A View of Santhigiri Ashram

A View of Santhigiri Ashram
Lotus Parnasala and Sahakarana Mandiram , Santhigiri Ashram, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Paradigm shift in Indian Spiritual discourse on Dharma

Gurucharanam Saranam
ICPR National Seminar on Navajyothisree Karunakara Guru: Paradigm shift in Indian Spiritual discourse on Dharma .
Date: 22,23,24 August, 2017     Venue: Santhigiri Spiritual Zone Auditorium


Wisdom tradition of India is based on the idea of an underlying unifying spirit unity that sustains the whole and was able to postulate and maintain that all realms of existence are continuous and parts of the whole – the physical, the vital, the mental and the spiritual. It also indicates the philosophical idea that the most profound explication of Brahman as eternal purity is independent of matter/ spirit and freedom. Such a tradition has been able to relook human progress and a humane world characterized by the rediscovery of a new understanding of spirituality based on human sustainability. Unfortunately, the modern world order has made an extreme effort in emptying the sacred character of the human subject and also the cosmos and made it to become profane leading to humanity into an unprecedented crisis. The shaping of the present rationality within a span of the last 200 years or so was able to bring forth a number of negative  phenomena in science, techniques, art, ideas on development, philosophy, literature and practically in all spheres of social and cultural life. The criteria of instrumental rationality have found its wide application in all spheres of human activity: in science, techniques, economy, organization of collective life, our attitude towards the other. Be that as it may, it is significant to note that that there has been an upward understanding of the indispensable role of spirituality in nurturing and nourishing positive attitudes and values among humans. Nonetheless, the rising wave of religion induced animosity and fundamentalism all over the world has turned out to be an impregnable challenge that seems to engulf the whole humanity. It has created across the world intolerance, hatred and unhealthy competition causing thereby much disservice to the goal of religion and spirituality.

Despite India having the richest spiritual philosophies and knowledge systems, social segregation and superstitious belief systems and practices attributing to religion has done irreparable damage to the positive social evolution. The gross dichotomy between dharma as ideal and dharma as praxis in social, political and cultural life of the people ultimately contributed to foreign enslavement over centuries both mentally and culturally. Even after seventy years of independence, India has not been able to achieve desired material progress and social unity. Even today, social segregation suffused with notions of superiority and inferiority have been attributed to religion and sustained by religious beliefs, practices and worship systems. Nevertheless, India’s cultural legacy and religion continue to be the only unifying force and the ruling idea of ancient Indian thought is unity in diversity and not uniformity. 


Several Gurus and Acharyas took birth in India to restore dharma by eliminating the superstitious beliefs and practices based on religion and the resultant social segregation which is otherwise not the culture of this tradition exalted by Vedas and Upanishads. However, it has been a tragedy to find that these seers could not fulfill their mission and restore equilibrium by eliminating the basic deviations and distortions that ever caused social disintegration and made human life vitiated. Moreover, many of them confused the real meaning of dharma as constituting the distinctive duties of the four Varnas and the four Ashramas so that the term Varnashrama dharma has been misconstrued and looked upon as the Sanatana dharma. What they have lost sight was dharma as reflective morality. As Brihaspati and Vyasa put it, one has to depend on rational understanding of the social situation before coming to a decision regarding what is moral and what is not. Dharma, therefore, is not merely tradition or custom, but also truth and reason. This dichotomy between dharma as an ideal and dharma as praxis has ever been an unresolved dilemma in Indian societies.

It is in this context that the revelatory spirituality of Navajyothisree Karunakara Guru assumes global importance. Guru’s teaching is a revelation on the unanswered riddles in spirituality and religion. During the occasion of Guru’s spiritual fulfillment in 1973, it was revealed to him that due to an error occurred to a great Kalantharaguru in the Manu Parampara, there occurred lapse in Kaladharma or Yuga dharma which was instrumental in getting arrested the succeeding spiritual progression and social evolution. Thus, despite the sacrifice of great souls, humanity could not be guided to a vvirtuous life visualized by great Acharyas. Guru’s teaching signifies the necessity of overcoming the overwhelming cultural undercurrents of the Error and the Curse for proper spiritual development and thereby an effective evolution of the society leading to the development of the country.

