Another elephant

Middle-class people of my generation (I was born in 1966) have seen constant improvement in our material wealth over our lifetime. We have gone from lower middle-class to upper middle-class and in some cases to the rich. Our children, who are now in their twenties, have grown up pampered. If people of my generation think about it at all, they think the lives of their children will follow the same trajectory of increasing material wealth. All the advice we give our children about the future has this assumption built into it.

Let us examine this assumption with some anecdotes:
– My friend who grew up in a barsati in Delhi today owns a posh 3-bedroom apartment and drives a Jaguar.
– When another friend joined his company in 1994, it had 4 thousand employees. Today I think it is more like 4 lakh, a 100 fold increase. My friend rose to the top of this company and created a lot of wealth for himself.
– When my uncle bought a plot of land around 1970, he paid Rs 4 thousand. Six years ago, a builder bought it and gave my uncle 4 flats out of the 10 he built on the plot. The flats are notionally worth Rs 4 Crores, a 10,000 fold increase.


You will also have stories like this to tell. Is it reasonable to assume that this kind of growth will also happen in the lives of our children? It seems very unlikely.

Here are some events that can make the upward graph change for our children:
– America having a large economic downturn or a stock market crash and the dollar losing its position as the reserve currency of the world.
– Fossil fuels becoming more difficult to extract and hence costing substantially more. (In other words, the end of the cheap, subsidised energy era)
– Environmental and personal health issues that make us fall out of the mainstream.
– A rearrangement in geo-politics, for example, a multi-polar world with many civilizational centres as opposed to the uni-polar world we live in today.


You can add to this list or create your own. Some honest contemplation on our experience will tell us that our children will live a different kind of life from ours.

If this is so, should we not be thinking about this now? If education is preparing children for the future, an uncertain future, should we not have a different conception of what we have to do in school? Is the frantic activity that goes on in schools, both mainstream and alternative, perhaps a way to postpone thinking about all this?

The elephant in the room

I was talking to a young man yesterday and we got talking about tradition and modernity. He is a sensitive young man who has got a book of poetry published and his work is in the area of product design. I was telling him about the rootlessness that is at the heart of modernity and he said something like – We should be able to take the best from the West and East and weave together a good way of life for ourselves.

I countered this with the idea that probably all long-lasting social systems come with an invisible background context that allows them to function. In India this context may be that our traditional samaaj was/is based on eternal, sanaatan principles that are aligned with the way things ARE. What this means is that we cannot pick and choose from social systems to create something workable for us as individuals. That project in essence is not an individual project but a saamaajik project in which individuals either fit in or don’t.

My young friend told me that he was reading about the callous mistreatment of some captive elephants in India. His heart was moved by the story and he asked me if we should continue this type of practice just because it was ‘traditional’. He explained that this type of problem with traditional rituals was the reason he was thinking of using a mixed West+East approach.

He had not heard it before and I interrupted him with the Akbar-Birbal elephant story:

Once Akbar said that he was a powerful emperor who could fulfill any wish. Birbal said that he could prove this was not always possible and had Akbar’s young grandson summoned. Birbal told the little boy that Akbar would do whatever the boy wanted. The boy first wanted a golden Kurta with a big golden pocket. This was easily arranged. Then the boy wanted an elephant. Because of Akbar’s greatness this was also easily arranged. The boy next wanted the elephant inside the big pocket of his golden shirt.

I suggested to my young friend that when he talked about West+East he was perhaps asking what Akbar’s grandson wanted – An impossible fantasy. The elephant that suffers and moves the hearts of people is a problem, but I told my young friend that I thought that the big elephant in the room that he was missing was different. We are Indians with roots that go very deep who have been brainwashed/educated into trying to become pale copies of Westerners. I told my young friend that when he and I and many others like us are able to see this painful reality, we would have moved in the direction of becoming comfortable in our own skins. This would acknowledge and engage the big elephant in the room and the problems with the elephant on the road outside would then probably work itself out on its own.

