The Mother Divine
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Our scriptures tell us that the purpose of human existence is to realise the Self. The pursuit of this Self is not an easy enterprise.

Curiously, when ‘I’ seeks the Self, ‘I’ does not realise that ‘I’ itself is the problem. As children, we are not born with the idea of the self; we are taught who we are. Small babies do not use the word ‘I’ in the initial years, they refer to themselves by their name as though in third person. For instance, a little girl who is not even two would say ‘Noor likes doggie.’ She is referring to herself. It will take her a while to learn the ‘I’ business, but once she learns it, whole world is I.

The world of the lower self is characterised by I, me, mine. Aham and mama; me and mine are responsible for all meaning in life. This is what binds us. The more we do the aham and mama business, the more we assign doership to ourselves, the more we get caught in the avidya.

The liberation from aham and mama is given to us in the fantastic conception of ‘swa’ denomination in Hinduism. Swa-dharma, swa-desh, swa-jati, swa-varna, swa-ashram, swa- bhava etc. Swa signifies ‘one’s own’ but not mine etc. The ‘swa’ category is above the ‘aham’ and ‘mama’. The identity now is collective-personal. In ahama and mama, there is no collective, everything is personal. My house, my car, my money, my position etc. Everything seen from personal identity. Unlike this, all swa terms are “outside in”. Say for instance if swades is Bharata Mata, that does not mean Bharat Mata belongs to me… on the contrary I belong to Bharata Mata. So I borrow my identity from my country, my family line, my caste, my occupation stage in life, and so forth.

In all the aham and mama category, there’s personal choice. I create that identity and then say that’s me. But in Swa, there’s no choice. You are an Indian, the identity is already cast. So one just occupies a seat that destiny offered you. And this makes all the difference.

When we create an identity, or let’s say create a new identity, we create a fresh samskara which increases the sum of our karmic fetters. But abiding in the swa, in occupying a place in whatever destiny offers us, we simply play the game that was initiated in the previous lives and end it.

Bhagavad Gita speaks of swadharma. Arjuna is exhorted to adopt swadharma, one's own right, duty, or nature. Or one's own role in the social and cosmic order. Swadharma is relative to one's caste and stage of life (varṇāśramadharma), and to one's situation (āpaddharma). If Arjuna decides to become a mendicant and poses as an angel of peace, he will create fresh samskara. As a warrior, which he already is, there’s no identity rehaul. (And all identity rehauls come a huge cost of samskaric bondage)

In the olden days, people stuck to their birth place, their family occupation, the cultural norms of their community and so on. They used the same chair for fifty years. Same suits, same tools, same foods. These were old school folks like the author R K Narayan who beat the keys on the same typewriter for half a century. Just got things repaired occasionally, no changing though! Today, everyone wants to change… change town, change jobs, change relationships. But does this change bring spiritual salve? Well, every change creates a storm of fresh samskaras and it takes a long while before that storm abates.

The world is a global village and we are all but dwellers of the same small village. The most humanitarian way of coexistence, isn’t it? Well, this is what we have been hearing for a very long time – but if we start to think and trace back the origins of this thought – we find that it has its origins in globalisation – a move to convert the entire world population into a same type of consumer with monotonous behaviour pattern. This is a death knell, it brings an end to individual identities. This move to bring the entire gamut of population under one-fold was not first proposed by the advents of globalisation – it was first advocated by the Abrahamic religions of the West. Since their birth they have dreamt to bring the whole mass of human population under their umbrella and globalisation is just a modern offspring of that old idea. To identify oneself as nothing but a part of the congregation and to live by the rules and serve in congregation is the motto of this approach – it subdues the individual identity.

This philosophy is para-dharma, an alien credo, it is not the vision of Bharata bhumi. For us the goal is to know, experience and feel the truth. As we are not congregational, our truth is also not tribal but individual. Mine should be different from yours. Individual. Because experience and feeling is personal –mental uplift from a generalist tribal or communal identity to the identity of the individual as the unit of the tribe – is also individual. It is a subjective experience and – congregation has nothing to do with it.

