Daily Archives: August 17, 2012

Lakshmi – Devdutt Pattanaik

When boards worship Lakshmi, bottomlines bottom out, says DEVDUTT PATTANAIK

Tantra uses geometrical patterns to communicate wisdom. A dot, the most elemental geometrical pattern, like a woman’s bindi, represents potential. Lines swept horizontally, seen on Shiva’s forehead represents death and destruction. A vertical line stretched upwards, the tilak, as on Vishnu’s forehead, represents growth. At face value, the path of Shiva and the path of Vishnu seem to be the opposite of each other. Shiva, the hermit, favours renunciation. Vishnu, the king, favours growth. But before one jumps to this convenient conclusion, one must notice something peculiar about Vishnu’s sacred mark.

Vishnu’s tilak, stretching upwards, is located with a deep cup made of sandal paste. The tilak, in red paste, represents material growth, no doubt. But the cup of sandal paste anchors this growth with intellectual and emotional growth. And this can only happen when one is willing to ‘destroy’ fears that inhibit intellectual and emotional growth, fears that stir our animal instincts of survival, of territoriality, of domination and control, and prevent us from being human.

That the sacred marks of India, whether a dot, or a horizontal line, or a vertical line is painted on the forehead – is significant. It reminds us of the one organ that humans have that no other creature on earth possesses, the neo-frontal cortex, located just behind the forehead, one that allows us to imagine. Imagination can amplify animal fears and make us worse than animals. When we behave like frightened animals, despite having the human advantage, then our behaviour is deemed adharma. When we use our imagination to outgrow our fear, grow intellectually and emotionally to empathise and include others, it is dharma. Read the rest of this entry

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