Bharatvarsh, the nation that is today Bharat, has an antiquity dating back to the Vedic period — at least 3500 years before. There is no land and people on this earth who have been aligned like Bharatvarsh and Bharatiyas. Their alignment has an antiquity which as Swami Vivekananda said, history dares not peep. The undated and undateable Sanatan Indian civilisation has an astonishing continuity and durability which history seems to have denied to its contemporary civlisations.
By S Gurumurthy
Many ancient and powerful civilisations have come and gone, like “ripples on the face of the waters’ as the earliest Hindu Monk who went to the West Swami Vivekananda said. “The earth trembled at the sight of the Greek army, the Roman Eagle floated over everything worthy in the world’ but today, spider weaves its web where the Caesars ruled”, he said. The existence of the former companions of Sanatan civilisation — the Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and Rome civilisations — is now reduced to archeological and epigraphic footnotes in history.
But Sanatan Dharma that originated and evolved Bharatvarsh before history was thought of by human minds has continued and has retained the essence of Bharat’s way of life, ethos, and culture with changes as time evolved. This unbelievable continuity of the Santan thought in substance and partly even in form for several thousand years is a mystery to the world of contemporary philosophers, historians, sociologists, and statesmen. The Brahmanda Purana describes Bharat as a mysterious land in the centre of the universe. And it remains so even now. Why? What has given this durability to the Santan Indian civilisation?
The first reason for the continuity of the Sanatan Indian civilisation, that has no parallel in human history is that its soul was not rooted in proactive and reactive power — political, military, or economic. Even though, as Angus Madison found in 2001, India was the greatest economic power of the world continuously for 1700 years before the Industrial West rose in the 18th century and it was equally a merchant naval power much before the Greeks became a naval race, it never used that power to conquer and rule the world. The influence of Bharatvarsh was cultural and spiritual. Hu Shi, Chinese Ambassador to the US said in 1946 that for two thousand years India dominated the Chinese mind without sending a soldier out!
The other reasons for that worldview are two. One, Sanatan Bharat’s time scale of billions of years, once considered wildly imaginary, now matches with the contemporary findings of science. And two, its cosmic view of the earth, on which humans live and fight for supremacy as a tiny spec in the Brahmanda, the universe. Thousands of years after the sages and rishis of Bharatvarsh had perceived the earth as tiny bit in the universe, Carl Sagan one of the greatest cosmologists found the earth as “the pale blue dot” in the galaxy.
The West which conquered, colonised and ruled the world for three centuries was driven by a high power Eschatological Mission to conquer and bring the world to its worldview and under its domain. In the context of the Cosmic time scale of the earth and the universe, it was a short term idea driven by powerful human greed to be achieved in one’s own lifetime. The greatest environmental and ecological damage occurred in this period as the superior energies of the human mind was set against the entire nature and its ecosystem. Thanks to the destructive short termism, humans whom Adi Sankara in Brahma Sutra Bhashya said were the caretakers of the 8.5 million species in nature turned into its butchers and destroyers. Incidentally science slowly came to terms with Brahma Sutra Bhashya count of the number of species. The US National Foundation’s estimate of the number of species in 2007 was 5.8 million.
The Guardian newspaper reported in 2011 that scientists had improved their number to 8.7 million!. But look at the huge share of Bharatvarsh in biodiversity conservation. Even in the competitive contemporary times Bharatvarsh, with just 2.4% of the land area of the earth, is home to 8% of the world’s bio-resources, 18% of human population, 30% of cattle population. Besides the extensive damage to the ecosystem caused by human short termism, their Eschatological urge to conquer and rule the world that inhered in the colonial conquests and in the post-colonial and post-World War II and post-Cold War World Order led by the West caused greatest human disasters – with Prof RJ Rummel estimating in his massive research Power Kills, estimating the 20th century alone at 262 million.
In the post cold war competitive period, the proactive idea of the West to conquer and rule the world has invited the reactive response from the Rest to reverse the process — the consequence of which is being witnessed by the challenge to the West in contemporary geopolitics. Henry Kissinger, the great geopolitical mind who shaped the post-World War II order, now says that the present world order would change forever and permanently get restructured. No world order however well-shaped it is by the best of brains of the time with short termist aims would be durable unless it is founded on eternal principles of the law of nature.
In contrast, Sanatan Dharma founded on the philosophy of “Isavasyam Idam Sarvam” — which Mahatma Gandhi translated as meaning everything in nature down to the tiniest atom is divine — makes man the trustee of nature for future and for future human generations and not its conqueror to rule at present as the contemporary science would. Mahatma Gandhi even said that if the Hindus lost all their ancient literature except the Isa Vasya Upanishad, they would still be able to survive. It is this philosophy which regarded the contemporary times divided into hours, days, years, and centuries measured in the mega time frame of the universe in billions and trillions of years as fleeting, that secured and ensured for the Indian civilisation its durability. How does this philosophy translate into a long-held lifestyle which continues over millennia?
