Category Archives: O. Revitalization and Modernity

The Devotion of Sri Ramakrishna

“Nobody has been able to understand him who came on earth as Sri Ramakrishna. Even his own nearest devotees have no real clue to it. Only some have a little inkling of it. All will understand in time.” (Swami Vivekananda in Sil xvii)

How can we realize the presence of God? Sri Ramakrishna searched the answer of that question throughout his life in the Daksinesvar Kali Temple, where he is reputed to have succeeded in gaining a vision of the gods and goddesses of many religions. To his devotees, Sri Ramakrishna represents an Avatar (incarnation) of the Divine, among the innumerable spiritual figures of India. Devotees also believe that he spreads the light of mystic radiance over the entire world.

In 1936, in Kamarpukur, a little Bengali village sheltered by banyan trees and mangoes and surrounded by rice fields and pools, Ramakrishna was born. His father was Khudiram Chattopadhaya, and his mother was Chandramoni Devi (Paramahamsa 29). According to legend, while Khudiram was on pilgrimage to Gaya, a god appeared to him during a dream and promised to be reincarnated in Khudiram’s next son. Meanwhile, while Chandra Devi was visiting a Siva Temple, she too had a vision that foretold the birth of a divine child (Lemaitre 45). Dhani Kamarani, a blacksmith woman, was present with Chandramani Devi when this happened. In the memory of the dream at Gaya, he was named Gadadhar which means “the Bearer of the Scepter”, which is one of the names of Visnu (Lemaitre 45). It was later in life that he began to be called Ramakrishna. From a very early age he was disinclined towards formal education and wordily affairs, but he was a very talented boy who could sing spiritual hymns and paint. He was found to be absorbed in spiritual moods while listening to the discussions and discourses of Holy men.

According to his biographies, Gadadhar was six years old when he experienced his first ecstasy. It occurred while he was walking with his sister-in-law and some of her friends to a temple in their village. He was singing devotional songs and running around in the paddy field. The sky was covered by black clouds and when he saw a flight of white canes in front of the dark clouds, Gadadhar lost connection with outer consciousness and experienced an incredible joy in that state (Lemaitre 46). Gadadhar repeatedly experienced similar experiences throughout his childhood. At times when he was worshiping the goddess Vishalakshi or while playing with his friends, he would lose connection with his consciousness and move into his own happy land, samadhi. Once in his village during the festival of Sivaratri, there was a play being conducted about Siva but somehow the person who was going to act as Lord Siva was missing. So Gadadhar volunteered to act. While playing the role of Lord Siva, Gadadhar, once again, lost his consciousness. At the age of ten Gadadhar would experience this trance more often, until it became a common thing.

In 1855, Ramkumar, Gadadhar’s brother, and his nephew, Redayram, became the priests of Dakshineswar Kali temple, which was built by Rani Rashmoni who belonged to Kaivarta cast. Gadadhar’s task in the temple was to decorate Ma Kali. Gadadhar was also known as Thakur, a simple priest. He was unconventional. He believed that if you do not think that god is with you and a human being, then you cannot come close to god. So Gadhadhar did not follow all the rules and regulations of the Brahmin caste. Nevertheless, he was later appointed as the main priest of the temple. He then started looking at the goddess, Ma Kali, as his own mother and also the Mother of the Universe. He also worshipped his own wife, Chandra Devi as the Divine Mother and invoked the divinity in her. As Gambhirananda describes:

“By the by, the Mother lost all outer consciousness and the worshipper, too as he proceeded with his ceremonies, gradually lost himself in beatitude. On the level of ecstasy the Deity and the devotee became identified.” (Sil 147)

During the 1860s Sri Ramakrishna also practiced Islam under the Banyan tree of Daksinesvar. Govind Roy, a Sufi initiated him (Sil 73). Ramakrishna used to say prayers five times daily wearing a cloth like an Arab Muslim. The Hindu way of thinking disappeared from his mind. According to biographical accounts, he spent three days in that mood and a radiant countenance of Muhammad appeared to him in a vision. He also had an interest on Christianity. He was so surprised to see the shyness of the figures of Madonna and the child Jesus and became interested in Christian religion. Though his deep meditation he had a vision of Christ, as a great Yogi and son of the Divine Mother. He did not believe that any one religion could hold the whole truth to the exclusion to others (Lemaitre 112). One of his renowned teachings is: as many faiths so many paths.

One day Ramakrishna went on a pilgrimage to Varanasi with Mathur Babu, the son-in-law of Rani Rashmoni, and his family. They first stopped at the Vaidyanath Siva temple in Behar (Lemaitre 115). He was greatly distressed to see the wretched condition of the people in a nearby village. Moved by sympathy for them, he requested Mathur to feed the poor people and give everyone a piece of cloth. Unfortunately, they did not have sufficient funds to feed and clothe everyone as they had to bear their own expenses for the pilgrimage. However, Ramakrishna was inexorable; he canceled the journey to Varanasi and spent all the money for the poor villagers. He believes that God lives in every living soul. During a state of hyperconsciousness Sri Ramakrishna said, “Jiva is Shiva [the living being is God]” (Lemaitre 116).

Ramakrishna also met with many of the great sons of India. Among them Swami Vivekananda was one of his favorite disciples who became a messenger of Hinduism in the western world. According to legend, long before he knew Naren (i.e., Vivekananda), as in the case of Rakhal, a young disciple who later became Swami Brahmananda, his other favorite son, the priest of Daksinesvar had seen him in a vision in the guise of a wise man plunged in the meditation of the Absolute, having incarnated in a human body in order to assist his master in the earthly task of which at that time Vivekananda was utterly ignorant (Lemaitre 186). Sri Ramakrishna went to Samadhi with Vivekananda before his death and gave everything to Naren to lead the work of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda.

