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How did Vidya Balan become successful?
Which movie do you associate actor Vidya Balan with, Kismet Connection or Kahani?
In Kismet Connection, Vidya gave herself a western look while in Kahaani her role as Mrs Bagchi capitalized on her Indian looks and showcased the qualities one arguably associates with the “Bhartiya Nari”. The audiences lapped up Mrs Bagchi and Vidya was accepted as a big star, though her big break came with The Dirty Picture earlier.
What did Vidya do right?
In Kismet Connection, Vidya enacted a role that was alien to her real self – she also cut her hair and wore western clothes that did not suit her. In Kahaani it seemed like a real life story. Conclusion? When Vidya played roles that were in tune with her mind, body and inner self, she excelled.
The point: when an individual behaves in a way that is different from his or her true nature, he/she is bound to fail because one is doing what one is not. A person can achieve life-long success, fulfillment and joy by understanding his own tendencies, innate philosophies and then choosing an appropriate course of action. This is true in any endeavor be it sports, profession or academics. Therefore, the Wise always ask us to become aware of ourselves.
The same concept can be extended to a nation as well. It needs to imbibe the same approach of knowing itself and select its goals, systems of governance and thought accordingly.
The article seeks to provoke thought by giving examples of how modern day India is at odds with its true nature.
Rights vs. Duties vs. Dharma
During a recent interactive session with students of Vivekanand Kendra School Jirdin, at Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh one of the students asked why India’s political system was in disarray and the country in such a bad state.
I quoted Sri Aurobindo. “It has been said that democracy is based on the rights of man; it has been replied that it should rather take its stand on the duties of man; but both rights and duties are European ideas. Dharma is the Indian conception in which rights and duties loose the artificial antagonism created by a view of the world, which makes selfishness the root of action, and regain their deep and eternal unity. Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognize, for in this lies the distinction between the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe”.
When one demands something from another as a matter of right the demand is associated with ‘I’ and resultant ego. When demand is not met a person would find fault, criticize, or get abusive.
Conversely the starting point to Dharma or duty is your willingness to serve others. The bhavna (feeling) is what can I do for you; the intent is to find solutions and attitude is selfless work. This leads to value addition, creation and contentment.
By not imbibing the spirit of Dharma, Indians (esp. urban) have become a beehive of negativity, unproductive debates and consumerism. It is all about ME!
Our country is called by three names
The names are Bharat, Hindustan and India. Most Indians use the words interchangeably, not realizing that the word Hindustan (Urdu speaking areas of the Indian sub-continent) excludes a substantial part of India.
The syllable ‘Bha’ means light and knowledge and ‘rata’ means devoted, thus Bharat means devoted to light. As originally understood knowledge was about the inner self and its relationship with the external world.
Can you think of a country where the meaning of its names is not understood by the people at large?
Change is the Only Permanent thing
One of the reasons why Sanatan Dharama has survived is because the Rishis realized that change is the essence of life, and followed a decentralized approach while retaining the core. That explains why India welcomed numerous reformist movements starting with Buddhism.
Conversely, India continues to be ruled by outdated laws like Transfer of Property Act 1882, Essential Commodities Act 1954, Industrial Disputes and governance is over-centralized. Most Indians want to maintain status-quo. Example: the recent refusal to even debate the benefits of Article 370 50 years after it became part of statute.
Let Knowledge Come from All Sides
We get enamored when knowledge that exists in India is repackaged by foreigners as their own.
Scholar Rajiv Malhotra gave a talk at IIT B some time back: “Are Indians buying back their own ideas from the West? He gave specific examples of how westerners have borrowed Indian thoughts and we have started believing this is a new idea.
Malhotra said that “The Anthroposophical Society that was founded by Rudolf Steiner and is based on Hindu thought. Two, is the Theory of Multiple Intelligence by Dr Howard Gardner which is based on Sri Aurobindo’s ideas of Plays and Parts of Being. Three, is Christian Yoga where Hindu symbols are substituted with Christian ones for e.g. Surya Namaskar is Son Salutations where Son is not Surya but Son of God”. To hear Malhotra talk (Click Here).
The moot point is whether those who have made money selling Indian thought had the right to use this intellectual property without paying royalty?
