Caste, Calendar and Cosmos - their interconnection and relevance for contemporary society

Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
Director, Aeon Centre of Cosmology
Tamil Nadu, South India

Part I

I have just read an Internet posting regarding a report in circulation on Caste put out by the Hindu American Foundation. I have not yet read the report itself but I feel I must comment on a statement by N. S. Rajaram to the Foundation, carried in this posting. He used a disparaging word to describe one of the contributors to the discussion, Ramesh Rao. Since this is the same word he used to describe me in a scathing attack which was published by the Organiser in its October 23, 2002 issue, under the title, Indology: Skeletons in the Closet, I could not refrain from offering my point of view. One may disagree with my views, but to use such language damages the cause Rajaram wishes to further. This appears to be a chronic malady because though many years have passed he continues to cast the same aspersion on anyone who may disagree with his viewpoint. My impression at the time was that Rajaram had not studied my work at all.
This is not the place to contest Rajaram’s diatribes word for word, and I must repeat that I have not read the report in question, nor am I familiar with Ramesh Rao’s work. It is the disparaging attitude that must be addressed since it is does not reflect true scholarship and academic training.

In the Internet report reference was made to Swami Dayananda Saraswati regarding the same issue of caste. I was recently invited to speak at the First National Panchanga Ganitam Conference held at Tirumala, 24-26 December 2010, under the auspices of the organisation Swami Dayananda Saraswati heads.
What transpired then made me realise that the Sanatana Dharma is being held hostage to certain elements that seek to gain a monopoly over a belief system and way of life which had not succumbed to any such imposition. In fact, this is what distinguishes it from all other organised bodies, particularly those that gained ground over the past two thousand years. Any such monopoly or exclusivist leaning is anathema to the Vedic Way, the lack of which is the very factor that makes the Sanatana Dharma superior to other belief systems and more appropriate for the twenty-first century. The freedom we espouse for humanity as a whole is the very same that must prevail in our approach to a higher reality. Only Hinduism offers the freedom to know and experience God in whatever manner suited to each individual seeker, and even to deny the premise entirely.
However, this freedom is also a bane. The desired grouping of the Hindu Samaj under one umbrella, in this case the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha that claims to represent the majority, is an impossible task; yet there remains the problem of the confusion this maddening diversity creates among followers of the Dharma. The well-meaning Acharyas would like to resolve the problem since it causes difficulty of management in a world that is uncomfortable with the eclecticism of Hinduism. Be this as it may, there has always been a precise method to bring this diversity into a unique experience of unity. It is the existence of this method – an enlightened process of time reckoning – and its persistence over the millennia that renders the Dharma eternal. Lamentably, this characteristic has been disturbed over the past few centuries; the calendar has not been allowed to serve the Samaj as it had always done since time immemorial.
Interestingly, this is the same method or structure which illumines the true nature of caste, revealing it to be a superior classification entirely drawn from the harmony of our solar system. Even more interesting, when that cosmic harmony lost its grounding in veda, then both calendar and caste were precipitated into the severe decline we live with today. The key to the desired unity was lost; we are left with only a riot of diversity afflicting both caste and calendar. On the surface the connection between the two may not be readily appreciated but in the course of this treatment their interconnection will be made clear.
In view of the decline and the inability to present a single voice to counter the inroads of organised exclusivist religions during this same period – the past Age of Pisces, 234 BCE to 1926 CE – well meaning souls such as the Swami-ji have sought to create a single voice for the majority through consensus. But this has not been the Vedic Way – nor will it ever be. The calendar has always been the method to unify the grand diversity that is the Sanatana Dharma. This is not a contrived system but is taken from the actual harmony of our solar system. The Vedic legacy in Hinduism demands that the same ancient method be re-instated if unity is to be the factual and not imagined experience of the Samaj, without the imposition of any fabricated uniformity.
It was just such an attempted fabrication that I experienced at the Conference in Tirumala under the auspices of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha. The call of the organisers was for uniformity. Of interest to note is that this was the word used to describe the goal of the Conference: to bring about uniformity from among the many calendars, each with their respective ayanamshas, for the timings of temple observances and horoscopy. We are all aware of the fact that each panchanga publication puts forth a different timing for festivals and rituals. Over the years this has resulted in total confusion because the success of such publications depends precisely on the different calculations they offer the public. There are at least twenty almanacs in use, each with different timings based on their exclusive calculations. These include the calculations of Lahiri, Sri Yuktiswar, BV Raman, Fagan, Mercier, Sassanian, Hyber, and many more. If uniformity is imposed by selecting one of these as the resolutions adopted at the Conference suggested, those vested interests stand to suffer losses which cannot be regained once the true Vedic system is re-adopted. There could then no longer be space for any confusion nor the need for any arbitrary selection or imposition.
I came away from the Conference with the sad realisation that, as Sri Aurobindo stated in the beginning of the last century regarding the condition of the Veda, ‘The soul of knowledge had fled from its coverings’ (The Secret of the Veda). There was not a single participant whose speech offered the true basis for deliberations on matters of higher knowledge. There were scientists present in large numbers, astronomers and astrologers, as well as religious heads; indeed, the meetings were presided over by the Sankaracharyas. But none among these illustrious participants presented the true Vedic Way. Hence unity would never be achieved under the circumstances – or even uniformity – in this vital matter affecting the entire Samaj. Rather, when the basis is higher knowledge, it is self-evident and requires no authority for its imposition, except the authority that emanates from the realisation of that Truth.
Lamentably the yogic approach has been lacking all along, and since it does not form the basis of time-reckoning for the Hindu Samaj, calendar and caste suffer from the same cloak of ignorance because both owe their essential being and purpose to the harmony of the cosmic surround. If the right understanding of the cosmos regarding caste as also the calendar are not perceived, can there be any breakthrough given the fact that the Sanatana Dharma has its grounding in that Harmony which is the very basis of its eternal character? As long as the cosmos exists and our planetary base remains what it is, so long will the Dharma live on.
However, the cosmic surround speaks in the voice of Knowledge. Its harmonies express the most elegant and exquisite melodies to which the human consciousness can be attuned. The Rishis have bequeathed their sublime cosmic Seeings to us in the Rig Veda. It is lamentable that we find ourselves so thoroughly distanced from them that we have lost the key they left to preserve the Dharma in the face of any future adversity. When I brought this out in my speech at the Conference, the scientist who followed began his own with this statement: This is science not Veda. That he could make such a comment when attending a gathering purportedly dealing with matters of higher knowledge in itself reveals the true condition. There can be no other basis for any discussion on calendar matters but veda. And since the same cosmic harmony describes caste, I must state that scholarship and science, though admirable in their own spheres, can never reveal the Cosmic Truth that the Rishis knew. What we have today is Cosmic Ignorance – and ironically science is largely to blame for the decline though it believes otherwise, by having corrupted the means for a civilisation rooted in veda to realise a unification of its collective energies without the need for uniformity and its attending dogmas. Hence, disunity and confusion pose serious threats to the Dharma because of the condition which can be described in one phrase: the Ayanamsha Chaos.

