Disintermediation: The Future of Higher Education (Part II)

(Continued from part-I)

– Sh. Rajiv Malhotra

The single most important trend that is revolutionizing education is information technology, especially the internet. Teaching platforms like the Khan Academy are the wave of the future, not the physical classroom in a brick and mortar building. The old-fashioned teacher is being squeezed out along with the physical classroom. The total cost of higher education in the US is estimated to exceed $500 billion annually, using the old delivery models. Many administrators in major universities are worried that their institutions are becoming like the dinosaurs. A disruption is long overdue and we should see this as an opportunity for creative entrepreneurship. This may be seen as a part of the wider trend in dis-intermediation (bypassing of the middleman) taking place in various industries.

  • The new cloud-based teaching methods are rapidly threatening the old school systems in many ways, such as the following:
  • Huge campuses are becoming obsolete. In the future, the buildings required will be mostly those with laboratories and high-tech infrastructure that cannot become virtual. The ordinary classroom will become almost extinct.
  • Old teaching materials are already obsolete. The teacher’s class notes that were once written on the board or handed out in class are now a waste of time because all that is readily available online. With video conferencing, considerable interaction is also available without physical meetings.
  • This trend will lower tuitions significantly because it is not necessary to hire full-time faculty.
  • This also changes the demand side of university professors and impacts the future of academicians as a profession. Many subject matter experts who are not formally classified as professors will be teaching part-time and sharing their knowledge and practical experience. The old style professor with limited real world experience will be replaced by learned persons who will also bring their lived experience to teach.
  • All this means an end to the ivory tower academic snobbery of the past, in which there was great prestige associated with being a professor disconnected from mundane life. Now the floodgates are opening for teaching that is brought by knowledgeable individuals who are embedded within communities and who also speak as voices of the community.
  • Higher education will be a lifelong pursuit and not limited to a few years of college/university. Most workers will take online courses as a regular part of staying current with the trends in their field. Education will be seen as something you do all your life and for which you do not need necessarily to take several years off.

While the above list of changes pertains to the teaching side of higher education, there are equally revolutionary changes expected in the research side, especially in the humanities. Let us discuss religious studies in the US academy, as an example.

Twenty-five years ago, when I first started monitoring and intervening in the American academic research on Hinduism, the academic fortress was a formidable center of power. To make any impact, it was crucial to get inside the system one way or another. But today, an increasing amount of high quality scholarly works are being published by scholars and practitioners outside the walls of the academic fortress. Many guru movements have their own writings and publishing houses. The new works produced by Hindu movements are not only about standard topics like Bhagavad Gita, but also pertain to issues of society, politics, family, health, etc. Many other groups started by civic society now nurture non-academic research and publishing. These new suppliers are seen as threats to the turf traditionally controlled by the academicians. The academic empire is fighting back, but it is a losing battle. (I am an example of someone seen as a threat to the officially credentialed producers of knowledge about my culture.)

The number of readers who receive their knowledge about religion from sources outside the academy far exceeds the number who are sitting in class to learn from their professor. The American academicians refused to accept this trend during the past two decades when I tried to explain it to them. They were too arrogant to be open to this new reality. The pride of being the exclusive source of knowledge had been instilled in them during their PhD, and was seen as their ticket to success that could never be taken away. This attitude of the senior professors has misguided the new generation of academicians, and made the academic system insular and vulnerable.

Today, most people get their knowledge about religions (their own and those of others) through television, online sources, personal travels to sacred and holy sites, teachings from their gurus and swamis, and reading materials published by non-academic writers. If someone wants to invest in spreading particular ideas about our traditions, the investment is better spent on such platforms and not on feeding the old system which is rapidly becoming obsolete. Instead, they should rethink the dynamics of this intellectual kurukshetra of civilizational discourse. Only then can they develop a more viable strategy for interventions.

Indians have in the past bought used technologies and obsolete models in certain industries, at a time when the Western countries exporting these were migrating to new paradigms. I feel many of us are being fooled into investing in what is rapidly becoming an obsolete model of higher education.

Instead of funding American higher education’s pre-internet era system, India should develop the next generation platforms. And India should not be content with a back-office role in this emerging industry, but should develop and own the brands seen by the end users (i.e. the students). Besides developing the platforms and delivery systems, Indians should also lead in content development and educational methodology, especially in areas where traditional Indian systems would give us a competitive advantage.

There are also examples where unethical opportunism is driving the disintermediation. For example, China is disintermediating the R&D centers of the West by stealing intellectual property. They take the lead in implementing others’ discoveries. We can argue about the ethics, but this is a ground reality shaping our world. The examples of disintermediation I am proposing in education are perfectly ethical and should be seen as natural evolution. The age of disintermediation is upon us. It is important to ride this wave rather than avoid it out of fear or ignorance.

– Sh. Rajiv Malhotra, Member, Board, WAVES-USA


Indian Festivals based on the Concept of Yajña (Part-II)

Continued from Part-I

-Sh. Anand Gaikwad

Festivals based on the concept of Yajñā during Aświn and Kārtik :

Sh. Anand Gaikwad along with his wife performing Yajñā

Durgā Pūjā/ Navrātrī: During Durgā Pūjā, Mā Durgā i.e. Ādi Śakti is worshipped. Mā Durgā is worshipped in different forms starting with Śailputrī Devī on first day. The second day is Brahmachāriṇī Pūjā and subsequently Chandraghaṇṭā is worshipped for peace, tranquility and prosperity, Kuśmānḍā for cosmic energy, Skandamātā as a relationship between mother and son. She is also called as Padmāsīnī since she is seated on lotus flower. On day six she is worshipped as Kātyāyīnī, on seventh day as Kalvatri or Mā Kāli and on eighth day as Māhā Gourī the eighth form of Māhā Durgā.Durgā Saptaśati Japas and Havans are performed for “Nav Cadī”, “Śat CadiYajña. Durgā Pūjā is not considered complete without the performance of Havans. In these havans samidhās of Yajña-Vṛkśās are used and different types of havan samugrī are also used which is prepared from aromatic and medicinal herbs.