Debate is for generation of more light and less heat
Were we always argumentative? Here’s a counter-view: ‘In the Harasacarita of Bana there occurs a passage relating to a royal visit paid in the 7th century A.D. to a forest university. The King saw Buddhists from various provinces, Jains in white robes, ascetics, followers of Kapila, Lokayatikas (materialists), followers of Kanada (of the atomic schools), followers of Upanishads, students of legal institutions/Puranas, adepts in sacrifices/grammar and others, all diligently following their own tenets, pondering, urging objections, raising doubts, resolving them, disputing, discussing and explaining moot points. Can there be a more thought-provoking and suggestive description of a true university with no exclusions and many preferences?’1
Such open-mindedness and intermingling of thoughts was one of the reasons for India’s pre-eminence then.
When we lack confidence in our abilities and a discussion is driven by the desire to outsmart another, we tend to speak too much which then befits the definition of ‘An Argumentative Indian’.
Deeper intent in the forest university was to find a personalized best way to self-realization i.e. not driven by ego.
Look at India through Indian eyes
I recently visited Varanasi for the Dev Deepavali Festival which is celebrated on Kartik Purnima.
It is considered auspicious to bathe in the Holy Ganga on that day. Women start bathing from 3 am while men come in after sun-rise. Curiously, I asked a chaiwala why?
He said that post bathing women change their clothes on the river bank itself, and so the absence of men made them comfortable. Sahab, these devotees have come from small towns and villages with purity in their minds and hearts. Rather sarcastically, he added that men from big cities thought only about sex in such situations.
I was chastened by this early morning sermon from a 15-year-old.
Different parts of India contributed to its religious life
During an interactive session with students of Vivekanand Kendra School Itanagar, a student asked me how school books in Maharashtra could exclude Arunachal Pradesh from India’s map. To read report Click Here
Deeply embarrassed by the State Government’s fau pa I told her that one of the reasons why Indian culture has survived is because our ancient Rishis understood the need to recognize the contributions made by different parts to the whole.
“No particular part of the country can claim monopoly in spiritual speculation. Thus to Kashmir we owe the Trika philosophy in association with Saivism. The Punjab (including the outermost north-western areas, of which Afghanistan once formed a part), gave us the hymns of the Vedas, as also the magnificent Gandhari school of sculpture in Buddhism. The heart of Aryavarta gave us the ritualistic literature, the earlier Upanishads, the epics and some of the older Puranas. Mithila is famous for the spiritual fellowship of Janaka and Yajnavalkya. To Magadha, we owe the inspiring messages of Mahavira and Buddha. Bengal has given us the Caitanya movement as also the later Tantras. Assam has similarly given us the pure Vaishnavism of Sankara Deva and, in earlier times, the magico-religious cults of the Tantrikas.
When we reach the Dravidian area, we enter a region that has given India not only the foremost commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras, which provide a philosophical basis of religious belief, but also the most lyrical of singers, both Vaisnava and Saiva, whose devotional outpourings have been justly praised.” 2
To read more Click Here
Our ancestors had a very nice way of weaving cultural strands from various parts of India in its tradition. Unfortunately, the government has failed to involve Indians from every state and this is one reason for their alienation.
Synthetic Secularism or Natural Dharma
Next is the repeated and amusing parroting by politicians of the word Secularism without knowing its meaning!
The concept of Secularism originated in Europe where the Church controlled education, property etc became so powerful that even the King felt oppressed. So secularism meant separation of the Church and State with intent to curb the influence and power of the Church.
Hinduism never had the equivalent of a central religious body like the Church. Thus the concept is alien to India. To read Why Secularism is not an Indian concept? Click Here
So also religion is the basis for many Constitutional provisions when it is widely accepted by scholars and reiterated by various Supreme Court judgments that the religion of the majority, Hinduism, is actually a way of life not a religion. Ditto for Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
India must follow its Svadharma
These are just a few examples how India is being ruled and living in a way that is alien to its True Self.
Verse 35 (ch3) of the Holy Gita says it well “One’s own duty (svadharma), though deficient in quality, is superior to duty other than one’s own (paradharma), though well accomplished. Better it is to die in svadharma; paradharma is fraught with fear and danger’. Swami Chinmayanandaji explained ‘to act according to one’s own taste, inborn and natural, is the only known method of living in peace and joy, in success and satisfaction. It is dangerous to suppress his own personality-expression and copy the activities of someone else, even he be living a nobler and diviner life’.
Until governments and the Indian people imbibe Indian concepts we shall fail to realize our potential and be at peace with ourselves.
The author is national affairs analyst and founder www.esamskriti.com
1. Volume 2 of The Cultural Heritage of India published by The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.
2. Volume 4 of The Cultural Heritage of India published by The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture.
First published in www.firstpost.com
1. Pics of Parasuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh
2. Pics of Malinatthan Temple in Arunachal Pradesh