After the death of the great master, his favorite disciple Narendranath assumed the role of organizer and evangelist following Ramakrishna’s example. He took a leadership of the permanent monastery in 1898 at the Belur Math where Vedantic study got a promotion with the arts, sciences , and industries, teacher training, mass literacy and education, establishment of schools, colleges, orphanages, workshops, laboratories, nursing home for individuals and so on. The Math and the Mission together have 144 centers all over India and in different parts of the world (Lemaitre 205). Most of the missions and Maths are situated in India and Bangladesh.

Sri Ramakrishna was a successful priest of Kali as he had a vision of the Divine Mother through his restless devotion. On August 15, 1886, he had fallen into a trance and never awoke, but his teachings are still alive in the millions of his disciples. Sri Ramakrishna’s chief apostle, Swami Vivekananda’s organizations, Ramakrishna missions and Maths, are spreading out the concept of love and devotion among the people of all over the world and providing humanitarian aid. Being an illiterate sage, Sri Ramakrishna became a spiritual master of Hindu philosophy and a savior of twentieth century. The German philologist portrayed Sri Ramakrishna as “a wonderful mixture of God and man” and as “a bhakta, a worshipper or lover of the deity, much more than a Gnanin or a knower.” (Paramahamsa: 58)

References and Further Recommended Reading:

Lemaitre, Solange (1969) Ramakrishna and the vitality of Hinduism. New York: Funk & Wagnalls

Sil, Narasingha Prosad (1937) Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A phychological Profile. New York: Brill’s Indological Library

Gupta, Mahendranath (2001) Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita. Chandigarh: Vedanta Press

Paramahamsa, Sri Ramakrishna (2008) Ramakrishna, His Life and sayings. Toronto: Forgotten Books

Related Topics for further investigations:

  • The Ramakrishna Math and Mission
  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Goddess Kali
  • Sarada Devi
  • The Guru
  • Bhakti
  • The Dakshineswar Kali temple
  • Four stages of life
  • Rani Rashmoni
  • The four stages of life
  • Samadhi
  • The Vedanta
  • The Bhagavad-Gita
  • Brahmasamaj
  • Karma
  • The Darcanas and Yoga

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://www.belurmath.org/

http://www.kathamrita.org/

http://www.sriramakrishna.org/

Article written by: Sudipto Chowdhury (2009) who is solely responsible for its content.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is to be considered one of the most profound figures in India’s history. Unlike many people who centre their lives primarily around their outward actions and extrinsic influences, Sri Ramakrishna lived only for spirituality and his innermost thoughts. Solange Lemaitre remarks that, “his life is the muted accompaniment of the purely inner story of an exceptional soul and its spiritual steps towards the Absolute” (146) [For further information on “the Absolute,” see Lemaitre 83-93]. Over the years, Ramakrishna received great fame and admiration for his effortless ability to enter into samadhi [this is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga; a spiritual state when one’s ego disappears, for more information, see Nikhilananda 169], his deep beliefs rooted in the Hindu tradition, and his teachings on acceptance and charity.

Even Ramakrishna’s birth was said to be surrounded by divine occurrences. Both of his parents, Khudiram Chattopadhyaya and Chandra Devi, apparently received spiritual visions about their son before they were even aware of his conception. Khudiram dreamt that the god Visnu made a promise to him to be born as his son, and Chandra experienced a vision “indicating the birth of a divine child” (Nikhilananda 4). And it was on February 18, 1836 that Chandra gave birth to a son, Gadadhar [this name translates as “the Bearer of the Mace,” an epithet of Visnu, see Nikhilananda], who would go on to be recognized as Sri Ramakrishna. He was born at Kamarpukur, a village in the Hooghly District of Bengal, India. Gadadhar grew to be an intelligent, inquisitive, and “healthy and restless boy” (Nikhilananda 4) whose primary interests lay in Hindu mythology and the epics, religious readings, and observing Hindu monks’ pilgrims and worship. Gadadhar’s strong passion for religion and the spiritual world was only beginning to develop and would continue to grow stronger with time.

From an extremely young age, Gadadhar demonstrated unconventional manners, according to the Indian caste system. At his sacred thread ceremony, the nine-year-old Gadadhar accepted and ate food that had been prepared by a sudra woman, which was seen as improper due to his Brahmin status. This event marked the beginning of his long-standing belief that, “[t]hose who love God belong to no caste” (Lemaitre 78).

Gadadhar had special divine qualities about him that sparked in him a burning desire to know God and continually obtain more knowledge about God. Lemaitre explains that as soon as the teenaged Gadadhar “entered into contemplation, the Lord appeared to him virtually immediately. It was from this time forward that the propensity of his nature to lose consciousness became stronger” (49). It was this strengthening propensity that would go on to guide Gadadhar in his new role as a priest at the Kali temple of Dakshineshwar, located near Calcutta, in the state of Bengal. Gadadhar would also be guided throughout the course of his life by two influential and very different people. One of his mentors was a master of non-dual Vedanta, “Totapuri” (Nikhilananda 26), and the other was a female tantric, “the Brahmani” (Nikhilananda 18).

