Thursday, January 29, 2015

Conversation on 'secular parenting' & religion between USA scientist & Indian technologist

Last updated on 5th Feb. 2015

Here's the pdf document version of Conversation on 'secular parenting' & religion between USA scientist & Indian technologist.
And here's the Word document version (same content) of Conversation on 'secular parenting' & religion between USA scientist & Indian technologist.

The deep indentation formatting requirements of the document/post was difficult to be done using this blog's editor (it would have required elaborate hand-coded HTML tables, IMHO) and so it has been provided in pdf and Word document versions linked above.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A question about showcasing religious pluralism to US President Obama and Indian PM Modi

Last updated on Jan. 27th 2015

Some time ago (on Jan. 24th, 2015) I added the following question (on the mygov.in portal) for the joint radio address by US President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Modi scheduled to be aired on Jan. 27th 2015, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modi-Obama-Man-Ki-Baat-on-January-27-at-8pm/articleshow/46004291.cms.

--- start question ---
Mr. President & Mr. Prime Minister, as USA and India are two of the world's largest and deeply religious countries in the world, is it possible for USA & India to take the lead, in today's rather tense inter-faith world environment, to showcase to the world a path by example, for a multi-faith environment which includes atheists & agnostics (religious pluralism) where all (or most) can live peacefully, respecting faiths other than one's own (including atheist & agnostic attitudes/views)?

--- end question ---

------------------------------------------------------------------
An update related to Delhi townhall meeting of US president Obama on Jan 27th 2015:

From "US President Barack Obama addresses town hall meeting", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sGFUPEtNAg:

[A little after 51:30] Our nations are strongest when we see that we are all God's children. All equal in His eyes and worthy of His love. Across our two great countries, we have Hindus and Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists (Jains) and so many faiths. We remember the wisdom of Gandhiji who said, for me the different religions are beautiful flowers from the same garden or they are branches of the same majestic tree [audience applauds] - branches of the same majestic tree. Our freedom of religion is written into our founding documents. It is part of America's very first amendment. Your article 25 says that all people are equally entitled to freedom of conscience, the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion. In both our countries, in all countries, upholding this fundamental freedom is the responsibility of government but it is also the responsibility of every person. In our lives, Michelle and I have been strengthened by our Christian faith. But there have been times where my faith has been questioned by people who don't know me, where they said I adhere to a different religion, as if that were somehow a bad thing.

Around the world we have seen intolerance and violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to be standing up for their faith but in fact are betraying it. No society is immune from the darkest impulses of men. And too often religion has been used to tap into those darker impulses as opposed to the light of God. Three years ago, in our state of Wisconsin, back in the United States, a man went into a Sikh temple (and) in a terrible act of violence killed six innocent people, Americans and Indians. In that moment of shared grief, our two countries reaffirmed the basic truth as we must again today. (That) Every person has the right to practise their faith how they choose, or to practise no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination. [Audience applauds].

The peace we seek in the world begins in human hearts. It finds its glorious expression when we look beyond any differences in religion or tribe and rejoice in the beauty of every soul. Nowhere is that more important than (in) India. Nowhere is it going to be more necessary for that foundational value to be upheld. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along lines of religious faith, so long it is not splintered along any lines, is unified as one nation. And it is when all Indians, whatever your faith, go to the movies and applaud actors like Shah Rukh Khan or when you celebrate athletes like Milkha Singh or Mary Kom. And every Indian can take pride in the courage of the humanitarian who liberates boys and girls from forced labour and exploitation who is here today - Kailash Satyarthi [audience applauds], our most recent winner of the Nobel prize for peace. So that's what unifies us. Do we act with compassion and empathy? Are we measured by our efforts, by what Dr. King called the content of our character rather than the colour of our skin or the manner in which we worship our God?

