Monday, April 11, 2011

Being Perfect

The first story is from my school days. Our much-admired teacher was all praise for an Indian saint. He used the exact term - perfect man. And then suddenly, one of my classmates took the adjective in full literary sense. He asked, "How can he be the perfect man ? He cannot run 100 meters faster than Carl Lewis. He is not very handsome. He did not invent anything." The argument turned quite bitter actually. A very similar story happened much later when I was discussing Swami Vivekananda with a colleague. He quickly dismissed Swamiji stating that, "He did not do much for us. He died very young." Well, that was death - not directly his fault. On another occasion, I was lectured by a senior Professor that Swamiji wasted his intellect in religious rubbish. He could have been a great statesman, if he wanted so. The question apparently remains and resurfaces many times and the last being in a previous blog entry - here. The realm beyond materialism is unclear to us and therefore, what people do there, why do they go there and what purpose it serves are equally fuzzy.

But, I will not at least readily dismiss that for nothing. Primarily, because I think we lack a scientific approach to spirituality. Accordingly, the spiritual contributions are often interpreted as hocus-pocus nothing.

Just to take the example of Swami Vivekananda. He is arguably the most influential person in Indian Renaissance. At the time of Swamiji, the education system was English, the culture was getting forgotten and the religion was occultism (theosophy) or denying anything good in ancient Indian religions (Brahmo Samaj). He almost single-handedly revived the national pride. His influence ranged from literature - where he wrote prose in a completely new style to freedom movement - where freedom fighters were carrying a copy of his lectures along with Bhagabad-Gita. He established a new way for the monks - to serve man is to serve god. One of his protege, Sister Nivedita, is widely regarded as the most inspiring person behind the revival of Indian Art. On her own admission, Sister Nivedita, a foreigner by birth, learned to love India from Swamiji. Swamiji lived a short life but, he shook the world good enough in that time. His speeches electrified the likes of Aurobindo and Subhash Chandra Bose. Yet, he remains a saint only. A life not producing much that we can comprehend.

It was very similar question, that I recounted at the beginning of this blog, which made a young history researcher to start finding the facts about Swamiji. It filled volumes to narrate how Swamiji touched all aspects of the then Indian life and yet, we choose to remain so ignorant. Yet, Swamiji remains ignored in the list covering the makers of modern India, written by a prominent historian of our times. (here)

If I state now that Sri Ramakrishna - the saint from whom Swamiji learned his most cherished theories, was a perfect man according to our beloved teacher, I hope you will not try to fit him with Carl Lewis.

What we miss is that, there are layers of intellect and there are people belonging to different layers. Of course you cannot expect Ratan Tata to dig salts for you but, he does something to influence the taste of every Indian's meal. It is not always easy to fathom where the realm of a person is. Easier is to use a prism, closer to us, to see the beautiful rays the original source emanates.

To answer the question that was raised in a previous blog entry. Let me again humbly state that I am not illuminated enough to show you through but, I have reasons to admire people whom I refer or quote. To be specific, the context was mind's war over the senses and the related comment was - "Without senses we are like trees, nowhere to go, nothing to do, just live until death arrives". That in itself, is a wrong assumption. It would be fine if we would never feel sorry for the senses. We feel. The joys and the sorrows of senses are short-lived and therein lies all the problems.

Apparently, the beings who reach beyond this cursory world of senses live in an eternal peace. And at the same time, they immensely influence the material world via their thoughts. To find how they do that - is the quest for perfection. Or to put otherwise, that in itself is the perfect quest.

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