Indology conference insights
I have just returned to Mumbai from my favourite hangout, Goa, where I attended the first international Indology conference. The theme of the conference was â€˜Indian culture, ancient wisdom in modern timesâ€™.
It was during the three-day conference that I became aware that I had been so busy with keeping Conscious Food going that despite delivering nutrition lectures myself, I had strayed far away from academics. The Kala Academy, overlooking the river Mandovi as it meets the ocean, was a perfect setting for the seminar on Indology. In such natural surroundings and among scholars, spending three-and-a-half days in an auditorium wasnâ€™t as claustrophobic as I had expected it to be.
Yet perhaps the most beneficial fallout of the conference was that it reconnected me to the vast reservoir of knowledge that our scriptures offer. In the pursuit of daily living, one tends to forget that there is a deeper level at which one functions. Tuning in to that, makes a leap of consciousness possible.
Of course eventually, only if we can use academic information practically in our daily lives is it of any real value. Therefore some of the lectures made me wonder what prompted the speakers to go into minute details of comparisons and interpretations that seem so irrelevant. But I guess each person steps to the tune of a different drummer.
Attending the conference revived my urge to study Sanskrit. No, not just to be able to read insightful shlokas and sutras but to be able to understand for myself, the vast knowledge contained in the Vedas. The Bangalore-based Prof. Srinivasa Rao confirmed my intuition by stating in no uncertain terms that there are too many errors and inconsistencies in different translations of the Vedas, and warned of the dangers of following erroneous interpretations. It was exhilarating to meet such a genius, so self-effacing and simple.
Although not a social scientist, I have always looked to our traditions for solutions and/ or guidelines for better living. To cite a simple example, when I had to decide where to site the kitchen in my home, I chose the south-east corner according to Vaastu principles. I had been very happy with my decision until I learned that in Kerala, kitchens are advised in the north-east. This is just one indication of the inconsistencies of Vedic interpretations. If only I could read Sanskrit myself, I would save myself much confusion.
Architect Abhijit Sandhale says he is ashamed to admit that the longevity of present day structures is no more than 70 years. Especially when our heritage buildings and monuments have stood the test of time for centuries. This observation connected with one of my inner queries as to why our sense of aesthetics has deteriorated with time.
Shraddhalu Ranade from the Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry gave one of the best presentations which gripped everyoneâ€™s attention. He spoke of the richness of our culture where even in our greeting, in the form of a namaste, there is a wonderful symbolism of respecting the self in the other. Moreover according to him, when we pour water over our heads from a tumbler while taking a traditional bath, the action symbolises our sacred rivers flowing over us.
Ranade also made a convincing argument for the current mess in our lives â€” the poverty, lack of beauty, the political chaos, are all attributable to the drift away from our rich heritage. For example the act of throwing garbage on the streets is rooted in separating ourselves from the whole. Our cultural heritage is a strong backbone against which this sense of separateness will dissolve, and oneness will solve many a problem.Dr Abhijit Das, a man of many facets, was the only one whose presentation gave the audience something they could actually begin using right away. And he was crystal clear in explaining Vedic maths. There is so much wisdom in our culture which we do not use. Instead we follow western systems that are nowhere close to the kind of possibilities of Vedic maths.
Among the other speakers at this uniquely instructive conference were Dr. Rajani Joshi and Dr I. A. Khan who provided useful insights drawn from our ancient texts about locating ground water. According to them, an anthill to the east of a Bor tree is often an indication of water 1.37 metres to the west of the tree. They also enlightened us on the use of certain herbs to purify well water.
Dr. Malay Mishra of the Union governmentâ€™s diaspora services, reported that when NRI children tour India, their most enduring memories are of ashrams in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges.
Although I havenâ€™t studied the Vedas, my experiences and experiments with food and health for two decades have always led me back to traditional knowledge. I find everything good has its roots in our time-tested cultural traditions. The Vedas are replete with knowledge derived from experiences of the sages rather than mere cerebral musings, which are the basis of western philosophy.
I believe that when we return to our traditions in the basic areas of life, we will be able to recapture much of what we have lost and forgotten. And all of humanity, not just a few sages, will be able to discover their divinity.
(Kavita Mukhi is a Mumbai-based eco-nutritionist and director of Conscious Food)