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WAVES CONFERENCE
 

International Conference On
INDIA'S CONTRIBUTIONS AND INFLUENCES IN THE WORLD

(July 12-14, 2002)

 

The Conference was organized by 'World Association for Vedic Studies, Inc' (WAVES), at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, MA, USA. This was the fourth biennial international conference of WAVES. The three previous ones were held at Atlanta (GA) in 1996, Los Angeles (CA) in 1998, and Hoboken (NJ) in 2000.

 

The Conference received an enthusiastic response from world scholars. For the first time there were four scholars from China speaking on influence of Vedanta, Nagarjuna's contributions to Chinese thoughts, Buddhism, Chinese culture, Zen, and Islam Sufism.

 

About 200 papers were accepted for presentation and their abstracts were circulated. Persons from 11 different countries - Belgium, Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and USA - participated in the conference. In all there were 42 sessions and 139 presentations by the authors themselves made. There was a good mix of persons of Indian and non-Indian scholars.

 

The inaugural session had three distinguished speakers -
1. Dr. S. Kalyanraman (Member Sarasvati Nadi Shodh Prkalp, and of Aklila Bharateeya Itihasa Sankalana Yojna, author of 1200 page book 'Sarasvati', compiler of 6 volumes of 'Encyclopaedia on Sarasvati', and of 'Dictionary - Indian Lexicon of over 25 ancient languages', 'Indian Alchemy: Soma in the Veda', ): On "Sarasvati Civilization".

2. Professor Hope Fitz (Professor of Philosophy, Eastern Connecticut State University): On "Ahimsa, Gandhi's Thoughts and the Modern World".

3. Professor T. S. Rukmani (Chair of Hindu Studies, Concordia Uni., Canada): On "Dynamics of Being and Becoming in Hindu Thoughts".

 

There were two keynote speakers -
1. Professor V. D. Misra, Professor of Sociology, Lucknow University, and
2. Professor Francis X. Clooney, an ordained Catholic priest, Professor of Comparative Theology at Boston College and Visiting Academic Director of the Center for Vaisnava and Hindu Studies at Oxford University, whose research has focused on Hindu philosophical and theological traditions - Sanskrit and Tamil - and particularly on the Purva Mimamsa, Vedanta, and Srivaisnavism. His most recent book is Hindu God, Christian God, Oxford University Press, 2001, and who is currently writing a book on Hindu goddesses and Christian theology. He was also the first president of the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

 

Other plenary speakers were:
1. Dr. Cromwell Crawford, Professor of Religion, Uni. of Hawaii
2. Yogi Amrit Desai
3. Dr. Koenraad Elst, Belgium
4. Mr. Francois Gautier, French Journalist
5. Professor Xinchuan Huang, Chinese Academy of Social Sci, Beijing, China
6. Dr. David Frawley, Vedic Institute, NM, USA
7. Dr. Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic Inst., NM, USA
8. Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, Indic Foundation, USA
9. Dr. June McDaniel, Professor of Philosophy, SC, USA
10. Dr. Bhupendra K. Modi, President, Indian Council of Religious Leaders
11. Professor Chhaya Rai, Professor of Philosophy, Jabalpur, India
12. Professor K.L. Seshagiri Rao, Chief Editor, Encyclopedia of Hinduism, SC, USA
13. Professor BhuDev Sharma, President, Hindu Uni. of America
14. Dr. Klaus G. Witz, Uni. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

 

There were numerous other experts and scholars that included university professors, Vice-Chancellors, authors, researches, journalist, intellectuals and practitioners who presented papers and participated in discussions.

 

Amongst other highlights were symposia on 'Ahimsa in the Past and the Present', 'Hinduism, Pluralism & Interfaith Dialogue', 'Indian Theories on Consciousness', 'Ayurveda & Health', Gita, & Mahabharata, as also panel discussion on 'Current Global Influences of Vedic thoughts & Hindu Practices.'

 

Ayurveda and Health, and Consciousness sessions attracted the most delegates. Several presentations emphasized the scientific nature of Ayurveda, and the opportunity for an enormous market for Ayurvedic medicine in the west. Consciousness studies are becoming popular in Psychology departments on most US universities. According to Don Salmon of Salem, South Carolina, said that "when compared to Indian Philosophy/Psychology, the western psychology, neuroscience, and consciousness studies combined do not correspond to even significant fraction".

 

On Sunday July 14, was held a two-hour special workshop with Dr. Vasant Lad for interested participants on the basic principles of Ayurveda. Dr. Koenraad Elst of Belgium presented a lecture entitled "Hindu Influence on Christianity" outlining some of the philosophical elements of Christianity that have their roots in Vedic/Buddhist traditions.

 

The conference succeeded in recounting major contributions of India in the fields of spirituality, science & mathematics, religion & philosophy, governance & administration, peace & harmony amongst men, pluralism & multi-culturism, ethics & human values, literature and linguistics. There were scholars and academics of the East and the West from the fields of Vedas, Upanishads, Epics, Shastras, religion and philosophy, as also persons of public standing to share views on several matters in an environment charged with understanding and curiosity. In the concluding sessions, many participants spoke and greatly appreciated the efforts of the organizers.

 

In the 'Panel discussion' on 'Current Global Influences of Vedic Thoughts and Hindu Practices', panelists Dr. Deen B. Chandora (Atlanta), Dr. Koenraad Elst (Belgium), Mr. Francois Gautier (French Journalist), Mr. Rajiv Malhotra (Princeton), Professor BhuDev Sharma (Orlando, Moderator) and Professor Bal Ram Singh (Umass, Dartmouth) and several attendees brought out many points of current Indian contributions and influences. Apart from the significant role of immigrant Indians in USA, UK and other countries in the field of several professions - education, medicine, technology, information technology, hospitality industry, etc., these included rising influence and appreciation of Yoga, vegetarianism, belief in theory of karma and rebirth, multi-culturism and respect for diversity of faiths & religious practices. It was pointed out that scientists are searching Indian/Vedic literature for scientific study of consciousness, as also for ideas on ecology.

 

One of the non-academic, nevertheless an attractive items of the conference was featured on Saturday July 13th evening in the Main Auditorium of UMass Dartmouth. Wearing gleaming garments that resembled flower petals, as well as bangles, anklets, and jewelry that adorned even their hair, professional dancers performed in sequences that lasted anywhere from two to twenty minutes. This cultural program of dance recitals was open and free to public. Mrs. Ranjani Saigal, Director of Eastern Rhythms School of Dance, organized and presented this program.

 

A general theme running throughout the conference reflected on the deep scientific and systematic nature of life of Vedic tradition people, and the culture of celebrated diversity commonly visible even in today's India.

 

The Proceedings of the conference, carrying edited papers shall be published as was done for earlier conferences. The organizers have invitations for holding next conference in Canada, Netherlands, Nepal and a couple of places in USA.

 

Professor BhuDev Sharma, President of the WAVES', the overall coordinator of the conference organized the academic program. Professor Bal Ram Singh, Director of the Center for Indic Studies, UMassD along with his colleagues, Dr. Sukalyan Sengupta and Dr. T. K. Roy of CIS at UMass Dartmouth worked tirelessly for local arrangements. Mr. Ishwar Patel, Mr. Mahesh Patel, and their families and friends provided for food, etc. The conference was sponsored by Center for Indic Studies, UmassD, Hindu University of America, Orlando and CASC, School of Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center.

 
WAVES is a multidisciplinary academic society, tax exempt in USA, open to persons of all different views, races, religions, country of origin, etc. The society has no ideology. Academics and Scholars in any area of Indian/Vedic studies as well as those academically interested in these areas are welcome to be its members and join in its activities.
 
(Prepared by Prof. Bhu Dev Sharma, President, WAVES)
 
"International Conference Highlights and Exhorts
India's Contributions and Influences to Solve World's Current Problems"

(Adapted from Lok Vani, an online newsmagazine)
 

The Center for Indic Studies (CIS) of UMass Dartmouth, U.S.A, hosted the international conference on "India's Contributions and Influence in the World", on July 12-14, 2002. The conference was coordinated by the World Association for Vedic Studies (WAVES) Inc., which has organized such biennial conferences since 1996. This was the fourth of such WAVES event; the three previous ones were at Atlanta (GA) in 1996, at Los Angeles (CA) in 1998, and at Hoboken (NJ) in 2000.

