Bharatiya Chitta Manas and Kala
Part 3(Chapter 5, Chapter 6)




V


This peculiarly Indian awareness of the insignificance of man and his efforts in the unending flow of Kala is however not in consonance with modernity. The belief that in every new cycle the Universe from the moment of its creation starts declining towards a lower and lower state is also incompatible with modern consciousness. And to look upon various arts and crafts, and sciences and technologies, etc., merely as temporary human artifacts required to sustain life in a constantly decaying state of the Universe goes completely counter to the modern view of sciences and technologies, and of human capabilities in general. According to the world view of modernity, man through his efforts, his sciences and technologies, his arts and crafts, and his various other capabilities keeps on refining the world, lifting it higher and higher, making it better and better, and moulding it more and more into the image of heaven.

If the Indian understanding of the unfolding of the Universe, and the place of man and his efforts in it, is so contrary to the concepts of modernity, then this contrariness has to be seriously pondered over. The structures that we wish to implant in India and the processes of development that we want to initiate can take root here, only if they seem compatible with the Indian view of the Universe, with the Indian Chitta and Kala. Structures and processes that are contrary to the picture of the Universe and its unfolding etched on the Indian mind are unlikely to find much response in India. At least, the people of India, those who are still basically anchored in their own Chitta and Kala, are unlikely to participate in any efforts that seem essentially alien to the Indian comprehension of the Universe.

We must, therefore, work out what the thoughts and ideas ingrained in the Indian consciousness imply in practice. What structures and processes seem right from the perspective of Indian Chitta and Kala? What sort of life seems worth living and what sort of efforts worth making from that perspective? Before meditating afresh on such temporal structures and models, however, we shall have to comprehend and come to terms with some of the major aspects of the Indian ways of organising the mundane day-to-day world of social and physical reality.

Differentiation between what is called the Para Vidya, knowledge of the sacred, and the Apara Vidya, knowledge of the mundane, is one such aspect of the Indian ways of organising physical and social reality, which seems to be directly related to the fundamental Indian consciousness, to the Indian Chitta and Kala. At some early stage in the Indian tradition knowledge must have split into these two streams. Knowledge that deals with the unchangeable Brahman beyond the continuously changing temporal world, knowledge that shows the path towards the realisation of Brahman and union with Him is Para Vidya. And that which deals with the day-to-day problems of temporal life and makes ordinary life in this complex world possible is Apara Vidya. In the Indian tradition it is believed that Para Vidya is higher than the Apara Vidya. In fact, it is said, that Para Vidya alone is real and the Apara Vidya is merely an illusion.

When this division between Para and Apara knowledge occurred in the Indian tradition cannot be said with any certainty. This could not have happened in the Krita Yuga. Because, in that Yuga no knowledge at all was required. There was no Veda in the Krita. This division is unlikely to have occurred in Treta also. Because, there was only one undifferentiated Veda at that stage. This sharp differentiation may, however, have arisen sometime towards the end of Treta and the beginning of Dvapara, when a variety of skills and crafts started appearing on the earth to help man live with the increasing complexity of the Universe.

It is commonly believed that the four Vedas, along with their various branches and connected Brahmanas, Upanishads, etc., form the repository of Para Vidya. And, the Puranas and Itihasas, etc., as also the various canonical texts of different sciences and crafts like the Ayurveda, Jyotisha, etc., deal with the Apara Vidya. In reality, however, the canonical texts of various disciplines do not differentiate between Para Vidya and Apara Vidya as sharply as is commonly believed.

It is probably true that the Upanishads deal with nothing but Para Vidya. But, the same can hardly be said about the Vedas. In a large number of contexts the Vedas seem to be dealing with such mundane subjects as would fall only under the category of Apara Vidya. On the other hand, there are extensive discussions in the Puranas about the attributes of Brahman and about the possible modes of realising Him, which are the subject of Para Vidya. Then there are disciplines like Vyakarana, grammar, which of necessity belong to both Para and Apara, because Vyakarana is needed for the proper communication of either kind of knowledge. For the same reason, Jyotisha Sastra, the science of the motion of stars and planets and the art of determining time and place, must also belong to both the Para and Apara streams to some extent. But even in the texts of purely mundane disciplines, like those of Ayurveda, issues related to Para Vidya are discussed, and attempts are made, for example, to perceive the problem of maintenance of health within the context of man’s relation with the Universe and the creator.