Sri Ramakrishna became a priest at the Kali temple by replacing his brother, who had died one year after accepting the position. At only twenty years of age, Ramakrishna was brimming with vibrant energy and enthusiasm for religion and pursuing God, but he did reserve some hesitation towards the temple of Kali and the hierarchical implications of his new position as a priest. He did not support the idea of the caste system, as previously mentioned, and this was reflected in his initial reluctance to accept the position. But soon after beginning this new chapter of his life, Ramakrishna was overwhelmed by the holiness of the temple, its close proximity to the sacred river the Ganges, the atmosphere of the temple and its surroundings, and above all, “the living presence of the Goddess Kali” (Lemaitre 57). He would go on to regard Kali as the “Divine Mother” (Lemaitre 86) and rapidly became more obsessed with seeing her in her absolute form. This obsession drove Ramakrishna to perform unorthodox rituals, such as praying to Kali throughout the night while removing all of his clothing, including his sacred thread (this was thought to be sacrilegious), in an effort to free himself of all external bonds (Lemaitre 65). These unorthodox practices intensified the growing notion that Ramakrishna was, in actuality, insane. It is not difficult to understand the assumption that Ramakrishna had gone “mad” as he would suffer bouts of hysteria when he felt as though his body was on fire, fits of uncontrollable sobbing, delirious moments of ecstasy, and an overall complete indifference to the outer world (Nikhilananda 18).

Sri Ramakrishna was twenty-three years old when he married Sarada Devi in 1859. His marriage further emphasized his devotion to God and his “unquenchable desire to enjoy God in various ways” (Nikhilananda 15) as their marriage was never consummated. This act of celibacy lifted Sarada Devi to a type of pedestal so that Ramakrishna could “worship his wife as an embodiment of the Divine Mother” (Rodrigues 285). They remained married until his death in August of 1886.

Although Ramakrishna remained a priest in Dakshineshwar, his teachings rapidly spread throughout India and eventually worldwide as well. People were traveling in increasingly larger groups to see the “Divine Incarnation” (Lemaitre 84) and to hear him share his thoughts on life and God. He is well known for his warm acceptance of religions outside of Hinduism, as he himself briefly practiced the disciplines of Islam and Christianity. Nikhilananda remarks, “Sri Ramakrishna realized his identity with Christ, as he had already realized his identity with Kali, Rama, Hanuman, Radha, Krishna, Brahman, and Mohammed […] thus he experienced the truth that Christianity, too, was a path leading to God-Consciousness” (34). These realizations of various spiritual identities undoubtedly caused controversy amongst Hindus and others, but they also underlined Ramakrishna’s notion of tolerance and non-ignorance.

Of all the people who Sri Ramakrishna influenced, his impact on Swami Vivekananda was perhaps the most profound. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) became Ramakrishna’s most devoted disciple, spreading his master’s teachings and stories throughout the world, including the Western world. Ramakrishna’s name, along with Vivekananda’s, became known in North America after Vivekananda visited the United States. His appearance at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 marked the beginning of the development of a more compassionate, accepting, and appreciative relationship between Eastern and Western religions. He established the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York City and this center, along with its missions, continues to bridge the gap between the East and the West.

It was on August 16, 1886, that Sri Ramakrishna died in a house in Cossipore, India, with his disciples, dearest friends, and Sarada Devi at his side. His name lives on in his teachings and in the actions that thousands upon thousands carry out today in his honour. Lemaitre notes that “Ramakrishna’s sympathy for the unfortunate derived from his conception that God is in every being” (116). This sympathy is recognized and put into action through such groups as the Ramakrishna Order which, among other accomplishments, has “created schools, colleges, hospitals, dispensaries, homes for the aged, and orphanages” (Rodrigues 285). And so, Sri Ramakrishna remains a celebrated and illustrious religious figure and one whom Narasingha P. Sil affectionately calls, “the nineteenth-century Bengali Saint” (1).

REFERENCES

Lemaitre, Solange (1969) Ramakrishna and the Vitality of Hinduism. Trans. Charles Lam

Markmann. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

Nikhilananda, Swami (1984) The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-

Vivekananda Center.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2007) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Sil, Narasingha Prosad (1991) Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A Psychological Profile. Ed.

Johannes Bronkhorst. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Related Topics for further investigation:

· The Absolute

· Samadhi

· The Ramakrishna Order

· Keshab Chandra Sen and the Brahmo Samaj

· Swami Vivekananda

· Tantra

· The Vedanta

· The Goddess Kali

· Brahmin class

· Eight powers of yoga

· Aum

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

http://www.ramakrishna.org/

http://www.sriramakrishna.org/

http://www.kathamrita.org/

http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/

Article written by: Stefanie Rausch (2008) who is solely responsible for its content

Environmental Ethics

Since the beginning, humanity has been nourished by the various elements that constitute nature. However, use of the diverse renewable and non-renewable resources at our disposal, such as water, soil, fossil fuels, and metals, have not until quite recently translated into the abuse of our environment (Freedman 192,194-195,267-270). Due to the reality that our earth is, for the most part, a closed system, we must come to terms with the fact that sustainability is the means to a continued survival (Freedman 192). The current issues concerning our one and only planet are attributed mainly to those of the biosphere, global warming, waste, pollution, overpopulation, and nuclear proliferation (Crawford 168). Developing countries today are center stage for big industry, and when combined with high population density, immediate and distant habitats frequently take on an increased amount of debasement (Freedman 14-15). For this reason, countries such as India and China are some of the global leaders in reference to environmental degradation (Freedman 15). Granted the prevalence of Hinduism in current day India, it could perhaps be beneficial to instigate an analysis of these religious views in order to adopt a suitable approach for assisting in sustainable development. This paper will not only attempt to cultivate awareness of how common Hindu ideologies have contributed to greater environmental stress, but will also offer insight into how various Hindu views and practices could potentially assist the developed world in its struggle to preserve this planet.