 

The conference attracted many international scholars on Vedic literature and Indic civilization, with nearly 200 abstracts submitted for presentations to run in the course of three days. International and local delegates including scholars from China, India, Nepal, the Caribbean, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Canada, and the U.S., were in attendance.

 

A general theme running throughout the conference reflected on the deep scientific and systematic nature of life of Vedic tradition, people and the culture of celebrated diversity commonly visible even in today's India.

 

The program officially started on July 12. More than one hundred and fifty presentations ranging from Vedic spiritual literature to science took place over the course of 30 parallel sessions, in addition to inaugural addresses, keynote speeches, plenary and public lectures, keynote speeches, and a panel discussion.

 

The enormity and challenges in organizing the conference can be judged by the fact that the organizers had to run six parallel sessions simultaneously on various special theme areas each afternoon of the conference to accommodate the number of presentations.

 

Many prominent Indologists were in attendance, like author Dr. David Frawley, who spoke on the Rig-Veda; Professor Hope K. Fitz, who spoke on ahimsa in yoga sutras; and Dr. S. Kalyanraman, member of the Akhila Bharateeya Itihaasa Sankalana Yojana, who presented an in-depth and scholarly lecture on Sarasvati Civilization.

 

Dr. Balram Singh, Dr. Suku Sengupta and Dr. T. K. Roy of CIS at UMass Dartmouth conducted the event. UMass Dartmouth with its beautiful and serene campus provided its auditorium, lecture halls, parking, housing facilities to the Center for Indic Studies to host this conference. Dr. Shankha Bhowmick, Dr. Madhu Jhaveri and many volunteers from the campus and the community provided their assistance. Prof. Bhu Dev Sharma, President of the Hindu University of America, was the coordinator and arranged for most of the speakers in various symposia in the conference.

 

The program concluded on July 14th with remarks from Professor Bhu Dev Sharma and Mr. Dhirendra Shah of WAVES. Dr. Balram Singh, Director of CIS, expressed thanks to all the participants, the various organizations, and the volunteers who worked to make the conference a success.

 
The proceedings of the conference with all the edited papers presented in full-length is planned to be published by the organizers and will be available for public perusal and dissemination. Further details can be accessed at their website: <www.umassd.edu/indic/waves>
* * *
In the conference, both academic scholars and non-academic practitioners presented Vedic and Upanishadic ideas to address some of the most pressing global problems in today's world. Ayurveda and Health, and Consciousness sessions attracted the most delegates. Several presentations emphasized the scientific nature of Ayurveda, and the opportunity for an enormous market for Ayurvedic medicine in the west.
 
Dr. Francis Clooney of Boston College presented ideas how today's global audience with diverse religious, philosophical, and cultural interests, can still learn from the language, methods, and conclusions of the Upanishads.
 

Prof. Hope Fitz of Eastern Connecticut University stated that "never has there been a time when ahimsa, basically non-harm and compassion, was needed more than it is today." She elaborated principles of ahimsa as practiced by Gandhiji as well as in the Jain and Buddhist traditions.

 

The inaugural address presented by Dr. Kalyanraman highlighted incrementally acceptable theory and existence of on Sarasvati Civilization.

 

Dr. Frawley followed up on this in his lecture on the Rig Veda and the Ocean, referring to the significance of the discovery of the course of River Sarasvati over 1,600 kms. from Manasarovar to Gujarat (with an average width of a staggering 6 to 8 kms. of palaeo-channels of the river, as seen from the satellite images) and the discovery of over 2,000 archaeological sites of the civilization (i.e. 80% of the so-called sites of Harappan culture). The Rig Veda was composed on the banks of River Sarasvati, the same river along the banks of which Balarama (elder brother of Krishna) goes on a pilgrimage for 40 plus days visiting the ancient pilgrimage sites, rishi ashramas and offers homage to the rishis and pitrs (as described in the S'alya Parva of the Mahabharata in 200 shlokas). The continuity of this Sarasvati culture in Bharata was elaborated by presenting emphatic cultural markers, for example, wearing of the sindhur by married women.

 

"What I would like to do is bring India to the West," said French journalist and author Francois Gautier. "I believe India is going to be the spiritual leader of the world. That is why I fight for India."

 

Dr. B. K. Modi, President of Indian Council of Religious Leaders, presented a general overview of India and Hinduism as an epitome of Arts and Sciences of Human Welfare.

 

Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, President, Infinity Foundation, presented ideas for repositioning Hinduism in the American education system. He was particularly critical of Western academicians who after learning many ideas from the Indic traditions end up trashing the source of their information.

 

On Sunday July 14, in the plenary session, Dr. Vasant Lad of the Ayuvedic Instite, NM, gave a scholarly overview of Ayurveda in daily life, followed by a two-hour special workshop for interested participants on the basic principles of Ayurveda.

 

Consciousness studies are becoming popular in Psychology departments on most US universities. According to Don Salmon of Salem, South Carolina, "when compared to Indian Philosophy/Psychology, the western psychology, neuroscience, and consciousness studies combined do not correspond to even significant fraction".

 

Dr. Koenraad Elst of Belgium presented a lecture entitled "Hindu Influence on Christianity" outlining some of the philosophical elements of Christianity including the doctrine of incarnation which have their roots in Vedic / Buddhist traditions.

 
The last part of the program, which followed a lunch break, was a very lively panel discussion on Current Global Influences of Vedic Thoughts and Hindu Practices; panelists consisted of Dr. Deen B. Chandora, Dr. Konraa Elst, Mr. Francois Gautier, Mr. Rajeev Malhotra, and Dr. Balram Singh, with a very heavy participation from the audience. Issues related to Hindu vs. India, ways to include other groups who follow Indic tradition of dharma and accept diversity of cultures and religions, less than adequate representation of practicing Indians to be involved in academic Indic scholarship, and need for an assertive Indian/Hindu point of view were discussed.
* * *
INDIA'S SPIRITUALITY AND ITS WORLD IMPACT
 
[Paper presented by Swami Jyotirmayananda at the International Conference on "India's Contributions and Influences in the World", July 12-14, 2002, organized by the World Association for Vedic Studies (WAVES) Inc., at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, MA, U.S .A.]:
 
Synopsis
India's Vedantic wisdom, which is the most profound heritage bestowed on mankind by the great rishis, was evolved after generations of intense explorations by the ancient seekers of Truth. This paper first highlights this background of the earnest enquiries in different directions which eventually integrated themselves resulting in the Vedantic vision of the Reality. The paper also emphasises the necessity of research to present to the modern world a deeper idea of these links that exist among the various disciplines of traditional sciences and philosophy.
 

The paper gives a general survey of the acceptance and reverence India's Spirituality gained in many parts of the world from the days of yore, influencing the cultural life and artistic expressions of many nations. India's Spirituality had exerted a creative influence on the inquisitive minds in several parts of the world in ancient times and the philosophy succeeded in inspiring and influencing the best scientific minds of today. Any sensitive person who makes a study of the Vedantic wisdom will quickly realize that it is a super-science of human evolution and fulfilment.

 

It is this realization of the spirit of Vedanta that inspired Sir Warren Hastings, the first British Governor General of India, to write in his introduction to the first translation of the Bhagavad Gita in English by Charles Wilkins, the following words: "The writers of Indian philosophies will survive when the British domination in India shall long have ceased to exist, and when the sources which it yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance." We see today how prophetic those words were!

 
The paper emphasizes the relevance of the Vedantic wisdom in the present-day world context of overbearing materialism, to enable the modern man to get a deeper perspective of human life and its fulfillment. Many a Western intellectual points out the dilemma of the people of the 'developed countries' troubled with a sense of having reached a dead end and their existential crisis. The paper points out the urgent need of intensive research into many ancient spiritual disciplines and traditional sciences and the necessity of presenting their rationale in modern terms so that the people the world over can be inspired with a new creative vision and urge by inculcating in them the Vedantic knowledge about the deeper facts of human life, man's relation with the universe and his higher destiny and fulfillment.
II

I would like to highlight in this paper, the world impact of India's spirituality that was evolved after intense explorations and the experimentations of the sages of yore through diverse paths of inquiry and their integration. I would also emphasize the need of all-embracing research to bring to light the links that exist among the various disciplines of traditional sciences and philosophy, and today's need to harmonize the ancient knowledge with the modern scientific perspective so that the world at large can get a clearer idea of the life-evolving wisdom of our rishis. Any serious student of the evolution of India's spirituality will realize that all the branches of spiritual exploration including Dwaita, Vishistadvaita, Advaita, Yoga, etc., based on Vedanta, are not contradictory but complimentary paths that integrate themselves resulting in the Vedantic vision of Reality. This ancient spiritual vision of India, as we see today, is being accepted as in attunement with the philosophy emerging from the most modern scientific trends.

