SARVODAYA DAY

The Gandhian philosophy of self-realization through eleven vows can be thought of as a platform on which many dimensions of a society like Economics, Politics, Business, Management, Environment/Conservation, Healthcare, Animal Rights, Agriculture/Farming, Art/Literature etc. can rest on, or can be based upon. These dimensions can be thought of as applications or manifestations of the wisdom of the Gandhian thought of self-realization/self-liberation.

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Here I want to share my thoughts, briefly, on two of these applications: Ecology and Politics.

ECOLOGY:

Gandhi, apart from being one of the earliest Environmentalists/Conservationists of India, has inspired number of Environmentalist pioneers, across the world. Here I would like to mention, specifically, about two of them.

Arne Naess (1912 – 2009):

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Arne was a Professor, Environmentalist and a Philosopher born in Norway. He is considered as one among the most influential thinkers in the post-world war Environmental Movement spanning across the Globe.  Arne was the father of the environmental philosophy (which he called ‘Ecosophy’) of “Deep Ecology”. Through his ecosophy, Arne gave a profound and insightful perspective for Ecological conservation. His distinction between what he calls ‘Shallow’ and ‘Deep’ ecological thinking is both eloquent and logical.

The Western ‘utilitarian pragmatism’, he believed, was one of the root causes for the twentieth century environmental crisis. Fighting against pollution, resource overconsumption, climate change and other ecological issues purely to preserve the welfare and affluence of humans, “valuing” the natural world only  according to its usefulness for narrow human purposes, is what Arne called as ‘Shallow’ Ecological thinking.I feel the phrase ‘utilitarian pragmatism’ is in a sense a euphemism. In a sense their mindset can also be described as ‘fear driven’ as these ecological issues pose a threat to their own survival. Most of the western, or western influenced materialists fall into this category.

Whereas ‘Deep’ Ecology talks about ‘intrinsic values’ of all life forms and even non-life forms irrespective of their “usefulness” for humans. In Arne’s words “Richness and diversity of life forms are values in themselves and contribute to the flourishing of human and non-human life on Earth”. All life forms have ‘equal’ rights to flourish and humans have no right to interfere with them but for vital needs. Each living being depends on numerous other living being’s existence for its own survival and Natural world is a complex web or network of interrelationships. Nothing stands isolated. Appreciating these intrinsic values leads to developing a deep veneration and a sense of belongingness with the Natural world. Arne goes on even to say that understanding the Natural world is a part of ‘self-realization’!

Schumacher College in the UK, among many others, is one such entity, who’s vision is inline with the true spirit of the Deep Ecology Movement. It is a centre for learning, which brings, from around the world, some of the best minds as its faculty, who educates students on sustainable living and Earth Democracy.

Arne Naess’s ecosophy of ‘Deep Ecology’, among others, is also deeply influenced by Gandhian philosophy. Arne himself was a great admirer of Gandhi. He also wrote two books on him namely “Gandhi and Group Conflict: An Exploration of Satyagraha” and “Gandhi and the Nuclear Age”.

Dr Vandana Shiva:

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A Nuclear Physicist and a Scientist by profession, Vandana Shiva had two people who inspired her the most. One was Albert Einstein and the other was Mahatma Gandhi. She was born in Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, in the lap of the Himalayas. When she returned from Canada, after finishing her higher studies, she was shocked to see that the rivers and the forest where she grew up had almost ceased to exist! There after, a series of incidents like the aftermath of Green Revolution and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy influenced her to become an Environmentalist, an Author and finally to one of the most influential thinkers of our times.

She is the founder of an organization called ‘Navdanya’. Navdanya works for protecting Bio-diversity, promoting non violent bio diverse organic farming, seed sovereignty, and fighting climate change. The organization’s vision is inspired by Gandhi’s Economic Constitution of 1928.

We have heard about the extinction of animal species and the need to protect them. Navdanya works for the same cause in the plant world. Till date, it has successfully conserved more than 5000 varieties of crops(!!) which includes 12 genera of cereals and millets, 16 genera of legumes and plants, 50 genera of vegetables, 7 genera of oil yielding plants, 13 genera of spices and condiments, 20 genera of aromatic plants, 54 genera of fruit and flowering plants and 250 genera of ornamental, timber and medicinal plants !!  Inspired by the Salt Satyagraha, Navdanya launched “Beeja Satyagraha”, which is a campaign against Corporate monopoly on seeds. The campaign was against the law that made saving and sharing of seeds among farmers a crime as big Corporates wanted to obtain patents on seeds! From Satyagraha, to another Gandhian concept of “Swaraj”, Navdanya’s vision includes Beeja Swaraj (Seed sovereignty), Anna Swaraj (Food sovereignty) and Jal Swaraj (Water sovereignty) for every farmer in the country.

