Sunday, 23 September 2018

Hinayana And Mahayana - 2

Many of the great Chaitya-halls were built between the time of Ashoka and the Christian era, but the Stupas which they contain are simple reliquaries. The Dagaba bears no image, though it is often ornamented with an Ashokan rail. Sculpture was in existence at this early date, but it seems to have been used always as a medium of secular commemoration, as at Karle and Bharhut. The religious symbolism of Buddhistic devotion seems to have been at this period the tree, the Stupa, the rail, the horseshoe ornament, and sometimes a footprint. Nor can we adequately realise the thrill of sympathy and reverence which these austere and simple forms were at that time capable of producing in a susceptible mind.

The recognition of the Bodhisattvas, however, which deal. It really connoted sooner or later the acceptance, more or less entire, of what may be called the Asiatic synthesis. And it too seems to go hand in hand with the worship of the personality of Buddha himself. It was in fact the emergence of a doctrine for which India has ever since been famous. It was an outbreak of the tendency known in Christianity as the religion of the Incarnation, a form of adoration by which Protestant England herself has well-night been torn in twain during the last fifty years. Whether or not Buddhism had before this inculcated the adoration of the Buddha's personality, no one who had read any of the early scriptures can doubt that she was always very ready for such a doctrine. There is a fine sentiment about every mention of the Teacher's name. One can feel the intense sacredness of each of his movements to the early recorder. And the worship of relics, so early as the moment of the Mahanirvana itself, is an evidence not to be set aside. The doctrine of the divinity of Buddha, and his miraculous birth into a world long preparing for his advent, must in the year A.D. 150, have been only the kystone of an arch already built. Here we have the picture of the self-projection in to the sphere of Maya of a soul immeasurably higher and sweeter than those dragged there by their own deeds. It is the theory which reappears in widely separate times and places under the names of Christ, Rama, Krishna, and Chaitanya. Even the Persian Bad would seem to owe the idea that makes him possible to this Indian "superstition," as it has been called.

This was the movement that placed in each new Vihara excavated at Ajanta its Buddha shrine. Whether Seven or Eleven is the older it is difficult to determine, but each contains its image in its shrine. This fact coincides with a further step taken about this time. The ancient abbey with its Bhikshugrihas began to transform itself into a university. Each of these new and more ambitious Vihars is a college as well as a monastery. We are very familiar, from the study of Burma and Japan, with the educational system in which every student is theoretically a novice of the monastery. Something of the same sort is true to this day of Oxford itself. And there can be no doubt that is obtained at Ajanta. It was with this emphsising of the function of the Sangharama as the abode of learning that the image of the great teacher became all important. For organised worship the Chaitya-halls always sufficed. The image in its shrine doubtless received a certain ritualised attention morning and evening - above all, incense was burnt before it-but its main purpose was to keep the students in mind of the great Guru, the divine teacher and ideal, in whose invisible presence every act was to be performed. It is this academic aspect of the life at Ajanta which speaks in the long rows of Viharas dug out within single epochs. Four to One can not be far removed from Seventeen, and this fact can only be accounted for in this way. Of the learning that was imparted in these monastic colleges we read in Hiouen Tsang. From the beginning the texts must have been recited constantly in the abbey-halls. But that secular learning also was sometimes cultivated, we are expressly told in the case of Nalanda, where arithmetic and astronomy were studied, and standard time was kept for the kingdom of Magadha, by means of the state water-clock.