Guru’s teaching marks a break with the existing notions on the ontology of dharma. The revelatory spirituality of Guru has thus brought to human knowledge for first time in known spiritual history that the eclipse of dharma and non- observation of yugadharma had been the singular and the fundamental causation of the lingering miseries, violence, greed and vices in humans and society. Guru draws attention to the basic truth that it was because the spiritual and material life of humans were not in conformity with the dharma of the present yuga, there has been violence, wars, injustice and absence of peace. It is significant to note that none of the past seers has made such an observation regarding the inalienable nexus between Yugadharma and human well being. It is this position of Navajyothisree Karunakara Guru that makes his teaching distinctive that calls for a paradigm shift in the existing dharma as exemplified in the faith, worship and practices of Hinduism.

The Seminar is purported to focus on the following topics:
1. Sanatana dharma and Yugadharma.
2. Dharma: Spiritual Progression, Material Fortune and Social Evolution 3. Worship Systems of Hinduism: Compatibilities and Incompatibilities
4. Yuga Dharma and Social Change: Metaphysical Assumptions
5. Dharma as the Ethics of Human Rights 6. Dharma as Legality and Reflective Morality
7. Navajyothisree Karunakara Guru: Vision and Mission
8. Revelatory Spirituality and Navajyothisree Karunakara Guru 

Contact Conference Coordinator : Dr. Gopinathan Pillai (email: gopikgopi@yahoo.com)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

India Has a Unique Role in the Spiritual Guidance of Humanity

The Word (Guruvani) of Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru

“Islam and Christianity are prophetic religions which do not have a long history. Besides, there is a deviation from the time of Moses. Also these two religions have more or less performed their functions, in their respective paths. The changes brought about by the Christian and Islamic presence in India were considerable. The Christian British bettered the lot of the lower castes and educated them. They started getting sufficient to improve their physique. Some from among these sections identified themselves with the occupying suzerain and became part of the new religious and educational institutions. They soon participated in the governance and outstripped the Brahmins in cleverness. Those who embraced Islam practiced it as a rigorous discipline. They relied on physical aggression at times and expanded the areas of their influence. Still, the majority of them are disadvantaged as they came from these Hindu communities which were uncultivated in the finer graces of religious culture. However elevated these religious groups might have become through education and affluence and however long they might have stayed close to political power, there is something lacking. The refinement of Sanatana Dharma is that it comes with a virtuous way of life combining cleanliness, tidiness and humility envisaged in the Hindu way of life.
The Sanatana law has come to mean a mixing of myths and legends of the ancient past and more recent stories up to the propounder of the Gita. All these are put together with an eagerness to establish Advaita. Those who spout this Advaita, non-duality, are often unsympathetic to neighbors and even to their own brothers and sisters. We are talking all the time. Vedanta degenerates into pedantry. That is why a correction is difficult in this path. 

As far as Islam and Christianity are concerned conflicts and consequent divisions occurred within them even as they were coming up. This divisive tendency had led to disasters. It is not yet time for another coming (of a prophet or great soul), bringing peace and rejuvenating these faiths. Besides, other paramparas have not been able to go deep into spirituality as the Sanatana or perennial law of the Manvantara system. It is a matter of divine intervention. Such depth of spirituality as this is difficult to find elsewhere. And so is such extensive history and religious culture. Still more significantly, the responsibility of working for the remaining time period of this Manuparampara is vested in the Dharma of the Hindus. The Manuparampara is the means to impart the Law of the Supreme to the world. Therefore the essence of all religions inheres in this system. An alternative to this way cannot evolve easily in the world.

India is a land of great wisdoms and great civilizations grown over vast periods of time. It should, therefore, strive to establish the perfect culture willed by the Almighty. Not only Christians or Muslims alone, all religions ought to heed this. Though each world religion is essentially part of a totality, each has been separately ennobled by many great men from time to time with their self-sacrifice and effort which have given rise to different customs and traditions. Many such traditions are visible in Hinduism itself. It is doubtful if any other religion is enriched to this extent. In order to mold life in keeping with this Age -the Kali, theologians and all believers of various religions should assess this Kali and its composite culture - the samkara mentioned in the Gita. This is a process to be achieved by the present and future generations...

