The Refined Minds of Avadhootas, the Indian Spiritual Masters

By Kollengode S Venkataraman (Published in October 2006)

Indians often learn about their own history through the writings of Europeans during their colonial rule over India between 18th and 20th centuries. Consequently Indians themselves look at India through European lenses. Even for buttressing arguments on history and culture, Indians  need to quote the works of European writers, many of whom had their own missionary biases and colonial axes to grind.

Nowhere has this damaged more than in matters of faith and spirituality.  This has resulted in common “understanding” that Hindus are polytheists, image worshippers (polite expressions), idolators (derisive term), or even worse, pagans and heathens, whose “souls” need to be “saved” through conversion by persuasion, incentives, or if necessary, by force.

Indians are not known to critically examine writers coming from different cultural and religious background, whose objectives were economic exploitation, political domination, and religious conversion.

While the world knows about the Bhagavadgita as a work that
conveys the essence of the Hindu thought, there are other less known shorter Gitas no less sublime than the famous Gita. I had not heard of these till I read Mananam, published by the Chinmaya Mission West.

Among these shorter works on transcendental and intuitive spirituality is the Avadhoota Gita.Avadhootas are mendicants living beyond the concepts of merits and sins. Like the Sufis in Islam who came centuries later, a true avadhoota doesn’t proclaim himself to be an avadhoota. Jyotir-manayananda in Mananam writes on the Avadhootas

“Avadhoota Dattatreya’s uncompromising, nonindividualistic view of the Absolute is most beautifully expressed in the following verse:

त्वद् यात्रया व्यपकता हता ते, ध्यानेन चेतः परता हता ते |
स्तुत्या मया वाक्परता हत ते, क्षमस्व नित्यम् मम त्रिधा अपराधान् ||


By going on pilgrimages, I killed Your omnipresence.
By meditating on Your form, I killed Your transcendental nature.
And by singing hymns, I killed Your nature of being beyond words.
Forgive me for these three transgressions.

So long as people have religious beliefs, there will be objects of veneration, be they the books themselves (the Torah, Bible or Koran) and other relics. So, how can one say that veneration of one kind is OK, but not the other? 

Besides, all true religions remind us that these objects of venerations are only ladders for believers to look beyond. Yoga Vashsitham is another work that would shatter ideas that many of us have about fate.

Here is a sample: “In this world, whatever is gained, is gained by self-effort… … What is called fate is fictitious… …There is no power greater than the right action at the present moment… …One who says ‘Fate is directing me to do this” is dumb and the goddess of fortune would abandon him.”   — END


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