Devdutt Pattanaik – Hinduism

It was after listening to the talks of Swami Boddhananda when I wondered if Hinduism is to be practiced in a particular lineage. That is, if to practice Hinduism, one has to select from among the darsanas.

It was then that I rediscovered Devdutt Pattanaik when he was interviewed in Hindi by Ranveer Allahbadia.

The screenshot is unfortunate and misleading. Pattanaik actually is against Hindutva and is often trolled for his statements. He goes on, nevertheless. This video led me to his channel where I watched many of his videos. This was followed by many videos with him suggested by the YouTube algorithm. He does not claim to be a guru nor does he accept any guru. He says that he consumes information and then write books and then you can take from it what you want.

I enjoy listening to and reading his 21st century interpretation of an ancient idea or way of life. The notes below are not only from the video above. These notes also get information from other videos of his posted on his channel.

He says Western scholars interpreted myths as untrue stories in the 19th century. The present thinking is trying to put myths into the realm of history but he would like myths to be interpreted in the 21st centuries as believed stories. These stories are believed to be true. It’s characters are alive not just in history but are alive today and will be alive in the future.

In one particular video, he mentions that Hinduism is to be practiced just like having a thali. A little bit of karma yoga, a little bit of njana yoga and a little bit of bhakti yog mixed in a proportion as per your liking. No one can say that the way you practice is wrong, just the way no one criticizes you for the way you eat.

He says Hindu thinking is cyclical. Hence, the concept of karma. Abrahamic traditions have the concept of justice because their thinking is linear. So, things can move from injustice to justice. Hindu thinking believes things are as they were, will be as they are and will remain as they are. As they say, some things just don’t change and only the characters change. Hence Indian gods smile when injustices occur because they are compassionate to the doer who is performing these actions trapped by his own ego and misunderstanding of his situation. The concept of karma necessitates belief in the concept of rebirths.

The other thinking he argues against is the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddhism looks at the world as filled with suffering caused by desire. Hence, they call for a rejection of desire. He says that this is a rejection of the real for the theoretical. He says Hinduism looks at suffering akin to hunger. So, the solutions to suffering is not rejection but trying to feed the hunger.

I had read from his book, Myth/Mithya about yajna being an exchange. His thinking on this has solidified now. He says the translation of jajna as sacrifice by Western scholars was due to their limited understanding. Hinduism sees yajna as an exchange. We give to get (as against give and take). The West sees exchange as a sort of commercialization of a spiritual practice. Hence, they translated as sacrifice which is giving without expecting anything in exchange. But, really, if we do not get, how can we give? We take from nature and give to others, as if we are doing something noble. The equation changes in the yajna where we give to get.

He has worked with corporations like Future Group and Reliance. He claims that businesses in India must not look to scale but to diversify. Allow each person to have a unique experience just like Hinduism offers. He says this diversity will bring profits in India. He says that no country can manage diversity the way India can. Europe and the US finds it challenging even with a few refugees.

Ranveer, in the video above, gets really good guests but asks really poor questions. He asked the standard how India can become a country like China and Korea. Pattanaik says that China can only live within walls. He quotes the Great Wall of China and Great Firewall of China as examples. China grows on obedience and conformity. Such a process would not work in India. We are also hence less likely to give up our freedom in conformity to a King or a ruler. He says that the Chinese do not understand India. He says one of the words used to describe India is luan which stands for chaos.

We are trying to order this chaos believing that everything cannot be many and needs to be one. We are trying to move from pantheism to monotheism because we think the West is better than us. Pattanaik says that China adopted Taoism and Confucianism, and rejected Western thought. India on the other hand adopted Western thought and rejected Indian thought.

Leo Babuata on Becoming Trustable

Leo Babauta writes on Zen Habits on being trustable. I found the advice important enough in my relationship to reproduce th advice here in full.

I’m going to give some of the key learnings here:

  • Do your best to practice keeping your word. That means when you say you’re going to do something, really commit to making that happen. Sometimes that means sacrificing some comfort to make it happen. But make it a top priority, and take it seriously.
  • When you can’t keep your word, own up to it. Let them know ahead of time if you’re not able to do it. If you messed up, take responsibility and apologize, and let them know what you’ll do going forward to avoid the same mistake repeating. Do what you need to do to fix things.
  • Breathe deeply and slow down. When we’re jumpy and anxious, they will feel it. When we stand solidly, breathe deeply, and go slower … they feel this as solidity and trustability. As with all of this, it’s a learning process — you’ll have moments of anxiety, but you can learn to breathe deeply even here. You’ll have moments of fidgetyness and jumpiness … but you can learn to slow down even here, with practice.
  • Create structure for yourself and them. When you are committed to making certain things happen (taking care of the car, getting the groceries, paying the bills) … it will help greatly to have structure, like a schedule with reminders. When will this get taken care of? You might alter the structure, but having a structure for you and those around you helps them to know that things are in order and will be taken care of. Practice creating structure for others when it would serve them (without forcing it on them) — offer a plan, a schedule, a clear decision, an agreement.
  • When they complain about something you haven’t done … listen. Hold space for their complaint, and instead of taking it personally, see if there’s some way you can help them. But listen first, and get them. Then see what you can do to make it right, to create structure so they can trust it will get done, to clean up any mess you’ve accidentally made. You don’t need to feel blame or shame, but just get them.
  • Take things seriously. But not too seriously! OK, it’s good to have a sense of humor … but if you dismiss their concerns, or say, “Yeah yeah don’t worry” … they will worry. They can’t trust that you’re going to do your best. Give it your all. Hear their concerns. Make it clear that you’re going to take care of it.
  • Take full responsibility. Especially when you want to blame them. Instead of pointing the finger … look at what you might have done to contribute to this, or to allow this situation to happen. Have you not been clear? Have you not created an agreement around this? Have you not been acknowledging them for how great they are? Have you not been taking care of things? When you think you shouldn’t have to take on responsibility — that’s when you can take on more.
  • Take care of yourself. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you be trusted to take care of them? This means clean up your messes, put things in order, do some basic personal hygiene, take care of your emotions, give yourself rest when you’re feeling stressed or burned out. Being trustable doesn’t mean you have to take on so much that you’re overworked.
  • Always look for ways to be more trustable. Where have you dropped the ball? Is there something you could do to feel more solid to them? Where have you avoided taking on responsibility? Where have you let things lapse into a mess? This is a continual area of growth. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can continue to grow. For life.

