All posts filed under: Perspective

Fulfillment 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: I am very confused Rita. I read a lot of posts about the health …

A Very Brief History of Indian Science

The annual Indian Science Congress, which just concluded, had its usual share of controversies about history of Indian science and I have been asked to weigh in. It so turns out that I did precisely that in a brief account titled “Science” for Stanley Wolpert’s Encyclopedia of India(2005) and since that is freely available online, I shall be more selective of themes in this revision of the previous essay. This account does not include the modern period for which many excellent histories exist. Indian archaeology and literature provide considerable layered evidence related to the development of science. The chronological time frame for this history is provided by the archaeological record that has been traced, in an unbroken tradition, to about 8000 BCE. Prior to this date, there are records of rock paintings that are considerably older. The earliest textual source is the Ṛgveda, which is a compilation of very ancient material. The astronomical references in the Vedic books recall events of the third or the fourth millennium BCE and earlier. The discovery that Sarasvati, the preeminent river of the …

What Would General Bhishma Tell Prime Minister Narendra Modi Today?

Five millenniums ago, after the Great War fought on battleground Kurukshetra between all but two warriors of Aryavarta, when King Yudhishthira asked Ved Vyasa about how he should go about rebuilding his kingdom, Vyasa told him to seek the advice of General Bhishma. Son of Ganga and King Shantanu, pupil of Guru Parashurama, administrator-warrior-thinker-strategist par excellence, this monument of a man lay on a bed of arrows on the battleground, consciously waiting for the opportune time to let his soul leave his body. With his death would go all wisdom, all knowledge, all perspectives about dharma, statecraft, kingly duties. And war. The ensuing discourse between Bhishma and Yudhishthira comprises the largest of 18 parvas, books, in the Mahabharata. At 12,890 verses the Shanti Parva holds little more than one-sixth of the entire 73,640-verse text of the Critical Edition. Broadly, this parva is divided into three parts, Rajadharma parva (law of statecraft, governance), Apaddharma parva (laws of emergencies, calamities) and Mokshadharma parva (law of salvation, metaphysics), although each influences the other, in a seamless blending, with …

Narendra Modi Must Use Balakot To Consolidate India’s Rajasic Transformation

Pakistan wanted to “bleed India with a thousand cuts”. Question: is Pulwama, where 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force lost their lives in a suicide attack on 14 February, the thousandth cut? “The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain,” promised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Question: is 14 February Pakistan’s Shishupala moment? Three years ago, former Research and Analysis Wing chief Vikram Sood had advocated that India should stop being the “good boy” of international affairs. Question: does 14 February mark the end of the idea that India is a peace-loving, peace-spewing nation ready to be trampled, humiliated, killed? Across planes of time, space and beyond, on battlefield Kurukshetra, Sri Krishna, after several rounds of attempting to deliver peace, each of which was destined to fail, had advised the reluctant warrior Arjuna, fraught with tamas, to go and fight. Question: is this India’s rajas moment, a moment when the collective consciousness of a nation comes together and sheds its tamasic mode and embraces the rajasic spirit? Is the new …

Vaastu Shastra: Dispelling Popular Myths

Sashikala Ananth, a renowned architect and expert on Vaastu Shastra, and has been instrumental in bringing the ancient Indian tradition to an entire generation of architects and designers. Following is a reprint of a speech that she gave many years ago at a convention, the theme of which remains quite relevant even today. What is Vaastu? Is it relevant to modern living? This is an oft repeated question says Sashikala ji.  The answers are many.  When she began her journey into the rediscovery of our traditional roots over 30 years ago, the thought that used to recur in her mind was: why does something that is vibrant and alive need to be rediscovered at all? Shouldn’t it only be a process of reinterpretation? Today she sees that this was a redundant question.  When a culture and a civilization are ravaged by the beliefs and assumptions of one or more alien races, then the path of rediscovery is an unavoidable one.  The nature of the traditional way of life would be either distorted or destroyed. Respecting …