Daśherā: This day is celebrated as Vijayā Daśamī i.e. success of good over evil. It is considered as a very auspicious day as per Hindu calendar therefore new possessions are acquired. Some Naimittika Yajñas are performed for material well being, health, wealth, peace and prosperity. In agriculture sector, sugar factories worship and start boilers on this day for subsequent starting of new crushing season. This practice is prevalent in Maharashtra, which produces about 35% to 40% of the total sugar produced in the country.

Dīpāvalī:  Festival of lights celebrated by Indians all over the world. The first day of Dīpāvalī is called Vasubaras when, “Savatsā Dhenu“ i.e. lactating cow with young calf  or  entire cow family is worshipped. During ancient times the wealth and prosperity were measured in terms of or judged on the basis of number of cows one possessed. Therefore, ‘Godhan’ was first worshipped before worshipping any other type of ‘Dhan’. For establishing divine relationship and complete integrity with our Homa Farm and Family, we have started performing Havans on Rigveda 10.169, Atharvaveda 4.21 & 3.14 as a part of cow pūjā on Vasubaras day at our farm. Although no specific types of Yajñas are performed during Dīpāvalī days, the houses and surrounding premises are decorated with flowers, mango/ banana leaves, electrical lamps and oil/ ghee lamps are lit to celebrate it as a festival of lights. On Lakṣmī Pūjā Day and Kārtik Pratipadā, flowers, sweets and preparations made from new harvests, dryfruits etc. are offered to the deities as a part of pūjā.

Sh. Anand Gaikwad while worshiping cow

Sankrama Kāl Festivals: This is a transition period when the Sun starts entering Uttarāyaa and Sankrama. Festivals based on the concept of Yajña are celebrated throughout the country under different names.

Māgh Bihu and Meji Fires: Māgh bihu is celebrated in Assam during January to mark the end of harvesting season. It is a thanks-giving celebration to the nature’s bounty as the granaries are full after harvesting the first new crops of the year. On or before the day of Sankrāntī Bellaghars and Mejis are prepared by menfolk with Bamboo sticks and other wood / grass material. Beautiful make-shift cottages in the form of Bellaghars are prepared.People stay overnight in these Bellaghars, enjoys feasts and next day the Bellaghars are lit. The ashes are spread in the fields, rivers and trees for improving soil health and bringing luck for better harvesting next season. On the day of Sankrāntī people gather together in their fields at very early hours and do Meji fires. Meji fire is a ritual in which Agni is worshipped. All the offerings are placed in front of Meji and one of the elders of the community does the honour of lighting up the Meji. A thick cloud of smoke covers the area and the crackling sound of burning bamboos is heard. While the sacred Meji fires burn, people greet each other and enjoy the feasts. Womenfolk distribute the offerings placed before Meji fires as Prasādam.

Lohri: Every year on the previous day of Makar Sankrāntī in Punjab, Haryana and north-western region, the harvesting festival celebrated is known as “Lohri”. This commemorates the passing off of winter solistice and Lohri represents the largest night before the end of winter solistice followed by the shortest day of the year in Māgh as per Hindu calendar. Although Punjab is known for production of wheat, this festival is related to the sugarcane harvesting after the crop reaches the maturity. Sugarcane products such as jaggery and gachak are essential for Lohri along with groundnuts which are also harvested in the season. Traditionally people eat chikki, gajak, sarso dā sāg, makkai de roti, raddish, groundnuts and jaggery during the festival. Lohri celebrates fertility and joy of life. Harvested fields and farmyards are the central attraction. The farmyards are lit up with lights and bonfires. Folk dances are a part of the festival such as men perform Bhāngara whereas women perform graceful Giddā dance. People circle around the bonfires and offer sugarcane, puffed rice, popcorn etc. while performing folk dances with songs and prayers to Agni. The prayers to Agni Devatā are for his blessings for prosperity and fertility of land. The fire signifies the spark of life and prayers are said for goodwill and abundant crops. They also shout, “Ādar Āye Dilather Jāye” i.e.” Let the wealth, prosperity, honour come and poverty vanish.”

Pongal: Pongal is celebrated as a harvesting festival with glory in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka and by Tamilians. This harvesting festival is dedicated to Sun God. In Tamilnadu it is a four-day festival called “Thai Pongal” usually celebrated every year from 14th to 17th January. It corresponds with Makar Sankrāntī which is celebrated throughout India. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation and gratitude to Sun God for bountiful crops and their successful harvesting. Part of the celebration is boiling of the first rice of the season as an offering to Sun God i.e. “Sūrya Mangalam”. The four day Pongal celebrations are Bhogi, Thai, Maatu and Kannuml. On “Bhogi” day, people discard old belongings and celebrate new possessions. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look and the farmers keep medicinal herbs, neem leaves etc in the north-east corner of each field to prevent crops from diseases and pests.

The main event, “Thai Pongal” takes place on the second day of four day celebrations. On this day, milk is cooked in a vessel and when it starts bubbling and overflowing, freshly harvested rice is added and cooked, as an offering to Sun God. The day marks the start of Uttarāyaṇa i.e. when the Sun enters the 10th house of Indian Zodiac viz. Makar or Capricorn. “Maatu Pongal” is celebrated to recognize and appreciate the cattle for providing dairy products to human beings and fertilizers, labour and transportation for agricultural operations. Cows, buffaloes, oxen are bathed, decorated and fed with mixture of Pongal, jaggery, honey, banana and other fruits. “Kannum Pongal”, the fourth day of the festival marks the end of Pongal. The word ‘Kannum’ in this context means ‘visit’. Many families hold reunions. Villagers visit relatives and friends while in the cities people gather on beaches, theme parks and gardens. The exchange of greetings and gifts take place and the joyful atmosphere prevails in all households.