In spite of the presence of both streams of knowledge together in almost all canonical texts, the dividing line between Para Vidya and Apara Vidya seems to be etched rather deeply in the minds of the Indian people. On raising the context of the Puranas in routine discussion among even the ordinary people, one is likely to be told that these tales and fables are not to be relied upon, and that the Vedas alone are true. It seems that the Indian mind has somehow come to believe that all that is connected with Apara Vidya is rather low, and that knowledge of the Para alone is true knowledge. This consciousness seems to have become an integral part of the Indian mind. And high scholars of Indian literature, who ought to know better, seem to believe even more than the others that the essential Indian concern is only with the Para, and the great body of Apara knowledge found in the Indian tradition is of little relevance in understanding India.

This contempt for the Apara Vidya is probably not fundamental to Indian consciousness. Perhaps the original Indian understanding was not that the Apara is to be shunned. What was perhaps understood and emphasised at an early stage of the evolution of Indian thought was that while dealing with Apara, while living within the complexity of the world, one should not forget that there is a simple undifferentiated reality behind this seeming complexity, that there is the unchangeable Brahman beyond this ever-changing mundane world. What the Indians realised was the imperative need to keep the awareness of the Para, of the ultimate reality, intact while going through the complex routine of daily life. What they emphasised was the need to regulate the mundane in the light of the Indian understanding of the ultimate unity of the Universe, to keep the Apara Vidya informed of the Para.

With the passage of time this emphasis on regulating the Apara Vidya through our understanding of the Para Vidya turned into contempt for the Apara. How and when this happened is a question to which we need to give very serious thought. And, indeed, we have to find some acceptable interpretation of the appropriate relationship between Para Vidya and Apara Vidya within the larger Indian understanding of the processes of the creation and the unfolding of the Universe, and the inexorable movement of Kala.


There is evidently an imbalance in our attitudes towards Para Vidya and Apara Vidya, which has to be somehow remedied. It is possible that this imbalance is not of recent creation. In the world of scholarship this imbalance may have arisen rather early. It is the usual tendency of scholarship to emphasise the abstract and the formal over the concrete and the contextual reality of day-to-day living. This normal scholarly preoccupation with the abstract may have got incorporated in basic Indian literature over its long history. Or, perhaps it was felt that the details of ordinary living cannot form the subject-matter of high literature.5 Or, it may be that in our mentally and spiritually depressed state we have been too obsessed with the Para knowledge of India, and consequently have failed to seriously search for the texts of Apara learning, and therefore this seeming imbalance of Indian literature and Indian thought may merely be a consequence of our lopsided viewing.

Whatever may be the causes of the imbalance in our attitude towards Para Vidya and Apara Vidya, it cannot be denied that the available literature of Indian civilisation and the commonly agreed understanding of the Chitta and Kala of India today seem abnormally skewed towards the Para. This imbalance has affected our thinking on numerous other subjects and issues. For instance, take our understanding of the Varna Vyavastha. In interpreting this Vyavastha we have somehow assumed that the Varnas connected with textual practices and rituals of the Para Vidya are higher and those involved in the Apara are lower. Closeness of association with what are defined to be Para practices becomes the criterion for determining the status of a Varna and evolving a hierarchy between them. Thus the Brahmanas, associated with the recitation and study of the Vedas, become the highest, and the Sudras, engaged in the practice of the arts and crafts of ordinary living, become the lowest.