Not all the sculptural developments of Ajanta are Kanishkan. The facade of Cave Nineteen, of some centuries later, shows in a wonderful manner the richness and variety of the elements to which the Mahayana had opened the door. Buddha is there treated not simply as the Guru whose every trace and footstep is sacred, but as a great historic character, to be portrayed in many ways and from many different points of view. He is being crowned. He carries the flag of Dharma. There is a freem in his attitudes and in the arrangement of the adoring figures by whom he is surrounded. At the same time, the recurrence of the chequer-pattern, instead of the Ashokan rail, now forgotten, shows the influence of Gandhara. And so the substitution of grinning faces for lotuses in the horse-shoe ornaments shows the overwhelming of the old purely Indian impulse by foreign influences. And so does the peculiar coat worn by the Buddhas. This garment appears to me rather Chinese or Tartar than West Asian. But it must be said that it is not purely Indian. What is the date of Cave Nineteen? Kanishka was A.D. 520. It is customary to assume that Nineteen is that Gandhakuti or image-house referred to in the inscription on Seventeen. Critics profess to find an affinity of style which groups them together. For my own part I must frankly say that to me this affinity is lacking. I believe the Gandhakuti to mean the image-shrine at the back of at the back of Seventeen itself. A pious founder might well count this and the cave and the cistern three separate works. This inference is confirmed by a reference I find in Hiouen Tsang to a Gandhakuti or hall of perfumes, i.e., doubtless, of incense within a Vihara in the kingdom of Takka. I can not imagine that Nineteen was made y the same hands or at the same time as Seventeen. I think it is considerably later and less conservative, and exclusively Indian. At the same time I think it must be the "great Vihara" of Hiouen Tsang, which he describes as about 100 feet high, while in the midst is a stone figure of Buddha about 70 feet high, and above this a stone canopy of seven stages, towering upwards apparently without any support. Making allowance for faulty translation in regards to terms, which by those who have seen the caves are used with technical regidity, this may offer a fair description of the cave as it would appear to one who saw it in the plenitude of its use and beauty. If this cave were, as I think, excavated about the year A. D. 600, then when the Chinses traveller visited the abbey in the middle of the century it would be the central place of worship and one of the main features of interest at Ajanta. But there is at least one other synchronism of the greatest significance to be observed in reference to Cave Nineteen. This is the affinity of the treatment of Buddha in its sculptures to those of Borobuddor in Java. It is as if the style were only making its first appearance. There is the same idea of costume, and the standing Buddhas have something like the same grace of attitude and gentleness of demeanour, but the process of idealising has not yet been carried to its highest pitch in this kind. There is in the carried to its highest pitch in kind. There is in the Javanesse Buddhas, as revealed in Mr. Havell's photographs of them, an the real remoteness with which these do not quite compete. Yet here is the promise of it. And the great bas-relief on the Stupa in the interior has the same look, is of the same quality. The expedition that colonised Java is said to have left Gujarat in Western Indian early in the seventh century, and this was evidently the conception of fine art that they carried away with them.

In this visit of Hiouen Tsang to the abbey, we have a hint of the marvellous cosmopolitanism which probably characterised its life. It is another way of saying the same thing, that is said with almost equal distinctness, by the Chitya-facade itself. Chinese, Gndharan, Persian, and Ceylonese elements mingle with touches from every part of India itself in teh complexity of this superb edifice. The jewel-like decorations of the columns without remind us of Magadha. The magnificent pillars inside carry the mind to Elephanta and its probably Rajput dynasty. The very ornate carvings of the triforium and the pillar-brackets, were originally plastered and coloured. The Stupa also once blazed with chunam and pigments. The interior must have been in accord, therefore, with the taste of an age that was by no means severe. The Vakataka house must have ruled over an empire in Middle Indian in which civilisation had reached a very high level. It must have been the centre of free and healthy communications with foreign powers. And above all, the old international life of learning must have had full scope in the abbey's hospitality. Buddha and the Bodhisattvas were only the outstanding figures in the divine world which included a constantly-growing number of factors. The little choultry outside is purely Hinduistic in its sculpure, as if to say that the order looked with no unfriendly eye on the less organised religious ideas and affections of the pilgrim householder. A mythological system which is practically identical in Japan, China, and India sheltered itself behind the Mahayana. All the sacred and learned literature of India was by it pur in a position of supremacy. Hiouen Tsang was as careful to pass on to his disciples the comments of Panini on Sanskrit grammar as more strictly theological lore. He was as eager for the explanation of Yoga-the secular science of that age-as for the clearing up of points about relics and shrines. India, in fact, as soon as the Mahayana was formulated, entered on a position of undisputed pre-eminence as the leader and head of the intellectual life of Asia.


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Hinayana And Mahayana - 1

Buddhism might well be divided historically by the students into the Rajgir, the Pataliputra, and the the Takshashila periods. Or we mightchoose for the names of our periods those monarchs who were the central figures of each of these epochs. At Rajgir these would be Bimbisara and his son Ajatashatru, at Pataliputra Ashoka, and at Takshashila Kanishka, the second sovereign of the Kushan empire. The epochs thus named would also be coterminous with the dates of the three great Buddhist Councils. No complete history of Buddhism could leave out of account the influence of the great Kanishka. For from his time, as we are informed by the Chinese travellers, dates that great schism of the Mahayana, or Northern Schools, which has carried with it China, Japan, and Tibet, while Burma, Ceylon, and Siam belong to Southern Buddhism, or the Lesser Vehicle.

A great haughtiness divides to this day the adherents of these differet schools. To the Northern School belongs the new recession of the scriptures published by the Council of Kanishka. To the Southern belong the simpler and more ancient works, amongst which are included the three Tripitakas.

The characteristic doctrine of the Mahayana, according to the disciples of Hiouen Tsang in the early eighth century, lies in the veneration of the Bodhisattvas, along with the one earthly and supreme Buddha. The Southern School, or Hinayana, does not profess to invoke the Bodhisattvas. But it is easy to see that under this brief definition there is indicated a wide divergence of attitudes and teaching. Anyone who studies a religious movement which has its origin in an Indian and Hinduistic teacher, is bound to notice two opposite influences which come into play almost simultaneously. First there is the highly abstract and nihilistic character of the personal realisation of the Master himself. No gods, no forms, no rites, and the unreal and phenomenal nature of the world about him, all this is the immediate and strongest impression made on the mind. Heaven must not be thought of, perfection is the only possible goal for the soul. And so on. But at the selfsame moment, by creating a profound sympathy for India, and the Indian way of looking at the world, the door is opened to all sorts of complexities, and the disciple may well end by accepting a thousand things each as unthinkable as the one or two he originally abandoned at the call of a higher truth. This must always be the twofold effect of an Indian teacher of religion on a foreign mind.

