All posts filed under: Perspective

Discovering Life’s Purpose

In this journey called life, every person encounters these questions at some point: What is Life? Is Life merely a journey from birth to death? Does Life end with Death? Is there more to Life than just a mechanical process? Is there a purpose and meaning to Life? While the modern worldview owing to its Abrahamic origins considers this life as a onetime event, a journey that ends at death forever, the Indic worldview, which is informed by Hindu philosophy posits life as a perpetual journey of the Jiva-s from one body to another body until this journey finally comes to an end with the realization that this entire cycle of birth and death was merely an appearance, a superimposition which when removed leads to the reality of Atman as one birthless unchanging infinite whole. Death in Indic worldview is not a full stop, but merely a comma, where the Jiva discards the old body and takes up the new. In other words, Life is a journey from unreal to real, from ignorance to knowledge …

Perspective as an Audience of Pondicherry Literature Festival 2018 – the Beginning

I’ve always been wary of ‘lit fests’, ending up more often than not at book fairs instead. In my defense, the illustrious “Jaipur Lit Fest” was my benchmark for forming an opinion about such events. Glossy, elite, crowded, and towing the same soul-destroying mind-numbing left leaning binary world view. So when the INDICA the Chapter network of Indic Academy presented Pondy Lit Fest (PLF)  was announced with the speakers line up I was again unsure, would this be just another of those? My interest was really peaked when the communists came up in arms to get the festival barred and I totally decided to go when the Alliance Francaise Pondicherry, one of the two partner venues pulled out at the very last moment owing to the pressure. I can only imagine the frustration and difficulties faced by the Indic Academy and PLF organisers to keep their first venture afloat… and must I say what a rise of the phoenix it was. A spectacularly hosted and successful event despite the limitations and road blocks!! I’m so glad …

Swami Vivekananda And Sardar Patel On Nationhood

Between two Indian Independence days, last year and this year, I spent most of my time reading the letters and speeches of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for my new book on Patel, The Man Who Saved India. Two letters, in particular, have stayed with me. They justify, in a sense, the title of the book. They were written barely days before the death of India’s first deputy Prime Minister in mid-December 1950. In November 1950, barely a month before his death, Patel wrote two letters on China, Tibet (which China annexed in 1950) and India’s north-eastern frontier which are acutely prescient. The first letter, the shorter of the two, is addressed to Girija Shankar Bajpai, the Secretary-General in the External Affairs Ministry, where Patel warns about everything from Communist arms smuggling in the northeast to the impact of European missionaries on the hill tribes including the Nagas “their influence was, by no means, friendly to India and Indians”. On China he writes, “we cannot be friendly with China and must think in terms of defence against …

India At 71: Crises of Identity Amidst The Machinations Of Monopolists

It is a yearly ritual, since 1947, to ask both the simple and obvious questions of what independence has brought to and means to India, as well as pose the more probing interrogatories about identity, belonging, and seeking post-independence. Getting to a satisfying there where Bharat meets India, on terms that both the Bharateeya and the Indian can celebrate, seems to be a distant destination in this 71st year of India’s independence from colonial rule. Once colonized, the getting there is through a long, bumpy road that winds upon itself, tying us up in knots of the mind and the soul, and wearing us down with self-doubt about our place in the Sun. This identity quest, if indulged in for far too long, by the digging up of the dirt of history, can keep us stalled on that bumpy road or get us into the ravines of rage and regret. Colonized for long, humiliated, injured, and robbed of our precious legacies, and of our sense of self, we struggle to find our place in the …

Vedic Delight (Part 2) – The 10th All India Annual Vedic Competition by Om Charitable Trust (Part 2)

All the students as well as teachers at both the convention centers were up by 4 AM. Some of them were queuing up in front of bathrooms while the remaining had began revising the parts of the Veda which they had studied. It was heartening to see their commitment to their studies as most of them had begun revision the first thing in the morning! By 5.30 AM everyone was performing Sandhyavandana and Agnikaryas at the spots specially allotted on balconies, porticos and gardens nearby. The organizers had gone to great lengths in terms of making all the necessary arrangements so that none of the students would miss their daily Agnikarya. The main competition began immediately after breakfast. The students would report to the appropriate examination room based on the Veda and Shakha(Branch) that they were to be tested on. They entered the competition room in turns as their serial numbers and names were called out. Every examination room had two eminent scholars who were designated as the examiners. The examiners were carefully selected based …