A reorganization of our society, of our country, is required. All of us, believers, should free ourselves from the destructive effects of the caste system. We should overcome ethnic and religious differences. All children of this land should come together in humility and in devotion to God. That is the way to reorganize. This will give us the strength of mind, and power. The community that could contribute greatly towards this reorganization is the Brahmin community. In them intelligence, skill, ability and shrewdness blend as it were. They should give up their varnasrama caste trappings completely and lay the foundation of a composite—samkara—culture, the culture that is meant for Kali, indicated by the author of the Bhagavad Gita. They should unite with others to build a complete society, totally free from caste or class. They should not be distracted by the differences seen today. The pattern of having one mode of worship for themselves and other modes for the rest should change first. Instead of securing tantric rites people should be firm in the experiential worship of the Divine. Those who strive wholeheartedly for this should lead others who lack awareness. If we do not do this, the births of great souls would be diverted elsewhere away from our ethnic stream. The focus of redemption will move away and we will be left in a complex of Karma...” (Quoted from the book ‘A Dialogue on Human Prospects’ by Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru, published by Santhigiri Ashram)
 (Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru (1927-1999) is the Founder Guru of Santhigiri Ashram at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala) 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Caste System and the Vedas

Gurucharanam Saranam

With the introduction of Vedic caste system, the Indian society had lost its unity which greatly helped outsiders to conquer and plunder India, both culturally and politically. The majority of people was suffering under the millstone of caste system. They remained impassive even when the country was plundered by outsiders. Caste is different from the Varna concept. Caste was the invention of a group of greedy vaidikas to subjugate the subaltern population of India.

The Varna system was not based on hereditary or external features but on innate soul qualities. After observing austerities, the Kshatriyas and Vaisyas obtain spiritual elevation and thus become qualified to be initiated into the path of spiritual realization. Through such spiritual realization they become brahmanas. Brahmana means the possessor of transcendental knowledge or one who has realized Brahman (the Supreme Light).

Great sages like Vishwamitra attained the title of Brahma Rishi (Brahmanhood) by performing long years of penance. It is with such penance (tapas) the kshatriya and vaisya become eligible for initiation (deeksha). The Sudra is also eligible for initiation which becomes clear from the mantra in Aitareya Brahmana – ‘Yadyapah Sudranam Sah Daksha’. The Sudras were initiated by water in yagna ceremony. From this mantra as well as from some others, it becomes clear that Sudras also had the right to initiation as against the institutes of Manu and other dharma shastras, which are obviously interpolated versions.

The desire for brahmanhood is denoted by brahma varchasa kamana. It is said about a person in Srimad Bhagavata Purana that he obtained brahma-varchasam (brahmanhood) discarding kshatriyahood. Tapasaa kshatram utrujyo lalabhe brahma varchasam. Indra, the head of devas (gods), is said to have desired brahma varchasam (brahmanhood) through the performance of a yaga. Brahmavarchasam praayachhat (indra).

Sayana in his treatise on Vedas has defined the word brahmana as one who lives by the knowledge of Brahman and Vedas or who has realized Brahman. (Braahmana Vedenaananthena Cheshtanthe, Nitya naimittikaadiini karmaani Kurvanthiiti Braahmana, or ‘Brahma adhiiyate vidanthi va braahmanaa.) Whatever Varna one belongs to, the basis for becoming a brahmana is internal qualities like self-enquiry through a life of penance.

Vedasya ashtau upanishado bhavanthi Vithishcha- Upastavashcha, Damascha, Sraddha cha, Samprasnascha, Anaakiikaranam cha, Yogascha,Aachaarya Sushruusha iti.

The above verse enumerates the eight qualities that disciples require for initiation into Vedas. Here vitthi means pragna (self consciousness). It may also mean the offering (dakshina) to Guru by the disciples; Upastavam means living with Guru; Damam is physical and mental self control through a life of penance; Sraddha – the desire for knowledge; Samprasna –clarification of doubts from Guru; Anaakiikaranam – not imparting the acquired knowledge to unqualified people; Yoga means living in constant thought of the acquired knowledge.

The Bhavishya Purana states that from Soma the brahmanas were born, from the Sun kshatriyas, from the Ocean vaisyas and from Daksha the sudras (Somaadvaii braahmanaah jaataah, suuryaad raajanya vamshajah, Samudraat sakalaah vaishyaah, dakshaat sudraah babhuuvire).

