Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Atithyam - The Crown Jewel of Indian Culture

Recently, I was visiting some Hindu families both in India and abroad. Their reception style made me wonder - are we Bhaaratiiyas anymore or just amorphous, sterilized world citizens? That led to the question - What is the litmus test? What sets a bhaaratiiya family apart from others?

Is it ....

  • Pursuit of Indian classical arts? No. Other cultures do that too. 
  • Study of Indian yoga, vedanta, vedic chanting, Samskrit etc? No. So many are doing that out of intellectual curiosity. That has become a fashion. 
  • Visiting temples, doing pujas/parayanas? No. Many other cultures have such ceremonies.

It is the custom of Aatithyam. Atithyam is how a family treats an unexpected guest. Only a bhaaratiiya family treats a guest as a god-sent opportunity to shower love, a priority above other pursuits, and not as an inconvenience or someone to be "helped". Atithyam is fast-dwindling among Hindu families - even those practising all of the above.

To children > 7yrs, visitors are intruders. To the elders, a visitor is an inconvenience, to accommodate only when other appointments aren't jeopardized. Offering a meal is almost gone. Forget about offering to stay. When someone comes from out of town, god save him.

Mind you, I observed these traits in well-meaning people who actually think they respect Indian culture and are interested in Indian spirituality.  The ceremonies are increasing, but the core is disappearing. Why? 
  • ajnaanam - ignorance of the inner meaning of our customs,  
  • aalasyam - unwillingness to incur inconvenience for others due to laziness.
Sanaatana Dharma is not merely a self-help program; it's a radically different way to deal with the world around us. Without bringing its concepts to work in our dealings with the society, mere adhyayana, japa and dhyaana won't do much good. I feel that's the misconception leading to the apathy towards aatithyam. "Let me spend more time on useful things like studying Upanishads than feeding those who can feed themselves".

Entertaining guests is not a waste of time. It is part of saadhana, if done right.


The Concept of Atithyam

Atithyam is central and unique to Bhaaratiiyataa, with roots deep in Sanaatana Dhaarmic outlook on life.

How is Atithyam different from hospitality?

It is the attitude of the host to the guest that is different. In Indian culture, the host treats a guest's arrival as a God-sent opportunity to shower love. The host is not doing a favor to the guest. Rather, it is the guest that is doing a favor to the host by giving an opportunity to serve. Indian culture treats loving service as an act of sacrifice, yajna. Yajna is indispensable to rise Godward breaking the petty fetters of individual self (dehaatma bhaavana).

Ego is man's self-imposed jail and the chief hurdle to self-expansion and God-realization. All bhaaratiiya sampradaayas (customs) are aimed at helping the individual rise above separative to cosmic consciousness. Atithyam is the mother of all sampradaayas. It is so central that it is weaved into religion. The bhaaratiiya concept of worship (pUja or archanam) is not prayer (begging for favors), but aatithyam (giving love) - invoking God omnipresent as a physical person just so one can shower love by providing all the physical and emotional "comforts" - even at the expense of one's own inconvenience.

Since any agent helping one rise above his lower self is considered a vibhuti of God,  a guest is also treated as God, not as a helpless individual seeking a favor. Hence an Indian host's feeling towards a guest is not dayaa or compassion, but aadara, reverence.

This attitude changes everything. It naturally compels the host to prioritize aatithya above other personal appointments and comforts. Personal inconveniences are brushed aside only in an act of love.

Atithyam is dwindling among Indians

However, nowadays, this unique custom is fast disappearing in Indian families, mainly because of the rise of competitive individualism imported from the Western culture. To the west, a guest is an individual seeking a favor, an intrusion into the private life of the host family, an inconvenience, or someone to be "helped". Since the host is doing the guest a favor, the host is free to put his personal appointments and comforts at a higher priority than hosting.

At the root of this lies the identification of oneself as one's body and those of the family members. Since the goal is "self"-satisfaction, whatever comes in its way naturally assumes lesser priority.

How to bring back Atithyam in Indian families?

