An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Pollution and Dharma – the Discarded Garments on the Banks of Mansarovar

As we reached the pristine Mansarovar Lake, its banks were full of garbage.  The Isha meditators took the large garbage bags that someone had gotten from Costco and cleaning of the banks started.  After a few hours of cleaning up, the team filled up at least 10 bags to the brim.  As I was walking by the secluded part of the bank with a small sand dune on the side, I saw something on the other side that simply shocked me!  One couple had left their clothes, right down to their under-garments on the bank.  Apparently, someone must have told them to “leave something of yourself behind at Mansarovar”.  Not able to part with their vices or weakness, they left their clothes and underwears!  What is a sick sense of sacrifice for those Hindus, is pollution for Mansarovar – the very reason why they are pilgrims.

Pollution and Dharma - the Discarded Garments on the Banks of Mansarovar #Spirituality Click To Tweet

I remember being agitated as to why Kailash and Mansarovar was not part of India, given its Spiritual importance and lack of utility for such things for the Chinese.  Why should, I had thought, a pilgrim from India have to line up for a Chinese visa, just to be in presence of Shiva?  After seeing the “sacrifice” of these self-important pilgrims, I was convinced it was a good thing for Kailash and Mansarovar.  For, I had seen what Hindus in their pilgrim zeal could do to a place with amazing spiritual value, if left to themselves.

It was at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.  It is known as Pashupatinath, Sadhguru had informed us, because this is the place where Shiva, the Swayambhu himself, had gone past the “animal nature” that comes along with a being and transcended the physical barriers.  He became enlightened at this place.

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Just think of it for a moment.  Shiva is the ONLY Swayambhu in Yogic history.  He got enlightened of his own accord.  He had no Guru.  Whatever Spirituality the mankind has ever tasted, came from this one being.  That being – became capable at this place.  This was, in other words, the Ground Zero of Spirituality on the Planet!

While walking inside this temple, in one of the areas outside with a lot of small idols, I came to a place with a lot of filth on the ground.  I had a piece of paper which I wanted to discard and thinking that it was the place for garbage I actually tossed it over.  Only when I looked at it closely, I realized that it was NOT a garbage area.  But an idol!  The garlands, the rotting fruits, the wrappers etc had piled on so much and rotting so badly that it appeared to be a garbage bin!!  The idol which probably was at sometime throbbing with conscious energy (prana) was no better than a garbage bin!!  At ground Zero of Planet’s Spirituality!

Before and during Diwali, there was a huge uproar from so many Hindus about why banning fireworks was an interference in Hindus way of life.  I wanted to discuss this issue then, but due to paucity of time on my hand and also knowing the high level of emotions, which would make the crux of my argument to be misunderstood, I did not approach this topic then.  But it is a topic that needs to be discussed and take to a better place by those who value the Hindu way of life, not as a belief system which competes in being sensitive – but which values our spiritual heritage.

When growing up, the fireworks of Diwali and the noise and smoke were a problem.  And, these fireworks were not a display of anyone’s spirituality but of ostentious nature.  The more one was in money, the more one would blast the fireworks.  There was no humility or spiritual element to it!  In fact, the people who had the fetish for bursting the loudest of fireworks also created the “tradition” of drinking and gambling.

On Diwali evening, the sham of prayer was followed by shameless display of fireworks and even more craziness of drinking and gambling.  So much so that for most in the North, Diwali became synonymous with Gambling and Drinking.  And more naked display of fireworks.

But Diwali was never about all these.  Dharmic relevance of Diwali was never about Gambling.  Or Drinking.  Or more and more fireworks!  It was about raising one’s consciousness.  About enlightenment.

ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya |
Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya |
Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

The darkness and the light as conceived by our Sages had nothing to do with fireworks or crackers or even a lamp.  The darkness and light alluded to by our Sages is far more fundamental to existence.  It is the touching of the primordial.  For, something as central a time as Diwali cannot be any less important than an invitation to experience the divine.

Yet, what have we made it to be?  A referendum on fireworks?

From Mansarovar’s discarded garments to the garbage like idols of Pashupatinath to the “tradition” of Gambling and Drinking on Diwali – is NOT the Hindu way of life.  It is not Dharmic.  It is a reflection of lack of Dharma, which is everywhere.

After all, we have reduced Yamuna – where Krishna pranced into no more than a sewer today.  Ganga and every other river – that we have held as Divine mothers – have been dumped with chemicals, sewer, filth, excreta to make those living Goddesses who have nurtured us and the many small and most amazing beings through many many millennia.

Ganga’s water is holy because it was where so many beings and Sages who could consecrate the very air we breath.  Those who gave Prana to a mere metal or a stone with the intimate knowledge of the basics of existence.

That is the legacy and treasure that we – with our narrow understanding of Dharma – contaminated and destroyed!

As those on Dharmic path, it is not for us to wait or be dictated by others on how Diwali should be celebrated.  It is not upon others to define the traditions of the temples or what one must do at Mansarovar or Kailash.  It is upon us.  Without the light that the Sages bestowed upon us, we would have been a populace of made up stories and useless beliefs.  Not those who were pushed to know one’s own self deeply, intimately and completely!  That we were capable of establishing Prana in metal to create a living manifestation of the complete divine is a gift of Dharma.

Our traditions are for us to fashion and define.  But they cannot be dictated by our worst ways.  We need to raise ourselves spiritually to be worthy of our traditions.  Then, and only then, we will know how to discard our anger, hatred, weaknesses on the banks of Mansarovar.  Not our undergarments!`

Featured Image: Wikimedia/Mansarovar

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