POLITICS:

I will narrate a scene. Please imagine only that what I ask you to. This was a true incident BTW, I don’t remember the source though.

A city in nervous silence with deserted streets. One such narrow street ….and a small shop….shutters not completely open, in apprehension. An old man sitting inside the shop. A frenzy mob…..armed with trenchant weapons…..scanning every corner of the city for prey, in a moment, came face-to-face with the old man in his half opened shop. He was too frail to rush and run the shutter down. The very sight of the old man aggravated the animal instincts of the mob. The mob had many young men, to whose feet the old man bent and touched… and begged for his life. His plea had no effect on the mob whatsoever….a young boy, probably in his teens, stepped forward and in the peak of his hysteria, with his weapon, landed a heavy blow on the old man who easily fell silent amidst a pool of blood.

At this instant, if you felt that this is cruel and disturbing? Just hold on!

Now I have two items in my hand, a skull cap and a tilak. If I put the tilak on the old man’s forehead and put the skull cap to the mob and then rewind and replay the same incident, then it would drive the Hindu fundamentalists mad. Similarly if these items are just interchanged, and the same incident, if replayed, then a different section of the society, the Muslim fundamentalists would go mad. Before these items were mentioned, the incident evoked almost universal empathy for the victim, but after these two items or details were added to the narrative, it distorted this universal empathy.

The man, who chose to ignore these items in spite of their presence in reality, who did not allow his empathy to be distorted and who saw humans more as Humans than just as a Hindu or a Muslim was shot dead on this day, because of his these very qualities!

Its interesting to observe that Gandhi’s killer and Gandhi himself have uttered certain words which literally mean the same but at the same time these words speak volumes on both of their characters. The killer, in his statement in the court said, referring to Gandhi’s activities for public awakening through truth and non-violence “had nothing new or original in them”.  Gandhi too once had said “I have nothing new to teach this world. Truth & Non-violence are as old as mountains”!. While the first sentence comes from arrogance, ignorance, frivolousness and sheer stupidity, the second sentence comes from the heights of modesty, wisdom from self-realization and simplicity. Little did the petty, pitiable mind of Gandhi’s killer realize that these “old” and “unoriginal” ideas would, in the years to come, inspire people oppressed by injustice, across the world!!

The Struggle against racial discrimination in the US, whose architect, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr was not shy in declaring that “Jesus gave me the message and Gandhi showed me the method”. The South African struggle against Apartheid was led by Nelson Mandela, who called Gandhi his political gurusaid that “The Indians influenced our struggle here and especially the man like Mahatma Gandhi. So we respect them and honor them”. The struggle to bring democracy in Burma, led by Aung San Suu Kyi said Gandhi was among her “greatest sources of Inspiration”. The man and his struggle for his country’s freedom, whom and which most of the world respects, HH the Dalai Lama said “ I have the greatest admiration and respect for the Mahatma. His life has inspired me ever since I was a small boy”. The man who fought against the British in the North West Frontier Province was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, was an ardent Gandhian. Evo Morales, who led a civil disobedience and non-cooperation movements to overthrow unjust Government in Bolivia, also took inspiration from Gandhi. During the peak of the Egyptian Revolution, thousands of people at Tahrir square, subtly showed their Gandhian influence. People like Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi and Dr.Mubarak Awad have been known to be in the pursuit of finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem in the Gandhian way. The list goes on …..

So to Conclude:

I see around me, two kinds of people. One who disparage Gandhi and his ideas, others who are inspired and influenced by them. The question is, who among them, are the ones who are and have been striving hard to make this world a better place to live ?

 

No Destination – Autobiography of an Earth Piligrim.

