Meditation is verily the sacred dip in the Ganges. Can the mental stains of deception and treachery be washed away by dipping in rain water?
Are you a Hindu? If so, do you believe that a dip in the Ganges will relieve you of your sins? If you say yes, you are in good company. Merely go to any ghat on the Ganges, be it Haridwar or Badrinath, Varanasi or Allahabad; you just have to look at the millions who take a dip in this holiest of rivers of India to know how strongly this belief is held on to.
Hinduism is not the only religion to offer a sin-wash. Catholicism, for example, offers absolution by confession. In Islam, there is Istighfar. Psychologically, if we have accepted the existence of sin, it is good to accept a kind of ‘escape clause’ as well otherwise the burden would be too heavy to bear, would it not?
I am a woman of strong faith but in this matter I do have some reservations. Let me take the most extreme of examples: think of the worst of sinners – murderers, rapists, paedophiles – and imagine that one stays next to the Ganges. He takes a daily dip. Can he live on in his depravity and be washed of sin on a daily basis? I cannot quite accept that! My sense of justice demands ‘karma phala’, a karmic debt. Does this mean that I don’t believe in the sanctity of the Ganges? But I do! A dip in the Ganges for me is symbolic – a physical ritual to represent a mental cleansing by way of prayer, repentance and a change of attitude and behaviour. The ritual without the attitude is not good enough. I probably sound sacrilegious to some…oh well!
On an aside, those of you who have the right to vote in India, would you please demand that your chosen politicians include the environmental protection of the Ganges in their agenda?
My ruminations are triggered by my song choice of the day. In Dhyaname, Tyagaraja says that ‘meditation is like a sacred dip in the Ganges’, thus asserting to the holiness of both. But then he asks ‘can the stains of deception and treachery be washed way by dipping in rain water?’. Isn’t Ganges sourced by melting snow from the Himalayas? And isn’t snow just another form of rain? Is Tyagaraja too questioning the ritual? I cannot quite believe it…
Tyagaraja is not the only one who questions the cleansing of the body while the mind is unclean. There is a well known bhajan मन मैला और तन को धोये ‘the mind is unclean and he washes his body’. In a similar vein, Kabir says
मल मल धोये दाग़ न छूटे ग्यान का साबुन लाये पिया
कहत कबीर दाग़ तब छुटि है जब साहब अपनाय लिया
I rub and wash (my shawl) but cannot remove the stains. My beloved brought me the soap of knowledge. Kabir says the stain will lift when my Lord makes me his own.
Dhyaname is set to the raga Dhanyasi; to read more about this raga, click here. To present this song, I have a rendition by Malladi Brothers which I heard on a webcast last Sunday. I learnt about these webcasts from www.paalam.in but recently. Every Sunday, at 6:05 pm Indian time, they do a free webcast of music, dance, lecdems etc. I believe this was on for all of 2013 and I never knew! I hope this post brings this to the attention of others who may enjoy such webcasts. There is a bit of noise in the transmission and also a tiny gap when it failed; I hope you enjoy the song nonetheless. You can download my recording from the links below (almost an hour in all).
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Dhanyasi
Language : Telugu
I am not a Telugu speaker; the following relies heavily on various web sources. I verified the lyrics aurally as well.
ध्यानमे वरमैन गङ्गा स्नानमे मनसा
वान नीट मुनुग मुनुग लोनि वञ्चन द्रोहमनु कर पोना (alt: पोवुना )
पर धन नारी मणुलनु दूरि पर निन्दल पर हिंसल मीरि
धरनु वॆलयु श्री रामुनि कोरि त्यागराजु तॆलुसुकॊन्न राम
dhyAnamE varamaina gangA snAnamE manasA
vAna nITa munuga munuga lOni
vanchana drOhamanu kara pOnA (alt: pOvunA)
para dhana nArImaNulanu dUri
para nindala para himsala mIri
dharanu velayu shrI rAmuni kOri
tyAgarAju telusukonna rAma
O Mind! Meditation is verily the sacred dip in the Ganges.
Can the mental stains of deception and treachery be washed away by dipping again and again in rain water?
Spurning the wealth and women of others, overcoming slandering and causing harm to others, seeking the glorious Lord Rama on this earth and meditating on Rama is the true dip in the Ganges, as realised by this Tyagaraja.