 

Our times call for a review of the extensive acceptance of India's message for the evolution of a greater humanity had received in the ancient world. Today we have to take effective methods to spread this life-harmonizing message throughout the world for the cultural and spiritual evolution of humanity.

 

As early as in the very beginning of the British domination of India, the thoughtful minds of Europe were quick to realize that besides the material wealth she possessed, India was eternally rich with her spiritual treasures. It is this realization that inspired Sir Warren Hastings, the first British Governor General of India, to write in his introduction to the first translation of the Bhagavad Gita in English by Charles Wilkins, the following prophetic words: "The writers of Indian philosophies will survive when the British domination in India shall long have ceased to exist, and when the sources which it yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance."

 

In the midst of plenty and prosperity the people of 'developed countries' are in a dilemma. With an overbearing sense of having reached a dead end, they have started asking whether human life has no other destiny than repeated indulgence in sense pleasures, which wane with age. They desperately seek a glimpse of inner peace and aspire for freedom from insatiable desires.

 

The intensity of this existential crisis of the West is highlighted by the German philosopher Dr. Graf K. Von Durekheim in his 'Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture' (1974) in the following words: "The people of the West are suffering from many kinds of maladies which are caused by the hectic way of modern life, resulting in what we call stress. Last year in Germany alone 500 top managers committed suicide because they could not find a way out of the blind alley into which they had been pushed by the stress of everyday life. But the real source of these maladies is not external stress, but the loss of contact with the true self. The deepest frustration in this wholeness is that western man, being occupied one-sidedly by the materialistic activities in the outside world, has lost the living contact with his inner self, his soul. This also is the cause of a deep, widespread suffering for which there is no outward reason."

 

Since basically the history of mankind is the history of the development of the human mind, the destiny of man, his possibilities, progress and fulfillment are linked with the positive transformation of the human mind. The western mind focuses on the gratification of the physical senses and the resultant mechanistic view of life makes man subservient to external circumstances and a slave of insatiable desires. Therefore, amidst the all-round luxury, but devoid of a sense of the higher destiny of human life, the western mind does often suffer from a sense of misery, of purposelessness, as indicated by the above-mentioned statement. This alienation of the western mind from a higher vision of life, and unlimited desires provoke the Occidental man to evolve a heartless system of exploration that results in cruelty and war.

 

In contrast, the great rishis of ancient India looked at life in its totality and evolved from their own experience of true illumination a science of human fulfillment and this rationale of India's spirituality makes it a true science of human evolution. From the very ancient times, this science of human evolution gave India a unique status in the history of the world. The uniqueness of India's traditional knowledge is the remarkable interconnections that exist between various branches of knowledge. Astronomy, astrology and Ayurveda complement one another and they blend with spirituality. There is a science called Marma-vidya, which is still prevalent in some parts of Kerala, but almost getting extinct because of our sad negligence of our great treasures in the impact of western education. It is the science of the subtle channels of energy in human body, an ancient knowledge that transcends the anatomical knowledge of modern medical science and is said to be more advanced than acupuncture. The Masters of this science effected wonderful healings. Such fields offer great opportunities for modern investigators. With will and patience they will be able to revive many a great subtle science from oblivion and shed new light on the deeper facts of man and nature. A most important fact to remember is that all these sciences are closely linked to the spiritual concept of life.

 

India's spiritual message is clear as declared by the rishis that the true happiness comes from the spiritual dimension, which transcends all changes. One could experience blessedness by one's own inward journey. India's rishis did not deny the need for material advancement but they reconciled material advance with spiritual elevation and said that the model of development must be need-based not greed-based. There can certainly be material advance without resorting to crude materialism. They declared that 'jiva' (man) must not end up as 'shava' (corpse), but evolve as he has the potential to become 'Shiva', the Universal man.

 

Their aim was not any exclusive specialization in any subject but to explore the underlying connections in all fields of apparently fragmented existence and to know the total relationship between man and nature. They delved deep into their subjects of inquiry, which opened up the wondrous dimensions of Reality. The various branches of their enquiry, even though sometimes they may appear contradictory, have an under-current of unity. For instance, one who makes a deep study of the philosophies of Dwaita, Vishistadvaita and Advaita will realize that they are in fact complementary, not contradictory, as some people would think. This complementary nature of these philosophies is so well highlighted in the following words of Sri Hanuman in Valmiki Ramayana when Sri Rama asks Sri Hanuman about his true nature. Sri Hanuman replies, "When I identify myself with the body, O Lord, I am Your humble servant, (Dwaita perspective), when I identify myself with the individuality I am part of You (close to the Vishistadvaita perspective) and when I identify myself with the Atman (the indwelling Divinity) I am Yourself (Advaita perspective)".

 

This step by step ascendance of inquiry from various angles, their integration and further reaching to higher dimensions of Reality and ever greater concepts about man and Nature, and their relationship, have been the unique characteristic of India's inquiry into Truth. In the fields of traditional sciences like astronomy, astrology, Ayurveda, Marma-vidya and a host of other traditional sciences a researcher would become aware of their inter-connections and their basic relationship with the spiritual concept of life. While in the West an unbridgeable gap exists between religion and science, in India the traditional sciences and spirituality integrate themselves opening the doors to the supreme wisdom of Totality.

 

It is this evolutionary orientation of India's spirituality that has attracted the thinking sections of many countries from ancient times. Swami Vivekananda highlighted this special characteristic of India's approach in the following words: "Political greatness or military power is never the mission of our race; it never was and, mark my words, it never will be. But there has been the other mission given to us, which is to conserve, to preserve, to accumulate as it were into a dynamo, all the spiritual energy of the race and that concentrated energy is to pour forth in a deluge on the world whenever circumstances are propitious. Let the Persian or the Greek, the Roman, the Arab, or the Englishman march his battalions, conquer the world. The Hindu's calm brain must pour out its own quota to give to the sum total of human progress. India's gift to the world is the light spiritual."

 

It is this emphasis on the development of the true human potentials that caused the spreading of India's spiritual vision to several countries even before the beginning of the Christian era, and today draws the serious attention of the thinking sections all over the world.

 

One who directs one's vision into the ancient past will find the surprising fact that the life-elevating ideas of India's spirituality had reached the far corners of the world despite the limitations of the means of communication and distance in those far off days. He will find the monasteries with Indian images and silken scrolls of Tantric Deities on the banks of Lake Baikal in the central regions of Eastern Siberia. Coming down to Mongolia he will find the translations of thousands of Sanskrit works and rare icons of the Divinities of India like Mahaakaala, Kaali, Ayushi, Taaraa Devi and others.

 

India's spiritual heritage, it is well known, had a great impact on Chinese culture and thought and the mainland of China was inspired by the rich heritage of the art, literature and philosophy of India. The influence of India's spiritual heritage on Japan's cultural evolution are well evident in the stories adopted from the Mahabharata in the classical Japanese theatre, in the influence of the artistic tradition of Ajanta in the Horyuji temples and in the recitations of the Sanskrit Mantras in the rituals.

 

There are many evidences indicating that the spirit of Indian culture spread widely in the Central Asian regions.

 

In philosophy as well as in traditional sciences India had always kept a close link with Tibet.

 

In the languages of Thailand and far off Indonesia, there is a remarkable presence of Sanskrit words. The Thai theatre maintains a passion for the theme of Ramayana. The ceremonies of the Royal Court of Thailad show powerful influence of Indian culture. Hindu culture is a dynamic way of life in Bali even today.

 

Indian culture had maintained closer links with Persia, countries of the Middle East and the Arabian world. There existed constant exchange of traditional sciences. Some scholars opine that there are reasons to believe that there existed cultural relations between South India and South America in the very ancient past. Such matters are potent fields for study and research.

 

There is much scope for further study of the cultural relations of India with Afghanistan, Central Asia, China, Korea, Japan, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Middle East, Africa, Europe and America.