By reversing the process by which it is lost. First by reminding oneself of the rationale behind aatithyam, and how it benefits them individually. Second by practicing it oneself in a conspicuous manner, so one's neighbors cannot help but feel the fragrance of aatithyam. If you shower love on your neighbor, the neighbor will be naturally drawn to reciprocate, spreading the custom.

Overwhelm your neighbors or strangers with love by inviting them as your guests every once in a while. But real aatithyam is not inviting known people, but serving an UNEXPECTED guest. At least this practice prepares one for handling an unexpected guest. The more you show love, the more Divine will send atithis to knock at your door. That's how Dharma works.


The Practice of Atithyam

Now, let us examine common questions that arise in practising aatithyam. Please post any unaddressed questions in the comments. I'd appreciate it.

What if the guest is well-off and can afford restaurant visit?

The point is not to do a favor to someone but to seek an opportunity to show that you care, even though the other person doesn't need your service. Try inviting the well-off guest over to your home once, and you'll know how well he/she will receive it.

Can I take my guest out to a restaurant?

That doesn't count because there's no personal effort involved (other than driving and time).

But I do invite friends for a party often. Isn't Atithyam the same? 

That's a start, but the idea of aatithyam is to willingly accommodate unexpected guests.

But cooking for a guest is such a big overhead. I can't provide simple meals to a guest!

Yes you can. The idea of aatithya is not feasting, but to share whatever you are having with others. Don't create unnecessary overhead. Make the ritual so lightweight that you can afford to do it often.

If you only eat leftover food, start by sharing it with the guest. Though that's not good, it's better than nothing. Try to add more freshly cooked food gradually to your meal.

What if my spouse doesn't cooperate?

I hope at least you get your food at home. Share it with the guest.  Otherwise, step in and cook something simple. 
Aachaara prabhavo dharmaH. Show others dharma by practising it yourself first.

I am in IT and don't have time

But you have to eat everyday to survive, right? Invite someone to join at your family meal once in a while.


Call to Action

Start an aatithya vratam at your home today! Host someone once a month. 
Here are some tips. We practice many of them at home, but need to expand:
  • Whenever someone comes home around lunch or dinner time, make it a point to offer a meal. That's the minimum bar, no matter how busy you are.
  • When you want to give a treat to your office colleagues, instead of taking them out to a restaurant, invite them for a meal at home. If you can't handle large batches, invite them a few at a time. 
  • Invite your neighbors for an evening snack or a morning breakfast together. I'd prefer the latter, because it will force them to get up early. 
  • Consider it a shame on you if someone you know (even remotely) is visiting your town and has to go to a restaurant for food.
  • For those living outside India: When a friend's parents are visiting them, invite the parents over to stay at your home for a few days. This gives immense joy to them as well as you. Our personal experience.
  • Actively find out if a full-time volunteer of a social organization is visiting your town and beg them to stay at your home. A selfless worker is NaaraayaNa himself. You will be blessed.
  • Provide aatithyam at least once a month. Consider it your misfortune (daurbhaagyam) if no atithi came to your house for a full month (either to stay or to have a meal)
  • Most important: involve your children in helping to serve the guest. Do not shunt them away. You don't have to push them to say hello to the guest (that's embarrassing to the children). Just ask them to provide water, set the plates, bring the pickle or something. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A New Meaning of Bhaaratiiya Samraajyam

A new meaning of Bhaaratiiya Samraajyam

Back in June 2014, I was chatting with a colleague of mine in the US, who is a migrant from Ethiopia. I was probing him on their society, its culture and current affairs there. It is the same story of oppression, class conflict, dwindling of a highly cultured society's innate values by aggression from  culturally inferior peoples. I was very disturbed, and was wondering if it is high time for Bhaarata to wake up and be the counselor of the world. As soon as I returned from my US trip, I had to give a bouddhik on the occasion of the Hindu Samraajya dinotsav. That got me thinking - what does Hindu Samraajya mean? Why the world needs it? How does it differ from a Political Superpower status?

