at least in India, promotes ‘conversion’ from one sociological community to another. In this they are not making any improvement or progress in those issues which they claim to be bad in Hindu society, such as caste.

In other words, people are called to change their camp without giving up what they find wrong in our society. And the converts too, thinking that they are escaping from the ‘devil’, jump in the deep sea, without anyone there to rescue them.

The Hindu approach is this: give personal freedom to choose any sadhana (spiritual discipline) that will help one to make progress in her spiritual aspiration according to her aptitude. It demands that each carries out one’s personal dharma inspired by the result of that personal sadhana. 

Let me explain this in my own way. Having become a bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath, I need to do my dharma (social duty) as per the teaching of my Guru and Acharya Muktinath. For this I have to stay back where I was born rather than shifting camps and blaming others about all the shortcoming and failures. Through my personal life, seva, and sadhana I have to do my part in fulfilling the Great Commission. And in that, God will use me as per the gifts I received from Him as well which I received as my inheritance.

A plain reading of the (religious) text without thinking what are the intentions behind its teaching leads to blind faith. In the Great Commission when Muktinath says “Go and preach the gospel and make disciples”, Christians take the two words ‘preach’ and ‘make’ seriously, while forgetting the crucial aspect of ‘disciples’. When the Muktiveda allows a Hindu to become a bhakta or disciple to the Lord and also remain in her birth
family and community (I Cor. 7:17ff.), what the Christian does in the name of Great Commission is what the Lord says in Mt. 23:15:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Though I have my reservations about the ‘illegitimate interference‘, I agree with Gangadhara about ‘proselytization’. For me ‘witnessing’ about the transformation that I received by the Lord is not an ‘illegitimate interference’1 since I never persuade anyone through coercion to change their religious tradition.

Although it is annoying to Christians, I say that even keeping my Hindu religious tradition as the frame, I can live as a bhakta of the Lord. Since pluralism is the Hindu reality, our Hindu religious tradition is broad enough to accommodate any kind of faith expression. At the same time, this pluralism never demands or expects any sampradaya to compromise or become syncretistic in doctrinal issues. Allowing for doctrinal/theological exclusivism, it provides inclusivism within its religious tradition. 

To my dismay what I see in Christianity is pluralistic exclusivism. Dismissing every other ‘denomination’ as heretical, it accommodates all kinds of denominations within one tradition in the name of Christianity. So in pluralistic inclusivism (Hinduism), one can openly and proudly remain a ‘witness’ for her faith and bhakti. Whereas in pluralistic exclusivism (Christianity), ‘proselytization’ is promoted in the name of Great Commission.

According to my understanding the Gospel introduces new values and respects old truths that help me do my dharma as a Hindu. The Great Commission should be centered on the noun ‘disciple’ rather than the verb ‘preach and make’.

 

22-4-15

 

Notes


1. “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….– S.N. Balagangadhara, Reconceptualizing India Studies, New Delhi, Oxford, 2012, p. 209.

Rationalization

Although in our bhakti we need to know and understand the various aspects (theological, historical, textual, etc.) and need to implement it in various areas of our life (spiritual, ritual, social, etc.) it is not easy or necessary to understand them all (together) and implement them simultaneously. Of course a holistic approach is essential as we cannot divide life in watertight compartments, but when we live we need to live one area in a given time and context.

For this, as Hindu bhaktas of the Lord, we need to understand one fundamental thing which Muktiveda clearly teaches: OUR BHAKTI IS GOD-CENTRED AND ETHICS-ORIENTED.  Whereas in Hinduism, since it does not have any single scripture as central or authoritative (passing over the orthodoxy it assigns to Veda), the fundamental Hindu worldview (in a simplistic and superficial generalisation) is DHARMIC-CENTERED AND KARMA-ORIENTED.

This does not mean that ethics has no place in Hinduism. Ethics is very crucial and emphasized in every area of life.  At the same time, ethics is also relativistic and decided and controlled by one’s own karma, which in turn evolves according to the level of ethics that is upheld. Though it is wrong to call this as ‘situational ethics’, the situation decides the role of ethics.

So naturally the role of idols and any worship of them should be understood based on this fundamental worldview.  That is why any Hindu apologetic (like Swami Vivekananda and many others) will always ‘rationalize’ it in a way without relating it to ethics.  And they need not do so, as ethics is not the centre but part of dharma.