This very phenomenon we may which on a geographical scale in the history of Buddhism. Here the Southern countries, served byt he early missions, received a stricter and more personal impress of the deposite of faith actually left to his church by the Master.This system was atheistic, nihilistic, and philosophic in the highest and severest sense. Even in the reign of Ashoka we see the erection of rails, pillars, and Stupas, the glorification of holy places, and the worship of the sacred relics, but never a trace of the multitudinous extraneous elements which were later to be accepted.


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Ancient Abbey Of Ajanta - 7

Outside the fort the city has been walled, and the river, circling within the walls, and the river, circling within the walls, has acted at the gateway of the city as a moat, over which even now stand the ruins of a grand old bridge of three arches. At the end of the road that once crossed this bridge, at what must have been the outer gate of the city, there a buttress-foundation, now treated as a sacred mound, where both Hindu and Mohammedans come to the worship the Mother. The trees that grow on it are the Neem and the Bo, the old Bodhitree, or Ashvettha. At their feet a few stones are red with vermilion, and broken glass bracelets tell of accepted vows.
 
So much for the mingling of historic and pre-historic! All through this countryside we find ourselves we find ourselves close to the remoter origins of Hinduism. It is a land of the worship of Miri-Amma, the Earth-Mother, in her symbols of the Neem and the pointed stone. There are temples of Hanuman, too, here and there. But thought I found a Brahmin chanting the worship of Styanarayana, in his own house, on the full-moon night, I saw no shrines to Shiva or Vishnu. This Bo-tree, on the Ajanta road, ma have sheltered a friars' Dharmashala in Buddhistic ages. Here, at this gate, Hiouen Tsang and his train, in the middle of the seventh century, may have stopped to pay toll, or to rest, on their way to or from the abbey, four miles distant. And the Bo-tree, growing here beside the Neem, may seem to the spirit of the place, with the memories it recalls of the peopled cloisters of twelve hundred years ago, a memento of what is a comparatively recent incident in the long long story of the land!


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Ancient Abbey Of Ajanta - 6

We forget that every age seems modern to itself, and that warm throbbing human life once filled these empty cells, that human love and conviction inspired every line and curve of their contour, and that human thought beat ceaselessly to and fro against their walls and screens, in its search to determine for man the grounds of eternal certainty. But even when we have answered these questions we have yet to answer one other, as pressing ,as important. How did all this activity come to an end? The history of the death of Buddhism in India has yet to be entered upon, in the true spirit of critical enquiry, but when it is undertaken, what vast areas will be found elucidated!

Here, in the neighbourhood of Ajanta, are many features of interest and possible significance. The railway is still forty miles away, and has not yet had time to derange the commercial relations of the grand old market town called Neri, encircled by its battlemented walls. Some eight miles to the north of the caves lies the postal town of Vakod. Is there any connection here with the word Vakataka? Four miles to the south on one side, and again four to the morth on the other, are the towns of Ajanta and Fardapur. Both are seats of Mogul fortification testifying to the strong and independent character of the country from early times. At Ajanta there is a palace and a bridge of some ten arches, with an enclosed pool, below which lie the seven cascades that lead to the monastic ravine.

In the grim old village of Fardapur these is another fort of Aurungzeb, which is now in use as a caravanserai. The whole aspect of the place is ancient and fortress-like, and the mode of building which obtains these throws a sudden light on what must have been the aspect of Rajgir, when Buddha entered it, in the days of Bimbisara five and six centuries before Christ. Every wall has a basis of pebbles and mortar; and upon this are reared blocks of baked earth, shaped like masses of masonry. They are broad at the base, considerably narrower at the top, and the slope from one to the other is slightly concave. Even the delicate brick battlements of the Moguls are built upon an older foundation of rubble wall. A similar mode of shaping earth obtains even so far east, it is said, as teh western districts of Bengal. Undoubtedly it is a method of unkonwn antiquity. The curving slant gives to every cottage the air of a fortification, which indeed it is, and from a mediaeval point of view a fortification of very admirable materials.

Even had the old walls of the fort not been visible under the Mogul battlements, we should have known that the place represented an ancient camp of the people, rather than the mere stronghold of an army of occupation. This is shown, in the first place, by its size. It is, in fact, a walled court or compound, containing a spring of water and a place of worship. Around it are quarters for hundreds of people, and at the gateways and corner-towers residences for officers. A whole population could take refuge here with their women and their cows, against the onset of an army, or the invasion of a tribe. The fact that it could have been worth while for a powerful government like that of Delhi to occupy so large a work at the close of the Deccan wars, in what seems to us now an obscure village, is a wonderful testimony to the strength and hostility which were the expression of thousands years of organised independence.

    ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd    
--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Ancient Abbey Of Ajanta - 5

But we must remember that for command of means the monks depended upon neighbouring kings and cities. It was an act of surpassing merit of excavate caves or adorn Chaitya-halls for religious communities. Kings remitted the taxes of whole villages, which thus became the monastery glebe. Noble men and great ministers devoted vast sums to the making of images, cloisters and shrines. There is an inscription in the Kuda Caves which shows that a whole family of king's officers, including the daughers-in-law, joined to contribute the expenses of the vaious definite items necessary for the making of a Bauddha chapel. In the Karma thus accumulated not one of this loving and obedient group must be left out! Here at Ajanta itself Cave Sixteen is made by a minister of the Vakataka princees known as Varahadeva; Caves Seventeen, Eighteen, and Nineteen by a minister of a tributary soverreign or great noble called Aditya; Cave Twenty by a man of evident wealth and distinction, whose name is Upendra Gupta; and the Chaitya-hall, Cave Twenty-six, by the abbot Buddha Bhadra with the special assitance of hsi subordinate Dharmadatta and his own disciple Bhadra Bandhu.

Throughout the west country it was long fashionable, even for houses that were themselves devoted to Shiva or to Vishnu, to make these benefactions to the Bauddha friars. And as time went on it became customary to add an inscription, with the prayer that the merit of the act might redound to the benefit first of the father and mother of the donor, and then of all living beings-a dedication that is still common amongst certain Buddhist peoples.

From Caves Sixteen and Seventeen, then, it can hardly be doubted that the great power, within whose territory Ajanta lay, was that of the Vakataka princes, whose sway is supposed on other grounds to have covered a large part of Central India, from the end of the third till the middle of the sixth centruies, their dynasty having been powerful enough to take a queen from the family of the great Chandra Gupta of Pataliputra, between A.D. 420 and 490.

Who were these Vakatakas? Where did they regin? What was the nature of their kingdom and their power? The inscription on Cave Sixteen claims that Harisena, the king under whom both it and Seventeen were excavated (A.D. 500 to 520), had conquered amongst other places Ujjain, Orissa, and Koshala. Are we to suppose from this that they were Rajputs reigning in Malwa, that country of which Hiouen Tsang said a century later, that it could only be compared with Magadha, as the home of learning? And were the tributary Asmakas-whose minister Aditya made Seventeen, Eighteen, and Nineteen-a mere local power, confined to the immediate neighbourhood? How urgently the history of India calls for students who will search it out in the light of its geography! An anxious antiquarianism has been very useful in providing a few data and starting -points for real work. But the day has come when we are able to realise that, except as the great stream of the Indian story carries it, even Ajanta has little value. We must know how it stood related to the life of its period; what it did for the world; who loved and served it; what joy they drew from it; and a thousand other truths about that living past which surrounded it birth. No one has yet troubled to depict the social conditions out of which it grew. Yet this is the very thing that we must know. The network of strong cities that must have surrounded every focus of ecclesiastical power and learning is non-existent as yet in the notional imagination. Yet only a detailed study of the whole countryside can give us the real clue to the development of sites like Ajanta.

    ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd    
--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Ancient Abbey Of Ajanta - 3

But a style creates a tradition, which persists long after the original reason for it has disappeared. Thus the horseshoe ornament and the Ashokan rail become a mannerism at Ajanta, diverging constantly further and further from their true intention; and by these progressive changes we can make a rough estimate of the ages of the caves. In Nine and Twelve they are used with obvious sincerity, reflecting the conceptions of their age, in the same way that the early printers of Europe laboured to make their machine-printed books look as if they had been written by hand. On Viharas Eight and Thirteen they do not occur at all. Evidently the founders were too early or too poor to indulge in such elaboration. Chaitya Number Ten had a timer front, which has fallen away and leaves no trace of its image or likeness, save in the panels sculptured in the rocks on either side. But these horse-shoe ornaments do not altogether cease till after Cave Nineteen. At first they are frankly windows in house fronts. over the cell-doors and run round the walls connecting one with another in simple dignity. In Caves Six, Seven and Fifteen we find the spaces filled with lotus patterns, and the semicircular opening no longer has a definite meaning. They are no longer windows. They are now only decorative. On the facade of Cave Nineteen foreign influences art at work. A horrible vulgarity has come over the workmen, strictly comparable to the degrading effect of European taste on Indian crafts today. Each of these once beautiful outlines is now filled with a hideous grinning face, altogether meaningless.. From the chequer-work which recurs here again and again (an ornament common amongst the Gandhara sculptures in the Calcutta collection), it is clear that these influences have come from the north-west. They are possibly Greek, as transmitted through Persia. There had been a great rapprochement between India and perisa in the course of the fifth century, and nowwhere is the crude secularising effect of the West on Indian taste better illustrated.

