Kumbh: A mega confluence of different knowledge streams

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Kumbh: An Opportunity

(Shri Adinarayanan) Overcoming our own mental conditionings has become the most significant challenge now. How do we practically do that? For that we need opportunities. At home, in our regular life, it becomes very difficult to find opportunities to do this. So Kumbh is one such great opportunity, to go beyond our own conditionings. And yesterday we have looked at the significance of a teertha sthala, what a temple means, all of this we have looked at. See, in the Indian tradition it is useful to understand this – for example, you have air everywhere. But still we use a fan, which is concentrated. You have electricity everywhere as a principle, but still you have a specific device that focuses usage of electricity. Likewise you have the Divine everywhere, the nameless, formless Divine, nirguna. But the saguna aspect is also considered very important. Saguna are the usable forms of Divinity, that we can use for our growth. Different people converge for their own reasons. That is why bhakti is looked at in diverse ways. Even someone who is miserable and cries out, “Hey someone please save me!” is a bhakta. Some come for transaction, “Give me this, give me that, give me that career”. He is also a bhakta. Someone who wants knowledge “How does this reality work?” The enquiry, “Who am I? What is this reality? What is the purpose of my life?” He is also a bhakta. Someone who has attained to jnana, a jnani, who understands, “Oh! This is reality.” He is also a bhakta. All kinds of people you will find here. Without judging anybody, everybody is fine their own way. Whatever fulfills each individual, that is what is important. What fulfills you? You cannot judge others based on what they get fulfilled by. But it should stabilise the overall working. That is called Dharma. Otherwise it is considered Adharma.

Accessing the Purpose of Temples

So that is why in temples you will find there are specific ways, means, methodologies, depending on which form of Divinity and which specific personality of Divinity – all these are looked at in a very systematic fashion. This is very very important to understand. But to decode it, we need the science. It is just like this Mobile phone. If we were to engineer it, most of us are users. We have blind faith in how it works. We place a call, how do we know that it is exactly going to that person? How do we know? In a way we have been educated and hence we have faith in the science of how it works. We have faith in the businesses that make it work and we have processes established – auditing processes, regulatory processes and so on. This is how our Indian dharma as well works. Hindu dharma works exactly this way. There are faith in the mahatmas, who guide the entire process, but it is based on underlying sciences. Since we have not been exposed to that, we feel it is superstitious or we ask,“How do I believe?” But to even believe that this phone will work this way, you need a background knowledge of sciences. You need faith in the people who hold those sciences. They have been trained systematically for so many decades to be able to engineer this. We create our reality, based on what we know, likewise subtle reality is created and that is called Daiva, but it is knowledge. It is subtle, it is not visible yet to our eyes, just as the science of how this mobile phone is created is not visible to everybody. You have not been trained in that, it requires rigorous training to do that.

Sadhus

So that is where you will find so many sadhus, so many sannyasis, they have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of this knowledge. And it is not easy. Let us take the heart. Now how many of us lead lifestyles that obstruct the working of the heart. Right, do we not? We do not how to allow the heart to function. And hence we get heart attack, hypertension, blood pressure and so on. Otherwise it is a very straightforward phenomenon. But for you to allow the heart to function, you need knowledge. You need best practices : how to live, so that your heart can function. Likewise, how to live so that the subtler nature can function. Now global warming, we talk of global warming, climate change, we don’t know how to lead our lives aligned with nature. Nature has its processes. So this alignment we call as Daiva – working in harmony with Daiva, the subtler intelligence. It is also intelligent activity, but when we gain such deeper knowledge, then we are not doing anything big or great, we are just aligning with deeper processes. And that is considered very very critical to understand. Because if that is not there, then you will have all kinds of negative reactions, negative effects. And that is what our mahatmas personify. They personify or embody this subtle knowledge. So that is why you would find so many sadhus, sannyasis, dedicated for this pursuit.