 

Central Asia, Tibet, China, Japan, Burma, Indo-China and Indonesia formed very powerful strongholds of Indian culture. According to an eminent scholar Dr. S. P. Gupta "the dispersal of Indian culture, at least in Soviet Central Asia, can be traced from the Early Stone Age which takes us back to about half a million years."

 

The renowned historian, Dr. R. C. Majumdar, says, "Our definite knowledge of the spread of Indian culture in all its aspects, beyond India, begins from the third century B.C., and we are in a position to say that in the course of ages, that culture was spread almost all over Asia, from Armedia to Japan, and from Eastern Siberia to Ceylon and the islands of Indonesia: even further beyond, it left its impress upon other cultures."

 

Dr. Majumdar also says that it would be news to many that there was an Indian colony in the region of the Upper Euphrates river, to the west of Lake Van, as early as the second century B.C., and the temples of Hindu Gods, like Krishna, erected there, were destroyed by the Christian monk St. Gregory, early in the fourth century A.D., after defeating the Indians who stoutly resisted the iconoclastic fury of the Christians. It is hardly necessary to refer to the numerous magnificent remains of Hindu temples in Indo-China and Indonesia to prove the nature and extent of the missionary zeal of the Hindus in remote parts of Asia.

 

The wealth and wisdom of India was a luring attraction even to the people of the West. According to the biblical legends, King Soloman had adorned his palace with ivory, peacocks, etc., which evidently might have been brought from Kerala, indicating that Soloman's merchant fleet might have frequented Kerala coast as early as 1000 B.C. Ancient Roman coins were discovered from many parts of South India. There are indications that lots of goods were transported in Indian ships as well as in Roman ships to the Roman ports. It should be remembered that Columbus accidentally discovered America in his misdirected wanderings in search of the Indian shores.

 

The Arab had a flourishing trade with India and much of the scientific knowledge they acquired from India, was spread to Europe. The philosophy of India has been a great lure for many intellectuals, poets and writers of the West, like the German philosopher Schopenhauer and others. Walt Whitman's passion for Indian thought and wisdom is well known as expressed in his books such as "Passage to India" and in the poem "Brahman".

 

In the modern age, as if by a programme of Mother Nature, great Masters like Sri Ramakrishna and his illustrious disciple Swami Vivekananda, were born among us to shower the light of India's spiritual wisdom the world over. This was supplemented by the teachings of the great saints like Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramna Maharshi, whose presence also graced our times. Today the world is happily getting aware of the fact that the new philosophical trends of modern science are coming closer to the spiritual wisdom of the ancient seers of India.

 

In this context, this International Conference on "India's Contributions and Influences in the World" assumes great importance and is a needed step in the right direction. It can be a unique cultural landmark because such a study and research into various branches of inquiry of India's sages would help reveal to the modern world the undercurrent of unity in the material and spiritual dimensions of life and universe. It would help the modern scientists to be aware of the scientific temper of the ancient seekers of India and would speed up the integration of science and spiritual values. There is a great scope for research in this direction and such conferences would inspire many to take to the path of this essential inquiry, which will bring to the modern man greater knowledge about the deeper facts of human life, his relationship with the universe, his destiny and fulfillment.

 

Let me conclude by quoting a few highly significant lines pertaining to our subject matter, from a recently brought out beautiful book which I happened to come across in the residence of my host at Houston where I stayed for a couple of days, last November, when I was in the U.S, in the context of the Vedanta Conference. The book abounds in varieties of illustrations about India and the Indian way of life and traditions. It is in fact a glowing tribute from a perceptive American Author, to India and its traditional values which have been handed down from posterity to posterity, and which we have been cherishing in India even to this day, the pernicious effect of the western life not withstanding. While some of us, the Indians, are enamored of the tinsels and trinkets of the western life and worldly excitements, here is a conscientious American of the present day, who is appreciative of our ancient culture and the hoary values, with all our drawbacks and backwardness in some other respects. The book, titled "India Unveiled" authored by Robert Arnett of Columbus, Georgia, is elegant and simply charming. Let me quote his words:

 

"In December 1988, destiny set my path toward India. Without itinerary or expectations, I began the first of the three solitary journeys, each of which would last for six months. It was during that short span of time on my second trip that my life was transformed. Not only was Indian subcontinent unveiled to me, but also in the process, I discovered the true essence of my being.

 

"For thousands of years, the basic cornerstones of Indian culture had changed very little, and probably account for why some historians believe India to be the oldest continuously surviving civilization on earth.

 

"Through the science of yoga, India has given the West a far more valuable gift than all the material wealth or technology the West could give in return. Even today, India offers great inspiration to those persons who are seeking oneness with God, and through yoga anyone can find the direction, he or she needs to succeed. That is India's gift to the world.

 

"Of all the nations in the world, India is the most spiritually blessed. More and more Americans are learning that materialism does not give lasting satisfaction, and they are turning to India for spiritual guidance.

 

"When Albert Einstein said, 'Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind', he could have been describing the contemporary America and India. India has become overbalanced spiritually and cannot adequately provide for the material needs of its own people. America leads the world in consumer comforts, but veered sharply off course morally. Each culture would benefit from adopting the best qualities of the other. It is my belief that the United States and India can give the world a new direction: a materially efficient democracy that is spiritually guided. For this to become a reality, each of us must do our part." (Excerpts from "India Unveiled", by Robert Arnett, Atman Press, Columbus, Georgia).

 

Do we not find here an echo of what Swami Vivekananda said long ago, that the science and spirituality should shake hands for the redemption of humanity, and that India needs America, its vast and advanced knowledge of science and technology for the material redemption of its people, and that the materially and scientifically advanced America needs India, its hoary spirituality and eternal values to redeem it from the disaster of crude materialism, sensate and shallow life resulting in broken houses and all the attendant evils of a wayward life.

 

I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the organizers of this Conference, particularly its President, Prof. Bhu Dev Sharma, for giving me this opportunity to participate in it, to think aloud before this august body of erudite scholars specialized in various subjects of the Conference. Being a humble sannyasin, I have chosen to think aloud on the World Impact of India's Spirituality. I am neither a scholar nor an extempore speaker, specialized in any of the subjects except that of a little of the great contributions made by the great Hindu Monk of India, Swami Vivekananda of the hallowed memory, who made history in this country more than a century ago (in 1893) when he addressed the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, with his endearing words, "Sisters and brothers of America", and indelibly stamped on the consciousness of the West, the age-old Hindu vision: "vasudhaiva kutukmbakam", that the world is one family, of which we are all brothers and sisters. In a short span of life, that too in a very short period of his public life of only nine years (of which he was only for about four years in the U.S.), his contribution to and influence in the world was stupendous. To put it in his own words: "I have given humanity enough for next fifteen hundred years."

 

Before I take my seat, let me draw you attention to Swami Vivekananda's highly significant words on the subject matter of this conference. Let me quote, "As I look upon the history of my country, I do not find in the whole world another country which had done quite so much for the improvement of the human mind and that India was the homeland of invisible powers that ruled the destinies of men and nations and its ancient scriptures could make it the teacher of the world."

 

In fact, most of the writings and speeches of Swami Vivekananda were aimed at highlighting India's greatness, India's immortal contributions to the world in the field of religion and spirituality and the consequent spiritual influence in the world.

 
In the centenary year of Swami Vivekananda's mahasamadhi (Swamiji left his mortal coil exactly 100 years ago, on the July 4th, 1902) may we all invoke his divine blessings, and may we all dedicate ourselves to the cause that was very dear to his heart, namely, to live up to the great spiritual ideals of India, and to spread, in our own humble way, the knowledge of India's great contributions, for the happiness and welfare of one and all.
* * *
WORLD ASSOCIATION FOR VEDIC STUDIES, INC.
FIFTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE:
"India's Intellectual Traditions in Contemporary Global Context"
(July 9 - 11, 2004 -- Washington, DC, USA)
A BRIEF REPORT
 
The Conference was organized by 'World Association for Vedic Studies, Inc' (WAVES), a USA based tax-exempt society, at the University of Maryland, Shady Grove Campus, Rockville, MD. This was the fifth biennial international conference of WAVES. The four previous International Conferences were held at Atlanta (GA) in 1996, Los Angeles (CA) in 1998, Hoboken (NJ) in 2000, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (MA), in 2002.
 

