Gujarat: Life imprisonment for killing cows – Parimal A. Dabhi

Vijay Rupani

NewsChief Minister Vijay Rupani said that while he was “not against any food,” he wanted to make Gujarat “shakahari (vegetarian),” “We do not want Jersey cows, but Gir and Kankreji cows instead,” he said. – Parimal A. Dabhi

The Gujarat government Friday amended the state’s Animal Preservation Bill to entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and a minimum of 10 years for cow slaughter after it was passed in the assembly in the absence of the Opposition Congress and with the visitors’ gallery packed with saffron-clad Hindu priests.

Speaking on the amendment, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that while he was “not against any food”, he wanted to make Gujarat “shakahari (vegetarian)”, “We do not want Jersey cows, but Gir and Kankreji cows instead,” he said.

Rupani also described Gujarat as a “unique state”, which followed the tenets of Mahatma Gandhi—“non-violence and truth”. “This is Gandhi’s Gujarat, Sardar’s (Vallabhbhai Patel) Gujarat and (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s Gujarat,” said Rupani.

The passage of the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2017 came eight months after seven Dalits were beaten by self-styled cow vigilantes for alleged cow slaughter in Una.

The punishment for cow slaughter under the earlier law was imprisonment ranging from three to seven years. The new law also makes offences under the amended Act non-bailable.

The amendment was cleared after the Speaker suspended members of the Congress for creating a ruckus before the Bill was passed.

When the amendment Bill was introduced over a month ago, it had a maximum punishment of ten years imprisonment. On Friday, however, the ruling BJP moved to enhance the punishment to a life-term.

In another major amendment, the Bill included a provision that vehicles caught in transporting cows, beef or beef products illegally will be forfeited to the state government. The maximum fine for the offence has also been increased from Rs 50,000 to one ranging from Rs 1 lakh-Rs 5 lakh.

Besides, the punishment for conviction for illegal transportation of cow, beef or beef products has been increased from three years imprisonment to seven years.

The Act allows transportation of animals of cow progeny with permission, but not between 7 pm and 5 am.

The statement of the Bill reads, “In the year 2011, the State Government had made certain amendments in the said Act for better implementation of the Act. It is, however, experienced while implementing the said Act that still more stringent provisions are required to be made by amending the said Act for curbing the menace of illegal slaughtering of the animals covered under the said Act to provide for more stringent punishment and effectively check the rampant use of vehicles for transporting such animals.”

During the discussion on the Bill, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “This is not a Bill, but a feeling of crores of Indians. It is my humble attempt to give voice to the cows being killed by butchers. A single drop of cow blood falling on earth pains Hindus. With this law, Vijaybhai Rupani’s government will make Gujarat cow-slaughter-free.”

Jadeja also offered his respects to the “Hindu saints” in the visitors gallery, and said that he was “feeling proud as a Hindu” to introduce the Bill in the House.

One of those present in the gallery, Kaniramji Bapu of Dudhrej in Surendranagar district, an important religious seat of the Maldhari community (cattle herders) in Gujarat, said, “We oppose cow slaughter and believe in its preservation. And so, we came here in support of the Act. Cows should be preserved and their slaughtering must end.”

Another religious figure, Mahant Vikramgiri from Ghela-Somnath of Jasdan in Rajkot district, said, “Around 300 sadhu-sants have come to Assembly. Since the government had announced that they will bring the Bill, we knew it in advance and are here to support it.”

In 2011, when Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, the state government had imposed a complete ban on slaughter of cows, transportation and selling of cow meat by amending the Act. – Indian Express, 1 April 2017

» Parimal A. Dabhi reports for The Indian Express in Gujarat.

Gujarati Sadhus

Ganga & Yamuna are ‘living persons’ with legal rights, decrees Uttarakhand HC – Vineet Upadhyay

Devprayag : Confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, and birthplace of the Ganga.

Ganga DeviThe status accorded to the Ganga and the Yamuna means that if anyone is found polluting the rivers, it would amount to harming a human being. – Vineet Upadhyay

In the first order of its kind in the country, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday decreed that the Ganga and the Yamuna as well as their tributaries and sister bodies be declared “legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities.”

This, the court said, was to ensure “preservation and conservation of the two rivers and to protect the recognition and faith of society.”

A division bench of Justices Alok Singh and Rajiv Sharma noted that “the extraordinary situation has arisen since the rivers Ganga and the Yamuna are losing their very existence.”

The court’s order comes days after a landmark bill passed in New Zealand making the Whanganui river, revered by the indigenous Maori people, the first in the world to be recognised as a living entity with full legal rights.

The status accorded to the Ganga and the Yamuna, legal experts said, would mean that if anyone was found polluting the rivers, it would amount to harming a human being.

“By this order, the court has recognised ‘fifth generation rights’ which are not limited to humans but extend to the habitat. The order will give a new dimension to the laws framed for protection of the environment,” said senior lawyer K. H. Gupta.

The court named the director of Namami Gange, the chief secretary of Uttarakhand and the advocate general of the state “persons in loco parentsi“—the human face representing the rivers. “All the Hindus have deep astha in the Ganga and the Yamuna and they collectively connect with these rivers. The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well being. They have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial,” the judges said.

The judges noted that a “startling revelation” had been made by the senior joint commissioner, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, that “despite long correspondence, neither the state of UP nor the state of Uttarakhand are cooperating with the central government for the constitution of Ganga Management Board”. The High Court ordered the central government to constitute the board and make it functional “within a period of three months…. We need not remind the state governments that they are bound to obey the orders passed by the central government, failing which consequences may ensue under Article 365 of the Constitution of India.” – Times of India, 21 March 2017

Prayag : Confluence of the Ganga (muddy brown) and Yamuna (dark blue) rivers

Aghora’s radical egalitarianism makes Reza Aslan yearn for inequality – Bharavi

Man Sitting Under Tree IconAslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind. – Bharavi

Now that there is a lot of indignation in the Hindu community about the way the Muslim, Iranian-American religious writer Reza Aslan has gone about depicting Hinduism in a CNN program titled “Believer,”[1] it would help to understand issues at hand that run deeper than overt “Hinduphobia” and stereotyping.  Mr. Rajiv Malhotra and some members of the Hindu Students Council have broadcast a video “rebuttal” of sorts, questioning Aslan’s intentions in reaffirming western stereotypes of Hinduism.  

