During the Vedic chants, there are passages conveying the blessings of the Lord to all those present. When the chief priest recites these verses, the others in the retinue of priests would say ThaTha Astu (we concur with that). In its shortened form it is stated as Astu (so be it). Astu also stands for a philosophic outlook in life, where the life is lived every moment as it happens. This aspect of life is portrayed in a recent Marathi (a language from the state of Maharashtra, India) movie titled Astu – so be it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY3cNmtFmaA
Astu is a fascinating movie that beautifully links the deep messages of Vedic scriptures; the daily life of the ordinary as well as the poor in India; the challenges faced in dealing with Alzheimer’s by the patient as well as among the family members and the emotional rift it creates; the honesty, innocence and genuine nature as seen among the poor; the role of faith and rational analysis and how they exist in compartments in India; generational conflicts and accommodation required in the caring of elders; the vital and vibrant roles that women play in the Indian way life.
In a poem titled Bhaja Govindham (verse 22), the poet Saint Sankara, states that the enlightened person wanders around like an innocent child and also like a mentally disabled (crazy) person. This statement is very appropriately illustrated in this movie, by the joyful playing of the young girl together with the old Sanskrit professor afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Their limitless union with nature is illustrated in the scene where they are both blissfully asleep on the lap of the elephant also in restful sleep!
Some of the Vedic sayings quoted in this movie are:
- Let us forget our names, relationships, our memories, our being, the past and the present (otherwise, being shackled by these limitations we fail to see the larger grandeur of the principle: Nature or the universe of which are integral part of – Thath Thwam Asi).
- One should be aware that truth always stems from awareness; where there is no awareness there is no truth (awareness is the limitless exploration of who we are and how we are in limitless union with the universe).
- Everything is part of cosmic consciousness (Thath Thwam Asi – You and the universe are integral in each other).
- Does such a mind exist – Why not? (Aham Brahma – I am Brahman)
- Tranquility begins where thoughts stop, like a clear cloudless sky, tranquil and calm.
While the movie is profound and emotionally intense, it is also thought provoking. While the child and the learned professor (lost in his world under Alzheimer’s) are both blissfully happy, there is panic, commotion, anxiety and frustration all around them. Does it mean the Vedic scriptures and their injunctions are only for those who willingly or unwittingly live a life of isolation from the realities of life? If it is a willing isolation, then that is being selfish. If it is unknowing isolation then that is childlike or under mental disability both of which are un-natural for an adult. Then where and how is the role of Gnani (the learned or wise with true understanding) in the real world? These are real and serious questions any practitioner of Spirituality in Practice must confront. Very frequently, when pushed to this limit many would say “It is too hard. I have not yet evolved to the state of such a Gnani”!
We must address the above questions and come to terms with the despair expressed above, if we are to gain the value and practical relevance of the Vedic teachings. At least we must try!
- Thath Thwam Asi (You and the universe are integral in each other) is a fundamental truth. Is there any other way you can think of yourself? Each of us is made up of material objects (organic and inorganic readily found in nature). Our body functions, our emotions and our thought process are all governed by laws of nature. This fundamental truth is not an injunction but a mere acknowledgement of the reality as it is! Astu – so be it.
- If one can dwell in the above thought all the time, as a parallel stream to all the ebb and flow of daily life, then there is an unattached but active engagement. Perhaps this is the wakefulness or awareness declared in the Vedas? This parallel existence is like the lotus leaf that lives, grows and thrives in a body of water and yet remains dry (not wetted). While we engage in all activities of life, our mind (that is awake, alert and aware) tells us in the back ground Astu (so be it) for everything good/bad, happiness/sorrow, strength/weakness, love/hate, comfort/discomfit, etc. My grandmother practiced this equanimity by constantly reminding herself, Ishwaro Rakshatu (that is God’s will)!
There may be only one in a million who truly comprehends the above two simple truths. There may be only one in those millions, who can practice the above all the time and consciously live true to the dictum Aham Brahma Asmi (I exist as Brahman). Astu – so be it.!
Among the thousands of persons, one perchance strives for perfection (to live with total awareness that “I am Brahman”); among those rare few who strive successfully, only one perchance knows Me (the Lord, the Brahman, the Supreme, the omnipresent substratum of the Universe). B.G. 7.3.
Then what happens to the rest of us?
Every one of us know the difference between the “ideal” and the “achievable”. While the Vedic scriptures teach us the ideal simple principles, rest of us can easily learn to recognize the reality as it is, by distancing ourselves – mentally and intellectually – from any event at any moment. This practice of self-governing is called Yoga (union with the self). This can also be thought of as “mindfulness”. This practice of Yoga can be momentary, frequent, active or lifelong. Whatever the duration of this unattached active engagement there is bliss, tranquility and genuine happiness for that duration. Let that be our focus! So be it – Astu!