This hierarchy may not in reality be a fundamental aspect of classical Indian thought. There is some discussion on this subject in the Puranas. We have already referred to the dialogue in the Mahabharata and the Narada Purana, where Bharadvaja questions Bhrigu on the rationale of the Varna hierarchy. Mahatma Gandhi also believed that it cannot be right to place one Varna above the other. Around 1920, Gandhiji wrote and spoke a great deal on this subject. But even his efforts were not sufficient to restore an appropriate balance in our current thinking on the Varna Vyavastha.

But, the issue of the hierarchy of the Varnas is not a closed question in the Indian tradition. During the last two thousand years, there have occurred numerous debates on this question within the Indian tradition. And, in practical social life such a formulation of high and low could not have survived anyway. The concepts of the irreconciliability of Para Vidya and Apara Vidya, and the corresponding asymmetry between the Brahmana and the Sudra, could never have meant much in actual practice in any healthily functioning social organisation. The more canonical and fundamental texts of Indian literature also do not show this degree of imbalance on the question of the relative status of Para and Apara Vidya, and correspondingly that of the Brahmana and the Sudra. The imbalance seems to have arisen mainly through the interpretations of the canonical texts that have been made from time to time.

The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either.

Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four.


Like the hierarchy of Varnas there is also the hierarchy of the Karmas, of actions, in our present day Indian consciousness. And this hierarchy of Karmas also seems to have arisen from the ideas of the superiority of the Para over the Apara. Now, the concept that every action has an unalterable consequence is a fundamental aspect of Indian consciousness. As we believe that everything that is created must come to an end, so we believe that every event that happens must have a cause in a previous action. Thus, from the Indian perspective, life and indeed the whole creation, seem like a long sequence of actions and their consequences, with the consequences leading to further consequences and so on. And all that happens in the world takes place within this interconnected sequence of Karmas.

Yet this fundamental theory of Karma seems to have nothing to do with the commonly prevalent ideas about the hierarchy of Karmas. Nothing in that theory implies that some kinds of Karmas are superior and others are inferior. The idea that, for example, recitation of the Vedas is a high Karma and weaving of cloth is low does not follow from the Karma theory. These ideas of high and low Karmas seem to have arisen out of the imbalance in our perception of the Para Vidy and Apara Vidya.

This belief in a hierarchy of Karmas has, however, got so deeply ingrained in us that even our major scholars often explain away large scale poverty and hunger as the consequences of the earlier lowly Karmas of the sufferers. Such interpretations of the Karma theory have become so mechanical, that even as high a scholar as Sri Brahmananda Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Joshi Math, used to casually state that destitution and poverty are only matters of Karmas. But, this is hardly an appropriate interpretation of the Karma theory. In any case, the theory could not have implied that even the best of our men dismiss all thoughts of compassion for their fellow human beings and give up all efforts to redress social imbalances.

The meaning of the Karma theory is perhaps something else. All Karmas, all actions, are after all the same in themselves. What, probably, differentiates one Karma from another is the mental attitude and the sense of concern with which it is performed. It is the mode of performing a Karma that makes it high or low. If recitation of the Vedas is done with concern and attention, then that recitation is a high Karma. By the same token if someone cooks food with great attention and care, then that cooking too is a high Karma. In India cooking was in fact one of the functions of the Brahmanas. There are Brahmana cooks even today. And, it seems that the recitation of the Vedas and cooking of food are indeed not such different Karmas. A Brahmana is likely to acquire the same burden of evil Karmas, whether he recites the Vedas without care and attention, with the attitude of somehow completing an uninteresting and thankless task that has been forced upon him, or whether he cooks food with the same attitude and similar lack of attention and care.

The same must hold for all other kinds of Karmas. There is nothing inherently evil or low in the Karma of sweeping the floor, or bringing up children, or washing clothes, or making pots, or shoes, or weaving cloth, or looking after cattle, or ploughing and sowing the land. All these Karmas become high if performed with care, attention and concern, and become low otherwise. They could not be high or low in themselves.

