Co-author of one the best books I have read in recent past Kashi Marnanmukti, Manoj Thakkar talks about the book, the place we know as Kashi and the philosophy behind it.
Manoj Thakkar Interview
Tell us something about your background, where did you grow up, what did you study and what lead you to write?
Manoj Thakkar: Born and brought up in Indore. I completed M.Sc. and then studied M.A in Economics. Lived an extremely lavish life until the age of 17. And just then with the untimely death of my father, the source of inspiration, my very existence was shaken at that young age. The ephemeral mortality of life quite clearly reflected itself. And my life turned towards philosophy. Kabir, J. Krishnamurthy, and Osho came and stood before the quiet mind. Gita becoming an inspiration constantly began to push towards the path of Karma, with the highs that philosophy provided increasing by the day. Learning’s of the young age gave way to mature thinking of the mind. Making Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi my spiritual Guru.
The mind now became absolutely fearless like a 4-5-year-old child treading a crowded path holding his father’s finger, and the colors of Fakiri began deepening in my mind. Then the Lord’s benevolence descended in the form of Shri Aurobindo’s Savitri and the pen started to write by itself.
In the course of time when Nature and Baba made me a Guru to the children who came to me and became a part of my life, I do not know myself. And when I became the inspiration behind the founding of a diversified business conglomerate United Works Corporation (UWC) is a mystery even to me. Though I am not involved in any way in its workings or its commerce, nor do I enjoy any personal income or other benefits from it.
Tell us about your character Maha – how was he born in your heart and mind?
Life in its serpentine march spreads the colors of many heady incidents like a rainbow. It is only through an incident then that Buddha attains Buddhatva. And another incident presenting liberation to Mahavir spreads the colorful splendor of the Supreme Master in Nature. And so watching the burning funeral pyres at the cremation ground of Manikarnika Ghat (in Benares) in the fog enveloped darkness of the dawn, became such an incident which energized the heart and made me feel that when everything is Shiva then even a Chandaal working at the crematory is only Shiva. With this thought lingering in the mind I felt as if Shiva himself, in the form of the child, becoming a Chandaal like being, is giving completeness to his work of Sanhaar (destruction). This is how Maha was born. And then the journey of a being moving towards Shiva, making the pen its medium descended in words. And becoming only a medium I simply held the pen.
Kashi or Varanasi is at the center of your story, tell us about your association with this ancient city.
Born with the beauty of Shiva, you are not very far away from your own self, but wandering in the darkness called the mind, you grow farther from yourself. But Shiva makes sure that you reach your own self. It was only Shiva’s grace that he brought me to this Promised Land 15 years ago, where he himself resides. A piece of mere information from the invisible, fortunate moon and a flood came into the ocean of my life. And made me feel that Shiva’s consciousness residing in the tiniest speck of this land, awakens the sleeping being. Kashi even today is that center of the universe which is certainly overflowing with spiritual energy. And that one only needs to feel it.
Shiv Vaani is an integral part of your story, how did that come along?
Our vision has a limitation but our Svabhav (nature) is boundless. And one’s Svabhav is one’s Dharma. In this consciousness of Dharma, when Shiva comes and says something when Shiva comes and gives something, this no one knows because it is Paravani – the voice of the Supreme, which is beyond the understanding of a being. Shiva alone is Satya (truth) and also Sundar (Beautiful); when did this great mantra – Satyam Shivam Sundaram, taking the form of that Paravani descend in this novel, is not known even to us.
You mention Kabir and Tulsi, both of whom lived in Banaras, and so did many musicians. What do you think is there on the soil of Banaras that makes it so creative, so inspiring for the people who live on it? Your story is kind of timeless, of course, it happened after the times of Kabir & Tulsi, but after that, it could have been any time after that. Did you make a conscious effort to keep it that way or was time was immaterial?
How can a place surrounded by four walls contain the magnificence and expanse of Shiva which reflects itself in each and every creation of this universe? The four walls cannot contain Shiva. But Shiva carries Kashi within himself. And therefore every bit of Kashi is luminous from the light of Shiva and takes the form of its soil. This soil then meeting the waters of the Ganges, taking the fire from the crematory where Shiva himself dwells, under the Kashi like sky, prepares such a human body like earthen pot, in which the air of the vital breath flows, and who begin to speak in that language of creation, which is of Shiva himself, then whether it is Kabir or Tulsi what difference does it make? And here when that which is timeless unveiling himself, sheds light on the Mahakaal – the master of time, there what is the existence of time as seen and understood by a being. And so what difference does it make whether the story belongs to the time before or after the birth of Kabir and Tulsi, because during each course of time Shiva reflects himself in the form of either Kabir or Tulsi or Maha.
Like all seekers, Maha also goes around the sacred geography of India to find his Guru, to pay homage to Jyotirlingas. How important is a journey or Yatra in a seekers life? What role does it play in a seeker’s growth and his knowing himself?
The mere thirst for Shiva results in the occurrence of divinity, but a being limited to his confines, is not able to open that door of consciousness, on the opening of which his entire past, present, and future may get inspired for the chanting of the Amar Maha Mantra – the great mantra of immortality. A beings attachment towards his home and towards his body forces the door remaining closed even more fiercely, and when a seeker like Maha sets foot on a journey, the eternal source of the energy of those religious spaces begins knocking on that door of consciousness.
The attachment towards one’s home and body gets left behind somewhere in such Yatra, and at some point with the opening of the door, one hears that great mantra, listening to which an intoxicated Mira wandering in the streets begins to dance; Buddhatva (Buddha Element) awakens in Buddha; and Kabir weaving the yarn in merriment, starts seeing Ram in the yarn itself. In this Yatra body, nature, mind, Maya all fade away, the void as though gets filled to the brim with Shiva’s blessings and grace, and life becomes supremely fortunate.