Reading Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala – Report

What: Retreat at SIDH campus at Kempty
When: May 2nd to 6th, 2022
People: Around 20 participants from Bareilly, Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Vizag.
Idea: Reading, contemplation and discussion on ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala’ can perhaps show us a direction to be at peace with ourselves and the world.

How the retreat went:

We were trying this kind of retreat for the first time at SIDH and it was well received by the participants. What we did was loud reading of one or two chapters of the Hindi version of the book every day followed by discussions that tried to connect what we read to our individual lived experience. The discussions ranged from the Shastras and Itihaasa to the problems of modern life.

The book is written in very simple language and talks about the disconnect that we educated Indians feel as we live our lives governed by systems that are misaligned with our Indian identity. For example, Dharampalji asks a simple question – Who does this 20th-21st century belong to? Because, it seems like most of the people of India have another conception of Kaala, they live in some other time-frame. This does not mean that we are backward or need to catch up with the century of the West but that we need to organize our lives in some other way.

Like Gandhiji, Dharampalji also talks about our essential Bharatiyata being preserved and propagated through the ordinary Indians. His recommendation is that if we can understand the Chitta, Manas and Kaala of the ordinary Indian we would perhaps understand the Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala. He goes on to say that this is now difficult because the educated Indian is far removed from the ordinary Indian.

Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala is a book that points to ways in which we can understand who we are and begin the work of coming out of the disconnect of living in somebody else’s world. Looking inwards at what is going wrong in our lives is a painful process and the retreat was helpful in starting a contemplative conversation about it.

Reading Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala

What: Retreat at SIDH campus at Kempty
When: May 2nd to 6th, 2022
Idea: Reading, contemplation and discussion on Dharampal’s visionary book ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala’ can perhaps show us a direction to move forward as a conscious Indian who is at peace with himself and the world.

There are many amongst us who are concerned with the direction which Bharatvarsha has taken since we gained independence in 1947. There is a feeling that by and large we have been following the same path that the Britishers laid down to keep us subjugated. The western powers were very anxious that India remains in the ‘Western orbit’ (Dharampal papers: President Roosevelt in conversation with the British ambassador to the US) even after independence and it looks like they were completely successful in this effort.

Many of us can sense and feel the deep discomfort of something very wrong, but are unable to articulate the problem or pinpoint the cause. Perhaps:

  • Our sense of the past is flawed
  • Our understanding of our traditions and of the Western modernity that we have unthinkingly adopted is unclear
  • A distorted perception is making us lead a life which is alien and not really ours

Is there something we can do? At SIDH we feel that a collective reading of Dharampalji’s ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala’ , a book of 50 odd pages available in both Hindi and English, can give us some strong clues on not just what is wrong but also where to look. We are proposing a five day retreat of reading, silence and dialogue where we try to get to the deeper meaning, implications and to connect various dots. The retreat could potentially give us clues to connect the macro issues (societal, cultural, civilizational etc.) with the process of sense-making in our individual lives. The participants will be expected to go through the book (in either Hindi or English) at least once, before joining the retreat.

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‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas aur Kala’: Seminar No. 1

The 3-day seminar on Dharampalji’s ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas aur Kala’ that was jointly organized by SIDH and IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts) finished yesterday evening. This was the first part of a series of 4 seminars on various aspects of Dharampalji’s powerful book.

Two SIDH publications were released on the first day of the seminar. ‘Rediscovering India’ by Dharampalji (which had been out of print for some time) and ‘The White Sahibs In India’ a hard-hitting book by a sympathetic Englishman, Reginald Reynolds, that talks about the barbarity of the British rule in India.

The four main speakers included Padma Shri Dr. Kapil Tiwari who has worked extensively in the area of India’s folk traditions and Padma Shri Dr. J.K. Bajaj who translated Bharatiya Chitta Manas aur Kala into English. The 50 participants included many people who had the good fortune of having known Dharampalji and therefore could speak with authority about the various subtleties of the book.

