It wasn't like any other lazy day in the hostel. The hostel corridor, the timeless witness to the collective frustrations of the students, has woken up to unfamiliar sights and sounds of Bhakti. The cracky window panes, defiled by punk rock and bikini clad models, has sought divine ablutions, as it resounds with Anupam Jhalota’s overused, classic anthem of bhakti, Om Jai Jagadish Hare. Lips which are so used to the sweet spittings of gaalis, are muttering prayers everywhere.
A few are willing to take the extra step. Kowtowing reverently in front of the snake castle, an enterprising student prays, “Oh Nagadevata, Please save my Physics paper. I will bring one liter of milk every day for you. “
Raj Kumar Hirani, the director of the cult movie, 3-Idiots, captures poignantly in this scene, the essence of a living myth, now evolved into an embedded chip inside the archetypal Indian brain. You don’t believe me? Next time when you are entering your favorite religious place of worship, observe how your mind, in a pavlovian way, automatically opens the long database of wishes and dreams and supplicates before the divine providence.
So what? You may ask! Before I get into it, let me share what provoked this whole thing.
One fine morning, my father was zealously listening to the story of Bhakta Prahlada, narrated by one of the most popular harikatha exponents in Chennai, weaving the story, in her inimitable style, with her cutesy, cherubic expressions, interspersed with beautiful hymns written by poets and mystics. Although I enjoy such beautifully narrated stories intellectually, I often wonder if it’s some sort of vicarious spiritual entertainment, aimed at the religious minded, by rehashing good-ol’ utopian stories of devotion, to escape from the pressing worries of the insanely chaotic world the ardent devotees are living in.
In the story of Bhakta Prahlada, as she narrated beautifully, his father, the evil demon king Hiranyakashyap, resolves to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha by Lord Vishnu. He retires to the mountain of Mandara and begins his tapasya to gain powers to become invincible. Lord Brahma, pleased with his penance,offers him a boon, derived perhaps, from an poor decision tree analysis - How could I be killed? When and Where could I be killed? (I can see your nasty look:) Can't help it:) I studied in a B-School:) )
As Devas had intended, Narasimha manifested perfectly as per the flaws of the demon's poor analytical skills and kills Hiranyakashyap to bring justice to the world.
When I heard this story, I began to wonder, how could somebody do a penance with a spirit of vengeance and still be rewarded with a boon? My little experiences of meditation have made me realize that it is possible to experience meditation only out of nothingness. In simpler terms, meditation happens only when I am in a space where I want really nothing and and I come closer to being nothing. How could I believe this story then? I raised this question to a Yogi from Bihar School of Yoga. She pointed out that the 3rd chapter of Patanjali Yoga Sutras clearly state that it is possible to manifest things by the power of dedicated concentration. These boons are borne out of such arduous penance in focusing the mind towards the desired object. However, he had to be killed to uphold the virtue of Dharma.
Not fully satisfied by the answers I got, I decided to find out the answer from Physics. Quantum mechanics solved the riddle for me.
In the movie, "What the Bleep Do we know", Dr. Amit Goswami, explains the essence of Quantum mechanics with a wonderful line which often intrigues me.
“In quantum physics, objects are not determined things. Objects are possibilities. Possibilities of what? Possibilities of consciousness to choose from”
If this sounds little dizzy, It's perfectly okay. That's how it is meant to be!
Dr. Amit Goswami explains this further in the documentary Quantum Activist. Consciousness is one of the those subtle, ineffable things to talk and intellectualize about. As you and I wake up every day, the immediate consciousness we experience is called as the Ego. If objects are possibilities, then it means that if we begin to place our intentions, it should manifest as objects. It never happens. Why??
It's because, we are intending in ordinary states of consciousness. Intending is nothing but thinking in such a state. Consciousness doesn't choose in these ordinary states of consciousness. To manifest our intentions, we have to get into altered state of consciousness.
Yeah, whatever! Why create such a big issue out of this. You may be asking. Look at temples all around. We see this myth debased into a form of a venal transaction deal played with Gods for fulfilling our desires. This myth has spawned a huge industry worth millions simply to satiate the insecurities and fears of devoted millions. When I had been to Brihadeeshwara temple sometime back, I heard the pujari enthusiastically chanting a new religio-business mantra while doing the archan, “C2C Project Management Namyaha", much to the glee of an NRI who wanted to seek blessings for his new business project in US!
While we may never stop chanting prayers and asking the Divine to get all that we are destined anyways to receive, who knows, one day, we might suddenly experience what it is to be prayerful without any need to say a prayer! Amen!
PS: In Great Myths, I shall be looking at various myths and try to demystify them. as I see it. Your comments, brickbats are most welcome!