Jayary 353

The subtle tension between discrete and continuous dharma marks the epic. It permeates our understanding of some of the deepest ideas of Indian philosophy and religiosity. Consider how the rishis Jaratkaru and Agastya are derailed in their quest for enlightenment by their rat-gnawed ancestors.

The standard model of enlightenment is one of sudden awakening even if it's primed by years of practice. Consider the Buddha's story: he spends years in the forest learning from various teachers, starving himself and pursuing various ascetic methods until he's done with all that mortification. Enlightenment comes quickly after he changes track. Siddhartha becomes the Buddha after two nights of meditation. Not bad. In this story, Nirvana is modeled as a discrete object that comes within the grasp of the ready mind.

It's a model that Jaratkaru and Agastya have adopted before they are awakened by their ancestors. Having spent years in deep tapasya, they are well on their way to becoming Brahmarishis. Why step into the world and work for money or help raise children?

There's no reason at all in the logic of discrete dharma. Unfortunately for them, continuous dharma intrudes itself in the form of ancestral duty. It's different from Yudhisthira's encounter with continuous dharma; but like the exiled king, the two rishi's are rudely interrupted in what might otherwise look like a smooth path toward success.


Rajesh Kasturirangan

Rajesh Kasturirangan

I think. I write. I meditate. I agitate.