In both our countries, in India and in America, our diversity is our strength and we have to guard against any efforts to divide ourselves along sectarian lines or any other lines. And if we do that well, if America shows itself as an example of its diversity and yet (shows) the capacity to live together and work together, in common effort, in common purpose; if India, as massive as it is, with so much diversity, so many differences, is able to continually affirm its democracy, that is an example for every other country on earth. That's what makes us world leaders. Not just the size of our economy or the number of weapons we have. Our ability to show the way in how we work together. How much respect we show each other. And finally our nations are strongest when we empower our young people. Because ultimately you (the young audience in the town hall meeting) are the one who has to breakdown these old stereotypes, these old barriers, these old ways of thinking. You know, prejudices and stereotypes and assumptions - those are what happens to old minds like mine (:-)). I am getting grey hair now - I was more youthful when I first started this office.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sathya Sai Baba on differences between Rama and Krishna Avatars

From Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's discourse on 4 Sept. 1996, as provided in the discourse text here: http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume29/sss29-40.pdf

The distinction between Krishna and Raama

Today we celebrate the birthday of Krishna. Where was he born? In a prison. What were his possessions? Nothing. Born in a prison, he was taken to the house of Nandha and then he went to Mathura. He owned nothing. But he became the greatest figure in the world. What does this show? Worldly possessions are not the secret of greatness. Krishna's greatness consisted in his permanent state of Aanandha (bliss).

If you recognise the distinction, between Krishna and Raama, you will appreciate better the nature of Krishna. Krishna always smiled at the outset and carried out his task later. For Raama, the deed came first and then the smile. Krishna made women cry. Raama wept for the sake of women. Raama went into the battle only after having a strong cause for it. Krishna first provoked the conflict and then determined its outcome.

The Krishna principle revels in delight. The Raama principle is based on the concept of baadhyatha (obligation).

The Raamaayana is intended to promote the reign of Truth and Righteousness on earth. The Krishna Avathaar was intended to give a perennial message to the world. He sought nothing for himself. He kept nothing for himself. He gave away everything to the people. He slayed his maternal uncle, Kamsa. He installed on the throne Kamsa's: father Ugrasena. He did not covet the Kingdom. He befriended the Paandavas, defeated the Kauravas and crowned Dharmaja as the emperor. He did not make himself king. He was a king without a crown. He was the king of kings. He had no kingdom of his own. But he ruled over the hearts of the millions. It is this profound truth that is proclaimed by the Krishna-thathva (Krishna principle).

If you enquire deeply, you will find that every Avathaar has incarnated to convey a special message and carry out a particular mission.

--- end extract ---

The above website in its index page for 1996 discourses, http://www.sssbpt.info/english/sssvol29.html, also has the discourse mp3 download link: http://dl.radiosai.org/DD_1996_09_04.mp3 (13+ MB size). The above part is slightly after 39 min 10 secs into the mp3 file. I have given a rather literal English translation below based on my middling understanding of Telugu and using the above translation as well as Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju's on-the-spot translation when I had doubts. I have provided some Telugu words in parentheses. [Please note that Swami would use words and phrases like bank balance that conveyed the core message to listeners. This should be properly interpreted and not taken literally.]

Krishna was born. Where was he born? What were his (aastu-paastulu) possessions? Nothing. He was born in a jail, grew up in Nanda's house, and went to Mathura. What was his property? He has no property at all. He has no (bhoomi); does not have one naya paisa bank balance. But he became the greatest person in the world. What does it mean? The worldly property is not his property. The worldly money is not his money. All these are passing clouds. That which is permanent is Anandam (happiness/bliss). Krishna was always happy (in Anandam).

If you (study) the difference well between Krishna and Rama, you can understand it easily. Krishna first (mottamodati) has the smile (navvu) and then (does) the work (pani). Rama first (mottamodati) has (does) the work and then the smile. It is Krishna who made women (strilaku/strilu) cry. It was Rama who cried for women.