If the origin of the four varnas were from the above sources, the corresponding physical differences should also have been created for the different varnas. God has created all beings including man with distinct physical features. Even among men and in the same varna every individual is distinctly different from each other. Then why weren’t the four varnas created with appropriate physical distinctions? If it were so, all would have observed the caste rules from birth itself.

Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda similarly mentions the birth of four varnas from the different parts of Brahman (God); brahmana was born from His (Brahman’s) face, kshatriya from the shoulders, from the thigh vaisya and from the feet sudra. If one thinks that castes can be determined on the basis of origin from the different parts of Brahman that also would not be logical, for the son of a Yogi does not necessarily become a yogi by birth. It is only by the practice of yoga, one becomes a yogi.

Therefore it becomes clear that the qualitative division of varna in the Vedas is not supposed to be on the basis of birth. To ask someone to what varna he belongs is something like enquiring whether he is a good or wicked man. The concept of Varna is based on the qualities of self and they are subject to transformation by individual effort.

With regard to women, the Vedas have classified all women into one Varna, i.e. women-hood. For example Manu Smriti mentions that in the event of killing women, to whatever varna she belongs, expiation is the same for all. The rituals related to women such as puberty, marriage, chastity etc are common for all women (Chaturvarnaja streenaam hanane, Praayaschittameka vidham, Rajaswala dharma paativritya dharmaadhikam cha sarvaasaam ekavidham6 )

In the Aitareya Brahmana, the definition of other three varnas is given as under:

Kshatrajam sevate karma
Vedaadhyayana sangata
Daanaadana ratiryastu
Savai kshatriya uchyate

(One who observes the duties of a kshatriya (warrior class) and finds enjoyment in giving and taking and learned in the Vedas is a kshatriya)

Vanijyaa pashu rakshaa cha
Krishyaa daana ratih suchih
Vedaadhyayana sampannah
Sa vai vaisya iti samjnitah

(One who is engaged in trade, rearing of cattle and agriculture and finds happiness in charities, of pure nature and learned in the Vedas is a vaisya).

Sarvabhaksha ratir nityam
Sarvakarmakaro asuchih
Tyakta vedastvanaachaarah
Sa vai sudra iti smritah

(One who eats everything (without discrimination), indulges always in sensual pleasures, does every action ugly and has become immoral abandoning the Vedas, such a person is a sudra).

Among sudras also there are two categories – sat-sudra and asat-sudra (Bhagavat Gita-7th chapter).

From the analysis of above references from Vedic literature, it can be seen that varnas are based on internal qualities alone and not based on birth or hereditary. In this context it would be worth to quote Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru on caste system:

‘Kali Dharma is not based on caste or religion. It is based on the innate goodness of humanity. It was laid down that we should not step into, see, touch or take… We fought one another within these edicts. As a result, varnashrama dharma was lost and in its place emerged the caste system. All the karmas were hit by this system’.

Through an experiential Guru-Disciple order, Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru delinked the burden of iniquitous caste system and has founded a new social order based on Sanatana Dharma opposed to Brahmanical Hinduism that nurtures the system of caste and pagan rituals. Sanatana Dharma is the set of eternal and universal values propounded by the Rishis of transcendental realization. There is no place for religious dogma and discrimination of any kind in it.

Mukundan P.R.
1. Jaatyupaadi Vivekah (Sanskrit), Swami Madhava Chaitanya Bharati, Varanasi, 1990
2. Matsya - 114/55
3. Kanvasata Brahmana 2/4/412
4. (Aitareya Brahmana -41)
5. (Bhagavata 9/16/25
6. Tandya Brahmana5 (13/417)
7. (Manu Smriti 11.139)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Dharma of Marriage

The purpose behind marriage is the procreation of noble children, who will form the foundation of virtuous families and a virtuous human society. Through such offspring, parents attain elevation not attained by them. A family’s gradual spiritual elevation depends upon the merit of actions of the successive generations. Man-woman relationship is thus part of a divine process for fulfilling the ultimate purpose of life, which is spiritual elevation of every clan of families.

Man, as a rational being, lives according to his aspirations and freedom of thought, which produces diversities in the web of human relationship. This diversity is reflected in the social life, philosophy, art, culture, politics and economics. Among the complex social relationships, the relationship between man and woman is most fundamental since it plays a pivotal role in molding the culture of people. From the seed of man-woman relationship develops all other relationships - mother-father, son-daughter, sister - brother and so on. 