We must start with the basics since there are no shortcuts in matters Vedic and cosmic. The basis is the cosmos as perceived from Earth. Unfortunately, this Earth-centeredness has been lost in India because science labelled astrology a pseudo-science precisely because of its Earth-centeredness. For centuries we have been fed this false notion, and one of the most sacred Arts, mother of all sciences, has been wickedly maligned. That no astrologer arose to accept the challenge and set matters right is the real surprise, for it is science that demonstrates its ignorance by condemning the Art in this manner. Astrological calculations indeed are Earth-centred because that is our position in the solar system. When the astrologer draws up a horoscope or engages in time-reckoning for temple purposes, naturally the Earth is his or her point of observation. This does not imply, as science would like us to believe, that the Ancients were ignorant of the true structure of our system, but simply that the Earth becomes the point of convergence for matters cosmic applicable to our location – i.e., the centre of the converging universe. We are not elsewhere, we are not in a distant galaxy, nor are we concerned with discovering the centre of the universe as a whole. Philosophy thrives on such speculations, as does theoretical physics; but the practitioner of the sacred arts is practical in his or her approach. Calculations are Earth-centred because it is here, on this blessed third planet that the human instrument has evolved so that we can consciously live the Harmony. We can develop our consciousness to become knowing and pure instruments through which that superior harmony is applied on Earth.
Ignorance prevails, as presently the case, when the key that unlocks the door to that heavenly vault is lost. When physical science proclaims itself the keeper of that key, then we know that the Dharma stands on the brink of what I call the Abyss of Time. Indeed, we do stand on the brink in India due to the slippage of time caused by the Ayanamsha Chaos: the Dharma either takes up the challenge to emerge restored and stronger, or it perishes forever. Since it is the channel of the Earth’s own soul-expression, when the Sanatana Dharma perishes the Earth cannot bear the loss.
The Earth’s position in the solar system is blessed indeed; the phenomenon of eclipses is enough to prove the point. But as there exists a detailed perfection for eclipses to occur, demonstrating the perfect harmony between Earth, Moon and Sun, so too does the entire system reveal an eloquent harmony in every detail when viewed from Earth. Indeed, this is the reason why consciousness has evolved instruments with an increasing ability to perceive, to see. Therefore, if we wish to honour the Earth’s role in the harmony, we must always place our planet at the centre of observation and refuse to be lured into a search for distant heavens and the static peace of a Beyond.
Our planet is circular just like all the other heavenly bodies. Therefore, this is the very first lesson of the new updated cosmology: to acquire the capacity to perceive in circles, spherically – not linearly. The difference is essential to establish and plays a prominent role in questions of caste and calendar. The failure to perceive spherically lies at the root of the problem uniformity poses vis-à-vis unity.

