Walking the Talk with Sanatana Dharma

Rain, by nature, makes one travel back in time. The smell, the way it moistens everything it comes in contact with, the sound of the trickle hitting the window sill, and the very sight of the droplets dancing down on the palm instantly unpacks the child in us. On this occasion of rains, I remembered one of those days walking reluctantly in the rain alongside my Mother. Reluctance to attend dance class, and not the rain. It was only for my grandmother and mother that I went to the class. A lighting flashed and I jumped back into the present. As I shifted my head from the window towards the living room, I could see my daughter watching TV – forgotten all about the homework.

To motivate her to do the homework, I told the eight year old that even I had to do a homework – a write-up on Sanatana Dharma. She looked at me and said that she would like to know what Sanatana Dharma means. At first I was not sure if I should be disappointed that she was not going to do her homework or I should be glad that she asked me what Dharma is.

The clock struck 7. We both looked up at our antique pendulum clock oscillating as I mustered all the thoughts and memories about dharma that I had heard from my Gurus Bhanumati , Sheela Chandrashekar, Jayalakshmi alva and from many learned scholars. I knew I had to communicate in a simple way and not lose her attention span.

“Do you see that clock? As you know, there are thousands of tiny parts working together for one collective purpose – to run”. She agreed and with a smile, said if one part stopped working, the entire clock would stop. “Exactly”, said I, and added that it is our duty to ensure that we repair the broken link and see that the clock runs. Similarly our dharma or in short duty is to be an integral part of the God’s sacred earth.

As I expected, she pointed that we all know the duty of the clock parts are to run the clock. “But . . .what is our duty? We do so many things daily, are all these helping us run the God’s clock – the universe?”. “Good question”, said I tapping her books on the table so that they align. “Yes, we all should know our duty (dharma) and practice performing certain acts to ensure we are in the process of following dharma. Apart from the fun and daily chores we spend time, we should indulge in dharmic practices and rituals that disciplines and cleanses us from within to become one with god.

"Okay, dharma is explained. But you said sanatana dharma", she raised the bar. Again I pointed my finger at the ticking clock. She looked at the clock in a new perspective. This time not at the time it was showing. "See, the idea of that instrument is to keep ticking for ever, non-stop. Similarly, sanatana dharma is about maintaining the order eternally - meaning forever. That is simply sanatana dharma."

“But how is it possible? Everyone is so busy all the time! Including you”, she inquired sharpening her pencil. “My child, that is exactly why we follow rituals and dharmic practices for, so that we serve people. When we serve god through his people, the service is divine. See for example, I am a dancer and I love dancing. How will it be if I perform my dance for a song as an offering to god in front of the people who are like us – wanting to spend time and make life and our activities an offering to God? This way whatever time spent by people and me before God is purely a divine experience. At least, we are keeping at bay some of the unnecessary thoughts and feelings during the performance. It is worth the effort to offer the almighty from whatever little he has bestowed upon us in the form of this body and mind. Ultimately, regardless of the kind of dance, song, person, religion, caste, creed, or financial status, anything offered to god through his people is Devotion. And we become devotees ”.

She settled down a bit and as she started writing the assignment, my thoughts started becoming clearer as to how an Art simplifies the means of practicing sanatana dharma. For a dancer who has grown up being exposed to reverberating rhythms and enchanting ragas, it does not take much of an effort to align oneself into the path leading to sanatana dharma - the cosmic ocean. I jotted down this conversation with her as a prelude to my write-up, followed by these words. . . . .

Bharatanatyam is a form of yoga that can control the modifications of mind and experience peace and harmony from within self. That performed as an offering to the God will focus towards his/her spiritual path thereby blinding us from the glitter and colors of praise and pride.

Nrityakalamandiram under Guru Bhanumathi has precisely done this to me and many many others. She, along with Sheela Chandrashekar has always groomed us not just in dance but also in nurturing us as individuals who are independent in thinking and living. Bharathanatyam to them has been an act of worship while on stage and off it too. So she literally lives a life that she preaches which is envious to most. The regural classes that the gurus conducts has not just dance but they also share the experiences that they have had. Most of the experiences the gurus share have sub consciously connected us to the spiritual path towards Sanatana dharma. Numerous students have been a part of the group Bharathanjali yet the choreography never ceases to amuse the audience. It has a lesson underlying. When we are a part of the group choreography we not only learn how to share the space with our fellow mates but are also constantly reminded of how not to take away the glory alone. It teaches us how to respect each other's space, love, care and share but also bring out the best in each of us making the entire group look flawless. The power that lies in such acts are so effortlessly passed to the next generation by our Guru that we are often left wondering how she manages to do the knowledge transfer. Although technology has made learning the art form so easy and fast, the need to have a Guru sit in front of you and mould you has its own charm and fulfillment. Lucky are we to have been under constant scanner that evolves us each day. The happiness one gets to sit and observe seniors perform is limitless. Hope the current teachers adapt the method that my Gurus practice so that the next generation is rightly educated and not in a hurry to be in the limelight soon. The art is here to stay.

There is always something to learn from this ocean, and I pray that the kids and parents today benefit from the presence of a guru to learn and enjoy this beautiful art form as a worship.

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