For starters, it must be noticed that Reza Aslan finds himself in the U.S.A. because his family fled the Islamic revolution in his native Iran, circa 1979. Though born in a Muslim family, he converted to Christianity, but returned or, as the terminology goes, “reverted” to Islam.  Currently, he is a professing Muslim. Had he been a true heir to his brutally extinguished Aryan-Iranian heritage, he would surely have been at least more balanced, if not more respectful and nuanced, in his depiction of the last vestiges of the common Indo-Iranian religious heritage in the multifarious forms of Hinduism in India, a civilization that gave refuge to Zoroastrian Iranians fleeing before their equally Iranian compatriots who converted to Islam. But, having been put through the wringer, as it were, of the Religions of Love and Peace, all Understanding and Compassion has been conclusively wrung out of him. What Ishwar Sharan perceptively stated of the betrayal of Hindus to the Portuguese Catholic invaders by Syrian Christians applies to him in its totality: “… [the] Christian religion … harbours in its heart a demon that divides mankind into friend and foe on ideological grounds.”[2]  The Qu’ran, which is but the “Bible in Arabic” insofar as its basic contents are concerned, bettered the instruction by summarily and firmly reinstating the original Yahvist spirit by abolishing all hints of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s phantom gestation that, according to Christians, resulted in a case of human parthenogenesis.  

It matters little that Aslan piously proclaims his personal preference for Islam while proclaiming “good will and peace to all men” on his website, which deserves to be read in full by befuddled Hindus:[3]

That’s where religion comes in. Beyond the doctrines and dogma, the do’s and the don’t’s, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings.

It is, as the Sufi mystics say, a “signpost to God.”

Can you have faith without religion? Of course! But as the Buddha said, if you want to strike water, you don’t dig six 1-foot wells; you dig one 6-foot well. In other words, if you want to have a deep and meaningful faith experience, it helps—though it is by no means necessary—to have a language with which to do so.

So then, pick a well.

Different words, same thing

My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is “truer” than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the “language” I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.

So … what do you believe?

But I know, just as the Buddha did, that while my personal well may be different and unique, the water I draw from it is the same water drawn from everyone else’s wells. Indeed, having drunk from many wells in my spiritual journey, I consider it my mission in life to inform the world that, no matter the well, the water tastes just as sweet.

Consider the following parable by the great Sufi master Jalal ad-Din Rumi, which I recount in my book, No god but God:

A Persian, a Turk, an Arab and a Greek are traveling to a distant land when they begin arguing over how to spend the single coin they share in common. The Persian wants to spend the coin on angur; the Turk, on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil.

A linguist passing by overhears the argument. “Give the coin to me,” he says. Taking the coin, the linguist goes to a nearby shop and buys the travelers four small bunches of grapes.

“This is my angur!” cries the Persian.

“But this is what I call uzum,” replies the Turk.

“You have brought me my inab,” the Arab says.

“No! This in my language is stafil,” says the Greek.

The travelers suddenly realize that they were all asking for the same thing, but in different languages.

My goal—as a scholar, as a person of faith, and now as the host of “Believer” —is to be the linguist, to demonstrate that, while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.

And that, regardless of whether you, too, are a believer or not, is a lesson worth learning.

See, multiple wells, same water! Multiple languages, same grapes! Aslan’s stated goal in the series “Believer” is to convince you, like a latter-day Gandhi, that “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Hell, why can’t we all just get along like one big happy family!? Where are those vasudhaiva kutumbakam hippies when you need them?

Firstly, note that the Buddha (a rank Pagan) was the one who talked about multiple wells reaching the same water. Any Abrahamic prophet worth his salt would have taken umbrage at this kind of laissez-faire approach, so there are no matching quotations from the Abrahamic traditions, especially Reza’s own. Even the oft-quoted sura 109 of the Qu’ran often bandied about by Muslims as evidence of Islam’s “tolerance” declares:

Say: O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
Nor will I worship those whom you have worshipped,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.

The sura is also suggestively titled “Al-Kafirun”—The Unbelievers. For different wells with the same water, you definitely have to summon Kafir help and surreptitiously slip it in while ostensibly taking a stand as a convinced Muslim.

Hindus should additionally note that even for an aspiring Sufi mystic like Aslan, it becomes a positive strain to extend real courtesy about “more often than not, expressing the same faith” to the rank Pagans/Kafirs that Hindus are with their pantheism and polytheism, thereby revelling in the great “sin” of kufr and shirk—of “associating partners with Allah.” Aslan’s pir Rumi frequently and variously uses “Hindu” as a symbol of all that is wrong, the (despicable) colour black, darkness, evil influence, and especially the nafs (the base soul) that is in urgent need of reforming. That is the lineage of teachers (guru-shishya parampara) that Aslan subscribes to. So, Hindus should thank Reza Aslan, and take his timely reminder as an opportunity to examine the true sayings and history of Sufis and their silsilas from original sources, as also the accounts of the havoc that they wrought to Hinduism, rather than the homilies dished out by several negationists who also masquerade as “eminent historians.”  No Sufi is known to have protested the treatement of Hindus and Hinduism by any sultan—no wonder Aurangzeb was lionized as a “zinda pir”—a living saint. Aslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind.