[I did not follow some of the Telugu for these crucial sentences starting at 40:29, and so have reproduced text from Radio Sai document and Prof. Anil Kumar's on-the-spot English translation. I have also given the Telugu words.
RadioSai doc. text: Raama went into the battle only after having a strong cause for it. Krishna first provoked the conflict and then determined its outcome. The Krishna principle revels in delight. The Raama principle is based on the concept of baadhyatha (obligation).
Prof. Anil Kumar on-the-spot translation (the parentheses words are added by me): It was Rama who was hurt and (then) waged war. It was Krishna who found a plea (an excuse) to fight (war). In fact, Krishna started fighting with everybody (and defeated everybody). That is the gulf of difference between Treta age and Dwapara age. The nature of Krishna is one of bliss (Anandamu). Rama stands for responsibility (duty).
Ravi: My attempt at capturing Swami's Telugu words (there could be errors as Swami was in real rapid-fire Telugu, at least for a non-Telugu fellow like me): Kaanathokkinchukoni kaayiniki poinattivaadu Ramudu. Kaanuthokki kayyaniki thesukunattuvadu Krishnudu. Andarthona yuddhaniki siddham aaiyipoyi andarni oodiste vacchadu Krishnadu. Kanukane treta yugamuluku dwapara yugamuluku undinattivanti vithyasam ilaanti (...) untayi. Krishnatattvamanettivantidi chala oka vidhamaina ... anandamaina ... tattvamu. Ramatatthawamanettivantidi oke vidhamaina ... badhyata thattwam.
Ravi: Some personal thoughts on this. In my youth I had read some accounts of Krishna's life, of course, but then I was not sure how true it was, especially the miracles/paranormal events mentioned in the accounts. Sometime in the early 1990s when I was around 30 years old, I turned to faith in Krishna and Hinduism in general due to some very tough life challenges. I had not yet got into the Sathya Sai fold and knew very little about him (Sathya Sai Baba). At that time, with faith that the scriptural accounts about Krishna are largely truthful (and not fiction), I studied the life of Krishna in an abridged version, translated to English, of the part of the Bhagavatha Purana that dealt with Krishna's life, and read some of the relevant parts of Mahabharata. I was struck by how Krishna, in the versions I read, seemed to marshal events in such a way that led to the Mahabharata war. Yes, he did act as an (unsuccessful) peace envoy too. But, overall, it seemed that he was determined to destroy most of the Kshatriya kings then as they were ignoring dharma. It was as if he felt that the Mahabharata war (great war of those days) was inevitable, and he was ready for the bloodlust and killings that happened in it, leading to tremendous sorrow for the kin of the slain, and a victory full of sorrow for the Pandavas as they too faced very heavy losses besides the sorrow of having killed their cousins (Kauravas) and other relatives.
Swami's words on Krishna above seem to confirm my views based on my limited readings on the life of Krishna. That is, Swami clearly states that Krishna fought with everybody (who strayed from Dharma) and won against everybody. He provoked the conflict (Swami must be referring to Mahabharata here). This is in marked contrast to Rama, who did not provoke conflicts but fought only when necessary/required/challenged. I find this key comparison point Swami has made between Rama and Krishna to be utterly fascinating and very insightful.]

[Swami's discourse literal translation continues:] Ramayana is meant to propagate truth (sathya) and righteousness (dharma). Rama + aayanam is Ramayanam. Krishna's thatwamu (principle/story) is not like that. He came to teach the world. He did not desire anything. He did not have any attachments. He gave everything to the people. He killed his maternal uncle (Menamaama) Kamsa. He gave the kingdom to Kamsa's father, Ugrasena. He (Krishna) did not take it. He went to the side of the Pandavas, defeated the Kauravas, and installed Dharmarja (Yudishtra) of the Pandavas as king/emperor. He (Krishna) did not become king/emperor. He was a king without a crown (Kiritamu leni raju). He is a king of kings (Maharaja-raja). He has no kingdom. The hearts of everybody is his kingdom. This is the kind of truth taught by Krishna (principle) (Krishnatatthwamu).

In fact, if you inquire about it you will find that each Avatar has incarnated for demonstrating (conveying) a particular (separate/different from that of other Avatars) ideal (message).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Where do we locate subjective truth: as fact or fiction?

Yesterday, Jan. 14th 2015, The Hindu carried a very controversial opinion article, "In maya, the killer and the killed", http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/in-maya-the-killer-and-the-killed/article6785735.ece, by DEVDUTT PATTANAIK. I feel the article is deeply flawed as it does not give an outright condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo violence. In fact, the lack of such a condemnation makes some readers, as shown by comments on the article web page, assume that it is trying to justify that violence! However, the article does have some good points too. A small extract given below is one that I found to be quite good:

And here is the problem — measurement, that cornerstone of science and objectivity.

We can manage the measurable. But what about the non-measurable? Does it matter at all? Emotions cannot be measured. The mind cannot be measured, which is why purists refer to psychology and behavioural science as pseudoscience. God cannot be measured. For the scientist, god is therefore not fact. It is at best a notion. This annoys the Muslim, for he/she believes in god, and for him/her god is fact, not measurable fact, but fact nevertheless. It is subjective truth. My truth. Does it matter?

Where do we locate subjective truth: as fact or fiction?

--- end extract ---

It also talks about how today the 'barbarian'(brawn) is being forced to respond, when provoked by the intellectual(brain), in a language he does not know (brain).

Ravi: My view is that in today's age, people of all walks of life have to learn to either ignore malicious & destructive criticism or tolerate it if forced to view/hear it. Tolerance towards malicious criticism has become the key quality that the spiritual/religious person needs to cultivate. Polite criticism of spirituality/religion should be welcomed as such criticism can prevent or keep in check any wrong-doings of spiritual/religious groups.

Not a loving hug but an eyeful of pure love preferred by some spiritual recluses

I came across this article on Google+, How To Interact With The Introverted. If Only People Would Understand This…, http://www.trueactivist.com/how-to-interact-with-the-introverted-if-only-people-would-understand-this/.

Added the following comment to it on Google+:

Pretty insightful, in simple language with great cartoons. Would like to add that some introverts are reclusive, especially the inner-sadhana (spiritual effort) types, and may enjoy their solitude (as against loneliness). Many of the reclusive inner-sadhana spiritual types may not permit the loving hug, and instead may prefer to simply exchange an eyeful of pure love.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Criticism of (non) Historicity of Rama content in Harvard Religion Prof. Diana Eck's 2012 book, India: A Sacred Geography

Last updated on 11th January 2015

This post refers to the following book: India: A Sacred Geography, by Harvard Prof. of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, Diana Eck, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_L._Eck.
[Citation: Eck DL. India: A Sacred Geography. New York: Harmony, Random House; 2012., http://scholar.harvard.edu/dianaeck/publications/india-sacred-geography]

The extracts given below (in italics) from Eck's above book are from near the end of chapter 9, Following Rama: The Ramayana on the landscape of India.

R. K. Dasgupta, a historian from Calcutta University, writes "Researchers in ancient Indian history, in India and abroad, have established that the Rama legend is a part of Indian mythology, the character in Valmiki's great epic having no historical basis."

--- end Eck book extract ---

Ravi: On browsing the Internet I came across this link having the article by R.K. Dasgupta with the above quote, Ram as political tool, http://www.geocities.ws/khalid2277/aftab/rampolitical.html (also available at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/FRIENDS_of_UP/conversations/messages/13). The bottom of the web page states, "The author, an eminent scholar is former Director, the National Library of India.  Collected from the editorial column of The Sunday Statesman dated 1st July 2001 ..." I also looked up wikipedia for R.K.Dasgputa historian and came up with this link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindra_Kumar_Das_Gupta, which states, "Rabindra Kumar Das Gupta (2 July 1915 – 3 February 2009) was a Bengali Indian scholar of Bengali and English literature and a social and cultural commentator." So, it seems that Prof. Diana Eck has mistakenly thought R.K.Dasgupta to have been a historian. The wiki page states that he was an academic in (the field of) English and that he had a stint with University of Calcutta in that capacity.

In the R.K.Dasgupta article, the paragraphs after the 'no historical basis' sentence given above, try to provide justification for the conclusion arrived at. Here's the first paragraph after the sentence:

The standard history of India, which is now valued both by the academic and the general readers, is Vincent A Smith’s The Oxford History of India (1920) revised by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, AL Basham, JB Harrison and Percival Spear (1958). In this work Ramayana is presented as “neither historical nor allegorical, but a poetic creation based on mythology”(p57) Hermann Jacobi (1850-1937), the German Indologist, who visited India twice is the first European to write one whole book on Ramayana – The Ramayana: History, Contents with a concordance of the printed recensions. (1893; Eng tr, SN Ghoshal, 1960). The work presents the Ramayana as a work based on mythology. In his History of Sanskrit Literature (1900) Arthur A. MacDonnell too affirms that the Ramayana “is based on Indian mythology”. EW Hopkins wrote his epic mythology (1915) to show that our two ancient epics draw their story from ours traditional legends.

