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.

A Difficult Task – Splitting ISRO and NSIL

me: I made an error in understanding this. I leave this here for record. But, I have corrected this on my newsletter.

I write a weekly newsletter on an Indian perspective to space stuff every Thursday. The edition that I sent out last Thursday (March 11) was a space policy edition.

I specifically covered a report tabled in the Rajya Sabha by the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, Forests & Climate Change.

Department of Space Organisation Chart. Image: ISRO.

The Standing Committee asked DoS about the role of India’s space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with the entrance of NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL). The Department replied stating that missions such as Gaganyaan, Chandrayaan and advanced technology mission would be carried on by ISRO and the rest would go to NSIL. This answer was presented to Parliament in February 2021. The Standing Committee published the report on 8 March 2021.

It is based on this answer that I said in the newsletter that:

This means that ISRO is going through a period of change as it commercializes parts of it’s operations (PSLV, GSLV, SSLV etc.) and focuses on research. This section thus marks a very important turning point in it’s journey. As shared in this PTI story, NSIL also has ambitions of building satellites and payloads. This would mean parts of works done in each center of ISRO will be commercialized and spun-off into NSIL.

Pradeep’s Space Newsletter #20

On 12 March 2021, NSIL held a press conference (NSIL press note). Here, they announced that they are planning to take over ISRO’s fleet of communications and remote sensing satellites.

I must admit I did not see the satellites bit coming. This is no small task. Managing such a fleet of satellites would need the kind of human resources and expertise that is currently only available at ISRO.

Splitting technical and human resources between ISRO and NSIL will be no small task. This is the turning point that I am referring to in the paragraph above.

DoS had put out a request for proposals (RFPs) from the industry to see if any single or a consortium of industries could develop PSLV for NSIL. This process, they claimed during the press conference will take 6 to 8 months.

This leaves the space sector with several players with them not yet knowing what they have to do. There is Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL), Antrix Corporation, Space Commission and the Department of Space. The Government will have the task of putting them in order to make the sector boom. A difficult task.

ISRO Land, Challakere

Challakere is a town in Karnataka which is roughly 3.5 hour drive North East of Bengaluru. This is a place where a ₹2,700 crore plan to build India’s Human Space Flight Center (HSFC). This was where some of the tests for Chandrayaan 3 are being done.

Tender Notice to clear Bellary Jali

As usual, this news comes not from ISRO but from a tender notice posted on ISRO’s website. Based on this, I looked at the area on Google Maps. I found a few things that I shared on r/ISRO. As is usual, this is not a new discovery.

This is land allocated to ISRO in Science City. Hence, you can see the campuses for Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and even Bhaba Atomic Research Station (BARC).

Marked in blue is the ISRO Land, Chalakkere. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

You can also see the plans that were shared for the construction of this land here. Essentially, the land where we did these tests will be built over by the HSFC.

Chandrayaan-3 tests

Marked with blue arrows are craters created at ISRO Land where testing was done for Chandrayaan 2 and 3. Image credit: Pradeep Mohandas

These craters are for what are called the Lander Sensor Performance Test (LSPT). LSPT-1 and LSPT-2 were conducted for Chandrayaan-2. The tender is for clearing the green swathes that you see. It is apparently full of a shrub called Bellary Jali which needs to be cleaned up before tests for Chandrayaan-3 can be conducted.

Details of LSPT-1 and LSPT-2 were shared in Upagrah Apr-Jun 2017 issue (archived in Google Docs by u/Ohsin). This is the in-house magazine for U R Rao Satellite Center (URSC).

The test involves flying a Beechcraft Super King Air B-200 belonging to the National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) over the craters made for the purpose. The plane flew from 500 m to 7 km in altitude to simulate various landing conditions. They also flew early in the morning to get the same lighting conditions as on the landing site on the Moon.

RLV Landing Experiment near Chitradurga

There was mention of a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Landing Experiment at Chitradurga.

Snippet mentioning the RLV Landing Experiment in the ISRO Annual Report 2020-21.

Interesting term in the picture above is the pseudolite (pseudo-satellite).

While exploring the surrounding of Challakere, I spotted this, which could be a possible runway to which the RLV will glide and land on.

Possible RLV landing site near Chitradurga – Chitradurga Aeronautical Test Range belonging to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (ATR-DRDO). Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

This blog post is a small effort to read documents and share with you the possible rabbit holes. Following them is up to you.

Solo (2017)

The music from this movie introduced me to Agam, Thaikkudam Bridge and Masala Coffee. It was this music that made me curious about the movie. I had seen bits of it before but when I saw the movie was on Netflix, I thought that it was good use if any of my month long subscription.

I saw the Tamil version of Solo. It stars Dulquer Salman. It constitutes four parts – the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. It looks at the four forms of Shiva. I loved the art and the filming style.

There are many gaps in the story that I was curious about. I like open ended stories. I like non-reveals. I loved this movie.

ISRO’s plan for the next decade

Chairman, ISRO and Secretary, Department of Space, K Sivan, shared a new year message.

It has been a little more than 5 years since ISRO shared it’s Space Vision documents, it usually shares. I think this had something to do with the failure of the GSLVs in the first half of the last decade. With both, GSLV Mk-II and GSLV Mk-III operationalized, I was hoping that ISRO would start the process of planning it’s space missions again. ISRO’s former Chairman, G Madhavan Nair recently criticised ISRO for this shortcoming. Thus, I was happy to read that an institutional level decadal plan has been drawn up and inputs were received from most ISRO centers.