Makar Sankrāntī: The sun’s entry  in Makar Rāshi and starting of Uttarāyaa is celebrated as Makar Sankrāntī or “Sankrama Parva” in Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, while it is celebrated as, ‘Uttarāyaa’ in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated for four days like Pongal in Tamilnadu. The fourth day here is celebrated as “Mukkanuma” for worshipping cattle. Some people also take non-vegetarian dishes on the fourth day while they do not take any non-vegetarian food during first three days of Makar Sankrāntī.

In Maharashtra, Makar Sankrāntī is celebrated not only for three days but as a Sankrama Parva it extends right up to Rathasaptamī, the 7th day of Śuklapaka of Māgh. The previous day of Makar Sankrāntī is called “Bhogi”. On this day, Bājrā rotī of Til (Bread of Pearl Millets with toppings of Sesame Seeds) is prepared and a bold dish of mix-vegetables consisting mainly of green bengal gram, carrots and various types of beans, which are the produce of new crops is prepared. On the day of Makar Sankrāntī a delicacy of “Gul Poli” (rolled Chapatti/Roti with inside stuffings of jaggery and sesame seeds) is prepared and offered in Pūjā.

During the period from Makar Sankrāntī to Rathasaptami (except the third day which is called, ‘Kinkrant’) “Haldi-Kumkum” programmes are organized and celebrated by ladies. People meet their relatives and friends and offer Laddoo made from Sesame Seeds and Jaggery with greetings for auspicious days of Uttarāyaa and for establishing re-unions and good relationships with each other. On Rathasaptami day Sun god is worshipped in the form of “Sun riding the Chariot of Seven Horses”. On this day milk is boiled in small earthen pots and allowed to overflow as an offering to Sun God. Thus, Makar Sankrāntī with extended period up to Rathsaptami is the largest festival celebrated during Sankrama Parva, while the Sun enters the Makar Rāshi.

In all these festivals the concept of Yajña is deeply rooted. The basic principle is expression of appreciation and gratitude to the nature, nature-spirits and deities for their benevolence and bounty. Sacrifice of something given by nature (Idam na mam!) for ‘Samaṣṭī Kalyān’ and ‘Mānav Kalyān’. The elements of, ‘competition’, ‘Brand building’ or ‘Conflict with Nature and others’; which are the basis of Western Approach to Agriculture or any Business activity , is totally absent here . On the contrary the concept of, ‘Sacrifice for Samddhī‘; i.e. overall prosperity, peace and happiness is very much ingrained in these festivals. Prayers for Bounty or Samddhī to Agni or Sun God are for the purpose of ‘plenty for all and sharing with all’. The concept of Yajñā in these festivals makes the fundamental difference in the Cultures.

to be continued….

Sh. Anand GaikwadKrishi Bhushan Sendriya  Sheti  M. S. & Retd. Executive Director/Company Secretary

स्वतंत्रता की भारतीय शैली

-प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

Independence का वास्तविक अर्थ आत्मनिर्भरता है। In का अर्थ है inside अर्थात् आत्मा के स्तर तक पहुँचना और फिर उसी पर निर्भर होना अथवा dependent हो जाना। जब व्यक्ति आत्मश: कार्यरत होता है तो उसका आत्मबल सदैव पुष्टित होता रहता है। उसके लिए सारा जग आत्मीय बन जाता है। वह ‘अयम निज: परोवेति’ की गणना लघुचेतीय समझता है। उसके अंत:करण में चिरक़ालीन उदारता झकोरे लेने लगती है, तथा ‘वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम’ के सम्मत भाव जागृत हो जाते हैं। यहाँ तक कि उनके यहाँ ‘संताने तनय व तनया’ तक न सीमित रहकर आत्मज और आत्मजा के रूप उत्पन्न होने लगती हैं अर्थात् आत्मबीज ही अंकुरित, पल्लवित, पुष्पित. व फलित होता है। ‘अहम् ब्रह्म अस्मि’ की अनुभूति सार्थक हो जाती है। ये है independence की वास्तविक महिमा! ये एक दिन में सीमित नहीं हो सकता, ये तो कल्पों का माजरा है जनाब!!


Independence का दूसरा अर्थ है है स्वाधीनता, अर्थात् अपने को पूरी तरह से पहचान कर उसके आधीन हो जाना अथवा उसी की सत्ता के आधीन कार्यरत हो जाना। अपने को पहचानने का अभिप्राय है अपने धर्म को पहचानना, और उसी आधार पर गुण और कर्म निर्धारित करना। स्वधर्म की पहचान का तात्पर्य है अपनी प्रकृति को गहराई से समझना, बूझना, और परखना। जब व्यक्ति इस स्तर पर पहुँच जाता है तब अपनी प्रकृति को ही आधार बनाकर उसी में श्रद्धा एवं भक्ति से संलग्न होकर कर्म करता है। उसके अतिरिक्त कुछ नहीं करता। श्रीकृष्ण ने भगवद्गीता में इसका उद्धरण इस प्रकार किया है- ‘स्वधर्मे निधनम श्रेय: परधर्मों भयावह’, अर्थात् अपने धर्म के अनुसार आचरण में सबकुछ मिट जाना भी श्रेयस्कर है। यही नहीं किसी अन्य के धर्म अर्थात् प्रकृति का आचरण भयावह होता है इसलिए स्वाधीनता अत्यंत आवश्यक मानवीय दशा है जो मानव ही नहीं बल्कि पूरी समष्टि के लिए कल्याणकारी है।

Independence का तीसरा अर्थ है स्वतंत्रता अर्थात् अपना ही तंत्र होना चाहिए चाहे वो पारिवारिक हो, सामाजिक हो, आर्थिक हो, शैक्षिक हो, अथवा राजनीतिक हो। दूसरों की व्यवस्था यद्यपि उनके लिए कितनी भी उच्च एवं सराहनीय क्यों न हो किसी और के लिए तनावपूर्ण, बलाघाती, भयंकर कलह का कारण बन सकती है। अतः किसी भी देश को एक ऐसी व्यवस्था का सृजन करना चाहिए जिसके अंतर्गत हर एक व्यक्ति को सम्पूर्ण मुक्ति रहे कि वह व्यक्तिगत, पारिवारिक, तथा सामाजिक स्तरों पर अपने ही तंत्र के अनुकूल जीवन यापन कर सके। यह व्यवस्था बाह्य रूप से प्रारम्भ में अनेकता के सिद्धांत पर ही आधारित हो सकती है, अर्थात् कोई uniform civil code नहीं, कोई संविधान नहीं, कोई अधिवक्ता या न्यूनतवक़्ता नहीं, कोई AC में विराजित न्यायाधीश नहीं। मात्र धरातलीय प्रबुद्धजनो की आवश्यकता होती है जिनमे आचार विचार से आत्मबोध झलकता हो। वही सर्वभूतानाम की स्वतंत्रता सुनियोजित व  सुनिश्चित कर सकते है इसीलिए भारत ऋषियों का देश रहा है, स्वतंत्रता के लिए। आधुनिक स्वतंत्रता दिवस  को प्रेरणा का आधार मानकर स्वतंत्रता को शाश्वत बनाने के लिए संकल्पित हों, और इसी का पर्व मनायें आज and forever!! शुभम्

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

योग का तत्कालीन क्रियात्मक बोध

– प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

योग: सत्तस्य पर्याय: तस्य सार्थकेव मानव जीवनस्य लक्ष्य:।

योग सत्य का पर्याय है, उसी को सार्थक बनाना जीवन का उद्देश्य है।

वैसे तो सत्य एक सरल सी धारणा है पर अधिकतर व्यक्तियों को इसका बोध नहीं हो पाता है। इसका मुख्य कारण है कि व्यक्ति कुछ विशेष वस्तुओं, स्थानों, लोगों, अथवा बातों से ही जुड़ता है और उसी को मानक बनाकर अपना दृष्टिकोण निर्धारित कर लेता है।

जैसे कि वस्तुतः व्यक्ति परिवार से या माँ से जुड़ता है और उसे प्रेम करता है। यदि उस माँ के प्रेम को सीमित न करके उसे प्रेम के अभ्यास की प्रक्रिया मान ले तो उसी प्रेम भाव को औरों के साथ जोड़ सकता है। तभी माँ के प्रेम की सार्थकता हो सकती है ठीक उसी तरह जैसे कि स्कूल में गणित सीख कर हम उसका जीवन के अन्य पहलुओं में उपयोग करते हैं।


इस अवधारणा को प्रथम स्तर पर हम योग अभ्यास से समझ सकते हैं। स्थूल रूप से आसन एवं मुद्राएँ हमारे मन को शरीर के उन भागों पर केंद्रित करते हैं जहाँ आसन के कारण ज़ोर पड़ता है। इसका अभ्यास करते-करते हम अपने मन को इस तरह अपने वश में कर पाने में ऐसे सफल हो जाते हैं कि आसन के बिना भी अँगो और प्रत्यंगो पर ध्यान दे लेते हैं। यही प्रक्रिया हमें जुड़ने की वास्तविक विद्या प्रदान करती है। इस विद्या को ही सूक्ष्म रूप में प्राणायाम के द्वारा शरीर के उन कोशिकाओं और अणुओं परमाणुओं तक जोड़ा जा सकता है जो की हमारी ज्ञानेंद्रियों से परे होते हैं। यही शारीरिक आसन और प्राणायाम के अभ्यास हमें हर किसी से जुड़ने की योग विधि बताते हैं।

उपर्युक्त अभ्यास से जो ज्ञान प्राप्त होता है उसके उपयोग से जब हम संसार में बिना किसी भेद भाव (प्रत्याहार अभ्यास के अंतर्गत) समस्त प्राणियों से जुड़ते हैं तभी उनके जीवन सत्यार्थ से परिचित हो पाते हैं।


(Source of Image : Prof. Singh with his younger daughter)

अथ योग: सत्यार्थ परिचायक:। ॐ!!

Honoring the Father

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh

In a country where मातृ देवो भव, पितृ देवो भव, एवं आचार्य देवो भव have been the norms, designating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day may sound like a demotion of mothers and fathers. Instead, it is considered as a much needed appreciation of them in the western world.

There are several peculiarities surrounding the origin and establishment of Father’s Day here in the United States, where it is an official holiday. Interestingly, efforts to establish both Mother’s and Father’s Days were led by daughters, not sons, and both were in fact initiated by the Church (Mother May or Mothering Church for Mother’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day for Father’s Day).  While Father’s Day was established over 50 years after the Mother’s Day was already an official holiday, (in fact, after many more failed attempts at establishment than Mother’s Day) both holidays were in fact initially rejected by the US Congress: they jokingly extrapolated a future need of a “Mother-in-Law’s Day”.  Eventually, both holidays were proclaimed by presidential orders. However, the more sincere criticism from congress was that establishing appreciation for parents as holidays would lead to commercialization of these occasions, reducing a heart-to-heart moment to a hand-to-hand exchange of gifts.

During debates over the establishment of Father’s Day, it was common to argue that one parent (mother) cannot be recognized while the other (father) is not. The division of parents into distinct categories like “matriarchal” and “patriarchal” can be seen more as a lens perpetuated in my opinion by some modern social scientists than actual truth. Even in the animal kingdom, where the complexities of human society, tradition, culture, and philosophy do not exist, a child is often cared by both mother and father.  The social interpretation of the culture (sanskriti), traditions (parampara), and philosophy (darshan) needs narrational perspective and an integrative approach. Matri sattatmak (matriarchal) and Pitre sattatmak (patriarchal) societies inherently mean the motherhood and fatherhood, not simply woman and man as is generally implicated by social activists. Therein lies the narrative problem.

Indian cultures exhort raising of woman to the motherhood in perspective (not necessarily giving birth, although that reinforces it automatically). In India the nation is called motherland whereas in the West it is fatherland. Ancestors are referred to as पूर्वज in India whereas forefathers in America in a social context. Wikipedia lists 60 countries which call their native country as fatherland. Ancient Greek, Patris, fatherland, led to Latin Patrios, and finally into Patriotism. Thus father figure is a dominant cultural ethos of the western world.

In India it is, of course, Mother India or भारत माता, that is the war cry for the land. I had heard from a Swami ji (but could not find myself in any literature) that in Indian culture a child is most fortunate whose father is a dharmatma and whose mother is a pativrata. This is far cry from the competing dominance portrayed by the reference such a society as matriarchal vs. patriarchal, which Indian intellectual class apes it.

The combined differences between how Eastern and Western cultures view and treat motherhood and fatherhood indicate clearly that there is no simple mapping of words or cultural concepts from one onto the other. When comparing the two, one needs to understand the context in which terms, language, and celebrations are framed. Learning from other cultures is good, but doing so without an understanding of the differing perspectives, and without an appreciation for our own way of seeing the world, is counter-productive.

There is a book written with the title of ‘Dharti Mata aur Pita Akash’ by Pushpa Sinha, and of course the favorite Hindi song, Dharti meri mata pita Akash from Geet Gata Chal Hindi movie (1975) shows the complementarity of parents for appropriate care and growth of a child. Nevertheless, Indian culture is matriarchal right from the pauranic concept of Adya as the origin of tridevas and tridevis.  Even in modern times at least 500 years ago in Tulsi Ramayana, there is a clear mention that mother holds higher position than the father – जौ केवल पितु आयसु ताता, तौ जिन जाउ जानि बड़ि माता -as stated by Ram’s mother, Kaushalya. So, while Kerala tradition may be matriarchal (or maybe ladyarchal to be more appropriate). The matriarchal tradition of India as per Ramayana standards is widespread in the culture.

Once that narrative is accepted, it is then possible to integrate with the famous Manusmriti idea of ‘यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवता…’, which needs to be interpreted as, where women reach the status or level  of being worshiped (implying only motherhood) even gods frequent that place for pleasure.

There is much to learn from Indian philosophy as to what a mother is to be – life giver, guru, teacher, god, etc., which is what elevates her to the level of worship, not those who hire maids to take care of their children or those who do not have education, training, knowledge, and resources.

A father is a gyan guru, and is expected to give diksha to the son, and perhaps daughter by the time of the upanayana sanskar (there are instances where daughters undergo upanayana sanskar). In this ritual, the father utters some secret mantra (usually Gayatri mantra) in the ears of the child at the ceremony. This indicates the conclusion of education from father and commencement of the education from Guru. In the story of the Ganesha his father Shiva cuts off Ganesha’s head, eventually replacing it with the head of an elephant at the behest of Ganesha’s mourning mother Parvati.  Instead of taking only the story’s literal meaning, we can instead see symbolically Shiva playing his true role as a father: removing Ganesha’s ignorance, as symbolized by the head he was born with, and replacing it with a much larger head of an elephant, symbolizing his newly gained wisdom.


(Image : Prof. Singh and his son)

In my own personal life, living in America, I try to emphasize on Father’s Day what a father is supposed to do on a regular basis: I normally cook breakfast for the family showing my cooking ability and skills (all three children learned formal cooking from me rather than their mother who is obviously more skillful at cooking than I am); I then make sure to mow the lawn, which I do despite my wife’s advice of hiring landscaper (quite common in United States); we spend time relishing some father-child memories; finally, I give some fatherly advice (lecture!!) to my children. I do not like to be pampered by any special treatment or gifts from children, as that encourages commercialization (the original concern of US lawmakers in opposing declaring Father’s Day an official holiday), and reduces the idea to materialism, which is quite different from what I consider my children as संतानाः, as in सम्यक तान्यते ते संतानाः those who reflect not only my material body but also my subtle body (ethereal, astral, mental, and spiritual) and spiritualism. May all of us have a Father’s Day by becoming and having संतानाः!

Prof. Bal Ram Singh, Director, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA 

Bases of Dharma in the Gita

– Dr. Shakuntala


(Source of Image: http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/and-more/what-bhagavad-gita-teaches-us-top-10-lessons-we-must-remember_1849199.html)

The Gita, through Krishna declares a two-fold bases of dharmaSamkhya or reason and yoga or discipline – “In this world a two-fold basis (of dharma) has been declared by Me of old, blameless one: By the discipline of knowledge of the followers of reason-method and by the discipline of action of the followers of discipline method” (III.3). But before we try to understand reason with discipline of knowledge or jñana-yoga and discipline with discipline of action or karmayoga, we need to appreciate the fact that the term ‘discipline’ is used in two senses in the Gita. One of course is the basis of dharma. The other is defined by the Gita through Krishna as indifference: “discipline is defined as indifference” (II.48). We can take it that it is discipline in the latter sense, that is, in the senses of indifference that is used when the Gita is talking about discipline of knowledge and discipline of action. In other words, it appears that whether we are followers of reason or followers of discipline, discipline in the sense of indifference is a necessary feature of it.

In the Gita, Discipline (basis of religion) appears to be, on one hand, renunciation and, on the other hand, non-attachment: “For when not to objects of sense nor to actions he is attached, renouncing all purpose, then he is said to have mounted to discipline” (VI.4). That is, if we want to understand discipline, then we need to understand what renunciation and non-attachment mean in the Gita. Renunciation in the Gita comes forth as renunciation of actions of desire (XVIII.2). Further, in the Gita, he is recognized as renouncing action who does not ‘loathe or crave’ which is also termed as being free from pairs of opposite (V.3). But if this is renunciation, it appears that it is non-different from what the Gita calls as discipline of mind or buddhi-yoga. In its discussion on discipline of mind, the Gita says about longing and loathing that “one must not come under control of those two, for they are his two enemies” (III.34). But this is how renunciation is understood in the Gita. Again, it says that “Whom all desires enter in that same way he attains peace; not the man who lusts after desires” (II.70). This can be understood as meaning that who is nor driven to act by desire goes to peace. And this is the way renunciation has been defined – giving up acts of desire. Further, this renunciation is also discipline in the sense of indifference: “Content with getting what comes by chance, passed beyond the pairs (of opposites), free from jealousy, indifferent to success and failure, even acting he is not bound” (IV.22).

Discipline, however, in the Gita also means non-attachment. The actions that the Gita has asked one to perform without attachment to fruits are actions of worship, gift, austerity (XVIII.5) as well as natural born action of the individual (XVIII.48). Worship is another kind of action the Gita says one should perform (IV.23). The Gita suggests that if one performs actions without attachment to the fruit of action, one does not get bound (III.7). In fact Krishna tells of himself that he is not bound even though he keeps performing actions because he is not interested in fruits of actions: “Actions do not stain Me, (because) I have no yearning for the fruits of actions. Who comprehends Me thus is not bound by actions” (IV.14). Such actions do not bind because in truth they do not bear fruits, though performed they are barren (IV.20). In other words, it appears that according to the Gita, it is the mental attitude that binds and not mere action.

Of the two elements of discipline, if they can be termed as such, renunciation and non-attachment to fruits of action, the Gita shows its certain inclination towards the latter (V.2). The reason for this can be explained in the following way: renunciation is more an attitude than performance of action. Giving up certain action by itself cannot be called action – at least in the sense of performance. Renunciation is giving up acts of desire. But non-attachment involves performing of certain kinds of actions without attachment to fruits of action. In other words, in the latter case one gives up certain action but goes on performing the required kinds of actions. That is, non-attachment involves both giving up action as well as performance of certain sort of actions while renunciation does not imply performance of action.

Of the ‘two-fold basis’ of the world, the Gita declares reason as one of them. Reason in the Gita comes forth as understanding of the nature of the soul. When Arjuna asks Krishna regarding a way for right conduct, Krishna answer tells of the right way as suggested by reason. The way, as we find it, involves a description of soul’s nature: “He is not born, nor does he ever die; nor, having come to be, will he ever more come not to be. Unborn, eternal, everlasting, this ancient one is not slain when the body is slain” (II.20). Further, it is said that the soul in reality does not feel pleasure and pain. Whatever feeling of pleasure and pain the embodied being feels is due to its contact with matter (II.14). Thus on one hand, the Gita tells that the soul actually does not feel pleasure and pain and on the other hand, that they belong to matter. Reason, according to Gita, thus lies in understanding that pain, pleasure etc are not felt by soul but belong to matter. Likewise, the Gita also tells that according to reason, action does not belong to the soul, but to matter. Having said this, the Gita says that the one who understands reality in true nature – that the immortal does not in actuality feel or perform – in reality he does not perform action. That is, though actions take place, even after one realizes that himself is not the doer, such actions no more bear fruits, that is, they more bind (XVIII.17).

Knowledge is the means for the followers of reason. This knowledge comes forth in the Gita as knowledge that reality is one which can be understood under its ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ nature. The first, the ‘lower nature’ constitutes the universe (VII.4), while the second, the ‘higher nature’ is the soul, the support of living being (VII.5). And then there is the Lord in whom “this (universe) is strung, like heaps of pearl on a string” (VII.7). These two natures of the ultimate reality again have been explained in Gita under different headings – the Field and the Field-knower. And this knowledge of the Field and Field-knower is considered as true knowledge in the Gita (XIII. 2). In another place of the Gita we come across knowledge as knowledge of the Lord and Brahman as well as that of the Strands as the binding factor. The man of knowledge thus knows that the actual agent is matter. As such he can be assumed to be acting with the knowledge that it is not he who is acting. This is also the way how disciplined man is defined: ‘I am in effect doing nothing at all?’ – so the disciplined man should think, knowing the truth, when he sees, hears, touches, smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes, talks, evacuates, grasps, opens and shuts his eyes; ‘The senses (only) on the objects of sense are operating’ – holding fast to this thought (V.8-9).  Thus it can be said that the man who performs with knowledge is practising discipline of knowledge.

A study of the bases of dharma reveals the importance of mental attitude in performance of dharma in the Gita. That the Gita has attached indifference to both the ways of reason and discipline is indicative of this very feature. In fact that this is so is clear from the very beginning of Krishna-Arjuna conversation. Arjuna asks Krishna what is dharma: “My being very afflicted with the taint of weak compassion, I ask Thee, my mind bewildered as to the dharma” (II.7). But Krishna does not answer by telling what dharma is. Rather what Krishna says reveals the importance of mental attitude: “Abiding in discipline perform actions” (II.48). And this indifference is certainly of mental nature. However, though the importance lies in the mental attitude, the Gita cannot be taken as advocating mental attitude alone. What it advocates is performance of action with certain mental attitude and not mere mental attitude. And that is why the advice to Arjuna is not just to carry the attitude but to fight with the right mental attitude: “Holding pleasure and pain alike, gain and loss, victory and defeat, then gird thyself for battle” (II.38).

Dr. Shakuntala, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy,  University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam


सूर्य और सृष्टि


– प्रो. माला रानी गुरु

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं

भर्गो देवस्यः धीमहि धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्!!

“तेजस्वी, सर्वश्रेष्ठ, वंदनीय तीनों लोकों पृथ्वी, अंतरिक्ष और द्युलोक में विचरण करने वाले भगवान सूर्य हमारी बुद्धियों को सन्मार्ग में प्रेरित करें”

यह वैदिक मूलमंत्र समस्त जीवधारियों का आलम्बन है| इन महिमामंडित, मण्डलाकार, ज्योतिस्वरूप सूर्यदेव को बारम्बार नमस्कार हों| उनके इस सृष्टि और सृजन के प्रति, सभी के जीवनदान के प्रति अपनी कृतज्ञता प्रगट करने के लिए उत्तर-भारत में सूर्योपासना के लिए किया जाने वाला छठव्रत, बड़ी ही श्रध्दा से प्रत्येक वर्ष कार्तिक एवं चैत्र मास में संपन्न किया जाता हैं| अन्य प्रदेशों में भी सूर्य उपासना के विभिन्न प्रकार हैं|

समस्त वनस्पतियों फल-फूल-ईंख-अन्न-मिष्ठान से भगवान भास्कर को संध्या समय तथा प्रातःकाल सूर्योदय के समय श्रध्दापूर्वक अर्घ्य प्रदान किया जाता हैं| अस्त हों रहे अथवा उदय हों रहे सूर्य की आराधना निरन्तर चल रहे कालक्रम-समय को ही धोतित करता हैं| यह आराधना आडम्बर रहित जनसाधारण का महापर्व है| श्रध्दापूर्ण श्रद्धालु-जन इस प्रकार अर्घ्य प्रदान कर कृतज्ञता प्रकट करते हैं|

एहि सूर्य सहस्त्रांशो तेजो राशे: जगत्पते !