In Search Of India’s Lost Epic

The beginnings of Western scholarship on the Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata, are marked by a great puzzlement at the work. The text does not fit Western canons of literature—too heterogeneous its contents, too abstract its ideas that Western scholars can make sense of it.1 The “confusion” of fact and fantasy—a cosmological narrative that begins with Brahmā, the Creator, and descends through the repeated names of obscure dynastic kings to connect with present-day “history”—violates all Western expectations of narrative consistency and reality. In contrast to the Vedas, considered the earliest documents of “Indo-European” civilization, the Mahābhārata appears a corrupted work, and German scholars are quick to identify the culprits: the “aboriginal” population of India, those from “the darker side” (Garbe). In the German scholars’ view, the aboriginal influence can be seen in features such as the emphasis on gift-giving to the Brahmans, the belief in karma and rebirth, and the “repugnant” cults of Viṣṇu, Śiva, and the Devī—features they consider inimical to the “Aryan” inheritance of ancient India.2 The task of scholarship can only be to …

Vedic Delight – The 10th All India Annual Vedic Competition by Om Charitable Trust

I participated in an oral Vedic Examination at Mysore, in the southern part of Karnataka, when I was a nine-year old kid and a student of Rigveda. I remember I had a fear of failing, a sense of anticipation about the examinations and admiration towards the examiners. Since then I have witnessed many such annual gatherings, where hundreds of Veda Students and Pathashalas participate and are certified for the parts of the Vedic scripture they have memorized. Later I became a teacher and then an examiner. Until now, I had never seen these gatherings as significant for our heritage. It was always either a part of our educational routine or of our workaday lives. When Indic Today’s editorial team asked me to attend a similar examination to be held at Chennai and write about it, I had the chance to look at it from a different perspective. While I am familiar with such oral examinations, this particular event urged me to reflect on it in relation to our heritage, as well as our sense of …

Making Up Your Mind In The Age Of Artificial Intelligence

In August 2016, the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote an essay for The Financial Times where he asked the question: if algorithms decide all our choices, what happens to free will Harari’s argument is simple. The idea of authority among humans was once validated by prophets and revelations. What is the ‘truth’ was determined by what was revealed to the messenger. Divinity or the word of God decided what could be accepted as the infallible truth. But this is changing said Harari.  What determines the ‘truth’ increasingly in our world is data.  The veracity-defining power is so strong that the historian said we are entering a new age with a new ‘religion’ Dataism. Harari was prescient. In September 2017 came news that a former Google engineer Anthony Levandowsky had created a new religion based on futuristic technology called Way of the Future. This group was now building their own artificial intelligence (AI)-based ‘God’. A new benevolent deity pre-programmed to process the future for devotees. In all this there was one thing that was being …

Krishna – The First Coach

(Editor’s Note: This essay is one of the submissions received for the Mahabharata Immersion Workshop Essay Competition conducted by Indic Academy and Indic Today.  The essay was submitted by Kavita Krishna and it received a honourable mention from the judges. )  Be it in exhibiting childish pranks natural to every child like stealing butter, or in expressing sensuality as an adolescent, or reveling in beauty and music as a young adult, or transforming into a super duper king with an undefeatable army and a dashing diplomat who could not swing events to his favour, yet could not help earning everyone’s respect and adoration, to finally closing the grand act as a world teacher who shows us all how to live up to our highest potential via the Bhagavad Geeta, this is Krishna; World’s First Life-Coach. The word Krishna etymologically means ‘that which attracts’. What can attract a human more than moksha? After all each one of us is in the process of finding happiness – either through artha or kaama or dharma – not appreciating …

Women in Sabarimala: An Excursion Into Dharma

It is often argued that restrictive rules, in terms of temple entry or offering worship at one, impinge upon the “right to participate in the religion” of those who are thus restricted. This stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of participation as intrinsically a positive act. What is meant by a “positive act”? Most of us see would see participation as actually (and thus, positively) doing acts one generally does in a religious setting: such as entering a temple or performing a particular ritual. However, this is not a realistic understanding of our dharma or any religion for that matter. A full participation in the religion entails not only performing duties, whether obligatory or out of your own volition, but also not doing what is prohibited. Negative acts such as abstaining from meat and alcohol on vrata/upavasa days or removing footwear before entering a temple are also instances of religious participation. This aspect of Dharma can be understood when one reads our texts. Yama(restraint) is one of the eight components of Ashtanga Yoga. Various types of vratas are …