--- end first paragraph after 'no historical basis' sentence ---

I think the historians mentioned above, with one historian's acquaintance with India highlighted by him having made two visits to India, have to be viewed as colonial-era historians with a bookish and Euro-centric view of history. Two visits to India by one of these historians is not really a credential for proper study of an ancient land like India, in my view. BTW some of the Britain and other parts of Europe based historians of the colonial era did not even visit India but were viewed as experts on India based on their study of Indian literature! Max Muller, whose portrayal of India seems to have been quite positive in that colonial age, is one of them - yes, he never visited India though he claims to have had many Indian (native) friends! From http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Max_M%C3%BCller, "Though I have never been in India, I have many friends there, both among the civilians and among the natives, ..."

Now for the second and third paragraphs after the 'no historical basis' sentence

 We may now turn to our own scholars’ view of the Ramayana. In December 1975 the government of India and our Sahitya Academy organized an international seminar on the Ramayana, which was inaugurated on 08 /12/1975 and ended on 12/12/1975.The consensus on the nature of the material of the epic was that it was mythological .On 15/01/1976 Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee (1890-1977) who had already spoken at the international seminar gave an address on the subject again. Dr. Chatterjee third address on the Ramayana was given at the National Library, Kolkata, on 13/02/1976. His opinion on the historicity of the Ramayana is quoted by Anil Kumar Kanjilal in his introduction to Dr. Chatterjee’s unfinished work on The Ramayana: Its Character, Genesis, History, Expansion and Exodus (1978). Dr Chatterjee says about Ramayana “there is evidently no historical core below the surface – no scholar of India now thinks that Rama, the hero of Ramayana, was a historical person, who can be relegated to a particular period of time”. The motto of Dr. Chatterjee’s book on the Ramayana is a quotation from Rabindranath`s poem “Bhasa O Chhanda first published in Bharti in 1898.(Included in the third volume of “Rabindra Rachanavali” (1983,pp 1285-1288)
                        Toward the end of this poem Narada   tells Valmiki, “Sei satya ja rachibe tumi, / ghate ja ta sab satya nahe. / Kavi tava manobhumi/ Ramer janamsthan, Ayodhyar chey satya jena (whatever you compose will be true; that which actually happens is not all true. O poet your mind is the birth place of Rama and you must know that to be truer than Ayodhya) here the Bengali poet raises Rama beyond history if only to affirm that he is a  divine being. Valmiki’s poem of twenty-four thousand anushtuv verses and forty-eight thousand lines is not a historical tale; it is a revelation of a (c)elestial being .The poet indeed frees the Ramayana from the taint of historicity and for this alone he deserves the adoration of all worshipper of Rama.

--- end second and third paragraph after 'no historical basis' sentence ---

Ravi: The 1975 (Indian) Sahitya academy gave a consensus view that Rama was mythological. Well, that was a Sahitya (literary) academy view - not a history academy view. The person quoted, Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, was not a historian but a man of literature! From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suniti_Kumar_Chatterji: "Suniti Kumar Chatterji (Bengali: ...) (26 November 1890 – 29 May 1977) was an Indian linguist, educationist and litterateur." The poem of Rabindranath Tagore having Narada say something to Valmiki is not history but a poet's imagination. I am outraged by the sentence in R.K.Dasgupta's article extract above, "The poet indeed frees the Ramayana from the taint of historicity and for this alone he deserves the adoration of all worshipper(s) of Rama." Rabindranath Tagore was one of India's great poets and I too have enjoyed and been inspired by some of his poetry. As a poet, Tagore had the literary license to put some words in Narada's mouth, and he was entitled to his view that Rama is not historical. But taking that (Tagore's poem) as evidence/proof of Rama not being historical, and that Ramayana was supposedly freed from the taint of history, is completely unacceptable from a scientific or rational point of view, in my opinion.