Here are some thoughts that I had shared during the Bouddhik on the occasion of Hindu Samraajya Utsav in Bangalore. These are not in a narrative style, but key points highlighted. I was meaning to convert it into a narrative, but due to lack of time, it was languishing as a draft for too long. So I thought of putting it out there as is.

I solicit viewers' comments and suggestions on how to take them into action.

What distinguishes a Bhaaratiiya samraajya from a prosperous state?

It is the distinction between raama raajya and raavaNa raajya.

The pinnacle of Bhaaratiiya samraajya is satya yuga (government by self-restraint and self-expansion). Some key characteristics:
  • sama-rasataa - live and let live
  • duShTa shikShaNa, aarta rakshaNa
  • Science and spirituality given equal importance in society
  • Unity amid immense diversity of faiths, opinions and pursuits
  • Inner and outer cleanliness, purity

Vishva-gurutva: What can India teach the world?

  • How to love, not just tolerate, those who think differently
  • How to experience immense joy through adopting Sacrifice/yajna as a way of life
  • Living for a principle as opposed to living for sense-enjoyment.

Why the world needs India to show the way forward

  • Unable to reconcile diversity & freedom
    • Why? because they equate freedom with sense pleasure
  • Unable to grow above material consciousness
  • Unable to reconcile development with ecological balance
Example of Ethiopia
  • Four different native religions
  • Religious oppression rampant
  • Native religion is worship of nature as mother and psychic healing - very close to Indian concepts
  • Completely swept out by Islam and Christianity - leading to intolerance and suppression
  • Society reeling under oppression and exploitation - intelligentsia leaving.
  • Shift to meat as staple diet with the advent of Christianity and Islam, despite fertile farm lands and a vegetable-rich diet just 50 years ago.

What can Bhaarat do?

  • Only bhaaratiiyas can teach others how to practice their own religion more effectively
  • Send Svayamsevaks to teach non-Indians how to live peacefully and harmoniously
  • Mobilize public to fight against its own regional evils
  • Teach society to untap its innate spiritual potential (without having to convert them to Hinduism)
  • Make the world experience once again the joy of growth thru love and sacrifice. 
  • Teach the world how to practise nishkaama-karma as a new paradigm for harmonious and inclusive growth.
  • Bring religion back to its glory as the guide of life from its present state as a feel-good individual belief system.
  • Expand the scope of Science to be more holistic - include study of non-material forces in Nature.

Bhaarat needs to be strong for the sake of the world

  • Export teachers in all walks of life:
    • psychological counselors, 
    • religious consultants, 
    • healers, 
    • satyaagrahis, 
  • not just intellectual laborers of the world.

What should be our next steps at an individual level?

  • Practice simple, frugal living
  • Practice confrontation of evil, not avoidance.
  • Practice vrataacharaNa - to gain spiritual energy essential for the job.

Urgent areas crying for attention within Indian Society

As a preparation for Vishva Gurutva, we need to set our own house in order as follows:
  • Counseling for child-rearing and resolving family conflicts
  • Create and nurture family-to-family bonds within Indian society, especially in urban areas. Otherwise we're becoming a society of disconnected islands.
  • Invent new stimulating physical activities to get people out of TV-watching to a more active lifestyle.
  • Creative enjoyment - the lack of which leads to TV-watching, the biggest drain on human energy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spiritual Democracy: What it takes for India to Succeed

What does it take for a political leader to succeed in leading India to a glorious future? At a fundamental level, three things:
  1. Eloquence to marshal the fractured public opinion and support in his favor, i.e., create new allies to his mission (Vaak, creation, or ऐम्)
  2. Political acumen to control and steer the politicians and workers in his ranks (many of them crooks themselves) in the right direction (leverage own assets effectively or श्रीम्)
  3. Strength and skill to checkmate and disarm his opposing forces (destroy obstacles, ह्रीम्)
How does one acquire these powers? In these days of democracy, it is the public that must create their leader and infuse in him/her the right strength to steer their nation to glory. In the olden days of the monarchy,  the individual tapas of the kshatriya (and his purohitas) used to give him the necessary qualities of kingship. Perhaps the ritual of abhisheka (अभिषेक) had the same purpose. But in these days of rule of the people, by the people and for the people, it is the collective tapas or will of the public that raises and sustains the instrument/vessel to lead them. This is one of the messages of both the mahisha mardini story as well as that of monkeys helping Rama to kill Ravana. The Divine strength can indeed destroy darkness, but waits to be summoned activated by the collective tapas of the sufferers. This is because It refrains from interfering in their individual freedom to control their own destiny.

