Archive | October 2014

LEGEND OF DEEPAVALI

In the South of India, Deepavali is associated with killing of narakAsura , son of varAha and bhUmi dEvi. It is celebrated on krishna chaturdashi, i.e., on 14th of dark fortnight rather than on amAvasi.

NarakAsura:  The story of his birth & deeds:

During varAha avatara of Vishnu,  bhUmi dEvi gave birth to a son who later on became narakAsura.  At his birth nArada  prophesied  that the boy would  become a great powerful king, protecting rishis and dharma provided he kept away from away from weapons.   If he did touch a weapon he would turn from dharma to adharma – he would become an asura. As all mothers, a distressed bhUmi dEvi asked varAha boon of long life for her son.   Lord assured bhUmi dEvi that narakAsura will die at her hands and that no one else will be able to kill him.

narakAsura in initial years was unusually good and kind to all those around him. In obedience to his mother’s command, narakAsura would not touch any weapon.  However, this was an intolerable situation for bANAsura, who had heard of the prophesy. Devising a stratagem, he asked two asuras to assume a form of cow & a brahmin with cow being driven off by asuras and  the brahmin lamenting. At first narakAsura tried to reason with the demons without success. At the urging of the “brahmin”, he takes up a weapon lying nearby and promptly kills the asuras. With the shedding of blood shed and with a weapon in hand, his persona takes a change. In a story worthy of Mario Puzo he turns from good to evil so much so his very name means hell (naraka) .    Path to hell is always paved with good intentions so they say.

Nothing was sacrosanct for him. Whatever he saw, he needed to possess it.  Oppression was rife, the  good were persecuted.    Distinction between the sacred and profane, the honor due to gods and ancestors were forgotten. The great expectations that had come invested in this son of divine parents is utterly lost.  The king of prAg-jyotisha-pura – City of First Light  – son of divine parents – vishNu and bhUmi – turns utter evil.

Naraka's kingdom

Krishna attacking prAg-jyotisha-pura

Frustrated Indra appeals to Krishna. satyabhAma who is distressed and angered about reports of maltreatment of women decides to go with krSNa to prAg-jyotisha-pura.   This is a city guarded by tall mountains, fire, sweeping winds, weapons and finally by two headed fierce General named mura who is always asleep in the river around the Fort.  He and his ten sons are charged with protection of the Fort.  Awakened by the sound of  krSNa’s conch, mura and his sons fights krSNa but are killed. In the ensuring battle with naraka, when krSNa lies down to rest pretending to be tired, satyabhAma continues the warfare on krSNA’s behalf.  satyabhAma succeeds in killing narakAsura. While dying, narakAsura realizes the enormity of his sins and he prays that people do not mourn his death, but celebrate  it by wearing new clothes and lighting diyas (deepa) which is now celebrated as Deepavali.

 Oh those confused Hindu rishis and brahmins – they wrote some absolutely ridiculous story you say. The son of so called divine beings – vishNu & bhUmi – becomes a demon. What more proof you need than this is just heathen garbage or devil worship?  Is this really so?  Are mythological stories meant to entertain and writers just showing of their imagination

Symbolism

Who is narakAsura? It is our own self,  We are of divine parentage – born of this earth and divine father.  We are the kings of prAg-jyotisha-pura (City of First Light) or at least that is our potential.  Yet the City that we are kings of is naraka (hell)’s kingdom.  Mura means encompassing, it also means dullness.   Gen. Mura is an all encompassing dull mind and is father to 10 sons –  the senses.   This mind is dull as it is fully immersed in the river of the world and doesn’t realize is true stength.    Mura’s famed trident are  gunas with which the world moves i.e. sattva, rajas & tamas.  Mura being two headed – could have lead naraka to immortality while being  rooted in this world.  When woken up by Sruti and Shastras as symbolized by a blast from pAnchajanya conch – the whole of our essence is to resist due to inherent vasanas.    narakAsura’s death at the hands of satyabhAma – who is regarded as an incarnation of bhUmi dEvi –  is to signify that all karmas have to be exhausted on this earth.  Death at the hands of Divinity is – a grace, a benediction – for it delivers the being – whoever or whatever the being it may be –  from the repeated cycles of birth and death.

Our emancipation from evil and from the entrapment of mind and senses is the story of narakAsura and of Deepavali. Today when we light the spiritual lamps and enjoy the divine presence of Lord, let us understand the story, its symbolism and significance.

Advertisements

Transcendence, Immanence and Pantheism

There is generally a misunderstanding of the concept of transcendence and immanence in Hinduism which is reflected in its practices quite extensively. Some people assert that Hinduism is not a religion because it exalts “created” (i.e., world) to the position of God or that it makes God out of everything.  While generally Abrahamic faiths emphasize Transcendence, whereas Hinduism emphasizes both Transcendence and Immanence.

 

Transcendence in religion means going beyond or something completely outside this world while Immanence recognizes the concept of Divine within (this Universe). In transcendence, God is thought as something beyond this universe while in Immanence which says that God permeates everything. Transcendence of the God in Hinduism is established by stories of वामन (vAmana), and Immanence is established by story of प्रह्लाद (prahlAda).

 

Pantheism however says that the material world i.e., the visible world is identical with God. What is the difference then between Immanence and Pantheism? Perhaps an example will clarify this better: A fish within the water will have water all around it and within it too; Water within that fish is Immanence while water outside the body of fish is transcendence. Thus, Pantheism is a subset of the super-set called Immanence

 

Where is the scriptural proof प्रमाण (pramANa) for this Transcendence & Immanence of God? Let us go to Purusha Sukta. The first rk says: सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् ।स भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङुलम् ॥१॥ (sahasraSiRSa puruSah, sahasrAksha sahasrapat; sa bhUmim vishvato vrtva atya tishTha dazAngulam) – thousand head, thousand eyes and thousand legged Being covered/enveloped/permeated this universe and extended 10 fingers beyond it. (Read thousand as infinite). SunThus in the first Rk itself Veda establishes the Transcendence and Immanence of God. The Veda continues: एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः ।पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि ॥३॥ (etAvan asya maHima ato jyayag~mzaca pUruSah; pAdo asya vizva bhUtani tripAdasyAm amrtam divi) – All this is His glory (i.e., the manifest world). But He is greater than this entire visible world. A quarter of Him is the manifest Universe while three-quarters of Him rests in divine immortality.

 

How is this philosophy reflected in the religious lives of ordinary Hindus? When “Superstitious Hindus” turn every stone, every tree, every animal or humans (Saints, Sufis etc), it is not they are acting out of “ignorance” or “superstition”; It is they recognize the immanence & transcendence of God within. When they perform “avAhan” (invitation/invocation) ceremony before every worship they invite the transcendent Brahman to appear as immanent Brahman to receive the worship in the idol they revere. Puja done, the Brahman/God is requested to revert himself to the Universal Transcendent Being that He is. The object/idol of worship afterwards becomes profane again. This is reflected in the joyful visarjan processions every year after Ganesha chaturthi or Durga puja