7.05.2010

The definition of goodness



What would it be like if Kannappa Nayanar lived in these times and still managed to achieve his goal!

Let’s revisit his lifestyle in the backdrop of the world as it stands today.

If Kannappa, alias Chinna was born into a tribal family in today's times, he wouldn’t have caught your attention or mine purely because he belonged to a lesser society and might not have been as rich and been probably uneducated as well. Further more, if they continued to be hunters he would carry a gun, which would either be licensed or otherwise and he would be killing deer or other animals which are most probably endangered species.

Rolling back the life of Kannappa Nayanar, he was celebrated in his young age to have the valor of great king since he could take on a tiger single handedly at a very young age. If he tried that in these times, the "Save the tiger" campaign would have him behind bars.

He was born to his parents who were celebrated to be great administrators of their society. He grew up to be a courageous man but how does that matter – Where is the money? That fateful day when he went out hunting and found the Shiva temple on the hill, was the day he gave up his parents. To anyone, in today's times in any society, its so not the right thing to do. How irresponsible of a son, being the only child, to forsake his aging parents only to go and live else where. He was so completely wrong.

Meanwhile, Kannappa goes hunting, shoots down a deer or two, fills his mouth with water taken from a half dried up river and heads to the temple. He is only met with shock over the fact that he brought a bloody offering. Dripping all the way he makes it to the inner sanctum in an endless queue [he doesn’t have money to buy a quicker darshan]! He is met with disgust, horror and complete judgment for having come and stood in the queue with his bloody offering. But knowing Kannappa, he doesnt care. He simply keeps walking on into the temple to be met with the corrupt Brahmin priest who doesn’t let him go any further!

Such offerings are not allowed inside the temple and this blasphemy shall not be forgiven. None the less, lets assume he still made it into the temple every day with his offering he wouldn’t be allowed beyond the ardha mandapa to even try his best to do abhishekam to the Lord. Let’s sanction even that, should he have managed to get really inside he would have been thrown behind bars if he tried giving am abhishekam of the kind he had in his mind!

And despite breaking all the rules of having given up his parents, having killed endangered animals, having stood in a line with a bloody offering and having tried breaking the bars to do his abhishekam by pouring the water from his mouth on to the sacred Linga he still manages to frequent this temple.

One fine day, while standing in the queue he notices the eyes of the Lord bleeding on the Linga. He jumps the queue, to be met by the temple guards who hold him back and he struggles to get loose and manages to run into the main shrine. He takes the trishul hoisted nearby and digs his eye out and offers it to the Lord! There are screams outside and people stare on horrified at this daring act and no one knows how to react!!

And then the second eye bleeds and he takes up the Trishul again and places his foot over the Linga. This is it!! The last of the rebellious act! The crowd pounds inside to stop him from doing this complete act of defiance. Before the people, guards, police and all can get to him Lord Shiva appears and He is blessed!

What makes Kannappa Nayanar a good man? He did everything wrong. Till the Lord sanctioned his act, he was the worst one could have seen in terms of rebellion and non conformism to social rule despite the fact that he did it in complete devotion. Did anyone notice his devotion while we watch in horror over his acts of slaughter, and defiance towards the general rule of the public! Then why do we have so much garbage in our heads? The Lord proved us all wrong! It was the right thing to do!!!

Then how do we define goodness? How do we ascertain the rules of goodness when it can be proven wrong at any time? Isnt it scary to see intense spiritualism and devotion going in exactly the opposite direction of conforming rules of social living. How do we evolve when we got ourselves into this chaotic mess of existence? Is the only point of salvation the fact that Lord Shiva appeared and blessed him?

And even then we are so low, we wouldn’t learn. What’s next! This temple will sanction all devotees to come with offering of meat and blood because this is what granted Kannappa Nayanar his immortality! Is that all we learned from this episode? We would end up killing more deer, but we would scarcely give our eyes up for the Lord.

What is the definition of devotion, or goodness or spiritualism? And how are we planning to conduct ourselves going forward when we have so much to unlearn?

13 comments:

JC said...

Normally one would call it a 'coincidence' that for over a fortnight 'I' am in Mumbai and have just finished Shri Gurcharan Das's book 'The difficulty of being good'...

maha said...

i like...

YOSEE said...

Intersting premise, Kavitha.

Come to think of it, nothing is good or bad by itself. Its our reaction to events that makes them take on such definitions. Kannappar was blessed by Shiva in this story. There are other stories where some other gods struck down people in wrath over acts of "anaacharam" and "insubordination" to traditions.

I think of little children being threatened with " saami kannai kutthum !" when they casually ( without malice) "desecrate" pooja things by touching them before bath or eating the fruit before naivedyam ! Yet, the same kids are told stories of "soodi koduttha sudarkodi " and Sabari .

SN said...

very true, we have still to unlearn many things. Things in itself are not good or bad but the intention behind it makes it good or bad.And Lord Shiva could see this, but we as 'educated', 'urban' and 'civilized' people forget this very easily. We teach out children to play only with 'certain' kids, in school to be with those kids who get good grades,parrotize them to say few words of good manners and we as teachers and parents are happy that we have educated and civilized them.

JC said...

