Saturday, May 19, 2012

Musings on some oddly secular...

I am in a weirdly reminiscent mood this morning, dunno why. My final five years of schooling was with an institution run by monastic members of a Hindu missionary organization in India. Now, when I can look back rationally and dispassionately at those years - and am able to discern and discount the subtle and overt attempts at religious indoctrination - I am conscious of a few interesting ideas that I had picked up on the way, ideas that seem to have influenced my way of thinking greatly over the years. Even though I am an Atheist, and extremely skeptical of religious ritualistic mumbojumbo, I am not ashamed to declare that some of these ideas came from early Hindu philosophy, dating back to some four thousand odd years ago. Perhaps those were simpler times, perhaps those were indeed wise folks... Those certainly were times way, way before a philosophy was corrupted and subverted into an '-ism', the rabidly irrational and superstition -laden face of Hinduism that gradually took over India, the country as well as popular psyche. Sigh. I am going to share two such ideas, extremely secular despite their religious context, contained in few lines of verses, or as they are known, shlokas.

The first one is a part of a Peace Chant, or Shaanti Mantra. There is some controversy about its exact origin, but the message is doubtlessly excellent. It says, in benediction,

Shanti Mantra

What it means:

sarbeshaam swastirbhavatu - Goodness be unto all
sarbeshaam shantirbhavatu - Peace be unto all
sarbeshaam purnambhavatu - Fulfillment be unto all
sarbe mangalambhavatu - Well-being be unto all
sarbe bhavantu sukhinaah - May all be happy
sarbe santu niraamayah - May all be free of ailments
sarbe bhadrani pashyantu - May witness good things
maa kaschit dukkhabhaag bhavet - May no one suffer any misfortune

The second one comes from one of the Upanishads (the explanatory texts for the primary Hindu religious scripture, the Vedas). It says,

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

What it means:

ayam bandhurayam neti - This is a friend, and that is not
(ayam nijah paroveti - These are relatives/my own people, and those are strangers/foreign/aliens) -
ganana laghuchetasam - Such considerations are held by only men of small minds...
udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam - To those who are magnanimous and noble-minded, the entire world is family.

If one must lay the foundation of one's morality, ethics and values on religious texts and philosophies, why not secular, integrative, assimilative, peaceful and loving ideas such as these, that can potentially bring the whole humanity together?

Sadly... that's not how religion works; religion - with all its accouterments of superstitions, irrational beliefs, fear-mongering - thrives on divisiveness and Othering. Such a profound pity.

1 comment:

  1. This post really hits a good point! Nowhere in the verses, (as in most parts of the scripture) is a reference to God/The allknowing one etc.
    I know Hinduism is not really a religion, in the sense of religion of the book, but if one sticks to the philosophy, its a great idea to live by.