There is a Pauranic story that seems highly instructive in this context. Once there was a Rishi. He sat unmoving, at one place, in deep meditation, for uncountable number of years. One day his meditation was disturbed and he woke up with a start. He found that the excreta of a sparrow had fallen on his head. In great anger, he turned his eyes towards the sparrow, and the bird was at once burnt to ashes. Seeing this, the Rishi thought that his penance had been accomplished and he had achieved great powers.

He got up from his meditation, and walked up to the nearby habitation. There he knocked on the door of the first dwelling he reached and asked for food. The lady of the house was probably busy with her household chores. It took her some time to open the door and answer the Rishi’s call. This delay infuriated the Rishi. When the lady of the house finally opened her door, the Rishi looked at her with intense anger, just as he had looked at the sparrow. But nothing happened. And, the lady said, with great composure, “Maharaj, please do not unnecessarily trouble yourself. Give up your anger. After all, I am not that sparrow.”

The Rishi was stunned. He could not understand how the powers he had acquired through such great penance proved so utterly futile against this ordinary woman. And, how had she, sitting at her home, divined the incident of the sparrow? He wanted to know the secret of her powers. But she referred him to a seller of animal flesh.

The Rishi was even more surprised. He went to the meat-seller, and the latter told him that the lady against whom he tried to use his powers was performing her household duties with great care and attention. Her housekeeping was in no way inferior to his meditation and penance. And, in any case, the reward of his penance was fully exhausted when he looked at that poor sparrow in such anger. The meat-seller also told the Rishi that he himself was engaged in the selling of animal flesh, but he performed this task with great care and devotion. All tasks performed with such an attitude are equally great. What matters is to do your task well, with concern and care. It does not matter whether what you do is penance and meditation, or merely house-keeping, or even selling of animal flesh.

This Pauranic story presents one interpretation of the theory of Karma. There may be several other interpretations in Indian literature. Similarly there would be numerous interpretations of Para Vidya and Apara Vidya, and also of the Varna Vvyavastha. Comprehending and appreciating these various interpretations, and working out a new interpretation that falls within the ancient tradition and is yet capable of being related to the modern contexts, is perhaps the paramount task of Indian scholarship. This continuous re-interpretation and renewal of the tradition, continuous meditation on the ways of manifesting the Indian Chitta and Kala in practical day-to-day life, and the continuous exploration of the Indian way of life in different times and different contexts, is what the Rishis, Munis and other great scholars of India have been concerned with through the ages.


VI


There is an episode in the Vishnu Purana concerning Maharshi Vyasa, which seems to offer an interesting interpretation of our present Kala, the Kali Yuga. It is said that once Vyasa was bathing in a river. At that time some Rishis came to visit him, and from a distance they saw that the great Vyasa, standing in the river, was clapping his hands and shouting, ‘Great is the Kali-Yuga’, ‘Great are the women of the earth’, and ‘Great are the Sudras’.

The Rishis were wonder-struck. Later they asked Vyasa the reason for his loud praise of the Kali Yuga, the women and the sudras. Vyasa explained that what had been possible for men in the other three yugas with great effort and penance was easily accessible to them in the Kali Yuga. In the Kali Yuga, said Vyasa, man could achieve realisation of the Brahman with merely a little devotion. And, the women and the Sudras could obtain that realisation by merely performing their mundane day-to-day tasks well, with care and concern.

Vyasa is one of the great Rishis of India. It is said that in Dvapara he divided the one Veda into four, and later he divided them into numerous branches. Later still, he composed the Mahabharata epic, especially for the edification of women and Sudras. In the writing of this epic, Ganesha himself acted as his scribe, because none else could have matched the pace and sophistication of Vyasa’s composition. But reflecting on the state of the world after completing his great epic, Vyasa felt sadness in his heart. He noticed that the women and the Sudras had been deprived of the Vedas, and the epic he had composed for them was full of pain and sorrow. It was a story that provided no solace to the mind, generated no enthusiasm for life, and gave no pleasure.

