I joined a photography hobbyist group recently, where once a month, we are invited to take photographs based on a theme. The theme for this month is "Hoffnung". In western philosophy, Hoffnung (hope) and Angst (fear) are the two colors through which the world is painted. A young child, a blossoming flower, or a candle in the dark may signify hope. Their opposites signify suffering and fear. Although this dualistic model is the most common way we think of the world today, it is not natural to India. In India, we think in terms of not two, but three qualities or Gunas. There are three sides to hope, which are exactly the same three sides to suffering. A depiction of hope from an Indian perspective should show all the three qualities. I wanted to take a photograph that captures this Indian perspective about hope.
Having indulged the reader on the nature of suffering, I have now the tough task of convincing of hope. But as I said, the three causes of suffering have their counterparts in three causes for hope. To convey this, I need to evoke the Rasa of Shringāra in the mind of the reader. Taking inspiration from the Sanskrit poet Kāḷidās, I will try to describe hope through the beads of water in my photograph. Upamā kāḷidāsasya, as the saying goes in Sanskrit. The simile belongs to Kāḷidās, as he rendered it in the most fetching manner. In Sanskrit poetry, Alankāra refers to ornamentation, which engages the attention of the reader. From Upamā (simile / comparison) are derived Utprēksha (transposition by imagination) and Rūpaka (metaphor / equation of one to another). I will render them in my own limited manner.
The pearls of water stand tip-toed on the leaves, dispassionate to the world around them, just as Brahma sits in meditation on the lotus rising high above the cosmic ocean. They tell us that in this world of sorrow, imagination and non-attachment will take one to a higher plane of happiness. Each drop is a world of its own, but it reflects the light from every other drop, leading us to imagine if that light is the omnipresent Vishnu who spans between the worlds. This light reveals to us that the greed and narrow-mindedness of people living in their own bubbles will eventually be overcome by the expanding presence of love. The world seems blessed with these rain drops, as water washes the leaves of their sins and renews them, moving them from death to rebirth in every single moment, as Shiva the immortal one is realized as every single object in this universe.
Swadharmē nidhanam shrēyaḥ, paradharmō bhayāvahaḥ
Yopām āyatanam vēdā, āyatanavān bhavati.The one who knows the root of water, will get established in his roots (his inner self).
This verse is known as Mantra Pushpam. It says that the stars are the root of water, and water is the root of the stars. Everything in the cosmos is maintained by water. In the Sāmkhya philosophical system, water is one of the Pancha Bhūtās - the five elements related to the sensory apparatus of the mind. Water refers to that part of the universe which can be accessed by the senses of hearing, sight, touch and taste, but not by the sense of smell. Unique among the five senses, the sense of smell is completely dependent on memory, and thus on the historical ego. Thus, in this philosophical sense, to sense water, one has to let go of one's memory and ego. This would lead one to the ineffable moment which contains Hope. The presence of water in this universe is a totem that hope is available, however desperate the situation may appear.
Yopām pushpam vēdā, pushpavān prajāvān pashuvān bhavatiThe one who knows the flower of water, will become the holder of flowers, society and animal wealth. Through this ancient verse of the Brāhmaṇs, I wish the reader a life filled with Hope.
7.b) This is the Transhumanist response: medical science will prolong our lives forever and make us immortal. We will merge with the machines and upload our consciousness to a computer. The drawback with this response is that it only addresses the cause-2 of the suffering: death. There is no guarantee that the 1st and 3rd causes of suffering will vanish. In fact, they might be accentuated. People can become immortals and lead crappy lives for an infinite amount of time. Transhumanism is inspired by the Omega point of Teilhard de Chardin, which I think is derived from an incorrect reading of the Vēdānta philosophy of Aurobindo. The subtle nature of the 3 Gunās as both the cause and cure of suffering is lost.
I think the three-sided response for hope rooted in the Sāmkhya system gives a strong naturalist alternative, but it argues that there is an aspect of the self (Purusha) that cannot be reduced to the constructions of the mind. Other Hindu philosophical systems like the Vēdānta are derived from Sāmkhya, but they posit a reality that is greater than the universe.