The Holy Waters A Primordial Symbol In Hindu Myths

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Item Code: IDI938
Author: Frans Baartmans
Publisher: B.R. Publishing Corporation
Language: English
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 8176461512
Pages: 363
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.4" X 6.4"
Weight 650 gm
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Book Description

About the Book: How can we be indifferent to our surroundings? Embedded in us lies an awareness of the sacred. It is expressed through myths and symbols by an attitude of harmonious oneness with the world.

Such myths and symbols show the reality of a single cosmic manifestation. They also suggest a common core of humanity, untrammeled by any difference of race, religion or culture. That may be an encouraging thought We, in our modern technological times, still remain trapped in discrimination of various kinds.

Awareness of the sacred presents us with the gift and the challenge of myths and symbols of liberation, unity, harmony, and peace. The symbol of the Sacred Waters in the Vedic and later Hindu tradition in India is singularly attractive. It invites people from all over the world to India's holy waters.

The author brings together 250 "happenings of the Sacred Waters" in a chain of symbolism. It links diverse aspects of the universe with our daily experiences, our human condition. Typical of the Vedic and Hindu tradition is that we, human beings, should not claim an undeserved position of importance on the earth. We are her inhabitants, but that only as guests.

The author explores our willingness to acknowledge mythical thinking as an original constituent of our person. The author finds that we are called upon to evolve in ourselves the myths and symbols of the sacred. They are there. While undergoing revolutionary changes, our perception of the universe cannot avoid commitment to the maintenance or restoration of the loss of its integrity and harmony. A tree, a river, a bird, a mountain, the atmosphere and one's chosen deity are as much part of the universe as we are. What then do the myths and symbols of the sacred tell us, human beings? An Indian myth calls us "the protectors of the world."

About the Author:
Frans Baartmans (1936) is a member of the London-based International Society of Mill Hill. After his seminary studies in The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, he lived and worked almost ten years with the Kenyah and Kayan people in the interior of Sarawak, Malaysia, at a time when their traditional longhouse culture came under pressure from large-scale timber industry.

He became deeply involved in efforts by the local population to preserve their traditional cultural heritage and protect it against multinational timber corporations.

He graduated in Anthropology of Religion and Ethnic Theology from the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In 1979 he came to Varanasi, India, to study Indian Philosophy and Religion. In 1985 he received a Ph.D. degree from Banaras Hindu University. He is currently engaged in research and community development in Varanasi.

Foreword to the Second Edition

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the second edition of Frans Baartmans' commendable study of a revered symbol in the Hindu tradition, that of the Sacred Waters. There is a need for a study of this kind for the benefit of both students and scholars of philosophy and religion, and of comparative religion. The author has given an authentic exposition of the significance of myths and symbols in the Hindu tradition. Hindu religion is Vedic religion, Sanatana Dharma. It cannot be understood unless one studies in depth its myths and symbols. In fact, mythical and symbolic thought permeates the whole of Sanatana Dharma.

Cosmology is an essential component of Indian Mythology. It is Hindu Dharma's belief that creation of the universe evolves from the five elements. Of these, Hindu, Cosmology awards primordial status to the waters rather than to any of the other elements. It is from the waters that the universe first emerged. Greek cosmology shares this belief. Hindu tradition hinges on Advaita Vedanta which declares: "sarvam khalvidam brahma." The sacred, the divine is present, not only in the human being but in the entire universe: its air, oceans, mountains, sky, birds, animals, plants, galaxies, stars, sun, and moon. Hinduism cherishes a holistic approach to the universe. Reality within and without is one and the same. It is here that the elements, the world as we experience it, is transformed into spirituality.

Hindu Dharma's spirituality attributes the greatest importance to the waters when on our way to godliness: "devo bhutva devam upaset." The waters at once purify and enable us to engage in upasana, worship and contemplation of The Highest.

Today, a study of the Sacred Waters is of still greater relevance when their very symbol, the river Ganga, is being polluted. Pollution endangers the well-being of the whole universe. Unless we control it, pollution poses a serious threat to the very existence of the earth.

Pollution threatens not only the world outside. More harmful and threatening still, is pollution of the world inside, pollution of the heart. The heart is in constant need of purification through the Sacred Waters.

