The Mother Divine
Change Font Size 
An academician friend who recently attended a conference on Hindu Mimansa texts confided in me about how he suffered at the hands of a scholar-believer who would snap and close every argument with the words: “Well, if that’s what the text says, then that’s exactly what the text says. There’s no room for interpretation here. You have to believe.”

“Do you make sense of this? Do you believe I got to believe,” he asked me.

“Yes and no,” I said.

And this made me borrow questions for this editorial.

Are the Shaastras true? Are the stories and legends mentioned in the Hindu scriptures true? Or are they mere myths? Is there anything supra-human about the Shaastras? Or are they products of the human mind?

Should we interpret the Shaastras literally? Or they need a deconstruction from their allegedly redundant cultural mornings? Should free interpretation of scriptures be encouraged by scholars and philosophers alike? Or is the word of God too secret and sacred to be violated by the trespass of human reason? These and many more questions have created an almost unbridgeable cleft between the believers and the cynics. There’s a fissure between the staunch believers and those relatively liberal in their adherence on this count.

While on the one hand there’s much noise about undue ban of fiction treating matters of faith creatively, there are more and more hurtful and irresponsible interpretations of scriptures not only going unnoticed but making waves. As it is, we live in times of historical and cultural insensitivity— the heritage, the tradition, the legacy doesn’t matter much today. The pride of past is a thing of the past. Obviously, the lens under which the hoary tradition stands has become more insensitive and uncaring. Whether it’s an icon or a doctrine, we’re ready to bring them down with spontaneous disregard.

Today everything is questioned- the sacred and the profane, the spiritual and the secular. The authenticity of Hindu Shaastras has been open to questioning too. Incidentally, the academician came to see me on the banks of the Ganga and the same discussion continued. “The saints here take a very different view of the Shaastras,” I said. “They place the scripture on their head with reverence. They worship it. They treat the words from these texts as divinities. And a whole host of miracles, which a modern man can hardly believe, come to pass daily from such reverence of the text.” He listened.

“Who are these saints? Can I meet one of them,” he asked.

“Sure! There’s one right here in Bharat Milap Ashram,” I said. “He’d love to meet us.”

We found ourselves in the presence of a saint whose deadlocks were so abundant that they rolled on the floor. I asked the same questions to the holy man who sat before us. Instead of furnishing a straightforward answer, he chose to tell us a story.

Sant Ramdas (of Maharashtra) used to gather his neighbourhood in rapt attention as he read from the Ramayana regularly. On one such gathering, it so happenedthat Hanumanji himself was present in disguise. It is a well-known fact that Hanumanji is present at every place where Bhagawan Ram's glory is sung.
Yatra Yatra Raghunath Kirtanam,
Tatra Tatra Krita Mastaka Anjalim,
Bashpawari Paripurna Lochanam,
Marutim Nammascha Rakshas Antakam
Wherever the deeds of Shri Rama are sung, at all such places Hanuman is present with his palms folded above his forehead, and tears of devotion and joy falling from his eyes. He removes the fear of demons; we bow to him.

Quite understandably therefore, he made himself present at the gathering where Sant Ramdas read from the great Mahakavya of sage Valmiki extolling the great Lord.

As he proceeded to read from the Sunder Kand and recite verses describing Hanumanji seeing white flowers of Ashok Vatika where Sita Ma was held hostage by the Lanka king, Ravana, Hanumanji (in disguise) interrupted. ''Excuse me, I think you meant the red flowers at Ashok Vatika and not any white ones. Please read again.''

Sant Ramdas hesitated. He was not sure which red flowers were being talked about as the text mentioned only pristine white flowers. Confused, he looked into the text again, and confirmed, ''I am sorry! Hanumanji saw white flowers. I am not sure what you are talking about.''

Hanumanji nodded in disagreement. ''Are you sure you are not making a mistake?'' Really confused, Sant Ramdas checked again and politely confirmed, ''Valmiki says the flowers were white; infallible as the Shaastras are, the flowers have had to be white.''

Not convinced, Hanumanji repeated, ''Cannot be! I am telling you, I know! The flowers were red, and there can be no doubt about it.''

Ramdas – “But if Valmiki says they were white, they were white Sir!”

Hanumanji – “How do you know Valmiki was right?”

Now the saint was a bit perturbed. The interruption was detracting from progressing, and Hanumanji wouldn't budge! This continued for a while before Hanumanji dropped his disguise! As he made himself appear before Sant Ramdas in his natural usual attire and form, the latter went speechless! Sant Ramdas had tears as he looked on! He couldn't believe his eyes! Hanumanji himself had been present in this gathering! The saint lay prostrate at Hanumanji's feet, paying his obeisance.