However, according to Muktiveda as our bhakti is ethics-oriented we cannot rationalize it at the cost of ethics. But before we condemn or criticize idol worship, we need to remember that God is more concerned about so many ‘IDOLS’ that we have created and worship in every area of life.  So we need to understand idol worship in its various contexts but not to condemn or rationalize it. In fact our understanding of idolatry should warn us about our own idol worship in many forms without rationalizing it.

So whenever we read any Hindu apologetic about idol worship we need to keep this in mind.  While idolatry is upheld and rationalized by many Hindu apologetics, it was also questioned and criticised by a few though this minority voice and is never listened by all.  The beauty with Hinduism is that for every view or philosophy/theology there will be a ‘purvapaksha’ (former side/view) which needs to be refuted before establishing one’s own philosophy/theology which is known as ‘uttarapaksha’ (later side/view).  So, while upholding contradictory views side by side and upholding and questioning equally, all these contradictions will always be rationalized. This is true not only in Hinduism but in every other faith, including our understanding and interpretation of Muktiveda.

Db.

7-8-2017

Adjusting

Again at our year-end meeting, I made the comment after a round of questions that I have only one word for all problems in life and that is: ADJUST. What else can one do? If others cannot adjust with me, then they can leave me and walk away, but poor God; He has no alternative but to ADJUST with me. For me even the Incarnation (purna-avatara) is nothing but an ADJUSTMENT by God to reveal Himself to us.  God is not limited but (un)fortunately He has to accept me with all my limitations. At least others can escape, but God cannot because:

The famous Tamil Saiva saint Manikkavasagar in ‘Pidittap pattu’ (The Decad of the Tenacious Grasp’.—G. U. Pope, The Tiruvacagam, London, Oxford, 1900, p. 291) at the end of each poem in these lovely ten poems (cling or holding fast) challenges Siva ‘Ah whither grace imparting would’st thou rise’?3 (Pope, pp. 291-297). As he rightly said in another poem ‘who is trapped in the net of bhakti’ the Lord too cannot escape from a bhakta.*

So my formula in life is to try to live in the present, learn from the past (without depending on past success), plan for the future, don’t ask the question “What if…”, trust God, and finally ADJUST and enjoy life day by day. Continue reading

Scripture and Bhakti

Without a foundational scripture, most Hindus don’t have the habit of reading any particular (sectarian) scripture as part of their (everyday) sadhana. Of course many will recite songs (bhajans) from their particular sectarian scriptures or common devotional books as a part of their ritual as well as sadhana.

But reading Muktiveda as part of everyday sadhana is often insisted, mostly by evangelical Christians.

About this H. L. Richard says: “The Bible itself contains no exhortations to regular reading of the sacred text, simply because that was not even an option for a few millennia before the invention of movable type and the printing press. Thus, the current Evangelical focus on personal Bible reading is not something that the Bible makes any reference to. (This is not to imply that it is a bad idea…)” [Scripture in Hindu Contexts]

Since I came from a tradition where reading scripture was not a part of everyday sadhana, reading Muktiveda to know the will and leading of God in everyday life looked bit strange in the early days of my bhakti. But my sojourn among the evangelicals helped me to adopt this good idea and even now I continue to do it.  Continue reading

Hybrid Nationalism

No human can remain alone without being influenced by others. Though there are some original thoughts, most of them, in the course of their development, influence and are influenced by other thoughts paving for the emergence of new kinds of thoughts.

For example, some of our critics see that what we do as Hindu bhaktas of the Lord and say it is simply a parallel of what they are doing in the church. In my response to such criticism, first, I say that we cannot remain in isolation in life. So naturally we are influenced by others.

But I try to do everything to experience and express my bhakti in Muktinath as my birthright. Of course, even what I inherited as my birthright wasn’t completely original as I’ve been influenced by so many other cultures and traditions. But, I can also point out that as a Hindu bhakta of the Lord, my life has so many parallels from my own Indian tradition rather than only aping the Church.

In fact the nine forms of bhakti (Navadana bhakti1) already cover almost all that we do as Hindu bhaktas, which one can also see in the Indian church tradition also. Both individual personal sadhana and corporate worship are part of our Indian (Hindu) tradition, as is well-documented from various references from Vedic times to the present day.

Although Indian Christianity inherited so many of its religious expressions from the West, still it is part of our Indian dharmic tradition and cannot escape from Hindu influences. I must acknowledge that the intercessory prayer that we do is the same as what Christians do, though such prayer is not completely absent in the Hindu tradition (kuttup prarthanai is a form of corporate prayer).

Often the criticism is levelled from the Hindutva group, assuming we are just Christianity disguised in Hindu form. Though we can counter their arguments by proving that it is our birthright to follow this path and we have no need to defend it, there is no point of explaining to them about our conviction, because once they have made up their mind about our approach to it is mere waste of time and words.

However as a counter argument, I would like to point out that what they promote as ‘Hindutva’ is nothing but a ‘hybrid variety’ which cannot naturally multiply itself like the original or desi (local) variety. Here I don’t need to take time to point out that this ‘Hindutva’ Nationalism is imported from Europe, particularly from Nazi German which is purely racial and divisive in nature. That is why no matter how they try to promote this kind of ‘hybrid nationalism’ artificially among Indians, it never induces a strong sense of true nationalism among the common masses as Mahatma Gandhiji managed to invoke by giving a call to fight against the British.

Gandhiji’s nationalism was inclusive and it never divided people based on any criteria. It didn’t create ‘the Other’ among Indians by creating any sense of hatred about the British. However, this ‘hybrid nationalism’ can survive only by creating ‘the Other’ just for the sake of survival.

I am a strong Nationalist, even to some extent an ultra-nationalist. But while I agree with some of their cultural nationalism, I am dead against the way it is promoted and sustained by creating ‘the Other’ so that it can be sustained.

If we study our own Indian tradition of both the ancient and recent past — this so-called ‘NATIONALISM’ is not the original part of our Indian or Hindu worldview. It is artificially induced in our society, and it still struggles to take root among the common mass.

As I pointed out in Understanding Hinduism, though the Right wing groups try to promote it by encouraging people to celebrate and participate in certain events which they think will sustain such Nationalism, considering the size of our population not even a fragment of our people have followed this hybrid nationalism. I have previously mentioned Kargil day, which most of us have now forgotten.2

In the more recent past, our P.M. Modi sent an invitation for people to send Diwali greetings to our soldiers, which is good and we all should do (I have done it). But again considering the size of our population, I think only a tiny fraction would have sent such greetings.

It is sad that in this way, we Indians have not had the spirit of Nationalism and don’t honour our soldiers in proper way which they deserve. Personally, I have great respect and I serve them when I get the opportunity. In 2014, one soldier travelling with me was coming to finish some work in Chennai from Delhi. I helped him carry some of his heavy luggage and also arranged to keep it at Raman’s house until he was to continue his trip to his native place in Karaikkal. I even dedicated the book Understanding Hinduism to the soldiers of India who are guarding our civilization.

But before we seriously take up any issue or principle, we should stop and think, read, understand, and reflect rather than suddenly changing our position based on emotion.

Here I need not give any reference about the way Nationalism came from outside India and wasn’t a part of our civilization’s worldview. Liah Greenfeld’s ‘Nationalism & Modernity’, (Critical Quest, New Delhi, (1995, 2012) will give short but precise details about the concept of Nationalism and its origin and development in the West. Of course the Indian Hybrid Nationalists (Hindutva) will reject any kind of scholarship from the west in a sweeping generalization as they cannot stand to face the sincere and scholarly critical views about them (except those who have converted to their ideology). But simply closing their eyes and rejecting others view won’t hide the truth forever.

So the parallel is inevitable in life. However, there are certain parallels which may look parallel but might be a product of something indigenous, not unlike this kind of hybrid nationalism which cannot be reproduced, like any other hybrid items that we have at present—in vegetable, fruits and in animals (birds, chicken and egg).

Dayanand Bharati

5-1-17, Mathigiri.