The first basic element of the Earth’s harmony is her balance on four pillars which we experience as the Equinoxes and Solstices. The circular graphic above illustrates the role of the Cardinal Poles as well as the necessity for perceiving spherically, just as the diagram indicates. It is divided into four quarters, each of which is marked off by an Equinox or a Solstice and consists of 90 degrees of the circle’s 360. However, most important of all to consider, particularly with regard to caste and calendar, is the circle’s zero point, or ayanamsha. But the issue is how is this point to be determined, on which hinges the entire exercise of calculating right timings? After all, a circle is a closed form which can imply that we are free to establish entry at any one of its 360 degrees. In the world of scientific relativism this freedom to choose is legitimate, but in the Vedic world that relativism is the Mother of Ignorance – Diti in the Rig Veda, the Mother of Division.
In the Earth-centred Vedic perception the Zero Point is an absolute and is never relative or subjective. The Equinoxes and Solstices dispel all ignorance in these matters and provide the indisputable ayanamsha which should be the basis for all calculations to conclusively remove the vested interests of relativism which have created the harmful confusion that the Ayanamsha Chaos has inflicted on the Hindu Samaj.
Equinoxes and Solstices constitute the supporting pillars of the Sanatana Dharma, reflected in the fact that every Hindu temple is oriented to those Cardinal points. They are astronomically verifiable, stable and constant, requiring no yearly or daily correction to render them ‘accurate’ as the current Nirayana System is believed to do, based on its subjective relativism.

