By Anand Krishna
Last April I was invited to Guru Sangamam, the Confederation of Gurus convention held in New Delhi. Myself along with another colleague from Bali, Muniwara, were the sole overseas representation in the otherwise all Indian gurus’ affair – very interesting. I am not sure how and why I got invited, but it was good that I was. The convention was a great experience, and I shall fondly cherish the memory of my interactions with 100 over spiritual dignitaries from all over India.
What I found amazing is this: At home here, some of our minority groups are still struggling for the recognition of their religious identity and belief system, whereas in India the established religious institutions struggle to transcend such identities and what they believe as “limiting” belief systems.
Chairperson Jagadguru Shivarathri made it clear in his opening address that one of the main agendas was to present the Hindu philosophy as non-religious “spirituality.” He said, “Our religions differ, our traditions differ, our cultures differ – it is only the spiritual thread that can possibly unite us.” Kudos!
I say kudos not because the perspective was uniquely Jagadguru’s. No. This perspective is as old as the scriptures of the Hindus. Hindus never believed in “isms.” The dogma and doctrine-free faith of the Hindus has always held spirituality as the pinnacle of all religious experiments and experiences. Hence, the concept of sanyas – leave the boat after reaching the shore. The boat is good; it has helped you. But once you have reached the shore you no longer need it. I am sure, my learned readers, you understand this.
So I did not say kudos because it was a unique perspective, but because it came from Jagadguru Shivarathri, the present head of at least 1,000-year-old Suttur Mutt – a traditional religious organisation having a set of fixed rituals, dogmas and doctrines.
And then Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the respected spiritual master with a large following both in India and overseas, who first conceived the idea of the confederation. In his inimitable way, he began with a bird’s-eye view of the Hindu civilisation from the Indian perspective: “In the past we were divided into at least 200 different states; we had 200 political entities; yet we were recognised as one nation. We eat differently; we dress differently; we speak different languages; yet we remain one. What holds us as one nation is the spiritual thread.”
The end of all spiritual experiences, he elaborated, was “liberation.” However, let us not define the Sanskrit word for liberation “moksha” from the theological point of view. Moksha, or liberation, can also mean “freedom to think, freedom to express, freedom to act, while respecting others freedom to do the same.”
Yes, moksha is not an afterlife experience alone. Moksha must be, and can be, attained while living in this world, amidst the maddening crowd, and in the marketplace. Moksha is living free while at the same time respecting, honoring others’ freedom.
Moksha is not freedom from life. Death is not moksha. Death does not guarantee moksha. Moksha is living freely, as free women and free men. It is the moksha-experiment in life that may lead us to moksha in death.
“Strive for freedom, here and now,” say our great sages, “and work for the welfare of the world” – the Indonesian Hindu Council, Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, has also adopted this motto.
It is this spirit, the spirit to “strive for liberation” in Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s words, that has kept India intact as a nation, “in spite of numerous attacks by the external forces, and the invaders. For more than a thousand years they tried. Elsewhere they succeeded, but not here in India.” Well, history supports the guru.
And “the invaders were not successful,” explained Jaggi Vasudev, because “spirituality had no one single head.” There has been no whole and sole pope; a ruler, or a head of a state did not automatically become the head of the church. And, once again, there has been no one single Hindu church.
“Every house and each parent was a spiritual head,” Sadhguru added. The invaders simply could not invade each and every house. They could not convert each and every household. By converting any number of the heads of the states, they could not automatically convert their subjects. It was a thousand-year-long experience of total failure as far as conversion was concerned.
So that was the spiritual strength that kept India intact as a nation, and Hindu as a living civilisation. The ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisations are long dead. You find them on the pages of history books. Not so with the Indian, the Hindu civilisation, which has not only survived but is thriving.
What can the Hindu civilisation contribute to the world we are living in and, more importantly, to the world-thought? Sadhguru explained, “Non-imposition of any belief system, and to encourage ‘seeking.’ It does not matter what the scriptures say. It does not matter what the leaders say. Each person, every individual must seek.”
Yes, Hindu Thought, Hindu Mind, Hindu Philosophy does not depend upon any dogma or doctrine. Religious rituals are acknowledged and appreciated, but the Hindu Mind also recognises that spirituality is not built upon the platform of such rituals. There is not a single ritual that is enforced upon all Hindus. None. There is no uniformity.
This freedom of thought, freedom to express one’s thoughts and beliefs, and to act according to one’s belief, is the survival-secret of the Hindu civilisation, as also its contribution to the world.
The confederation, therefore, had no agenda to limit such freedom, or to create some kind of uniformity among the gurus attending the convention. The confederation simply facilitated the gurus hailing from different traditions – including Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and lesser-known belief systems originating in the Indian subcontinent – to meet, recognise and appreciate the differences among them, while recognising the underlying spiritual unity and capitalising on such unity to work together for the betterment of society.
More on that agenda next week – until then, keep safe, keep alert, and keep aware!
Anand Krishna is a spiritual activist and author with healing centres in Jakarta and Bali, including a new live-in ashram in Ubud (www.ubud.anandashram.asia).