By its sense of time in Yuga that made the current generation to look far far beyond the contemporary times and its practice of Yoga in life which made the present generation believe in the after-life journey of humans Bharatvarsh translated its philosophy into lifestyle. What is that after the life journey? It is the rational belief in one’s own action as the cause of the reaction in one’s own life – the theory of karma. This collective understanding informed human life in Bharatvarsh from time immemorial. The Puranas, many of them over millennium old, define Bharatiyas as the inhabitants of Bharatvarsh and believers in Karma and Rebirth, with Moksha or liberation from the cycles of birth and death as the ultimate goal.
Yoga is central to the idea of Moksha. Whether the way of seeking Moksha is Gnana, Bhakti, or Karma, yoga is central to human endeavour for self-realisation. Yoga, whose origins are in Rig Veda, and which is also integral to the Indus Saraswati civilisation, too is as old as, and inseparable from, Bharatvarsh. Puranas affirm that Moksha is the goal of any Bharatiya. But the instrument of Yoga to attain Moksha needs a collective ecosystem to promote, practice and pass it on for posterity. Without the collectively built ecosystem that widely accepted the practice of Yoga, individual practice of it would be reduced to a cultic phenomenon which would die with the cult. The collective ecosystem conducive to the individual and collective practice of Yoga evolved in Bharatvarsh was fostered through a decentralised and highly diverse Guru-Sishya model of teaching, handing down knowledge from generation to generation over millennia. It is the continuing diverse teaching tradition and teachers who have kept alive the core philosophy and practice of yoga and the mission of Bharatvarsh.
In that great tradition came innumerable Yoga masters, acharyas and mentors starting from sages and rishis of the Vedic lore, Patanjali to Srikrishna in the distant past to contemporary and well-known masters like Swami Vivekananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda who started India’s global Yoga thrust. Swami Vivekananda hoisted the Indian spiritual flag at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 with his thundering address and his speeches later, that made the world sit back and take notice of the untapped spiritual reservoir of India and the idea of yoga central to it. Of the several Yoga techniques currently in practice, one of the most well-known is Kriya Yoga which is now a globally practised technique. It is no coincidence that the very year in which Swami Vivekananda addressed the world parliament of religions in Chicago, Paramahamsa Yogananda, a Kriya Yoga master, reached the shores of America and through him, Kriya Yoga became a global phenomenon.
The knowledge and practice of Kriya Yoga which was hidden in secrecy for millennia came alive and deepened through the ancient Indian Guru-Shishya parampara. Himalayan master Yoga Mahavatar Babaji taught the Kriya Yoga technique to Sri Lahiri Mahasaya, a householder, and since then it has been transmitted through an unbroken lineage of realised masters and Guru-Sishya revived the Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga is a powerful meditation technique that aims to help spiritual seekers attain the summit of spiritual experience — that is constant communion with the Divine – with joy and ease. Based on the science of prana or breath, Kriya Yoga conceived and handed down — from teacher to student — in and through an unbroken lineage of enlightened masters reaches deep into the mists of time immemorial. Kriya Yoga transforms the body, mind, and heart, helping the adherent to be calmly active and actively calm.
The teaching tradition of Kriya yoga has grown exponentially in the last century with great masters spreading the teaching of this received ancient wisdom and making it practicable in contemporary times. It has been transformed into one of the most well-known yoga practices with extensive and intensive followers by the successive line of Kriya Yoga masters Swami Shriyukteshwar Giri, Sri Sanyal Mahasaya, Pramahamsa Yogananda, Swami Satyananada Giri, Paramahamsa Hariharananda and Paramahamsa Prajanananda.
I am delighted and honoured to write in the magazine Kriya Sanjeevani to commemorate the inauguration of Sri Guru Janmaboomi Mandir in honour of His Holiness Paramahamsa Hariharananada ji of Shri Jaganath Dham Puri. A realised Kriya Yoga master of Jagannath Dham Paramahamsa Hariharananda followed the footsteps of His Master HH Paramahamsa Yogananda whose famous book The Autobiography of a Yogi is a living and lived testimony of Kriya Yoga. Paramahamsa Hariharananda spread Kriya Yoga throughout India and the world at large and carried that ancient Bharatiya wisdom to countless numbers of people and transformed their lives. Prajanana Mission founded by Paramahamsa Hariharananda in 1999, besides spreading the knowledge and practice of Kriya Yoga, renders philanthropic services through charitable, educational and distress-relief for poor and vulnerable people. The legacy of the great teacher Paramahamsa Hariharananda lives through the mission of his successor Paramahamsa Prajananada.
It is this unbroken Guru-Sishya tradition of teaching and learning that has endowed the mysterious land of Bharatvarsh with a trillion human year vision and civilisational cultural and spiritual continuity which history has denied to geographies and peoples with short-term worldview. The Kriya Yoga Mission initiated and sustained by the great masters is integral to the vision of Bharatvarsh.
This article first appeared in www.vifindia.org and it belongs to them.