 

Endnotes

1. “[In the] Bhagavata Purana…we come across as many as nineteen different classifications of bhakti, ranging from a threefold devotion to a thirty-six fold devotion, although a ninefold devotion (7.5.23; 11.6.9) comprising sravanam (hearing, 11.6.9), kiertanam (chanting, 12.3.52), smarnam (remembering, 12.12.54), padasevanam (service at Bhagavan’s feet), archanam (offering worship), vandanam (praising, 11.27.9), dasyam (servitude and humility), sakhyam (friendship), atmanivedam (self-surrender, 11.29.34) is more frequently recognised and recommended.” (Nath, Vijay (2001). Puranas and Acculturation: A Historico-Anthropological Perspective, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. 2001, 173-174)

2. In my travels I have often noticed a lack of nationalism among Indians. As I wrote in Understanding Hinduism:

“On July 26, 2001, while I was at Ranikhet (in Uttarkhand) some of my shishyas (on my instruction) and I lit a candle to celebrate Vijay Divas (victory day for the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999). But none of our neighbours lit any candle, though it was announced both in TV and radio calling people to celebrate the day nationwide. This suggests that a spirit of nationalism is not part of our tradition. Politicians and other patriots can at times host successful events, but a spontaneous spirit is lacking.

“This is not limited to Ranikhet as I have seen in various parts of India that people themselves do not voluntarily participate in patriotic acts. Badrinath shows that our feelings go towards dharma rather than towards nation:

“Nationalism arises in India not in response to any inner impulse of Indian society but as a Western graft. An outcome of a variety of very complex political and economic and emotional factors to which German romanticism had contributed greatly, nationalism had become by the nineteenth century a dominant passion of Europe. That passion was introduced into India artificially. Much of the Western history of nationalism came to be grafted upon Indian society whose traditions and values were rooted not in the concept of nationality, or rashtra, but in the idea of dharma, and the understanding of social relationships that followed from it.” (Badrinath, Chaturvedi (1993). Dharma, India and the World Order. Bonn: Pahl-Rugenstein. 1993, 103)”

Understanding Hinduism, New Delhi: Mushiram Manoharlal, 2005, pp. 295-296.

The Other and Going Overboard

Certain ideologies in the world need to create ‘the other’ to survive. This ‘other’ need not be a challenger or a counter-movement but should be an opponent. This enemy not only presents the positive value of their own ideology but also creates fear and insecurity in the mind of the people among whom they want to promote that ideology. They accuse ‘the other’ in order to keep their own survival. In most cases, this fear and ‘the other’ are created for political reasons or for their own survival rather than the interest of the common good of all mankind.

This practice goes by many names: religious fundamentalism, fanaticism, fascism, etc. But the promoters of such ideologies forgot that in the long run, any ideology created with a sense of hate for ‘the other’ will eventually divide itself, creating many ‘others’ amongst itself.

For me, religious fundamentalism in whatever forms it takes (‘cultural nationalism’, ‘way of life’, etc.) does the same. This not only creates a division among people, but also creates a negative perspective on everything outside of that ideology.

Sometime this spirit is also found among us who want to follow the Lord as Hindu bhaktas. Consciously or unconsciously we create ‘the other’ who follows the Lord in a traditional way or other ways they found appropriate for their need. But the unique teaching of the Muktiveda in the words of Dr. Paul Brand is: Continue reading

The Spirit of the Scripture

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

This is true not only for aesthetic experiences, but in our approach in every field of human activity. For example, if any one approaches a religious scriptures only to dig out some anthropological, sociological, political, historical, ethical or moral issues or message, she will miss the very spirit of the Scripture in which it is written. If one wishes to read or research for things other than spiritual issues, there is nothing wrong with it and she will definitely get it. But if any votary of any sampradaya wishes to find things other than what is required for her faith/bhakti, she will miss the very spirit of the Scripture for which it is recognized in her sampradaya. The author(s) of any particularly scripture never wrote keeping all these other needs of human being in mind other than what is required for the faith/bhakti of the followers of that particular sampradaya.

This trend to dig out all sorts of messages in a scripture aside from the original purpose is not new. But a supra-rationalistic follower of any faith with her dry intellectualism will miss the very spirit of the scripture. Just read few poems in Divyaprabandam, Tiruvasagam, Surdas, and Meerabai or in our case Muktiveda1. If a votary cannot find any teaching and guidance for her faith, she cannot claim to be a sincere and serious followers of that particular sampradaya. Continue reading

Critiquing The Critic

“Agree to disagree” is a golden principle that everybody knows. But there are very few who stop at disagreeing. In the name of ‘constructive criticism’ they find fault with the ‘other’. But such people forget an important difference between critiquing, which is healthy, and fault-finding in the name of ‘healthy criticism’. But how do we handle such people and at the same time help them realize that their criticism is not going to change the view of the other person so easily, sometime leading to a break in the relationship.