It is beyond human capability to judge what is one's goal in life and what actions one must perform to achieve that. Scriptures, like the Gita, say, however could act as guide, where it is indicated that the only purpose of man on earth is to realise the formless god and the gods wth forms while performing three types of actions from which there is no escape...

Thus it is generally indicated (in expressions such as 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", ie, all forms as family members of earth) that our actions in thought, physical performance, and speech should be directed towards the welfare of the society as a whole...

JC said...

The Hindu concept of 'maya', that is illusion, is symbolically indicated in the idols of Natraja Shiva that shows man as 'Apsmara Purush' under His right foot, virtually dust particles that feel like mountains!

It indicates humans and other physical forms, or souls, as images of Shiva Himself during different stages of evolution from near zero to infinity,,, but seen in the reverse order, obviously logically, because perfection was apparently achieved in four stages indicated in the story of the so-called 'churning of the milky-ocean', which would have allowed Him, the Supreme Bing, to review History (His stories) again and again that contain all apparent opposites ('good' as well as 'bad') we as His Own images also apparently get to see - related to a specific period or kaal that is getting reviewed by Him, Mahakal, through His innumerable eyes (visualise the phenomenon with the help of one's own images in the exclusive album keeping in mind evolution of one physically as well as mentally)...

JC said...

In one's day-to-day life, the observation of water in a vessel getting converted into innumerable tiny drops (in the form of steam when heated by a source of energy that is heat), collected in another distant vessel and regaining the original watery form after condensation, could help visualise what highly elevated yogis could apparently achieve when they believably disappeared at one place, to reappear at another remote place virtually instantaneously. And, also the formless god believably reaching perfection in zero or no time,,, and thereafter reviewing the phenomenon as 'action replays' of events performed in no time, seen through different eyes, which can be visualised with the help of knowledge gathered from the revolution of different planets in our solar system that take different time to complete one revolution around Sun (eg, one year taken by earth and 30 years in case of Saturn, and only 88 days in case of Mercury, the characteristic also reflected in humans believably as models of the universe)!

JC said...

If 'good' is considered as one side of the coin, 'bad' automatically becomes the opposite side of the same coin. And, what's 'good' for one at a given instant, or place on the globe, might be considered 'bad' at another place by some others at the same time, and so on,,, thus 'good' or 'bad' only are relative terms,,, and it is only the blank or inert middle part of the coin ('0') that can be said to remain as the absolute constant at all times...

JC said...

A literate person comes across many versions of the same epics, viz. Ramayana and Mahabharata (and / or the Gita as part of it), and many other stories and legends in different regions of 'India', in different languages, which generally relate with appearance of God, the generlly believable formless Supreme being, in physical form(s) to some devotee(s)...

One could thus perhaps visualise why the Gita advises one to remain unmoved under all circumstances by the opposites, which according to wise ancients result from 'maya' that is illusion, the deceptive, ever changing, images of the neutral or '0'...

JC said...

One is perhaps aware of our habiitat as planet earth, one of the members of our solar system, a nearly spherical 'heavenly body' that, unlike a man-made coin, doesn't have a flat blank side. The third side virtually doesn't exist and needs to be visualised as a thin line, called equator. Thus this coin has only a 'head' and a 'tail' joined together. Besides this, compared to human size, it is relatively infinite and could thus be visualised symbolically to have only 'good' and 'bad' (above and below the equatorial line, respectively) just as a mathematician considers +ve and -ve figures represented graphically on a 2-D figure...Thus in view of the hierarchy present in 'Nature' goodness can be expressed in words as good, very good, excellent etc...

JC said...

Maybe one could thus also visualise the concept of activation of 'kundalini' whereby a Yogi is supposed to join the energy stored in the 'mooladhar' or tail, along with the other chakras in the body, with that contained in the 'sahasrara' or head in order to become a true working model of the beautiful-most planet or heavenly body Earth, the physical form of Shiva the immortal...

JC said...

As a poet explained the phenomenon, to the effect, that our eyes see but cannot speak! And similarly, our ears hear but they too can't speak and, therefore, although our tongue has neither seen, or heard, etc., it is assigned the task of telling what eyes apparently saw, or ears apparently heard (that's why perhaps the advice "Don't believe in hearsay!"),,, and hence the realisation of the truth that a realisation cannot be expressed in words: truth is a matter of 'gut feeling'...

The other day, while trying to solve a puzzle (placing 8 numbers pieces within a square), 'I' expressed to 'my daughter' that there is an auto pilot in human brain that remains active all the time while 'we' apparently are engaged in various tasks. And it is this auto pilot that guides our hands to place the pieces at the right places... It was just within 5 minutes of 'my' saying this that 'I' placed the pieces correctly! No logic can explain that! Just as in the 'present' all are marvelling at the modus operandi of Octopus Paul in forecasting win of Team Spain in the World Cup Final, not believing that there could be just one 'eight-handed Durga's' brain behind it!

JC said...

There is an old saying in 'India': God can appear in any form... And the ancient wise reached the conclusion that all different appearing physical forms have the component of the same immortal Supreme Being within each one of them... But, they aparently couldn't reach the purpose of the apparent eternal drama or projection of His Own images in the past...