The Naale Baa had seen a great deal of vibrancy in all its discussions, by now. With Girish Karnad and Arundhati Nag’s vivid Hampi recollections, a literary panel decoding women in conflict zones or a high fired debate on the road beyond section #377. All that debate and discussion soon culminated in a philosophical and introspective journey for the audience. Because now, what was being discussed was no longer the material or the reality of times. It was a discussion that questioned reality’s existence itself.

Mr.Pavan K. Varma, former Rajya Sabha MLA, ex-diplomat and author, outlined the concept of Brahm, a collective consciousness.Hinduism more often than not gets diluted to its most superfluous rituals and practices. The true essence and meaning behind each practice got filtered years ago. To revisit Hinduism, especially a school of thought, that rejected the existence of a deity, was a new direction of exploration for the audience.

He began with the Upanishads. What were they? A teacher with a few students, in the middle of a forest, having a conversation; a dialogue specifically trying to understand the truth, a truth separate from God. Adi Shankaracharya’s Advait School of Hinduism explored similar aspects of the Hindu way of living. The key to his journey can be traced through India, back to the time when at the age of eight, he set on a journey to Omkareshwara. That is when he mastered the ideology of “Brahm”. An all-pervasive, achintya (beyond thought), adrishtya (beyond what one can physically perceive), poorna (complete), nirguna (attributeless) philosophy, which soon became the bedrock of the Advait school of Hindu philosophy.

To Shankaracharya, the existence of a physical deity was merely a concession given to those who couldn’t image a devotion sans attribution of human qualities. The attributeless understanding of our common consciousness was his compromise.

We are so entangled in the physical aspects of life that we forget that most of the universe is a ‘nitya, anitya vivek’. Much of it is real, but it isn’t. It is real while it happens, but once it is done happening it completely ceases to exist. The most interesting part of his dialogue, as well as his book, was the scientific validation this school of thought received after centuries. One extraordinary example being Einstein‘s focus on the relativity of time and space. With light travelling at the speed of 300,000km/ sec, there is nothing in this world that we see as is. Time is relative as the sun we see is the sun 8 minutes in the past or a star, light years away, that in all reality has now completely ceased to exist! Our sensory organs can’t fathom 96% of the dark matter around us and our mind built on ahankara(ego), buddhi (intellect) and chitta (an awareness of an observer) constantly shape our perceptions of reality as well.

With the Advaita philosophy being deeply indulged through his narrative, he doesn’t fail to highlight the oppositions Adi Shankaracharya faced in his promulgation of thought. He once came across a chandal, the most discriminated being looked down upon by humanity. When in conversation with the chandal, he made a crying statement. “If you are brahm and I am Brahm what is the discrimination about”? In response, all that Shankaracharya had was an acceptance of his ideology. If someone can understand this thought with such simplicity and clarity of thought, he is a guru to him.

But a more major rift of thought that is so well known that it was traced physically through the places between Omkareshwara and Maheshwara is the “Shastrarth”. The Shastrarth was the debate between karma marg and the gyan marg. Mandan Misra representing the karma marg fuelled a long discussion questioning the aspects of Advaita philosophy threadbare until he finally acknowledged and became another practitioner of the Gyan marg.

His wife, however, was still a little sceptical. She questioned the path to divination via kama yoga. Adi Shankaracharya being celibate, couldn’t give her a persuasive answer. He asked for a 30-day extension, during which he explored kama and its various aspects. He enjoyed the process to such an extent that his disciples soon had to sing nirguna bhajans to remind him of his 30-day time limit.

In conclusion, the exploration of divinity and Hinduism through a nuanced magnifying glass has produced an award-winning piece of non-fiction, celebrated by the Atta Galata Bangalore Literature Festival Award.

About the Author: At 19, Deepika Aiyer is an avid reader, crazy kdrama fan and loves to explore the What ifs of the world in her spare time.She currently writes for Bookstalkist.