The Conference received a very enthusiastic response from world scholars of Indian/Vedic Studies. For the first time there came four scholars from Bali, Indonesia. According to the Treasurer of WAVES, Mr. Dhirendra Shah, the conference had over 450 participants.

 

Over 200 papers were accepted for presentation and their abstracts, printed in the Conference Souvenir, were circulated to the participants. Persons from several different countries, including those from Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nepal, and USA - participated in this successful conference.

 

In all there were 47 sessions and 152 presentations made. There was a good mix of persons of Indian and non-Indian scholars.

  1. Professor T. S. Rukmani Professor and Chair, Hindu Studies, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada -- Indian Intellectual Tradition- Religion & Philosophy in Vedic Literature
  2. Professor B. B. Lal, Former Director General, Archaeological Survey of India - Flora and Fauna in RigVeda: Still More Evidence Negating the Aryan Invasion Theory
  3. Professor Cromwell Crawford, Chair & Professor, Department of Religion, University of Hawaii, Honolulu - Gene Transfer Therapy or Enhancement, A Hindu Perspective.
There were following two keynote speakers -
  1. Professor Shiva G. Bajpai, Professor of History, California State Uni., Northridge, CA -
    The Burden of Bad Ideas: Some Critical Issues in the Vedic-Harappan Historiography.
  2. Professor Harold French, Professor Emeritus of Religion, Uni. of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA -- Ramakrishna: A Model of Historical Renewal Through Incarnational Consciousness and Role Playing.
Also, there were following two public lectures, attended by participants and other invitees to the cultural program and Banquet respectively:
  1. Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, Infinity Foundation, Princeton, NJ - Hinduism's Challenges and Blind Spots
    in the Globalization Era
  2. Professor Shri Kant Mishra - Strategic Adaptation of Ayurveda in North America
Some of the other speakers, mainly from different universities, included:
  1. Professor Satish Bhatnagar, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NE
  2. Professor Sidheshwar Bhatt, Professor of Philosophy, University of Delhi, India
  3. Professor Suresh Chaturvedi, Professor of Ayurveda, Mumbai, Mumbai, India
  4. Professor Rahul Peter Das, Professor, Institute fur Indologie und sudasienwissenschaften, Martin-Luther-Universitat, Halle, Germany
  5. Dr. K. K. Dwivedi former Vice Chancellor and currently science and technology counselor, Indian Embassy, Washington, DC
  6. Professor Hope Fitz, Professor of Philosophy, Eastern Connecticut State Uni., CT
  7. Dr. Peter N. Gillette, State Uni. of New York, Brooklyn, NY
  8. Professor Madan L. Goel, Professor of Political Sci, Uni. of West Florida, FL
  9. Professor Malinee Goswami, Professor of Sanskrit, Gauhati Uni., Assam, India
  10. Dr. Julia Jean, Dept of Sociology and Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
  11. Professor Kusum Ketkar, Professor of Economics. Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall Uni., South Orange, NJ
  12. Professor V. Krishnamurthy, former Dy. Director, Birla Inst. of Technology, Pilani, India
  13. Prof. June McDaniel, Professor, Dept. of Phil. & Religion, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
  14. Professor Sabita Dutta Majumder, Head of the Dept. of Mathematics, Kolkata, India
  15. Dr. Bala Manyam, Professor & Director, Dept. of Neurology, Texas A & M, Temple, TX
  16. Professor Krishna Murari Mishra, Professor of Hindi, Aligarh Muslim Uni., India
  17. Professor Shri K. Mishra, Professor of Neurology & Coordinator Integrative Medicine, USC, LA, CA
  18. Professor Triloki N. Pandey, Professor of Anthropology, Uni. of California, Santa Cruz, CA
  19. Professor Ramesh Rao, Professor of Communication, Truman State Uni, Kirksville, MO
  20. Professor T. R. N. Rao, Louisiana State University, Lafayette, LA
  21. Professor Vaman Rao, Distinguished Prof of Economics, Western Illinois Uni, Macomb, IL
  22. Dr. Lothar Schafer, Uni. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
  23. Dr. Graham Schweig, Director, Indic Studies Program, Dept. of Religious Studies, Christopher Newport Uni., VA
  24. Professor BhuDev Sharma, President WAVES, Clark Atlanta Uni., Atlanta, GA
  25. Dr. Somvir, Udayana University, Bali, Indonesia
  26. Professor Jagdish N. Srivastava, CNS Research Professor, Colorado State Uni., Fort Collins, CO
  27. Professor Betsy Singh, Southern California Uni of Health Sciences, Whittier, CA
  28. Dr. Shashi Tiwari, Dept of Sanskrit, Uni. of Delhi, Delhi, India
  29. Dr. Uma Vaidya, Head of the Dept. of Sanskrit, Wilson College, Mumbai, India
  30. Professor Anand K. Yadav, Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, GA
  31. Professor Dr. I. Wayan Wita, Rector, Udayana University, Bali, Indonesia.
And from streams outside universities included:
  1. Dr. Anand Samir Chopra, Head of the Clinical Department, Wicker-Klinik Ayurveda, Kassel, Germany
  2. Mr. Bhola Nath Yogi, Principal, Hindu Vidyapeeth, Kathmandu, Nepal
  3. Dr. Bhupendra K. Modi, President, Indian Council of Religious Leaders
  4. Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, Infinity Foundation, Princeton, NJ
  5. Dr. Alex Alexander, MD
  6. Mr. John Engstrom, President, Inst. of Constitute of Consciousness, Fairfield, Iowa
  7. Ms. Sandhya Jain, Journalist, New Delhi, India
  8. Dr. Yvette Rosser, Educationist
  9. Thomas Vallomtharayil, CEO, Kerala Ayurveda GmbH and Vallomed Health Care, Castrop-Rauxel, Germany.
There were many other experts and scholars that included university academics, authors, researchers, journalists, intellectuals and practitioners who presented papers and participated in deliberations.
 

Amongst other highlights were symposia on 'Vedas and Consciousness', 'Philosophy', 'Academic Study of Indian Religion in US', 'Indian Diaspora Experience', 'Gita in 21st Century', 'Hinduism and Clash of Civilizations', 'Ayurveda in Public Health Care Systems in Western Countries', 'Ayurveda: The Art & Science of Healthy Living', 'Yoga and Meditation', 'Youth & Dharma', 'On Some Western Writers on India.'

 

There were sessions on 'Ramayana', 'Mahabharat', 'Peace and Universal Vedic Messages', 'Vedic Mathematics & Sciences', 'Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants', etc.

 

Sessions on 'Hinduism & Clash of Cultures', which brought a good discussion on current state of terrorism and its effects, 'On Some Western Writers on India', whose writings provoked allegations of distortions and misrepresentations of Hindu gods and heroes from many scholars worldwide, as also 'Consciousness' and those discussing 'Indians & Influence of India in the World', drew quite some attention. An important feature this year was participation of IndiaDiaspora group, and youth group.

 

Plenary panel discussion on 'Directions for Healthy Academic Study of Vedic Traditions', with six panelists representing academics, journalists, educationists and public leaders was another highlight of the conference. Panelists and participants greatly appreciated the work of WAVES and gave several suggestions for undertaking further.

 

A general theme running throughout the conference reflected on the deep intellectual traditions in the life of Vedic people, and the culture of celebrated diversity commonly visible in today's India.

 

Professor BhuDev Sharma, President of the WAVES', was the overall coordinator of the conference and he organized the academic program, helped by organizers of various symposia - Professor Hope Fitz, Professor June McDaniel, Professor Jagdish Srivastava, Professor TRN Rao, Professor Madan Goel, Prof Rahul Peter Das, Professor Shri Mishra, Dr. Vishnu Purohit & Dr. Kaushik Shastri, Dr. K. Sadananda & Satya P. Agarwal, and Sanjay Garg.

 
Local Organizer Dr. Satish C. Misra, did a magnificiant job. In this he was helped by Dr. Ghanshyam Gupta, Dr. Hari Har Singh, Dr. Parthasarthy Pillai, Dr. Prasad Reddy, Dr. Lalji Mishra, Dr. Kaushik Shastri, Dr. Yogendra Gupta, Dr. Bishnu Poudel, Dr. Jagdish Sharma, Dr. Anita Dubey, in looking after local arrangements - facilities, hospitalities, transport, food, cultural program, banquet, etc.
 