As the reading resumed, Hanumanji again interrupted, ''Now that you know my real identity, I hope you have no doubts about the flowers being red?'' At this, the saint politely yet firmly asserted, ''Forgive me, O revered Hanumanji. I understand your sentiments, but I cannot question the Shaastras. If the Shaastras say the flowers were white, I do not have a doubt the flowers were white, as the Shaastras cannot be wrong.''

At this Hanumanji jumped! “You forget! Who saw the white flowers? Hanuman saw them. And not Valmiki. One standing before you now is Hanuman himself! How can you question the very person you are reading about? You quote Hanuman in action. If he claims the flowers were red, I see no reason why you should even doubt!”

“Because, Hanumanji, the scriptures cannot be wrong!” asserted an unmoved Ramdas.
At this point, Hanumanji suggested that they both go and seek clarification from Bhagawan Ram Himself as He would know for sure! Ramdas was elated at the idea! Not that he had any doubts about the veracity of the Shaastras, but this gave him an opportunity to have direct darshan of Bhagawan Ram, and he was most excited!

As they both paid their homage of prostration before Lord Rama, Hanumanji went straight to the point.

“Bhagawan, kindly clarify what was the colour of the flowers at Ashoka Vatika where Ma Sita was imprisoned by the evil king, Ravana?”

Ram said, “Why? They were white!”

Hanumanji – “Dear Bhagawan, I am your devotee and a child. Forgive me for saying this but I went to Ashok Van in Lanka, you didn’t. And I did see with my own eyes the flowers were red.”

At this point, Sant Ramdas, relieved that Shaastras and Bhagawan Ram spoke the same tongue, said “Dear Lord, thus spake the Shaastras too that the flowers were white, but Hanumanji is of the opinion the flowers were red. We are both in a fix, as he cannot disregard what he saw and I cannot, what I read in the Shaastras!”

The Lord suggested, “in that case, let us seek clarity from Sita herself. It is true that you have been there Hanuman, but you merely carried my message and returned. She has spent a far greater time in Ashok Vatika and she should know for sure.”

Hanumanji agreed, “Yes, let us go. I am fully confident that I am right.”

Bhagawan Ram spoke, “But the scriptures cannot be wrong either! Yes, let’s go.”

So, the three of them proceeded to meet Ma Sita to seek clarification.

Ma Sita said, “The flowers in Ashok Vatika were indeed white!”

Hanumanji – “But how could I be so wrong? I saw them clearly and they were all red!”

At this point, Ma Sita spoke and all things became clear. “It is true, Hanuman, that the flowers were white. But it is equally true that you saw red flowers.”

“This confuses me even more. It’s not possible that both things are true,” Hanumanji screamed.
“This is possible because what you saw and what they were was not the same!” Hanumanji looked on, puzzled. Sita Ma continued, “When you came to Ashok Vatika, you were angry to see me imprisoned and witness my agony. You’d have liked to kill Ravana but you had no such orders from your Master. You only had orders to give the ring to me and the message of my Lord that he would come to rescue me. You were all red in that fury! At that moment, not only the white flowers but everything appeared red to you because everything reflected the state of your mind. So, you see, while you did see red flowers, the truth is they were white and Valmiki is correct!”

Hanumanji nodded politely in agreement!

The saint concluded the story and gave us some fruits before he bid fare without discussing the matter any further. We walked back thinking about this most insightful and telling narrative. I was reminded of the words of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath: My Shaastra is the autumn moon shining in the midst of terrible darkness of the new moon night!

I continued to reflect, the truth contained in the scripture is indeed both mysterious and secretive. Mere intellectual curiosity can only yield a superficial understanding. And this intellectual conjecturing can often be grossly erroneous and misleading. The sages declared that the truth in the scriptures is not a matter for useless banter, nor is it a fare to tantalise the mind. It has a profound message which will be vouchsafed only to those who would like to pay the price with devotion and renunciation and service to the Guru. Faith begets wisdom, so says Gita. Upanishads are full of arduous struggles and adventures in learning dared by the Vedic seekers who had faith.

What the seeker is seeing in the scripture is very different from what the academician or fiction-reveller reads. It’s best to approach the scripture with the relevant attitude. There are truths within truths to be explored therein. To quote Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath again, “Shaastra! I don’t know the language which is fitting enough to eulogize Thee, but let me declare it explicitly that I love you dearly. I haven’t been fortunate enough to follow all Thy commands, but with whatever I could follow, I have attained my object, I am immersed in the ocean of bliss! I pledge – as long as I am able to utter a single word, I shall proclaim: Shaastra is true, Shaastra is firm and resolute; whoever takes refuge with the Shaastra, God will clasp him close to His heart.”

If an eye-witness and a divinity like Hanumanji can suffer from a momentary clouding, who are we?


Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
The Editor