All posts filed under: Thoughts

Rooted and Free – Essay 5

Being rooted and free is synergetic. A person who is rooted in his or her convictions is the one who is free in the truest sense. Freedom has no value unless we have some reasons or ideals to stick to. It is important for the youth today to define the paradigms of freedom to scale the horizon of aspirations. Our civilisation is deeply rooted in cultural values and heritage. We have a history that spans over five thousand years. Different philosophies and ideas have shaped our mind space for over centuries. From these ideas, we have built the foundations of some of the greatest institutions of human life. The Upanishads, Vedas, Brahamanas and other Shastras contained the mysteries of our existence. These scriptures have made a simple priest’s son the Prime Minister of one of the mightiest empires across the world. They made Chanakya the great thinker he was. These ideas have never confined us, but have helped us to become better versions of ourselves. The belief system that nurtured the Saraswati civilisation has produced …

Remembering Desikachar

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 fulfilment 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 21st of June is an important day for me and all my colleagues at …

Rooted and Free – Essay 4

What is freedom? To be very fair, I will not be able to define freedom in a single sentence as it means several different things to several different people. Even for me, it means a myriad of things. But I can describe what roots mean to me, a little better. Roots are important. They steady us. They give us an identity. They remind us of our strengths and often give us a home, a sense of belonging; and more often than not, a direction when there is none. As somebody who is preparing to leave behind the comforts of home, I can only hope that I will never forget my roots while chasing freedom. And, for this reason, I would attempt to describe how the two have shaped me so far and how I hope they continue to do. At the age of 15, I tried moving out of the safe space and comfort of my home to unknown surroundings in pursuit of self-discovery under the guise of higher education. I searched for independence as …

Rooted and Free – Essay 3

Language is made up of a set of alphabets and rules, but there is no end to the millions of words and sentences and stories that it creates. The rules do not restrict the language; without them, the language would not exist, would not make sense. In much the same way, I believe in being rooted in heritage and respecting traditions doesn’t stop me from being the person I want to be: it just makes sense of the mass of possibilities the world offers. It is strange how quick we are to dismiss traditions and ancient wisdom as being equivalent to outdated when in reality, they are as relevant today as they were millennia ago. When I hear the stories from the Ramayana, for example – the grief of Dasharatha, the sly deception of Manthara, the playfulness and loyalty and devotion of Hanuman, the fierce love and protectiveness of Rama for Sita, the brotherly affection between the four princes – are they not emotions that we all feel and witness? The questions raised, of our …

Rooted and Free – Essay 2

FREEDOM‘- A word with multiple interpretations, synonyms and examples. It is a topic often debated. “Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants“, says Oxford Dictionary. But can such a complicated and intriguing word be put into such a simple sentence? Let us find out at the end of this essay. Freedom is often thought about as a ‘State Of Mind‘. Freedom is to express ourselves without any constraints. “Life without Liberty is like a Body without Spirit,” said the Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran. He says that Freedom is the very spirit of life itself. We often prefer dangerous freedom rather than peaceful slavery. Revolutions have broken out and governments have been overthrown. Humans tend to rebel against oppression. History is filled with such instances. The Indian struggle towards freedom is among the most studied sectors of History. Millions gave their lives for valuable freedom, lacking at that period of time. Most countries around the world have understood the significance of freedom and have adopted Democracy. As teenagers and …

Rooted and Free – Essay 1

Being Rooted and Free to me is to be able to learn and understand the morals and values our culture upholds in a way which, as a child caught between cultures, is still relevant and relatable to my life experiences. In a time where the next generation is getting a multicultural upbringing, it is important to modernise the tales and stories of our culture that teach us its morals and values in order to be relatable to the younger generations. Being someone who moved away from India at a very young age, it has always been hard for me to relate to my peers who have moved away later. Understanding things like why it is important to go to the mandir early and pray sincerely to Bhagwan when I lived in non theistic Japan and Singapore was a challenge for me. However, as I grew older I was able to reconcile my Indian background with my multicultural upbringing, thanks in no small part to my early teachers; my parents. From a young age, my parents, …