Aslan’s preoccupation with the Hindu “obsession” with purity deserves close examination. While on that job, it might perhaps not hurt to remind Aslan that, in strains of traditional Islam, especially the Shi’ism rampant in his native Iran, the Kafir is also “Najis—impure—at par with urine and feces. This is also why Pakistan was so named, for the “Pak” or “Pure” thereby separated themselves from the “najis” Hindus. Incidentally, this objective fact of Islamic jurisprudence also gives the lie to Aslan’s sanctimonious statements about the allegedly unique Hindu “obsession with ritual purity.” Islam is also concerned with ritual purity, only it is based on different assumptions (or “obsessions”). And, the very ritual act of wudu (ablutions) performed by the believers before each of their five daily prayers are testimony to the selfsame “obsession” with ritual purity. Indeed, in this case at least, while “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Or obsession, just for consistency. For those who care to inquire further, the hadiths are quite explicit about “correct” methods of purifying oneself after communing with nature, based on prophetic precedent and a traceable chain of transmission (isnad), no less. We hope Aslan will remember this during the next time he rolls out his prayer mat or ascends the metaphorical CNN tower for the broadcast of the next episode of “Believer.”

Aslan was apparently attracted to Aghora because he discerned in the members of this sect a group of proto-revolutionaries who actively flouted Hindu norms of purity and caste exclusiveness (i.e. “obsessions”). Now, Aghora literally means non-ghora i.e. “non-terrible.” The followers of the Aghora path, the Aghoris, literally try to view the entire world as “non-terrible,” not merely in a metaphysical sense or for reasons of political correctness, but also in a very physical sense. They seek to go beyond the “pairs of opposites” that, in their view, arise from the illusory sensory perception of differences, of personal likes and dislikes, and feelings of pleasure and pain. And, to truly follow this idea, they conduct themselves indifferently in the extreme, even eating substances that humans normally find bizarre or disgusting, which provides what presstitutes (journalists) call a “good copy” for Aslan and his handlers at CNN.

The Aghori sadhu in the CNN video first drank some of his own urine—as in his view—there was nothing that was intrinsically “disgusting” about it. We may say that he did not just walk the talk, but also drank it and lived it. Then, he graciously wanted to extend the same courtesy to his newest acolyte in the person of Reza Aslan who promptly voted with his heels. The urine in the Aghori’s palm was, to borrow Aslan’s cordial and engaging phraseology, a very unique form of water from a very unique well that exorcised Aslan of his revolutionary zeal.

Notes

  1. CNN: Face to face with a cannibalistic sect (video clip).
  2. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (2010), Chapter Nine
  3. CNN: Reza Aslan: Why I am a Muslim.

The riddle of Hinduism – Michel Danino

Hindu & Hinduism

Prof Michel DaninoHinduism is not merely Pagan, not merely “polytheistic”, and not monotheistic either, despite its insistence on tad ekam (“that One”) or tat satyam (“that Truth”), a single all-pervasive divinity which later became the Brahman and has nothing in common with the biblical god. – Prof Michel Danino

Previous articles in this series focused on India’s sacred geography, sacred ecology and the rich interactions between “tribal” and “mainstream” cultures. Why bother about all that when so little of it is apparently relevant to our “official” definition of today’s India? The “apparently” can be disputed: the country’s many sacred geographical landmarks, for instance, remain of great cultural importance to a large proportion of Indians, though they may not have the privilege of belonging to our urbanised, Anglicised and secularised elites. But there is a compelling reason to revisit those traditions: They help us to define Hinduism. Again, why bother to do so? Because, whether we like it or not, Hinduism has been a major historical component in the making of India, and its definition remains at the centre of some of today’s hottest controversies.

Bal Gangadhar TilakDefining Hinduism has been an exercise perhaps as unsuccessful as the ancients’ attempt to square the circle. It is reasonably easy to define Judaism, Christianity or Islam: An article of faith in their single book, founder or prophet will do. There is no single book in Hinduism, no founder, no prophet; it has no set of well-defined tenets either. What would then be its anchorage points and boundaries? The nationalist leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak once attempted a definition: “Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and the realisation of the truth that the number of Gods to be worshipped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of Hindu religion.” When, in 1995, the Supreme Court rejected the Ramakrishna Mission’s plea to recognise “Sri Ramakrishna-ism” as a religion distinct from Hinduism, it found Tilak’s definition an “adequate and satisfactory formula” and broadened it thus (I abridge): (1) Acceptance of the Vedas as the highest authority; (2) Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand the opponent’s viewpoint, as the truth is many-sided; (3) Acceptance of the great world rhythm of creation, maintenance and dissolution in endless succession; (4) Belief in rebirth and pre-existence; (5) Recognition that the ways to salvation are many; (6) Worship of many gods, but not necessarily in the form of idols; (7) No single definite set of philosophic concepts. Although this definition reads more like a loose compilation, it may satisfy most practising Hindus, provided “Vedas” is taken in an extended sense to include the Upanishads and a few more texts.

The Supreme Court’s definition omitted one feature: A stubborn attempt to sacralise every aspect of life, the environment and indeed the universe. This is closely related to Hinduism’s well-known assimilative and syncretic behaviour, but it is not unique to Hinduism: It is shared with Pagan religions (those of Native Americans, for instance) and stands in stark contrast to our imported, feckless and disembodied concept of secularism. However, Hinduism is not merely Pagan, not merely “polytheistic”, and not monotheistic either, despite its insistence on tad ekam (“that One”) or tat satyam (“that Truth”), a single all-pervasive divinity which later became the Brahman and has nothing in common with the biblical god.

The above is a theological definition. Curiously, there is no legal definition of Hinduism; the Hindu Marriage Act defines a Hindu as anyone born of Hindu parents or converted to Hinduism, which is no definition at all (especially when there is no procedure for “conversion”). The Constitution does not help, providing only an “explanation” (to article 25(2)(b)) that an earlier reference to “Hindus” will extend to “persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion”.