Then, the great Vyasa, to make up for these deficiencies and with compassion for mankind, composed the Puranas. Through the Puranas he tried to make the path of devotion and faith in the creator easily available to all. Amongst the Puranas, Srimadbhagavata Purana seems the most steeped in the faith and devotion that Vyasa wished to propagate. Srimadbhagavata Purana, composed on the advice of Narada Muni, describes events in the life of Vasudeva Srikrishna. And, this Purana is today probably the main source of the non-scholarly Indian Grihastha’s acquaintance with the ancient Indian literature.

The great compassion of Vyasa which propelled him to compose the Puranas, his feeling of concern and care for man - caught in the complexity of the universe and pulled farther and farther away from his creator by the flow of time - is transparently reflected in the above episode from the Vishnu Purana, where he proclaims the Kali Yuga to be the Yuga of women and Sudras. This interpretation of the Kali Yuga seems highly significant. It is possible that as there is only one Varna in the Krita Yuga, so in the Kali Yuga too only one Varna remains, that of the Sudras. Perhaps in the Kali Yuga everyone turns into a Sudra. Or, perhaps, in this Yuga of the ascendance of the Apara Vidya , the role of the women and the Sudras, the major practitioners of the Apara Vidya, of the practical arts and crafts of sustaining life, becomes the most valuable. In our own times, Mahatma Gandhi expressed the same thought, when he insisted that in this Yuga everyone must become a Sudra.

There is, of course, no point in asking whether Vyasa’s interpretation of the Kali Yuga is correct or not. All interpretations keep changing with time and the context. What matters, perhaps, is not the accuracy of an interpretation, but the sense of compassion that the interpreter feels for his fellow beings. It is this compassion, the concern for the state of all beings and respect for their efforts even if these seem insignificant on the cosmic canvas, which makes a particular interpretation valuable. Only in the light of such compassion and concern can we hope to make any meaningful new interpretations of the Indian Chitta and Kala. Contemporary interpretation flowing from such transparent compassion and concern alone can have any chance of forming a secure basis for the re-establishment of the Indian way of life today. Interpretations that lack compassion, like the one about poverty and destitution being the result of one’s own earlier Karmas, are not going to be of much help in such an effort.

Along with the deep sense of compassion for fellow beings, there must also be an abiding faith in the inherent soundness and strength of the Indian tradition. There are many amongst us who believe that Indian civilisation was indeed great in some distant past, but now its days are gone. Many of us sincerely believe that with the rise of modernity Indian Chitta and Kala and Indian understanding of creation and unfolding of the universe have lost all significance, and there is no use any more of deliberating upon such matters. Even someone like Sri Jayendra Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, seems to suggest that there was a time when we were great, and the memory of that time is valuable, but there is nothing that can be said with any assurance about the relevance and place of Indian consciousness in the present.

But what is of significance is always the present. If we wish to affirm the validity of Indian consciousness, of Indian Chitta and Kala, we can do so only by establishing the Indian way of life in the present-day world. And, this re-assertion of India in the present context is the major task today which Indian scholarship, Indian politics, Indian sciences and technologies, Indian arts, crafts and other diverse skills must be accomplish.

It is conceivable that some sections of the Indian people do not subscribe to the traditional Indian understanding of creation and unfolding of the universe, and probably some of them even believe that they have no relationship with the Indian Chitta and Kala. There may also be Indians, especially among the Indian Muslims, Christians and Parsis, who do not believe that there are any such times as the Kali Yuga, or any cycles of Kala as the Chaturyuga and Kalpa, etc. Someone like Periyar Ramaswami Nayakkar, and his followers, may even deny the validity of these Kala cycles. In different parts of India there may be many other people who do not believe in any of the concepts that seem to be fundamental to Indian consciousness. But, the differences in the beliefs of all these people may not be as large as they are made out to be. And, many of those who claim to have no faith in the Puranas often have their own Jati Puranas, which in their essential conception are not much different from the Puranas written by Vyasa.

