Date: 07 Feb 2012


7/2/12. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\Thought provoking article by a German lady \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ By MARIA WIRTH \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Recently, I spent time with my mother in Germany. She lives in a small town near Nuremberg with only some 6000 inhabitants. I was missing India. Reading newspapers and watching news on TV, it seemed as if there was no India. Yet, when I met people and mentioned that I live in India, all were curious, positive and keen to know more about the country. I couldn’t help telling how special India is because, as I see it, India and Indians have a lot going for them, more than any other civilisation. Parts of the Indian tradition have been hijacked by Westerners without acknowledging the source, be it yoga, transpersonal psychology or several scientific discoveries, apart from such basics as the decimal system. Yet, strangely, there is still no official attempt by India to own up and project India’s strong points abroad. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ In contrast, China is doing a lot to project a good image by making full use of their main ancient sage, Confucius. Even in that small town near Nuremberg, twelve high school students have signed up for a Chinese language course. It came in the local newspaper. The Confucius institute is financing it. The teacher is a young Chinese.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ On the airport, I picked up the International Herald Tribune, and not surprisingly, there was an 8-page Advertising Supplement about China prepared by China Daily. Confucius was all over the supplement: “Confucius lives”, “The way of the Sage”, etc., were some of the articles. Professor Zhang Qun, former head of the Confucius Institute, University of Naples, was quoted, “Western culture started to spread to China long ago, but now it is time for Chinese culture to be promoted to the Western world.” He underwent a wide range of training, including intercultural communications, religion, and even Chinese Opera, tai chi and paper cutting, “because foreigners love these things”, he said. Around 100 million foreigners are learning Chinese, the Chinese education ministry estimates. Though the Confucius Institute started only in 2004, it has now 350 institutes affiliated with universities and 430 ‘classrooms’ affiliated with secondary schools in 103 countries. As many as 260 more universities have applied for Institutes to be set up. Over 7000 young teachers are recruited every year from Chinese universities, who are sent abroad for two years… \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\Again, I was missing India. India is the cradle of civilisation, it has Sanskrit, the language which, according to NASA, helps develop the brain apart from being a perfect language. It has the deepest philosophy still expressed in a vibrant religion, a huge body of literature, amazing art, dance, music, sculpture, architecture, delicious cuisine and yet Indians are in denial mode and wake up only when foreigners treasure India. They don’t seem to know the value and therefore don’t take pride in their tradition, unlike westerners who take a lot of pride in theirs, even if there is little to be proud of. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ An example that Rajiv Malhotra gave IIT students in Chennai recently illustrates it. Malhotra was a successful NRI businessman who retired early to set up the Infinity Foundation promoting Indic studies in the US. In 2005, the Crown Princess of Thailand wanted to have a World Sanskrit Conference. She herself was a Sanskrit student, had sent her sons to India to learn Sanskrit, had brought out a Journal on Sanskrit and wanted to start a Sanskrit College. A professor from Delhi University was organising the conference for her, but to his dismay, the Indian government did not want to sponsor it. He felt it was embarrassing, as many of the eastern countries, including Thailand, look to India as their mother civilisation. And here is this mother not taking any interest. So, he frantically called up Malhotra, asking him to help save face. His Infinity Foundation agreed to sponsor the event. The programme was set, when a few days before the start, the Indian HRD minister suddenly woke up and wanted to inaugurate the conference. A compromise was reached and both, Malhotra and the HRD minister, represented the Indian side. The conference was a success and the Indian Embassy in Bangkok gave a reception. Malhotra asked the young diplomats there about the Indian foreign policy in regard to projecting Indian civilisation as an asset, as soft power, as something of value in Asian countries. They were taken by surprise. “Sir, we don’t have any policy like that. We are a secular country,” the diplomats proffered. Malhotra wondered what this had to do with secular. “There is a demand, so you should supply it,” he suggested. “Set up Colleges of Sanskrit, of Indian thought, of dance, etc. It will also help in trade, in technology, in setting up business in these countries.”\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ There is a demand for Indian thought and culture not only in Asian countries; it is there in Western countries, too, though may be still unconscious. It would bring fresh air in the fixed thought structures that make westerners believe that there is either a god or no god, that one has the choice only between believing what has been written in a ‘holy book’and being an atheist. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ India has a different approach. Already in 1887, Paul Deussen, professor of philosophy in Germany, had written, that it would be of benefit, if Indian Weltanschauung would spread in the west: “It would make us realise that we are stuck in colossal one-sidedness with our entire philosophical and religious thought and that there is a completely different way of approach than the one that Hegel construed as the only possible and reasonable one.” \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\There is however a difficulty. Most educated, English speaking Indians, who could project Indian culture abroad, know neither Samskrit nor the strong points of their culture and philosophy. In fact, some of them might rather bite their lip than acknowledge that India is a great civilisation. And many of those who know Sanskrit and who know the strong points of Indian culture don’t speak English or are not interested in teaching foreigners. Maybe the solution is to start, like the Chinese, with students. Give students a chance to delve deep into original Indian thought in Sanskrit, bridge the gap between academics and Sanskrit pandits, between universities and gurukuls, and let the students go abroad for a couple of years. They may turn out to be good ambassadors for India and may actually love the idea of being sent abroad. Never mind if they get disillusioned there. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\---------\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ ZERO AND INFINITY \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\A thought provoking Article. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Recently I came across a quote by Albert Einstein, “We owe a lot to the Indians who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.” It struck me how a simple concept can become a foundation of a profound future. There were other systems besides our decimal system. Roman way of counting is one of them. This system had no symbol for zero. A symbol represented a number. When a number exceeded a certain figure another symbol is introduced. As the numbers grew larger the system ran out of symbols. Ancient Hindus devised a counting system with ten symbols- hence the decimal system- Zero is one of these symbols which represents nothing. They overcame the limitation of the symbols by separating the symbol from its value. The same symbol has a different value at different places. Thus the symbol 5 has a value of 5 in units place, 50 in tens place, 500 in hundreds place and so on. This ensured that no new symbol is required however large the number be. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ This system also enables to form simple rules for the arithmetical functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. So simple that it can be taught to kindergarten children. Mathematics provided an easy and concise way to express logical data. Soon from whole numbers we proceeded to fractions, rational and irrational numbers, imaginary and complex numbers. Algebra. calculus, vectors, matrices followed. Quantification of the parameters paved the way for progress and scientific discovery in physics, chemistry, biology etc. The world adopted the decimal system with open arms. All other systems of counting were discarded as museum pieces. No wonder a great scientist like Einstein paid high tributes to this system of counting. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ About the same time, Hindus formulated another important concept-that of infinity-Ananta. Ananta means endless-limitless. It is not a number. It can not be expressed by the powerful decimal system. It requires a special symbol. Infinity is immune to arithmetical operations. Infinity remains infinity after adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing by any number. The outside world got confused in understanding this concept. We are so much accustomed to find the limits to most objects and observations that we imagine non-existing limits for infinity. For an uninformed person, horizon may appear as a limit of the sky. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan gives an apt simile to describe this illusion. Suppose there is an all-round viewing chamber atop a hill to view the panorama and it can be seen through a peephole. The peephole represents the limit of the finite observer. The observer believes the view from the peephole is all that exists. This observer forgets or overlooks the existence of other peepholes from which totally different views can be seen and significantly these also form the part of the panorama. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Jesus Christ was born and preached in an area which was a part of Roman Empire. People at this time did not know the concept of zero let alone infinity. Jesus Christ did not write the Bible. It was written much later by his followers- a group of scholars as they understood him. They declared that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. Everywhere has no limits. It excludes nothing. It means infinity. They also declared that their God is only the true God. Others are false Gods. So according to this assertion God has a limit beyond which false God starts. Where this limit comes from? It is not the limit of the observed. It is the limit of the observer. It refers to the peephole as described by Radhakrishnan. It definitely ignores existence of other peepholes. If the scholars understood infinity correctly this assertion would not have crept in. They would have reached the same conclusion as the Hindus reached. There is one God seen in many different ways. “ekam vipra bahuda vadanti”\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Implication of this conclusion would have a profound effect comparable to the effect on future as the decimal counting did. It would have substantially altered the character of Christianity but also of Islam which borrowed the concept of false Gods. There would have been no need to force people to see through a particular peephole. In other words, there would have been no need to proselytize. One would view another religion as a view from a different peephole. The world would have been a more peaceful and more colourful place. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ How would the world be without proselytisation. A microcosm in India is available. Hindus do not go for proselytisation. People in Mumbai celebrate Ganapati bappa on a grand scale. About a month later Kolkata celebrates Durga ma on equally grand scale. Bengalis in Mumbai and maharashtrians in Kolkata – in fact Hindus from all other parts join these celebrations without reservations. There is no thought that Ganapati is better than Durga or vice versa. The so called secularism of neo-liberals is an age-old conviction of Hindus. Those who benefitted by adopting the decimal counting system faltered in understanding infinity. It could have saved many wars, ill will, and now the terror. Why the craze to make people see through a particular peephole? Why? \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ One may ask a legitimate question. Why this thought did not occur earlier even after infinity got better understood? The spirit of enquiry is after all a human trait. I can only guess the answer. The scholars assigned to write the Bible must have realized the internal contradiction of what they put in. So they devised a clever way to fend off inconvenient questions. They declared whatever they wrote was God’s own messenger’s words. Questioning them would constitute a sin of blasphemy. The spirit of enquiry was subdued. Faith was given importance and reasoning a back seat. Gallileo was punished for publishing his discovery that earth revolved around the sun. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ On the other hand, Hindus considered those full of doubts and questions as jigyasus- the seekers of knowledge and not sinners of blasphemy. They were welcome to seek appropriate gurus to solve their particular doubts. The spirit of enquiry was encouraged. Knowledge and reasoning were given prominence and faith a back seat. It was realized that every individual is evolved by upbringing, environment, ability to grasp, knowledge level. Based on their own temperament and inclination one could choose their own path to salvation including faith (Bhakti Yoga), sincere work (Karma Yoga), knowledge (Gyana Yoga) and many more. One could invent if one can. Each persons limitations can differ. Peepholes can differ for different people or for the same person at different phases of life. Knowledge is not limited to any instant in time. It is infinite. Go on adding. 000000000