Historical definitions prove tricky: Interpretations fluidly range from locating the roots of Hinduism in the Indus civilisation or in the Gupta Age to arguing that Hinduism did not exist until it was “constructed” or “imagined” by nineteenth-century European Orientalists and Christian missionaries—a view elaborated by several postmodern Western scholars and their Indian followers, who speak of the “myth” or “invention” of Hinduism. But while the European impact on Hinduism’s self-definition is undeniable, it cannot erase a millennia-long historical evolution and the centrality of texts like the Upanishads, the Gita, the two Epics or the Puranas, all of which occupied the public mind some 1,500 years ago.

This leads us to an anthropological definition: Starting from its Vedic roots and growing endless ramifications, an organic Hinduism accepts no Lakshman Rekha as its outer boundary. From that perspective, it may be defined as the result of the meeting ground between central Vedic and Puranic concepts and texts on the one hand, and folk and tribal worldviews and cults on the other. Some of our scholars, activists and politicians will take objection at this point, pursuing the colonial dogma that tribal religions have nothing to do with Hinduism (see “Mainstream and Marginal in Ancient India”), which they usually define as an elitist “Brahminical” religion, at least in its origins. But caste is almost completely absent from the Vedas; the Upanishads extol seekers like Satyakama Jabala, of unknown father and whose mother was a servant; the two Epics pointedly stress Vyasa’s and Valmiki’s non-Brahmin origins and tell stories of proud Brahmins being humbled and taught by outcastes. More importantly, scholars have shown how folk elements have been absorbed right from the Vedas onward: Its core is partly Brahminical and partly not, while its peripheries are delightfully blurred.

While we carry colonial legacies of imagined adivasis with “non-Hindu” cultures, we will do well to remember that Hinduism is a continuum in time, in space and in belief systems. Once again, categories emerging from post-Pagan Western religions and societies do not apply, yet remain the dominant criteria in the academic world and in our public debates. – The New Indian Express, 8 March 2017

» Prof Danino teaches at IIT Gandhinagar and is a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research. Email: micheldanino@gmail.com

Water and drop of water are a symbolic of Atma and Paramatma in Hinduism

The non-dual reality of Lord Shiva – David Frawley

Parvati, Shiva, Vishnu and Garuda

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri )Shiva is not what we think God is supposed to be, conforming to our opinions or hopes; Shiva is what the Supreme Divine truly is beyond the limitations of our minds and the fixed tenets of any particular faith or belief. … There is no box we can place Shiva into, no formula or structure that the mind can arrive at that can comprehend him. – Dr David Frawley

Shiva is ultimately a deity that represents the non-dualistic Absolute beyond all the contraries and oppositions of this dualistic world of time, space, and karma. He is the force of transcendent unity that is more than the combination of opposites and holds simultaneously the power of both sides of all dualities. Shiva is a deity who transcends duality in his very nature, appearance and manifestation—which also requires that he embraces all dualities and resolves them back into himself. This makes Shiva difficult to understand for the dualistic mind caught in outer differences and distinctions.

Shiva reflects the supreme truth that dwells beyond both relative truth and relative falsehood. He is the Supreme Being beyond both relative being and non-being. He is the supreme good beyond both relative good and evil. He embraces our world on both sides, above, below, and in the center and yet stands infinitely beyond it. He is One, yet he is all. He is everything and nothing, both within all things, outside of all things, and not limited by anything.

As a non-dual deity, Shiva seems contrary to our prevailing views of what is logical, right or appropriate. Shiva is portrayed as a dispassionate yogi yet he has the most powerful passions and the most beautiful and powerful wife. He both destroys Kamadeva, the ordinary God of love but then becomes the Supreme God of Love himself, Kameshvara. He takes us beyond suffering, but to do this he can cause us excruciating pain.

Shiva awakens a higher awareness in us, but for this to occur he must first take us beyond all our preconceptions, making us see the darkness of ignorance behind our lives. Shiva represents our higher Self that is the goal of our aspirations, but to reach it we must allow our ego, its attachments and opinions to be dissolved, giving up our ordinary sense of self altogether.

The challenge of our encounter with Shiva

Shiva in his diverse names, forms, and actions is meant to be challenging for us to grasp. Lord Shiva is not meant to be easy to understand, nor can we present his reality in a simple manner that resolves all doubts as to what he actually represents. To contact the reality of Shiva we must face all doubts and difficulties within ourselves and learn how to move beyond them with steadiness and grace. We must recognize the limitations of the mind and its particularized knowledge. The portrayal of Shiva is not meant to present us with only a pleasing appearance, any more than life is always kind. Our encounter with Shiva is meant to shake us up, to stir our inner transformative energies—to get us to question ourselves and all that we may hold to be truth or reality.

Any real encounter with Lord Shiva is not likely to conform to our existing beliefs, hopes, or expectations. It may not leave us feeling more confident about who we are, or more certain that our lives are moving in the right direction. An encounter with Shiva may not initially make us feel happier or give us more prosperity or what we may regard as a better life.

Shiva is not what we think God is supposed to be, conforming to our opinions or hopes; Shiva is what the Supreme Divine truly is beyond the limitations of our minds and the fixed tenets of any particular faith or belief. Shiva is the supreme reality, not we ourselves, our ideas, opinions, books, or institutions. Shiva is the cosmic reality not our individual or collective imaginations and fantasies. There is no box we can place Shiva into, no formula or structure that the mind can arrive at that can comprehend him.

To arrive at the state of supreme awareness that is Shiva, we must allow ourselves to be stripped bare of our personal conditioning down to the subconscious level, beyond the memories of the present birth and the perceptions of the outer world. We must learn to see ourselves in all beings past, present, and future. We must be humbled back to the core of our being where no self-image prevails, and where there is no other that we have to conform to, please, or fear.

The human mind as it is today is not a conscious intelligence that we can rely upon to determine what is real. It is a conditioned response mechanism for biological survival and social development. Information technology has augmented its powers but not taken us beyond its dualistic limitations. But in the silence of the heart, where all is forgotten, one can know the truth. You are Shiva in your deepest Self and core being. Shiva is the non-dual reality in which you personally are not there, yet in which through your inmost essence of feeling and awareness you are everything.