The culture of the subcontinent in so many aspects reflects the incorporation of the four Cardinal Poles and their Equinoxes and Solstices. We may examine one of its expressions, which plays such a prominent role in Indian society, cutting across caste and creed. This is the classical music of Bharat, particularly of the South.
We all agree that Indian classical music is cosmic-based. We agree because we are repeatedly told this is so by the savants. Of relevance for our discussion is the prominence of the Equinoxes and Solstices in the composition and execution of the ragas: they were composed to be played only during certain seasons and even during specific times of the day. The latter involves the Earth’s daily rotation around her axis in the 24 hours of our day; the former is, of course, the result of the Earth’s balance on the four Cardinal Poles which she reaches in the course of our 365-day year for the experience of the four seasons established by the Equinoxes and Solstices. Thus, when a raga is executed, the musician brings to the audience a cosmic experience.
Though less ostentatious there is a deeper cosmic connection in Indian classical music to discover. This is provided by the drone, the very first sound by the instrumentalist, after which the others join in on this backdrop of the never-ending shruti. Similar to the four pillars of our System, the drone offers the same support to the musical composition that planet Earth enjoys through the Equinoxes and Solstices. Probing even deeper into the nature of the Shruti reveals that it establishes musically the very same portrait of Reality as the Veda. This is, in a word, fullness, the Veda’s quintessential characteristic. All else may disintegrate and fade away across the ages, but if the perception of Fullness remains, so too will the Veda because this is the true nature of a material creation. Indeed, if there is a single word that can express the ancient way it is this one; and it is responsible for the immense diversity we find in the subcontinental culture. The paths that gained ground during the last millennium have gradually distanced themselves from this concept/perception, paths such as Mayavada. They are, in fact, partly responsible for the Ayanamsha Chaos, and are certainly attuned to the relativism that plagues our society. While these paths extol the Self above all else, they have done so at the cost of the Universal Mother. It would appear to be an improvement in the apparently chaotic spirituality India offers the world, but in truth wisemen in the subcontinent simply succumbed to the wave that swept across the entire globe in the last Age of Pisces. That wave brought an end to the venerable place the Goddess held from time immemorial. Stark monotheism alone was thought to be real. All else was the beguiling work of the temptress Eve, or her eastern sister Maya, illusion. This left matters Earthly and Cosmic victims of the imposition of relativism just such a dismissal provoked.
In music the traditional position, the experience of Fullness, remains – at least structural if not in execution: ragas are seasonal and temporal in concept regardless of the fact that today their execution is not bound strictly to the seasons; for the most part they are heard at any time of the day and year. Nonetheless, the drone continues to remind listeners of the Vedic Fullness as the Womb out of which a voluptuous diversity arises. The Shruti is the true sound of silence. Silence abides ceaselessly and is not interrupted by Sound which is rather a wave, a vibration that lifts up from that essential Fullness. The two, Silence and Sound, are simultaneous, contiguous. The cosmos is not born of nothingness and the Void, but of this most sacred Fullness.
Indian classical music expresses this superlative experience of Reality. And it is a tribute to the Ancients who first ‘heard’ the Shruti that they could so exquisitely give a musical form to so elusive an essence, thereby consolidating the Vedic experience of Reality each time the Shruti is sounded – the Fullness of Silence.
But all this is lost when that Cosmic Order is disturbed by the wrong time reckoning which exists today. The Veda honour Time in verse after verse; and this connection has been carried across the ages in temple sacred architecture, while in the Puranas Time is considered to be above all the Gods. And interestingly, this is the form that the 9th/10th Avatar of Vishnu takes in this Aquarian Age of his coming. Equally interesting is the fact that time reckoning has been so disarranged that the cosmic credentials of the Avatar can no longer be read in the heavenly harmonies because the sacred keys have been forfeited, giving science a free hand in matters beyond its competence, in a field where it must follow and not pretend to lead.
We are justified in suspecting a method to this madness. The Vishnu Line of Ten Avatars is the backbone of subcontinental civilisation. Once the cosmic connection is lost imposters, interlopers, usurpers can claim the title, while the time-tested Vedic method to distinguish the real from the false is smothered in a process that can never provide the accuracy demanded of a sanatana Dharma. The conspiracy, if it may be so called, has been well planned: to use the key to unity against itself through a distortion that is the outcome of the Ayanamsha Chaos.
The Epics of the 7th and 8th Avatars are further proof and both clearly provide the proper cosmic credentials as long as the correct system is used for their deciphering. This is simply the solar system exactly as it is experienced by inhabitants of Earth as she journeys around the Sun on the ecliptic plane. She is supported by the Equinoxes and Solstices just as the drone of classical music supports the raga – another demonstration of their common cosmic source.
In the current contrived Nirayana system used throughout India there is no such ‘support’. There are no Equinoxes or Solstices in the constellations, therefore there is no absolute method to determine the correct and changeless Zero Point for the wheel of Time to begin turning and to open before us the twelve months of the year, as the Rig Veda describes,

Certain eternal worlds are these which have come into being,
Their doors are shut to you (or opened) by the months and the years;
Without effort one (world) moves into the other
And it is these that Brahmanaspati,
Has made manifest to knowledge.
(RV. II.24-5)

Time and again in the Veda the Rishis speak of one circle. Indeed, this is the simplest and most important key of all, and somehow it is the most difficult to grasp: One Circle. This means that all calculations, all divisions, solar, lunar, and so forth, have to be contained and executed within one circle. As indicated:

Twelve spokes, one wheel, navels three.
Who can comprehend this?
On it are placed together
Three hundred and sixty like pegs.
They shake not in the least.
(Rig Veda 1.154.48)

That one circle is the eternal foundation of the Dharma. For that to be applicable in a universe in constant motion, we must have a method to locate the ‘Immobile amidst the Mobile’. Our planet’s journey within the ecliptic plane that extends out from the Sun and wherein the journey of all the planets takes place, provides stability upholding change. The Earth measure is our constant – in the Veda it is the Divine Maya. She tilts with respect to that plane because of her axis and revolution around the Sun, south and north, and thus the Equinoxes and Solstices come into being. This absolute and not relative astronomical phenomenon is unchanging within the change that the entire universe experiences – without which there would be no universe. Therefore, to be appreciated is that the journey, as the Rishis called the Earth’s monthly progression through the circle of 12, cannot be experienced in the fanciful and amorphous grouping known as the constellations which lacks an equatorial plane and is therefore entirely lacking in the accuracy of a single, incorruptible ayanamsha. This stability in change, this rest in motion is a property only of our solar system as perceived and lived on Earth. The constellations of the Nirayana system are devoid of these configurations that make the Earth’s journey unique.

No comments:

Post a Comment