13.5 LOGIC OF ADVAITA Pt.5
There is another aspect of mantra power. The PuraNas have several passages where sure redress or healing is promised as the phala (fruit) of invoking, chanting or reciting or repeating a specific mantra Experts will tell you what mantra or what stanza of a certain stotra should be invoked for the purpose, what disciplinary observances to follow and what should be offered to the deity formally. Hindu folklore and tradition abound with countless instances of the efficacy of mantras and the response of the divine to man’s faith and dedication. However, lest we are misunderstood as revelling only in folklore and mythology, here is a dramatic instance of the efficacy of mantra even in the modern age, -- to which this author was a participant and eye-witness.
The time was around 7-30 in the evening, during the nineteen-fifties, on one of the days of the Navaratri festival when the Mother Goddess is propitiated elaborately in all Hindu homes and temples with great zeal and devotion all over the country. The locale was the outermost corridor called ADi veedi, open to the sky, of the Minakshi temple at Madurai in Tamilnadu. Several thousands had gathered to listen to the daily lectures of Sengalipuram Anantarama Dikshidar, specially arranged as a nine-day series (navAham) during the festival. But as fate would have it, along with the people sitting on the Adi Veedi, several threatening dark clouds had also gathered in the sky, as if they also wanted to listen to the lectures of the renowned Dikshidar. Thunder boomed; the clouds seemed about to burst. Restlessness spread through the crowd and it seemed that, at any moment, they would decide to disperse, though reluctantly. Were the gods going to disturb the navaham and allow the clouds to burst? It certainly looked like it. There was no place in the covered portion of the temple to accommodate the thousands who had gathered in the open corridor.
Dikshidar came a little ahead of time, occupied his seat on the dais, and in his characteristic resounding voice urged the audience to repeat with him the following line from Lalita Sahasranama:
The chorus rang out and clear. Inspired by Dikshidar, the chanting took on a greater and greater intensity. The same line was repeated perhaps some twenty times. It was a thrilling scene to watch, participate and witness – the clouds dispersed and the sky became clear. The day’s lecture was delivered as usual. The line from Lalita Sahasranama only means:’She (the Goddess) is seated amidst a massive fortress of fire called jvAlA-MAlini’. There are also other esoteric meanings of this half-verse, but, as we saw, it was not necessary to know the meaning to get the effect of the mantra, for except the Dikshidar and some learned members of the audience, the several thousands of the masses who joined in the chanting could not have known what it meant.
In the personal experience of the author, the same mantra was used by this author for a similar purpose with the same effect. It was Shivaratri day, 25th February 1979. It was around 7-30 in the morning. A three-hour special Sai Bhajan was scheduled to start in another half hour in the open corridor of the Saraswati temple in Pilani, Rajasthan, India. The author and a few friends were setting up the place for the Bhajan, hanging pictures of gods, decorating them with flowers, spreading mats and durries, in short making all the preliminary arrangements for the gathering of devotees, expected to number 100 to 150. From the morning, the sky had been clouded, but, as it was not a season for rain, nobody took any notice. But, as the final arrangements were being made, the clouds gathered in great strength and it was surely going to rain. In fact, a few drops were already on the ten or so volunteers who were working. It was suggested that they repeat the half verse starting with jvAlA-MAlinikA. The advice was taken by the others and each one, in his own individual way repeated the chanting of the line to himself. It did rain around five minutes to eight, but only for a minute or two. The clouds passed away and the bhajan went on uninterruptedly as scheduled. And, believe it or not, after the bhajan was over, in the afternoon of that day, it did rain and that too really hard.
Question 6: Cannot all this be mere coincidence? Are you not attaching too much importance to your mantras? What is the scientific basis for a belief which just connects two unconnected events and calls them cause and effect?
It is good to question the scientific basis on which one attributes a cause and effect relationship to two apparently unconnected events in view of one’s faith in religion. In fact the more comprehensive question is: Can science and religion both be true in the same system of Man’s knowledge? In other words could that composite system afford to have internal contradictions?. We shall take up that question a little later. Right now we shall touch upon the question of coincidence. How can we ever disprove that the sequence of the two events, namely the chanting of the mantra and the holding off of the rain, was only a chance sequence? The fact that one followed the other in both the examples cited may, after all, be only a chance happening. The only scientific way to tackle such problems is to collect a mass of statistical data and apply the theories of statistical inference. But, for the same sequence of two events we may not be able to get enough statistical data – and that is where your attempt to ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ it scientifically will fail. But what one might do is to go a place where religiously attuned people congregate almost daily – like the Ramanashram, Aurobindo Ashram, or any of the places where the Shankaracharyas camp and the like. Stay in one such place for several weeks and listen to the religious experiences of the varied people that come there. Probe, sift the frills and decorations that usually attach themselves to such stories, keep an open mind and try to find the undercurrent of truth and faith that runs through them all. That is where you will come face to face with ‘unbelievable’ experiences of mankind, which can never be tested under the conditions of a scientific laboratory, but which also cannot be disproved or discarded as just a mythical experience, because the person who has experienced it is sitting before you, right there, and relating it. The very largeness of such experiences coming from entirely unrelated people will overwhelm you.
If you want to collect a lot of information about cricket experience you have to go and mingle with cricketeers and cricket fans, have'nt you? If you are a journalist wanting to write a knowledgeable article about the underworld, would you not go and be with the underworld for some time before you write the article? So also if you want to collect reliable information about religious experience, there is no other way but to go to such places as mentioned and talk with people who have had the experience. That is what Paul Brunton (1898-1981) did and by his masterly expositions he introduced Ramana Maharishi and the Kanchi Kamakoti Shankaracharya (1894–1994) to the western world. Certainly you will have to contend with the natural human weakness for exaggerating the intensity of an experience and as a scientific modern, you should be able to sift the grain from the chaff.
Question 7: All that you have said simply means that one should abandon scientific rationality and have faith in the mysterious and the miraculous and expect Divinity to come to the rescue. Is this possible in this modern world ? And is it desirable? Would it not be foolish to try to move civilization backwards in time?
Your assumption that one should have faith is correct. But your concurrent assumption that one should abandon scientific rationality is wrong. Scientific rationale is not opposed to spiritual pursuit. Scientific rationalism is not an all-embracing methodology. It has its limitations. For instance, no amount of science can explain why a mother is devastated when she hears that the plane in which her son was travelling has crashed, or, for that matter, why she feels supremely happy, if, afterwards she learns that her son was not in that flight. Somewhere along the line in these explanations you would come across concepts like affection, agony, anguish, worry etc. These cannot be formulated with scientific precision.