The seemingly new concerns with, and increasing proximity to the environment that tend to be arising these days are not necessarily fresh in the minds of most Hindus. Notions of interdependence and connectivity with nature are said to stem nearly 3000 years back to pre-Aryan religion in the Indus Valley Civilization. [For more information of the Indus Valley Civilization, see (Rodrigues 8-12)]. Though there is no explicit literature to evidence these claims, archaeologists have unearthed a variety of artifacts that are substantially indicative of our assumptions. These relics include animal figurines of terracotta, “proto-Siva” models bearing horned headdresses and surrounded by plants and animals, and depictions of women surrounded and interwoven with trees (Rodrigues 11). As the Vedic age came to be, beginning at around 1500 BCE and lasting until around 600 BCE, religion in India, although undergoing some drastic changes, continued to value the relationship between humanity and nature. Animals were regarded so highly with the Dravidians that wild creatures symbolized many of their gods (Crawford 169). Deities such as Usas (god of the dawn) and Aranyi (goddess of the forest) emerged and, due to yajna, were perceived in terms of having a mutualistic existence with humans (Crawford 170). [For more on yajna, see (Rodrigues 28-33)]. In addition to this, various hymns to the goddess Prthivi(goddess of the earth) in the Rg Veda develop on the sophisticated ideas of environmental sustainability (Crawford 171).[For more on Rg Veda, see (Rodrigues 25,37,48-49,55,57,180)]. The notion of rta was another significant concept born of the Vedic age. This view entailed the belief that ethical order be combined with the elements of an existing physical and natural order (Crawford 170). By extension, rta was characterized not only by the laws of gravity and the rhythmic beat of a heart, but also by personal development, and therefore proper human agency. Although originating in a very distant past, these roots of modern Hinduism are essential to understanding the views presented and lived by nearly a billion people residing in India today.

When it comes to the problem of biodiversity, one usually does not immediately conjure thoughts of negative connotation. However, the truth is that human beings everywhere are carelessly decimating other forms of life at an unprecedented rate. According to Crawford, our race will push 100 species of plants and animals into extinction every day for the next 30 years (184). Unlike western civilization, Hinduism does not discriminate against life on the basis of its size or attractiveness. According to Hindu philosophy, the tiniest insects have as much of an inherent right to exist as an elephant or a whale. When any type of organism disappears, so does our ability to learn from that creature, as its genome is lost forever (Crawford 184). Hinduism criticizes the lack of ahimsa(the avoidance of violence) due to economic greed. The common excuse that protecting the environment will result in the loss of employment is fictitious, in that artha(wealth/skill) and dharma(righteousness) can thrive interdependently (Crawford 186). With the case of overpopulated third world countries, in which poverty is rampant, many believe that the resources to worry about non-human life are not available. However, in Hindu perspective, even these countries need to be aware and acquainted with the long-term results of their current economic activity (Crawford 185). Consider the following quote from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad:

“…In so far as beasts and birds, even to the ants find a living in his

houses he becomes their world. Verily, as one wishes non-injury for

his own world, so all beings wish non-injury for him who has this

knowledge. This, indeed, is known and well investigated.” (Nelson 52).

This philosophical view points clearly to the interdependence that humanity has always shared with nature.

People everywhere are talking about global warming. The whisper of climate change that began several years ago is quickly becoming a desperate cry for a reversal in trends. Leaders from around the world are meeting to try and figure out what can be done about the 37% increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution (Freedman 316-318). Even before this epidemic, Hinduism went to great lengths to ensure sanctity of trees, which are one of the best means by which carbon can be reabsorbed from the atmosphere (Freedman 324). Manu(i.e. Laws of Manu[see (Rodrigues 57-58)]) spoke elaborately about how plants and trees can feel comfort and despair, and believed that they were beings of sentience (Crawford 189). Through this, planting trees became a dharmic act, and certain laws were even set in place to punish those for harming trees of various importance to nature and society (Crawford 190). Forests were seen as being appropriate places for ascetics and renouncers to practice their ways, mainly because the forest could fulfill both spiritual and bodily requirements (Crawford 189). However, although Hindus are theoretically meant to ask permission to the tree before taking its life, whether or not they do is trivial when looking at the bigger picture. Big industry across the globe is the number one producer of these destructive emissions. Many people perceive countries such as India and China to be the first in the ranks for pollution. Be that as it may, despite the fact that India consumed nearly double the energy of Canada in 2001, Canada’s per capita rate was nearly 18 times that of India (Freedman 15). Has the issue become one of overpopulation, or unacceptable standards of living?

In society’s linear structure model of its relationship with the environment, raw resources are brought in, and waste is pushed out. Certain elements are cyclical, such as water and forestry, however all aspects of what enters must be replaced, in order to sustain our living conditions (Freedman 204-206, 524). In New Delhi, although 3,880 tons of garbage are produced each day, 1,460 tons are left ignored on the city streets (Nelson 200). This is due to a social tendency that constitutes pushing these impurities away from oneself. Garbage follows a trail from home to street, then from the localized streets it is dumped on the periphery of the neighborhood, and it finally accumulates across the urban border (Nelson 202). According to Hindu ethics, not only is it wrong to produce lavish amounts of waste without considering the consequences, but it is also needless to revert back to the days of subsistence living (Crawford 192). In order to maintain our current economic activities, as Crawford explains, the Hindu believes that we must embrace the ways of recycling and restraint (192). On the other hand, Nelson argues that the issue of garbage in India is caused by a religious twist that is distinguished by prevailing tradition (201). Due to the religious framework displayed in particular by the caste system, recycling is done at the cost of social status. Brahminical literature (Brahmins are the top class in Hindu social organization) elaborates on the fact that dirt, and by extension garbage, risks putting the individual in a state of impurity, which affects one’s ability to worship the gods (Nelson 206). Therefore, the low status members of society such as the sudras(servant class) and the “untouchables” must handle this waste. It has been evidenced that loss of status has even been expressed towards those of brahminical descent exploiting this industry. Nelson argues that in order for India to rise above this destructive disposition, we must somehow find away to increase the status of the recycled object (207).