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Couple of months back, I saw an interview on Youtube in which Prof Richard Dawkins was in conversation with an old man. Bright, expressive eyes, smile always lingering, full of life and energy were few among many traits of this old man.They were not talking about rocket science, nor Evolution nor Religion, their topic was rather very mundane, apparently.So the old man and the Prof were defining what is a ‘tree’!. But it was not as silly as it sounds. It was a juxtaposition of Materialistic and Transcendentalistic perspectives with of course the Professor as the materialist. So my admiration for the old man started when I heard his definition of the ‘tree’. Later I came to know that this old man’s name was Satish Kumar. I bought and read his autobiography “No Destination – Autobiography of an Earth Piligrim”. I am writing this article because I feel , after reading the book, that this man’s life has many aspects which are worth sharing and spreading.
(Link to the youtube interview:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19Sqt-zqmrk)

As a young Jain Monk:

Satish Kumar was born in Sri Dungargarh, Rajasthan, India, to a jain family.At the tender age of nine he left his home, his mother and family and became a Jain Monk! The life of a Jain Monk is not mere renunciation of materialism and self effacing from society. It is in fact quite masculine, arduous in extreme, requiring juggernautic will power. Depending on people for thier food, no concept of changing clothes until it worns out, no bath or cleaning teeth, strict celibacy, eyes always on the ground while walking, tread with extreme caution so no tiny creature gets in the way , embrase death with full intention (through “Santhara” or fast untill death) rather than death embrasing you and when the hair grows too long, pluck out using bare hands!( A young Satish recalls “Fellow monks stood near me and sang inspirational songs. My head was scarred and bleeding” ! ). EIGHT YEARS of monkhood had taught Satish that a Monk or a Saint has to be OUTSIDE the Society and try to reform it. These eight years had left Satish with a sense of incompleteness. (As Satish puts it “I memorized 10,000 verses in Sanskrit and Prakrit. The whole Sanskrit dictionary was in my head. But was I any closer to “Moksha” ??”) . This is when a friend of his gave him a book. Through this book, Satish’s ambivalent and nebulous mind found a clear direction. The book was Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography. Gandhi’s emphasis on the importance of being INSIDE the society to reform it , profoundly influenced Satish.Almost as dramatically as the character of Andy escapes from the Shawshank State prison in the movie ‘Shawshank Redemption” , Satish escapes Monkhood and surfaces at the ashram of Acharya Vinobha Bhave!

With Vinobha Bhave:

Acharya Vinobha Bhave, I feel, is one among those freedom fighters, whom not many of the current generation knows about. FYI, he was awarded the “Bharat Ratna” posthumously in 1983. His iconic “Bhoodan Movement” brought about huge changes in socio-economic context of the Independent India. At the time when millions of poor farmers were bonded slaves working for thier rich landlords (Zamindar System), this man, walked (literally walked !) through the length and breadth of this country, to the remotest of villages, convincing the landlords to distribute atleast a part of their land to the poor. Incredibly, he alone was able to collect 4 MILLION ACRES of land for distribution among the poor, with THOUSANDS of villages pleged to “Gramdan” (Donating land)!! The Naxal movement, driven by the same rich-poor divide was also surfacing at about the same time. I wonder if Vinobha had got support from people in power, in augmenting the Bhoodan Movement further, the Naxal problem could have been placated , it sure would not have reached its present proportion.Satish, walked closely with Vinobha, worked closely with Vinobha at the grass root level.

Inspired by Bertrand Russel, the great British Philosopher,mathematician and poilitical activist, who was protesting against the Nuclear Proliferation, in England, at the age of 90! Satish, along with his friend, decided that they will go on a “peace walk” to the then four Nuclear Capitals, Moscow, Paris, London and Washington, to spread the message of peace and to protest against the Nuclear Proliferation race among the Nations.

The iconic “Peace Walk”:

With the blessings of Vinobha, who advised Satish two things, One, to remain vegetarian at all circumstances and the second, not to carry any money for their adventure! (Thats right NO MONEY !) he set off his journey from the grave of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat! This epic journey of about 8000 MILES on foot, was a journey through extremes, through the violent hot sand storms in Afganistan , through the bone chilling harsh Siberian winters, restrictions,arrests and imprisonments in foreign countries(as they were protesters), walking with no protection whatsoever on unknown territories, only with “unconditional trust in Humanity and total dependence on people’s hospitality” as thier strategies, Satish and his friend walked through half of the planet on foot and reached Washington! They met people like Reverand Martin Luther King Jr (!) and the man who inspired them, Bertrand Russel.