We can approach Lord Shiva many ways through ritual, yoga, mantra, pranayama and meditation, but these are only expedient measures to draw us beyond body and mind to the mysterious core of our being that knows all intuitively without being trapped in any concepts.

Om Namah Shivaya!

» Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is a teacher in the Vedic tradition. In India, Vamadeva is recognized as a Vedacharya, and includes in his unusual wide scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the Vedic teachings going back to the Rigveda. Article from Vedanet.

Lord Shiva meditating in bliss while Devi Parvati plays the vina.

Soma inspired poets and seers and made warriors fearless – Science First Hand

Soma : To the left of the altar is the king (priest) holding a mushroom over the fire altar. The mushroom resembles well-known psychoactive species Psilocybe cubensis popularly known as gold cap or golden top.

Gold Cap MushroomRestoring the ancient burial clothFor over a hundred years now, scientists have been discussing what plant was used to prepare Soma (Haoma), a sacred drink of the ancient Indians and Iranians, which “inspired poets and seers, made warriors fearless.” The hypotheses were plenty: from ephedra, cannabis, and opium poppy to blue water lily and fly agaric. The answer was found in a grave of a noble woman buried in an elite burial ground of the Xiongnu, the famous nomads of Central Asia. – Science First Hand

Importantly, none of the researchers denies the fact that the ancient Indians and Iranians consumed a drink with a psychoactive substance as a sacrament. However, the precise identity of the substance and its plant source, as well as its influence on human consciousness, are still being debated.

The translator and greatest authority on the Rigveda Tatyana Ya. Elizarenkova wrote: “Judging by the Rigveda hymns, Soma was not only stimulating but also a hallucinogenic drink. It is difficult to be more specific not only because none of the plants suggested as soma satisfies all the parameters and only partially answers the description of soma given in the hymns but mainly because the language and style of the Rigveda, an archaic religious tome with the typical features of ‘Indo-European poetic speech’, pose a formidable obstacle to soma identification.” Knowing perfectly well that all the possibilities of the written source had been exhausted, Elizarenkova believed that the answer could come from archaeologists, from “their findings in North-Western India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (and not in remote Central Asia).”

Remarkably, her opinion, expressed 25 years ago, was confirmed by new findings made in Mongolia. No one could have suspected that a grave of a noble woman buried in an elite burial ground of the Xiongnu, the famous nomads of Central Asia, would answer the question asked long ago.

It happened in 2009. A team from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, which was led by Natalia Polosmak, was performing archaeological excavations in the Noin-Ula Mountains, Northern Mongolia. In tumulus 31, at a depth of 13 meters, the archaeologists discovered a wooden burial chamber. On the floor, which was covered with a thick layer of blue clay, around an old tomb ruined by ancient robbers, there were visible traces of a woollen fabric; this was all that was left of an embroidered strip, which was of great historical value even in this fragmentary state. Textiles are virtually never preserved in ancient graves, and such findings are exceptionally rare. The remains of the textile were retrieved from the grave and delivered to the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS. The second life of this remarkable artefact began thanks to Russian restorers.

The craftsmanship and the story unfolding on the threadbare fabric are truly amazing. Embroidered in woollen thread on the thin cloth is a procession of Zoroastrian warriors marching towards an altar; one of them, standing at the altar, is holding a mushroom in his hands (see image above).

A distinguishing feature of this embroidery is that the craftsmen did their best to depict the faces, costume, arms, plants, and insects, trying to copy everything from life. According to the mycologist I. A. Gorbunova (Candidate of Biology, senior researcher with the Inferior Plant Laboratory, Central Siberian Botanical Garden, SB RAS), the mushroom depicted on the carpet belongs to the Strophariaceae family. In some ways—the general habitus, shape of the cap, stitches along the edge of the cap reminding of the radial folding or remnants of the partial veil and dark inclusions on the stipe that can remind of a paleaceous ring, which blackens after the spores are puffed—it is similar to Psilocybe cubensis (Earle) Singer [Stropharia cubensis Earle]. Some of the mushrooms of the genus Stropharia cubensis, or Psilocybe cubensis, contain psilocybin—a unique stimulator of the nervous system. In their psychoactive properties, psilocybin mushrooms are much more befitting as vegetative equivalents of Soma, or Hoama, than fly agaric, which was identified with Soma in the Rigveda by R. G. Wasson in his well-known book. His point of view was supported by many famous scientists; the psychedelic theory proposed by T. McKenna even assigns the main role in human evolution to psilocybin-containing mushrooms.

For the first time, we can see vivid evidence, embroidered on an ancient cloth discovered by archaeological excavations, for the use of mushrooms for religious purposes, probably, to make Haoma, a “sacred drink.”

The origin of this embroidery and characters depicted on it is associated with North-Western India and the Indo-Scythians (Sakas). How the embroidered cloth made it into a Xiongnu grave is a surprise of the so-called Silk Road, a network of trade routes crossing the whole of Eurasia. Judging by the Chinese chronicles, veils and blankets from Northern India were highly valued in the Han China.

The woollen curtain with an amazing plot was discovered after its 2,000-year-long confinement in a deep grave, which is a miracle in itself. The curtain is not only a fine example of ancient art, which was recovered thanks to the meticulous work of Russian restorers, but a unique source of information casting light on one of the obscure periods of ancient history. – Science First Hand, 3 September 2015

» Read the original article, with illustrations, here.

 

Vedic origins of the Europeans – David Frawley

Goddess : Maiden, Mother & Crone

David FrawleyThe term Danu or Danava appears to form the substratum of Indo-European identity at the base of the Hellenic, Illyro-Venetic, Italo-Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic elements. The northern Greeks were also called Danuni. Therefore, the European Aryans could probably all be called Danavas. – Dr David Frawley

Many ancient European peoples, particularly the Celts and Germans, regarded themselves as children of Danu, with Danu meaning the Mother Goddess, who was also, like Sarasvati in the Rig Veda, a river Goddess. The Celts called themselves “Tuatha De Danaan”, while the Germans had a similar name. Ancient European river names like the Danube and various rivers called Don in Russia, Scotland, England and France reflect this. The Danube which flows to the Black Sea is their most important river and could reflect their eastern origins.