If the public relies on the personal capabilities of an individual leader, it is limiting its fate to what can be achieved with the leader's individual strengths and weaknesses. The role of a citizen in a democratic society is not merely to choose among the individuals standing up to lead them (by vote), but also to materialize new leaders and to actively supply the strength to them where needed, for one's own and society's larger good.

But how can an ordinary citizen have the power to create and sustain a leader other than oneself?
This is where Indian spiritual knowledge of Human psychology comes to help.

Now let us examine these aspects of political power and their psycho-spiritual underpinnings.


The True Springs of Political Power

Winning New Allies: The popular belief is that intellectual convincing can sway people in a given direction. But Indian yogic psychology says that people are led predominantly by the manas (referred to as the 'heart' or emotional centre of man), not by the buddhi. Much of the time, a person uses intellectual arguments to defend his/her viewpoint already subconsciously fixed by emotion. Though this is not the ideal state, it is the current state of the semi-developed humanity. It is the emotional layer of man that controls whom one loves. And choice of a leader is mostly about emotional resonance. What people call charisma is emotional magnetism; it makes a person attractive or not. 

Emotional magnetism is the distinguishing asset of a true leader, and can be acquired in oneself or infused in others thru control of spiritual energy - the primal praaNa shakti that is at the root of emotions.

Steering Workers towards a Common Goal: The ability to steer a group of workers with often conflicting ideas and diverging selfish pursuits towards a common overall goal requires deep awareness of the driving motives of each of them and playing them - sometimes with each other, sometimes against each other - to balance all these forces in a way that serves the overall objective. 

Leadership requires keen awareness of and sensitivity to the hidden feelings of others, and knowing what keeps them happy, where they are strong or weak. Only with this knowledge can the leader decide whether saama, daana, bheda or danDa is to be used. Asset/wealth management - the ability to leverage the available resources to achieve an objective is the key. The spiritual force that controls the preservation and correct use of wealth, i.e., the assets/resources at one's disposal is Lakshmi or Vishnu.

Checkmating and Disarming the Opposing Forces: Unlike one's own work force who might obstruct the progress towards a goal due to internal feuds, the opposition's very job definition is to overthrow the leader and take his position and to prevent his reaching his stated goal. Cooperative opposition is an oxymoron. In this case, the right approach is to strike at the very sources of the opposition's strength and disarm it by hitting where it hurts. This also requires endurance and inner will not to get dejected by one's own defeats and setbacks. There is absolutely no scope for appeasement or ahimsa here.  
Strength, endurance, courage and skill along with keen awareness are the chief qualities. The spiritual forces controlling these qualities in the Universe are Durga and Her hordes, and Rudra.

For instance, the deity vaaraahi (वाराही) is described as the force that blinds (अन्धिनि), obstructs (रुन्धिनि), strikes (जम्भिनि), confuses (मोहिनि) and arrests (स्तम्भिनि) the dark forces that prevent progress. How does She do it? By arresting (स्तम्भनम्) the faculties of intuition (वाक्), thought (चित्त), perception (चक्षुः), expression (मुख), action (गति), and control (जिह्वा) in the opposing forces.


Spiritual Democracy

It is well-known that for a democratic society to flourish, the public must be active. Physical and intellectual activism are signs of a healthy democracy. But these are only surface movements. Veda declares that the prime forces governing human behavior are spiritual in nature with emotions as their steeds or puppet strings. Balanced all-round growth of society is a chimera unless these forces are recognized, understood and harnessed. Just as intellectual activism means to influence governance via triggering widepsread public discourse and debate, spiritual activism means to influence governance via marshaling the psychological forces behind human behavior in the intended direction. A spiritual democracy employs spiritual activism to guide politics in addition to physical and intellectual activism. 

