All posts filed under: Perspective

Shodasha Samskaras – The Sixteen Rites To Mark The Passage Of Life

Introduction The word ‘Samskara’ is used in different contexts in Indian languages. In North India, the word ‘sanskari’ is often used for a refined and cultured person or for refined behavior. The word ‘samskara’ used in its classical context refers to a rite or ritual performed to mark stages in a person’s life or for achieving certain personal goals towards Self-Realization. Let us analyze, for a bit, the etymology of the word ‘samskara’ to understand the meaning of the word. The word is a composite of the root ‘kr’ – to do – qualified by ‘sam’ – well or appropriate. That ‘karya’ which is done ‘samyak’ – an activity which is done well or appropriately – is samskara. One can take any activity – karya – and evaluate for ‘samskruti’ (refinement). A task can be done badly, routinely or exquisitely. Depending upon how it is done, it gets classified as vikara, prakrutika (yatha-prakara) or samskara. This test can be put to any activity that humans undertake. As an exercise, let us take the act of …

The Play Of Consciousness and The Śiva Sūtras

Who are we? Why are we here? Are we free? If yes, what is the source of our freedom? Science tells us we are machines, and looking from it our freedom is an illusion. In science there is no place for the spirit. We are sure that there is something real to our inner world. But ordinary science cannot reveal to us the nature of consciousness. This is because science can only tell us of the laws of objects which are expressed in language. With language we can only speak of objects. But Consciousness is not an object. It is the searchlight with which we see objects in our inner or outer spaces or through the medium of the senses. Consciousness is the perceiving subject. Science, through its study of the brain in the search of the source of awareness can only reveal its limitations. It can show that the brain is like a machine but it cannot create a machine that is like the brain. We face paradoxes; science has reached its limits. That …

Yogasutra Of Patanjali – A Scientific Exploration

Tradition places the sage Patanjali’s life somewhere in the fifth to third centuries BCE. He is supposed to be a famous grammarian, writing a commentary on the discipline of grammar to better preserve the meaning of vedic literature. He is better known to practitioners of yoga around the world for his seminal treatise, the Yogasutra. His name itself is suggestive of his life’s purpose. “Pata” in Sanskrit means to fall and “Anjali” is a pose familiar to adherents as one of offering and salutation. Patanjali, thus implies the offering fallen from the heavens, to guide people toward a realization of the Unified Self. Yoga means unification and one effect of the Anjali pose is the connection it brings about between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, creating balance in the mind and body. While a philosophical understanding and the practice of yoga was prevalent in Patanjali’s time as seen from contemporaneous texts, the Yogasutra is likely the only compendium that is solely devoted to the subject. The term sutra in Sanskrit implies the …

Indian Culture and Traditions: “Circles of Trust” for Next-Gen Aspirations

Systems change as the governing principle of developmental change evolved in the western world within their political cultural framework of codified democracy, jurisprudence, and thought. Despite cracks in applications of this framework worldwide, the limitations have not been recognized as arising from a restricted lens. The asymmetries in expectations, outcomes, scale and sustainability of development change in different parts of India that investors and funders lament about is a result of castigating rather than integrating the crucial lens of culture and traditions (C&T) to view and effect system change. Culture, as a composite of relationships, norms, long established in “circles of trust” that include immediate and extended family members, gurus, social and religious group members, and the relationships and responsibilities that have evolved to sustain them, even over generations, are the foundation of sustainability and hence of system change. Part I of this series outlines the limitations of systems theory and practice viewed outside of the C&T lens. Part I – Limitations of Systems Theory and Practice I.   The Original Lens for Systems Change There …

Samyama: The key to everyday living

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and pranayama) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about how can one use yoga as a tool for deeper fulfillment and meaning in life? He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku who is Gayatri Iyer, and an elderly teacher Rita, just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In my discussions with Raghu who is Rita in the writings, I learnt how symbols and rituals of our Hindu culture have been misinterpreted for long and once you know the real meaning, you can only marvel at the profundity of the entire meaning and how it is part of the larger divine order. Chiku:  Today, I want to ask you some questions about everyday life and yoga. Rita: …

Upanayanam – II

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and prANAyAma) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about how can one use yoga as a tool for deeper fulfillment and meaning in life? He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku who is Gayatri Iyer, and an elderly teacher Rita, just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In my discussions with Raghu who is Rita in the writings, I learnt how symbols and rituals of our Hindu culture have been misinterpreted for long and once you know the real meaning, you can only marvel at the profundity of the entire meaning and how it is part of the larger divine order. In the first part of the Upanayanam series we looked into the meaning and the …

The Fire’s Journey: From Here To Eternity

In Bhasa’s play Karnabhara (5th-4th century AD), when Sakra approaches Karna in disguise asking for alms, Karna, the great giver, says that he is ready to give him anything he wants, and offers the fruit of the Agnishtoma Sacrifice. The writer,  facilitated by Indic Academy, attended a full-fledged, five-day Agnishtoma Yagnya, the first of the great ‘Soma Yagas’ of the Vedic period, carried out with close adherence to the Vedic Shroutha Sutras at Jayasuryapatnam (Nadergul) near Hyderabad, between May 09 and May 13, 2019. Reflections on the Vedic Agnishtoma Yajna The Fire comes to you when you undergo the Upanayanam ceremony, when you become a dvija. As a Brahma-Charin, one who has begun the walk on the path of Brahma, you perform the Samidha Dhaanam, offerings of fuel sticks of sacred wood into Agni, offerings which are to be made every day. After marriage, you bring home, along with your dharmapathni, the Aupasanagni, duly kindled, to be maintained every day. You will make offerings of milk, twice a day, a prelude or precursor to the …

Upanayanam – Part 1

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and prANAyAma) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about how can one use yoga as a tool for deeper fulfillment and meaning in life? He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku who is Gayatri Iyer, and an elderly teacher Rita, just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In my discussions with Raghu who is Rita in the writings, I learnt how symbols and rituals of our Hindu culture have been misinterpreted for long and once you know the real meaning, you can only marvel at the profundity of the entire meaning and how it is part of the larger divine order. The meaning of Upanayanam upanayanam is the time when a boy stands on the threshold …

Learning how to learn through Yoga

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and pranayama) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about how can one use yoga as a tool for deeper fulfillment and meaning in life? He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku who is Gayatri Iyer, and an elderly teacher Rita, just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In my discussions with Raghu who is Rita in the writings, I learnt how symbols and rituals of our Hindu culture have been misinterpreted for long and once you know the real meaning, you can only marvel at the profundity of the entire meaning and how it is part of the larger divine order. Chiku: Rita, you keep saying that learning is everything. What do you mean by it? …

DhYana – Part 2

We are all aware about Yogacharya T.Krishnamacharya being a pioneer in using yoga (specifically asana and pranayama) for therapy and well-being. But little did we know that he was a great scholar of our sacred knowledge and traditions. One of his long-standing students Raghu Ananthanarayanan has put together an interesting note about what is dhyAna and the interconnected nuances around it. He has used the device of an innocent conversation between a young, curious child, Chiku who is Gayatri Iyer, and an elderly teacher Rita, just like the dialogues that used to take place between student and teachers at ashrams. In resuming my discussions with Raghu who is Rita in the writings, I continue my exploration of “what is dhyAna?” and through that try and disperse the misinterpretations of symbols and rituals of our Hindu culture. Chiku: How is nidhIdhyAsana different from dhyAna, is it closer to dhAraNA ? Rita: nidhIdhyAsana is doing dhAraNA on understanding the words that are being told to you by somebody. So, it starts with shravaNam, mananam and nidhidhyAsitavyam. So, shravaNam …