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Mani/Mantra/and the Garuda-legend-2

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Tue Mar 25 1997 - 00:40:03 PST

srimathe lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s",

Before proceeding to explain the "reflexivity principle" involved in
"mantra-prayOga" (invocation/incantation) and "mantra-shakti/phalan"
(phenomenal effect) as referred to in my last post, I want to share with you
all a piece of research-finding in the field of psychology. It is quite
relevant, I believe, to our present discussions on the questions Sri.Mani
raised last week.

There is a book written by a world renowned child-psychologist whose name is
Dr.Bruno Bettelheim. He is an Austrian who naturalised in America where he
taught psychology at the University of Chicago in the '70s. (Perhaps he is
still Professor Emeritus there, I don't know.)

Dr.Bettelheim is the author of two monumental works on child psychology. One
is titled "The Uses of Enchantment" and the other is "A Good Enough Parent". 
(Everyone of you, dear members, who has children should read these two
extraordinary books on understanding children and their minds).

Now the first named book of Dr.Bettelheim, "The Uses of Enchantment", is all
about the impact --- direct and subliminal -- that fairy tales have on the
tender psyche of children. In 1997 the book received in the US "The National
Book Award" and "The National Book Critics Circle Award".

In "Uses of Enchantment" Dr.Bettelheim describes, through a dozen
fascinating chapters, how age-old fairy-tales like "Little Red Riding Hood",
"Jack and the Beanstalk", "Hansel and Gretchel" etc., when they are read out
constantly to children in their most tender years, have been CLINICALLY
found to wield enormous influence on the growth and development of
children's personality and mind. 

He describes, too, how fairy-tales help children to cope with a world where
adults make all the rules and where all sorts of formidable dilemmas of
juvenile ethics and morality arise; how the myth and fantasies of such
stories help them to recognize and deal with untold emotions, anxieties and
fears simmering beneath their fragile minds; and how such "enchanting yarns"
help the child to first understand, at a deeply sub-conscious level, and
then come to terms with a vast, strange and fearful world..... a world into
which it has been suddenly born and where the child has no choice but to
"confront and cope daily". 

Now, it is not my intention, dear friends, to launch upon a full-scale
review of Dr.Bettelheim's work here. (It is far too big a subject and not
directly relevant to the "bhakti-list").

All I want to do, however, in the next few posts, dear friends, is to draw a
parallel between Dr.Bettelheim's central thesis on popular fairy-tales of
children and the subject-matter of debate sparked off by Sri.Mani's query as
to why the otherwise lofty truths of our religious literature & faith are
interlaced with seemingly mythical and "fantastic yarns" (like the "Garuda"
legend, for instance).

If I understand him right Sri.Mani seems to me to be really asking (and he
can correct me if I'm wrong) : 

a) "Why is so much of what is sublime in our ancient faith also accompanied
by as much that seems ridiculous and infantile to 20th-century sensibilities ? "

b) "What is PROFOUND wisdom doing in the company of fantastic MYTHOLOGY in
our religious literature ?"

Now, if you look at it closely, these are very good, very EARNEST questions,
dear friends, and they demand a reasonable answer however inadequate. We
cannot simply dismiss or gloss over them or take umbrage over imagined
slights we presume such questions cause to this "sampradAyam" or that "achAryA".

We HAVE to take the question on its merits, enquire into it in a spirit of
humility and dispassion and if it is possible, within our limited capacity,
we must proceed to answer accordingly, shouldn't we ?

If you don't mind, therefore, in the few following posts I shall attempt one
more such answer to add to the several other interesting ones our good
members like Sri.Sadagopan, Sri.Rengarajan, Sri.Rangaswamy and Sri.Sagar
already provided in the past week.

Ensuing posts on the "principle of reflexivity" and "Dr.Bruno Bettelheim's
thesis" are only meant to reveal one more dimension to the issue of
"mantra"/mythical tales of religious legend.

It is not my intention, believe me dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", to fuel the
debate on "garuda" further ..... except, perhaps, to steer it towards
evermore thoughtful directions.

srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha