The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon

Ravi Kumar

WorldVoices: Ravi Kumar, Host


My theme for this issue ties in with Barbara's introductory remarks about the Hindu custom of pressing palms together and saying Namaste when we meet and part company. It is a reverential gesture that recognizes the supreme being in each one of us.

The custom comes from a belief that every human being and all living creatures carry this supreme being as soul, which cannot be perceived with the senses but which can be intuited by paying attention to the life within us and to the sacred texts of Vedanta, the Upanishads, where we learn about Brahman, the Godhead, the unmanifested principle of all manifestations.

Juan Mascaro has translated a passage from the Kena Upanishad as follows: Who sends the mind to wander afar? Who first drives life to start on its journey? Who impels us to utter these words? In answer to such questions, a refrain that runs throughout the Upanishads with minor variations declares, That thou art, other than whom there is no seer, hearer, thinker or agent.

My friend Sridharan, in his distillation of the teachings of Vedanta, says this (personal correspondence):

"Hindus do not worship different gods but different forms representing one God. God is defined as Pure Consciousness, Chaitanya in Sanskrit. It is difficult to deny the existence of God because we cannot ask the question without being conscious!"

He adds,

"Vedanta in one stroke, through a beautiful aphorism, says TAT TVAM ASI, translated as 'Man and God are one and the same.' That indeed is the knowledge our scriptures are communicating to us."

In Hindu philosophy, awareness substitutes for attention. For most of our lives we are not aware or not paying attention to that which cannot be described by words but can only be experienced if we pay attention.

To quote Sridharan again,

"Science is a matter of discovery and religion is a matter of revelation. Vedanta is scientific to the extent that it is a matter of discovery because it is urging one to discover the happiness within oneself!"

We want scientific proof for everything. But science itself has reached a stage where it cannot answer all questions, and fortunately, we have not stopped asking questions related to the intuitive awareness of our need to make reverential gestures. We may be losing our reverence, even as we continue to pray as Christians or to press palms together as if we are greeting a living god in each other, as Hindus do, often automatically these days. But in our striving to make reason and sensory proof the absolute against which we evaluate existence, we are also awakening to what we are neglecting: the human capacity and longing for ways of expressing the fundamental mysteries of creation.

I welcome conversation about our need for reverence and about the quality of attention that must be paid to ourselves and our world if we are to become fully human and thereby reveal our divinity.