^^ Thanks to one and all for weighing in on the discussion thus far. I've caught up on most of it, but the following reply addresses only the very first post and the thread that corresponds with it... and it is VERY long, so Gosia dear, you might want to have a cup of tea beforehand so you can get through all of it
Welcome to the forum :)
We always feel blessed when this family of devotees expands and we gain
new sources of insight and inspiration.
Thank you very much for sharing the information and sentiments that you
have put forth in both this thread and the preceding one. I am touched by the depth of your concern for
the sanctity of the scriptures and the misinterpretation and disrespect they
have had to endure throughout the years.
I would now like to present my own views on our use of the term
"mythology" if it's ok with all of you; I hope you guys can forgive me if
anything I say is expressed wrongly and please do correct me if that is the
First of all, I might be in the minority here, but I don't
interpret the word "mythology" as synonymous with fiction, and therefore I
don't find it offensive. Words are
indeed powerful, but their power stems from our intent while we invoke
them. Just recently, Shivang shared a
news story with us about a (now resolved) controversy regarding the Bhagvad
Gita in Russia.
The controversy was the result of people
mistakenly taking one particular connotation of the words "Dharma", "Ishwar",
"Devta", etc., and misinterpreting the scripture as a whole to be exclusivist
and extremist. We had a brief but very
satisfying discussion in that thread in which we agreed that there are certain
such words which have multiple definitions, some of which lead to unfortunate
misunderstandings of divine texts and others which make the meaning come to
life in the most valuable ways. In my
opinion, "mythology" is one such word.
Its Greek root, "mythos", has a very neutral
definition. It merely means "story",
without any further qualification as truth, fiction, or anything in between. The encyclopedia entry on it states the
following: "a myth is defined as
explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form… In a
very broad sense, the word can refer to any story originating within
traditions". Again, it suggests nothing
normative or offensive; narrative just means story, we do hold the stories
contained in our scriptures as sacred, and they did originate within our
tradition rather than being adapted from multiple origins. That being said, we are not robots, so when
asked to define a term in conversation rather than a research paper, we do work
our own chosen connotation into our explanation. Some may indeed add their own masala and say
that myths are fictional, "make believe" stories that were just meant to teach
lessons or answer questions but never actually occurred. However, when I hear mythology, what I think
of are narratives set in a time and place that seems so far removed from our
own (in language, lifestyle, culture, opulence, etc.) that dwelling on them can
be more enthralling than going to an amusement park, and that contain messages
of such real insight and practical relevance that studying them even briefly
teaches me more that I could ever have learned in +/-16 years of formal schooling.
You are correct in saying others may not be able to read my
mind and know that this is how I personally interpret the term and are still
susceptible to get the wrong idea about our scriptures and our acceptance of
them as reality, but then, I think that a huge purpose for our discussions here
is to forget about what those "others" think of us and strive only for the
approval of our Lord – Shri Ram, Shri Krishna, Shiv Shankar, Durga Maiya, or
however else we choose to address the Absolute.
For a look into what Shri Krishna might think of such a dilemma, I would
like to cite a couple of examples from our favorite devotional serials. Having read and enjoyed certain post at a
neighboring forum, I figured these would suffice and I would not have to dig up
textual examples for the time being :) In
the song Shyam Tere Kaam Bade Achraj Bhare from Ramanand Sagar's Shri Krishna,
we have the line "dheet, anaari, chhaliya, jhootha, prem ki gaali khaaye…
sakhiyon ne naam tere kya kya dhare!", telling us that the gopis of Vrindavan
responded to Kanha's childhood pranks by affectionately referring to him as a
trickster and a liar among other things.
These words mean something totally different when the gopis say them
with love than when someone like Shishupal said them with spite, and Shri
Krishna can tell the difference.
Similarly, the word "mythological" means something different when I use
it than when a cynic does, and as long as Shri Krishna knows the difference, I
don't care how "others" interpret my use of the word.
Also, there is one particular line in BR Chopra's Mahabharat
that comes to mind – which happens to be one of Shivang's favorite dialogues
from the show – which is perfectly applicable here. It occurs when the Vrishnis are deciding what
to do in response to Jarasandh's relentless (albeit failed) attacks on Mathura, and Shri Krishna
suggests that they move to Dwarika.
Vasudev worries that this may cause people to derisively refer to his
dear son as "Ranchhod", or one who fled from battle. And Shri Krishna tells his father that he
doesn't really care what people call him – what's in a name? He has so many already; this would just be
another one to add to the list. And when
people call upon him, even if they address him with this otherwise derogatory
name, he would heed their call all the same.
And thus the term "ranchhod" was redefined – people no longer use it as
an insult, but as a name of Krishna, and in fact some even give their sons this
name in his honor (remember 3 Idiots, guys – Ranchhoddas Shyamaldas Chaanchad
If you guys still think that the forum needs a new name, it
can and will definitely be done. We'll
need a week or two to agree on a new one (may I suggest Devotional Dreamland), and
then approximately 3 weeks for the website administrators to vet and make the
change since they don't come online that often.
So we can either spend a month on these administrative formalities to
address the possibility that our forum's members and activities are being
misinterpreted by others because of one of the words that make up its name, or
we can spend that time engaged in such devout discussions that – taking a cue
from the original Ranchhodji – we end up redefining the connotation of that
word altogether. At least among those silent readers of our forum who are
willing to look deeper beyond the title and are thus actually worth convincing. It's up to you guys, and I will gladly abide
by your decision.
Sorry for the rant :)