अनुकम्पय मां देवो गृहाणार्घ्यं  दिवाकर: !!

इस छठ पर्व में स्वयं सुर्योत्पन (जैसा की किवदंती है) शाकद्वीपीय ‘मग’ ब्राह्मणों का विशिष्ट महत्त्व है| ये वही समुदाय है, जिनके पूर्वजों को भगवान श्रीकृष्ण अपने पुत्र साम्ब के उपचार के लिए शाकद्वीप से भारत लेकर आये थे, और कालांतर में ये ब्राहमण समुदाय वैद्य के रूप में प्रतिष्ठित हुए| कहने का तात्पर्य है की सूर्य के किरणों की महता प्राचीनकाल से ही रोगनिवारक के रूप में स्थापित है|

हमारी संस्कृति की अनुपम ज्ञानप्रद श्रृंखला जो पूर्वकाल में शिष्यों तथा ऋषि पुत्रों की श्रवण और मनन परम्परा से आगे बढ़ी थी| श्रवण और मनन में श्लोक केवल शाब्दिक अर्थ ही नहीं बल्कि उसके उच्चारण और अनुकम्पन से किसी खास अर्थ या प्रयोजन निमित्त होता है| आर्य ऋषियों की श्रवण-मनन वाली ज्ञान परम्परा के धूमिल पड़ने के बाद, आधुनिक युग में यह श्रुश्रुत परम्परा क्रमशः लेखन एवं दृश्यज्ञान में परिवर्तित हो गयी| परन्तु नई पीढ़ी तकनीक की अंधी दौड़ में ज्ञान के आधुनिक प्रकल्पों में अग्रसरित है, और शाब्दिक अर्थ से इतर प्रभावों से अनभिग्य होती जा रही है| शब्द ज्ञान से इतर की समझ के लिए किसी के पास समय नहीं| परन्तु इस समृद्ध ज्ञान वैभव के विरासत अगली पीढियों तक पहुचे, जिससे वे सार्थक जीवन जी सके, भौतिकता के दुष्परिणामों से बच सके और अध्यात्म की ओर मुड सके, और हमारी आर्य परम्परा की विरासत को जान सके, इसके लिए चित्रात्मक अभिव्यक्ति एक ससक्त माध्यम हो सकता है| इसीलिए यहाँ आदिदेव, प्रत्यक्ष प्रमाण स्वरुप भगवान सूर्य की उपासना को चित्र के माध्यम से अभिव्यक्ति दी गई है|


(Editor’s note – The author has painted this image. Her present work is themed at  Sanskrit literature from where she picked up the myriad colors which make her painting style vibrant and classy. )

“सूर्य और सृष्टि” शीर्षक वाला यह चित्र सूर्य-वन्दना को स्पष्ट कर रहा है| आकाश में दर्शित तीन मंद्लाकृति भूलोक, अन्तरिक्षलोक, तथा द्युलोक को प्रकाशित करने वाले सूर्य की महिमा को प्रकट कर रहा है| परमात्मास्वरुप सूर्यदेव पंच आदि तत्वो पृथ्वी, जल, अग्नि, वायु, और आकाश से सृष्टि का निर्माण करते हैं| इस सृष्टि के निर्माण में प्रकृति देवी के सहयोग से, छः ऋतुओं की शक्ति से नित-नूतन समस्त जड़चेतन जगत की सरंचना करते हैं|

चित्र में सात-स्त्रियों की जो आकृति है, उसमे प्रकृति देवी सहित छह ऋतुओं के व्यहार एवं प्रभाव को दर्शाया गया है| उनके बस्त्रों का रंग उस ऋतु विशेष की प्रकृति एवं कार्य का परिचायक है| चित्र में दायी ओर की प्रथम स्त्री वसंत ऋतु की परिचायक है, जिसका पीला वासंती वस्त्र पृथ्वी को पुष्पित एवं पल्लवित कर संसार को सृजन शक्ति के आनंद से भर देता है, तभी तो बसंत को ‘ऋतुराज’ भी कहा जाता है| दूसरी स्त्री ग्रीष्म ऋतु का प्रतीक है, जिसका लाल वस्त्र मौसम के परिताप को प्रकट करता है| ग्रीष्म ऋतु में पृथ्वी गर्म होकर सृजन की ओर प्रवृत होती है| तीसरी स्त्री स्वयं प्रकृति देवी है, जो सभी ऋतुओ को स्वयं के कार्य निष्पादन को प्रेरित करती है| चौथे स्थान पर हरे वस्त्र में हरियाली की प्रतीक वर्षा ऋतु है, जो ग्रीष्म के ताप से संतप्त प्रकृति और जनजीवन में सृजन शक्ति भर कर जीवन का श्रृंगार करती है| तदन्तर हलके नील वर्ण वाली पांचवी आकृति शरद ऋतु की है, जो नव सृजित वस्तुओं में जीवन का संचार कर संरक्षित रखती है| उसके बाद छठी और सातवी आकृति हेमंत और शिशिर की है, जो वस्तुओं और जीवन को संपुष्टि प्रदान कर परिपक्वता देती है, उसमें जीवनदायी रस का संचार करती हैं| इस प्रकार छह ऋतुएँ समस्त चराचर जगत में सृजन-स्थिति एवं परिपक्वता से सृष्टि का क्रमिक संपादन करती हैं|   

