It was over two scores and a half years ago. I remember an experience when I was living in that part of India venerated by the name AryAvarta, the holy land. The cows and other cattle had a right of way even on the so-called main roads, affectionately christened ‘M.K. Gandhi Marg’ ‘P.C. Chatterji Panth’ or some such tongue twisters by the locals. The citizens or rather the bodies of the inhabitants have a natural agility and ability to automatically adopt all the tricks of an expert contortionist in walking on the road avoiding the animals or their heaps and spurts of fragrant fresh just-in-time deliveries – made, as though, just for you. When you are all focused on keeping your balance as you never know where your next step may have to land, a hearty greeting jolts your auditory senses. You take time to locate the source of that sound, because there is obviously no face visible nearby. You see at a distance a half raised single hand, as a mark of showing respect for you. Adept practitioners of Zen may not know the clap of a single hand, but every one over there knows a salutation by one hand. Their shout says ‘su prabhAtaM,’ a literal translation for “Good Morning.”
I have been always intrigued by such expressions used by the religious and Sanskrit zealots and self-conceited patriotic folk. If you are so concerned to value and respect your tradition, why not use both hands that God or whoever has given you, join them in symbolical gesture of Oneness of all and say ‘namaskAr?’ Good Morning is an adaptation from an alien culture and it has its own significance. If you think that ‘Good Morning’ sounds progressive and modern, then why not just say “Good Morning?” If you clothe the word in an Indian garb, does it make you more patriotic? I never get an answer.
Another such an expression is twopaisa. It’s a poor imitation for ‘my tuppence worth.’ It is an idiom in the English language and has a history, perhaps sourced to the Bible. If you convert the pennies into paisa, two pennies will be today almost one hundred times more in value – that can fetch a cup of tea in a way side stall in India! They are not equivalent to saying two pence.
The Wikipedia says that the expression ‘my two pennies worth’ or ‘my tuppence worth’ is used “to preface the tentative stating of one’s opinion. By deprecating the opinion to follow – suggesting its value is only two cents, a very small amount – the user of the phrase hopes to lessen the impact of a possibly contentious statement, showing politeness and humility. However, it is also sometimes used with irony when expressing a strongly felt opinion. The phrase is also used out of habit to preface uncontentious opinions.”
If I remove the two words ‘my worth’ from the idiom, and use it as a pronoun in the nominative case singular number, what meaning can one give to it? I don’t know.
Then there was another experience, told by a friend. They had to interview a candidate for a job. The Chairman of the board opened the salvo of questions asking the candidate in the usual style of a boss of the show, “What is your name?” The candidate replied non-chalantly, “I have no name.” It is evident that he wanted to impress the board how much he took to his heart the ancient Indian teaching that the Supreme Reality has no name and that’s what he was, in truth, none other than the nameless Supreme Self. But then why would the Supreme Reality come for an Interview seeking a job? There are a number of Swamis also. They think that they have given up everything by dropping their name. By mere christening oneself if he/she were to become the most virtuous, the most tranquil and the happiest of beings on the earth, perhaps taking sanyAs is the easiest way to liberation. But that’s not the way Shankara instituted the dasanAmi system.
And moreover, what our greatest philosophy, Advaita, says is very different. In fact, Krishna, the personification of Supreme Consciousness, advises his most dear pupil that action and doership and implicitly therefore, a sense of an identity are required for sharIra yAtra (the journey from birth to death to sustain and support the body — BG, III-8). Such an action is inevitable for life processes.
What the Upanishads teach is not annihilation of your name and form. Being a suicide bomber is not, surely, the way for liberation. The world is ‘as IS’ brahman. Nothing needs to be changed or gets changed. Instead of operating on behalf of and for the happiness of a separate imaginary person, you allow your body-mind to work on behalf of the Unknowable Supreme Self and let all things happen as they will any way, with you or without you. ‘You can but be an instrument’ (nimitta mAtrAn bhava- BG XI-33) tells Krishna.
When an action happens, an effect is inevitable. That’s the niyati (the Law of Nature) set by the very first thought when you yourself as Hiranyagarbha embarked on the creation phase, whether Newton formulated it or not. The effect can be pleasant or unpleasant to the doer. Liberation is not playing a truant. it is not shirking work or going incognito. Nor moksha is something hidden in some inaccessible holy and hallowed precincts far remote from the world, which is all this is. ‘moksha‘ does not end suffering. It is about ending the sufferer. We have from bihadAraNyaka Upanishad:
आत्मानं चेद्विजानीयादयमस्मीति पूरुषः । किमिच्छन्कस्य कामाय शरीरमनुसञ्ज्वरेत् ॥ — IV-iv-12
(Meaning: If a man knows that I am the Self, then desiring what and for whose sake will he suffer in the wake of the body?).
To give up a name, or expecting some Utopian angelic ethereal world to suddenly open up with a bang away from what IS, is a misunderstanding – as much as the mis-identification of one’s Self to be a separate person.