A Sadhu's Polemic

Shivaji K. Moitra

© Copyright 2002 by Shivaji K. Moitra


Photo of a Sadhu.

The train had been running at a good speed that winter night. Only the continuous rattle of its wheels on the rails pervaded the peaceful silence within the dimly-lit coach. But to the ears of the sleepy passengers the noise came as a lullaby rather than a nuisance in the quiet of the night. They were all sleeping inside the crowded coach in all possible ways and positions, some sitting and leaning against the bodies of their fellow passengers who had been dozing off in the same position, some stretched with their arms under their heads and legs folded up and sleeping with their heads in opposite directions so as to accommodate two on a single berth and still some curled up on the floor of the passage and corridor with their knees tucked inside their stomachs. Most of them were headed for Allahabad where one of the biggest spiritual events on earth was to take place---The Maha-Kumbh Mela. It takes place once every 12 years drawing some 10 million pilgrims and holy men from all over the country of India.

I yawned and closed the Bengali novel I had been reading in the feeble light of the electric lamps to drive away sleep. But there was no place to recline for a nap. So I looked at the only other person still awake in the coach.

 He was a sadhu, sitting calmly on the corridor just to my left. He was a middle-aged man with a lean body, a light skin and a face older than his age. His beard was dark and long and so was his hair that was neatly coiled like a serpent on top of his head and tied with a string of beads. He wore a piece of saffron cloth around his waist which crossed his knees like a frock and another piece was thrown over his bare body in the fashion of a towel. A long chain of rudraksha-beads hung from his neck that rested on a book of religious scriptures he had been stooping over to read. It was only an hour after midnight and a long night still threatened to pull down my heavy eyelids. Yet there was only one thing I could do to stop myself from tumbling over the other passengers---draw the holy man into a tete-a-tete. But sadhus live a spiritual existence and share no common interest with worldly people like me whom they generally try to avoid. Most of them come to renounce this world after being stung by some painful tragedy in life or some unfortunate incident that had robbed them of the very aim and purpose of their lives. When a man has no one waiting for his love and compassion, no one to bestow on the sweet fruits of his labours and no promises to keep, the meaning of life changes irrevocably and he becomes a sadhu in pursuit of the ultimate truth---God.

“Babaji,” I said after much hesitation, “I am going to Kumbh. But I am a lesser mortal trapped in the quagmire of ignorance, greed, lust and envy; can I hope to hear a few words of knowledge from your pious lips?”

 The sadhu raised his head slowly, looked at me with his piercing eyes and when he was sure I wasn’t jesting a stiff indecisive smile appeared between his drooping moustache and his copious beard.

 “My son,” he commenced in a soft voice, “perhaps the two most precious gifts from God to Mankind are silence and loneliness. No wonder, it is only when a man is alone amidst the peace and serenity of nature that he is closest to the Almighty. And it is only then that his mind grasps the unique beauty and mind-boggling diversity of nature on our planet and endeavours to appreciate the power of God. Man being himself the most wonderful product of nature cannot live detached from it. However, it is only when one becomes sad and is all by himself that he can find time to stand and stare at the uniqueness of the earth, the moon and the sun and everything else which points towards the majestic hand of that Grand Creator called God.

 Aloofness and tranquility helps your mind to get detached from the humdrum of your hectic life, your unending duties and desires and float freely into the domain of imagination. Then you get to ponder over yourself, your own very existence or may be your triviality against the backdrop of the huge earth, the solar system, the limitless universe and the endless space in which all float. It isn’t surprising that all the great ideas of man emerged only in times of his aloofness and the concomitant placidity of mind, be it Newton’s Laws of Gravity, the Principle of Archeamedes or Darwin’s theory of The Origin of Species. Moreover, when Man thus finally starts to think great, he grows wise and comes to understand the great truth that his self-esteem, his ego, his riches, his victories and failures have no place whatsoever in God’s scheme of things. In His kingdom of eternal time and limitless space the existence and the pride of the humanity are but dismissed with a whiff of indifference.

 However, Man is thoroughly indebted to the Almighty for the simple reason that he has been endowed with a mind sophisticated enough to comprehend it. And perhaps that is why he toils incessantly to unravel the mysteries of the origin of the Universe and his own self as well.