Yet nowwhere is the sober, synthetising power of the Indian intellect more visible. In spite of its eclecticism of detail, and daring romanticism in the treatment of sacred subjects, Nineteen at Ajanta remains one of the architectural triumphs of the world. It is the very flowering-point of a great civic life. The strong porch, brought forward on two solid pillars, suggests the presence and words of the leaders of men; the side-galleries, their supporters and attendants; while on the sill of the great window behind we have room and background for the anointing of a king or the lying -in-state of the dead.

We are accustomed to think of the hotels de ville of Belgium as the crown of the world's communal architecture. But Belgium has nothing, for simple unity and mastery, to compare with this. It dominates a small court, from which a false step would precipitate one down a steep Khud. Obviously the style was not invented for such a position. Here, as at a thousand other points, Ajanta merely reflects the life of India during one of the greatest periods of her history. Cave Nineteen remains, carved in imperishable rock, when all the buildings of its day have disappeared, a memorial of the splendour and restraint of Indian cities during the ages of the Gupta rule.

    ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd    
--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Ancient Abbey Of Ajanta - 2

Sixteen and Seventeen have inscriptions which, it is said, render them the heart of the matter; for they were built during or soon after the lifetime of the great Gupta, Maharaja Deva (Chandragupta 2, Vikramaditya, A.D. 375 to 413), by a sovereign who had married his daughter. And Caves Five to One were probably undertaken immediately after.

In any case, it is the first group, Caves Eight to Thirteen, that for hundreds of years formed the whole glory of Ajanta. Eight and Thirteen may probably have been natural caverns occupied tentatively long before the time of Ashoka by a handful of monks. Those were days in which kings rich cities, and great landowners could scarcely perform a work of greater merit than hewing out caves for the residence of monks. In course of time, therefore, thes natural recesses in the rock (which we imagine to have been the motive and starting-point) were transformed into simple monasteries by first enlarging the centre and then cutting tiny cells each with its two stone beds and low doorway, round the space, which thus acted as quadrangle or courtyard. Number Thirteen has, in addition to these, a small earthen verandah in front. Number Eight has not even this. It seems probable that the occupation began from two points more or less simultaneously, and afterwards worked inwards, for how else are we to explain the fact that Nine and Ten, standing side by side, are both Chaityas?

We imagine too that the first settlement was early, when faith was strong, and the living impress of the Great Teacher was yet fresh. For how else can we account for the strength that clung to the bare rocks by the torrent-side with such pertinacity, decade after decade? Were they some band of wandering teachers, we wonder, those first monks, appointed to preach in the countries on the Southern Road, a mission sent to the powerful empire of Ujjain, or an offshoot perhaps from the mother-communities at Bhilsa and Sanchi? In any case, the caves were valuable to them as headquarters during the wet season, when all begging friars are supposed to assemble for the time in some fixed dwelling-place; and during their absence as a body, for eight or nine months at a time, the work of excavation must have gone forward. Little did they dream of how well-starred were both the spot they had chosen and the day of their advent! WE can see, what they could not, close on twelve hundred years of development and gathering fame, the learning they were to send out; the beauty they were to build up; the kings who would delight to honour them; and roads from the far ends of the earth, all meeting on their threshold. Hiouen Tsang came here, in the middle of the seventh century after Christ, and speaks of the place as "a Sangharama constructed in a dark valley. Its lofty halls and deep side-aisles stretch through the face of the rocks. Storey above storey, they are backed by the crag and face the valley". It is evident here that the English translator-not having in his own mind the thing his author was describing-has rendered the text inaccurately. If we read, "it lofty Chaityas and deep Viharas at their sides", the statement immediately becomes luminous. Similarly, when later we are told that the great Vihara is about 100 feet high, and the stone figure of Buddha in the middle 70 feet high, while above is aa conopy of seven stages, towering upwards, apparently without support, it is evident that the great Chinese  traveller is speaking of no Vihara, but of the principal Chaitya of his own day(Nineteen or Twenty-Six?), and that the stone figure he describes is really the Dagoba it contains.

The first royal patronage extended to Ajanta must have been given at or soon after the time of Ashoka, when the Chaitya known as Cave Nine and the Vihara numbered Twelve were built. Every one who takes up the study of ancient sites in India finds his own indications of age. At Sanchi the gradual modifications in the pictorial treatment of the Ashokan rail give us a chronological scale which enables us to distinguish with absolute certainty no less than four different periods of building and sculpture. Here at Ajanta the time -unit that serves us from the first is the Chaitya-facade ornament taken in conjunction with the Ashokan rail. It would appear that the domestic architecture of the age was characterised by the rounded roof which we still see in the rocky caves of Ajanta; by the Ashokan rail, used as the front of a verandah; and by the horse-shoe window, breaking the line of the roof, or mansard. Now the instinct of cave makers was to make their fronts as closely as possible resemble the outsides of the buildings of their period.

    ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd    
--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Friday, 14 September 2018

The Ancient Abbey Of Ajanta - 1

Like the curves and columns of some great organ, runs the line of stone arches and colonnades along the hillside that faces to the sunrise, in the glen of Ajanta. Twenty-six caves there are in all, making one long level line, overhung by the rounded ridge of dark-blue stone that was undoubtedly chipped into shape and bareness long long ago, to emphasis that balanced uniformity which gives to this ancient abbey so much of its solemnity and beauty. As we first see the caves, from the boulder-strewn stream, some hundreds of feet away, they appear like a succession of pillared verandahs, broken once near the middle, and culminating in the distance, in the tall arched fronts of great Chaitya halls. It is thus that we first become aware of Caves Ten and Twenty-six, and are affected by their severity and regularity as if by music. In reality, Nine and Nineteen are also Chaityas. But both are slightly masked by masses of rock, and only Ten and Twenty-six stand out, in this first view.

How lonely and remote is this glen in which we find them! It lies crescent-shaped among its hills, so that the view from each monastery-cave seems closed upon itself. The torent that runs through it enters, as a great cascade, at the northern end, and leaves this rocky ravine without giving a hint of a world without, where twisting and winding are to bring it to a wider stream. Such are the sites that have ever seemed ideal to the monk. The murmur of running waters and the voices of the waterfalls make to his ear a perpetual plain-song, in unison with the intoning of ancient plasters and the chanting of texts. In the circling path of the sunlight measured against the green, its first rays at dawn and its last at cowdust, are signals for ringing of bells and lighting of lamps, for processions, and incense, and sprinkling of holy water. The quivering of leaves through the tropical day speaks of coolness and shadow, the environment of learning; and the solitude of nature promises remoteness from the world, the only possible environment of holiness. Such must Ajanta have seemed to the handful of monks who took up their abode in its natural caverns, perhaps a couple of centuries before Ashoka. The rough path by which they could climb to their eagle's nests of dwellings was a soon hewn by then patient hands into simple stairs. But even these were reached, from the north, only after arduous travel over the boulders by the stream side A perfect site for a monastery. It is difficult to imagine that amongst the scarped and rugged hillsides of Khandesh there could have been found another vale at once so lonely and so beautiful.

Twenty-six caves there are in all; numbered, in the unemotional fashion of official surveys, in serial order from north to south. In reality, however, they fall according to their ages into some four main groups. The first of these, containing Caves Eight to Thirteen, lies to the left of the stairs by which one reaches the monastery terrace. One arrives on that level between Six and Seven, and the first seven numbers form the third of the periods. Caves Fourteen to Nineteen constitute the second period; and Twenty to Twenty-six the fourth. Thus : -

13,12,11,10,9,8 : Period - 1
19,18,171,16,15,14 : Period - 2
7,6,5,4,3,2,1 : Period - 3
26,25,24,23,22,21,20 : Period - 4
--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online
   

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Bihar - 3

The peculiar significance of Bihar in the comity of the Indian peoples rises out of its position on the frontier-line between two opposing spiritual influences. To this day it is the meeting-place of Hinduistic and Mussalman civilisation. Sikh and Arya Samaji and Hindusthani Rajput pour down the waterway of the Ganges, to go no farther east than the twin-cities of Patna and Bankipore, and these stand face to face with the unified and Sanskritic civilisation of Lower Bengal. All sorts of modified institutions, representing mutual assimilation, arise along the borderline. Costume, language, manners, and habits of life are all full of this compromise. The old standard of culture, which even yet is not wholly dead, along a line stretching from Patna through Benares to Lucknow, required of the highest classes of Hindus the study of Persian as well as Sanskrit, and one of the most liberal and courtly types of gentlehood that the world has seen was moulded thus.

The fertile country of Bengal, closely settled and cultivated, organised round the monarchyo f Gour, and claiming a definite relation to Benares and Kanauj as the sources of its culture, cannot, at any time within the historical period, have been susceptible of chaotic invasion or colonisation. The drift of unorganised races could never pass through Bihar, which must always have been and remains to the present the most cosmopolitan province of India. It has doubtless been this close contiguity of highly diversified elements within her boundaries that has so often made Bihar the birth-place of towering political geniuses. The great Chandra Gupta, his grandson Ashoka, the whole of the Gupta dynasty, Sher Shah, and finally Guru Govind Singh, are more than a fair share of the critical personalities of Indian history for one comparatively small district to have produced. Each of the great Biharis has been an organiser. Not one has been a blind force, or the tool of others. Each has consciously surveyed and comprehended contemporary conditions, and known how to unify them in himself, and to give them a final irresistible impulsion in a true direction.

    ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd
--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Bihar - 2

It is also easy to infer that the learning which could be acquired at Taxila was somewhat cosmopolitan in its character. The knowledge of herbs is a comparative science, and Taxila was on the high-road to Persepolis and Babylon, as well as to China and Nineveh. It was the doorway of India, or at least the university which had grown up beside that doorway; and that it was known as such among other nations is shown by the fact that Alexander came that way in 326 B.C. For the purchase of foreign stuffs, for knowledge of the geography that lay beyond her own border, for foreign news and foreign learning, possibly even for secular science as a whole, India had no centre like Taxila.

It follows with equal clearness that for the headquarters of a strictly national culture one would look nearer to the valley of the Ganges. Even the least organised of systems will somewhere have its central ganglion; and the fact that the Indian ganglion lay two centuries later in Magadha, is proved by the retirement of Chandra Gupta to Pataliputra after his defeat of the Greeks.

It was evidently not absurd with the means then at the disposal of the crown to look from that distance to mobilise armies on the frontier. But if military plans could be carried out so far from their base as this, then we cannot object that Magadha was too remote to be the religious centre of the whole. Benares and Baidyanath are still left at its two extremes to tell us of the spiritual energy of its great period. The miracle that puzzles the imagination of historians-the sudden inception in the sixth centruey B.C. of conscience in place of religions of power-is, rightly viewed, no miracle at all. These religions themselves were always there; it was only their organisation that began with the date named.

The events of history follow sequences as rigid as the laws of physics. Buddha was the first of the faith-organisers, and first in the India of nation-builders. But Buddha could not rise and do his work until the atmosphere about him had reached a certain saturation-point in respect to those ideas which the Upanishads preach. The founders of religons never create the ideas they enforce. With deep insight they measure their relative values, they enumerate and regiment them; and by the supreme appeal of their own personality they give them a force and vitality unsuspected. But the ideas themselves were already latent in the minds of their audience. Had it not been so, the preacher would have gone uncomprehanded. Through how many centuries had this process of democratising the culture of the Upanishads gone on? Only by flashes and side-gleams, as it were, can we gother even the faintest idea.

It is partly the good and partly the bad fortune of Buddhistic movements in India that, from their association with an overwhelming individualised religious idea, they appear to us as a sudden invention of the human mind in such and such a year. We do not sufficiently realise that they, together with all the words and symbols associated with them, must have been taken from a per-existent stock of customs and expressions already long familiar to the people amongst whom Buddhism grew up. We imagine the great Chandra Gupta to have been the first monarch in India of an organised empire, but the words of Buddha himself, "They build the Stupa over a Chakravarti Raja-a suzerain monarch-at a place where four roads meet", show that the people of that early period were familiar enough with the drama of the rise and fall of empires, and that the miracle of Chandra Gupta's retirement to Pataliputra, thence to rule as far as the Punjab and the Indian Ocean, was in fact no miracle at all, since the India of his time was long used to the centralised organisation of roads, daks, and supplies, and to the maintenance of order and discipline.


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Bihar - 1

From Patna on the east to Benares on the west, stretch in the month of January fields of white poppies all abloom. In this Holy Land of the Buddhist nations blossoms today this flower of death. The earth where it grows was made sacred long ago by the feet of Buddha. At the site of the ancient Pataliputra, almost where Bankipore stands today, He entered the kingdom of Magadha. For ages they called the river-crossing Gautama's Ferry, and told how on his the river-crossing Gautama's Ferry, and told how on his last journey north He stood and watched the building of this first of its fotifications, foretelling the future greatness of the capital. In remote villages one constantly comes upon images of Buddha, worshiped inside or outside the temples of Brahman priests. In any field the peasant ploughing may turn up a relic or a fragment of carved stone. And under trees and bushes along the high-road one motes the three little heaps of mud standing side by side, that indicate a shrine of Jagannath the Lord of the Universe, name and symbol of Buddha himself. They have forgotten Him maybe, yet remember His memory, these simple worshipers of the Bihari villages. To far distant lands, and to scriptures written in a long-forgotten tongue, the modern organisation of scholarship has to go, to bring back to them the knowledge of Him whom under obscure names they worship to this day, in the very countryside where He lived and taught. A vague tradition of Infinite Mercy is all that remains amongst the unlearned of that wondrous personality. But this, after two thousand years, they cherish still. He belongs in a special degree to this peasantry of Magadha. There runs in their veins the blood peasantry of Magadha. There runs in their veins the blood of those whom He patted on the head as children. He taught them the dignity of man. He called upon them, as upon the proudest of his peers, to renounce and find peace in the annihilation of Self. To Gautama Buddha the peasant of Bihar owes his place in Hinduism. By Him he was nationalilsed.