Shakta Mantras

Tasting Śākta  Tantra – an amateur’s experience

The East has always been a land shrouded in attractive mysticism. Religions, cultures, traditions, cuisines and most importantly, Knowledge of the Self have pulled millions from across the world over centuries, or millennia even, towards discovering the shortest path to the East and, in effect, discovering the Self. The tremendous diversity and depths of approaching the Divine that exist in the East cannot be understood by merely labeling all that is endemic to modern day nations with socio-political boundaries under the one single umbrella term of “religion”. Even the term religion is a subject of controversy, which the author wishes not to cover in this article. bhārata[i], the land of sanātanadharma, with temples of all (and no) sizes and shapes dedicated to countless deities, has a matching number of perspectives of understanding the Divine and the Self. All these perspectives, called darshana-s, showcase the freedom of choice that is an inherent quality of the Indic culture. These darshana-s cover the entire range of possible personal spiritual philosophies – theistic, atheistic, agnostic, and non-theistic. Of these, …

The Dharma Sadhana of the Mimamsaka

Kumarila Bhatta and the other great scholars of the Purva Mimamsa were in the frontline of the battle to save Vedic heritage and culture. They were eclipsed by the great Vedanta sages who followed them, but in a conversation with C.K. Shridhar, scholars from Chennai and Poona offer deep insights into their valuable contributions. It was the Vedic adherents known as the Mimamsakas who first revived and defended the Vedic religion in the latter half of the first millennium, not only from the strong Buddhist challenge, but from internal dissonances, paving the way for the great Vedantins to come, starting from Shankara Bhagavatpada. While Mimamsa refers to all Vedic enquiry, the term has become associated with the ‘Karma Kandins,’ those who extolled the virtues of the Karma Kanda (Mantra and Bramhana) portions of the Veda, thus known as the Purva Mimamsa. This is in contrast to the ‘Gnyana Kandins,” the Vedantins, who focused on the Upanishads (the Uttara Mimamsa). Even the great Sutras, the bed rock on which an entire edifice of “Bhashyas” or commentaries …

Historical Perspective of Sati

The custom of Sati is among the widely cited and the most reviled of Hindu practices, despite being more or less extinct for nearly 190 years. Long after its ban in 1829, Sati remains in public discourse by virtue of being a polemical weapon. Whenever there is a defense of any tradition, the common heard retort is – “Oh…what about Sati? Was that not also a tradition? Did we not get rid of that?” More often than not, this weapon is used rather liberally in contexts where it is out-of-place. Recently the journalist and political commentator Rajdeep Sardesai used Sati as a polemical weapon while arguing in favor of changing the rules of admission at the shrine of Shri Ayappa at Sabarimala. Sati remains alive not just in Indian public discourse, but also continues to fascinate the West, some 300 years after modern Europeans first encountered the practice. It is used as a polemical tool by some to denigrate the rituals and culture of Santana Dharma. For some outsiders of a feminist persuasion Sati is a convenient …

Ramanujan Yatra Diaries

Day 1 Our Ramanujan Yatra group of 24 Yatris headed straight for the Ramanujan Museum in Chennai after a sumptuous lunch at Ananda Bhavanam in Adayar. The participants from Mumbai and Pune were shocked to see the quantity of boiled rice and the absence of chapati for lunch but enjoyed their full course Tamilian lunch. Our two traveler buses entered the teeny weeny lanes inside which the museum was located and we got down in front of the museum. The place where the museum is located doesn’t look very amazing, but do bees ever find honey outside the flower? The Director of the Ramanujan Museum, Mrs. Meena Suresh, started off the first session with the inspiring story of P.K.Srinivasan (fondly known as PKS), a very inspiring Math teacher who dedicated a major part of his life towards popularising the life and works of the great Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. It was PKS’ dream to start a museum with the same name. So with the available resources that he had at his disposal, which included his own …

Dharmashastras

Dharmashastras and Customs As Valid Sources For Modern Law

The sacred temple of Swami Ayyappa at Sabarimala is under the danger of defilement due to the over-eagerness of a ‘secular’ State to impose its ‘Constitutional Morality’. The fundamental rights of millions of women devotees of the shrine have been ignored to facilitate the entry of a few non-believers. While the instruments of ‘Constitutional Morality’, ‘discrimination’ and ‘equality’ have been used in arguing against the practice of not allowing women aged 10-50 to enter the temple, the arguments about the traditional and ancient customs and rituals of the place have been completely ignored. This brings forth an important question. What should be the law on the issue of customs and tradition in religious practices? Increasingly, the judiciary is taking a stance that only those practices that are ‘essential’ to a religion shall be offered protection. And the definition of what is essential is left to the judiciary itself! The current interpretation is that, at the minimum, the practice in question must be defined (written/codified) in the key doctrinal texts of the religion. It takes very …