Through spiritual saadhana, a citizen can summon the spiritual forces to manifest the above qualities in a leader to help him/her guide the nation effectively. Even if an individual by oneself does not have the physical/intellectual means to change the society/government, collective saadhana can trigger the right higher powers and invoke them to guide their leader. 

That is the responsibility of the citizens of a nation when caught in the web of an oppressive regime that is hampering nation's all-round growth - spiritual activism thru collective tapas and saadhana in addition to physical and intellectual activism.


Practising Spiritual Activism

We Indians are instinctively spiritual at a personal and family level, but when it comes to social and political issues, we shy away from spiritual outlook, equating it with religion (a.k.a. belief system) and hence unsecular. But the main idea of secularism is to prevent the imposition of a single belief system on all, not to shun all belief systems. Shunning spirituality is like shunning science and truth, which is to our own detriment [Atheists will not agree, but this article is not for them].

Spiritual activism is highly individualistic. If you believe in a higher power guiding your life, how can you deny that the same power is guiding the elected leader, the electing public and the opposing forces? If so, your prayer has a say in how your leader is chosen, sustained and guided. Hence prayer can influence politics at a much more fundamental level than sloganeering and intellectual debates. But prayer is only as effective as the intensity, sincerity and selflessness of the individual praying. Hence spiritual activism means to pray for the forces that you think are good for the country to win and their opposing forces to lose. The responsibility is not just that of the leader standing up to fight the dark forces, but also the people who he's going to govern.

Call to Action

If you believe in this, please pray for the leader you want to lead India.

Here are some suggestions.
  • If you do regular anuShThaanam, please do sankalpa every day for your chosen leader to gain power and use it to protect dharma.
  • If you have received a mantra upadesha, please do extra japam at least once a week with the sankalpa - dharmasya jayaartham, adharmasya naashaartham (धर्मस्य जयार्थम्, अधर्मस्य नाशार्थम्)
  • If you do meditation or Yoga, please will strongly at the end of meditation for the victory of dharma.
  • Perform rudraabhisheka or satyanaaraayaNa vratam at home or in a community with the same sankalpa, not for family well-being.
  • Please get puja done at your nearby temple at least once a week, exclusively for the victory of dharma, not for your family's well-being.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Understanding the Terms of Ancient Indian Social Organization

Below are excerpts from "The Renaissance in India" by Sri Aurobindo, where he explains clearly the terms used within India for various units of social organization and their distinction.

In summary,
varNa = color i.e., Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra
Jaati = caste, e.g., Vaidika, Niyogi Brahmin, Reddy, Kamma, etc.
Kula = vamsha (clan), e.g., Kuru, Yaadava, Panchala, Rajput etc.

varNa is a concept that is based on svabhaava and distinct from birth, whereas jaati is determined by birth.
Originally, jaati came from varNa and later got subdivided.
i.e., within a varNa there might be multiple jaatis (e.g., subdivisions of brahmin caste).
Within a Jaati, there might be multiple kulas.

For each, there is a dharma - varNa dharma, jaati dharma and kula dharma.

Excerpts from "The Renaissance in India" by Sri Aurobindo pp. 417-419 available for download from

The Indian political system was still maintained for many centuries in the south, but
the public assemblies which went on existing there do not seem
to have been of the same constitution as the ancient political bodies,
but were rather some of the other communal organisations
and assemblies of which these were a coordination and supreme
instrument of control. These inferior assemblies included bodies
originally of a political character, once the supreme governing
institutions of the clan nation, kula, and the republic, gaNa.
Under the new dispensation they remained in existence, but lost
their supreme powers and could only administer with a subordinate
and restricted authority the affairs of their constituent
communities. The kula or clan family persisted, even after it
had lost its political character, as a socio-religious institution,
especially among the Kshatriyas, and preserved the tradition of
its social and religious law, kula-dharma, and in some cases its
communal assembly, kula-sangha. The public assemblies that
we find even in quite recent times filling the role of the old general
assembly in Southern India, more than one coexisting and
acting separately or in unison, appear to have been variations
on this type of body. In Rajputana also the clan family, kula,
recovered its political character and action, but in another form
and without the ancient institutions and finer cultural temper,
although they preserved in a high degree the Kshatriya dharma
of courage, chivalry, magnanimity and honour.

