Is rashtra a sacred geography?

श्री गुरुभ्यो नमः (Obeisance to the guru, the one who handholds me from darkness towards light).

“Rashtra”, the vibrations generated by the mere sound of this phrase gives goosebumps all over one’s body, such is the power of this phrase for any Indic, I’m sure. I’m no exception, a tweet in Hindi from Arfa Khanum Sherwani read early in the morning invoked ditto response from me.

Discourses from my guruji Swami Paramananda Bharati ji from the days when I was influenced by “Che Guevara” to my acquaintance with works of Rajiv Malhotra and Sanskaras from my parents have had a collective influence on my understanding of what a “Rashtra” means. The following paras are an amalgamation of all those influences in answering a very important question raised by Arfa Khanum Sherwani.

Is rashtra a sacred geography?

“Bharat” as we are called, has been united as a Sanskriti or meta-civilization through various threads. The concept of geography being treated as the “Mother” has come from our age old Sanatana thought of “prithavi” earth, being the nourisher. Nourisher of all forms of life that take refuge in her.

Then, what is the boundary?, question may be asked, the meta-civilization, the sanskriti is a common thread that binds those beings that are nourished by that geography. The concept of geography of the place where beings have been a part of that same sanskriti forms a Rashtra. How?

Rivers, Mountains, Plains, Valleys, Oceans are all constituents of a geography, and how these are treated in the collective psyche of those who these geographical features have nourished forms the Sanskriti.

All major civilizations have flourished around the sources of water, so has the Sindhu Saraswati civilization, as the civilization advanced towards the plains with its tributaries, the Nadi Stuti in Rig Veda expresses the divinity of them all.

Mountains which are the land marks of a geography have also had similar impact on the collective psyche of the Indics. Kailasa, Govardhan and many more have been a part of our reference from time immemorial.

Flora and Fauna too has been an important part of our sanskriti. The Aushadhis and herbs have been an integral part of our daily lives from times immemorial. The Ayurveda, a treatise written on the health and wellbeing they provide is enough evidence of how seriously this sanskriti has taken the flora and fauna.

What else is a Rashtra?

All elements that give a sense of “shared identity” to those who belong to that geography and sanskriti constitute a Rashtra.

Pilgrimages, that are inseparable part of a Sanskriti also have geographical connections, Adi Guru Shankaracharya establishing the four Mathas in the four corners of our geography the “char dham” yatras, the Shakti peethas a network of Shakti centres spread across the vast geography of Bharat the Jyotirlingas all cover a vast part of the Geography that encompasses the land that we call India today.

Kumbha Mela, the world’s oldest and largest gathering which has been repeated at the predefined times since thousands of years is a part of that “Shared Identity”.

Kailasa in Tibet, Kashi in the north and Rameshwaram in the south are prominent examples that illustrate how the sacred geography has unified India and given its people a sense of unity as a nation with a shared identity.

Since I personally belong to this sanskriti and carry the same sanskaras, I would like to discuss “Rashtra”, based on my understanding of this Sanskriti which I call as the Sanatana (old) Vedic (based on the ancient system of knowledge from this part of Geography) Sanskriti. Sanatana Vedic Sanskriti.

Rashtra Hard power and physical borders alone do not form a nation. A nation is the one that fosters unity, continuity of thought & culture and social cohisiveness. At this point I’m reminded of that statement of Smriti Irani in the Parliament “Bharat Ek Jeeta Jagta Rashtra Purush hai”.

1200 years of invasions and suppression has allowed the import of the western ideas of a Nation State which is based on ideologies not organic to this “geography”.

Then, what is organic to this geography?

The very first shloka of “Ishavasya Upanishad

ईशा वास्यं इदम् सर्वे यत्कञ्चि जगत्याम् जगत् तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्वद्धिनम्।

Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by “Ishwara”. One should therefore accept only those things and in the quantity that is necessary for his survival and one must not accept other things knowing very well to whom they belong.

