How to Survive These Times Through the Niti Teachings
What is it about caves? If you sit down to think, you’ll find that history is specked with stories (across regions) that feature this hollow space made by nature—right from our ancestors, the early man. The cave dwellings, then cave drawings (or perhaps first art galleries), and then we move to more sophisticated stories.
Moses and St. Elijah spent time in a cave. Maimonides, the foremost Judaic polymath wrote his seminal book while exiled in a cave. When Empress Helena visited Palestine in 327 A. D., she stated that the blessed Mother Mary conceived in a cave, gave birth in one, and eventually settled down to raise a family in one, too. In fact, Helena found many Christian mystics living as hermits in hillside caves. Then we have Catherine of Siena who went to a cave. And Prophet Mohammed heard the Koran for the first time in the Cave of Hira.
Moving closer home, we too have many stories about this hollow space. Tibet has the cave where the famous killer-turned-yogi Milarepa meditated. In Kashmir, the ancient Rishis would take abode in the many caves there. The luminous Abhinavagupta’s Bhairava Cave in Beerwah, J&K, is celebrated for transcendence. The Amarnath Cave is, of course, where the supreme secret was revealed. And moving down in southern India, we have the Virupaksha Cave of Ramana Maharishi, which is visited by hundreds of thousands.
So, what is the power of a ‘cave’? Is there a power of the cave? And how does a cave offer solution in a time like this—the pandemic?
Plato’s insightful Allegory of the Cave gives a hint that the outside is a shadow and truth lies elsewhere. In the book, Dawn The Warrior Princess of Kashmir, the final answer is given in the cave of Mount Kailash where Shiva meditates. It is there that Dawn, the sixteen-year-old protagonist who is also the last living woman in the world, lives, to be precise, in a cave called Trisarsha in the year 3000 AD. So, the cave becomes a “pod” where the senses die but it becomes a womb where something magical is born—the power of the last woman standing is manifested here.
On Sunday April 12th the Catholics will celebrate Easter Sunday while the Orthodox Easter falls on April 19th. The connection between Dawn and Easter is deep. Dawn or “Usha” in Sanskrit is the most important Goddess in the Rig Veda. She is the harbinger of the rebirth of life each morn. She is the only Indian Goddess who has spread around the world. Her cognates are Eos in Greek, Aurora in Roman, and Eostre in English, which is the root of the word Easter—the festival of resurrection. Interestingly, Usha is also the name of the sanctuary city where the Sanhedrin or Rabbinical Court fled to in the 2nd century. It is important to remember that in addition to the celebrated Gayatri Mantra honoring her, she is also the Goddess of Order; the driver away of chaos and darkness. She is dawn, she is hope, she is resurrection.
Dawn is the key-holder to the ultimate life-hack—Niti—which is, simply put, the most powerful technology invented by humanity. Niti means “the wise conduct of life”. The Kashmirians maintained that one is born with only one birth right, namely the freedom to achieve what is one’s life quest. And what is the ‘way of life’ so that one can maximize one’s human potential? The Kashmirians defined life’s end goal in heroic terms as “unbounded fulfillment while alive” whether physical or meta-physical.
Niti’s promise is that it enables one to face any threat, any challenge to reaching one’s goal as one travels through Time and Space. These threats are the daily near-death forces in that they snip off one’s fulfillment in some way or the other culminating in the final death of an unfulfilled life. To become a ‘Niti Warrior’ is one’s birthright: the mark of a swatantra, free human. But what happens to Niti and the Niti Warrior during unprecedented times as the one where we are living now—during the Covid 19 pandemic which is an existential threat for all of humanity? What is the wise conduct here? How does Niti enable one to cause the Death of Death?
In the novel, Dawn states, ‘‘Health is the unrestricted movement of the body, mind and heart. This movement is powered by the bio-plasmic Life Breath.’
The Niti formula is quite explicit. It requires one to do deep learning; act bravely with compassion; and be with close friends. It was first articulated by Pandit Vishnu Sharma in the Panchatantra. The deep learning about the deadly virus is that the virus has understood humans better than even humans understand themselves. It has made our unrestricted movement its vector, used our strongest social instincts of physical bonding against us. The virus, learnt this through mutation; so we must take that Darwinian learning and mutate ourselves. Mutate to a behavior of no movement and the virus dies. Remember that it is not the strong that survive but the ones who adapt. Change we must at the individual level, at the community level and at the level of humanity to survive.
And if the call comes then we must act bravely and with compassion. Not just the front-line essential services fighters—the doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery sellers, vegetable vendors etc.—but each and every one of us can contribute to this war. In this regard a very special Easter blessing awaits the Corona virus survivors—the ones who had the blessing to live through this. They can be the carrier of the born-again healing touch through contributing their anti-bodies which is verily the gift of Jesus Christ. What is essential, says the Niti way of life, is that we stay connected to our loved ones. That is what keeps our Shakti consciousness alive. If we follow this Niti formula, then Covid 19 will fail to take our life-breath away. We will then experience the next thing that Dawn realizes and states in the novel: ‘The property of our Life Breath is freedom. It is this freedom that leads to creativity.’
If we look at our current condition as an opportunity and just give ourselves the chance inside our cave, then we will discover that we are slowly but inexorably drawn towards creative activities whether it is something as fundamental as cooking or artistic such as writing or painting or even spiritual expansion. Niti’s manifestation that is creativity is the ‘Life of Life’ which in turn is the cause of the ‘Death of Death’. And in the laboratories around the world it is the scientists who are detonating creativity. They will come up with not just one answer but multiple answers which will finish this scourge forever. That is the promise of Niti. And the Life Force will triumph again. So it has been so it will be.