A stronger permanent element in the Indian communal system,
one that grew up in the frame of the four orders—in the end
even replacing it—and acquired an extraordinary vitality, persistence
and predominant importance was the historic and still
tenacious though decadent institution of caste, jaati. Originally
this rose from subdivisions of the four orders that grew up in
each order under the stress of various forces. The subdivision of
the Brahmin castes was mainly due to religious, socio-religious
and ceremonial causes, but there were also regional and local
divisions: the Kshatriyas remained for the most part one united
order, though divided into kulas. On the other hand the Vaishya
and Shudra orders split up into innumerable castes under the
necessity of a subdivision of economic functions on the basis
of the hereditary principle. Apart from the increasingly rigid
application of the hereditary principle, this settled subdivision
of function could well enough have been secured, as in other
countries, by a guild system and in the towns we do find a vigorous
and efficient guild system in existence. But the guild system
afterwards fell into desuetude and the more general institution
of caste became the one basis of economic function everywhere.
The caste in town and village was a separate communal unit, at
once religious, social and economic, and decided its religious,
social and other questions, carried on its caste affairs and exercised
jurisdiction over its members in a perfect freedom from
all outside interference: only on fundamental questions of the
Dharma the Brahmins were referred to for an authoritative interpretation
or decision as custodians of the Shastra. As with
the kula, each caste had its caste law and rule of living and
conduct, jaati-dharma, and its caste communal assembly, jaati sangha.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Inconvenient Concepts in Indian Puranas: Daampatya Dharma

Dharma vs. Vedanta

It is easy for us modern Indians to accept Vedantic ideas, but not Indian Dharmas because Vedanta makes intellectual sense and we can get away by debating and doing nothing else, whereas Dharmas often go against our individual freedom and don't explain why. The inconvenient truth is, there is no recourse except to follow Dharma to realize Vedantic truths. True, there are gurus who'll give you simpler-looking bypass routes initially, but the deeper you go, the more your life looks like that of orthodox brahmins. Look at Brahma Kumari followers.

However, Dharma has two aspects - the concept or the essence (tattva) that is eternal, and its form or manifestation (aachaara) that changes with time. What is commonly referred to as Dharma is mostly the form. In very few instances is the essence explained or the distinction made. This is where Indian Dharmic concepts are hard to crack by moderns. It demands a lot of viveka (discriminative acumen), shraddha (faithful diligence) and sampradaaya jnaanam (deep knowledge of the context) to isolate the essence from the form and apply it differently without loss to the core. We in India have been so accustomed to shallow thinking on deep subjects especially when it comes to original Indian ideas. In such matters, we get into the mode of either defense or offense instead of deep thought and assimilative innovation.

Dharmas need viveka to interpret and reformulate for the present circumstance.

Daampatya Dharma

I'd like to deal with one Indian dharma which is increasingly brushed aside as inapplicable to modern times - daampatya dharma (the law of conduct in married life) as laid out in our shaastras.

The english word `Husband' has dozens of connotations in Samskrit, each referring to a specific role played. Raadhaa explains those words and their import in the Devi Bhagavatam thus:

Samskrit words for husband and their connotations.

bhartaa = bears, supports (bibharti)
pati = takes care, protects (paalayati)
svaamii = lord over her body
kaantah = fulfills her desires (kaamanaaM pUrayati)
bandhuh = provides all comforts
priyah = pleases (priyam karoti)
iishvarah = bestows wealth and lordship (aishvaryam dadaati)
prANeshvarah = Lord of her life force (praaNaanaam prabhuH),
ramaNah = shares the pleasure of union (rati sukham dadaati, physical, emotional, aesthetic)

These words indicate how rich, precise and pregnant with culture Samskrit language is. A husband should cross check which title he deserves before expecting from his wife. Unless you bear the burden of the house, you're not a bhartaa. Burden is not just money, but also emotional cushioning for the family. Unless you can control your wife's excesses, you're not a svaamii or iishvara but a daasa.

