Perfect Teacher, Idea Of Another Era

S Radha Prathi Nov 25, 2015,

A trip down the annals of history reveals that man did come up with ingenuous methods of facing obstacles that puzzled the lives of people time and again. While kings and leaders resorted to politicking and wars, seers and godmen handled the crisis in their own way. It is interesting to explore a phase of mass education that moulded the thought process of India half a millennium ago via unconventional teachers.

India was undergoing a phase of spiritual darkness and turmoil during the 15th century AD. There was insurgence of new religions into the mainstream of the country. The local masses were ignorant due to the lack of education and the looming presence of the caste system. People struggled with their thoughts and feelings and battled with the inequality that dampened their spirits.

This phase caused a lot of concern to a section of people who sported rational thinking. They recognised the root of the problem. They realised that the common man was not in a position to comprehend the various tenets of Hinduism as they were not conversant with Sanskrit. Knowledgeable but gre-edy men exploited the situation to their gain and filled their coffers while lesser mortals wallo-wed in ignorance and poverty.

It was during this crucial time that a galaxy of men such as Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vijayadasa, Sripadaraja, Vyasaraja, Vadiraja, Gopaladasa and Jagannathadasa led the masses of Karnataka and neighbouring states to realise a number of home truths at the social, domestic and spiritual levels.

The god men did not merely encourage the masses to understand the infinite compassion of God but also made them recognise values like integrity, compassion, fraternity and equality. They also helped the common man to ponder over profound, unanswered questions related to death, what happens in life after death, the power of the creator, among other things.

Though not all the mentioned Haridasas were contemporaries, they followed a very simple and uniform modus operandi to spread their message of love and learning. They composed meaningful lyrics in the common man’s language. They composed these poems in haunting but simple tunes and sang them as they walked the streets to collect their alms for the day. Needless to say that the Devaranama format of singing adopted by most of these dasas had a mighty impact on the masses for it literally encapsulated just about every basic aspect of learning in the aural form.

The lyrics dealt with a number of everyday subjects of interest but one could not simply miss the spirituality that laced these songs. The rhetoric questions in the lyrics awakened the common man to his failings and misconceptions. When they heard the ancient epics and Puranas by way of songs, the stories seemed to have solutions to their questions and problems.

Seamless blend
The lyrics were certainly a wonderful blend of literature, music, and devotion. The very fact that they are comprehensible and relevant even today speak volumes about their validity and substance to a large extent.

Scholars of literature, history, sociology and theology cannot afford to overlook the contributions of the Haridasas. The contributions of these great walking encyclopedias on the subject of human life and its nuances have certainly stood the test of time.

The Haridasas, who enumerated the essence of life, shined as living examples of what they taught. They lived altruistic lives ideally tempered with humanitarian and ethical values.

The moot question at the end of this elucidation of the 15th century teachers is, why are school teachers and lecturers today not able to recreate the magic of these great educators anymore? One would think that with the aid of modern science, state-of-the-art infrastructure, qualified teachers and a mission to elevate mankind through education, the situation would be a cake walk. Apparently, that does not seem to be the case!

Teachers have not been able to identify the learning needs of the students and connect with them effectively. The reasons for this abstract gap in a conventional educational system zeroes in on some harsh realities. A random survey points out to a total lack of the
important package of commitment, passion and knowledge amongst the teaching lot.

The parents are worried about the results while the students want to be “done with” studying as soon as possible! Today’s teachers could take a leaf from the lives of the Haridasas who seemed to be a composite whole of the perfect “teacher material.”

Faith Can Move Mountains

Radha Prathi, Nov 9, 2015

When all semblances of hope leave us and we find ourselves in a state of deep despondency our innate faith in the supreme power can rejuvenate our spirits.

All religions and psychology believe in the power of faith. When the human mind is in a state of deep despair, constructive conviction and a sense of deep devotion can defy all odds. In other words, faith can move mountains.

A tale from the Vishnu Purana upholds the power of faith in a spectacular manner. Hiranyakashipu’s arrogance and atrocities knew no bounds after he received a boon from Lord Brahma which insured his life by ensuring immortality. The clauses in his request seemed to be free from loopholes.

He had sought, “No one should be able to kill me, neither Devas or Daithyas, man nor animal, no instrument metallic or weapons made of bones should harm me, the venue of my death should neither be on earth or in the skies, it should not be inside or outside of a building, the time of my demise should not be during the day or night.”

Even his young son Prahalada, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, was not spared of his torture.

The megalomaniac made many attempts on the young boy’s life, just because Prahalada had reposed undying faith in the mercy of the Lord. When the young prince emerged unscathed each time, the egotistic father became more enraged.

He threw a challenge to the prince and asked the staunch devotee whether his god was omnipresent and omniscient.

When the lad answered in the affirmative, the Asura, randomly threw his mace at a pillar in his royal court and asked if Lord Vishnu could emerge from the post and save his follower. Almost immediately, the pillar shattered.

A fascinating form which seemed to be a combination of a man and a lion emerged from the spot at the twilight hour.

Narasimha approached Hiranyakashipu menacingly, picked him up and walked to the threshold of the court, placed the demon king on his lap and used his sharp nails and kept tearing at the entrails out of the king’s abdomen till he died.

Everyone who watched this gory act was filled with awe. The power of devotion and truth was re-established by the protecting deity among the trinities without breaching the boon granted by the creator to his errant devotee.

Till this day, Prahalada’s resilient faith, which helped him go through agony and even battle death, is used as a sterling example for people who are in dire straits.