इस प्रकार सूर्यदेव ही अन्न-जल, वन-उपवन, पर्वत-झरने, जीव-जंतु-पक्षीगण, कीट-पतंग, मानवादि का निर्माण कर संपोषण करते हैं| इस चित्र में आदिपुरुष मनु और आदिस्त्री शतरूपा (हिन्दू मान्यतानुसार) सूर्य का वंदन करते हुए दिख रहे हैं| भारतीय आर्य परम्परा में ‘यज्ञ’ को विशेष महत्त्व मिला है| हवन कुण्ड से उठती अग्नि की लपटें आदि पंचतत्वों में से एक अग्नि तत्व के निर्देशित कर रही है| अग्नि जल की भी सृजक है और जल जीव-सृजन की प्रथम कड़ी है| इस प्रकार सूर्य ही सृष्टी के केंद्र में विराजमान हैं, ज्ञान-विज्ञान की धुरी हैं|

सूर्य की दिव्य शक्तियों की जानकारी हमें बहुत अल्प हैं| हमारी आर्य ऋषि परम्परा से प्राप्त ज्ञान का मंतव्य है कि ब्रह्मांड में अनेकानेक सूर्य और उनका सौरमंडल हैं|अनेकानेक ग्रह-नक्षत्र-निहारिका-उल्कायें, तारागण और आकाशगंगाए हैं, कुछ अज्ञात शून्य भी हैं, जो एक दिव्यप्रकाश स्वरुप से संचालित एवं नियंत्रित हैं| गणित और विज्ञान का “शुन्य” घटक भी संभवतः सुर्याकृति पर ही निर्धारित हैं| समस्त गणना विज्ञान शुन्य से प्रारम्भ होकर असीमित शून्यों तक के माप का सफ़र तय करती हैं, जिसकी अवधारणा पूर्ण रूप से भारतीय है| खगोलीय दुरी की व्याख्या भी प्रकाश वर्ष में की जाती है| अतः सूर्य के बिना आधुनिक विज्ञान के परिकल्पना दुरूह है|

अतः हम परमात्मा की कल्पना प्रत्यक्ष प्रमाणस्वरुप भगवान सूर्य में कर सकते हैं| विश्व के अनेकानेक देशो में, विभिन्न धर्मों में किसी न किसी रूप में सूर्य उपासना का रूप मिलता है| मानव तथा अन्य जीवधारियों को सूर्य की दिव्य शक्तियों की प्रतीती होती है, उसी प्रकार से जिस प्रकार वायु तथा जल की जीवनधारण क्षमता का अनुभव होता है| इस प्रकार सूर्य की दैवीय शक्तियों को नकारना अपनी वास्तविकता को नकारने के सदृश्य है|

ज्ञान जीवन की सार्थकता और आनंद को संपुष्टी करता है, अततः ज्ञान की ही सर्वत्र पूजा होती है इसीलिए ज्ञान का अन्वेषण तथा अर्चना अनिवार्य है| सद्यः जन्मा बालक जीवनदायनी दुग्धाहार के लिए स्वतः ही दुग्धधारा को ढूंढता है| जन्मदात्री माँ के अस्तित्व-बोध से रहित वह उस व्यक्तित्व (माँ) से अगाध प्रेम और श्रध्दा से जुड़ जाता है, जीवन पर्यंत यही जुडाव ही पूजा अर्चना है| निष्कर्षतः शाश्वत शक्ति जो सृष्टि का सृजन करती है, उसके प्रति प्रेम और श्रध्दा, पूजा और समर्पण स्वाभाविक ही है|

वेदों में सूर्य की विभिन्न शक्तियों का ज्ञान, अन्तरिक्ष के रहस्य, अग्नि, जल-पिंडो इत्यादि की अन्तरिक्ष में उपस्थिति का ज्ञान और विज्ञान प्रतीकात्मक शैली में उपलब्ध है, उदहारणस्वरुप ऋग्वेद के प्रथम मण्डल के सवितृ सूक्त 35 में हिरण्यस्तूप ऋषि के अनुसार इस कथन की पुष्टी हो रही है|

ति॒स्रो द्याव॑: सवि॒तुर्द्वा उ॒पस्थाँ॒ एका॑ य॒मस्य॒ भुव॑ने विरा॒षाट् ।

आ॒णिं न रथ्य॑म॒मृताधि॑ तस्थुरि॒ह ब्र॑वीतु॒ य उ॒ तच्चिके॑तत् ॥

सवितृ सूक्त ऋगवेद| मण्डल (1:35) मन्त्र 6

स्वर्ग से उपलक्षित प्रकाशमान लोक तीन हैं| उनमें से दो लोक सूर्य के समीप है अर्थात् दो लोक-भूलोक और द्युलोक सूर्य से प्रकाशित होते हैं| एक तीसरा लोक अन्तरिक्ष है जो यम के घर जाने वाले प्रेतों को सहन करता है अर्थात् मरने के बाद पुरुष अन्तरिक्ष के मार्ग से यम लोक को जाता है| जिस प्रकार रथ के अक्ष में डाली गई आणि (किल) से रथ अवस्थित रहता है, उसी प्रकार अमृत अर्थात चन्द्र, तारे आदि प्रकाशमान नक्षत्र अथवा जल उस सूर्य के समीप अवस्थित हो गये है, और इस प्रकार के सूर्य को जो मनुष्य जानता है, वही मनुष्य सूर्य की महिमा का वर्णन कर सकता है|

इस प्रकार वेदों उपनिषदों इत्यादि के मनन, अनुशीलन एवं वैज्ञानिक गवेषणा से अद्भुत खगोलीय तथ्यों की बृहद जानकारी को मानवोपयोगी बनाया जा सकता है| इन्हीं सब तथ्यों को चित्र के माध्यम से व्यक्त कर, युद्ध, अशांति और प्राकृतिक असंतुलन की विभीषिका को झेलती मानवता की कुछ त्राण मिल सके, इसका एक छोटा सा प्रयास किया गया है|    

प्रो. माला रानी गुरु, संस्कृत विभाग, राम कृष्ण महिला महाविद्यालय, गिरिडीह, झारखण्ड