During Banquet time on July 10, 2004, after the public lecture, many persons coming from different places were introduced and following persons were honored for their services to WAVES:
  1. Professor Bal Ram Singh, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, MA, a Joint Secretary of WAVES: For being local organizer of the Fourth International Conference, 2002;
  2. Mr. Ramendra N. Nandi, Jersey City, NJ, a former Secretary of WAVES: For being local organizer of the Third International Conference, 2000;
  3. Dr. Deen Bandhu Chandora, Atlanta, GA, a former Treasurer: For being local organizer of the First International Conference 1996, and for active role in founding the WAVES;
  4. Dr. Shashi Tiwari, New Delhi, India, Secretary, India Branch: For Organizing seven India Conferences and a conference in Nepal.
The Proceedings of the conference, carrying edited papers shall be published as was done for earlier conferences. The organizers have invitations for holding next conference in Canada, Bali (Indonesia) and a couple of places in USA.
 

During the Conference, on the evening of July 9, was organized a culturally rich entertainment program featuring Sitar-vaadan, Kuchipudi style Bharat Natyam, a play, a folk dance, and a dance-drama on ten-incarnations of Vishnu. Dr. (Mrs.) Anita Dubey organized and presented this program, with brief appearance of Patti Tripathi, former Anchor Person of CNN and Director, ANN.

 

World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) is a multidisciplinary academic society. WAVES is not confined to study related to Vedas alone or to India alone. WAVES explores worldwide traditions commonly called Vedic - past, present and future. It brings together academics from universities and institutions of higher learning and knowledgeable other persons on its platform to share their views and researches. It is a forum for all scholarly activities and views on any area of 'Vedic Studies' popularly called as Indian Studies or Indology. It is open for membership and for participation to all persons irrespective of their color, creed, ethnicity, and country of origin or any other kind of persuasion.

 

WAVES has on its Governing Council persons from USA, India, China, and Europe. Its next India Conference will be held at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Dec 31-Jan 2, 2004-2004. There are plans to hold conferences in China, Netherlands, Germany and Bali (Indonesia), in coming years. Also, the Society has announced book-awards, scholarships for higher studies and research and is building a 'Speakers Bureau' for widely and authentically educating and informing people world wide of about India and Indians in all its fields, past and present.

 

Organizers thank numerous participants for conveying their overwhelming compliments for organizing a conference with grand success. For additional Information, please contact:

Professor Bhu Dev Sharma,
President, World Assn. for Vedic Studies (WAVES),
www.umassd.edu/indic/waves
Email: [email protected] / [email protected]
Prof. of Math, Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta
Director, Hindu Uni. of America, Orlando
Address (Res.): 2495 D Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA
Phones: 404-248-9494 (Home), 404-880-6912 (O); Fax 404-880-8109

* * *

INDIA'S INTELLECTUAL TRADITIONS
IN CONTEMPORARY GLOBAL CONTEXT
-- A Philosophical Perspective
 
(Paper presented by Swami Jyotirmayananda at the Fifth World Conference, July 9-11, 2004, held by the World Association for Vedic Studies, Inc. at Washington, DC.)
 
Abstract:
In this paper I am giving a general survey of the intellectual traditions of India, their role in the development of the scientific and philosophical wealth the country has acquired through the ages since the Vedic age and its relevance in modern times. Mind, intellect and Spirit or Self, according to Indian philosophy, are the constituents of man and India's traditions give prime importance to attune the mind and intellect to the Spirit. Different lines of enquiry, which evolved this tradition of a higher vision and meaning of life, are broadly mentioned in this paper. It is also pointed out how some of the apparently contradictory intellectual views such as the Shad-Darshanas becoming complementary at later stages in carrying ahead the pursuit of knowledge for an all-comprehensive vision of human life and its destiny. Special emphasis is given to highlight the fact that in the background of India's spiritual concepts there are well coordinated reasoning and intellectual thought, which form a distinctive feature of Hindu philosophy as against the blind faith of the Semitic religions. This fact seems to be not well appreciated and amply highlighted in modern times. It is to be specially noted that the difficulty encountered by the modern mind to comprehend some of the profound spiritual ideas of our heritage is because of this neglect in highlighting this intellectual background. These important points are discussed in this paper as a general survey of India's intellectual traditions in the contemporary world context.
* * *

From the very ancient past, the India's inquiring mind has been on a search of Truth behind the phenomena of life and the universe. The wonder evoked the early ancestors eventually led to intellectual questions one after another. This resulted in a breakthrough for a meditative quest and discovery of profound secrets of life by the great Rishis. Thus from the very beginning, the quest had an intellectual background and we can trace this pursuit and its fruition in transcendental wisdom from the Vedic times. Intellectual discussions and arguments were the means adopted by the thoughtful minds of India for clarifying the ideas and insights in the course of history and convey them to the people.

 

The Intellectual Freedom
Because of this freedom of thought, the inquirers were able to grapplee with the misty currents of doubts and skepticism and overcome them opening the greater vistas of knowledge. It was through critical and logical means a strong philosophical foundation was established in India. Through the intellectual process of arguments and counter arguments light was shed from different angles on several topics that deal with the nature of human existence and destiny. It was in such a historical context there emerged the six systems of philosophical quest known as the Shad-darshanas. This enabled critical philosophy to gain depth, clarity of thought and precision in definitions. This process of intellectualization has ever been continuing to explain the insights of the ancient Rishis in the prevailing intellectual climate of every age. Because of this intellectual basis of India's heritage, this process is continuing through our modern times too.

 

The very name, 'Nyaya', one of the Shad-darshanas, means 'argument and conclusion'. It is also called the Tharkashashtra, the science of right argument. Nyaya is a system of logical realism and its main emphasis is on the sources of gaining knowledge viz. the four pramanas -- perception, inference, comparison and verbal testimony. Knowledge is derived by the intellectual assessment of objects. This knowledge may be valid or invalid. Valid knowledge is the right apprehension of the real nature of an object. Vaiseshika, another system of intellectual enquiry of the Shad-darshanas, seeks to gain knowledge through particularization and analysis. This system deals at length on the basis of Nature, the creation of the material world, its destiny, the possible comprehension of Reality and the way of finding fulfillment in human life. This school of intellectual inquiry is based on the philosophy of sage Kanada. Those who follow Dharma, according to sage Kanada, attain material prosperity (abhyudaya) as well as the highest good (nishreyasa). This bears clear testimony to the fact that India never neglected social values and material progress along with spiritual evolution. History reveals that whenever the Indian atmosphere was filled with lofty spiritual ideas there was material prosperity as well as flowering of her great culture.

 

How this Freedom Influenced to Evolve A Refined Culture
Some Western writers and their followers in India often try to impress the world with the wrong idea that Indian philosophy is otherworldly and impracticable. They say this is the cause of India's backwardness. They conveniently neglect the fact that it was the unfortunate foreign domination that had along with it brought this backwardness and in the past India was rich in every respect, which brought people from all over the world to her soil. In fact, because of this highly intellectual tradition, unlike many other countries, India could ever maintain a refined, civilized, and humane culture. Let me quote here the views of the eminent historian, A. L. Basham, from his book "The Wonder That Was India". He points out that in spite of the internecine wars, flood and plagues that often brought havoc to the country from time to time, a cultural unity gave India a distinctive character. Basham says: "Yet our overall impression is that in no other part of the ancient world were the relations of man and man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilization were slaves so few in number, and in no other ancient law book are their rights so well protected as in the Arthashastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare, Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants. The ghastly sadism of the kings of Assyria, who flayed their captives alive, is completely without parallel in ancient India. There was sporadic cruelty and oppression no doubt, but, in comparison with conditions in other early cultures, it was mild. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilization is its humanity."

 

Basham further observes: "The European student who concentrates on religious texts of a certain type may well gain the impression that ancient India was a land of 'life-negating' ascetics, imposing their gloomy and sterile ideas upon the trusting millions who were their lay followers.... India was a cheerful land, whose people, each finding a niche in a complex and slowly evolving social system, reached a higher level of kindliness and gentleness in their mutual relationships than any other nation of antiquity."

