A CRASH COURSE IN HIGHER LEARNING

 


Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. Today is the last day of the Ati Rudra Maha Yajna, in progress here since 9 th August. It is but natural that we focus on that Yajna one more time, even as we did last Sunday. Since then, many learned scholars have spoken about it here in the Divine presence, and we hope to present soon, summaries of their talks in H2H. In this Sunday Special, we would like to present a slightly different perspective of this extra-ordinary Yajna, now winding to a grand closure.

By way of setting the stage, we would like to take you back to the year 1986, to be precise, to the 22 nd of November of that year, when Swami, while delivering His traditional benedictory address on the occasion of the Institute Convocation, made some very important remarks. As you are well aware, Swami’s University is called the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. People normally understand an institute of higher learning to be an educational establishment where advanced courses are offered in various disciplines like, for example, mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. Indeed, Swami’s Institute too offers post-graduate degrees in all these subjects and many others like computer science, business administration, financial management and so on. But that is not the reason why Swami’s university is called Institute of Higher Learning . What then is the purpose of naming it so? That precisely is what Swami explained in the Divine Discourse referred to above.

Swami said that the term higher learning was used in a spiritual sense. Explaining further, Swami pointed out that higher learning does not mean stuffing the minds of students with all kinds of abstract and hairy-fairy ideas about the Atma. He stressed that it was certainly not His intention to deflect the attention of students from the world and the Universe to the Atma. He did not want His students to withdraw from the world and become monks or sannyasis. Rather, He wanted His students to be very much in the world but see God everywhere, see God in Society, and recognise that God is immanent in every single aspect of Creation. In other words, the aim of His Institute was, while offering the usual courses on physics, chemistry and so on, to help students see Society, the world and Nature through the prism of God. That, Swami said, would help the students to serve humanity with love and compassion, even while being fully immersed in various worldly activities.

In more recent years, Swami has articulated the same view in a slightly different way. He says that the individual must recognise that he or she is a part of Society, which is a part of Creation, which exists because of God. If the individual understands this hierarchy clearly, then that individual would never do anything that harmed Society or tended to go against Nature and thus violate Dharma. OK, we understand all that but what on earth have these got to do with the Ati Rudra Maha Yajna? That is what we are coming to now.

Let us start with the Yajna itself. What actually happens during the Yajna? At the practical level there is a lot of chanting, worship of the Lingam, Abhishekam done to the Lingam and offerings made via the sacred fire. That is what happens every day, for hours and hours. But what is the purpose? Why all this?

The basic idea behind the symbolism is the following. Lingam represents Creation, and Siva is the representation of the Creator. While worshipping the Lingam, one essentially first sees the Creator pervading the Universe in all its aspects. Not only that; one appreciates that the Creator is most bountiful, providing us with so many things, and with a lot of forethought too. Just think about it. Lord God has made sure that there is air for us to breathe, all the way from the North to the South Pole, wherever we are. Next, He has made sure that we have water to drink. And then, He has most kindly provided land so that we can not only build houses for us to live in but also cultivate crops, and even play games. God has also graciously provided us with a wide variety of wonderful fruits, besides packing the earth with oil as well as all kinds of minerals from iron to gold. If we think about it, the list of bounties is quite long; and God has provided all this, well in advance of the arrival of humans.

We seldom ponder about such matters because we are so used to taking them for granted. That is the nature of a person too preoccupied with his or her own ambitions, desire for success and so on. The first thing the worship of the Lingam reminds us is that we had better see God behind every aspect of the Universe, both animate and inanimate, and express our deepest gratitude to the Lord for all that He has blessed us with.

From expression of gratitude we next move to the adoration of God; the Pujas performed promote this feeling. God is not a Lingam of marble or whatever but something we can relate personally to and in a loving manner also, the Lingam being merely a representation of the personal God. We welcome God, try to please Him by offering hospitality, serve food to Him, sing for Him and of course at the end of it all, do not miss asking God for various favours! Worship thus brings God very much into our lives and making Him an intimate part of it.