But these concepts look like so archaic and B.C. era isn't it? They don't apply today, or they only apply to Gods. These are typical reactions we hear to such concepts. We cringe at the words svaamii and praaNeshvara. They look much like words of grandmother generation. Is there anything in those concepts that we can learn from and apply today?

Interpreting Daampatya Dharma for Today

If you look at those appellations closely, they are describing the various roles that a husband plays in married life. There will be a similar list for the wife as well. For instance, one of them is 'jaayaa' one produces progeny. But how to reconcile them with today's life where a female also earns and supports the family? How to reconcile with gay marriages?

If you decouple the male vs. female partner from their roles here, then they are listing the basic ingredient roles for a happy, fruitful, well-oiled married life. Any deficiency in any role play will lead to difficulties. Which partner dominates in which role is an implementation detail and may vary by era and social circumstances. Both may play a given role equally, some higher and some lower, or 
distribute. In some cases, physical body's nature or innate svabhaava forces the choice of role.

For instance, when I was doing PhD, my wife supported me for some time. During that time, she was bhartrii and I was bhaaryaH :-), and now our roles are reversed.

Dharmic Concepts: Separating Form and Essence

That is at a high level. Now delving a little deeper into the import of some "inconvenient" words. Take praaNeshvara, for example. Literally, praaNeshvaraH means lord of one's life (praaNa) which stands for vital force that is the seat of passion, impulse and living itself. Philosophically, only God can be praaNeshvara, but that's another discussion. Said another way, it is one in whose hands she has kept her entire life as its ruler/guide. What is the most precious for a human being? It is his/her life. When will I keep my life in the hands of someone? When I trust that person completely. When I am travelling in an airplane, who is my praaNeshvara during that journey? The pilot, and the air traffic control :-).

Complete, implicit trust is the corner stone of family life, unlike business life where the word is "trust but verify". If I don't want my partner to look into my bank or phone records, there goes the family for a toss.
That's why praaNeshvara is such an important word. If a wife hesitates to call her husband praaNeshvara, it means she doesn't trust him. There's something wrong. If the husband doesn't like to call his wife praaNeshvarii, it's time for a marriage counseling session.

My point is, whenever we hear Samskrit words, we squirm uncomfortably, feel embarrassed, cringe, dismiss, offend or defend. But we don't inquire deep. Traditional Indian thought is very deep, and deals with the very fibre of our personality. So do not dismiss Indian thoughts lightly. Find the essence and see how to give it a new form.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Practicing Success from First Principles

Recently, I have conducted two 6-episode workshops of sorts on practicing holistic success from first principles, in which about 30 people took part. Our objective was to get people habituated to skilful action and taking up tasks that expand their circle of "mine".

Topics of the Session:

  • SUCCESS without BURNOUT: Holistic definition of Success and steps towards its achievement.
  • WILL-POWER: First-principles approach to understanding and overcoming difficulties (internal).
  • SELF-ANALYSIS: Psychological reasons behind shortcomings and how to overcome them,
  • COUNSELING: How to counsel those in chronic difficulties (including themselves) and form an emotional support network.
  • CHILD CARE: Yogic approach to child psychology, and conducive environment for child growth. [we did not get to discussing this due to lack of time].
Here is a mindmap of topics and practice items we covered during the workshop.
Mindmap of practicing holistic success

Monday, September 17, 2012

Towards Socially Impactful Art

The True Purpose of Art

The true goal of art is आत्मदर्शनम्‌, seeing the inner spirit in everything, and to express the inexpressible.

Above is a mind map summary of the article, "The National Value of Art" by Sri Aurobindo, first published in Karmayogin magazine in 1910. Also available for online browsing and download.