That Prof. Diana Eck, one of the eminent (academic) scholars of Hinduism in the world today, from Harvard university, USA, thought R.K.Dasgupta was a historian, and further used only the above mentioned article of his, to inform her readers including, I am quite sure, academic students & scholars of Hinduism, about the historicity of Rama, is a sad state of affairs. I think it indicates that the view that Rama is established to be a non-historical/fictional figure has got deeply rooted in many top academics in the world, including India. [Please note that her book was published in 2012 and so is quite recent.]

What could be the basis for this view? Unfortunately, Prof. Diana Eck does not quote any meaningful basis for such a view. But then she is not a historian. I need to read some recent books by reputed historians that cover this topic to know the basis for such a view. I have read that historians mention some hundreds of versions of Ramayana across many parts of Asia. Fine, but that does not mean all versions are false and that all are simply the imagination of various poets! There could be a common kernel of real incidents and real characters including Rama which over centuries and millennia got distorted into hundreds of differing versions.

Another point could be lack of archaeological evidence about Rama. But that may simply be due to the large time gap of many millennia between Rama's period and today. Anyway, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Based on my current limited knowledge on this topic, I think a rational/logical stand would be that due to lack of strong evidence it cannot be established historically/scientifically that Rama was a real figure nor can it be established historically/scientifically that Rama was a non-historical/fictional figure.

A later extract from same chapter of Eck's book:

To say one thinks of Rama in mythic rather than historical terms does not diminish his importance, but amplifies it. It is to speak of a story that is profoundly important in Hindu culture, not because it factually happened in this place or that, but because it goes on taking place in the lives of people for whom it is meaningful and in the tales and travels of Hindu pilgrims. 

--- end Eck book extract ---

While I appreciate the effort of Prof. Eck to highlight the value of Ramayana to Hindus, I strongly disagree with the view that thinking of Rama in mythic terms amplifies his importance. Based on belief in my spiritual master's words about Rama, today I have deep faith that Rama was a real person and that the key events of Ramayana like Rama being exiled just before his scheduled coronation, Sita being kidnapped by Ravana, Rama killing Ravana and returning to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana etc. are real events. Very importantly, the sterling character of Rama including his superhuman adherance to Dharma (righteous conduct) are real, making him a real ideal of Dharma and good character (Maryada Purushottama). This reality of Rama (for me) makes Rama a very powerful role model who I can deeply admire and even try to emulate to some small extent when it comes to adherence to Dharma. If instead, I viewed Rama as simply a poet or drama writer's imaginary/fictional character then I may not be so inspired by it. I think most countless devotees of Rama in India and other parts of the world, like me, view Rama as a real historical character which is what makes Rama a powerful icon/god to them.

For more about my spiritual master's words about Rama please see my blog post, Sathya Sai Baba on historicity of Rama and Krishna, http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2015/01/sathya-sai-on-historicity-of-rama-and.html. BTW some readers may not have belief in these words, and scientific historians cannot accept it as truth without supporting evidence - that's fine by me.

Eck continues to argue in a religiously enlightened way about the power of Ramayana even if it is a myth. [Please note that her arguments about Ramayana are mixed up with the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi (birthplace of Rama) controversy. I prefer to stay away from the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi controversy and focus only on the historicity of Rama aspect.] I thought I could give a small extract which comes a few sentences after the above extract in Eck's book, to give readers an idea of this excellent writing of hers:

The legend of Rama, told in Valmiki's Ramayana and in many regional Ramayanas, is far too deeply and widely embedded in Indian consciousness to be either affirmed or destabilized by a bricks-and-mortar controversy in late-twentieth-century Ayodhya.

The issues raised here are critical and have to do with the very nature of religious and historical consciousness, and the relation of the power of myth to the so-called facts of history. How does one search for the "historical" figure of Rama, whose story is deeply embedded in the Indian imagination? This is the story of the prince who lost his kingdom on the eve of his coronation, who was sent into exile in the forest, who lost his beloved wife Sita, carried off by a rakshasa. Indeed, he lost everything but his fervent adherence to dharma, to righteousness. This myth has moved through many centuries and many communities. It has extended its influence throughout India and beyond India into wider Southeast Asia....Its power has never needed to be bolstered by the DNA of the archaeological or historical record.

