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)

12

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.

_________________________

17

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!”

_________________________

64

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.

_________________________

81

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 http://www.sidhsri.org/):

– 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)

Is there an Indian way of thinking?

This is the title of an interesting essay by A.K. Ramanujan, poet, scholar, linguist and translator. The main idea can be summed up with the following quote from the essay:

“Cultures have overall tendencies — tendencies to idealise, and think in terms of, either the context-free or the context-sensitive kind of rules. Actual behaviour may be more complex, though the rules they think with are a crucial factor in guiding the behaviour. In cultures like India’s, the context-sensitive kind of rule is the preferred formulation.”

The essay gives examples of what it means by the terms context-free and context-sensitive. Principles like ‘Man shall not tell an untruth’, that, in western systems, are supposed to be based on human nature and therefore universal, is an example given of a context-free rule. The essay points out that these kind of rules is what makes the West think of Indians as inconsistent, hypocritical, and lacking in other accepted ‘universal’ human values.

The essay goes into elaborate details about context-sensitive rules because that is what it claims is underpinning the Indian way of thinking. About ‘untruth’ the article quotes Buddha having said: “An untruth spoken by people under the influence of anger, excessive joy, fear, pain, or grief, by infants, by very old men, by persons labouring under a delusion, being under the influence of drink, or by mad men, does not cause the speaker to fall.” Which neatly negates the universal context-free maxim of not telling untruths. The following long excerpt from the essay explains the point in more detail.

“Texts may be historically dateless, anonymous; but their contexts, uses, efficacies, are explicit. The Ramayana and Mahabharata open with episodes that tell you why and under what circumstances they were composed. Every such story is encased in a metastory. And within the text, one tale is the context for another within it; not only does the outer frame-story motivate the inner sub-story; the inner story illuminates the outer as well. It often acts as a microcosmic replica for the whole text. In the forest when the Pandava brothers are in exile, the eldest, Yudhishthira, is in the very slough of despondency: he has gambled away a kingdom, and is in exile. In the depth of his despair, a sage visits him and tells him the story of Nala. As the story unfolds, we see Nala too gamble away a kingdom, lose his wife, wander in the forest, and finally, win his wager, defeat his brother, reunite with his wife and return to his kingdom. Yudhishthira, following the full curve of Nala’s adventures, sees that he is only halfway through his own, and sees his present in perspective, himself as a story yet to be finished. Very often the Nala story is excerpted and read by itself, but its poignancy is partly in its frame, its meaning for the hearer within the fiction and for the listener of the whole epic. The tale within is context-sensitive – getting its meaning from the tale without, and giving it further meanings.”

The essay is long and makes its points in a leisurely manner. Taking the time to read it, I think, is time well spent. You can get a PDF version here.

Four Seminars on Dharampal’s work

“We the educated elite of India are wary of any attempt to understand the Indian mind. . . . Deep within, we, the elite of India, are also acutely conscious of this highly elaborate structure of the Indian mind. We, however, want to deny this history of Indian consciousness, and wish to reconstruct a new world for ourselves in accordance with what we perceive to be the modern consciousness. Therefore, all efforts to understand the Chitta and Kala of India seem meaningless to us. The study of the history of the eighteenth and nineteenth century India, which I undertook in the nineteen sixties and the seventies, was in a way an exploration into the Indian Chitta and Kala. . . . That study, of course, was not the most effective way of learning about the Indian mind. It did help in forming a picture of the physical organisations and technologies through which the Indians prefer to manage the ordinary routines of daily life. But it was not enough to provide an insight into the inner attitudes and attributes of the Indian mind. The mind of a civilisation can probably never be grasped through a study of its physical attributes alone.”
– From Dharampal’s Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala

Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and the Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH) are jointly organizing four seminars anchored around Dharampal’s important essay, Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala between April 2022 and March 2023. Around 40 people who are familiar with the works of Dharampal will be invited to participate in the seminars. The seminars will be three days long, residential and will be held at IGNCA, Delhi. The seminars are designed to initiate and spread a conversation about our civilizational identity and its role in creating a vibrant future for our nation.