In fact, the term Danu or Danava (the plural of Danu) appears to form the substratum of Indo-European identity at the base of the Hellenic, Illyro-Venetic, Italo-Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic elements. The northern Greeks were also called Danuni. Therefore, the European Aryans could probably all be called Danavas.

According to Roman sources, Tacitus in his Annals and Histories, the Germans claimed to be descendants of the Mannus, the son of Tuisto. Tuisto relates to Vedic Tvasthar, the Vedic father-creator Sky God, who is also a name for the father of Manu (RV X.17.1-2). This makes the Rig Vedic people also descendants of Manu, the son of Tvashtar.

In the Rig Veda, Tvashtar appears as the father of Indra, who fashions his thunderbolt (vajra) for him (RV X.48.3). Yet Indra is sometimes at odds with Tvashtar because is compelled to surpass him (RV III.48.3-4). Elsewhere Tvashtar’s son is Vishvarupa or Vritra, whom Indra kills, cutting off his three heads (RV X.8.8-9), (TS II.4.12, II.5.1). Indra slays the dragon, Vritra, who lays at the foot of the mountain withholding the waters, and releases the seven rivers to flow into the sea. In several instances, Vritra is called Danava, the son of the Goddess Danu who is connected to the sea (RV I.32.9; II.11.10; III.30.8; V.30.4; V.32).

In the Brahmanas Vishvarupa/Vritra is the son of Danu and Danayu, the names of his mother and father (SB I.6.3.1, 8, 9). Clearly Vritra is Vishvarupa, the son of the God Tvashtar and the Goddess Danu. Danava also means a serpent or a dragon (RV V.32.1-2), which is not only a symbol of wisdom but of power and both Vedic and ancient European lore have their good and bad dragons or serpents.

In this curious story both Indra and Vritra appear ultimately as brothers because both are sons of Tvashtar. We must also note that Tvashtar fashions the thunderbolt for Indra to slay Vritra (RV I.88.5). Indra and Vritra represent the forces of expansion and contraction or the dualities inherent in each one of us. They are both inherent in Tvashtar and represent the two sides of the Creator or of creation as knowledge and ignorance. As Vritra is also the son of Tvashtar and Danu, Indra must ultimately be a son of Danu as well. Both the Vedic Aryans and the Proto-European Aryans are sons of Tvashtar, who was sometimes not the supreme God but a demiurge that they must go beyond.

The Danavas in the Puranas (VaP II.7) are the sons of the Rishi Kashyapa, who there assumes the role of Tvashtar as the main father creator. Kashyapa is a great rishi connected to the Himalayas. He is the eighth or central Aditya (Sun God) that does not leave Mount Meru (Taittiriya Aranyaka I.7.20), the fabled world mountain. Kashyapa is associated with Kashmir (Kashyapa Mira or Kashyapa’s lake) and other Himalayan regions (the Vedic lands of Sharyanavat and Arjika, RV IX.113.1-2), which connects the Danavas to the northwest. The Caspian Sea may be named after him as well. The Proto-Europeans, therefore, are the sons of Tvashtar or Kashyapa and Danu, through their son Manu. They are both Manavas and Danavas, as also Aryas.

In the Rig Veda, Danu like Dasyu refers to inimical people and is generally a term of denigration (RV I.32.9; III.30.8; V.30.4; V.32.1, 4, 7; X.120.6). The Danavas or descendants of Danu are generally enemies of the Vedic people and their Gods. Therefore, just as the Deva-Asura or Arya-Dasyu split is reflected in the split between the Vedic Hindus and the Persians, one can propose that the Deva-Danava split reflects another division in the Vedic people, including that between the Proto-Indian Aryans and the Proto-European Aryans. In this process the term Danu was adopted by the Proto-Europeans and became denigrated by later Vedic people.

We should also remember that in the Puranas (VaP II.7), as in the Vedas the term Danavas refer to a broad group of peoples, many inimical, but others friendly, as well as various mythical demons. In the Rig Veda, the Danavas are called amanusha or unhuman (RV II.11.10) as opposed to human, manusha. The Europeans had similar negative beings like the Greek titans or Celtic formorii who correspond more to the mythical side of the Danavas as powers of darkness, the underworld or the undersea region like the Vedic asuras and rakshasas. Such mythical Danavas can hardly be reduced to the Proto-European Aryans or to any single group of people.

The Celtic scholar Peter Ellis notes, “Irish epic contains many episodes of the struggle between the Children of Domnu, representing darkness and evil, and the Children of Danu, representing light and good. Moreover, the Children of Domnu are never completely overcome or eradicated from the world. Symbolically, they are the world. The conflict is between the ‘waters of heaven’ and the ‘world.’” The same thing could be said of the Vedic wars of Devas and Danavas or the Puranic/Brahmana wars of Devas and Asuras.

The Good Danavas (Sudanavas)

The Maruts in the Puranas (VaP II.6.90-135) are called the sons of Diti, a wife of Kashyapa, who is sometimes equated with Danu. Her children are called the Daityas which term we have found also connected to the Persians, as the name of the river in their original homeland (Vendidad Fargard I.3). While meant to be enemies of Indra, the Maruts came to be his companions and were great Gods in their own right, often referring to the Vedic rishis and yogis. As wind Gods they had control of prana and other siddhis (occult powers). They are also the sons of Rudra-Shiva called Rudras, much like the Shaivite Yogis of later times. They were great sages (RV VI.49.11), men (manava) with tongues of fire and eyes of the Sun (RV I.89.7). They were free to travel all over the world and were not obstructed by mountains, rivers or seas (RV V.54.9; V.55.9).

