Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Guide. Pattanaik's Calendar Art: Part E (Vishnu)

As of July 2018, these videos were no longer at YouTube, but hopefully they will return.
These two videos come from Devdutt Pattanaik's Seven Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art.

Vishnu's Secret: Detached Engagement Brings Order:

6-1. Vishnu's Secret Part 1 (17 min.)

6.2 Vishnu's Secret Part 2 (16 min.)

Vishnu's Secret: Detached Engagement Brings Order

The Earth-Cow and Vishnu as Cowherd

[DP discusses the sacred status of the cow and its practical uses.]

"The gift of a cow was a gift of life. Go-daan, or cow-charity, was the greatest charity. It satisfied all worldly needs. Hindus believe that even the gods who live above the sky have a magical cow called Kamadhenu, who can fulfill any wish, and from whom all cows descend."

"For whom does thecow product milk: for her calf or for humans? How much milk can be taken by humans and how much should be left for the calf? All these questions expanded in scope and drew attention to man's relationship with the earth. Why did the earth exist? For all animals, or was it just for humans?"

"In the Bhagavata Purana, the earth explicitly takes the form of a cow and runs away when she feels she is being exploited by man. Vishnu begs her to forgive man, which she does, on thecondition that man treat her with respect in the future. Vishnu promises that man will do so and takes on the role of her protector. He becomes Go-pala, the caretaker of the earth-cow."

"The Vishnu principle ensures there is harmony between nature and culture. Society cannot exist at the cost of nature, for when nature is destroyed, nothing survives. But in nature, might is right, the strong dominate the weak — it is society and social rules that reverse this trend, making room for the helpless and meek. The more one is able to move away from the law of the jungle, the more dharma is upheld."

"Society forces us to be cows, to create value by producing milk, and giving that milk not just to our calf but to others as well. Society does not want us to be bulls like Shiva; society castrates the bull and turns the bull into an ox with its rules and regulations so that we are fit to pull the cart burdened with demands and duties."

[DP describes series of contrasts between Shiva and Vishnu.]

"Shiva's sacred mark is horizontal, implying inertia; Vishnu's sacred mark is vertical implying activity."

Dharma, Maya, Lila

"Vishnu's law is born of a value system called dharma. Dharma is that which creates a stable society. On the one hand, it domesticates nature and tames the animal within man. On the other hand, it does not allow for the destruction of nature and is sensitive to the primal needs of man."

"Vishnu is the farmer, Lakshmi is the field. Vishnu is the leader, Lakshmi is his organization. One cannot exist without the other."

[DP provides allegorical accounts of the objects in Vishnu's hands: conch, discus, mace, and lotus.]

"Vishnu is called the lord of maya. Maya essentially means 'measurement.' Vishnu is the source of all measurement scales — hence, he decides what is beautiful and what is not, what is appropriate and what is not. All that is true and auspicious and beautiful according to his scale, he accepts — the rest is rejected."

"Culture and civilization are like a game, leela — fun if everyone upholds the rules and enjoys the participation. Games turn ugly when the rules are twisted and turned in our obsession to win. When winning is all that matters, then we turn into demons, Asuras and Rakshasas, who celebrate the law of the jungle."

Vishnu's Avatars

[DP tells the story of Vishnu's first avatar: Matsya, the fish. He then tells the story of Kurma, the turtle, and also Mohini. Next comes Varaha, the boar. After that, Narasimha, the man-lion. Next, Vamana, the Brahmin boy who sends the Asuras underground.]

"Asuras are below the earth, regenerating the wealth of the earth — minerals and plants — while Devas are above, pulling out minerals and crops for the benefit of humankind. Thus their conflict creates wealth."

[DP next quickly tells about Parashurama, and then about Rama, and finally Krishna and Balarama.]

"Vishnu as Balarama and Vishnu as Krishna: Balarama steps away from the world and renounces all rules. Krishna participates in the world and keeps bending the rules."

"Balarama is often equated with Buddha in many poster arts — they follow the hermit's ideal, much like Shiva, of stepping away from society because they are either fed up with the stranglehold of rules or have realized the artificial nature of rules that results in conflict and suffering."

"Ram and Krishna, on the other hand, engage with the world, Ram by upholding rules and Krishna by changing rules, both for the sake of dharma."

[DP then tells about Kalki, the avatar yet to come.]

Rama and Krishna

"Kingship or leadership is perhaps the most difficult role in society. It is the king who leads the move from nature to culture, from the law of the jungle to the code of culture, from matsya nyaya (law of fishes [i.e. big fish eats the little fish]) to dharma (law of humans. It is he who determines the yardstick of appropriate conduct in human society."

[DP provides a summary of the Ramayana.]

"If Ram is about laws and appropriate conduct, Krishna is about love and affection. While Ram focuses on discipline and the head, Krishna focuses more on affection and the heart."

[DP gives a summary of Krishna's life, including the love of Krishna and Radha as told in the Gita Govinda.]

[DP also discusses the divine revelation of Vedanta, both Dvaita and Advaita.]

[He contrasts Krishna with Radha and Krishna with Rukmini.]


[DP tells the story of Dnyaneshwar, a saint from the region of Maharashtra. Dnyaneshwar was an outcaste who lived with hermits, and he became a Siddha with great powers gained from asceticism.]

"Dnyaneshwar could generate enough heat for his sister to cook food on his body; he could make a buffalo sing Vedic hymns; and he could make a wall fly to meet another Siddha who came to visit him on a tiger."

"Siddhas were also known as Naths or Masters. These were experts in the occult arts, men who wandered the countryside and could perform miraculous feats. They were rarely members of society. They were hermits — not just sages but also sorcerers, feared and revered for their potent powers."

"The Nav Naths (nine greatest Siddhas) revered Adi-nath, the primal master, who was considered to be both Shiva and Vishnu."

[DP discussion Tantric practices associated with Shiva in contrast to Vedic practices associated with Vishnu.]

[DP focuses on two of the Nav-Naths: Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath.]

Bhagavad Gita

[DP next explains how Krishna sang the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield.]

"The world changes and the flesh dies. But the immortal soul survives. The purpose of life is to realize this soul. And the only way to do that is to live life."

"The point is to control one's sense and one's mind, do one's duty with detachment, to focus on action, not result, and to have faith in the soul. The point of the Bhagavad Gita is not to kill the Kauravas, but to kill that urge that creates conflict."

"If laws are misused to abuse and exploit the weak, then the law of the jungle prevails. This is adharma, and if man loves humanity, he must rise against adharma. He must fight to establish dharma."

Image source: Vishnu, Lakshmi, Krishna and Radha;
costumed Hindu girls in Nepal.

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