Our Truth is subjective because the seer sees the cosmos from just one invisible eye. The experiences gained thereof by that individual stand supreme for that individual.

In the West there’s a chaotic conflict which denies individual truth through religion and promotes it through revolution. They have loads of literature and a barrage of political theories around this conflict, but the more they dive deeper into it the more they are burning the bridges between the two.

We the sanatanis are never so concerned about the conflict between the individual and the congregational identity, we move ceaselessly from aham to swayam, from swayam to atman, from ataman to paramatman. To us there is no barrier except our own mental faculty and we all individually seek to transcend from the I of the aham to the I of the paramatman.

The idea of Swa in Hinduism helps us bridge the two extremes of Me-Mine and Us-Ours.

Swa or Swa does not mean self but of self. And subsequently the true self. In every sanatani Swa is ingrained in the collective consciousness, through the concepts that form the very basis of our individual identity.

Let’s dig deep into the Swa – in Sanskrit and in almost all native Indian languages we find the term swa bearing similar meaning.

Swa in Sanskrit is not generally an independent word but a prefix to a number of words that end up defining the self through its involuntary attributes. The self cannot exist without attributes – some of them are acquired through time and conscious effort but a majority of them are involuntary. When we say swades we mean the des/ country of self. Literally it means the land with which the self identifies itself. It is involuntary as we generally identify ourselves with the land in which we were born; and the process of being born in place swabhumi, being born in a jati swajati, being born with a dharma swadharma are all involuntary attributes of the self.

Thus the swa binds the self, which is an individual identity, to the attributes of the self, which is almost every time a collective identity. In effect the existence of the self does not get threatened by the collective, but the collective here becomes the attribute of the self. In other words, the self gets defined through these attributes.

In the famous shloka of the Bhagavad Gita we spoke of before, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that swa-dharme nidhanaṁ śhreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ… here He himself brings out the self of the depressed Arjuna and makes it stand in front of the collective self of Arjuna. The self Arjuna is a depressed man and the collective self of Arjuna is the warrior who should fight for valour and would not stop the fight till his last breath. In layman’s words it can be said that when the smaller self goes astray the collective attributes of the self are used to bring it back to track. Not just Arjuna but Lord Rama also went through a depressive contemplative phase when Vashishta muni reminded him of the swadharma.

This is the true coming home, true going back to the roots, the true healing touch of the native. Modern civilisation is making so much noise about going back to the basics/ roots, but a peripheral and superficial movement in this regard, without embracing philosophical foundation which is already existing in Hinduism, could only make the matters more foggy.

What deceiving spirit lies beneath the swa? Is there an inherent risk in the swa? Well, there is… it is an exalted sense of self, an exaggerated awareness of the importance of the self and more times than not a megalomaniac version of identity popularly known as the ego. At this plane of existence everything is absolute as the vision is in silos; at this juncture the relativity of existence seems a farfetched truth. ‘I’ of the individual is in constant conflict with the collective mass identity. We call it the Aham, the greatest barrier to the elevation of the perception to plane of higher consciousness where absolutism slowly dissolves into relativity.

And above the swa lies the atman. The atman is the same in everybody – there is no difference, just the way and individual realises it is different, despite the difference in approach and methodology, the essential character of the destination does not change.

So the swa acts as a bridge not just in the social structure of things but also in all terms metaphysical.

Standing where we are today – we can easily say that the tides of globalisation have ceased to exist and we are now in an era of post globalisation. With the ever shrinking boundaries of the conceptual global village the individual self is rising in the horizon.

We hear people wanting to go back and settle in place of birth, a small town or a village; we hear people wanting to man ancestral business that was long abandoned; we hear parents interested in bequeathing to the grandchildren the already disappearing gospel that only grandmothers can offer. These are good tidings.

Swadharma through swa-des, swa-varna, swa-asharam, swa-bhava etc is the call of the day.

We must hold tight to the attributes of self. We maintained Swadharma and clung to it as we have done for the past 1000 years of foreign invasion. We must go on and not let the winds of paradharma from the West obfuscate our vision.

~ Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
Editor, The Mother