If the male-female relationship is not placed appropriately, the births proceeding from it would also have drawbacks. It means that through marriage, the male and female ought to initiate spiritual enrichment for the next generation. By the strength of offspring’s virtue, the parents are lifted up to a new plane of prosperity and peace, which they themselves lacked in life. 

Man-woman relationship calls for extreme caution and analysis in order to provide enduring beauty to the relationship. Normally, various aspects, such as health, looks, economic and social status, education, family lineage, caste, religion etc. are considered before tying the nuptial knot. The seers of India have enlightened us on the spiritual depth of marriage and the values and vision associated with marriage. For example, swayamvaram (a girl’s selection of bridegroom) was allowed under the spiritual guidance of rishis in the olden times. By the graceful guardianship of the seers, girls used to be endowed with spiritual knowledge and experience of spiritual visions (darsan).

 ‘Kulam’ (clan), ‘gotram’ (family stock), family tradition, faith etc. purports to the evaluation of a family’s worth in a spiritual point of view. However, caste should not come in the way of such life evaluation. The basis for such evaluation is the consideration of cumulative virtue earned by the souls in that family through their deeds in successive births.  Relationship between the males and females of such families produces positive results, as there is a matching of culture, wisdom and ability. Most important aspect among this is the way of worship because there should be a single way of worship in a family. 

Karma Gati or karmic course is influenced by vasanas or propensities of an individual, which includes the karmic burdens or fate. The karmic courses of the husband and wife should be complementary. For a scientist husband, an intellectually evolved wife would be contributing. There is a similar aspect to the spiritual status of individuals. An intensively spiritual husband and a less spiritually conscious wife will be a sure recipe for trouble. There is another aspect. The character and behaviour patterns of individuals vary according to the type of worship or faith they are attached to.  The unity of a family depends upon its spiritual unity. Therefore, the faith in one Supreme God is important to maintain spiritual unity in the households. It is only by correcting these underlying conflicts at the level of the soul can any real improvement be brought about in strife-torn families. 

The sages said, Bhaarya Bhajati Bhartaaram a wife worships her husband. The concept only means that by following the footsteps of her husband, a wife should attain an elevated position in life. The controversy on gender equality has arisen from a slip in the understanding of the divine status of a husband and wife and their responsibilities to each other. Success lies in the understanding of the qualities of both genders and developing together synchronizing these qualities. In family life, a wife embodies dharma and husband karma.

A person, who becomes a husband, should protect the chastity of his wife. It would be possible only when we order the dharmic structure behind life. Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru said that a father should be one with a mind as pure as the sky and a mother should be one speaking profound words (of wisdom). Like the sky, which absorbs the hordes of dark clouds, a father who is a husband should be able to absorb shocks, ups and downs in life with equanimity. There should be the quality of discrimination about what is right and wrong in life and one should live with a balanced mind. This is the meaning of ‘a mind as clear as the sky’. 

Such an ability to behave beyond the instincts happens through the grace of a supremely enlightened Guru.
Develop sukrutam –a benevolent attitude in all circumstances - that is the responsibility of a husband. The husband should understand his wife with all her limitations, cultural and spiritual qualities and give her guidance and support. Then only she could be elevated to a high status. The bond of husband and wife is to provide birth to noble children through their vigilant, pious and pure life. This type of life is possible only when we are guided by an omniscient soul-knowing Guru.  A woman after marriage is supposed to be living deeply respecting her dutiful husband. By this, she attains a blessed state in life. This can become practical only when the woman is enlightened enough to guide her husband in the path of dharma. The wife should seek life fulfillment through a path of dharma, the karma of her husband nourishing this goal.

Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru has said that the father should bring up the children in an atmosphere of proper worship (faith in the One Almighty God), life culture (habits), love and compassion to fellow beings. It would be possible only when the father and mother live according to the guidance of the 'Atmajnani Guru'. The father should make the children understand the difficulties and hardships that he himself had undergone in life and also create situations in the life of the children for them to learn from such experiences.(The Dharma of Marriage, Swami Navananma Jnana Tapaswi, quoted from Santhigiri Souvenir 2016)