Dr. Baartmans' detailed and original work on the profound symbol of the waters in the Hindu tradition deserves admiration. I congratulate him on the occasion of the second edition of his book, and wish him to come with further comprehensive studies of the wealth of myths, symbol and ritual of Hindu Dharma.


In this book I have attempted an analysis of a primary symbol in living Indian mythical awareness: that of Apah, the Waters. Such an undertaking seems to me one of the needs of not only philosophy, but also of analytical psychology and of theology. For, in both a theoretical and a practical sense, it is very hard for those who have not experienced the reality of a primary symbol by undergoing analysis to understand what depth it reveals.

What is that depth a primary symbol reveals? We must not forget that the symbolic manifestation as a thing is a matrix of symbolic meanings as thought words. We have never ceased - to restrict ourselves to our chosen primary model of the Waters - to find meaning in water. It is the same thing to say that water manifests birth, growth, decay .and destruction and to say that it signifies the whole of potentiality: the immense, the unity of things in their diversity, the crisis of fragmentation, and the synthesizing comfort of understood orderly flux, The manifestation through the water-"thing" is like the condensation of an infinite discourse. The water-'thing" is the counterpart of the overcharge of its inexhaustible meaning which has ramifications in the cosmic, the ethical and the socio-political. Thus the symbol-"thing" water is the potentiality of innumerable spoken symbols which are knotted together in a single cosmic manifestation. In our case that cosmic manifestation will come to us, I hope, through the primary symbol of the Cosmic Waters.

How do the Waters relate to human existence? The question betrays an intention. There is no problem at the cosmic end. At that end there is nothing but ultimate harmony. The problem of human existence enters where mere reason fails to discover the cosmic connection. One might say that the problem of human existence offers at the same time the most considerable challenge to think and feel the cosmic connection and the most deceptive invitation to talk nonsense, as if the problem were inherited by us from the Cosmos, the Universe.

The contradiction felt between the destination of man, projected in the image of primordial innocence and final perfection, and the actual situation of man when acknowledged and confessed to, gives rise to a gigantic "Why?" at the centre of the experience of existing. There is indeed a problem. A periodic immersion into the Waters, not once but daily only to emerge re-created, might make the "Why?" more bearable, if not intelligible.

Like all other humans, the Indian is engaged in a constant quest for harmony between finitude and that which is other than finitude. On the human level, finitude is readily experienced unlike its posing other. The locus of the quest for harmony between the two is man's life as a human being in between those opposites. The quest reminds the Indian of the battle of -Kuruksetra where the concord between finitude and non-finitude turned out to be indissolubly linked with the problem of good and evil. It is, however, not only once that Lord Krisna approached Arjuna and joined him on the chariot stationed between the two camps. Kuruksetra is a daily experience involving the simple question: "What ought I to do?", and the not always simple answer.

While being maintained and supported between nirguna and saguna during sthiti, the "in-between", the Indian is well aware of his existential predicament as a creature endowed with intellect, the sumtotal of vac, prana and manas. The quest for harmony and synthesis in life -receives its significant accent in two sets of values which seem to be opposed, one to the other: Pravrtti and Nivrtti. Contrary to Pravrtti-"rolling onward, act of turning around"- Nivrtti means: "act of turning back, returning". Each concept and the practical lifestyle symbolized by it, if taken seriously, is discernible in the meaning of the words. While alive on bhumi, the earth as man's home, man experiences both forces, each with its justified claims. The fact that man is at the same time an inhabitant of and a guest in this world creates a tension which is conspicuously present.

In trying to come to terms with both pravrtti and nivrtti, the Indian transposes all anthropological dualism by appealing to the Vedic Dhi, visionary insight and perception.' Dhi has laid down the groundrules for hum all existence. The Vedic Dhi has subsequently been reviewed, meditated on, and thought about. That resulted at times in agonizing and hairsplitting metaphysical-and epistemological argumentation. Ultimately, however, both the crisis and the consoling discoveries concerned the values of pravrtti and nivrtti.