I particularly like the use of the word ‘resourcefulness’. This has been used to describe ISRO in the past and I think Sivan might have re-discovered the word. I prefer this word to describe ISRO’s innovative use of limited resources. I prefer this word instead of the low-cost and jugaad descriptors that media has been using for ISRO since the Mars Orbiter Mission.

Space Transportation Systems

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram is ISRO’s principal space transportation systems center. VSSC has rightly identified heavy lift as an important challenge for India. If India is to plan even slightly more complex lunar missions or even useful Mars mission, it requires more power than what it currently has. The development of a heavy lift vehicle is an important step in building up capability in this aspect. With ISRO’s thrust in this decadal plan being towards human spaceflight, this will be an important requirement for launching space stations in the future.

Another aspect that VSSC has to focus on is the number of launches it’s launch vehicles can offer. ISRO has set targets of 10 launches per year in the past, a target it has not yet achieved. Being able to reach that target in this decade would be a fundamental confidence booster. With talk of commercialisation of the PSLV stages, there will be hope that the constraint will not rise from the supply side.

Also, VSSC will have to deliver on important technologies like the scramjet, testing of the reusable launch vehicle and partial reusability made popular now by SpaceX.

STS needs support from the other centers as well. The Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) in Mahendragiri will play a vital role in development of the semi-cryogenic engine required for the Heavy Launch Vehicle. There will be no use developing these systems without the support of the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC) at Shriharikota. SDSC will need to ramp up its infrastructure for a more busy schedule. Adding to it’s manifest this decade will be private launch vehicles other than the one’s from ISRO. Skyroot’s Vikram 1 could be the first privately launched launch vehicle from SDSC as early as December 2021. Also, not to forget, this decade could see Indians launching on an Indian rocket from Indian soil.

Satellites

The U R Rao Satellite Center (URSC) in Bengaluru will also have to increase the production of satellites. India currently has one-fourth the number of operational payload of China. Earlier, it’s complaint has been that the satellites it built don’t get to orbit. With those problems sorted and with more options opening up to go into orbit, URSC has the opportunity to build satellite constellations, build innovative space infrastructure like space stations, in-space satellite servicing and maybe even satellites that dock with each other. Besides, new innovations, URSC also has to build and launch satellites that are needed for various applications like remote sensing, meteorology, communications, navigation and geographic information systems.

Space Applications

As a country, I think we have not integrated space enough into various parts of the Indian economy. Many of the NewSpace companies are now offering this service directly to customers. Space Applications Center (SAC), Ahmedabad and National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC), Hyderabad must now also be centers where data is exchanged with private players and not only government players. This has to be provided with minimal down time and with high accuracy. Besides building technologies that enable this in space and on Earth, they have a vital role to play to support requirements of the Indian government and NewSpace applications providers.

Space Situational Awareness

ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Center (ISTRAC), in Bengaluru has an important role to play in space situational awareness. As we launch more satellites into orbit including those by private companies, space situational awareness becomes more important. There is a real threat from our neighbours who have direct kinetic weapons, co-situated orbital weapons and cyber weapons in their kits. The recent operationalisation of the Space Situational Awareness center is a step in the right direction. Transparency in sharing data and collection of data by the center will improve its capability and hence prove to be an active player in the world in the matter of space situational awareness.

Science vs Engineering

While IIST provides the engineers who work at ISRO, an important complaint with ISRO has been the lack of science impact on it’s missions. I hope that in this decade, the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) at Ahmedabad works closely with other scientific institutions in the country to get more science per kilogram of payload available on ISRO’s satellites and outer space missions. The role of a scientist needs to shift from few to all stages of the mission. The engineers need to understand what the scientists want the satellite to do. The scientists need to understand the limitations of engineering payloads. I think PRL can facilitate this much better than any scientific institution in the country.

IIST will continue to provide ISRO with the engineers it needs but PRL needs to be made ready to provide the scientists who will provide challenges to engineers for unique space missions.

Last words…

ISRO needs to formalize the plans laid down by the Chairman. I think having plans will help ISRO plan and execute better. It will place more stress on time-bound completion of projects. It will make the organization ready for the challenges awaiting it while we compete not only with other nations but large private players. The Chairman talks about a transition to the knowledge economy but I think, in space we have moved from a knowledge economy to an utilization economy.

A utilization economy is one where space know-how is used for utilization of space-enabled data in the economy of Earth, utilization of space-based resources and possibly one day an economy that spans Earth-Moon and Mars as dreamed by our former President, A P J Abdul Kalam.

The Minimalists: Less is Now (2021, Netflix)

The Minimalists are a duo who blogged about minimalism alongside others in the late noughties (2000’s). In 2015, they made a move called Minimalism, about the movement. The movie was a conversation that the Minimalists had with many prominent participants and bloggers of the movement.

Many of the bloggers who participated in that movement have now changed their focus away from Minimalism and moved on to other things. I, myself feel drawn more to the idea that Greg McKeown presented in Essentialism. Minimalism is a movement that forms an ideal foundation for many more pragmatic movements and ideas.

The Minimalists are back in 2021 with a follow-up documentary called Less is Now. In this documentary, they talk about their own story. It features a few experts who talk about the financial, economic and environmental burden cost by “stuff”. The story is interlaced with stories of many ordinary individuals who followed the principles laid down by the movement.

The film is directed by Matt D’Avella, whose YouTube channel I follow. I love to watch the videos that Matt directs and that’s possibly the only reason I wanted to watch this documentary.

I subscribed to a month of Netflix again just to watch this 50 minute documentary. I think just watching Matt’s film making was worth watching this.