Some time ago I placed an order with the Shri Ram Chandra Mission online bookstore. Unlike the order prior to this one, my shipment was received in a very timely manner and – unlike any other time I’ve ordered in the past – a tracking number was provided! The only cause for frown this last time around was that about five of the items I ordered came as DVDs which was a big surprise to me because I only ever intend to order books.
Lately, though, the abhyasi community has been talking about and learning about the concept of “cheerful acceptance.” Obviously, this is something deeper than it sounds, but I can tell you – from a fairly superficial level – that getting DVDs when you almost never sit before the television and especially when you’re expecting books, definitely gives one a chance to practice cheerful acceptance.
Anyway, I’ve been making my way through these DVDs, watching them in order of the dates they were released. This morning I watched, “India in the West” (part one). The video, like many of the others, is of our late Master Pujya Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari telling the story of how the SRCM was introduced to the West. His own father was one of the first from the Mission to visit other countries for the sake of the Mission – and that story is a bit fantastical. Some years later the Master currently recognized as the second modern Master of our lineage (he’s not the actual second Master, of course) began traveling outside of India and the rest is history.
It’s amazing to read or hear of how small things start sometimes and then to recognize their wonderful growth. From this documentary alone, and really also from other books, I’ve learned that there was a time when an entire nation or another might have had just ONE practicing abhyasi. Just one – yet now there are centers and ashrams in many places with many abhyasis.
One thing said in the documentary that caught my attention will, here, be a quote of a quote. Chariji was quoting my now great-grandmaster Babuji during a moment when Babuji was speaking to European abhyasis. I didn’t jot down the exact wording, but Babuji said something to the effect of, “I am liberating you from India.”
These words instantly brought to mind a conversation I had about a month ago with another abhyasi. He’s Indian, but looks Pakistani. He manages to maintain a “full” figure and yet remain diminutive (something I’ve noticed in many Indian men). Our conversation started out very basic and was prompted by my car’s license plate which is a specialized plate reading, “GANESHA.” He recalld driving behind me the first time and noticing the plate – and then being shocked when he pulled up next to me and saw “white” skin. He was very curious about my knowledge of Hinduism and, like so many other Indians I’ve had this same talk with, he remarked that it’s very likely I know more of our religion than even he does, having been born and raised in India and still being very traditional in many ways despite his life in America. I’m not bragging in the least about this – I’ve heard it more times than I care to recount and each time it makes me a little uncomfortable. We can maybe talk about that in another post.
So… as our conversation was nearing its end he asked me about my view of Ganesha, method of Ganesha puja, and puja timing and all that good stuff, and brought up that our masters have said a number times in a number of ways that we’re “not to worship images” … or something like that. I answered to him that I’m not a “slave” to the ritual of worshipping Ganesha, which is really what the masters’ warnings are about. I do take into consideration the “proper” methods and timing and all that good stuff, but that I can essentially “take it or leave it.” I’m not sure if it’s entirely honest to say one can “take it or leave it” regarding something for which a person has a pretty clear preference. But what I told him is close enough to the truth that my conscience rests easy. I also think this “take it or leave it” business is somewhat hinted at, in very different terminology of course, in the Bhagavad Gita.
I’m kind of getting sidetracked here, but what I’ve meant to get at is that this nice young man with whom I chatted was very clearly under the control of tradition. I mean, we even talked about it – he admitted that, like many Catholics, there’s a tendency with Indians to blindly follow whatever they’re told tradition says is right, without even knowing why it’s supposedly right. And so, there’s a certain freedom I have as a non-Indian Hindu that he will struggle to achieve because from the time he was an infant, every square inch of his life was dictated by Indian tradition. He may well struggle to have Indian spirituality without the Indian religion.
This can be good for people who seem to need a pre-established structure in order to feel comfortable in an identity. But it’s truly this same structure that limits things like understanding and experience. On a grosser level it’s very obvious for Christians and Muslims who insist that their Dharma is the only valid one. For Indians / Hindus, this manifests no less – just differently, and in a manner that usually allows for other Dharmas to also be valid. So with the Abrahamics we end up with, “My path and only my path, for everyone, regardless.” And the Dharmic version of this is considerably more tolerant but often doesn’t involve hardly any more understanding than that of the Abrahamics.
Although other sages from India had already left India’s borders to touch the West, at the time SRCM was reaching out of India much of Indian spirituality was limited to within the borders of that nation. I think it’s because of this that my Master’s master’s master, while speaking to Europeans, said what he did. “I am liberating you from India.”
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti