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Dialogues with Divinity, and Their Relationship to Creativity, in the Hindu Tradition

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Part I – Invocation

My presentation will begin with some ancient Hindu invocations in Sanskrit language. The first invocation will be to Ganesha, the god of divine wisdom and learning. The second will be to the Guru-principle in the Universe, our cosmic teacher. The third will be to Saraswati, the goddess of all creative arts and sciences.
These would be followed by a Christian Gregorian Chant.
This will be followed by an Islamic Sufi prayer.
The total time to do these invocations will be five minutes.

Part II – Hindu World View in a Nutshell

Hinduism assumes consciousness to be the supreme principle of creation. This is in contrast to the scientific view, which maintains that “dead matter” in the form of subatomic particles, are the building blocks of the whole universe. By means of a thought experiment, we shall see that western science is a belief system, and hence no different from a religion. According to the Hindu View, Consciousness, and not dead matter, is the supreme principle of creation. Therefore, EVERYTHING in the universe is conscious, and EVERYTHING is sacred. What is different is the quality and degree of consciousness. And once consciousness has a form, it has a personality. Hence, in this world view, the sun, the planets, the earth, mountains, oceans, rivers, trees and plants, as well as the cosmic forces, have personalities and are sacred. Even Time and Space have personalities. It is interesting to note that this world view, in essence, is the same world view held by pre-Christian Europe, all the Native American races of North and South America, the Aborigines, the Daoists, the Egyptians, and the African tribes.

Part III – Beads on a String

When consciousness is the supreme principle, and EVERYTHING is sacred, then other religions, cultures, peoples are sacred too. They are all, as it was, ‘BEADS ON A STRING’. The string, which is common to all the beads, being consciousness, or God, or Divinity. Hence there is no concept of  “conversion” in Hinduism. Hinduism does not just teach “tolerance” for another religion. It teaches respect and love for them too. It encourages people to learn from the wisdom, beauty and truth that lie at the heart of each religion. To experience divinity in all these wonderfully different ways and flavors. When I was eleven years old, I was visiting England with my mother, who is an orthodox, Hindu, Brahmin lady.  While visiting London, we went into a beautiful cathedral with exquisite stained glass windows. When we went up to the altar, my mother kneeled down in front of the cross and prayed in Christian style. She then lit a candle. It is with such actions, and not mere words, that Hindu parents teach their children about honoring and celebrating all religions.

Part IV – Dialogues with Divinity and the Creative Impulse

The Hindu Scriptures say that two things are needed for any kind of creative activity. Consciousness (or Awareness) and Energy. Consciousness is worshipped in the form of Shiva, and Energy in the form of the divine mother, Shakti. All creative activity, whether in the Sciences or the Arts, is seen to be the result of divine grace. This grace is earned thru establishing a “dialogue with divinity” thru worship and prayer, or a “monologue” thru meditation.

Throughout the ages, Hindu musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, poets, writers, scientists and philosophers have contended that their chosen creative activity IS their own personal worship or prayer, a dialogue with divinity. They do not need a separate ritual or service. The initial creative inspiration, the effort to give it form, and the end result, ALL are seen as being the grace of the divine. Hence the entire work is offered and dedicated to the divine. For this reason, many of the greatest works of art and sciences in India have no signatures, and the authors are unknown. In the pursuit of excellence, young artisans had to undergo austerities and spiritual practices in order to diminish or erase ego and cultivate humility and love for God.

My own chosen field of creative expression is music. In traditional classical Indian music training, prayer and worship as well as meditation are important parts of the curriculum. Meditation in particular, because thru meditation one learns true silence. In order to know sound, one must know silence. Silence and sound are two sides of the same coin. The great Indian musician-saint, Tyagaraja, took this one step further. He boldly declared, “Music is not just a way to reach god. Music IS god”.

In summary, then, in Hinduism, the source of ALL creative inspiration is divinity. Bringing the creative impulse into form is seen to be the result of opening oneself up to a “dialogue with divinity”. It is for this reason that, even in the so called “secular” subjects, such as politics, economics, grammar, mathematics or astronomy, traditional Hindu texts open with a prayer to Ganesha, Saraswati and Guru. In India, there has never been a conflict between religion and secular scientific thought.

The Hindu Seers boldly declared that the purpose of ALL artistic expression, as well as Scientific enquiry, is to glorify god. It is my belief that until not too long ago, people in Europe had the same idea. Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bach and Beethoven, Gregor Mendel, Newton, Bacon, Descartes and Galileo were all men of deep faith. Post industrial revolution, however, god was slowly removed from the equation. The result is the secular wasteland that the modern world is. According to Indian Seers, WHATEVER we do in life, even plumbing or carpentry or law, will be of benefit to us and society IF we are doing it to glorify god. Conversely, WHATEVER we do in life, without dedicating it to god, will, in the long run, harm us and the world around us. An example comes to mind. I read somewhere that most of modern Psychiatry is, as if, one takes the bible and evaporates God from it. What is the result? The Prime Minister of Australia declared a few years ago, that “we will have to put antidepressants in our water supply”. The number of people in the modern world who are on anti-depressants has reached epidemic proportions. In 2011, when I was teaching Music in U.S.A., there was a news item that caught my attention. There were more than five million prescriptions of “ADIROL”, a chemical to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, in a single month. The country had run out of supply of this chemical.

When I was thirteen years old, I had visited France and gone to De Louvre. When I looked at the Mona Lisa for the first time, I stood in Awe. The first thought that came to mind was, “What a fantastic mother Leonardo Da Vinci must have had”. My mind, steeped in Hindu values imbibed from my family and society in Kashi, wanted to honor and touch the feet of the mother of Leonardo Da Vinci! He had created in oil colors, but she had created in living flesh and blood! And what a beautiful, fantastic, creation. Her “dialogue with divinity” was to raise a god conscious child as a gift to the world.

I feel that Human life is not worth living if, at least once in our lives, we don’t feel the creative impulse course thru our veins. By creating a personal “Dialogue with Divinity” we open ourselves up to the creative forces in the Universe. Our creative expression need not be restricted to the “standard” areas of classical arts or sciences. It can also be thru making peace at home and raising a god conscious child, or thru gardening, or thru planting trees. The possibilities are endless.

My own chosen form is to sing the poetry of the self realized saints of India. Hence, I will leave you with a song by Kabir, who lived in my hometown six hundred years ago. The song is about how our spirit feels restless in the material world. Here is a translation of the song:

I am a bird from a foreign land,
I do not belong to this land.
In this land, people are asleep, unconscious,
Each moment, a cosmic dissolution.
The land where I am from, I could sing without a mouth,
Fly without wings, walk without feet.
My meditation was formless,
And I was merged in the unstruck cosmic melody
In the heart.
Sitting in the shade, I felt pervaded by fire,
Sitting in the hot sun, I felt much coolness.
My Satguru, teacher of the Self,
Was beyond heat and cold, beyond dualities,
And I was one with him.
The land where I am from,
My meditation was unbroken and continuous,
I never lost that state, oh lord!
Where the mind and energy cannot reach,
I am from that land, oh brother saints...
My lord and master is formless,
Yet he takes on names and all forms,
Says Kabir, Listen, oh saints,
Within me, the whole Universe!

Krishna Shukla

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Next story:  Rabbi Larry Tabick
What happened before there were words, before there was language? What did God do, as it were, before saying ‘Let there be light’?

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