The first chapter of Part II attempts to provide a pictorial of the Indian effort to come to grips with pravrtti and nivritti values. The effort has continued till the present 'day. Philosophical curiosity has led me to ask the Indian to take me to his "Origin", perceived through Dhi. Possible existential doubt and feeling of relief are better understood when man knows where he comes from by analysing his cultural memory. The second chapter of Part II, therefore, provides a glimpse into the Indian Prestige of Origin, the Origin of the Beginnings. I restrict myself as much as possible to accounts of "the beginnings". By limiting myself to that cycle of accounts I hope to be repaid with a more rigorous understanding of what happens now in the world of man through close proximity to what happened then, at that time.

The Indian Prestige of Origin is formidable and impressive. It has particular characteristics which are of interest, not only for academic philosophical exercise, but also for one's personal edification. That is of course all the more true for the researcher whose cultural memory has originated in an other source and other origin. That is why sympathetic participation in the course of the book will not go unnoticed.

My origin is embedded in the Greek vision of reality. That vision is an other of philosophy. By circumstance of history that Greek philosophy encountered-a living meeting, therefore-, the so-called historical revelation of the Hebrew god Jahweh and the later revelation of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Athens and Jerusalem shaped my first European memory. The scientific-critical method since Descartes and Newton added a further memory at the close of the European Middle Ages. I must, therefore, know and feel where my principle of orientation becomes a principle of limitation when meeting another cultural memory. An excellent maxim for any philosopher. Had the Indian not told me, I would not have known of Mount Kailasa or Mount Meru, a mount different from the Olympus and from Mount Calvary in Jerusalem. Siva's eternal embrace of Parvati, the daughter of the mount, seems an antithetic image of Siva Sthanu, the motionless. But Parvati is Prakrti, the eternal female half of the one all-encompassing essence and, therefore, in itself still. The eternal embrace is the image of inherent cosmic satisfaction (nivrtti) on the level of myth which would, unless activated (pravrtti), not result in creation. (see Part III, no. 207.)

What strikes me in the Hindu's Perfection of Origin is that at no point there seems to be a "fatal flaw", an inherent existential doubt. The Origin provides security. One is in Brahman, Brahman is ill everything created.'

Thus the Indian Origin has not given occasion to fall into the snare of antagonism between "scire" and "credere", belief as against knowledge. After the death of the Christian Saviour, when the Greek "logos" in a manner unique in itself, slowly severed heaven and earth on Europe's soil, Europe lost some of its "cosmological moment". If in every European language "myth" came to mean-until very recently-a fable, it is because the Greeks' "thinking thought" (res cogitans) left the myth more or less demystified. The encounter with the Semitic adamic myth where Adam is banished and condemned to earth, had already been a foreboding.



  PART I  
  1. A Phenomenology of "Chaos"  
  2. The Idea of the Sacred  
  3. "The Juices of Saptadvipas, the Seven Islands"  
  4. Athens, Jerusalem, and Mount Kailasa: A Preliminary Search for Situation  
  5. Vac and Vaikhari: The Word and Human Speech  
  6. Vaco Bhagam: Sharing in the Womb of the Word  
  1. Myths are no Allegories  
  2. The Confession of Receptivity: a First Phenomenology  
  3. The Confession of the Sacred: a Second Phenomenology  
  4. Speculation and Myth  
  5. Myth and "Modern": India, the Greeks, the West
(i) India
(ii) The Greeks
(iii) The West
  6. Conclusion  
  1. The Problem  
  2. Method  
  1. Introduction  
  2. Pravrttidharma  
  3. Nivrttidharma  
  4. The Reconciliation of Pravrtti and Nivrtti Values
(i) Myths of the exiled soul
(ii) Asrama
(iii) Abhyudaya and Nihsreyasa
(iv) Bhukti and Mukti
(v) Bhakti: The "Irrational" Solution
  1. Introduction  
  2. Notes on the Vedas  
  3. The Prestige of Origin  
  4. India's primal origin myths
(i) Agni: Sacrifice of Fire and Intelligence
(ii) Brhaspati: The Prayer of Orthodoxy
(iii) The perfection of the beginnings: Sat-Asat (Rg Veda 10.129)
(iv) The Birth of His Own Perfection: Hiranyagarbha (Rg Veda 10.121)
(v) Prajapati: The Lord of Generation
(vi) In praise of man's origin: Purusa Sukta (Rg Veda 10.90)
(vii) Conclusion: Tapas-discernment and Intelligent Concentration
  1. The Symbol of Water  
  1. Conclusion  

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