At present:

Presently , Satish Kumar is the editor of the acclaimed magazine “Resurgence and Ecologist”. “Resurgence” deals with ‘self-suffciency and protection of ecology and natural world by creating awareness. Satish also played a pivotal role in concieving “Schumacher College” in the UK, where he is a visiting fellow.Numerous acclaimed scientists, physicists, philosophers, social activists from around the world too are visiting faculties at the Schumacher College.He was also involved in the TAGORE FESTIVAL-2014 in Dartington, UK.

“No Destination – Autobiography of an Earth Piligrim” is available through the publication of “Green Books” (This publication house is closely associated with Satish and Resurgence. The paper they use for printing ” is sourced from responsibly managed forests, using vegetable inks “).

People having wanderlust, especially people who love to travel alone may find this book appealing on many different levels. Living from day to day , from inspiration to inspiration” , “ It was a journey with no destination, journey and destination became one, thought and action became one” , ” I was on the move in stillness” , “Walking is not just a means to get somewhere , it is a way of being” , ” In wandering I felt a sense of union with the whole sky , a part of cosmic existence, It was as if by walking I was making love to the earth itself “ . Lines like these lures a person with wanderlust to pack a rucksack and get on the streets !!

THE LOST RIVER – On the trail of the Sarasvatī

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About the Author: Michel Danino

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Danino was born and brought up in France. Completed his formal education in Science from is homeland. Right from an early age, Danino was drawn to India and in 1977 he decided to travel and has lived here ever since. He has adopted the Indian citizenship. He lived in Nilgiri Mountains for around two decades, where he fought against the destruction of the Shola or evergreen forests. The then Tamil Nadu Govt responded by setting up a committee of local citizens for the protection of Shola forests. Apart from being a conservationist he his well known as a researcher and Author. Among his most important works are The Invasion that Never Was, Sri Aurobindo and the Indian Civilization, The Indian Mind Then and Now and many more!

For more information: http://micheldanino.voiceofdharma.com/

About the Book:

Rig Veda, the oldest of all Indian texts, showers praise, hallows and even apotheosizes this river as the Goddess of knowledge and speech! It (Rig Veda) assertively declares that the majesty and the might of this river surpasses that of all other waters of its time! Among Rig Veda s 45 hymns, her name appears 72 times and three hymns are totally dedicated to her!! Yes, she is the “mythical” Sarasvati river I am referring to here.The Rig Veda describes, in great detail, the topography of the land, the river system which includes other rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Sutlej (Shutudri), Ravi(Parushni),many more and of course the Sarasvati. It also states that Sarasvati flows from the mountains to the sea, un-broken. One of the many hymns of the Rig veda is the ‘Nadi-stuti sookta‘ (whose chants I have been hearing innumerably during many of our rituals, never realizing its etiology!!) precisely enumerates these rivers exactly ordered from east to west.

The 18nth century might be remembered in the history for many reasons, but the one I am about to mention is of cardinal importance in the Indian context. The developments are in two aspects or two directions.Let us look at them.

1. The Greeks, French and Germans, among many others, were in a relentless pursuit of the “mysterious Hindu text – the Rig Veda”. They took it to their countries, left no stone un-turned in learning Sanskrit and translating the Rig Veda to their respective languages. It was during this time that many universities in the West started Departments of Sanskrit and Indian Studies!

2. Back home, the British were slowly diffusing their presence in the north western part of India. Amidst all the deserving blames, we have to give them credit for all the meticulous surveys they carried out in that part of the country.Not only did they start the “Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), but also carefully scrutinized and recorded all their research data. Through these, they had found an extinct water system near the deserts of Rajasthan. They called it ‘The Lost River of the Indian Desert’. There is a BBC documentary of the same name which was aired subsequently.

An eminent French geographer, who had studied the German and the French versions of the Rig Veda and also had carefully studied British accounts and surveys of the North Western India, was the first one to join these two dots! He wrote the first ever analogy of the Rig Veda with the archeological findings, where he proposed that the archeological findings directly substantiate or warrant the Rig Vedic description of the topography of the area, whose center was the “mythical” Sarasvati ! His name was Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin.And what followed this remarkably rare marriage of literature with the archaeological science, are the vast ocean of research in the fields of Climatology, Satellite imagery, archaeology and geology ! Researches in each of these fields are given in the book in great detail.Consolidating the results of all these fields, one can safely(there have been many objections,but they are all refutable)  say that the “mystery” of the “mysterious river”, the “myth” of the “mythical river” has finally been resolved, and the Rig Vedic Sarasvati was a reality and not just a figment of our imagination! The discovery of the Sarasvati is not just an attestation for proto historic Vedic culture but also for one other reason! Read on to know.