--- end Eck book extract ---

Ravi: I think Eck should have added in her one-sentence capsule of Ramayana above, the killing of Ravana by Rama, rescuing Sita and going back triumphantly to Ayodhya. That is very important as it shows that eventually Rama, the great example of Dharma, won, thereby giving hope to countless devotees of Rama, over centuries and millennia, that they too may/will eventually win in the difficult and crisis periods of their lives, if they stick to Dharma like Rama did (and pray for dharmic success).

I tend to agree with Eck that Ramayana's "power has never needed to be bolstered by the DNA of the archaeological or historical record". But that was and is the case when Ramayana is not taught in schools as historically established to be a poet's imagination. [I believe that is the case in India, as of today.] The effort of some historians to establish that Rama is a non-historical/fictional figure through history scholarship articles may lead to school children being taught the same, which will surely have a negative impact on the power of the Ramayana over these school children. This negative impact may hold sway for the whole life of at least some of these school children.

Therefore I think it is essential that Hindus who believe that Rama was a real figure (as well as non-Hindus who subscribe to such a view) and who are interested in how history views Rama, should subject history scholarship which states that Rama has been established to be a non-historical/fictional figure to intense scientific/rational scrutiny (or contribute to such scrutiny in some way). This scrutiny, I am very sure, will expose scientific/rational flaws in such history scholarship. That, in turn, will change the way leading academics of fields that deal with Ramayana like Prof. Diana Eck (Prof. of Religion) view this matter.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sathya Sai Baba on historicity of Rama and Krishna

Last modified on 13th Jan. 2015

The link, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/25616/9/09_chapter%204.pdf, quotes the American follower of and writer on Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Dr. John Hislop, from one of his books on Sri Sathya Sai Baba. [For more on Hislop please see http://media.radiosai.org/journals/Vol_02/13July01/02_Cover_Story/cover_story.htm] The relevant quote is given below:

John Hislop: Sometimes Swami speaks of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as if they were historical, and sometimes as if they were to be taken as representative of every individual's inner conflicts, virtues, bad qualities etc. Are these events and people historical fact?

[Sathya] Sai Baba: Yes they are a record of historical people and incidents... Rama was a real person and an Avathar. And Dasaratha was His father. Krishna was real and the events of His Avathara were real. Rama’s life, over the ages, has been altered and distorted somewhat, and Swami's story of Rama will be a classic through several Yugas.

John Hislop (2002) Conversations with BSSSB [Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba]

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The youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7R8FwIxwUk&t=1m40s, Interview with Sathya Sai Baba part - 3, is part of a 1978 interview of Sathya Sai Baba with overseas devotees of his. From around 1 min, 40 secs in the video the conversation is as follows (Please note that Sri Sathya Sai Baba's mother tongue was Telugu, and that most of his public discourses were in Telugu, which usually would be (immediately) translated to English by a translator. But in interviews with foreigners, He, I believe, usually used to speak in English, as was the case in this interview.):

Questioner: Swami, when were the days of Krishna and Rama? How long ago was that?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Many thousands of years.
Questioner: 5000, 10,000?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Krishna is 5,860 years ago. 5,860 years ago.
Questioner: Thank you.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba: Rama is not .... Rama is 20,000 years ago. Rama is 20,000 years ago. Between Rama & Krishna, many thousands, 15,000 years.

[Note that the first video of this series, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBPZbAj2oHY, gives the following description/title at the beginning of the video, "Swami gives interview to oversea-devotees 24th of december 1978".]

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So, Sri Sathya Sai Baba has clearly declared/revealed through his mystical knowledge of the past that both Rama and Krishna are real/historical figures and also the period when they lived. For those who believe in such revelations from Sri Sathya Sai Baba, which includes me, Rama and Krishna were real figures who exhibited divine/supernatural/paranormal powers. However, I am quite sure, scholars of history will not accept such revelations as historical fact unless they have evidence of some sort to substantiate the revelation.