The Rig Veda contains many instances where Danu has a positive meaning indicating abundance or even standing for divine in general. Danucitra, meaning the richness of light, occurs a few times (RV I.174.7; V.59.8). The Maruts are called Jira-danu or plural Jira-danava or quick to give or perhaps fast Danus or fast Gods (RV V.54.9). This term Jira-danu occurs elsewhere as the gift of the Maruts in the last line of most of the hymns of Agastya (RV I.165-169, 171-178, 180-186, 189, 190). Mitra and Varuna are said to be Sripra-danu or easy to give and their many gifts, danuni, are praised (RV VIII.25.5-6). The Ashvins are called lords of Danuna, Danunaspati (RV VIII.8.16). Soma is also called Danuda and Danupinva, giving Danu or overflowing with Danu (RV IX.97.23), connecting Danu with water or with rivers.

The Maruts are typically called Sudanavas, good to give or good (Su) Danus (RV I.85.10; I.172.1-3; II.34.8; V.41.16; V.52.5; V.53.6; VI.66.5; VIII.20.18, 23). Similarly, the Vishvedevas or universal gods are called Sudanavas (RV VIII.83.6, 8, 9), as are the Adityas (RV VIII.67.16), the Ashvins (RV I.117.10, 24) and Vishnu (RV VIII.24.12). The term also occurs in a hymn to Sarasavati (RV VII.96.4), where Sarasvati is called the friend or companion of the Maruts (Marutsakha; RV 96.2). Most importantly, there is a Goddess called Sudanu Devi (RV V.41.18), which is probably another name for the mother of the Maruts. The Maruts in particular or the Gods in general would therefore be the sons of Sudanu or Sudanavas. This suggests that perhaps Danu, like Asura, was earlier a positive word and meant divine. There was not only a bad Danu but a good or Sudanu. In the Rig Veda the references to the Sudanavas are much more than those to Danava as an inimical term.

The Maruts are called Sumaya (RV I.88.1), having a good (Su) or divine power of maya, which stands for magical power, or Mayina (RV V.58.2), possessed of maya power. Danu is probably, in some respects, a synonym of maya, a power of abundance but also of illusion. Like the root ma, the root da means “to divide” or “to measure”. Maya is the power of the Danavas (RV II.11.10). The Danavas, particularly Ahi-Vritra, are portrayed as serpents (RV V.32.8), particularly the serpent who dwells at the foot of the mountain holding back the heavenly waters, whom Indra must slay in order to release the waters. Maya itself is the serpent power.

The Maruts as wind Gods are powers of lightning, which in Vedic as in most ancient thought was considered to be a serpent or a dragon. The Maruts are the good serpents, shining bright like serpents (RV I.171.2). The Maruts help Indra in slaying Vritra and are his main friends and companions. Indra is called Marutvan, or possessed of the Maruts. Their leader is Vishnu (RV V.87), who is called Evaya-Marut. With Rudra (Shiva) as their father and Prishni (Shakti) as their mother, they reflect all the Gods of later Hinduism. As Shiva’s sons they are connected with Skanda, Ganesha and Hanuman.

Pashupati : Harappan seal and Gundustrup cauldron in DenmarkPerhaps these Sudanavas or good Danus are the Maruts, who in their travels guided and led many peoples including the Celts and other European followers of Danu. As the sons of Rudra, we note various Rudra like figures such as Cernunos among the Celts, who like Rudra is the lord of the animals and is portrayed in a yoga posture, as on the Gundestrop Cauldron. If the Maruts were responsible for spreading Vedic culture, as I have proposed, they could have called their children, the children of Danu, in a positive sense. We could also argue that the Sudanavas were the Maruts, Druids and other rishi classes, while the peoples they ruled over, particularly the unruly kshatriyas or warrior classes could become Danavas in the negative sense when they refused to accept spiritual guidance.

We know from both Celtic and Vedic texts that the early Aryans, like other ancient people, were always fighting with each other in various local conflicts, particularly for supremacy in their particular region. This led to various divisions and migrations through the centuries, which we cannot always take in a major way, just as the warring princes of India or Ireland remained part of the same culture and continued to intermarry with one another. Therefore, whatever early conflict might have existed between the Proto-European Aryans and those in the interior of India, was just part of various clashes between the different princely families that occurred within these same groups as well. It was forgotten over time.

The European Aryans had Gods like Zeus, Thor and Jupiter that serve as the counterparts of Indra as the God of heaven, the God of the rains, the thunderbolt and the lightning. Therefore, we cannot read the divide between the Rig Vedic Aryans and the Danavas as a rejection of the God Indra by the Proto-Europeans. In addition, the Proto-European Aryans continue to use the term deva as divine as in Latin deus and Greek theos, unlike the Persians who make asura mean divine and deva mean demon. They also know Manu, which the Persians seem to have forgotten and only mention Yima (Yama). Unlike the Persians, who developed an aniconic (anti-image) and almost monotheistic tradition, the Proto-European Aryans maintained a pluralistic tradition, using images, and worshipping many Gods and Goddesses, like the Vedic. This suggests that their division from the Rig Vedic people occurred long before that of the Persians or Iranians, and that they took a larger and older form of the Vedic religion with them.

Migrations Out of India or Central Asia

We have noted Danu or Danava as a term for an inimical people or even an anti-god, like Deva and Asura, probably reflects some split in the Aryan peoples. This could be the conflict the Purus, the main Rig Vedic people located on the Sarasvati river near Delhi, and the Druhyus, who were located in the northwest by Afghanistan, who fought quite early in the Rig Vedic period.

Certainly we can only equate the Proto-Europeans with the northwest of India or greater India that extends into Afghanistan and Central Asia. If they can be connected to any group among the five Vedic peoples it must be the Druhyus.