 

When we enquire about the reason of such mellowness and culture India has acquired through the millenniums, we will find that the Puranas had an important role in this respect influencing the masses. Puranas are not mere compendiums of legends and stories as some people try to make others believe. One will be marveled at the tenor of intellectual discussions on various topics in the Puraanas, educating the masses on various aspects of life and the universe. It is nothing but a wondrous feat how the authors array the points and counterpoints with commendable ease enabling people to arrive at creative conclusions. There is no dearth of scathing criticism even against some topics of spirituality, which the reader may feel quite justified at first. And when he reads the calm and considered answers in the same texts he finds himself furnished with new knowledge and reaching an elevated realm of deeper understanding.

 

The Vast Range of Knowledge
It is nothing but a wonder to the many modern investigators to find that there are in the ancient Sanskrit language many words indicating that the ancients possessed the knowledge of modern psychology that discusses conscious, sub-conscious, unconscious realms of the mind. It is indeed a food for thought for the most modern scientific intellect that the great Rishis of yore symbolized the Dance of Shiva to reveal the origin of time, evolution and dissolution of the phenomenal universe. The Rishis bestowed an order to the unimaginable span of time by calculating the staggering number of years of the Kalpas, Manvantharas, Yugas, etc., while very short span of time, 1/50th of a second was given the name: pratatpara. In fact, those people who discovered these, of course, were mighty intellectuals. The difference between them and the present-day intellectuals was that the ancient intellects did not give much attention to make the artifacts that added to the temporary luxuries of life or to invent weapons of mass annihilation. Their goal was to know deeper about life and the universe so that the knowledge can contribute to the greater evolution of mankind.

 

It is the evolutionary view of life that is another important attribute of India's spiritual heritage to the world of intellectual thought. At the stage of man, evolution of life bestows life a certain individuality, which expresses itself a personality, which is ruled by the law of Karma. According to the natural impressions gathered in the lifetime personalized existence continues through one after another reincarnation till the human soul harmonizes itself through appropriate Karmas and liberates itself in being one with the Supreme Self.

 

The quest for truth and the spirit of free inquiry have been the hallmark of Indian culture. There was no unquestioning acceptance of authority. While in the West such an attitude often paid the penalty in torture and death, in India one was encouraged to ask questions and advised to accept the teaching only after critical examination.

 

The intellectual quest in India is aimed at higher objectives. This objective was to pierce the veil of ignorance that hides the truth and to know the mystery of existence and how to make existence itself an experience of freedom. Swami Vivekananda says in his lecture on 'Religion and Science' ("Complete Works" Vol. VI): "Experience is the only source of knowledge. In the world, religion is the only science where there is no survey, because it is not taught as a science of experience. This should not be. There is always, however, a small group of men who teach religion from experience. They are called mystics and these mystics in every religion speak the same tongue and teach the same truth. This is the real science of religion. As mathematics in every part of the world does not differ, so the mystics do not differ. They are all similarly constituted and similarly situated. Their experience is the same, and this becomes law."

 

Thus, the aim of intellectual knowledge in India ever has been the search of the greater facts and to evolve the human life to the higher dimensions of existence. It can be done only by exploring deep into the internal world. Again let me quote Swami Vivekananda ("Complete Works" Vol. II):"There are two worlds: the microcosm and the macrocosm, the internal and the external. We get truth from both these by means of experience. The truth gathered from internal experience is psychology, metaphysics, and religion; from external experience, the physical sciences. Now a perfect truth should be in harmony with experience in both these worlds. The microcosm must bear testimony to the macrocosm and the macrocosm to the microcosm; physical truth must have its counterpart in the internal world, and internal world must have its verification outside."

 

Therefore, we must today have a better grasp of the direction towards which the Indian intellectual thought has been trying to carry man ahead. As pointed out earlier, it is not to make artifacts of physical luxury or making weapons of mass annihilation but to convey man to greater realms of existence. This has to be achieved by altering his consciousness itself. It is here that India's intellectual thought and worldview can show the path to the modern world. The well-coordinated reasoning and intellectual thought beubg in the background, India's spiritual concepts can show the modern world how to achieve this radically altered state of human consciousness to evolve a greater humanity. Mind, intellect and Spirit or Self, according to Indian philosophy, are the constituents of man and India's traditional quest gives prime importance to attune the mind and intellect to the Self. Reasoning should be the means to convince the human mind to train itself to express the faculty of intuition and intuition should eventually help man to experience the Self.

 

The Distinctive Character of India's Intellectual Pursuit that can Help Evolve A New Line of Thought in the Modern World.

 

To highlight this distinctive character of India's intellectual pursuits the following illuminating observation of Mr. R. G. H. Siu, the Chinese scientist at M. I. T., U.S.A., in his "Tao of Science", would serve very much:

 

"Rational knowledge is rational only because it is obtainable through reason. The others obtainable through means other than reason are not irrational; they are extra-rational....

 

"Broadly speaking, intellectual progress is an advancement in concepts which man has formulated and handed down. But let us dissect the statement further. We should contrast rational knowledge and intuitive knowledge. The role of discovery is quite different in these two forms. In rational knowledge, it plays a promotional part. This is where science has contributed greatly. In intuitive knowledge, discovery, of the patent office variety, plays a minor role. Science has not accelerated human development in this area. If anything, she may have dulled man's sensibilities to intuitive riches by passive and, in some instances, antagonistic attitudes. All that is intuitively known has been recognized by persons living before, in other settings perhaps, but practiced to equal perfection.... The silent and formless depth of life had passed many ties before the mind of man in its full sweep. This type of knowledge is not enkindled by mathematical formulae and scientific treatises....

 

"Logicians deprecate the fuzziness of intuition; the intuitionists decry the strictures of logic. Actually, there is no exclusiveness of one over the other. Discursive reasoning is not possible without intuition.

 

"Yet, even intuitive knowledge itself is not the ultimate search. Sooner or later, we hesitate at the limits of rational and intuitive knowledge. Our faltering mind must then seek repose and cure in what it cannot know. At this point, the concept of Sage-knowledge or no-knowledge is introduced by the Taoists. This is really not knowledge in the ordinary sense. Knowledge, as we understood in the West, involves the selection of a certain event or quality as the object of its knowledge. Sage-knowledge does not do so. It concerns an understanding of what the East calls 'Wu' (in Chinese language) or non-being. The 'Wu' transcends events and qualities, it has no shape, no time. As a result, it cannot be the object of ordinary knowledge. At the highest level of cognizance, the sage forgets distinction between things. He lives in the silence of what remains in the undifferentiable whole."

 

Now, Dr. Siu differentiates between ignorance and 'no-knowledge'. He says: "An important difference exists between 'having-no' knowledge and having 'no-knowledge'. The former is merely a state of ignorance; the latter is one of ultimate enlightenment and universal sensibilities. To the confirmed rationalist, 'no-knowledge' may appear to be the hugger-muggery of the mystagogue. Nevertheless, it is precisely its ineffability that lends force to its reality. The mysteries of nature appear to be mysterious only to those who refuse to participate in them....

 

"With rational knowledge, the scientist is a spectator of nature. With 'no-knowledge', he becomes a participant in nature. There is a communion of understanding....

 

"To plumb the depths of no-knowledge, one must relay on his own ineffable awareness of the ineffable....

 

"There has also been much groping in the West for the concept of no-knowledge. It is unfortunate, however, that considerable effort has been wasted in rationalizing no-knowledge or opposing it competitively with rational knowledge....

 

"With rational knowledge, one is in tune with the scientific man; with intuitive knowledge added, one is in tune with the total man; with 'no-knowledge' added, one is in tune with nature."

 

What a remarkable insight these observations of Dr. Siu contains regarding intellectual and 'sage-knowledge'. In Indian culture the pursuit of intellectual knowledge, in fact, was considered as the means to reach 'sage-knowledge'. Dr. Siu says that rational knowledge makes one in tune with the scientific man. But, the scientific man, unless he is also a spiritual man, as we can well assume, may become a disadvantage to humanity, as he may assist the dictates of the negative trends of the human mind that bring havoc to mankind. When intuitive knowledge is added to scientific knowledge, one becomes a man of culture with a sense of commitment to his fellow beings and nature and reaches near to perfection. This should be the goal of the common people. Then human society will evolve into a greater dimension of existence.

 

This is India's intellectual and spiritual message to the world. In the present context of the world, this message assumes a great relevance. With the above-mentioned essential concepts in mind, we should make the best use of the great fund of intellectual and spiritual knowledge India has for the benefit of humanity. Our Puranas and other ancient texts are great compendiums of such knowledge mostly camouflaged in story forms, which some may mistake as mere legends. In the unconscious areas of the human mind there are many hidden facts about life and universe and these legends, in fact, are the means to bring us in contact with these facts.