There lived one ‘Suppudu’ famous for his critical review of dance and music programs performed by various artists in Tamilnadu. As he wrote in the name ‘Suppudu’, his original name was almost forgotten by us. As an expert in his field, even great artists would become nervous when he attended their program. With much anxiety to get good comments from him in the next day’s column in leading newspapers, they would become extra cautious to present their performance.

But in their anxiety they would make some mistake and it would be pointed out clearly by Suppudu the next day. Because his views were authentic, everyone was anxious to receive good remarks from him. Artists also valued his critiques since he was the best in his profession as a critic. When some upcoming artist received some negative comments from Suppudu along with his appreciation, it would be endorsed by the editor of the paper with the Tamil saying; ‘even one is hit on the head, it should be done by a hand with a golden ring’ (குட்டுப்பட்டாலும் மோதிரக்கையால் குட்டுப் படணும்.), which means even criticized it should come from a person like Suppudu.

But one problem with the critic should also be recorded here. Sometimes they go to a program not to review it, but just for personal enjoyment. But when they allow their profession to become their very nature, they began to evaluate the performance rather than enjoy it. In this way, if they allow their profession to become too personal, they will miss several beautiful things.

And another problem also should be noted here. As a reputed critic, they will always receive accommodation in the first row—whether they go as a critic or for personal enjoyment. The artist who tries to ignore the presence of the Suppudus cannot do their best in the performance because in the name of ignoring she will constantly remember him. It is known as dveshya bhakti (bhakti of hate) in which the enemy of god too will attain mukti as he always remembered god out of hate.

But there are several mature artist who handle it nicely. Instead of ignoring him, they will recognize the presence of Suppudu and will give a big ‘Namaskaram’ to him. Whether this eases their nerves or not, at least it will help the Suppudus relax and enjoy the program. The mature artist knows that people like Suppudu who came to enjoy the program and not for any review cannot overcome their spirit of criticism.

Many artists are not just professional performers, but they make their art form part of their nature—as they live, move and their being become that very art. These artists understand the plight of the critic too. Making the critic also part of their life, they will not only continue to do their best on the stage and life but will also help the critic to do the same. Now the critic does not become the ‘other’, but becomes part of the artist’s own troop. A mature artist neither ignores nor becomes anxious with the presence of any critic in her performance. Instead, she integrates the critic as a part of her team. That way she can give her best, enjoy her own performance, and also help the critic enjoy the program.

Both the mature artist and the mature critic know that no one can perform an art, particularly related to music in a set pattern, without any change. When it comes to Indian classical music of both the South (Carnatic) and the North (Hindustani), the way an artist performs depends upon many things: the receptivity of the audience, their own health and mood, etc. So, without minding the presence of a critic, they will perform while enjoying themselves.

T.M. Krishna is the best contemporary example for this. He has said several times that he sings only for himself and not for others. One time in Chennai when he was performing for an invited audience in which they bought tickets for that concert, after singing for 45 minutes, Krishna said that he was not in a mood to sing further but if the audience insisted, he would finish his concert for the rest of the program. Knowing his nature, the audience also left after 45 minutes. He also never follows the set patters of beginning with Varnam and ending with bhajans or thukada. Though many orthodox musicians and critics criticized him for not following the traditional ways of presenting a concert, he doesn’t mind. Simply ignoring them, he carries on his art. In this way, mature artists don’t become anxious to impress others, particular the critic. By welcoming the critique, they ignore a critical mind and spirit about their art.

The same is the case with us. We should neither ignore nor become too anxious with those who critique our views. They are the unpaid guardians of our atman (soul). There will be critical people everywhere—beginning at home. We cannot avoid them and it is also not good to ignore them. But we must help them understand that as we make them part of our life, we too should help them make us part of their life. While critiquing a critic we should not ignore her but when she becomes too critical about everything, then for the benefit of all we should ignore her.

One final illustration. Some people are best when they are allowed to perform solo. While In a group performance, they may hit others while waving their hands and legs in the dance, where they cannot adjust to the need of a group performance. So in some dance dramas, such talented solo performers will be used when a single character is required and the rest will be done by the other members of the group. In fact, more talent and maturity is needed to perform in a group than a solo. But the solo won’t make sense without the group performance and the group performance will miss the link without the solo dancer. And the choreographer alone knows where to bring the solo and where the group. In the end, the audience applauds both for their joint performance.

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01-12-14