Even in those stories of Buddha which remain to us it is explicitly stated that He sought amongst all existing solutions for the truth. This is the meaning of his traveling with the five ascetics and torturing the body with fasts. The first effort of a new thinker must always be to recapitulate existing systems and sound them to their depths. The Prince Gautama in the year 590 B.C., in the populous districts of the Sakya kingdom, awakening suddenly to the sense of his own infinite compassion, and to the career of a world-thinker, feels an overpowering need to meet with the scholars of his age, and makes his way, therefore, towards the neighbourhood of Rajgir in the kingdom of Magadha. From purely geographical considerations, we can see that there was doubtless another culture-centre, even so early as the age in question, at Taxila, in the extreme north-west. Indeed, towards the end of the life of Buddha himself, we are told of a lad who went there from Magadha-as European students of the Middle Ages to Cordova-to study medicine.


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Monday, 10 September 2018

RajGir : An Ancient Babylon - 7

Nor need we think that the city thus built was only a palace and its appurtenances. The fact that it actually became the new centre of population, forming the direct ancestor of the present village, shows itself two hundred years later, when the great Ashoka, desiring to build fitting memorials to Him whom the emperor delighted to honour, chose its north-western corner, on the left hand of the main gateway, whereat to place a stupa and Ashokan pillar with an inscription. AS the edicts carved by Ashoka on rocks and pillars have the character of proclamations, it follows that the rocks and pillars themselves partake somewhat of the nature of the modern journal, inasmuch as they were the means adopted to publish the royal will, and hence a position could never be selected for them at a distance from inhabited cities. The inscribed pillar at Sarnath was placed at the door or in the courtyard of a monastery. And similarly the inscribed pillars, whose fragments have been found at Pataliputra, were erected in the interior or on the site of the old jail as an act of imperial penance.

We may take it, then, that old Rajgir was really deserted at about the time of Bimbisara's successor, and if it was afterwards used as a royal residence, was so used at intervals, as Amber is now. Such then was the city, already ancient, through which Buddha Himself has passed time and again, and were He was held by all as an honourable guest. Across these fields and up and down these streets, now ruined, or within the massive cathedral-cave of Satapanni, there echo to this hour the immortal reverberations of the voice of Buddha.

Why did He come this was at all? Was it for the sake of the learned men who forgather in the neighbourhood of capitals? Was the famous University of Nalanda of after-ages, already, perhaps, a university, where one might come in the sure hope of finding all the wisdom of the age? It would seem as if, any way, He passed this spot with treasure already in the heart, needing only long years of brooding thought to fuse His whole Self in its realisation. Unless He was sure of the truth before He reached here, He could not have gone, sure and straight as an arrow from the bow , to the unfrequented forest of Bel-trees, with its cave overhanging the river, and its great tree between the farms and ponds, where now the humble village of Bodh-gaya stands.


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Sunday, 9 September 2018

RajGir : An Ancient Babylon - 6

Of such a form, then, though perhaps smaller and less elaborate, may we suppose the palace of Rajgir to have been, and in the streets about it the more plebeian dwellings of the townsfolk must, though small and comparatively huddled, have like unto it. True, their lower storeys would be built, in all probability, even as the huts of the Rajgir pilgrims are to this day, of mud and pebbles, instead of lordly stone. From hillocks formed of earth of such, anyone may by the stremside, pick out at various different levels, bits of old household pottery. But the facings and tops of these shops and houses were doubtless of carved wood, and the front of the cathedral was a faithful enough reflex of the life of the town. Through such streets, while the king stood watching him from the roof of the palace, paced the Shakya Prince, "a lad in his first youth," ere yet he was Buddha, and no honour that Bimbisara could offer would tempt him from that bridal of Poverty in which alone his mind delighted. "This life of the household is pain, free only is he who lives in the open air"; thinking thus he embraced the life of the wandering monk.

Far away from Rajgir, in the north of Rajputana we have Amber and Jaipur, a couple of cities which every visitor to India tries to see. Of these, Amber is situated in the highlands, and Jaipur out in the open plain, and Amber is very much the older of the two.  It is in fact an old Indian doctrine that no city should occupy the same ground for more that a thousand years. It is supposed that a potent means of avoiding pestilence and other ills is then to move out and occupy a new space. In accordance with this canon the new city of Jaipur was laid out. And when all was finished, the Maharaja moved into the new town, with all his people.

Now this history of Amber and Jaipur, enacted in modern India, and still fresh in the memory of the Rajput people , is our guide to much in the history of Old Rajgir. For in the lifetime of Buddha, the son of Bimbisara-that tragic king, Ajatashatru, across whose path falls the red shadow of a father's murder! - found that the time had come to move the city of kings, and he accordingly built a new city with walls and gates like the last, but out in the open plain. And there the grass-covered ruin lies to this day, the west of the present village, the grave of a city, the memorial of New Rajgir.

Bimbisara was the king of Magadha in the days of the Great Renunciation. Ajatashatru was king at the death of Budhdha. But we know, from the fact of the desertion of their highland stronghold and its rebuilding outside, that for five hundred years at least before their time there had been a city on the site of Old Rajgir.


--

The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online