Rakshābandhan – A Dhārmic Ritual

In India, on the full moon day (Purnima) of the month Shravan (around the month of August), people celebrate Rakshābandhanam or popularly known as Rakhi. On this day, sisters fasten Rakhis around the wrists of their brothers or brother-like people. The word ‘Raksha’ means protection and ‘bandhanam’ means bracelet/thread etc., thus making it a metaphor for protection. Rakshābandhan is thought to be a gesture of protection towards the females. Rakhi is a bracelet normally made out of thread or silk with special decorations. There are different traditions celebrating Rakshābandhan in various parts of India. In some places, the priest in the village fastens Rakhi to the people of the village. In some places, wives fasten Rakhi on their husband’s wrists. But predominantly sisters fasten Rakhis. Procedure  There is a special procedure instructed on how to fasten a Rakhi in ‘Dharmasindhu’ and ‘Nirnayasindhu’.   It is said that on the day of Shravan Purnima, during noon, one should fasten a Rakhi chanting the below sloka – “येन बद्धो बली राजा दानवेन्द्रो महाबालः। तेन त्वामभिबध्नामि रक्षे! मा …

Mind It! – The Vedic Roots Of Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice is all the rage in the West, from their hospitals and universities to corporate boardrooms and legislative halls. But its Indian and Vedic sources are being ignored, even wilfully supressed. In many ways this is a familiar story, repeating what is happening to Yoga in its much longer journey. And in their urge to “secularise” mindfulness, their mantra appears to be say nothing much about where it came from, at the most superficially acknowledging Buddhist teachers and texts. But where it came from is the Indian Vedas, Upanishads, and innumerable sutras, vidyas, and tantras enshrined in the tradition. From there it went to Buddhism, and then on to the West from modern teachers. It is time we demand acknowledgement, and reclaim yet another part of our Vedic heritage. The Western world, which is so obsessed with intellectual property rights, is actually the most adept at theft of intellectual ideas, rued Hari Kiran Vadlamani, director, Indic Academy (IA), launching a seminar on Vedic Mindfulness, organised by IA with the support of the Indira Gandhi …

Lessons from Mahabharata: Black, White, and Coloured Too

The Mahabharata has lived for thousands of years for the reason that it serves as that vast ocean human emotions in which everyone can pour their own understanding and find acceptance without judgment. There is an innate human desire to see and interpret things in a monochromatic palette of black-and-white. One could argue that stereotyping is an “energy-saving” device that allows us to make “efficient decisions on the basis of past experiences.” (“Stereotypes as energy-saving devices: A peek inside the cognitive toolbox”) . Therefore, is it any surprise that many of us look at the characters in the Mahabharata also through similar, stereotypical lenses? It simplifies things if we view Duryodhana as the jealous usurper, Shakuni as the manipulative uncle, Bhishma as the noble but helpless elder, Arjuna as the hero, Karna as the tragic and righteous hero fighting on the wrong side, and so on. No, it is not quite proper or kosher to include in this group of admirers (and critics) of the Mahabharata those that bring their own neuroses and neo-colonial prejudices! Bhishma, …

Lessons from Mahabharata: Envy – II

In the first part of this two part series focusing on the emotion of Envy, we learnt that despite the popular belief and the main proponent of the emotion in the epic tale, Duryodhan wasn’t the only person driven by envy. Let us now continue with more examples of envy as we meander through other stories and in the process receive our lessons from Mahabharata. While we are at it, let’s also see if there is some common thread connecting them. Having married Droupadi and having settled in Indraprastha, the Pandvas were once visited by the sage Narada. They all greeted the sage, and after Droupadi left, Narada had a pointed question for the Pandavas. Given Droupadi’s beauty, how were they going to head off the green-headed monster that was envy? To illustrate his point, he told them the story of the two invincible asuras Sunda and Upasunda, who once lived in Kurukshetra. Yes, all roads did seem to lead to Kurukshetra. Sunda and Upasunda were the sons of Nikumba, who belonged to Hiranyakashipu’s lineage. …