The problem of population in itself is not really an issue, though as population increases, it amplifies the complications of waste, global warming, and resource consumption. Studies show that the population of India will overtake that of China by 2030, simply due to current rates of increase (Crawford 194). The reason for this exponential rate of increase in India is attributed to three factors, the first of which being that it is considered dharmic to produce a large family unit. These perceptions undoubtedly stem from the Vedic years during which there was not only a great deal of agricultural activity, but a higher death rate due to warfare and infant mortality (Crawford 195). The second reason for such high birth rates relates to how women are perceived in Hindu society. Of the five elements of marriage, the wife’s role has grown increasingly in the direction of prajati, or parenthood. Rather than focusing on sakhya (companionship between two individuals), a woman’s foremost purpose in marriage is to bear many children (Crawford 197). Thirdly, such high population in India is a consequence of the principle of sraddha(funeral ceremony), and its requirement of a male to properly worship dead ancestors (Crawford 197-198). Manu also devalues female birth in his writings, not directly, but rather by putting great emphasis on the importance of having sons (Crawford 197). Although these are ancient traditions,it seems contradictive for a religion that considers all life as equal to go to such lengths to exalt one sex over another. As Crawford states: “…yesterday’s dharma is today’s adharma(non-righteousness)” (195).

While the west is encountering problems of waste and pollution due to overconsumption and prosperity, India is facing the same troubles due to overpopulation and severe poverty. We learn from Hinduism that the concepts of karma(Rodrigues 50-51,57), interconnectedness, and interdependence are the basis of respecting the other forms of life that surround us (Crawford 176-183). One may also contemplate the view ofBrahman; how the application of this premise suggests that distancing of oneself from nature is ignorant (Crawford 201). [For more on brahman, see (Rodrigues 36-37)]. Finally, it has been ascertained that certain traditional philosophies in Hinduism may no longer be helpful in establishing a sustainable world for humanity. These include ideals such as those that parallel value with large families (Crawford 195), as well as those that view the community’s recyclers as impure or objectionable (Nelson 1980).


References and Further Recommended Reading

Crawford, S. Cromwell (1995) Dilemmas of life and death: Hindu ethics in a North American Context. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Nelson, Lance E. (1998) Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India. Albany: State University of New York.

Freedman, Bill (2007) Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective: Fourth Edition. Toronto: Pearson Canada Inc.

Koli, P.A. (2005) Economic Development and Environmental Issues. New Delhi: Serials Publications.

Haberman, David L. (2006) River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Rodrigues, Hillary P. (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York and London: Routledge.

Related Topics For Further Investigation

Sraddha

Dharma

Karma

Brahman

Global Warming

Laws of Manu

Prthivi

Aranyi

Yajna

Usas

Sustainable Development

Related Websites

http://envfor.nic.in/divisions/ic/wssd/doc4/consul_book_persp.pdf

http://www.ibef.org/india/sustainabledevelopment.aspx

http://www.un.org/esa/agenda21/natlinfo/countr/india/

Written by Thomas Fox (Spring 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Krishnamurti (Jiddu)

Legacy

Born into a Brahmin family in 1895, Jiddu Krishnamurti was an important man. His words capture many readers and listeners like that of a modern day God-man or Messiah. Numerous parallels to Hinduism and Buddhism are evident in his life even though he does not follow the religious values they have set in place. An example of these parallels can be seen in his renunciation of all statuses given to him by different people over his 91 years of life. The term samnyasin refers to the final stage in one’s life where a renunciation of all things occurs (Rodrigues 2006:357). This notion of samnyasin is akin to what Krishnamurti embodied. Furthermore, even though he would eventually renounce all religions (and even systems of learning) his Hindu background laid the seed of the life he was to lead. When Krishnamurti (or K as he and many others called him) was just one day old, a local astrologer, Kumara Shrowthulu, told K’s father that his new son would be a great man – encountering many obstacles on his way to becoming a great Teacher (Jayakar 16). His importance was, prophetically speaking, imminent.

Most of the books he has written are taken from oral lectures he gave throughout the world. The body of work he left behind is enormous with tremendous amounts of audio and visual materials available on the internet. A quick internet search reveals much of his body of work. Many different books can be obtained from any major retailer and many of the audio/visual resources available come from institutions bearing his name [an international website that offers audio recordings from 1966 to 1985 and a catalogue of video resources dating as far back as 1968 can be found at www.jkrishnamurti.org]. Along with the plethora of web-resources, many Krishnamurti foundations are still in existence. Foundations representing K are located in Spain, England, the United States, and Britain. In addition, Krishnamurti schools are also open in India, the United States, and Britain. Separately there are 42 countries worldwide that have autonomous committees in place sharing resources, transcribing books, and lecturing on audio/visual presentations they prepare with materials from Krishnamurti [see www.jkrishnamurti.org]. But to reaffirm, the background he was born into is seemingly causal towards the path he chose to lead his life.