The BLUNDER that is the “ARYAN INVASION THEORY (AIT)”:

FYI, The actual AIT: The Indus-Saraswati civilization lasted till about 1900 BCE. The actual Indian history starts from about 1200 BCE. Which was the Gangetic Civilization. The gap between the post urban phase and the first historic phase i.e 1900 BCE to about 1200 BCE, nothing has been found. No one knows what was actually going on during this gap. This gap is called the “Black hole” or the “Missing Link” in the history of the subcontinent. The AIT states that the Sarasvati civilization was essentially a Dravidian civilization, and during that “GAP” or “Black hole” of 700 years, Aryans came from Middle East (from around today’s Iran to be precise) and drove away the Dravidians to the south and destroyed their civilization. These Aryans are the present day north Indians and the people who were forced out towards south are the present day South Indians.The AIT also says that Aryans authored the Rig Veda and subsequently built the Vedic culture

This implies that the Rig Veda was actually written after 1200 BCE. But as per the above mentioned discovery of the Sarasvati, the river had long been completely desiccated by 1200 BCE! How could the so called ‘Aryans’ describe so passionately about a defunct river! In fact the drying up of Sarasvati had started during the third millennium BCE itself! After which the river started dis integrating and finally dried up by around 2000 BCE. Also there is absolutely no evidence of any sort on the ground indicating any kind of migration of foreign people nor any man made cataclysm. In short archaeology totally debunks the AIT!

Besides this, one other branch of science has decimated the AIT. Genetics! DNA analysis clearly has shown that the whole of the Indian DNA is IDENTICAL! Indicating that all Indians belong to the same race or ancestry. So the next time you see some one talking about Aryans and Dravidians, Please make it a point that you LOL on their faces!

Conclusion:  A MUST READ for all who care about our history and are eager to shun their ignorance!

Book Review – The Undcover Economist

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About the Author:

First of all let me tell you about the author Tim Harford. Tim is a London born Economist, Author, journalist and a senior columnist at the Financial Times. Apart from these, he also is a broadcaster, he has presented many TV and Radio series for the BBC. He has to his credit, many TED talks and Lecture at Sydney Opera House.

About the book:

Economics need not always be soporific! And when I mention the word Economics, please don’t presume its always about typical macro economic jargon s like GDP, Fiscal Deficit, Forex etc etc. In Tim’s own words “Economics is about who gets what and why ?” . If u feel the above question is too abstract, continue reading.

When u walk into a Costa Cofee (or any other) outlet, the menu cannot say Rs.50 for people who dont mind paying and Rs.35 for people who are mindful , for a cappuccino. But to some extent, this is what happens! This strategy is called “Price Targeting“. The first chapter precisely deals with this. According to Tim this is not limited to coffee kiosks, from super markets to Banks everyone have evolved interesting strategies precisely to “extract most out of a careless consumer“. A visit to Coffee Day or any super market will definitely be different after reading this book!

Traffic jams are a part of Bangalorean’s life style. Every day we find ourselves royally stuck in Traffic chaos of eternal signal lights and the cacophony of honking!! The obvious reasons of narrow roads or huge SUVs eating up spaces and flourishing population are also unavoidable. But there is something which can be done to ameliorate this condition efficiently. This is the concept of “Externality Charges“. There is a complete chapter dealing with this quite convincingly.

Tim distills even mind mindbogglingly complex phenomena like the 2008 Financial Meltdown into a simple example involving only a carton of eggs! He endorses free trade and eloquently explains the problem of having trade restrictions or ‘Protectionism‘(u might have heard this term not long ago when Obama announced tax benefits to discourage outsourcing). Not to miss, the essay on the auctioning of the spectrum licenses is incredibly interesting. Reading this will help us comprehend and fathom the blunder that is the 2G Spectrum scam. Finally, Tim explains why is there such a huge gap between rich and poor countries, elaborating on this context he elucidates the success story of China. If you are a Maoist, u might feel slightly offended when he talks about Mao and his “achievements”.

However, his insights on issues like migration of people from rural to urban areas and effect of globalization on environment are not as convincing as the rest of the book or in other words they are not given their due weight-age.

Overall, this book is a must read for all who wish to grow more sensible as consumers, economists and Politicians.