Tentatively, the topics for the four seminars are:

  1. What did Dharampal mean by the words Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala? And why did he think it was so important to understand these words?
  2. Our ‘educated’ people have become separated from the Chitta, Manas and Kala of our ‘ordinary’ people. What are the reasons and resolutions for this? What are the obstacles that come in the way of the resolution and how do we deal with it at an individual and societal level?
  3. Western modernity has ended up creating a uni-polar world over the last 100 years. Is the Indian thought and foundational values in alignment with this?
  4. What are the ways and practices for reconnecting back to the Chitta, Manas and Kala of the ‘Ordinary’ people?

These seminars will be recorded and the videos of the expert presentations and discussions will be made available in various formats (YouTube videos, articles, books on the proceedings etc.) by IGNCA and SIDH.

Jajmani System, Jatis and Castes

Dr Harsh Satya talks about India’s traditional Jajmani system and its linkages with jatis and castes. The word Jajmani comes from Yajman which is linked to the practice of Yajnya.

This video is recorded at the SIDH campus, Kempty, during the workshop in December 2021 by Amit of ‘Des Ki Baat‘ and will be uploaded on his channel also.

IGNCA-SIDH Dharampal centenary program

It is heartening to see that there appears to be an awakening of interest and a recognition of the importance of Dharampalji’s work. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and SIDH are collaborating on a year-long program to study and popularize his writings. This program was inaugurated by a distinguished panel on 19th February, 2022. Here are some photos…

Lighting the lamp by the Minister of Culture, Arjun Ram Meghwal

Launch of the advance copy of Dharampal’s ‘Rediscovering India’.
Left to right: Ramesh Chandra Goud (Dean, IGNCA), Pawan Gupta (SIDH), Arjun Ram Meghwal (Hon. Minister of Culture), Suresh Soni (Senior RSS leader), Ram Bahadur Rai (Chairman, IGNCA), Mahesh Sharma (Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Bihar)

Pawanji speaking at the event

One of the posters with Dharampal quotes in the lobby outside the auditorium.

I will be speaking more about the details of the program here and on our Telegram channel at https://t.me/joinchat/6L8R1CROo6AyZWM1.

Rediscovering India – Preface

(The following is an abridged version of the Preface to the second edition written by Pawanji. Take a look…)

Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, highly revered monk and founding Director (later Vice-Chancellor) of Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies, Sarnath, as well as the first elected Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, makes an important distinction between what he calls an ‘ordinary rational mind’ and the ‘original mind’. While felicitating Dharampalji in an award ceremony jointly organised by the Infinity Foundation and the Centre for Study of Developing Societies in 2004 he said, “Buddha had an original mind. Dharampalji has an original mind.” That is a high tribute but also the best way to describe Dharampalji. To put him in any category will be limiting our understanding of the man. He was not even a graduate having left his studies mid-way in 1942 during the Quit India movement. So, to call him a Historian, a Gandhian, a Philosopher, would not do justice to him and will blinker our understanding.

Jayprakash Narayan recognised his brilliance very early and persuaded him to become the General Secretary of AVARD (Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development) of which JP was the President. It was here, while studying the functioning of the newly introduced Panchayati Raj system of the Government of India that he realised the following: that Indian society functioned according to traditional idioms and beliefs, that ‘outward-looking’ (educated) Indians were completely alienated from the way our ‘ordinary’ people took their decisions and led their lives, that the educated had no understanding of our indigenous social systems and their dynamics, and that the picture of the Indian society that the educated have is all wrong.

Perhaps this and other similar experiences led him to undertake the long, intense and arduous research lasting more than 30 years in various libraries and archives both in England and in India. He wanted to know how the Indian society functioned before the British conquered it. It is difficult to imagine that what Dharampalji discovered in various archives and libraries was not seen by others before him. Gandhiji himself had referred to the existence of such records in 1931 while he was in London for the 2nd Round Table Conference. But it was Dharampalji’s sharp eye and his ability to see and cull out what others often tend to gloss over or remain oblivious to that made all the difference. What impressed him most was the relaxed and easy manner in which we were able (till the 19th century) to organize our collective life – organically and naturally.

“Rediscovering India”, being republished after a gap of almost 20 years is an important book to understand the British mind, their strategies, how India got destroyed, the ramifications of changes brought about by the British knowingly or unknowingly, the shift from societal systems to systems imposed by the State. As the Nobel prize winning author V.S. Naipaul used to say, India is a “wounded civilization.” “Rediscovering India” helps in the diagnosis of this long festering wound and points towards the path to a healthy India.