This at least can be said about all Indians, even about the ordinary Christians of India, that their Chitta and Kala have little in common with modern European civilisation. They are all equally alien in the world of European modernity. In fact, except for at most half a percent of Indians, the rest of India has precious little to do with European modernity. Whatever else may be etched on the minds of these 99.5 percent of Indians, there is nothing there that even remotely resembles the consciousness of the modern West or even that of ancient Greece or Rome.

But in the unbounded flow of modernity almost every Indian seems to have lost the ability to express his innate consciousness even in small ways. Even his festivals, that in a way reminded him of his Kala, and gave him till recently some little pleasure in his otherwise impoverished drab life, and even the most vital of his rituals, those of birth, marriage and death, that gave him a sense of belonging to the universe of his Chitta and Kala, have fallen by the wayside. Most Indians, of course, still perform these festivals and rituals, but these have been so reviled, that there is little grace left in their mechanical and often unbelieving performance. Not surprisingly the festivals give him little pleasure and the rituals provide no solace. We have lost our identity, our anchorage in our civilisation. And, this loss of identity afflicts us all. This is a pain that practically all Indians, including the Christians, the Muslims and others, have to bear in common.

We have to find some way out of such a state of rootlessness. We have to somehow find an anchor again in our civilisational consciousness, in our innate Chitta and Kala. Some four or five years ago, Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust had organised an international gathering of scholars to deliberate on the fundamental questions of Indian identity. It is said that in that gathering a European scholar had suggested that the only way out for India was in her taking to Christianity in a big way.

This of course is not an entirely new thought. For at least the last two hundred years Christianisation of India has been seriously thought of as an option for taking India out of what had seemed to many, especially in Britain, as the morass of her civilisational memory, and giving her a more easily understandable identity. There have also been large scale governmental efforts to help in this direction. And the so-called Westernisation of India, which even the governments of independent India have been pursuing with such seeming vigour, is not very different from India’s Christianisation.

If all these efforts had led to a thorough-going Westernisation of the Indian mind so that the people of India on their own could start associating themselves with the late twentieth and the twenty-first centuries of the West, then that perhaps would have been some sort of a solution of India’s problems. If that change of Indian civilisational consciousness had taken place, then the ordinary Indian today would think and behave more or less like the ordinary man of Europe and America, and his priorities and seekings would have become similar.

Indians would then have also lost the peculiarly Indian belief, which even the most ordinary of the ordinary Indians harbours in his heart, that he is a part of the ultimate Brahman, and by virtue of this relationship with Brahman, he too is completely free and sovereign in himself. In place of this feeling of freedom and sovereignty, that so exasperates those who seek to administer or reform India, the Indian too would have then acquired the Western man’s innate sense of total subordination to the prevailing system, a subordination of the mind that man in the West has always displayed irrespective of whatever the system was in any particular Western phase, whether it was a despotic feudal oligarchy, a slave society like that of ancient Greece and Rome, a society of laissez faire, or of marxist communism, or the currently ascendant society of market forces.

Notwithstanding the prosperity and affluence that the West has gained during the last forty or fifty years, the innate consciousness of the Western man seems to have remained one of total subordination to the given system. At the level of the mind he is still very much the slave of the imaginary republic of Plato and the very real empire of Rome. The consciousness of the Indian people would have also been moulded into the same state of subordination as that of the Western man, if the attempts of the last two hundred years to Westernize or Christianise India had reached anywhere. And, even such slavery of the mind might have been a way out of the present Indian drift.

But perhaps such simple solutions to civilisational problems are well nigh impossible. It does not seem to be given to man to completely erase his civilisational consciousness and establish a new universe of the mind. Not even conquerors are able to so metamorphose the mind of the conquered. The only way such metamorphosis can be achieved is perhaps by completely destroying the conquered civilisation, eliminating every single individual, and starting afresh with an imported population. This is what occurred, more or less, in the Americas and Australia. India has so far been saved this denouement at the hands of Europe, though not for any lack of trying.

If the Westernisation of India is not possible, then we shall have to revert to our own civilisational moorings. We shall have to come back into our own Chitta and Kala. Ridding ourselves of the Western ways of thought and action, we shall have to start understanding ourselves and the world from our own civilisational perspective. This effort to understand ourselves and our Kala will probably be similar to the way Vyasa, in his Mahabharata, surveys the complete story of Indian civilisation, explores its diverse seekings, its ways of thought and action, and then, shows a path that is appropriate to the Kali Yuga. Or, perhaps it will be like the way Srikrishna offers Arjuna a glimpse of the Universe and on the basis of that view of the world, the Visvarupa Darsana, shows him the way out of his dilemma. In any case, we shall have to form a view of the world and the present time, from our own perspective, before we can find a path of our own.

This task of having a new Visvarupa Darsana for ourselves, and searching for a path of action in the light of that Darsana, has be performed by all those who are closely connected with the Indian tradition and have a deep sense of respect for it. It is, however, important that those involved in this exercise are motivated by compassion for fellow beings. And, for that to happen the beliefs of the people of India and their ways of thought and action will have to be given priority over anything that is written in the texts. To be tied mindlessly to the words of the texts has never been the Indian way. The Indian Rishis never believed themselves to be bound by any text. It is true that the Rishis of India do not often negate or denigrate the text, their preferred style is that of starting with the text and then interpreting it in newer and newer ways. That is how Vyasa could stand in the river and loudly proclaim the greatness of the women and the Sudras in the Kali Yuga.

The direction of a civilisation is determined by meditating on its innate consciousness and its sense of the creation and unfolding of the universe. And that probably is the task of the Rishis. But it is the ordinary Grihasthas who carry it forward in the determined direction. And Grihasthas are all those who are engaged in the mundane routine of life. Those who are adept at scholarship, or are skilled in cooking, or are engaged in agriculture, or in various arts and crafts, or those who are familiar with the modern sciences and technologies, or are running modern industry or trade, or those who have learnt the art of running the state, and its administrative and coercive apparatus, all of them are the Grihasthas, who collectively are charged with the duty of carrying the civilisation along its preferred direction and helping it realise its seekings and aspirations.

Even when the direction is lost and the seekings and aspirations become unclear, the routine of life keeps going on, and therefore the Grihasthas have to keep performing their assigned tasks even during such times of drift. They cannot shut off the routine to start meditating on the overall direction that the civilisation may take. Therefore it is ordinarily true that the the politicians, the administrators and the managers, and even the scholars of a civilisation should concentrate on the day-to-day running of society, and not let themselves be distracted by fundamental doubts about the state of the civilisation.

But there are times when the direction that a civilisation is to take is so thoroughly lost and the drift is so acute that the daily routine of life itself becomes meaningless. It seems that today India has reached that situation. This is possibly the nether end of one of those cycles of decay of Dharma and its re-establishment that keep recurring, according to the Indian conception. At such times the Grihastha also must help with his skills and energies in finding a new direction and a new equilibrium for his civilisation. The present is a time of crisis for Indian civilisation. And, we have to shepherd all our energies, and all our skills and capabilities, towards making a single-minded effort for getting out of the crisis.

Once we seriously get down to the task, it may not turn out to be too difficult to find a new direction for Indian civilisation. To redefine our seekings and aspirations, our ways of thought and action, in a form that is appropriate and effective in today’s world may not be too hard a task after all. Such re-assertions and re-definitions of civilisational thrust are not uncommon in world history. For every civilisation there comes a time when the people of that civilisation have to remind themselves of their fundamental civilisational consciousness and their understanding of the universe and the time. From the basis of that recollection of the past, they then define the path for their future. Many civilisations of the world have undergone such self-appraisal and self-renewal at different times. We ourselves, in our long history, must have many times engaged in this re-collection and re-assertion of the Chitta and Kala of India. We need to undertake such exploration into ourselves once again.