Monday, December 07, 2009

Vacuous and verbose - 9

Q: . Guruji, what is the purpose of my life?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: You are very lucky. So many people live life never asking this question. Nurture it. You have this question in your heart, you are very lucky. I will tell you one thing. One who knows the answer to this question will not tell you and one who tells you does not know.


ramesh said...

if you ask a Vacuous and verbose question you can't expect an earth shattering reply .. you really can't fault ravi shankar here .. of course it would be more fun if he simply answered 42

kd said...

Not sure about 'earth shattering' but this is indeed a profound statement. Instead of trying to find a logical fallacy, if we pause for a moment and ponder on the paradox, it can lead to a greater level of understanding.

Raj said...

Ramesh, I agree with you on the first part. It is utterly stupid on the part of the questioner to venerate a human being as God and worshipfully pose a grand question on the purpose of life. It is ridiculously pompous on the part of the “Master” to reply to such questions, as if he is the repository of all knowledge in the Universe. The worst part is that his inanity is construed as profundity and more such questions are asked of him and more vacuous replies given.

Silcador: If one chooses to look for profundity in such ramblings, he/she has the right to do so. I guess others cannot object.

Anu said...

Hear hear!
(That is for the reply by Raj)

Balajisblog said...

Raj - Namma MGR poses the same question - " Naan aen Pirandhaen" in a song which was a great hit. He also answers the question in style in the song. Dr. JJ will set her goons on you if you choose to dismiss MGR's poser as vacuous..mind it...Balaji...

Raj said...

Anu, you meant 'Read, Read', didn't you?

Balaji: MGR was on a different league altogether. Others are all pretenders to the throne,.

kd said...

Raj - regarding your reply to Ramesh, if you carefully see, he did not really give a reply to the question. As you correctly put - "It is ridiculously pompous on the part of the “Master” to reply to such questions, as if he is the repository of all knowledge in the Universe"; this part of your comment is already in Sri Sri's comment: "and one who tells you does not know."

This is a question, which does not have any answer in words - another way of saying - "One who knows the answer to this question will not tell you". You might say, that this question has no answer at all, words or no words. That I cannot tell you. However the fact that this question has arisen in the mind, means something already. A mind curious about such profound issues is already valuable. Hence the importance on the question itself rather than the answer.

Those few words have a depth in its utter simplicity. We often confuse simplicity with vacuous.

Raj said...

Silcador, I am willing to go along with your view. Equally, one must not confuse simplicity with profundity. This was just one example I provided. If you go to the same website, you will see that the "Master' has waxed vacuously forth on various subjects,and his 'devotees' seem to find deep, hidden insights. Note that 'vacuous' means 'empty' or 'inane'. It may not be incorrect factually.

kd said...

Raj, I greatly admire your wit and am a follower of your bolg for a couple of years now, although never left comments before. And I don't want to bias your opinion of me, but you might have guessed it already, I am a 'follower' of Sri Sri Ravishankar's teachings.

What you said is right, while profound statements are almost always simple, simple statements are not always profound. However the profundity of the statement is very dependent on the context (the person spoken to, the place and time). Yes some statements are profound more generally (applies to a broader set of audience/place/time), but others are more specific. In any case, if we manage to take such statements by themselves, they might just seem factually correct statements, and nothing more. What is vacuous to one person might not be to another.

The point I am trying to make is that you have already made a judgement on the action of asking such questions to a 'Master'. If such an action is assumed to be stupid, whatever you hear as an answer will invariably sound vacuous (as pointed out by ramesh). It has as much to do with the statement, as it has to do with the mind of the listener. Of course there is nothing to object if someone does not find any meaning in certain statements, but using that as a generalization to characterize the master-disciple interaction seems immature.

To speak about Sri Sri's teachings specifically, I have had the same experience... initially a lot of the statements that I found vacuous, suddenly became very profound when I read them under different circumstances. I won't claim that the statements that you find on the webpage are all very profound to me, but I know better than to judge them by their face value.

This definitely brings us to a problem in judging the vacuousness of a statement. Unless I am the one who is directly being spoken to (in a stricter way, unless I am the person asking the question) I usually give it the benefit of doubt. Of course there are some cases when the statement sounds universally vacuous. However, as long as there are people who find meaning in something, for me, it becomes non-vacuous (not saying profound) by definition. That's just me, your mileage may vary. (sorry for the rather long comment!)

Raj said...

Silcador, I must say that you have expressed your views very well. I respect your right to be a follower of anyone whose teachings appeal to you.

I have blogged once on the guru-shishya paradigm in India and how every relationship has to be necessarily fitted into the framework. We seem to have an innate need to find a ‘master’ who can help us decipher the inscrutable ways of the Universe and to whom we are willing to submit unquestioningly.

Unfortunately, many self-styled ‘masters’ exploit this need and sneak into that role. This explains why godmen spring up in all corners of the country and never fail to find followers.

Once these gurus are entrenched in the minds of the followers, their words are held as gospel. The simplest or the most inane of their statements are held up as profound insights.

You argue that by pre-supposing that the question was stupid, I had already made a pre-conceived judgement on the reply. I put it to you that the ‘believer’ is so conditioned in the presence of the ‘guru’, that he/she is determined to find profundity or rare insights in the most inane of statements or the most absurd similes. (“Life is like a song. You must sing it.”).

I have listened to a few of Ravishankar’s speeches. I found them to be complete drivel (now these are my views and I am not passing judgement on people who find his speeches awesome. Just as I may like the music of Bhimsen Joshi and you may not).

But where I admire the man is in his amazing ability to create a brand for himself. His white robes, flowing beard, etc are all part of the brand image. The pull of his brand is powerful, as is evident from the no of followers he has in all parts of the country. Ad agencies and corporate brand managers can draw important lessons from the 'master'.

kd said...

Life is like a song. You must sing it.

What a wonderful statement! In case you just came up with it, I am all ready to accept you my Guru :-)

When we listen to a song, it is pure effortlessness. A song has ups and downs, can be sad or happy, makes us feel pain or pleasure. Inspite of all that, we all enjoy singing/listening to songs of many varieties without getting caught up in them. We don't analyze the advantage/disadvantage of each note in order to enjoy it. Rather, we simply surrender to the sweet flow of melodies. The ideal life is that which is as effortless as singing a song. Irrespective of what it makes us go through, we marvel at the variety of melodies, and sing our way through it!

In your blog about the guru-sishya parampara, the last comment mentions Eklavya. It did not really matter how good or bad the master was. It is really the disciple's devotion that made all the difference. The difficult part is not to be able to say profound statements. The difficult part is to create the disciple's belief in them. Once the faith is established, the disciple is way on to his path of self-discovery.

You are absolutely right. Numerous godmen have taken (and are taking) advantage of our guru-sishya paradigm. I would think pure con-artists are at one extreme, the bulk of them started out with some noble intentions, but succumbed to straying temptations along the way. At the other end of the spectrum, we might find ones who have successfully resisted all temptations. The real danger from the false (or fallen) gurus is not that they are gathering wealth and fame at the expense of gullible people, rather that they are irreparably damaging the ability of people to believe, to have faith. Blessed are the ones who retain the power to blindly believe, and doubly blessed are the ones who have a true master to believe in. The rest of us just play with words and remain stuck where we began.

I have found it humbling to discover that the ones that we pity, the ones who apparently are being duped by their blind faith, are the ones that pity us. We sit high on our knowledge of our intelligence and ability to discriminate between right and wrong. They lie down under their faith and transcend the definition of right and wrong to be able to sing the song of life. Sure, they pity us, the children crying in the middle of the most beautiful concert in the universe!

(I hope you don't find this comment totally vacuous. Yes, I streched it a lot, but I have faith that you won't dismiss this as a rave :-)

Anu said...

Poke fun at cricket idols, film superstars and heads of state, and The world will read on without much complaint. Make fun of a 'holy' man and there is an unholy riot.

Silcador, how can one who believes blindly be blessed? If one has the power of critical thinking and does not use it, it is not a blessing. Also, why do you assume that those who have no blind faith are 'crying in the middle of the concert?' They may not only contribute to the beautiful symphony of the universe but revel in it.

Priya Sivan said...

Evolution and spiritual development depends on individual choice. There are two categories - some like to evolve on their own, feel enlghtened and do not want a change while the second category would want to depend on a spiritual guru to evolve and get enlightened. They gradually change, let go their ego and in the process become spiritually intoxicated. Whatever the Guru says becomes divine for them.
The choice and views of these two categories are parallel and can never meet. To each one, his own. So let them be!:)

Raj said...

Silcador: The words' Life is a song, sing it" are attributed to Sai Baba. He also said, " life is a flower, smell it" and so on.

I may not appreciate the philosophy that you have expounded, but I do admire the way you have expressed your views. As Priya Sivan says ," To each his won".

Anu: That's not being fair to Silcador, who has not gone on a riot at all. He has put forth his views calmly and has reasoned it out well.

Anu said...

Oh,no. I was not referring to any one person at all when I called it a riot. It was just a reference to the growing number of comments on this post compared to the other posts, against (perhaps)this background: Generally, all over the world, people have to be extra cautious about 'hurting religious sentiments.'

Raj said...

Anu, I agree. This is always a sensitive subject. Tempers can flare up easily. Why so? Maybe a good topic for another blog post.