Biography

Born in Madanapelle, South India, Jiddu Krishnamurti was the eighth child born to Jiddu Narianiah (father) and Sanjeevamma (mother). At 12:30 am on May 12, 1895 Krishnamurti was born in the puja room of his parent’s home. This room is an unusual place to birth a child as the room was to be pure and unpolluted in order to worship the household gods (gryha devatas) (Jayakar 16). The room was made auspicious by implementing Puspa (fresh flowers) and Dhupa (incense) and it could only be entered after a ritual bath and changing into clean clothes (Jayakar 16). Pupul Jayakar (1986) also states that birth, death, and the menstrual cycle are all ways of obtaining ritual pollution, thus, it is worthy to note that having a child born in the puja room is a strange occurrence. It is believed his mother, who was thought of as psychic, knew of K’s impending future through visions she had, otherwise she would not “have challenged the gods” by having her baby in this room (Jayakar 16).

As a child K was constantly sick, suffering frequent episodes of malaria which at one point kept him away from school for one year and when at school his “vagueness, few words, lack of interest in worldly affairs, and eyes that glazed out at the world, seeing beyond horizons” were thought of as some form of mental retardation by his teacher (Jayakar 18). Additionally, Mary Lutyens (2003) wrote in the original foreword of Krishnamurti’s Notebook about a “spiritual experience” K went through in 1922 that was followed by years of constant spine and head pain. Krishnamurti’s teacher felt he had some sort of a handicap. However, Charles Webster Leadbeater didn’t quite see the same thing. When he saw K playing with the other children he saw the boy who was to become a great spiritual teacher (Jayakar 24). Leadbeater met K four years after the death of his mother Sanjeevamma and what struck him about Krishnamurti was his kindness, or the unselfishness he exhumed when playing with the other children (Rodrigues 1990:9). Charles Webster Leadbeater was a European man in the Theosophical Society who would bring K to meet Annie Besant (the newly appointed president of the Society) by the end of 1909 (Jayakar 29).

The Theosophical Society was: “Based on the tenets of a universal brotherhood of humanity which sought to study ancient wisdom and to explore the hidden mysteries of nature and the latent powers of man. It established an occult hierarchy drawing from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, in particular the Tibetan tantric texts and teachings” (Jayakar 21). Coincidentally the co-founder of the Theosophical Society (TS), Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, wrote before her death in 1891 that the real purpose of the TS was to prepare for the coming of the World Teacher (Jayakar 21). Charles Leadbeater arranged a meeting between Krishnamurti and Besant which took place in late 1909 and by the end of 1909 Krishnamurti had entered the Esoteric section of the TS.

The transition that took place at this time is looked at as the time when K was “stripped of all his Indianness” (Jayakar 27). K and his brother, Nitya, were adopted by Annie Besant. They were told only to speak English, were only allowed to wear Western clothes, and they were “taught to bathe the British way” (Jayakar 27). Essentially, they were encouraged to grow up as young British gentlemen. The boys were also kept distant from their father to limit his influence. However, Narianiah (the boys’ father), felt that Annie Besant had misled him and he filed suit to regain custody. Annie Besant lost the case in both the local and High Court of Madras but she did win her appeal to the Privy Council. With the victory, the boys continued their schooling and would not see India from 1912 to 1922 (Jayakar 37). At this time, while in England, Krishnamurti developed a close relationship with Lady Emily Lutyens and her daughter Mary; feeling as though Emily Lutyens was like his foster mother (Rodrigues 1990:11). It was Lutyens who introduced K to all things a British aristocrat would encounter. Her daughter Mary was regarded as a friend and biographer who penned books about his life [see The Role of a Flower].

In 1911, the Order of the Rising Sun (to be renamed the Order of the Star in the East) was created with the purpose of preparation for the arrival of the World Teacher (Rodrigues 1990:10). This period would mark the first acknowledgments of his status as the “vehicle for the World Teacher.” His father Narianiah’s concern for his son’s well-being had come true (which led to the eventual lawsuit). In 1929, as leader of the Order of the Star, K gave a shocking speech in Ommen, Holland where he rejected organized religion and dissolved the Order of the Star. In the film, The Role of a Flower, Mary Lutyens talks of how the Theosophical Society was a very rich organization and Krishnamurti, in his renunciation, gave everything back to the owner and divested himself of all property. In this, the example of samnyasin rings true. He did not want to be followed; in fact, he never expected people to follow him in the first place (Rodrigues 1990:42). He didn’t want his talks held for enjoyment. His lectures were not for entertainment, though he did want people to pay attention. His attitudes also reflect the notion of moksa, which is “freedom from the bondage of ignorance into the liberation that comes with knowledge of the Self or Absolute Reality” (Rodrigues 2006:52). At this point in his life, K was being regarded as a secular philosopher that was hostile towards religion with representatives of the TS saying that the coming of the World Teacher had become corrupt and incorrect (Jayakar 80).

The rest of his life, up to his death from cancer on February 17, 1986 was a tremendous journey that led him all over the world. He spent his time talking with great world figures, scholars, and mass assembly audiences. He spoke an estimated 175 times per year, whether it was to 50 people or 8,000 audience members [see Rodrigues 1990:22 and www.kfa.org] and many of these dialogues are transcriptions that became the books available today. Although sometimes difficult to read [see Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought], his lectures have topics that are important to vast amounts of people. Fear, love, insight, truth, intelligence, freedom, religion, conditioning, desire, death and sorrow are all themes recurrent in Krishnamurti’s talks with important messages obtained from each topic. He also helped open schools across the globe that represented his ideals towards education and knowledge. Over his 91 years, Jiddu Krishnamurti showed incredible will in wanting to help set man free (Rodrigues 1990:19). With the ideas he has left behind, to say he strove to set humanity free seems more appropriate.


REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Collins, Bob, & Jay, Sue (producers) (1986) The Role of a Flower [documentary]. Great Britain: Television South

Jayakar, Pupul (1986) J. Krishnamurti: A Biography. Penguin Books

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (2003) Krishnamurti’s Notebook. California: Krishnamurti Publications of America

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1973) The Awakening of Intelligence. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Krishnamurti, Jiddu, Rajagopal, D (Ed.) (1964) Think on These Things. New York: Harper and Row Publishers

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (1990) Insight and Religious Mind: An Analysis of Krishnamurti’s Thought. New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Rodrigues, Hillary Peter (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge Publishing

Related Topics for Further Investigation

World Teacher

Nitya (brother)

Annie Besant

Lady Emily Lutyens

Mary Lutyens

Theosophical Society

Charles Webster Leadbeater

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

The Order of the Rising Sun (The Order of the Star to the East)

The Role of a Flower

Brahmin caste

Samnyasin

Moksa

Puja

Puspa

Dhupa

Gryha devatas

Buddhism

Rishi Valley School

Brockwood Park School

Oak Grove School

Links Related to the Topic

www.kfa.org

www.kfionline.org

www.kfoundation.org

www.jkrishnamurti.org

www.oakgroveschool.com

www.rishivalley.org

www.brockwood.org.uk

www.theschoolkfi.org

www.krishnamurti-canada.ca

Article written by Chad Eggebrecht (March 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Sri Aurobindo Ghose

Sri Aurobindo was an Indian nationalist, yogin, philosopher, scholar, and poet. Following his brief political career, during which he vehemently fought for India’s outright independence, Sri Aurobindo began to explore the ancient Hindu practices of yoga (Heehs 88). Sri Aurobindo subsequently developed his own style of yoga which he called “Integral Yoga,” because it “takes up the essence and many processes of the old yogas” with a new approach of “aim, standpoint and the totality of its method” (Minor 4). Sri Aurobindo believed that enlightenment came from the Divine, but that human beings possess a spiritual “supermind” that allows them to reach upward toward awareness. Spiritual perfection is achieved through Yoga practices that lead to “a change of life and existence” through the development of a new power of consciousness, which he called the “supramental” (Heehs 96).

Sri Aurobindo was born Aurobindo Ghose in Calcutta, India, on 15th August, 1872. At the age of seven, Sri Aurobindo and his two elder brothers went to England to pursue their studies. Initially, Aurobindo was tutored privately in Latin, French, history, geography and arithmetic. His proficiency in Latin allowed him to gain admission into St. Paul’s School in London, where he was awarded a Foundation Scholarship (Heehs 11). At St. Paul’s, Aurobindo began studying the Latin and Greek classics, writing poetry and prose in both languages, and reading English and French literature. At the age of fifteen, his studies ceased to interest him and his teachers began to lament that he was wasting his “remarkable gifts” because of laziness (Heehs 12). However, two years later, Aurobindo decided to try for one of the Open Scholarships offered by King’s College, Cambridge. He took the examination and finished at the top of the list. One of the examiners commented that Aurobindo’s classical papers were “the best I have seen in thirteen years as an examiner” (Heehs 14). In 1893, after two years at King’s College, during which he devoted much of his time to writing, Aurobindo returned to India.

Aurobindo became interested in political work amidst the anti-partition movement in the early 1900s. Between 1905 and 1910 Aurobindo acted as a political journalist for the revolutionary newspaper Bande Mataram, and as a leader of the advanced nationalist party known as the Extremists (Heehs 38). In 1908, Aurobindo was arrested on suspicion of his involvement in a bomb plot and was remanded in Alipore Central Jail (Heehs 56). Although he was later acquitted and released, his conversion from political action to spirituality occurred while he was incarcerated, where he was inspired by his meditation on the Bhagavad Gita. After reading it, he was able “not only to understand intellectually but to realize what Sri Krishna demanded of Arjuna and what He demands of those who aspire to do His work…to renounce self-will and become a passive and faithful instrument in His hands” (Heehs 93-94). This realization would become one of the preliminary steps towards Aurobindo’s ultimate awareness of the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo once wrote that there were “four great realizations on which his Yoga and his spiritual philosophy are founded” (Heehs 93). The first occurred in 1907 when Aurobindo encountered a yogin named Vishnu Bhaskar Lele, who introduced him to “the awareness of some sole and supreme Reality” – an experience Aurobindo would later identify as the “passive Brahman” (Heehs 89). Lele instructed Aurobindo to “sit in meditation, but do not think, look only at your mind; you will see thoughts coming into it; before they can enter throw these away from your mind till your mind is capable of entire silence” (Heehs 89). Aurobindo wrote that, “I flung them [thoughts] before they could enter and take hold of the brain and in three days I was free” (Heehs 89). However, Aurobindo also wrote that he was left with “a cleft of consciousness between the passive and active Brahman” (Heehs 99).