When I was young my mother would often reprimand us siblings on amassing stationery and fighting over it saying. “त्याग के भाव से भोग करना सीखो, संरक्षण के भाव से het, in short conveying the meaning of the shloka above. “Indulgence in the opulance of nature with a sense of renunciation for the sake of wellbeing of all living forms”.

Dharma, is organic to this civilisation. It may raise many eyebrows, but what does Dharma essentially mean, quoting Rajiv Malhotra, “Dharma, refers to the natural order of things, or ‘that which holds or sustains'”. Embedded in the philosophical concept of the rashtra is a deep appreciation of the ultimate interdependence and interconnectivity of all living beings.

This ethos is reflected in the Pancha Maha Yajnas. Which essentially means to be thankful to 5 groups of living beings. They teach us the concept of sacrifice and sharing and to be grateful to the beings that have provided us with those materials.

  1. Brahma yajna: Sacrifice to the Bramhan (here, Bramhan refers to that, which is formless and attribute less) 2. Deva yajna: Sacrifice to the devas 3. Pitru Yajna : Sacrifice to departed souls 4. Manushya Yajna: Serving the poor, atithis (guests) 5. Bhuta Yajna: Sacrifice to all living beings,

plants, animals and to the natural environment in general.

Quoted from Manu 3-70, 73, 74, 75;3-80,3-93,94

This five level framework reflects the fact that we are not isolated islands onto ourselves; rather our wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of others and vice versa. This interdependence is very eloquently described by Rajiv Malhotra in the metaphor “Indra’s Net”.

At the core of Dharma therefore, defined by the Sanatana Vedic Sanskriti, is the wellbeing of the entire cosmos or the universal good.

The Shanti (peace) Mantras of the vedas ask for the peace and wellbeing of all life in the world and realms of existence, not only humans but all sentient and non-sentient beings and manifestations of life.

Sanatana Vedic Sanskriti necessitates us to focus on the spiritual wellbeing of individuals via the pursuit of “sva dharma” which is most appropriate to one’s own innate qualities and conditioning. That, which is the best for the spiritual evolution of each individual which ultimately is the best model for cosmic order.

This system is flexible and does not straight jacket all beings into one dogma or belief system because there is diversity in the cosmos.

The indic civilization is based on providing space to this acknowledged diversity hence has an “open architecture” a self-explanatory term coined by Rajiv Malhotra. It is vast and all-encompassing unlike the inorganic expansionism deliberated by the Western and non-Indic cultures based on rigid dogmas that lack self-enquiry.

As Maha Periava beautifully sums up “We must give, that’s what the vedas urge us to do every time, everywhere. The vedas ordain the “Karta” (doer of action) not to think in a self centered fashion and take credit for all the karmas he does, he has to specifically remind himself from time to time that the fruits of his karma must be ceded for the welfare of the world at large and not only him” and that is why the Karta is made to say “IGHT HH” thrice meaning not by me, not for me the fruits of the karma that was performed by my body, my mind, my sensibilities is not for my benefit alone it is “SERUH 3!” that is, the benefits may go to the entire community.

In the same tradition Guru Golwalkar ji coined a phrase ” 5GHRICH SCHHH” Meaning thereby ” this Rashtra is not for me alone”.

Therefore, means the welfare of all those who belong to this Rashtra, of the Sanskriti that prays for peace for all cosmos.

“Om Dyauh Shaantir-Antarikssam Shaantih Prthivii Shaantir-Aapah Shaantir-Ossadhayah Shaantih Vanaspatayah Shaantir-Vishvedevaah Shaantir-Brahma Shaantih Sarvam Shaantih Shaantir-Eva Shaantih Saa Maa Shaantir-Edhi | Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih” |||

Meaning:

1: Om, Peace is in Sky; Peace is in Space (between Earth and Sky);

2: Peace is in Earth; Peace is in Water; Peace is in Plants;

3: Peace is in Trees; Peace is in Gods (presiding over the various elements of Nature); Peace is in Brahman (Absolute Consciousness);

4: Peace is pervading everywhere; Peace alone (which is outside) is in Peace (which is inside); May you be established in) that Peace (and make your life fulfilled);

5: Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.

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