We are sure you are impatient to know what has all this has got to do with higher learning. That is the question we shall address next. Swami says that if Society has to improve then there are two preconditions that must be met. The first is that everyone must love God – this is what Bhagavan refers to as Daiva Preethi. Next, says Swami, everyone must abhor sin – this in Swami’s terminology is Paapa Bheethi. When one loves God and at the same time abhors sin, then morality would automatically prevail in Society.

Let us examine this a bit further. Say there is a businessman who is devoted to God. He meticulously does Puja everyday and all that. He makes sure he does not miss any of the rituals laid down in the scriptures. Having completed all that is prescribed, he goes out to work. In the work place, he becomes very competitive, cuts corners and does not hesitate to cheat. Making money, by means both fair and foul, now becomes his main objective. What do we see here? A huge contradiction. This man loves God – so he imagines. But he does not abhor sin; if he did, he would not cheat in business. How come he cheats with impunity? Because he does not see God in his customers.

How many times Swami has told us that if we offer salutations to another person that salutation actually goes to the Indweller and that likewise, if we abuse that person, the abuse also goes to the same Indweller. In short, Daiva Preethi without Paapa Bheeti is not only incomplete but does not make sense. Higher learning trains a person to make sure that these two aspects of life are not disconnected. And that is one of the cardinal lessons that the Yajna teaches us.

Thus far, we have tried to explain how some of the Yajna rituals remind us of the immanence of the Creator in the Universe, draw attention to the need for expressing gratitude for the bounties received, and help us to love God in a very personal way. The Yajna also takes us beyond the physical Universe to a metaphysical level. At that stage, we go from the finite to the Infinite, from the transient to the Eternal, from matter to Consciousness, from Form to the Formless, from Creation to the Creator and from untruth to Truth. In this sense, the worship of the Lingam symbolically telescopes the manner in which one must go through life, evolving progressively through various spiritual stages.

It is fascinating to note that although Vedic seers prescribed the route of Yajna to make the transition from matter and mind to something beyond words and thought, great scientific thinkers have made this journey in a completely different way, through their explorations of Nature at the very frontier. Einstein, for example, declared that he pursued science for experiencing Cosmic religiosity. Heisenberg who discovered a key principle of quantum mechanics at the young age of twenty-two wrote to his sister that when he made the discovery at the early hours of one morning, he felt as if he was looking over the shoulders of the Lord as He wrote the symphony of the Universe. Erwin Schrodinger who discovered wave mechanics, an aspect of modern quantum mechanics, spent years pouring over Vedantic philosophy, at the end of which he said that he had to admit that the ultimate was Brahman or Supreme Consciousness. By the way, Schordinger who was from Austria, was so deep into Vedanta that he even considered accepting the post of Professor of Physics in Allahabad University when he left Austria because of the Nazi problem. However, that was not to be and he went instead to Ireland where he stayed till the end of the war. We must also make a reference to Max Planck who in 1900 made the first crucial discovery that paved the way for later developments in quantum physics. Planck declared that Consciousness was primary and that matter was secondary. Then there was Eugene Wigner who said that information was complete only when it was registered in Consciousness. That was his way of saying that the Universe made sense only because of Consciousness. There is also George Wald of Harvard who declared that though as a scientist he hated referring to Consciousness he had to reluctantly admit that not only did the Universe come out of Consciousness but also that the human being was the most beautiful Avatar of Consciousness! For the record I should mention that all these names I have mentioned are winners of the Nobel Prize!

So you see, this Consciousness that the Vedas and the Rishis extol is primordial and the Yajna, in a manner of speaking, takes us all the way from here to Eternity, to borrow a famous phrase. And while doing so, the Yajna reminds us that though at the absolute level God exists as Supreme Consciousness, He is also immanent in every atom of the Universe. As such, we must go through life aware of this important fact. That is what higher learning is supposed to do and that is what the Yajna teaches in a highly compressed manner.

Do you buy that idea?! May be, may be not. Whatever it is, as always, we welcome both bouquets and brickbats! What we do not like is deafening silence! So, dear readers, write to us won’t you, so that we you can keep us our toes!

All the best till we get together again.

Jai Sai Ram.


With Love and Regards,
"Heart2Heart" Team.

 

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