Monday, August 25, 2014

Murugan, Pillayaar, and Anjaneya as Hindu Knowledge Models

An inordinate number of Indians born in dharmic families who are understanding their dharma and sharing experiences of this self-study journey online over the last couple of decades belong to STEM disciplines. This is no coincidence. Science, technology, and the scientific approach (via first person empiricism, for example) is one of the useful means in this rediscovery. As we progress along this path, we note the beneficial and positive changes it brings within us, our family, and our community. Our body and mind becomes a laboratory in this fascinating journey. Non-verified theorizing using pulled-out-of-thin-air ideas, text-parsing-regurgitating, or using mental gymnastics to come up with new formulas, however brilliant they may seem, falls short in the end. The process cannot be reduced to some intellectual steeple chase. From a personal point of view, it is a scientific journey of inner-discovery.

So, how have we gone about acquiring this dharmic fruit of knowledge?

There are two ways. Many Hindus (self included) have taken the scenic route. You leave dharmic India to travel round the world (mentally or physically) learning about everything else, before realizing, after a decade or three, that you have to do a full circle and return home to India and start from near-scratch to seek the questions that really matter and the answers that are really honest. This is the Murugan (Kartikeya) model. It is no coincidence that I visit Sri Subramaniya Swami at Pazhani every year in this voyage of inner-discovery. A lucky few have adopted the Pillayaar (Ganapathi) model. They already realize (not merely believe) that this 'Gyana Pazham' is right there in India, and save themselves a lot of time and hassle. Muruganists can be grumpy about all the hard yards they've put in and retreat into their shell, but their encounters with the non-dharmic world is not a wasted effort. Some of the Pillayaarists, because of their kind disposition or naivete, tend to be less aware of the subtle nature, ways and means employed by hostile non-dharmic forces, and despite their naturally deep understanding of Hinduism, become likely candidates for 'digestion' into secular/Abrahamic ideologies. Hence, rather than debate endlessly on "which model is better", we can see this as a re-enactment of 'Thiruvilayadal', the divine play of Shiva to bring his children who have adopted different paths to realize the underlying integral unity that binds us, and to complement one another to achieve balance. Doing so allows us to combine the strong points of each model to produce the best response to the challenges we face today.

But is this enough? Most Indians (of either model) are in doubt about their own strengths, while being excellently up-to-date as far as knowing their negatives and limitations. 'What Indians cannot do', 'top 1008 defects in Hindus', 'why we are corrupt', etc. is what we are hearing every day. It has reached such a stage where this stuff is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we have forgotten all that is strong and positive about dharmics that is critical to turning things around. India today is like the Anjaneya who sat quietly when the rest of his team was volunteering to take the giant leap across the ocean. Yet, Hanuman is there to remind us that just like he forgot his own strength for long but recalled it at the right time, and was there at the right place to be able to take advantage of it, we too are sure to discover our inner Anjaneya if we do our dharma without expectations, and show up at the table. And it doesn't matter which dharmic path we took to show up there.

Clearly, our wise ancestors have left us enough clues on how to go about things.

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