In the closing session of the seminar, Shri Ram Bahadur Rai, Dharampalji’s close friend, author, senior journalist and the current president of IGNCA put forward the radical idea that we should probably consider this book of Dharampalji to be of equal importance as Gandhiji’s ‘Hind Swaraj’. This is perhaps the proper way to honor the precious gift that Dharampalji has given all of us by drawing our attention to Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala.

Unfamiliar wisdom

Sometimes it is useful to temporarily shift out of our traditional ways of looking at the world and see it from a different perspective. The following are excerpts from the ‘Tao Teh Ching’ a 2000+ year old foundational Taoist Chinese text. I hope it helps connect some Indian dots for you. (The numbers are the section numbers from the book. This version is translated by John Wu)


THE five colours blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavours cloy the palate.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Rare goods tempt men to do wrong.

Therefore, the Sage takes care of the belly, not the eye.
He prefers what is within to what is without.



THE highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.
Next comes one whom they love and praise.
Next comes one whom they fear.
Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

When you are lacking in faith,
Others will be unfaithful to you.

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words.
When his task is accomplished and things have been completed,
All the people say, “We ourselves have achieved it!”



WHAT is at rest is easy to hold.
What manifests no omens is easily forestalled.
What is fragile is easily shattered.
What is small is easily scattered.

Tackle things before they have appeared.
Cultivate peace and order before confusion and disorder have set in.

A tree as big as a man’s embrace springs from a tiny sprout.
A tower nine stories high begins with a heap of earth.
A journey of a thousand leagues starts from where your feet stand.

He who fusses over anything spoils it.
He who grasps anything loses it.
The Sage fusses over nothing and therefore spoils nothing.
He grips at nothing and therefore loses nothing.

In handling affairs, people often spoil them just at the point of success.
With heedfulness in the beginning and patience at the end, nothing will be spoiled.

Therefore, the Sage desires to be desireless,
Sets no value on rare goods,
Learns to unlearn his learning,
And induces the masses to return from where they have overpassed.
He only helps all creatures to find their own nature,
But does not venture to lead them by the nose.



SINCERE words are not sweet,
Sweet words are not sincere.
Good men are not argumentative,
The argumentative are not good.
The wise are not erudite,
The erudite are not wise.

The Sage does not take to hoarding.
The more he lives for others, the fuller is his life.
The more he gives, the more he abounds.

The Way of Heaven is to benefit, not to harm.
The Way of the Sage is to do his duty, not to strive with anyone.

The end of the European age

“John Michael Greer is a widely read author, blogger, and astrologer whose work focuses on the overlaps between ecology, spirituality, and the future of industrial society.” – From the ‘ecosophia’ blog

I have been reading the weekly blog posts of John Michael Greer (JMG) for many years now. His long posts have seeded many new ideas and connected many dots for me. His latest post about the end of the European age is very relevant for us in India. Some excerpts from the post are given below and the full post is available here.

Excerpt 1:
“Britain in 1913 was the world’s richest and most powerful country. Britain in 1918 was a half-shattered economic basket case, so close to bankruptcy that it was never able to pay off its First World War debts to the United States, and so strapped for ready cash that when Ireland rose in revolt against British rule, the British government crumpled and let go of its oldest and most thoroughly looted colony. It took only four decades after 1914 for the rest of the British empire to come crashing down, reducing Britain from its previous status of global hyperpower to the ignominious role of US client state propped up mostly by money laundering operations in the City of London. That’s what happens to nations that get too dependent on economic globalism.”

Excerpt 2:
“In 1500 the idea of a British Empire would have seemed absurd, had anyone imagined it at all. In 1500 those people elsewhere who paid any attention to Europe at all thought of it as a bleak, damp, mountainous subcontinent stuck onto the western end of Asia, inhabited by a clutch of little nations mostly notable for their odd religious beliefs and their propensity for murderous internecine warfare. As it had been since ancient times, Europe was on the fringes of the civilized world: a belt of great imperial nations slicing across the southern end of Asia, through the Middle East, to West Africa.”

