Friday, November 6, 2015

Guide. Pattanaik's Calendar Art: Part B (Narayan)

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

2. Narayan's Secret (28 min.)

Narayan's Secret: What Dies Is Always Reborn.

Narayan sleeping and waking

"Just as our world does not exist when we sleep, the whole universe does not exist when God is in deep slumber. Narayan is God."

"The Greeks did not believe in rebirth. Neither do Christians and Muslims. There is only one life and hence the sense of urgency. It's an urgency that does not exist for Hindus. This life is one of the many lives we are supposed to live. This world is one of the many worlds that have come and gone."

"The ocean of milk thus represents possibility. When Narayan is asleep, the world entropies; there is no form, no identity — just a homogenous mass of matter, waiting to be churned."

"The serpent on whom Narayan is sleeping is called Shesha, the remainder, that which remains when all else is destroyed. Some say that makes him a representation of time. No one is sure, for when one is in deep slumber, how does one know what is left behind?"

"According to Vedanta, without the observer, there is no observation. Narayan is the observer. When he is asleep, he observes nothing."

"When Narayan's eyes open, his senses become sensitive to the world around him. Consciousness, which was like an uncreased piece of paper, has now started to crumple. The world ceases to be pure: it has color and shape and value; some things we like, some things we don't. This crumpled consciousness, not as pure as Narayan, is visualized as Brahma, seated on a lotus that has sprouted out of Narayan's navel."

Lakshmi and Shiva

"At Narayan's feet is his consort, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. She nourishes mankind. She is also portrayed as a cow. The cow is the world and whenever the world is in trouble, Narayan rushes to her rescue. Narayan awake is called Vishnu, the guardian, the protector, the preserver."

[DP also discusses the presence of Shiva in the image; Shiva will be the subject of another video.]

Tumburu and Narada

[DP discusses Narada and the horse-headed Tumburu, rival musicians who figure in several stories about Vishnu.]

"Narada was created from the mind of Brahma. On his birth, he had no interest in the world and encouraged all creatures not to marry or reproduce. This angered Brahma, who cursed Narada that he would move around the world restlessly and live till it was time for Vishnu to sleep no more."

"Narada enjoys provoking people. He constantly compares people and thus spreads anger and ignites quarrels. He fills the mind with jealousy and insecurity."

Garuda and Hanuman

[DP discusses Vishnu's vehicle, Garuda, the cosmic hawk.] "Vishnu's association with both serpent and hawk, the still Shesha and the flying Garuda, represents consciousness in both sleeping and waking states."

[DP notes the presence of Hanuman who aided Vishnu in his incarnation as Rama.]

Markandeya: creation and destruction

"Hindu scriptures repeatedly refer to creation as the result of awareness. Things are born when we become aware of them. Thus creation is not an objective construction — it is a subjective realization."

"Things are created every second and, with each creation, something is destroyed. Creation is like a wave. Hence destruction is visualized as a storm ocean where ideas collapse and dissolve as new things struggle to churn their way out."

[DP tells about the sage Markandeya who had a vision of Pralaya, the end of the world in a deluge of water.]

"The sight of the dying world filled Markandeya with dread and despair. It was then he heard a gurgling happy sound. He turned around and found a baby lying on a banyan leaf, cradled by the waves of destruction."

"This is fundamentally different from the Greek and Biblical worldview, where death is a full-stop. In the Hindu world-view, death is a comma; there is no full-stop."

[DP analyzes a picture of baby Narayan.] The baby holds a flute in his right hand and his right big toe with his left hand. The right side in Indian art represents the soul and intellect because the left side, with the beating heart, represents movement, hence matter and emotions. By holding the right toe with the left hand, God is connecting the spiritual with the material, the intellectual with the emotional, all the while making music with the flute, indicating a playful approach to life."

[DP discusses problem of depicting the soul, which is beyond form, in the forms of art.]

Narasimha: Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada

[DP next tells the story of Hiranyakashipu, who thought he was immortal, unable to be killed] "by any humor or any animal, any god or any demon, by a weapon or a tool, inside any dwelling or outside, above the ground or under it, during the day or night."

[H's son Prahlada insists that Vishnu is everywhere, even in the palace's pillars. H smashes a pillar.] "From this pillar emerges a fantastic creature called Narasimha, part lion and part human. This creature crosses the boundary between the animal and the human world. It emerges from the realm of impossibility, breaking all boundaries, challenging our notions of what is normal and what is not. Narasimha is God, he is a form of Narayan."

"This creature, neither man nor animal, or perhaps one who is both, drags Hiranyakashipu to the threshold of the palace — neither inside a dwelling nor outside. There, at twilight, which is neither day nor night, he places Hiranyakashipu on his lap, which is neither under the ground nor on the ground nor above the ground, and tears him apart with his fangs, which are neither weapons nor tools."

[Narasimha is so violent that Lakshmi appears and tells him to calm down.]

Vishwarupa: Krishna and Arjuna

[DP now discusses Krishna appearing to Arjuna before the battle of Kurukshetra, when Krishna reveals God's Song, the Bhagavad-Gita.]

"Actions born of desire, we are told, entrap us in a never-ending wheel of birth and death. Escape is possible if one is willing to discipline the mind, rein in desire, and act dispassionately, doing one's duty, stripped of any desire to dominate the world or indulge the ego."

[Krishna then shows Arjuna his cosmic form, Vishwarupa.] "He is what was, is, and will be. He is all forms. he is all directions. He is all that is possible and all that is impossible. Arjuna seeks Krishna exhaling life and inhaling death. Whole worlds emerge from his mouth and are ground by his teeth."

"This is the Hindu idea of God. God is all things. He is in all things. He is outside all things. He is She. He and She are also it. That which is animate and that which inanimate — everything is God."

"We are the observers who create the observation tha tis life. We are thus not separate from our lives. We and our world are the same. This is Advaita, or non-duality of being."

"We are God too — we just have not discovered the truth of ourselves. We are limited by our egos, our imperfect understanding of the world, our prejudices and our memories."


"Since the Hindu world is going through cycles of life and death, this life is but one of the many lives to lead. There is therefore no dominant urge to be a hero. There is no sense of urgency. And since all things depend on points of view, there is a lack of certainty in all things."

"One yearns for that which is absolute, permanent, and independent of all contexts. That is the soul — the soul whose sleep leads to destruction and whose awakening leads to createion, whose observation gives shape to the world. The discovery of the one who creates the world, that observer, is the purpose of life."

Shesha, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi

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