However, we do find Druhyu kingdoms continuing for some time in India and giving names to regions like Gandhara (Afghanistan) and Aratta (Panjab) connected more with Iranian or Scythian people. Yet, we do note a connection between the Scythians and the Celts, whose Druid priests connect themselves with the Scythians at an early period. The Scythians also maintained a trade from India to Europe that continued for many centuries. In this regard the Proto-Europeans could have been a derivation of Aryan India by migration, cultural diffusion, or what is more likely, a combination of both.

Though the Druhyus and Proto-Europeans may be connected, it is difficult to confirm, particularly as the Europeans were a very different ethnic type (Nordic and Alpine) than most of the Indians and Iranians, who were of the Mediterranean branch of the Caucasian race.

However, it is possible that European ethnic types were living in ancient Afghanistan or Central Asia, even Kashmir, where we do find some of these types even today. The evidence of the Tokharians suggests this. The Tokharians (Tusharas) were a people speaking an Indo-European language closer to the European (a kentum-based language), and also demonstrate Nordic or Alpine, blond and red-haired ethnic traits. They lived in the Tarim Basin of western China that dominated the region to the Muslim invasion up to the eighth century AD, by which time they had become Buddhists. They may be related to the European featured mummies found in that area dating back to 1500 BCE. They were also present in Western China around Langchou in the early centuries BCE. The Tokharian language is possibly related to the Celtic and Italic branches, just as their physical features resemble northern Europeans. The Tarim Basin region was later regarded as the land of the Uttara Kurus and as a land of the gods. So such groups were not always censured as barbarians at the borders but were sometimes honored as highly advanced and spiritual.

The evidence does not show an Aryan invasion/migration into India in ancient times, certainly not after the Harappan era (c. 3000 BCE) and probably not before. No genetic or skeletal or other hard evidence has been found to prove this. Similarly, we do not find evidence of migration of interior Indic peoples West, the dark-skinned people that were prominent on the subcontinent to the northwest. But if the same ethnic types as the Europeans were present in Western China, Afghanistan or in northwest Iran, like the Fergana Valley (Sogdia), such a migration west would be possible, particularly given their familiarity with horses. In this case the commonality of Indo-European languages would not rest upon a common ethnicity with the interior Indo-Aryans but on a common ethnicity with peripheral Aryans on the northwest of India.

It is also possible that the European people derived their Aryan culture from the influence of Vedic peoples, probably mainly Druhyus but also Scythians (who might themselves be Druhyus), who migrated to Central Asia and brought their culture to larger groups of Europeans already living in Europe and Central Asia. The Europeans could have picked up an Aryan influence indirectly from the contact with various rishis, princes or merchants, without any significant genetic or familial linkage with Indic peoples. Or some combination may have existed. Such peoples with more Vedic cultures like the Celts could derive mainly from migration, while those others like the Germans might derive mainly from cultural diffusion. In any case, various means of Aryanization existed that can explain the spread of Vedic culture from the Himalayas to Europe, of which actual migration of people from the interior of India need not be the only or even primary factor.

We do note the names of rivers like the Don, Dneiper, Dneister, Donets and Danube to the north of the Black are largely cognate with Danu. This could reflect such a movement of peoples from West or Central Asia, including migrants originally from regions of greater India and Iran. At the end of the Ice Age, as Europe became warmer, it became a suitable land for agriculture. This would have made it a desirable place of migration for people from the east and the south, which were flooded or became jungles.

European and Iranian Peoples of Central Asia and Europe: Sycthians and Turanians

The northern Iranian peoples, called Turanians or Scythians, dominated the steppes of Central Asia from Mongolia to Eastern Europe. By the early centuries BC they had set up kingdoms from the Danube in the West to the Altai Mountains in the East. They were the main enemies of the Persians. Unlike the Persians, their religions had more Devic elements and affinities to the Vedic with a greater emphasis on Devas, Sun worship, drinking of Soma and a greater variety of deities like the Vedic. We could call these Turanians or Scythians the main Proto-European Aryans. Some would identify them with the original Slavic peoples as well, who were likely always the largest and dominant Indo-European group in Europe.

Curiously in the early centuries AD we find the Scythians entering into north India and creating some kingdoms there, with both Hindu and Buddhist influence. It is possible that such contacts with India were transmitted to Central Asia and West, much as from previous Vedic eras.

It is probable that the Danavas, Scythians and Turanians were largely the same group of people with Vedic affinities and connections to Vedic culture through various kings, rishis, traders and movements of both people and cultures. Later the Turks came into Central Asia and displaced the Scythian peoples driving them south and west.

Western Indo-European scholarship is obsessed with these eastern Scythian and other possible European elements. Some like Parpola even see the Vedic peoples of the Rig Veda as a migration of the Scythians into India. However, these Central Asian Vedic people were just one branch of a greater Vedic people that included several branches within India itse.f

Much of the search for a Proto-Indo-European language or PIE could be more correctly regarded as a search for the proto-European people. What has been reconstructed through it is more the homeland of the Danava-Druhyu branch of the Vedic people after their dispersal from India rather than all the Indo-European speakers. It is at best only a recontruction of the western branch of the Vedic peoples and even that in a limited and distorted manner.

Therefore, we need not stop short with reconstructing Scythian and Central Asian Aryan culture, we must take it into India itself, where other Vedic branches existed using many of the same cultural forms like fire worship, sun worship, the sacred plant or Soma cult, the cult of the sacred cow and horse, symbols like the sacred tree and swastika, worship of rivers as Goddesses. The philosophical, medical and astronomical knowledge that we find in European peoples like the Celts and the Greeks also mirrors that of India such as we find in the Upanishads, Ayurvedic medicine and Vedic astrology. – Vedanet, 12 June 2012

» Dr. David Frawley (Pandit  Vamadeva Shastri) D. Litt., is a teacher in the Vedic tradition. In India, Vamadeva is recognized as a Vedacharya (Vedic teacher), and includes in his unusual wide scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic teachings going back to the oldest Rigveda.

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