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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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Views on Elements

by T.N. Dhar ‘Kundan’

Whenever I think or read about our religion, culture and tradition I am simply awe-stricken by its vastness, flexibility and depth. The Greek philosopher Thales was aware of only one element, water. Anaximenes accepted only air. Heraclitus regarded only fire as the fundamental substance. Empedocles was the first Greek philosopher to talk of four elements, Fire, water, air and earth. Anaxagoras suggested mind as the primary cause of physical changes. During pre-Christian millennia both Vaishnavaite Alwars and Shaivaite Nayanars of South saw God in the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and space, in the Sun and the Moon as also in the soul of every living being. What does the Bhagawad Gita say centuries before them? ‘Bhumir-aapo-analo vayuh kham mano buddhir-eva cha, Ahankara iti-iyam me bhinna prakritir-ashtadha. B.G.VII.4 Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect and the ego, these are the eight different elements of mine and constitute my visible energy aspect, ‘Apara Shakti’.’ Thereafter it refers to the subtle energy aspect ‘Para Shakti’. The Sankhya of Kapila Muni also calls this as ‘Prakriti’ and the Divine as ‘Purusha’. In Western scholastic terms the two are termed as Potency and Substance. The Scientists term these as ‘Matter’ and ‘Force’. The Chinese call these Yan and Yung and view the two as complementary to each other. The Upanishad has referred to the two as ‘Prana’ and ‘Rayi’ and has hinted that the two together bring about creation. It is this Potency, Prakriti and Para Shakti that we propitiate on the occasion of Durga Ashtami. Sri Krishna has said in the Bhagavad Gita that it is with the help of this aspect of His that the Divine sustains the entire creation, animate and inanimate, ‘Jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat. B.G.VII.5 Our sages had recognized this Shakti and conceived it in many forms of Bhawani. Bhawani Sahasranam, which is so popular among our community, enumerates thousand names of this ‘Mahashakti’.  Shri Janaki Nath Kamal has explained these names elaborately in his English translation and commentary brought out by Sri Ramakrishna Mission. Different people worship Her in different forms.

As regards the ‘Purusha’ or the Absolute, we have different ways in different scriptures and different schools of thought to describe Him. One of the most common is Vishnu, who is said to have ten different incarnations in different ages. He can be equated to the nucleus or core cell in any animate entity, where electrons and protons interact and atoms play. The sixth and seventh incarnations of Vishnu were in the form of Ramas, one wielding an axe and the other with bow and arrow. The former is called Parashu Rama and represents the post-neolithic age when ‘Shastra’ or those weapons were in use that had to be held firmly in hand and used close to the enemy. The Jayanti of this incarnation is celebrated with great devotion and is a day of great significance for us. It shows that even a Brahmin is required to take to arms, should Dharma and Justice be in danger. Shiva himself had offered an invincible axe to him after he underwent a rigorous penance. The seventh incarnation of Shri Rama represents that age in human evolution when ‘Astra’ or the weapons that can be thrown at the enemy from a distance, came to be used. His birthday is also celebrated with reverence as ‘Rama Navami’. He is referred to as ‘Purushottama’ or the ideal supreme man. He has shown how an ideal life of a caring and benevolent king, a dutiful son, a loving brother and a kind master should be lived.

These theories and doctrines are described at length in our scriptures, Vedas, Upanishads, treatises relating to the six schools of philosophy and the writings of Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and other great sages. Kashmir has had the honour of being a seat of learning. It has produced its  own philosophy but different from Shankara’s, which again is non-dualistic and propounds thirty-six elements from the gross earth to the subtle Parama Shiva. It is the bounden duty of all of us to pay homage to the great souls, saints, savants and sages by spreading this unique philosophy of Kashmir and transmitting its ideology to the younger aspirants. There is a saying in Sanskrit, ‘Un-abhyase visham vidya – Knowledge, if not put to use, becomes poison.’ Let the fortunate persons amongst us who are well versed in these disciplines take into their tutelage some young enthusiastic ‘Jijnasu’, persons eager to know and train them in this valuable rare subject. That will be the best homage to our sages. I remember that once when a seminar was held in Srinagar on this discipline, the scholars called on Swami Laxman joo and sought his views. He said, ‘Your reason and logic will carry you only up to a point. Thereafter it is the Divine grace that will help you, for which you need faith.’ Let us all pray for this divine grace for our enlightenment and perception of the Truth.

The Dutch philosopher Spinoza was of the opinion that ‘God is the totality of existence’. The French philosopher Pascal on the other hand regarded ‘believing in God the most prudent choice between theism, atheism and agnosticism’. The Sanatana Dharma embraces all shades of opinion on the consideration that the search for Truth is evolutionary in character. Everyone will narrate his experience of that stage only up to which he may have reached. Thus these views, however differing they may be, should not be construed to be conflicting or opposing each other. Swami Vivekananda has rightly said that we have not to go from error to truth but from one truth to other truth, from lower truth to higher truth. Religion has its psychological and sociological aspects also. Psychology addresses the issues of motivation as a result of which, a person feels to adopt theistic conviction. Sociology addresses issues of the purpose religion serves the society at large. When tradition is no longer adequate to hold society together, human life faces a grave crisis. In order to avoid this crisis we have to preserve our tradition and culture in its pristine glory. Celebrating our festivals and observing our rituals is one such way to safeguard our tradition. This justifies euphoria on Holi, pomp and show on Deepawali, convergence of multitude of people on Ganesh Puja, Jagannath Rath Yatra and the enthusiasm on Shivaratri and other festivals.

 

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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