Samkhya – Swami Bodhananda

I was reading the Wikipedia page on Hinduism when a link in the section, “External Links” caught my eye. The link lead to an article on Advaita Vedanta Hinduism by Dr. Sangeetha Menon. While I did not read that post, I scrolled down to see that Dr. Menon was from the National Institute for Advanced Sciences, where she leads the NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme.

Scrolling down on her homepage, I found a reference to the Sambodh Foundation and her spiritual guru, Swami Bodhananda. He is from the lineage of Advaita Vedanta. I reached the website of the Sambodh Foundation. It was here under the “Lectures” tab that I found a programme he had done in 2016 in association with Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA). AMA has a centre called Mamta, a Centre for Indian Wisdom for Management. It was Mamta that had organised this event.

The event sought to cover the entire spectrum of Indian philosophy including Buddhism and Jainism. The talk linked above was on Samkhya. I had last year written about my interest in Samkhya.

This post records how I found this video and some of the notes that I took from the video, for my reference. Once you see this video, I am sure you can find the rest of the series on the Sambodh Foundation’s YouTube channel.

Notes from the video:

  • Nyaya-Vaisheshika is pluralistic – Samkhya was searching for 1.
  • Kapila is the founder.
  • 3 references available
    • 15th century – Samkhya Sutras (gleamed from other commentaries)
    • Tattva-samasa – probably a Buddhist work
    • 5th century – Eswara Krishna’s Samkhya Karika (poem) – most authentic.
  • Important to understand for thought leaders from India today.
  • 2 tattvas (principles) – Prakriti (matter) and Purusha (consciousness)
  • Samkhyans believed that these two could not be further sub-divided. Their inter-play produces our world.
  • 3 sufferings (tapatreyas) – adhyatmika (from within – psychological, physioligical, etc.), adhiboutika (from outside – virus, bacteria, polluted water, environmental etc.), adhidevikam (unknown causes)
  • The escape from suffering is by enquiring the cause of the suffering. The purpose of philosophy is to release us from suffering.
  • Samkhyams did not have belief. They thought belief is the end of enquiry. To understand means to have the light of knowledge.
  • conscious I – content what I am conscious of.
  • world I am conscious of – inner world and outer world (emotions, thoughts, ego etc) – both are objects of my experience – Prakriti
  • matter includes mind, emotions, memory, ego other than solids, liquids etc.
  • purusha – person who watches all this – detached experience – like a person watching the movie – rasa
  • purusha – a point of consciousness – bokhta not a karta – that which lives in the city of body-mind complex – always present
  • snapshots of reality
  • suffering – purusha identifies with suffering in prakriti – aviveka -non-discrimination
  • diagnosis – viveka – discriminate between prakriti and purusha
  • Prakriti – sarga (manifests, unfolds) and pratisarga (infolds, close)
  • vishama (disturbance)
  • samya (silent)
  • progress is not linear – boomerangs
  • laya avastha – seed, point of singularity
  • mahath – explosion happens as a result of its nature, Prakriti wakes up, alert, alive
  • mahath – buddhi – lights up
  • Prakriti – 3 gunas – sattva (light), rajas (movement), tamas (asleep)
  • laya avastha – prakriti tamas overpowers – after sometime sattva overpowers
  • after mahath – ahankara – on waking up, feeling of I am – Prakriti splits into I (sattvik) and other (rajas and tamas) notion
  • 5 tanmatras – qualities – sound, touch, form, taste, smell
  • mana – combination of tanmatra – contact and co-ordinate
  • njan-indriyas – eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue – receive
  • karma-indriyas – transmit –
  • panchbhootas –
  • Swami comments that the artificial intillegence we produce will be without a purusha
  • 24 tattvas – unfoldment of Prakriti

You have to learn to side-step his science references which are not full understanding of a subject or may feel out-dated. Some of his insights are interesting. He also continually almost says Patanjali instead of Samkhyans/Kapila.