The second realization was achieved as Aurobindo regained his personal harmony by taking refuge with the Divine within him during his solitary confinement in Alipore jail. Aurobindo read the Bhagavad Gita and his initial realization regarding Sri Krishna soon blossomed into an all-encompassing awareness of the Divine, seen as Krishna in the form of Vasudeva, “as all beings and all that is” (Heehs 94). Aurobindo wrote that “I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no, it was Vasudeva who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna whom I saw standing there holding over me his shade” (Heehs 94). This universal vision of the Divine was followed by Sri Aurobindo’s awareness into what he called the “cosmic consciousness” (Heehs 94).

As mentioned above, Aurobindo’s first realization left him with “a cleft of consciousness” between the passive and active Brahman. This “cleft” was closed with Aurobindo’s third realization that the two aspects of the supreme Reality were the static and dynamic Brahman (Heehs 99).

Three years later, Sri Aurobindo reached his fourth realization through a “prolonged dwelling in Parabrahman” (the supreme Reality) (Heehs 99).

Armed with these four fundamental realizations, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual development grew into his “yoga of self-perfection” or integral yoga. The aim of the yoga of self-perfection is to enable one to attain conscious identity with the Divine – the true Self – and to transform the mind and body into an instrument for a divine life on earth (Minor 121). Sri Aurobindo emphasized surrender as the most important requisite of integral yoga. He wrote, “Surrender is giving oneself to the Divine – to give everything one is or has to the Divine and regard nothing as one’s own, to obey only the Divine will and no other, to live of the Divine and not for the ego” (Minor 122). Sri Aurobindo’s “yoga of self-perfection” had four constituent elements: shuddhi or purification, mukti or liberation, bhukti or beatitude, and siddhi or perfection (Synthesis of Yoga 38).

Sri Aurobindo believed that the essence of purification was the organization of the chaotic action of the various parts of man’s nature such as the mind to thought. Ultimately, perfect purification loosens the bonds of nature, specifically the bond of ahankara or ego, which allows actions to be performed without the incentive of personal satisfaction. This liberation, mukti, leads to perfection of the individual nature, siddhi, and enjoyment of the delight of being, bhukti (Synthesis of Yoga 61).

The culminating objective of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga is the remolding of the body, “even here upon earth” into a fit vehicle of the transformed consciousness. Sri Aurobindo believed that Nature must “evolve beyond Mind and manifest a consciousness and power of our existence free from the imperfection and limitation of our mental existence, a supramental or truth-consciousness…Into that [spiritual] truth we shall be free and it will transform mind and life and body” (Heehs 104-105). In his later years, Sri Aurobindo’s practice of yoga was directed towards achieving the effective transformation of the physical in pursuit of freedom of the truth-conscious spirit (Heehs 104-105).

Sri Aurobindo wrote prolifically in English on his spiritual philosophy and practice. Most notably, he introduced the concept of evolution into Vedantic thought (Minor 104). Although Samkhya philosophy had suggested a similar idea centuries earlier, Sri Aurobindo rejected the materialistic tendencies of both Darwinism and Samkhya, and proposed an evolution of spirit which led to the evolution of matter.

In essence, Sri Aurobindo’s evolutionary philosophy centers on the idea that humankind as an entity is not the last rung on the evolutionary ladder, but can evolve spiritually beyond its current limitations to a future state of supramental existence. This spiritually evolutionary step would lead to a divine life on Earth characterized by a realization of the supermind (Heehs 104).

Sri Aurobindo did not believe that the ultimate goal of his yoga – a divine life on earth – could be achieved so quickly. Nor did he foresee a day when a multitude of people would practice and study his philosophies and method of yoga (Heehs 151). Sri Aurobindo wished to bring the Divine into all aspects of life. Although his teachings may be seen as an attempt to re-institute the “spiritual practicality” that he regarded as the great discovery of ancient India, Sri Aurobindo was arguably one of India’s most fascinating and enigmatic leaders (Heehs 152).


References and Related Readings

Chakravarty, Satyajyoti (1991) The Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited.

Chaturvedi, B.K. (2002) Sri Aurobindo. New Delhi: D.K. Publishers Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

Heehs, Peter (1989) Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Heehs, Peter (1998) The Essential Writings of Sri Aurobindo. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Kaul, H. Kumar (1994) Aspects of Yoga. Calcutta: South Asia Books.

Minor, Robert Neil (1978) Sri Aurobindo: The Perfect and the Good. Calcutta: South Asia Books.

Nikhilananda (1992) Hinduism: Its Meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit. New York: Ramakrishna Vivekanada Center.

Nikhilananda (1994) Upanishads. New York: Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center.

Rama (2005) Fearless Living: Yoga and Faith. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Himalayan Institute Press.

Sri Aurobindo (1996) Synthesis of Yoga. Pondicherry, India: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press.

Yogananda, Paramahansa (2001) The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita: An Introduction to India’s Universal Science of God-Realization. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship Publishers.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

The Mother

Auroville

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Sri Aurobindo’s evolutionary philosophy

Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of involution

Sri Aurobindo’s vision for the future

Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of social evolution

The Vedas

Bhagavad Gita

Sri Aurobindo’s poetry

Nirvana

Renunciation

Pondicherry

Sadhana

Brahman

Supermind

Karma

Yoga

Bhakti

Meditation

Liberation

Krsna

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in/

http://www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in/sriauro/sriauro.htm

http://www.miraura.org/

http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/

http://www.aurobindo.net/

http://www.kheper.net/topics/Aurobindo/SriAurobindo.htm

http://www.auroville.org/vision/sriauro.htm

http://www.savitribysriaurobindo.com/

http://www.kheper.net/topics/Aurobindo/Aurobindo_cosmology.htm

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/1993/9/

http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9011289/Sri-Aurobindo

Article written by Lewis Chong (Spring 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.