Excerpt 3:
“Sclerotic, fussy, entitled, clinging to the shabby dignity of an age of empire that’s fading in history’s rearview mirror, and weighed down by demographic contraction that’s been accelerating for a century, Europe is the past, not the future.”

Excerpt 4:
“The United States these days is a Third World country catapulted by a chapter of historical accidents into a temporary position as global hegemon. Its Europeanized elites, in the usual Third World fashion, are a small minority maintaining a tenuous temporary mastery over restless masses that don’t share its ideals and its interests, and are beginning to sense their potential power. . . . If history follows its usual track, by the time the future high culture of eastern North America begins to emerge, the age of European global dominion will be a distant memory, and Europe itself will have spent many centuries in its pre-imperial condition: a fragmented, impoverished, bellicose region on the faraway fringe of the civilized world. Its peoples and cultures, for that matter, may not have much in common with those residing there now.”

Short videos

We have been thinking of recording short 10-15 minute conversations for our YouTube channel. The idea is to situate these conversations in the broad areas in which we want to work (As listed on the homepage of our website at

– Expose the myths and falsehoods of modernity.
– Bring out and establish the eternal, the Sanaatan.
– Correct the narrative of India, its civilization, culture and belief systems.

We would like these conversations to include people from the extended family of SIDH well-wishers and we will be reaching out to you soon.

This first short conversation is with Dr Harsh Satya about the Jajmani system and what remains of it today. Take a look and let us know what you think with a comment here or on YouTube. Namaste!

Homeschooling FAQ

Our three children studied at home. Homeschooling as it is called was not very popular when our children were small and my wife and I did a lot of hectic activity trying to make it work for us. This activity included meeting parents and children who were on a similar path, reading up on all sorts of things related to education, and in my case, starting a blog to chronicle our journey. I stopped updating the blog in 2013 when our elder daughter finished school and I hadn’t looked at it in a long time. I went back and browsed through it recently, like one looks through old family photo albums, and I thought that it might be of some value to people who are on a similar journey today. This is also topical because most children across the world got the homeschooling experience because of Covid. The full FAQ is available here or you can see the posts that interest you by clicking on the links below:

  1. Prologue
  2. Can you give an overview?
  3. What are the problems with school?
  4. How is the Government solving these problems?
  5. What does the law say about homeschooling?
  6. Can homeschoolers give board exams?
  7. What lead you to homeschool?
  8. How did you go about it?
  9. How do children not going to school socialize?
  10. How do homeschooled children learn about competition?
  11. Who are the famous people who have been ‘homeschooled’?
  12. Epilogue

I Am That

When you look at spiritual literature, it seems to me that, even though the message may be the same, different books seem to work for different people. ‘I Am That, Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj’ worked for me when I came across it many years ago. Even today, when I browse through it I get startling new insights. I am posting the front and back covers and some quotes (although, to me every page seems quotable) from the book to give you a flavor of the wisdom hidden inside.

“Yes, I appear to hear and see and talk and act, but to me it just happens, as to you digestion or perspiration happens. The body-mind machine looks after it, but leaves me out of it. Just as you do not need to worry about growing hair, so I need not worry about words and actions. They just happen and leave me unconcerned, for in my world nothing ever goes wrong.” (Page 16)

“Your difficulty lies in your wanting reality and being afraid of it at the same time. You are afraid of it because you do not know it. The familiar things are known, you feel secure with them. The unknown is uncertain and therefore dangerous. But to know reality is to be in harmony with it. And in harmony there is no place for fear.” (Page 206)

“To deal with things, knowledge of things is required. To deal with people you need insight, sympathy. To deal with yourself, you need nothing. Be what you are: conscious being, and don’t stray away from yourself.” (Page 303)

“Real communication between people is not verbal. For establishing and maintaining relationship, affectionate awareness expressed in direct action is required. Not what you say, but what you do is what matters. . . . Words have their limited usefulness, but we put no limits to them and bring ourselves to the brink of disaster. We talk of God, Truth and Love, but instead of direct experience we have definitions. Instead of enlarging and deepening action we chisel our definitions. And we imagine that we know what we can define!” (Page 491)