 Nevertheless, God speaks to you through the moaning of the wind blowing across the woods, the resonant murmur of brooks gliding down their pebbly coarse through the mountains and the humming of bees fleeting over the recemes of redolent wild flowers. He never fails to show you your place in the cradle of Nature. It isn’t astonishing then that when you are confused and your mind is agitated or sulky, the mountains beckon you and the seas draw you towards their timeless shores. At every step He reminds you that you are inseparable from Mother Nature and warns you against riding on your misplaced pride and arrogance to establish a separate identity away from the vivid colours of flowers, the songs of birds, the swashing of the seas and the pristine silence of the woods. But unfortunately, the naïve and the foolhardy, of whom there is no dearth in this world, always miss the point time and again. Fuddled with the ill-conceived notion that Science has the power to do and explain anything and everything on the face of the earth, they brashly dismiss the idea of God forgetting the simple truth that science itself is nothing but Man’s endeavour to understand God and his mysterious ways. Although, armed with the power of science Man has been able to carve out for Himself the most favourable niche on earth by subjugating or destroying all other life-forms and has also succeeded in protecting Himself to a great extent from the vagaries of nature. But still the catastrophes like earthquakes, cyclones, floods and droughts remain outside the manipulating power of humanity. Moreover, has science yet succeeded in building a single living cell?

 The crux of the problem lies in the unfortunate situation today where the atheists have become the self-appointed godfathers of the scientific community and these arrogant people because of their invincible ignorance about life and the unique conditions that made it possible to evolve on this planet have been systematically driving Mankind towards its own extinction by using their half-baked infantile knowledge of science in destroying our eco-system and natural habitat which took millions and millions of years to take shape. Isn’t it then pretty amusing to hear Man speak about his future with such confidence and arrogance when even the mighty Dinosaurs could become extinct after having roamed the globe for a time 70 times longer than Man has been around so far? Nevertheless, dazzled by the innumerable material benefits of science and the unforeseen comforts it has made available to man, he more often than not gets himself into thinking that he is the supreme intelligent being in the universe. But the moment he tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding the gigantic events unfolding in the skies every moment he is faced with problems the solutions to which are perhaps beyond the cognizance of the human brain. Naturally, that is precisely the amusing situation when you wonder what is awareness and how your brain thinks what you wish to think. Perhaps you shall never find out the truth because in understanding your brain the creation is trying to understand its Creator.

Nothing however affects a man more drastically than a personal tragedy. It even metamorphoses the scientific man into the philosophical man. It reminds him of the limitations of his powers when dealing with the inevitable and the foreordained path of nature. The point is that the arguments in support of the existence of some supreme power are far too strong and overwhelming to be dismissed with the present level of man’s knowledge and intelligence. True, God just cannot stop you from building or using an Atom-Bomb or say, step in to save the world’s poor from hunger, pain and injustice. But He has certainly given you a brain superior from that of all other animals and sophisticated enough to foresee and understand the situations which apparently make you to lose faith in Him are but the direct consequences of mankind’s grave indifference and dispassion for the eternal forces of nature.

 Quiet contemplation can even turn the hardcore atheist into a believer. If you have the time and disposition to stand and watch a chick hatch or a caterpillar withdraw into its cocoon and emerge a butterfly or a bird build its nest or a cat shifting its kittens to safety by the scuffs of their necks, you can no longer ignore the concept of God---the supreme driving force that ensures the harmonious coexistence of each one of the tremendous variety of life forms including the meekest and dumbest of nature’s creatures. With the advancement of science and the break-neck pace of technological development man today is in a position to look deeper and deeper into his own body as well as into the mysterious depths of the universe. Ironically however, the nearer he gets towards understanding the complexities involved in either case the further he finds himself from the truth and his ultimate goal! The ancient Hindu religious texts rightly say that while knowledge increases by arithmetic progression, ignorance simultaneously increases by geometric progression.

 Whereas this by no means should be construed as an argument to stifle the indomitable curiosity and inquisitiveness so inherent in man, it must though convince man to proceed towards enlightenment both without forgetting his humble roots in nature and without a prejudiced mind that rejects the Supernatural---the mother of anything and everything natural.

 The great Indian Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the ancient books of wisdom like The Upanishads and The Puranas have been stressing this approach in Man’s quest for knowledge. Isn’t it astonishing that scientists today are confirming the same old truths which the ancient religious scriptures of the Hindus had written about nearly five thousand years ago? Don’t you get the vivid descriptions of flying-chariots, sound-seeking and fire-spitting arrows in The Ramayana and that of the telescope in The Mahabharata? And in The Mahabharata, Sri Krishna---The Lord and Charioteer tells Arjuna that there are millions and millions of solar-systems in every hair of his body. Today, it is known that every atom is a miniature solar-system while astronomers say that there are numerous solar-systems like our own in the Universe.

 You can hear God, you can feel God and you can even see God every time everywhere once the understanding seeps into your consciousness that everything in this Universe has been created from nothing and shall ultimately dissolve into nothing, which is called ‘Parambrahma’.

 The shrill cry of a hungry child shattered the quiet and interrupted the discourse. It roused the passengers who began to move up and down the corridor to the toilet and that ended the peaceful ambiance of our profound discussion.

 “Baba,” I said, “you have taught me a great deal today; I would have been so happy if you were a teacher.”

 “I had been a Lecturer of Physics for 12 years,” he said before a deep long yawn.

 I looked at him now with great awe and veneration. “Indeed! Philosophy begins where Science ends,” I mused.

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