You bring in a blend of Nirguna and Saguna approach to enlightenment, do you think the path to Nirguna is via Saguna for a common seeker. You say a strong message by saying that Maha visits all the temples but never enters them, implying that the place is important, the Shakti there is important but stepping in is not. Your comments.
You being the Brahman (Cosmic Spirit) forgot the Brahma (Lord Brahma) and became deprived of the very significance of your taking birth. The material form of Dharma and Karma, drying the life nectar of that knowledge, which yields by itself, consumes it. The view of Shiva becomes hazy and the mind becoming blind like Dhritarashtra (of Mahabharat), keeps wandering the golden palace of wants and desires in search of the door. In his ego, man molds even that Nirakar (formless) into Aakar (form) and nurturing his own ego starts worshiping the Supreme Master in the form of the idol, but even this is the Supreme Master’s play and not that of man. The Saguna (Manifest aspect of God) which is born out of ego, the same Saguna getting the ego of the man-centered on its own self-begins to dissolve that ego. Saguna now slowly soaking in the ego completely destroys it, and then removing itself, makes the being a fragment of that expanse of Nirguna (Non-Manifest). At first Maa Kaali giving Ramkrishna Paramhansa a Darshan (an audience) of her Saguna form gives birth to the agony of separation. In this separation, the very existence of Ramakrishna Paramhansa is as if scorched, tears fall from his eyes, his ego starts becoming naught, and then some Totapuri comes in the form of Guru and gets the head of Maa Kali, cut by the sword in the hands of Ramakrishna. The kingdom of Nirguna then sovereigns, Samadhi (Mystical Trance) Sets in, and the divine touch leads to the awakening of the soul and its attaining oneness with the Supreme Master; at that time what is Saguna and what Nirguna?
Caught in the conflict between being happy and sad, the man may try a thousand things, but what difference does that make? In the kingdom of desire, animal instincts forever and always surround him. Which traveler of his own journey is ever able to set foot on the journey of those stars, which he gazes at in the darkness of the night standing in a large field spread across this earth, sparkling in the skies? When are the dying eyes ever able to see that Supreme Beauty which they have been in search of for countless births? But in the principles of Time and Place, at some places, the Supreme Master leaves that energy of his own self, which gives one the intuition of Shiva’s existence with the setting of foot in that very place. Some energy comes and says something in your ears comes and gives you something, and the sleeping soul awakens. In the darkness of dawn, stepping of Guru Ramanand on child Kabir lying on the steps of Panchganga Ghat (in Benares) and the sacred mantra Ram coming out of Guru Ramanand’s mouth indicates towards the energy of that place, which gives Kabir the knowledge of the universe, stars, and the galaxies situated inside of him. Here Kabir, going into the Garbha Graha (inner sanctum) of a temple makes the worshipping of the idol secondary, and by accepting only the energy of that place receives the vision of that Supreme Beauty.
You speak of the convergence of various spiritual paths by talking about Shiva & Vishnu, Shiva & Shakti, Tulsi & Kabir, Buddha & Mahavir. Why do you think this common message of all these thoughts missing in today’s world where people are divided by these ideologies rather than joined by them.
Man though a pilgrimage of the convergence of all knowledge, besieged by the Tam Gunas of ignorance, is failing to see his own supreme beauty. Losing his own real form in the chaos of thoughts, becoming a machine, though being absolutely complete remains incomplete, and so holds on to that finger of Shiva or Vishnu, Buddha or Mahavir which points towards the moon. What remains in the hands is the finger and the moon gets lost, and a dumb being surrounded by the Sankaar’s (one’s conditioning), instead of being consecrated to the universe like divine temple, taking the godly indicators of the Shastra’s (scriptures) as God alone, becomes a Pashu (ignorant being). He who is Pashupati (Lord Shiva) himself, now becoming a Pashu wanders in the forest of Maya which he himself created, and stumbles at every step.
Just for a moment, if one sees only the moon, Pashupati will occur.
Your Hindi is impressive, almost Sanskrit like, and the success of your book has proved that Hindi is still read and the language is just a medium for a good intense story. Your comments.
Shiva who is Sat (Truth), Cit (consciousness) and Anand (Bliss), giving rise to his own energy of consciousness and energy of bliss, has a Bhav (creative contemplation) that something must happen and this universe is created. In this game of Shiva, the trident of the three energies of Ichcha (Will), Gyan (Knowledge) and Kriya (Action) in the form of Shiva’s Bhav are the reason behind the creation of the universe. From that Bhav came the Naad (the eternal unstruck sound), from the Naad came the Bindu (point), and from the Bindu came this Universe. Therefore everything is contained within the Bhav, and when that Bhav is clear then the language cannot be a barrier, whether the language is Hindi or English is not a barrier, the Bhav reaches the person it has to reach.
For the readers who cannot read Hindi, will your book come in other languages as well? If yes, please share the details.
The book is already being translated into English, Sanskrit, Marathi, and Sindhi, with the English edition, hopefully releasing sometime in the second half this year.
Tell us about any next book that you are working on.
Manoj Thakkar: There are 5 Shakti’s (energies) of Shiva namely Tirodhan (concealment), Janma (Birth), Sthiti (Permanence), Maran (Death) and Anugraha (Grace). Tirodhan is the power of Shiva by which Shiva forgets his own self and becomes Jeev (Being) and Maya takes birth. Creation, Nurturing and Destruction go on for many lives together and one day, only when the Anugraha of Shiva descends, the Jeev finds once again his real Swaroop (own form) which is nothing but Shiva.
Through the Anugraha of Shiva, the book I am working on next has Shiva Sutras forming its base and is being written in a story narrative format.