Friday, January 30, 2015

662. Rituals should not become like Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon.!

Dr. Malcolm Lyall Watson, the South African anthropologist coined the phrase “Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon” referring to a sudden impulsive and mysterious leap of consciousness achieved when a supposedly “point of no return” is reached. He put it in as metaphor based on slight evidence and a great deal of hearsay. He narrated in his book “Lifetide” that there were monkeys dwelling in the group of islands in the South Pacific. Once there was a severe drought and the monkeys began to starve to death. A team of anthropologists made a visit to one of the island and discovered that there were sweet potatoes growing on the island, so they dig up the sweet potatoes while some monkeys were watching and the monkeys also follow suit to dig and eat them.

The monkey liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes, but they found the dirt unpleasant. Soon one young female monkey learned how to wash the sand off the sweet potatoes at the ocean before eating them. This trick was observed by some moneys and all the monkeys in the island started to wash the sweet potatoes before eating. Even more amazing, the sweet potato-washing practice leaped over land and sea. Monkeys on other islands also learnt to wash their food making it a hundred monkey phenomenon. There is a controversy over this phenomenon and some say the monkeys were so used to washing the sweet potatoes that even if they are provided with peeled sweet potatoes they would wash them in the ocean waters.  

Now coming to rituals, some have this notion that philosophy without religion becomes worthless and religion without rituals becomes bland. They say rituals are like the husk encompassing a seed to preserve its life. But some day that husk has to peel off, so that the seed sprout out to become a sapling. In rituals a seeker fall into a routine of doing things in as similar a way as possible to the way they were done before without knowing why it has to be done. If that is the case we are not better than those monkeys which wash even the peeled sweet potatoes. 

A seeker on the path will eventually realize that the rituals he was practicing which involved in worshiping the Absolute with material objects in bathing it, clothing it, singing praise of it and at the end of the day putting it to sleep was the Transcendental Reality which pervades the entire universe and the beyond and at the same time it is the one which is experienced as the Inner Self also. This experience makes him ultimately go beyond rites and rituals, forms and names, words and praise, to realize the Absolute as the All-pervading Consciousness.

There are few who would not need the ritualistic approach but for the other lot we have Sagunopasana (Ritualistic worship) and from there one might go to Nirgunopasana (Mental worship). This Nirgunopasana comes from the ability to comprehend Brahman. Vedas has two parts namely Karmakanda and Jnanakanda. While Karmakanda concentrates on the rituals and methods of worship, Jnanakanda give a briefing on highest knowledge of Brahman. Both play an important role in helping the seeker to realize what Truth is.

At initial stages it is the performance of rites and rituals as prescribed in Karmakanda which make an individual disciplined and prepare him to thread towards Jnanakanda. Karmakanda is like stair case and Janakanda is like landing platform before entering the Sanctum of the Absolute. A seeker is neither reached if he stays in the stairs nor at the landing platform; he has to make the attempt to go inside the Sanctum. To go inside the Sanctum he has to leave the staircase as well as platform landing. It is therefore found in almost all Sacred Scriptures a tactics of overlapping the sagacious ideas and conclusions on the rites and rituals and thereby lifting the mind of the seekers from the lower regions of ritualism to the higher planes of spiritualism.

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