Sadhu means someone who embodies certain qualities – what all qualities? Love, compassion, ahimsa, for all living beings – they have ahimsa towards all of life, not just human beings, through their depth of tapasya. Generally, we harm others based on how we get locked up with objective enjoyment. In our pursuit for something, we harm somebody else. And hence, sadhus are those who regulate their pursuits, so that the harm, the violence is minimized. In our pursuit of food, we might harm so much more. That is the idea of consumerism. You consume, and that has a carbon footprint. But if you regulate your consumption, then your carbon footprint is reduced. If you don’t regulate it, your carbon footprint is increased. This is how it proceeds. So how to intelligently regulate your footprint, that is the idea of a sadhu. Naga sadhus are those who intelligently regulate so many aspects, which would seem hardly understandable by regular society. That is why they would generally stay outside of regular society, because such regulation would be almost superhuman for most people. They regulate food, sleep, intense cold, pain, pleasure, all of that they regulate. This is called dwandhwa, meaning, the opposite pairs. Pain-pleasure, heat-cold, and so on. We take a walk, we were walking the full day yesterday, and so many of us became tired and hungry. And we see food, we go, we pay and eat and it feels, “Wow!” And we come over here, we lie down and it is so rejuvenating. But imagine the constraint. Let’s say you have intelligently regulated food and sleep, we are doing all of this, but let’s say you cannot buy food, you have imposed that upon yourselves, that you will not buy food. You take bhiksha and only then eat. That is a constraint that you have imposed on yourselves. Now can you guarantee that someone will give you food? What is the guarantee that someone will give you food? No guarantee, but you have taken up a constraint, a niyama that you will not pay and eat food, you will take bhiksha and eat food as a self-regulatory mechanism because you are trying to understand deeper aspects. How easy or tough would it be? And you have taken a constraint that you will not sleep in a room inside somewhere, you will just sleep out in the open under the sky. How easy or tough is that constraint? So such constraints, people take up, sadhus take up.

Adi Sankara’s Vision

And this is a very intelligent process, but to understand the intelligence, you need to understand the background, how it evolved and all of that. For example, you know, each individual faces these existential questions – “What is life, what is the purpose of life?” And each person approaches it differently. That is where systems were created to approach it systematically. For example, Adi Shankaracharya, the great Adi Shankara, created the Dashanami order of sadhus, sannyasis. He created various orders of sadhus and sannyasis. One of that is the Dashanami order, so that is where you will have the Saraswati, Giri, Theertha, and so on. For example Shankaracharya’s lineage of sannyasis from Kanchi are called Saraswati; from Sringeri are called Theertha; from Puri are called Giri and so on. You have the Juna akhara, you have various akharas which are organized forms of pursuit of the spiritual knowledge. They all come under the Dashanami system. It is an organized form of pursuit of knowledge – intense spiritual knowledge. But there are unorganized forms as well. You will find all kinds of convergence in the Kumbh. That is the greatness.

Megaconference of Knowledge

Now earlier the ecosystem used to enable them to perform their Dharma. But now, they have to interact with society for even their means of sustenance. Food is a big issue, simple living is a big issue. That is because as a society we have moved away from understanding our own best practices; culture is called civilizational best practices. It is not very easy – to know what to eat, what not to eat – even that is a best practice. Principles might be there but you need best practices to guide, and each family has its best practices. So this is a confluence, a mega confluence of knowledge, where so many different kinds of knowledge streams are available. But for these two days we are not here for knowledge. Because this is an immersive form of knowledge, and to access it, you need to spend some time, and you need to have specific questions. Without which you cannot approach anybody. If you go to a conference, you are just an onlooker with no participation; you will not gain much. We are still just here, just as an onlooker, not too much of a participant. But still this is a very very good first step.

Individual pursuit to find such access to knowledge is not easy. For example, you study in a university. Within the university premises you have access to knowledge, if you step outside the university premises, do you have access to the same knowledge? No. That is how it works and finding within the university, all the researchers are converged and hence you can access those people. Outside that, it is very difficult. Likewise the kumbh provides opportunities for such intense pursuit of knowledge. They can access all the know-how, all those great mahatmas who carry knowledge, they can access that in one place one time. But for that fundamentally what is required? If food is served before you, what is required to relish that food? Hunger. Hunger is a prime requirement. How do you get spiritual appetite? And that is where karma, seva, all those become very critical. When you encounter a lot of people, you do seva, you start having questions, you start asking,”Why is life like this? Why is that good and bad, why is someone getting something, someone not getting something?” That starts churning and creating the appetite for spiritual knowledge, without which it is not easy. So kumbh is such a convergence. I am very happy that all of us are here, we have the bhagya to be here.