 

The Organized Attempts to Denigrate a Great Culture
Several books that present us these legends are available. But we should not confine to such presentation alone, as in the modern age people are in quest of the inner significance of these legends. In the olden times these legends served to inculcate values among the masses while they conveyed spiritual knowledge to the common folk without much intellectual exertion on their part. However, the present day situation is different. The masses are educated today and to convince them these are to be intellectually interpreted to them. The hidden meaning should be conveyed to them. It is necessary that research efforts should emerge in this direction. People with the sensibility to understand the Puranas and the spiritual symbols should come forward for this essential work and they should be encouraged and supported. Such efforts can make people aware of the practical, social and moral application of the great fund of knowledge in our ancient texts. Such efforts will be able to convey the profound knowledge and wisdom that can console and give a positive direction to today's humanity, which is disturbed by anxiety and boredom without knowing the goal and meaning of human life in these very uncertain times. We are very much neglecting this essential intellectual need of our times.

 

If such an effort is not made in right earnestness, there is the danger of gross misinterpretation of these ancient texts. For instance, we all know today in what a detestable and vulgar manner Prof. Paul Courtright of the Emory University has presented the rich philosophical contents of the Ganesha legends in his book in the pretext of a 'Freudian interpretation' and 'academic freedom' hurting the religious sentiments of the millions! It is nothing but abject absurdity to subject to the outmoded Freudian interpretation such a highly spiritual theme and present the interpretation as 'scientific'! It is evident from that the professor had done it with scant knowledge of Freud and no knowledge of the legends. And it is said that the fabricated and obscene interpretation is circulated in schools, colleges, etc., claiming it is a 'learned and scientific' interpretation. It is pathetic that some journalists of Indian origin (in the U.S.A.), who are expected to know better, are also writing articles presenting this profane and bleak interpretation as 'scientific', of course, revealing their own ignorance of science and Indian philosophy.

 

Let me quote here Carl Gustev Jung, who was a colleague of Freud and the renowned psychologist, about the inapplicability of Freudian studies to matters of spirituality. Carl Jung says: "It is not the children of the flesh, but the 'children of God' who know freedom...That is what Freud would never learn and what all those who share his outlook forbid themselves to learn. At least, they never find the key to this knowledge.... We moderns are faced with the necessity of rediscovering the life of the Spirit; we must experience it anew ourselves. It is the only way in which we can break the spell that binds us to the cycle of biological events."

 

What a wrong key Prof. Courtright offers to open a treasure house of spiritual wisdom and misleads humanity through his books. We find the sorry spectacle of even some journalists getting misled by his 'scientific' interpretation!

 

Several books are available in different languages containing the legends and other details relating to Sri Ganesha. But, we seldom find major efforts to present the rationale of the legends. In this context, I am glad to have come across a book "SRI GANESHA", (third revised edition) written by Srikant, the author of a well-known book: "Power in Temples: A Modern Perspective". This book on Sri Ganesha is published by Integral Books (Web site <www.integralbooks.com> E-mail: <[email protected]>) as a volume of their series called "Alphabet of Reality -- The Significance of Divine Forms". The book gives the inner meaning of several Ganesha legends. The legend of Sri Ganesha's birth, which Prof. Courtright interprets in a nauseatingly obscene manner, is presented in Srikant's book very convincingly as a highly symbolic story of the emergence of life from matter, its evolution from different stages and its ultimate unfolding as the Divine Consciousness. The book also exposes the bleakness and fallacies of Courtright's interpretation and presents a powerful refutation of his misleading views.

 

Of course, the expression of our emotional outbursts and protests against such gross injustice to a great culture has its relevance. However, more than that our times call for efforts to present afresh the rationale of many such symbolic facts in logical and intellectual terms. Otherwise, books containing such misinterpretations will only be available to the people, which will mislead them beyond repair, as they will find a niche in their subconscious mind.

 

The Need to Promote a New Awareness
The whole mankind is facing a very challenging situation today. Science and technology are advancing and along with them human uncertainty and anxiety are also increasing. The protagonists of science believed that the rational approach of science would curtail the irrational trends of religion, which has done great havoc to humanity in the past. But science did not offer any alternative for man to have a mooring in the deeper Reality. In the recess of his mind, man knows that there is something deeper in him and in the universe and contact with it alone can give him peace and lasting sense of fulfillment. The present stage of science and technology with its partial knowledge is unable to give him any such contact with his higher being. Therefore, the mind-narrowing religious dogmas that have nothing to do with the life-expanding spirituality still exert much hold on him. Under their dictates as we see today many are engaged in the most irrational and cruelest acts of terrorism in the name of a 'merciful God' they worship! How true are the words of an eminent intellectual (I forget his name): "There has been lot of progress during my lifetime. But I am afraid it's heading in the wrong direction."

 

In such a context where can mankind find hope? The situation calls for all efforts for the promotion of a global rethinking in terms of a blending of material and spiritual progress. Certainly, both science and spirituality can go hand in hand for achieving this. But for this very essential need for effecting such a bridging, there should be effort to convince the scientists the scientific nature of spirituality. Here is the global relevance of India's intellectual tradition, which has always been in the background of India's spiritual vision and wisdom. Every branch of knowledge that developed in India has an intellectual background but we have to remove the dross that has gathered through the passage of time and present the thought in its pristine glory. The modern intellectuals are duty bound to do this for the greater benefit of humanity.

 

The traditional sciences and the philosophical concepts of India are pregnant with profound vistas of knowledge about the human phenomenon and Nature. For example, the direct experience of thousands keeps the traditional science of astrology alive, even in our highly technological age, though it eludes a convincing explanation in terms of modern science. This shows the existing gap between ancient insights and modern scientific perspectives. It points out that the ancient explorers had wrested out some keys from Nature to open some of the mystery boxes of human life and Nature.

 

Today we must pool all the human experiences derived through spiritual striving and scientific explorations and evolve an active philosophy of humanity instead of frittering our energies in petty squabbles, clinging to mind-narrowing dogmas or enclosing ourselves in the dry shell-bound intellectualism. Man's inspired inner strivings and experiments through millenniums have accumulated considerable knowledge on the deeper nature of universe which remains beyond the bounds of modern science. Yet, instead of blindly rejecting the ancient knowledge, scientists have the responsibility to examine them and separate the real content from the chaff. With the unbiased mind we must collect information, study them with discrimination and imbibe all that broaden our vision and expand our lives.

 

There are indications that a new scientific thinking is also veering round the ancient perspective that the universe is both mental and material. The trends indicate that the emerging new science will be taking a more balanced view of the two aspects of Reality -- mind and matter. Sir Roger Penrose, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a renowned scientist, in an interview, revealed that what prompted him to write the book "The Emperor's New Mind" was the reaction against people making rather outrageous statements about the capacities of computers assuming that all we were doing with our minds was computation. The emergence of the new science calls for a deeper comprehension of the nature of mind. In this context, the following observation of Sir Roger Penrose in the interview assumes much significance: "Whatever that future science is -- and we can point to the direction it may take -- it will have quite a different character from the science of today. What we have today cannot come to terms with what mentality is."

 

In the evolution of this new science, the critical research of the ancient knowledge which gives much emphasis to consciousness is likely to contribute a great deal for a better understanding about ourselves and the universe. The trend is very clear and for the evolution of this new science, India's age-old intellectual thought can contribute very much. But for this purpose modern intellectuals have to shed some of their inhibitions and take to an intensive study of India's traditional sciences and philosophy. Much can be discovered by them, which would help the integrated development of this new science.

 

India's Intellectual wisdom, which is thus oriented to evolve and develop the inner resources of man, can help emerge a practical science of human management through an integrated approach of modern psychology and the spiritual insights in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.

 
Let me conclude with the following words of Sri Aurobindo: "Indians must have the firm faith that India must rise and be great and that everything that happened, every difficulty, every reverse must help and further their end.... The morning was at hand and once the light had shown itself, it could never be night again. The dawn would soon be complete and the sunrise over the horizon. The sun of India's destiny would rise and fill all India with its light and overflow India and overflow Asia and overflow the world. Every hour, every moment could only bring them nearer to the brightness of the day that God has decreed."